CAN's definition of a cult applied to itself

From: (Bernie)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology,,alt.meditation.transcendental,alt.religion.unification,alt.religion.wicca,
Subject: Re: CAN: It's Role in WACO.
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 1997 01:00:00 GMT
Message-ID: <32df8906.13180352@news>

Tilman Hausherr (quoting CAN's definition):
>This should be....interesting.

Don't forget that I agree with Wizard that this is not an adequate definition of cult. I only try to show how CAN's own definition can be applied to themselves.

>>>Mind Control (undue influence): Manipulation by use of coercive persuasion or behavior modification techniques without informed consent.

>>No better description of deprogramming. CAN hate propaganda also perfectly fits with undue influence using emotional and frantic appeal without informed consent to induce behavior modification of parents and authorities and bring them to drastic, divisive, and damageable actions against the cults.

>I agree that deprogramming is a bad activity and that people who practise kidnapping should be prosecuted. Does this necessarily mean that "mind control" is used on the actual members of CAN? I was under the impression that a cult was a group that used "mind control" or "coercive persuasion" on members of the group to keep them loyal.

But "mind control" and "coercive persuasion" are undefined and fear-inducing concepts that can be applied to almost anything with which one disagree with, which is what CAN is doing (or whatever their new name is. I gather it is now "The Education Committee of the Free Thought Alliance").

The way they play on fear and guilt of parents and authorities to get them to drastic and dangerous actions would as much fill the definition of "mind control" as anything else.

>I also have a hard time considering any literature to be a "behaviour modifcation technique" that is used "without informed consent". If CAN insisted that people involved with the organisation get their information from CAN, and _only_ from CAN, their beliefs and ideas would be forced on members without their informed consent. If CAN permitted free access to all information about "cults", then members would be able to make up their minds about CAN freely. _Informed_consent, get it?

Cults don't physically restrict information from the outside either; They manipulate the members in such a way they won't trust information from any other sources. CAN is doing the same. They maintain that anyone disagreeing with them are "under mind control" or are "cult apologists". Look at their attitude towards sociologists and other academics who have spoken against them.

An ex-member is only useful for them if he successfully dish out enough dirt and anger on his former cult. They are loads of ex-members who view their experience as a part in their normal evolution and from which they now evolved. Did you ever heard such a testimony within CAN? I don't think you ever will... CAN filters out everything that is not entirely and exclusively ultra-negative and by endless repetition endeavor to give a distorted and fear-inducing pictures of "cults".

>>>Charismatic Leadership: Claiming divinity or special knowledge and demanding unquestioning obedience with power and privilege. Leadership may consist of one individual or a small core of leaders.

>>CAN claims special knowledge about the mind-control process. A process that even the academic and legal realms have rejected and that CAN still hold as true. They demand unquestioning obedience to "cults" do disband and for their follower to quit.

>I get the feeling that you're more interested in proving that CAN is a cult rather than objectively determining if they fit their own criteria or not. That's one of the most tortured definitions of "obedience" I've ever seen. This point refers to a group's leadership, and the kind of obedience expected from the group's followers, not what they want other groups to do. Animal rights groups demand "obedience" to not hurting or injuring animals in any way. That doesn't make them satisfy this point.

You can hardly belong to CAN, go to their meeting, etc, and express more moderate viewpoint without being suspected of being under mind-control or cult influence. Even the fact of not drinking alcohol is viewed as suspect... Obedience in cults isn't obtained by force either, but mainly through group pressure and conformism. The same happens with CAN.

>I don't know if CAN's description of "coercive persuasion" is claimed to be "special knowledge" known only to CAN or not. Again, this point is about _leadership_. The _leader_ has some divine power or special knowledge known ony to them. A cult has one leader, or a small group of leaders, who claim to be somehow better than others, and who are awarded power and privilege by the group. Bernie, who are these exultant leaders of CAN, and what special power and privileges do CAN give them?

The leader gives the initial impulsion, after which the cult can maintain a life on its own. Ted Patrick gave the initial impulsion to the group of parents that gathered around him. CAN is very much a result of his efforts and of his extremely fanatic and proselyting followers. The whole spirit, and the whole philosophy remained unchanged. Compare Ted Patrick book and CAN literature and you will see almost no difference as to the main points. CAN only gave up its deprogramming practice both because of rejection from the legal and academic community, and because forcible deprogramming is death easy to defeat once you understood the trick. Yet, deprogramming or other coercive practice is a direct consequence of their philosophies. I quote for example their own magazine, May 1988 issue, front page:

"A person is also particularly vulnerable when he believes certain myths. Singer cites as common myths about cult involvement the belief that ... cult victims are somehow responsible themselves for getting involved in cults in the first place."

This being in contradiction with the experience of most ex-members and academic studies, but for CAN, the idea that one is getting involved out of his own will is a myth. They are plenty of explicit and implicit suggestion to that effect, that directly induced a one-sided and dramatic view of "cults" in which the cult members need to be "saved" against his own will, just like quantities of oft repeated suggestions leads cult members towards a one-sided view of the outside world.

>>>Deception: Recruiting and fundraising with hidden objectives and without full disclosure of the use of mind controlling techniques; use of front groups.

>>Deception: CAN claims to defend the freedom of speech and beliefs, while they do exactly the reverse, they claim they are "helping" the parents, and only turn a bad situation into a catastrophic one.

>If this was an example of deception, attempts by CAN to allegedly tear families apart would be deliberate. They are not. Don't mistake deception for cluelessness.

But do you think that it is also a deliberate attempt by cults? Cult members are being turned away from their families as a result of alienation, they are being told that their parents are only their "biological parents" and that their real spiritual parents are the cult leaders, for example. Cults really believe this being so, they don't deliberately break up families, neither does CAN, but the result is the same. CAN is inducing such a distorted pictures to parents of their children as a mindless glassy-eyed brainwashed robot that a process of alienation is taking place, and parents, instead of viewing the experience their offspring is going through with a sense of perspective, are lead into a frantic panic in which they are ready for anything to "help" their child out of the "cult". Familial encounter turns into confrontation and the chance for mutual understanding is lost.

>This point also lists specific descriptions of deception as used by "cults". What "hidden objectives" does CAN have in their "recruiting" and "fundraising"? What "front groups" does CAN use?

One of the hidden objectives is power. In a CAN convention, there is the clear sentiment that they have a special knowledge and vision (mind control, cult, etc...), that the outside world is not "aware' of these "danger", and that they need to "enlighten" the world and authorities. They decide who is a cult and who isn't, what is a "true religion" and what isn't. They have a quasi messianic enthusiasm but, unlike cult that are motivated by false hopes, they mainly are motivated by false and distorted fears. Fear and horror are the key point in these conventions, and these are for the most parts highly exaggerated and unwarranted.

>>>Exclusivity: Secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs.

>>See the non-answer of JimDBB to my query to post CAN's disclaimer about deprogramming, for a perfect example of "secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs."

>The lack of a specific repudiation of the use of deprogramming worries me as well.

CAN never had a clear and up front policy against deprogramming. Deprogramming was the foundation of their whole organization and philosophy and the ties they always kept with deprogrammers was always strong. Their whole outlook is leading directly to this type of extreme solution, but they never did anything to discourage parents to resort to these drastic actions apart from maybe warning them it was (unfortunately) "illegal", and this of course only when CAN was forced to this corner after they failed to get deprogramming legalized. When forcible deprogramming is not illegal (in the case of underage, for example), they have no problem at all promoting it.

This is the reason why, when they are challenge to post their so-called disclaimer, you get nothing but silence about it, and the usual accusation against the one making the request. They don't have such a disclaimer because they never got rid of the idea that it can be a solution, and I am quite sure that they were still promoting it wherever they thought they could get away with it. There is hardly any doubt that Scott himself is being right now deprogrammed, Moxon only spoke to his mother at the front door.

>The category here is "exclusivity". Am I to assume that only people "cleared to know" can properly say whether or not CAN supports deprogramming? I can't argue on this one unless more information comes to light.

It's like the fair game law in Scientology. Officially denied, actually encouraged.

>>>Alienation: Separation from family, friends and society, a change in values and substitution of the cult as the new family; evidence of subtle or abrupt personality changes.

>>CAN separates parents from their children by inducing an hysterical fear, and mis-understandings about the "cult" they are in. Deprogrammers creates a definitive break of trust between the two. Children even fear to go alone visit their families.

>What about the rest of the points listed under alienation? What change in values does CAN cause to parents?

A change of value is not bad per se. To say that it is, is already enough to show how CAN defines any anti-conformist organization as a "cult". If there is a change of value within the cult, it is often based on new spiritual values against societies' predominantly materialistic values, even if these values get later distorted. It is based on hope for a better world. The change of value within CAN is based on fear and guilt. Parents that would be more tolerant of their offspring alternative lifestyle, would react in panic and fear and try to force their children out of the "danger" rather than giving him favorable conditions for getting out; authorities who would normally consider certain cults with the provision of tolerance within the constitution and thereby resolve certain potential dangers, would make noisy investigations, send their bulldozers against cults building, or pass discriminative and anti-democratic laws.

>How does CAN become a parent's "new family"? CAN's definition of a cult appears to be fairly specific to me. Probably a good thing, as simply saying "a cult is a group that engages in deception, alienation and demands obedience" leaves the door open to call any group a person doesn't like a "cult", which appears to be what you're doing.

I have argued in the past that there are no satisfying definition of "cult", I only show how CAN's own criteria could much better be applied to themselves than groups they like to label as "cults".

>>>Exploitation: Can be financial, physical, or psychological; pressure to give money, to spend a great deal on courses or give excessively to special projects, or to engage in inappropriate sexual activities, even child abuse.

>>CAN proponents are very fanatical and engage in a great deal of extra hours of work without pay. Those who are wealthy give great amount of money to it in the belief CAN is going to save the world from the evil cults.

>No argument that CAN wants to get support from people. I question whether demanding people's time and money is "exploitation" of people.

Ah, but that was the objection of someone else already: "is that exploitation?" Of course not, and yet, this is exactly what CAN claims against cults. Cult members, out of their own enthusiasm for their new found faith, often do extra works and long hours, but for CAN, not only this is "exploitation", it is also "slavery". Your reaction shows exactly what I want to demonstrate: CAN criteria are frantic and their absurdities reveal themselves when they are applied to CAN directly.

>Does CAN demand people give _excessively_ to special projects?

"Excessively" is purely subjective. Who defines what excessive is? I believe that wealthy CAN members have given -millions- of dollars to CAN to support their crusade. They did so because CAN could successfully induce them with their cult-phobia.

[Bob Minton would be a current example of this]

>>And note the "even child abuse" bit inserted there, just to bring higher the emotional reaction they seek from parents and authorities. From the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (URL in my sig):

>> "Many Child Protective Services in North America became caught up in the hysteria, suspected that children were being physically or sexually abused within religious groups and intentional communities. Many children were taken into care without any evidence of wrongdoing ... [but later], seizure of children by the state has decreased, due to greater understanding by child protection officers of the reality of communal living and due to experience gained in many lost court cases."

>So noted.

>>>Totalitarian Worldview (we/they syndrome): Effecting dependence, promoting goals of the group over the individual and approving unethical behavior while claiming goodness.

>>That's the real key. The most characteristic of CAN cultness is their we/they syndrome. And what better than their (at the very least) tacit approval of unethical behavior such as deprogramming while claiming goodness?

>There is evidence of a "we/they" syndrome within CAN. It seems to be a common viewpoint of people who feel like they're at war with something.

Exactly! And so did LRH and so many other cult leader, who felt at war with outside society. That's exactly the "we/they" symptom. The over-simplification of the problematic into an absolute all good inside and all bad outside. CAN is doing the reverse: all bad inside, all good outside. They don't care about the member questions and unfulfilled spiritual search, all that matter for them is that their children are not in the cult. It doesn't occur to them that it may be a temporary learning phase and evolution out of which the members have to maturely evolve out.

>That doesn't mean they fit the criteria used by CAN.

I think that this is the most fitting criteria of all. This is what makes them fanatics, just like cult members. The fact that there are a few anti-cult members who do have more moderate view doesn't make them less of a cult, since in cults too there are a great variety of individual fanaticism.

>Approving deprogramming, if true, is one part of this point that CAN would fulfil. But does CAN promote the goals of the group over the goals of the individual?

Absolutely. The goals of the individual, his search, his questions, his need to explore, even if he is wrong, is not respected at all. The cult is bad and evil, period. Whatever the member say is not to be taken into account since it isn't "him" who is talking, but an alternative personality created as a result of the mind-control/brainwashing exerted by the cult.

>Are members of CAN required to be dependant on CAN?

Again, cult members are not -required- to be dependent of the cult, they just become dependent with time. The normal parental efforts of understanding, persuasion, communication in mutual respect, etc, they would normally go through if not panicked or if wisely advised, is annihilated by unwarranted frantic, fear-inducing and guilt-inducing concepts of "mind-control" and "evil cults".

>>CAN is certainly a group that is "using mind control (undue influence) and unethical means to recruit and retain followers. Association with this group can be harmful to followers and disruptive to families, friends and society."

>I'm not convinced. The criteria are fairly detailed, and it looks to me that you had to ignore more than a few of the details to call CAN a cult. Did you apply the criteria thinking "Does CAN do this? Does CAN do this as well?" or did you think "CAN is a cult. How does this description prove it?"

Once more, their criteria could be applied to almost anything in which members involve themselves out of conviction. It could be applied to mainstream religion, political parties or other high-involvement groups. I don't find their criteria very useful to describe a cult, I only tried to show that their criteria could be applied to CAN itself, and in fact that it could be applied even better to them than to most of the groups they labeled as cults.

Again, as per their own definition a cult is 'a group that is "using mind control (undue influence) and unethical means to recruit and retain followers. Association with this group can be harmful to followers and disruptive to families, friends and society.'

CAN is using undue influence (fear, guilt, misrepresentation), and unethical means (not only deprogramming, but also unchecked and biased reporting, group pressured or deprogrammed 'testimonies' from apostate, etc). Association with this group can be harmful to followers (parents unduly stressed and distressed, prompted to engage in illegal, unethical, or anti-constitutional actions), and disruptive to families, friends (as per above, family blown apart, normal spiritual search and freedom of will of the child disrupted), and society (as in the culmination of both cults and anti-cult groups respective propaganda in Jonestown and Waco, or more recently in the paranoid behavior of certain German institutions leading to abuse of civil rights and disrepute of Germany around the world).


Lyn Buzzard, a professor of constitutional law at the Campbell University School of Law says the problem with CANís approach lies in the fungibility of defining what a cult is: ďIt tends to be applied to religions we donít like and where people have a strong commitment.Ē That doesnít mean we have no means of weeding out truly destructive groups from simply flaky ones. We do. Itís called the law.

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