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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.

29 Responses

  1. Oh, that was MAGA Maggie writing that article. I should have guessed because I would never click on a NYT article.

    Jocular, really NYT? rhymes with avuncular though as in, their crazy uncle who screws his “nieces”.

  2. I can’t even bother reading crap like this because the left is so blindly brainwashed that they can’t see how they don’t even stop to think for themselves. not to mention. now disowning anyone who isn’t extremely liberal. They should worry more about themselves. No question in my mind that people who don’t consider themselves liberal, but conservative, independent, libertarian have more of an ability to step back and think for themselves.

    • FUCK YOU!

      • Are you cute? Female? Live near Me? I mean, I usually like to get to know someone before I do that, but you know what they say about rules…

        • Are you hot? Athletic build? Can you keep it up? Does she have to listen to you talk?

          Pm is selective.

          • I don’t think he can get it up which is why he fantasizes about trump, you know, all the porn stars he can get if only he had trump’s money and get away with it.

    • Interesting. It’s like a beautiful theory destroyed by ugly facts.
      By the way, you talk about liberals like that’s a BAD thing.
      They gave you social security and Medicare. Sooooo, you know, there’s that…

      Look how you’ve pissed off pm. She’s generally so calm. Bad ken, very bad. No biscuit for you.

    • By the way, no one is forcing you to read anything. You are free to read it or not read it. Funny how a cult expert seems to have struck a nerve. But many people who study this, Hassan, Altemeyer, Zimbardo to name a few say that Republicans and conservatives in general do think very differently than Democrats and liberals. It’s the way we are wired.
      You do need to read more but it’s fine with me if you do it elsewhere. We won’t be offended.

      • I know. One of life’s greatest pleasures is that I am free to choose to read what I like. I wasn’t trying to offend anyone. It is your choice whether you are offended by words/pictures/statues, etc. You’re right, though. We think differently.

        • Welcome to The Confluence, Ken! Be nice and try not to piss off the regulars.

          • Lol. People who get pissed off do so by their own influence. I cannot cause the action of others. People choose on their own how they react to situations as well as words posted, but thanks for the welcome!

          • Too late.

  3. RD, we have to talk to about the social media’s role in cultivating and reinforcing the cult. One of the things FB/Google/Youtube do is the recommendation algorithm. Depending on your search, it recommends other ‘worthy’ items. Now, if I am searching for Shostakovitch’s works, and it recommends something I have not seen before, well and good. I feel enriched. But if these motherfuckers are searching for ‘objectionable’ or ‘harmful to them’ content (those Hillary is a Satan videos) and the platform overloads them with more, how does that help a civil society? In addition, if the culprits (Russia) and other maladjusted characters in a society are artificially pushing the ranking/rating of objectionable content by design which makes the algorithm pick them up more, how is that going to help a civil society? There are two categories of people working for trump — one group too stupid to know the difference between good and bad, truth and lies which consumes content like this and the other group willfully doing the bidding of this con/cult artist by abusing these platforms to further their goals. Media is a player in this and the SM companies are a player in this too. Neither is looking at the big picture and definitely not behaving responsibly.

    • All I can tell you is I was soaked in undue influence and manipulation techniques from the age of 3 to 17. So were my cousins. We managed to not succumb. That helped me recognize it later in life.
      I hate to say it but it’s up to everyone to protect themselves, if you know you got sucked into Facebook and Twitter in 2016, stay away from them. Also stay away from any site where you have the ability to “like” a comment. That’s a feature that’s easily exploited by manipulators (see any comments section on a post about Hillary in 2016 in the NYT).
      Don’t watch the news. I can’t emphasize this enough. Images and words together are extremely powerful. Listen to the news on radio or an app but don’t overdose.
      Don’t get your news from one source. Also, get foreign sources.
      Read voraciously. Read non-fiction books written by experts in their fields.
      Listen to podcasts and any first person accounts.
      Finally, write down your personal code of honor and values and be skeptical of anyone who asks you to give any of them up for power, recognition or love. The manipulators use recognition and love bombing to get you to feel wanted and accepted. Love yourself first and you won’t need validation from people you don’t know.

      • You and I got lucky. I grew up in a lower middle class family in India and my dad had already retired by the time I came of age to go to college which means we were not financially well off, and I had scholarships and got through engineering. But I also had the luxury of a supportive dad and mom who said I can do what I want and being a nerd I did well in school and now have a career I am proud of half way across the world in a whole new culture. Not everybody is lucky.

        And my comment was mostly about the tech environment today that makes it difficult for people who are intellectually challenged to discriminate against good and bad and truth and lies and mfers who take advantage of these people. I suppose empirical evidence suggests that they are about 30% — the grand old 30% that still supports trump. They have to take responsibility for their choices like you say but do they have what it takes? Self awareness, introspection, intellectual honesty?

        • And what I’m saying is don’t expect the tech companies to make it easy for people to tell what’s real and what’s false. The bad guys will always find a way of manipulating people. They evolve. So, people have to start taking defensive measures in their own if their country and democracy is important to them.

          • Agree with you there. Tech companies could get rid of their recommendation algorithms but they won’t because of advertising. Any trick to get the people to stay on their site and see more. I am hoping that after seeing the adverse societal effects and other unintended consequences, they will behave responsibly and clean up their act. But I am not holding my breath. Even if they got rid of recommendation algorithm, their relevance algorithms is another pandora’s box, easily manipulated by bad actors.

  4. He hires the best people, LMAO!! He could not even hire a competent lawyer for his hush money contract. I hope Stormy and her lawyer keep up the pressure to expose this mfer even more than he already is.

    • If it is just sex for money, why would he put up such a fight? His supporters already say he is one of them and they are his wannabees. hmm.. what more can be there?

      • Yeah, I mean Trump and his entire team’s behavior is awfully fishy when it comes to Stormy. They certainly act like she has the goods on him. Melania might not have known before but now she does and so far she’s not leaving him. What is there for them to be so frightened of I wonder.

  5. WTF! did you all know this? She acts like she was born into it and owns the liberal left.

  6. When will the media learn? You don’t HAVE to cover the buffoon in a way that enables him and his hate. IT is bad for the country’s future! Or cover the event as a political rally that it is by giving equal time to his opponent as well.

    • Wrong tweet. never mind. it was referring to yesterday’s coverage of the buffoon both on CNN and MSNBC but did not cover Biden’s for Lamb event.

  7. Off topic. 😛

  8. 😈

  9. It is probably better to ignore these incompetent buffoons. But maybe we can laugh AT them while they make fools of themselves.

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