Steve Hassan sends along this video which features a discussion with Ex-Celebrity Center top person Karen Pressley, who was a Sea Org member and worked directly for David Miscavige for four years. Attorney Paul Grosswald, also a former Scientologist, joins with Steve as they speak casually in Hassan’s hotel room at the 2010 ICSA conference.
Karen Talks about Miscavige’s abuse, combating the cult mindset and her presentation at the conference with ex-Children of God member Miriam Boeri (wrote Heaven’s Harlots), suppression of her book by the cult, and its forthcoming release.
Inside New Zealand produced this look at the behavior of destructive groups such as corporate Scientology.
Inside New Zealand: How To Spot A Cult gives viewers an intimate view of what life is like inside groups that some former followers say are cults operating in New Zealand.
“These former members have consistent stories about how the different organisations actually work,” explains producer Gary Scott, “and the techniques they say were used to control them, even though the belief systems can be miles apart.”
“The modern rise of cult-like groups is not something experts can easily quantify, but there is a proven trend away from mainstream churches, towards other forms of spirituality. There has been a lot of talk about Destiny Church, since the covenant of 700 followers.”
The two-part documentary consists of ex-believers’ stories, and investigates the similarities they say exist between groups including the Exclusive Brethren, Scientology, Centrepoint, Gloriavale, Avatar and the International Church of Christ.
The documentary includes abuse survivors who have never spoken before, including the first ever interview with a young woman born into the controversial Centrepoint commune, the first of her generation to speak out.
How To Spot A Cult also features Ualesei Vaega, a New Zealand survivor from Waco, Texas, where an FBI seige ended with the death of 86 followers of David Koresh in a devastating fire.
“As you would expect, the effects of something like Waco are deeply traumatic,” Scott continues. “Ualesei Vaega’s story is even more powerful because he witnessed Koresh go down the path of collecting guns, having sex with young girls, and yet Ualesi came back to New Zealand even though people around him were too deeply brainwashed to make that key decision to leave.”
Ualesi Vaega lost his brother, sister in law and many good friends in the tragic fire.
As the documentaries show, a similar armed stand-off was only narrowly avoided in New Zealand at Camp David, a walled compound north of Christchurch.
“The scary things about Camp David,” says Scott, “is that when the police raided their weapons stockpile, the members were hidden and watching them arrive through rifle scopes. Many of those guys had military training. Even today, some say there is still a stockpile of weapons buried on the West Coast.”
How To Spot A Cult will reveal all this as well as the tactics cult-watchers and academics say should warn people that a group may want total control of their followers’ lives.
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo is most famous for the Stanford Prison Experimnent which showed just how easy it is for good people to do evil.
Zimbardo was interviewed in a great piece from Wired Magazine about what we need to do to try to stop change our behavior.
People are always personally accountable for their behavior. If they kill, they are accountable. However, what I’m saying is that if the killing can be shown to be a product of the influence of a powerful situation within a powerful system, then it’s as if they are experiencing diminished capacity and have lost their free will or their full reasoning capacity.
Situations can be sufficiently powerful to undercut empathy, altruism, morality and to get ordinary people, even good people, to be seduced into doing really bad things — but only in that situation.
Understanding the reason for someone’s behavior is not the same as excusing it. Understanding why somebody did something — where that why has to do with situational influences — leads to a totally different way of dealing with evil. It leads to developing prevention strategies to change those evil-generating situations, rather than the current strategy, which is to change the person.
I was most taken by his proposed solution to the problem. Training kids from an early stage about the importance of being a hero. Taking a stand. Facing the repercussions because you are doing what is right.
To be a hero you have to take action on behalf of someone else or some principle and you have to be deviant in your society, because the group is always saying don’t do it; don’t step out of line. If you’re an accountant at Arthur Andersen, everyone who is doing the defrauding is telling you, “Hey, be one of the team.”
Heroes have to always, at the heroic decisive moment, break from the crowd and do something different. But a heroic act involves a risk. If you’re a whistle-blower you’re going to get fired, you’re not going to get promoted, you’re going to get ostracized. And you have to say it doesn’t matter.
Most heroes are more effective when they’re social heroes rather than isolated heroes. A single person or even two can get dismissed by the system. But once you have three people, then it’s the start of an opposition.
The three young women who started Ex-Scientology Kids are such heroes. I applaud them and everyone else who joins the movement.
Steve Hassan gets an opportunity to explain the criteria for what constitutes a cult. This is a continuation from the video Roy Masters Explains the Foundation of Human Understanding. Roy is not happy with having to appear on the show alongside his “arch enemy”, Steve, as this position puts him in a position to have to defend himself against the accusation that he is a cult leader. He claims he fits none of the criteria, then unloads a verbal attack on Steve.
A 2003 talk about combating mind control from Steven Hassan.
Mind Control – The BITE Model
From chapter two of Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves*
*© 2000 by Steven Hassan; published by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA
Destructive mind control can be understood in terms of four basic components, which form the acronym BITE:
I. Behavior Control II. Information Control III. Thought Control IV. Emotional Control
It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.
I. Behavior Control
1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality
a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
d. How much sleep the person is able to have
e. Financial dependence
f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).
6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
7. Rigid rules and regulations
8. Need for obedience and dependency
II. Information Control
1. Use of deception
a. Deliberately holding back information
b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
c. Outright lying
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
b. Critical information
c. Former members
d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
a. Information is not freely accessible
b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what
4. Spying on other members is encouraged
a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
6. Unethical use of confession
a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution
III. Thought Control
1. Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
a. Map = Reality
b. Black and White thinking
c. Good vs. evil
d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)
2. Adopt “loaded” language (characterized by “thought-terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words”.
3. Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
e. Speaking in “tongues”
f. Singing or humming
5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate
6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
IV. Emotional Control
1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings.
2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s.
3. Excessive use of guilt
a. Identity guilt
1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
2. Your family
3. Your past
4. Your affiliations
5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
b. Social guilt
c. Historical guilt
4. Excessive use of fear
a. Fear of thinking independently
b. Fear of the “outside” world
c. Fear of enemies
d. Fear of losing one’s “salvation”
e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
f. Fear of disapproval
5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
6. Ritual and often public confession of “sins”.
7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
a. No happiness or fulfillment “outside”of the group
b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell”; “demon possession”; “incurable diseases”; “accidents”; “suicide”; “insanity”; “10,000 reincarnations”; etc.
c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak;” “undisciplined;” “unspiritual;” “worldly;” “brainwashed by family, counselors;” seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.