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Friday, September 13, 2013

If it quacks like a duck, chances are . . .

Local political groups may be cults

“. . . (Terrorists may) start as (an) ordinary modern political party.  .  . (begin to) act without asking any moral questions . . .and (eventually) ignore all the ethical, cultural, moral or religious code of the society and humanity, and . . .(become) a cult. Not all cults are terrorists but all terrorists are cults."(1)

Cults certainly don't have to be terrorists – there are religious cults, for instance, that embrace doing good. But some of the political organizations in Costa Mesa seem to fit cult criteria, too.

Cult characteristics

This checklist is an extract from an analytical tool. By itself, it is not a diagnostic instrument, it's merely suggestive.
  •     The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status. We’ll consider only one Costa Mesa political group for our “unofficial” cult analysis, but there are several political groups here that would fare about the same on this “cult checklist.”

We’re looking at a small local group opposing the City Council males (and many other things) that advertises itself as “a grassroots, nonpartisan organization . . .”

“The term grassroots implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.”(2)

However, the group’s background and behavior brings the term astro-turfing to mind. This term is applied to “faking a grassroots movement.” 

Note that the organization’s support and guidance comes from organized labor and access to the group’s messages, meetings and publications is limited to those who are acceptable to the hierarchy.(3) To question or disagree is to risk censure and even “shunning;” that is, having one’s name “removed from the rolls.”

This cult is rude, crude and duplicitous 

  •    The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. Screaming insults and raising insulting signs during City Council or Parks and Recreation Commission meetings? Hijacking debate about direction for a park into a rabid attempt to embarrass a councilman? Those speak more about the techniques of the discredited “Union Playbook” than about adult discourse and debate.

  •     This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group. See note, above.

  •     The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society. To know the top-tier members of this group is to experience the polarization engendered, regardless of the context. Even a Christmas party or a grocery store visit can have neighbors who are members of the group grimacing and turning away to avoid greeting or acknowledging a non-believer.

  •     Members are encouraged or required to . . . socialize only with other group members. See notes, above.

  •     Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. This certainly applies to the Costa Mesa political group. “To question is to have one’s name removed from the email list and to lose access to followers’ pages on websites.” We've heard that, sometimes, a donation of time or money will restore status – in both this group and in two well-studied cults.

So, the question is . . .

Are they cults, or “grassroots” groups, or political action committees, or . . .?

(1) Former Mujahidin member and now author and academic Dr. Masoud Banisadr in a May 2005 speech in Spain 

(2)  Definition: 

(3) Post-election appeal for reason: Earlier Post

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