Posts Tagged ‘Hypocrisy’


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Of late, critics often accuse Donald Trump and his followers of being a cult. The problem is that they seemingly never define what a cult is, never define the characteristics of a cult, and of course never see how well Trump & co. match such characteristics. It’s time to do so.

Before I began writing AA: Cult or Cure?, I spent well over a year on research, much of it involving religious and political cults. I discovered that all cults, whatever their nature — religious, political, commercial (e.g., multi-level marketing scams) — have many characteristics in common. By the end of my research, I had discovered 23 separate characteristics common in cults; some cults exhibit almost all of them.

(Robert Jay Lifton in his groundbreaking and influential Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism lists eight cult-like characteristics; while I included Lifton’s characteristics in the list I compiled, I strongly believe that his book would have been better if he had included more such characteristics — ones I believe are obvious.)

Let’s see how many of the 23 Trump and his followers exhibit:

1) Religious orientation. Are Trump and his followers religiously based? Yes.

Trump’s core followers are conservative evangelicals. He received the votes of 81% of them in the 2016 election, and that level of support remains virtually unchanged. As well, Trump — who’s about as religious, and has about as much knowledge of the Bible, as the average poodle — routinely panders to evangelicals, flattering them endlessly and doing his best to ram through anti-choice, anti-LGBT judges and repressive, religiously inspired laws.

2) Irrationality. Are Trump and his followers irrational, do they discourage skepticism and rational thinking? Emphatically yes.

Trump and his followers are characterized by their ignorance of and contempt for science and rationality. The examples of this are manifold, with climate-change denial being the most obvious and dangerous. Climate scientists — who arrived at their conclusions through massive, decades-long research and application of the scientific method to the data they’ve gathered — are virtually unanimous in the conclusions that climate change is due to human activity (especially the burning of fossil fuels) and that it’s a dire threat to humanity. Trump and his followers irrationally and dangerously deny this.

3) Dogmatism. Are Trump and his followers dogmatic? Yes in the case of Trump’s followers, no as regards Trump himself.

Trump’s most fervent followers, evangelicals, Bible literalists, are by definition dogmatists. They believe (or at least insist that they believe) that a 3,000-year-old book written by Iron Age slaveholders is inerrant, true in every respect. This leads them to insist on absurdities, such as that the Earth is only 6,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time (or that the devil placed fossils in the earth to mislead humans); that, for that matter, the devil actually exists; that the sun stood still; that a dead man arose after three days and walked out of his tomb . . . The list of dogmatic absurdities goes on and on. In contrast, Trump himself is an amoral opportunist with no apparent beliefs who will say and do anything as long as he thinks it’s in his self-interest to do so.

4) “Chosen People” mentality. Do Trump and his followers have such a mentality? Yes.

Trump’s evangelical supporters routinely and self-flatteringly refer to themselves using terms such as “God’s people,” “the elect,” and “the righteous.” They also consider themselves above other people, especially atheists and muslims, with a great many evangelicals (and other conservative religious folk) saying they would never vote for an atheist or muslim for public office. Trump himself is a very privileged rich kid with a massive sense of entitlement. He was a schoolyard bully as a child; he believes he has the right to grope women — and has bragged about that groping; and seems to abuse almost everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him. Only someone who thinks he’s better than other people, who thinks he’s entitled to do such odious things, would do them. One might also mention “American exceptionalism” here, a belief apparently held by almost all of Trump’s followers and, perhaps, by Trump himself.

5) Ideology above all else. Do Trump and his followers elevate their ideology over experience, observation, and logic? Yes, absolutely.

Again, the most obvious example is climate-change denial. But other examples abound, such as the insistence that grossly ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” is the only type that should be taught in public schools; that a few cells the size of a pinhead are, somehow, a “person” (apparently in the same manner that an acorn is an oak tree); that massive tax cuts for the top 1% are somehow good for the bottom 99%; and that America is the land of “equal opportunity” in the face of gross differences in wealth and income and equally gross differences in the quality of education for the rich and poor.

6) Separatism. Are Trump and his followers separatists? No.

We might be better off if they were. Instead of being separatists, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us through the coercive apparatus of the government.

7) Exclusivity. Do Trump and his followers present themselves as the exclusive holders of the truth. Yes.

Trump’s core evangelical followers, biblical literalists, by definition consider themselves the exclusive holders of the truth. (The same holds for his Mormon and conservative Catholic backers.) Trump, with his constant blather about “fake news,” insistence that he’s the only source of the truth and should always be believed (despite his near-constant and blatant lying), and his bald-faced statement to his followers, “don’t believe what you’re reading or seeing,” is equally if not more guilty of this.

8) Special knowledge. Do Trump and his followers claim to have special knowledge that will only be revealed to the initiated? No.

Not unless you count Trump’s for-profit “university” scam, and that would be a stretch.

9) Mind control. Do Trump and his followers employ mind-control techniques? No.

Even Trump’s most hardcore followers don’t employ mind-control techniques such as sleep deprivation, deliberate near-starvation, hypnotic chanting, and thought-stopping techniques (e.g., reciting a mantra over and over again to ward off unwanted thoughts).

10) Thought-stopping techniques. Do Trump and his followers employ thought-stopping language? Not really. 

The childhood religious indoctrination of Trump’s religious-believer backers (evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Mormons), in which children are routinely warned that doubt comes from the devil (and, from my childhood, that you should pray the rosary to ward off doubt), is as close as you’ll get to thought-stopping language in the Trump movement.

11) Manipulation through guilt. Does Trump manipulate his followers through guilt? No.

Rather, Trump manipulates his followers through fear, hate, bigotry, and scapegoating. His appalling attacks on Mexicans and his fear-mongering about an “invasion” of immigrants is only the most obvious example.

12) The cult of confession. Do Trump and his followers use confession for purification and to tie believers to the movement? No. 

The closest any of Trump’s followers come to this is the practice of conservative Catholics who use that “sacrament” for purification and to tie themselves to the church.

13) A charismatic leader. Is Trump a charismatic leader, and do his followers treat him as one? Clearly, yes. 

I’d use many other terms in place of “charismatic,” but the adoration of the Dear Leader by his glassy-eyed followers is all too obvious. The fact that by their own lights he’s moral garbage matters not a whit to them. Nor do his constant, obvious lies and boasting, frequent self-contradiction, bullying behavior, and shameful self-serving. All too many of Trump’s followers worship him no matter what.

14) Hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Do Trump and his followers belong to a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Yes, several of them.

First and most obviously, the Republican Party, which has been on a decades-long crusade to restrict individual rights (notably reproductive and LGBT rights), and which has likewise been on a decades-long crusade to entrench itself in power via gerrymandering and voter suppression on a mass scale — that is to entrench itself in power by destroying what passes for American democracy. As well, Trump’s conservative Catholic and Mormon followers (and to a lesser degree the evangelicals) belong to clearly hierarchical, authoritarian — “thou shalt”; “thou shalt not” — religious structures.

15) Submission of the individual to the “will of God” or God’s appointed representatives. Do Trump and his followers insist on such submission? Yes.

Trump, hypocritically so. But all too many of his followers are sincere in wanting to use the coercive apparatus of the state to force everyone to submit to that “will” (as they define it).

16) Self-absorption. Are Trump and his followers self-absorbed? Yes.

Trump’s narcissism and self-absorption could hardly be more obvious. It’s almost equally so with his Republican Party, with its phony, preening nationalism, and its amoral, ends-justify-the-means mentality that pursues permanent entrenchment in power no matter how foul the means nor how much damage to the country. The current attempt to steamroll the installation of a blustering, bullying, highly partisan, alleged (have to get that alleged in there) sexual predator and apparent perjurer on the Supreme Court is only the latest instance of the Republican Party’s self-absorption.

17) Dual purposes. Does the Trump movement have dual purposes, are its real purposes other than those it presents to the publicYes, absolutely.

This is very obvious in very many ways. Trump — who received over $400 million from his dad — presents himself as the champion of the working man, yet he’s intent on squeezing money from the poor and working classes, and what’s left of the middle class, and transferring it to the top. He just gave the largest tax cut in history to (primarily) the top 1%; he opposes raising the federal minimum wage; he opposes labor unions; he and his minions in Congress have partially dismantled Obama’s (grossly inadequate) healthcare plan and have offered nothing to replace it; and he opposes extending Medicare to all Americans, thus ensuring that tens of thousands of poor and working class Americans die from medical neglect annually. His “family values” followers by and large support his vicious policy of ripping apart immigrant families at the border and throwing children into cages. And Trump and those same followers demand “religious freedom” which really means the “freedom” to discriminate against LGBT people in public accommodations. The hypocrisy of Trump and his followers, their “dual purposes,” is simply nauseating.

18) Economic exploitation. Does Trump economically exploit his followers? Yes.

Sometimes directly, as with Trump “University,” more often via government economic and taxation policies which work to the advantage of Trump and his billionaire buddies and against the rest of us.

19) Deceptive recruiting techniques. Do Trump and his Republican Party use deceptive recruiting techniques. Yes.

In addition to hypocritically presenting himself as the working man’s champion, “Cadet Bonespur” Trump presents himself as the embodiment of patriotism. But Trump’s “patriotism” is the exact opposite of real patriotism, which is trying to do what’s best for the country and following one’s own conscience, doing what’s right in the face of disdain and abuse. For Trump and his followers, patriotism seems to consist of making a fetish of the flag (instead of honoring what it supposedly stands for), robotically engaging in submission rituals at the start of baseball and football games, military worship, impugning the patriotism of those with opposing political views, bullying dissenters, and, of course, “patriotic” bumper stickers. One might also mention the deception of Trump and other Republicans in posing as guardians of morality when they themselves are moral sewers.

20) Possessiveness. Does the Trump movement go to great lengths to retain members? No.

Cults often go to great lengths to retain members, doing such things as threatening permanent disconnection of family members who leave the cult. Trump doesn’t do this nor does he advocate it.

21) A closed, all-encompassing environment. Has the Trump movement created such an environment? No.

Many cults (e.g., Rajhneeshees, Branch Davidians, People’s Temple, FLDS) set up isolated environments in which they control all aspects of members’ lives. The closest Trump’s followers come to this is having a single primary news source (Fox News for 60% of them) and being immersed in the Facebook echo chamber where they hear almost nothing but views they already agree with. But this is a far, far cry from Jonestown.

22) Millenarianism. Does Trump prophesy the end of the world? No.

The closest he comes is dire warnings about what will happen if the Republicans lose power. But some of his followers, hardcore evangelicals, do prophesy that the end is near and are actively trying to bring about Armageddon (through enthusiastic support of Israeli militarism and expansionism) so as to usher in “the rapture.” Still, Trump is definitely not a millenarian himself.

23) Violence, coercion, and harassment. Do Trump and his followers engage in or encourage these things? Yes.

Recall Trump’s remarks that some of the murderous neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Then recall his attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” and his encouragement of violence against protesters at his rallies. Then recall the huge uptick in racist violence by his alt-right/neo-Nazi supporters since he took office. Finally, let’s not forget that some of Trump’s “right to life” supporters routinely stalk, harass, threaten, and occasionally bomb or shoot abortion providers.

IN CONCLUSION

So, do Trump and his followers constitute a cult? Many of the cults I studied while researching AA: Cult or Cure? exhibit almost all of the above characteristics: the Moonies 22 out of the 23; the Church of Scientology and People’s Temple 21 of the 23; and Synanon 20 of the 23. In contrast, community-based Alcoholics Anonymous only exhibits 11 of the 23, “institutional” AA  (the 12-step treatment industry, which I dubbed “Cult Lite”) exhibits 16 of the 23, and the Trump movement exhibits 13 of the 23, so it’s not entirely accurate to say that the Trump movement is a full-blown cult, though it does have distinct cult-like tendencies. However, and disturbingly, almost all of the cult-like tendencies exhibited by Trump and his followers are also characteristic of fascist movements.


Trump backed down. He backed down from systematic child abuse and holding abused children hostage to his demand for a useless-as-tits-on-a-boar-hog border wall.

That he would even consider, let alone implement, a policy that traumatizes children and uses the abused children as hostages tells you all you need to know about him.

Add to that the fact that he wasn’t man enough to take responsibility for his horrific actions and attempted to blame others for what he did, and you really begin to understand what Trump is. (Come up with your own epithets — they’re almost certainly accurate.)

But Trump’s actions reveal more than his lack of character, they reveal the “character” of the scared-shitless Republicans in Congress who wouldn’t denounce the pure evil of deliberate, organized child abuse and holding children hostage. They wouldn’t, and won’t, stand up for what’s right if it threatens their self-interests.

As for Trump’s supporters, the most charitable explanation is that they’re brainwashed, frustrated fools (via Fox “News” and Facebook) who take the Glorious Leader’s every word as gospel, no matter how obviously false and self-contradictory. The less charitable interpretation is that they’re fear-driven, vicious racists.

I take a more charitable view:  they’re simply focused on their own economic survival, are too dumb to understand that Trump is not on their side, don’t care about the suffering of others, and are primed to blame scapegoats for their problems.

How can we reach them?

It is possible. At least in some cases. The corporate Democrats (and Republicans) systematically screwed over the white working class over the past four decades, leaving jobless, rotting, hopeless communities in their wake as they catered to the corporate overlords who funded their identity-politics, elitist campaigns. Who can blame people for being pissed off? And who can blame them, given the pathetic job the corporate media does, for being grossly misinformed?

What might bring at least some of them around is how obviously they’re being screwed by Trump and his Republican enablers. Their friends and family members will begin to die shortly, if they haven’t already, because of inadequate or nonexistent healthcare coverage. And things will only get worse — more and more people will die needlessly — as long as the Republicans are in charge and focused on ensuring profits for big pharma and the parasitic (apologies for the redundancy) healthcare insurance industries.

This is the most obvious point of attack. But the corporate Democrats (Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, et al.) won’t even consider attacking it. They’re beholden to their corporate funders, have betrayed the white (and black, and brown)  working class for decades, and think they can continue to get away with it, simply because Donald Trump is, very obviously, a cancerous polyp on the rectum of humanity.

Pelosi, Schumer, et al. have got to go.

Offer suffering people some real relief, and they might turn away from the vicious demagogue and hypocrite Donald Trump, and his enablers.

Donald Trump seems to be gambling that the real pieces of human shit in his base, who enjoy seeing the abuse of immigrant children, will be motivated to get out and vote for his Republican minions in the midterms.

We can only hope that the forces of human decency are stronger.

 

 

 


Christians are fond of pointing out that the devil can quote scripture, and on Thursday Jeff Sessions did so, citing the Bible as justification for his and Trump’s policy of forcibly separating immigrant families. That policy has involved federal agents ripping babies and small children from their mothers’ arms; this is not hyperbole — Sessions’ and Trump’s uniformed thugs are doing exactly that.

Appropriately, Sessions cited Romans 13. Here are its first two verses:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Just why was it so appropriate for Sessions to cite this passage? It can be used to support any government and any of its actions, no matter how horrific. (Not coincidentally, Romans 13 was widely cited at the time of the American Revolution by royalists opposing the Revolution, and was likewise widely cited by slavery advocates in the run-up to the American Civil War.)

One can see how handy this passage is for the Trump regime.

What was Sessions trying to justify here? The Trump administration’s decision to rip immigrant families apart, to separate children from parents — a decision labeled child abuse by the American Association of Pediatricians.

Typically for Trump, he and his underlings have refused to take responsibility for their horrific actions: they’re attempting to shirk responsibility, to blame them, somehow, on others, in this case on the Democrats. As if they’re helpless to reverse the decision they made, helpless to reverse the policy they implemented. Their gutlessness is beyond slimy.

Almost worse, the Republicans have introduced bills in Congress to reverse this policy, but that also include $25 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall. So, they’ve torn children from their parents’ arms, are inflicting grievous psychological harm on the children, and are holding them hostage.

And Romans 13 gives them exactly the justification they need.

One would think this would make most Christians, especially those espousing “family values,” uncomfortable. Wrong. I just took a look at the web sites of the two most prominent “family values” political groups: James Dobson’s Focus on the Family site, and Tony Perkin’s Family Research Council site. There’s not a single damn word about this disgusting assault on vulnerable families on Dobson’s site.

And Perkins’ Family Research Council web site attempts to justify Trump’s and Sessions’ vicious policy: “It’s impossible to feel anything but compassion for these kids, who must be dealing with a great deal of pain and confusion. But the origin of that pain and confusion isn’t U.S. law or the Trump administration. That burden lies with their parents who knowingly put them in this position.”

As if Trump and Sessions bear no responsibility for this atrocity. This abusive policy was never implemented under any previous administration. And no, somehow, it’s not the fault of those who implemented it, but rather the responsibility of its victims. (And yeah, right, one can almost feel the compassion oozing out of Perkins.)

To be fair, evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, has denounced Trump’s assault on families.

But most Christians, especially most evangelicals, haven’t.

Why? Let’s take another look at Romans 13. Fundamentalists claim to believe in the Bible literally (they don’t — only in the hate-filled, authoritarian parts of it that justify their cruelty), so they use it as a “get out of jail free” card for this horrible form of child abuse and the nauseating hypocrisy of the “ordained of God” Trump administration. They treat it as a “divine right of kings” card, more accurately a “Christians must kiss their authoritarian butts” card.

In fact, if you take Romans 13 literally, Christians must kiss all authoritarian butts that are seated in power, no matter who the butts belong to, and no matter what their owners’ political persuasions.

One would think that this would give pause to fundamentalists. For if Romans 13 is true, God ordained the suppression of Christianity in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin.

If you believe literally in the teachings of Romans 13, you should have no problem with this. No problem with either Lenin or Stalin — they were “ordained of God,” as were their actions.

Hitler? The Holocaust? Not a problem. He was “ordained of God,” and those who resisted him “received unto themselves damnation.”

Many Christians have attempted to interpret Romans 13 in a way that blunts or negates its obvious meaning. Please. It speaks for itself. Others have pointed to more humane passages in the Bible, as if they mitigate the horrific message in Romans.

Either Romans 13 is true or it isn’t. And if it’s true, the passages humane Christians cite that contradict it point to only one conclusion: the Bible is a man-made artifact filled with contradictions. It’s not the word of God.

The other lesson from this sad, tawdry affair is that “pro-family Christians” who support Trump’s and Sessions’ vicious treatment of families are disgusting hypocrites, utter moral garbage.

 


 

Barbara Ehrenreich has a great new piece in The Guardian, “Let’s call the pro-lifers what they are: pro-death.”

It’s good to see someone else — Ehrenreich, one of the most astute observers of the contemporary American political and social scene — point this out.

Here’s the definition of “pro-life” that we first published in 1992 in the original edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary:

PRO-LIFE, adj. Pro-death (of political opponents, abortion providers, and women, through back-alley abortions); 2) Vitally concerned with the well-being of “babies” right up to the moment of their birth — at which time they become “welfare cases” undeserving of such luxuries as housing, health care, adequate nutrition, and a decent education. This has led some unsympathetic observers to conclude that the interest of “pro-lifers” in the welfare of “babies” is purely hypocritical, and that they are, in fact, motivated by misogyny and anti-sexual “moral” hysteria — that their true interest is in causing as much misery as possible to sexually active women by forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

This, however, is not the case. If “pro-lifers” truly lacked concern about the welfare of the unwanted babies born as the result of “pro-life” policies, they wouldn’t be so willing — in fact, so eager — to have taxpayers shoulder the crushing costs of building the prisons necessary to house those “babies” later in their lives.

— from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised and expanded), with the illustration by our old friend and co-conspirator Jim Swanson

(Please use the above definition and/or the graphic by J.R. Swanson, from The American Heretic’s Dictionary, wherever, whenever, and however you’d want; all we’d ask is proper credit.)