Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tosh's Social Psychology of Social Movements on Cults & Political Parties

On the Collective Solution of Collective Problems in a Polarized Society

Keeping the title and subtitle in mind, let's begin with a series of quotations from the first chapter of Hans Toch's "ancient" but very relevant Social Psychology of Social Movements (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965).

"Such... movements serve to provide otherwise unavailable services, to protest indignities, to escape suffering, to release tension, to explain confusing events, or in some other way to create a more tolerable way of life..."

"...they must be aimed at promoting or resisting change... [an] effort designed to correct, supplement, overthrow, or in some fashion influence the social order."

"For the psychologist, these kinds of efforts... must stem from specific discontents of specific people... They must represent the kinds of difficulties people [believe] can be resolved through collective action..."

"From predisposition to susceptibility:

"For a person to be led to join a social movement, he must not only sense a problem, but must also (1) [believe] that something can be done about it, and (2) want to do something about it himself. At the very least, he must [believe] that the status quo is not inevitable, and that change is conceivable."

"When a person searches for meaning, he can be defined as 'susceptible' to social movements, although susceptibility here is a matter of degree. A mild increase in susceptibility would involve a slight lowering of... resistance to available solutions. The person would tend to listen with increasing care to proposals which he could view as relating to his problem. He would be less likely to reject then out of hand or to try to find flies in the ointment that promised him a cure.

"A strong increase in susceptibility creates 'gullibility...' It involves a tendency to jump at promising propositions, and a readiness to adopt them. A person in this condition may seem to go out of his way to make himself available as a prospective member."

"Many susceptible persons simply wait with an air of quiet expectancy for the Answer to present itself. Susceptibility, in these cases, is no more that a readiness to accept, or -- in the words of William James -- a 'will to believe.'"

"This type of result occurs because susceptibility, unlike virtue, is usually rewarded. The Winter of Discontent evokes the Summer of Faith -- presupposing, of course, an intermediate season, in which new meanings become available for adoption."

"Social movements... must demonstrate their ability to furnish solutions which make it worth expending time, energy, and dedication. They must publicize offerings which people can find useful and desirable."

"Any aspect of a social movement that succeeds in 'selling' the movement by attracting members to it becomes an appeal. Appeals are psychologically relevant commodities. They are features of the movement that tie into the susceptibilities of [certain] people."

"Appeals acquire meaning because they address themselves to susceptibilities. Since susceptibilities arise out of human problems, appeals must contain offers to solve [such] problems."

"In each case, the group specifies the state of mind it feels it can respond to, and outlines its brand of solution for the person's [particular] problem. When someone of the kind described comes to [believe] that the prescription could serve his needs, the movement's  message becomes certified as an appeal [to him]."

I want to proceed in two separate directions from these quotations:

1) An investigation of the grasp and utilization of such psychological factors by the UPPER LEVELS on the cultic pyramids described in A 10-Level Pyramid Model & Psychodynamics of Cult Organization, to appeal to, intrigue and ensnare prospective members at the LOWER LEVELS of the same cultic pyramids; and

2) Have a brief look at how these appeal-and-capture (or "bait-and-hook") devices are used by those who have been conditioned, socialized and normalized to "true belief" in the values, doctrines and ostensible policies of major political organizations via earlier participation in large group awareness and/or human potential cults (because this is an increasingly widespread phenomenon in political organizations worldwide).

First, let's look into Item 1 above.

Any unexamined belief or collection thereof predisposes those who grew up in and never learned about -- nor escaped from -- Tart's "consensus trance" to be susceptible to seduction and manipulation by others ranging from those (generally at the top two levels on any cultic pyramid) who are aware of the trance to those who may not be (generally at the lower and middle levels), but who are... 

a) "true believers" in Hoffer's sense of the term, and...

b) given to imitating the authoritarian behavior of their superiors on higher pyramid levels, whether or not they understand what they are or doing or why they are doing it.

(The interpersonal, dominance-and-submission dynamics here are exhaustively discussed by such as Adorno, Altemeyer, Asch, Bandura, Baumrind, Berger et al, Bermann, Bowen, Bradshaw, Branden, Brown, Brummelman et al, Carnes, Crosswhite et al, Erickson, Evans, Forward, Freud, Friel & Friel, Fromm, Gao, Golomb, Henry, Hoffer, Mastersson, Mellody, Milgram, A. Miller, A. G. Miller, Millon, Payson, Simon, Vaknin and Zimbardo in their work on interpersonal conditioning in the general population, as well as by Arterburn & Felton, Conway & Siegelman, Deikman, Firman & Gila, Galanter, Harris, Hassan, Hood et al, Kramer & Alstad, Langone, Lifton, Meerloo, Ross, Schein, Singer, Tart, Taylor, and Wright with respect to cults in particular.)

Moreover, those who were conditioned, socialized and normalized as children to indoctrination, instruction and programming -- either in their Karpman Drama Triangle -organized families of origin and/or in highly assertive, morally perfectionistic, authoritarian, (often "hyper-religious") environments -- are likely to have been "set up" to "...protest indignities, ...escape suffering, ...release tension, [try to] explain confusing events, or in some other way... create a more tolerable way of life..." but do so by seeking replication of the exact same unseen authoritarian, dominance-and-submission dynamics in a "new and (seemingly) different" environment. 

(How many depressed, ex-guilty Catholics; disgusted, ex-doctrinaire Protestants; and neurotic, ex-Orthodox Jews does one encounter in the growing legions of cult exiters in America? Answer: A lot.)

"For the psychologist, these kinds of efforts... must stem from specific discontents of specific people... They must represent the kinds of difficulties people [believe] can be resolved through collective action..."

"For a person to be led to join a social movement, he must not only sense a problem, but must also (1) [believe] that something can be done about it, and (2) want to do something about it himself. At the very least, he must [believe] that the status quo is not inevitable, and that change is conceivable."

And so, the aggrieved begin to look for The Way Out of problems they continue to barely be able to define and generally have almost no recognition of cause.

"The person would tend to listen with increasing care to proposals which he could view as relating to his problem. He would be less likely to reject then out of hand or to try to find flies in the ointment that promised him a cure."

Combine desperation with little or no development of empirical observation skills -- nor much if any ability to separate the wheat from the chaff (or the chicken s--t from the chicken salad), and you have the "perfect marks" for the Willful Slaves, the Cynics and the Sociopaths at the top three levels of the cultic pyramid to point their conditioning, socialization and normalization efforts toward. ("Go get 'em. They're ready and willing to hear our message of salvation.") (Or supposed, but not actual, "enlightenment.")

"A strong increase in susceptibility creates 'gullibility...' It involves a tendency to jump at promising propositions, and a readiness to adopt them. A person in this condition may seem to go out of his way to make himself available as a prospective member."

The well-managed cult is a study in what veteran sales people call "qualifying the prospect." (Why bother with those who don't sense a need for or value in the product?) In cults, however, the qualifying goes on and on... all the way to level nine on the pyramid. 

As one of the better de-programmers on LA's west side told me years ago, "It works like this. At first, it's 'Will you consider this?' Then it's 'Will you do this for The Cause?' Then it's 'Will you give up some other things in your life?' Then it's 'Will you suffer a little bit more for Us?' Then it's 'Will you show us your willingness to rationalize that the ends justify whatever means we demand?' Then it's 'Will you gain our approval by hurting those who would hurt Us?' Then it's 'Will you go drop that bastard off the end of the pier when I tell you to?'"

"This type of result occurs because susceptibility, unlike virtue, is usually rewarded. The Winter of Discontent evokes the Summer of Faith -- presupposing, of course, an intermediate season, in which new meanings become available for adoption."

Feeling better (for a time, at least) during what still seems to be his Summer of Faith, the member at the Lab Rats, Gluttons for Punishment, and Willful Slaves levels is still driven to seek the approval of his masters... even as he fails to see that summer has turned to fall -- or even winter -- as he works himself to a frazzle to "carry the message of hope" and/or maxes out his credit cards to pay for the next multi-media study program or series of seminars.

Okay, I think you get the picture. So let's move on to Item 2.

Years of buying into (and then out of) -- plus many more years of playing footsy with -- an array of corrupted Buddhist & Hindu, evangelical fundamentalist, human potential, large group awareness, multi-level marketing, ostensible psychotherapy and other types of cults habituated my ability to use the first eight of the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing to observe to notice to recognize (etc.) who was doing what to whom in such "collectives." So when I agreed to accompany an acquaintance to a political party orientation seminar and saw, heard and otherwise sensed the use of at least a dozen typical cult tactics on the unwary, true-believing volunteers there, my eyes, ears and sense got real "big."

And when I got back to my office, I got right on my computer and started looking for clues. It took me about a half-hour to find them: Landmark Worldwide (nee Landmark Education, nee Landmark Forum, nee The Forum, nee est) had accomplished much the same set of objectives on one end of the ever-widening polarity of American politics as the CoS had on the other. (Not surprisingly, the techniques and even the lingo are pretty similar, but Werner knew a good thing when he saw it in the '60s when L. Ron and the neuro-linguistic programming boys already had some pretty effective tools on their shelves.)

Fast forward from the days when I was first aware of est's probing into the political spectrum (the mid-'70s) and CoS's considerable success getting it's people into positions of power in the '80s. By the early '00s, both organizations had made major inroads into a number of state and national party structures. Moreover, they'd all but taken over the operations of some of the fast-growing political action committees (or "PACs") on both ends of philosophical continuum.

I cannot say for sure how much impact est and CoS have had along with that of the pseudo-Christian, evangelical fundamentalists (think Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, both of whom led high-profile political movements), and even the Asian pseudo-meditation cults like Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, which owns the Washington Times

But figure this: During the time these groups became bigger and bigger players (CoS bought a former embassy building in Washington DC some years ago, and reportedly has used it as "celebrity center" for elected and appointed officials, as well as PAC leaders), American politics became more and more... extreme. The big cults have big money. And big money can buy a lot of influence with politicians and spinmeisters who are addicted to that stuff as the fuel of self-empowerment.

Considering the manner in which the "True Believers" see the stakes of the political games during the new age of "populism" and "accepted extremism," is it any surprise that they would enlist the technocrats of "thought reform" and "mind control" to empower their efforts?

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