“The Cult of Trump” by Steven Hassan

Like [Jim] Jones and other cult leaders, Trump exhibits features of what psychologist Erich Fromm called “malignant narcissism”—bombastic grandiosity, a bottomless need for praise, lack of empathy, pathological lying, apparent sadism, and paranoia. In short, he fits the stereotypical psychological profile of a cult leader. Author of The Cult of Trump Steven Hassan, in The Daily Beast

Why do so many still bow to Trump despite so much evidence he’s an incompetent and malicious president? Steven Hassan, an expert on cultism, addresses this in his new book called The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control. 

From the publisher’s description:

…(M)ind-control and licensed mental health expert Steven Hassan draws parallels between our current president and people like Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard and Sun Myung Moon, arguing that this presidency is in many ways like a destructive cult. He specifically details the ways in which people are influenced through an array of social psychology methods and how they become fiercely loyal and obedient. Hassan was a former’ Moonie’ himself, and he draws on his forty years of personal and professional experience studying hypnosis and destructive cults, working as a deprogrammer, and a strategic communications interventionist. He emphasizes why it’s crucial that we recognize ways to identify and protect ourselves and our loved ones.

In a recent article (The Daily Beast) Hassan refers to the cult leaders’ “playbook” and lists some of the mind-control strategies employed by Trump:

These include his grandiose claims, his practice of sowing confusion, his demand for absolute loyalty, his tendency to lie and create alternative ‘facts’ and realities, his shunning and belittling of critics and ex-believers, and his cultivating of an ‘us versus them’  mindset.
Of all these tactics, the ‘us versus them’ mindset is probably one of  the most effective. From the moment you are recruited into a cult, you are made to feel special, part of an ‘inside’ group in opposition to unenlightened, unbelieving, dangerous ‘outsiders.’

Kirkus Reviews adds to this: “…Hassan makes it clear that he is a master of certain rhetorical devices that do not require much intelligence but speak to much practice: the repetition of words and phrases (e.g., ‘I’m a very stable genius, very smart’) that, through ‘a primarily unconscious and memory-based process,’ lead the listener to think that they must be coming from more than one source and are therefore true, ‘crowding out analytical thinking and causing the mind to retreat into a kind of trance.'”

How to convince people they’ve fallen prey to such cultism? For one thing, oppositional attitudes don’t help the “deprogramming” process. From the Daily Beast piece: “…(A)ttacking their beliefs is doomed to fail. To help them recover their critical faculties, it is essential to develop  a warm and positive relationship before teaching them about how mind control works. I often do that by showing how it operates in other groups, like the Jonestown cult or Scientology…Ultimately, the goal is to educate and inspire people to regain their capacity for critical thinking, and to free their own minds.”

Hassan’s book has received praise from various mental health professionals, including psychiatrist Thomas G. Gutheil, Harvard Medical School:

…Hassan opens a wide-ranging, thoughtful and well-researched analysis of some of the most puzzling aspects of the current presidency, including the remarkable passivity of fellow Republicans, the gross pandering of many members of the press, the curious avoidance of clear labels that could and should be applied  by the media. Quibbles and speculations about diagnosis do not play central roles. Instead, the current administration is best understood through cult analogies, including factors such as total authoritarianism and intolerance of any questioning or deviation from the ‘playbook.’ This is both a clarifying and a terrifying book. Highly recommended.

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