(This is a slightly revised version of material from Chapter 9 of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? We’ll post the rest of the chapter’s material on cult characteristics over the next few days in installments.)
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19. Deceptive Recruiting Techniques Some cults routinely deceive potential recruits, which is understandable: most potential recruits would not find attractive the prospect of slavishly following the orders of a guru-figure while working 16 to 18 hours a day for little or no pay. The Unification Church in particular is notorious for deceptive recruitment tactics. The primary recruitment targets for the Moonies are unattached young people. They usually have a member of the opposite sex approach the target and invite her or him to dinner. According to those who have attended such dinners, no mention of Moon or the Unification Church is made. Rather, there is general talk of a “family” and improving the world. Next follows an invitation to spend a weekend at a retreat. Those who accept are “love bombed” (showered with attention) by members and are invited to a longer retreat. If they accept, they’re again “love bombed,” kept constantly occupied, accompanied by a Moonie at all times (even while going to the toilet), and denied adequate sleep. And before they know it, they’re selling flowers 18 hours a day for room and board.
Another tactic of the Unification Church is the setting up of front groups, such as the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), and having members like about their association with the Unification Church if asked. In the late 1970s, CARP appeared on the campus of Boise State University, and I investigated it for the school newspaper, the BSU Arbiter. Even though CARP’s address was the same as that of the local Unification Church, and its literature was distributed by members of that Church, the Moonies staunchly maintained that there was “no connection” between the Unification Church and CARP.
Other cults also employ front groups. The LaRouchites in particular are notorious for this practice. This amoeba-like cult spawns front groups so often that it’s difficult to follow its permutations. Some of the names it has operated under include the U.S. Labor Party, National Caucus of Labor Committees, International Caucus of Labor Committees, Fusion Energy Foundation, the Schiller Institute, the National Anti-Drug Coalition, the National Democratic Policy Committee, Executive Intelligence Review Press Service, and at least three dozen other names.
Since the 1990s, this political cult, which continues to operate largely through front groups, has turned its attention to both of the major political parties. In 2010, it took part in the Tea Party disruptions of congressional town halls, and was responsible for the iconic image from those infamous episodes: the widely distributed doctored photo of Obama with a Hitler mustache. Its primary major-party target, however, has been the Democratic Party; it sometimes runs candidates in Democratic primaries, especially in solidly Republican districts where its candidates occasionally nab a nomination because they’re unopposed.