|But if the brainwashing allegation is
so questionable, why has it persisted? Part of the answer may lie in an
understanding of what Harvey Cox, the Harvard divinity professor, called
the myth of the evil eye. Cox said history is mottled with religious
persecutions based on the belief that members of the hated group are bound
to it by evil powers beyond their control. Sometimes the member is seen as
both the victim of the malevolent, dominating power, and its agent insofar
as he collaborates in extending its dominion over others. But whether the
force is some supernatural power or a human influence, it always is
external to the member, a being that captures his mind and soul.
Clearly, when seen in the light of Cox's myth theory, allegations of brainwashing and hypnotism persist as defence mechanisms. Former members can use them to absolve themselves of the guilt and shame they feel after having adopted such bizarre beliefs and life-styles and having caused family and friends such embarrassment and anguish. For their part, family and friends can employ these mechanisms to counteract resentment they feel toward the member for the pain he has caused, to allay their own guilt at perhaps having helped to precipitate the "disaster" and to minimize their embarrassment.
In addition to being characterized as defense mechanisms employed by individuals, allegations of brainwashing and hypnosis against cults, sects, mind development groups and new religions also are seen as what Robbins and Anthony call "social weapons." They explained that for a society that professes libertarian values, notions of mind control are an ideal libertarian rationale for the suppression of unpopular social movements and beliefs. This rationale lends legitimacy to claims by the authorities when moving against a member of movement. The authorities say they are not concerned with the content of belief but the way it is induced. "Utilizing this rationale," Robbins and Anthony said, "one can apply pressure to religious and political movements and even subject their adherents to forcible confinement and counter-indoctrination without conceding any intention of suppressing a point of view." Cox said society employs a classical myth, the myth of the benevolent inquisitor, which suggests that what is done to the "heretic" is done for his own good. Analogizing to the Spanish Inquisition, Cox said: "We think they were just nasty people, or selfish -- and they probably were, in addition, but I believe they really felt, just like any deprogrammer, that they were treating these people ultimately for their own good."
Accordingly, opponents of the brainwashing concept, say deprogramming with the physical abuse and violation of individual rights that attend it becomes accepted as an act of "liberation." As has happened in the U.S., courts grant applications for conservatorships and allow the confinement of group members without due process "in their own interest." In Ontario, a member of the Provincial Parliament,acting "in the public interest," has attempted to curtail the groups legislatively.