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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 20, 2019
      This post is by Tony Wikrent I have been looking at the work of Cornell University law professor Robert Hockett, who is serving as an economics adviser to Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. I have been delighted to find that Hockett has been working the same angle I have: applying the classical republicanism that informed the creation of […]
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Undue Influence Expert Says Trump is a Cult Leader

Steve Hassan, former Moonie turned expert on high control groups and cults, was interviewed in Salon recently. Asked if Trump was a cult leader, Hassan says he checks the boxes for the definition of one:

How do we separate enthusiastic support for a leader from the attributes of a cult or cult leader?

There are definite characteristics which define the difference between an ethical leader versus someone who is unethical.

One of the things is lying, for example. When a leader says, “The weather was great during the inauguration,” but everybody who was there got wet and the National Weather Service said it rained, the leader is wrong and therefore is lying. When there’s a big, loud, repeated lie, the average person tends to defer and say, “Well, maybe I got it wrong” or “Maybe where he was, it wasn’t rainy at all.”

There are other aspects such as narcissism, where people are not operating out of real relationships, but more in a compensatory relationship of wanting to look good in their own mind. Thus, when they’re accused of being abusive to women they make claims such as, “Nobody respects women more than me,” or “I never said that I was grabbing a woman’s genitals,” even though he was recorded and the person that recorded him was there.

The characteristics of a cult leader are that they want people to be loyal. They want people to be obedient. They want people to do whatever they’re told and they often will fire anybody who questions their judgment or authority. There is also a very low toleration for dissent. When somebody can’t admit that they were wrong or that they lied and then apologize, that’s another characteristic of cult leaders. They think they’re above the law, they think they’re God on earth, and they expect everyone to just merge into what their definition of reality is.

How would Trump fit into that model? Is he a con artist or a cult leader? He clearly has attributes of both.

There is a real difference between con artists and cult leaders. Con artists want the money and they want to get out. They get a lot of it, but they don’t want to stick around. Whereas cult leaders, they are addicted to power. They want fame. They want money. They want sex. If you study some of the biggest cult leaders, they were once members of cults themselves. The prototypical cult leader is male — although there are a number of women. They also have a feeling of insecure attachment to their mother and father. For their entire lives they are compensating for that lack of sense of self by getting praise and kudos from the outside world.

In Trump’s case, he was raised in the church of Norman Vincent Peale, where doubting was considered evil. If you believe 100 percent, then God will grant your blessings. This was also a very prosperity-oriented church where “thought stopping” was practiced. This is a type of mind control technique.

Now in the case of the “power of positive thinking,” Peale and his church taught that God is going to give you a blessing.  If you doubt it, that’s sin. That’s Satan. You have to block that negative thought.

When you are in a mind control cult that says negative thoughts are not permissible, you only allow positive thoughts. What happens then is you lose the ability to do any reality testing. You’re stuck with only conscious positive thoughts about the leader, the doctrine and the group. All doubts and questions are buried into the unconscious.

Hassan says everyone has a vulnerability that people who want to exert undue influence can exploit. The Obama campaign figured it out as well, though he was not a overtly malevolent leader like Trump, probably because Obama was an aspirational figurehead and appeared to be uncomfortable with leading. To this day, you will still find Obama supporters who will not acknowledge any flaws. They will overlook any bad policy or decision (Obama was notoriously bad at making important decisions and was prone to psyching himself out and doing nothing). There’s no talking to them. Their fingers are firmly in their ears.

But Trump is in a completely different category. None of our previous presidents with the exception of maybe Nixon comes anywhere close to this degree of malevolent selfishness.

Yesterday, while I was getting out the vote for Conor Lamb, I called a couple people who declared their Republicanism regarding the Lamb-Saccone race. This was unusual because I was supposed to be speaking with only Democrats. This close to the election, I can’t afford to spend a lot of time trying to persuade these voters. I have a call list of thousands of Democrats I’m trying to get a commitment from and let them know where their polling place is.

But what I found yesterday was that many of these callers sounded like elderly men and women and who wanted to talk. I try to be polite and told one guy that being a Republican these days is “serious business with a lot of responsibility”. But I’m not pushing or persuading these voters. I just don’t have time. Nevertheless, I suspect that many elderly PA 18 Democrats who vote Republican are starting to question their affiliations and that’s a good thing. It might not help this election, but if there are any additional free elections down the road, spending time on the phone and listening to them might be a good idea.

If you’re not into reading the whole Hassan interview, you can catch it on podcast here.


Trump held a rally in a hangar near the Pittsburgh airport last night. You might have seen it. 🙄

He keeps showing his ignorance of Pittsburgh in general. For one thing, PA 18 is not the city of Pittsburgh. It includes some Pittsburgh suburbs to the west and south but in general, PA 18 is exurban and rural. He would know that if his entourage ever left the hangar.

The city is vibrant, tech and healthcare, young and diverse. In fact, it is one of those model American cities that is a nice place to live and it went overwhelmingly for Clinton. But whatever.

Maggie Haberman et al wrote “Is there anything more fun than a Trump rally? for the NYTimes last night. (The twitter answers to this question are hillarious. Root canals, washing the cat, and appendectomies are among the possibilities). But Maggie did manage to capture some of the brutal ugliness of Trump himself:

He spoke admiringly of foreign laws imposing the death penalty on drug dealers, and seemed to brush aside the notion of due process as he spoke of American officers grabbing gang members “by the neck” and throwing them in the paddy wagon.

He derided past presidents as stiffs and lousy entertainers. He pummeled his favorite targets: Democrats and the “fake” news media.

He said he would welcome a battle against another television celebrity who has been a fantasy candidate for Democrats: Oprah Winfrey. But if she runs, he warned a bit ominously, “I know her weakness.”

“Wouldn’t we love to run against Oprah?” he asked. “I would love it. I would love it. That would be a painful experience for her.”

Ugh. I’m not on the Oprah for President bandwagon but the way he talks about her weaknesses and causing her pain sounds menacing and thuggish, like some scary guy who’s about to hold you down and rape you.

I’m sorry, but I didn’t sign up for that. Or this:

The rally, which had been rescheduled after the deadly Parkland, Fla., shooting last month, capped a frenzied stretch of fund-raising and campaigning on behalf of Mr. Saccone, who is locked in a tight race with the Democratic nominee, Conor Lamb.

“He’s an extraordinary person,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Saccone, dismissing Mr. Lamb as “Lamb the Sham.” “The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb, because he’s not going to vote for us.”

No, he probably isn’t. Lamb is a Democrat. It’s a given that his priorities are markedly different from Donald Trump’s, which are… Donald Trump. As was pointed out above, Trump is looking for loyalists. He wants a congressman who will be more loyal to him than to his own party. Lamb is not that guy. Saccone? Yeah, probably he is that guy. Otherwise, he would have declined Trump’s offer of a rally three days before the election.

Then there was more picking on people:

He retreated to fan favorites: reminiscing about his Electoral College victory, and saying that there is a “lot of evil in Washington” and that he is “getting it out.” To cheers and laughter, Mr. Trump hurled some old and new slurs and insults toward his opponents as he complained about his media coverage and perceived Democratic obstruction.

He embellished his derisive “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd” nickname for the “Meet the Press” host by calling him a “sleeping son of a bitch.” He said “Pocahontas” — his name for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts — would produce bad television ratings if she challenged him in 2020. And he dismissed Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, as a “low-I.Q. individual,” delivering, in a predominantly white region, an insult that to many carries racial undertones.

Heads up to Maggie: 1.)PA 18 is a congressional district, not a region. 2.) The region including Pittsburgh proper, which PA 18 is not, is diverse with African Americans, Asians and some Latino as well as white voters. And 3.) PA 18 will no longer exist in November. Republicans are going to have to try harder to be more accommodating to their new constituencies in November. Hard ass Trump loyalists are going to have to change their tunes.

I’m pretty sure the Lamb campaign offices are going to see an even BIGGER number of volunteers today after that performance last night. But there are only so many walk lists to give out. Next time, there should be an even greater effort to register everyone over the age of 18. Leave no voter behind. Otherwise, we’ll be stuck with Trump and his droogs until 2020. Who knows what kind of smoking ruin they’ll leave behind them?

No, Maggie, this is not my idea of fun. It ranks right below unclogging the bathtub drain.