From WRSA. This is a good question and a good read, especially in light of the actions of certain people, and the unfolding of recent events.
Is Your Amazing Patriot Organization Really a Cult?
Within the patriot community at large there are thousands of groups, from national conglomerates with state and local chapters down to the one-off groups run by this guy or that guy. We get questions sometimes asking “Which group should I join? What groups are good/safe/focused on the right things?” When it comes to choosing a group to affiliate with (or whetherto choose a group at all), only you can make that choice. This article, however, will give you a few points to ponder about where your prospective group is going…and whether you should be on board.
While you may find the title of this article a bit dramatic, you might be surprised to know that the psychological principles that cults employ to control their members are shared by several other non-cult entities. These tactics include social engineering through emotional appeals, manipulation, and even fear. Multi-level marketing companies are one of the first things you might think of in terms of non-religious cults.
But do some patriot organizations fit this as well? Let’s take a look.
In a cult, submission to its leader is mandatory. Some patriot groups expect the same, and leaders foster loyalty to themselves instead of the cause itself. This is most prevalent in groups with a pyramid style
leadership structure. Members of the group view their leader (and those who the leader deems as being “good”) as being the only voice on anything connected with the cause. The leader has unquestioned, unrivaled authority within the group.
Loyalty to the leader is also rewarded, perhaps with greater access to information and/or the leader himself, or a higher level within the organization. In groups like this, the leader promotes those who are most subservient and loyal to him. In some cases, this loyalty can cost the members financially or emotionally, as they are expected to show up whenever and wherever they are ordered to be. Those who do not act on command are seen as disloyal or lesser patriots.
Most patriot groups can work with other groups, even if they don’t necessarily share the exact same platform or chosen courses of action. In some groups, however, there is a view of exclusivity and elitism. They are the only ones doing it “right”; everyone else is at least somewhat “wrong” and therefore lesser. There is an arrogance found in groups like these that is immediately apparent. These groups also tend to engage in open and public denigration of others; since they are the “best” group and the “only ones” who are “truly standing for liberty,” they feel comfortable tearing down other groups with different tactics. This is a natural flow from the leader, who fosters this culture and may even engage in it himself. Any negative feedback they receive is seen as persecution—which the group paints as validation.
Hand in hand with the concept of exclusivity is that of isolation. Cults seek to isolate their members from those who would distract them, point out inconsistencies or threaten the cult’s control. People in these types of patriot groups tend to hang out with each other nearly exclusively. Activities abound for group members, often focused around team-building and bonding, such as shared meals or interests. This has the effect of greater control over the members, especially when paired with an “us against them” mentality. In the patriot movement, often the “them” does not even refer to the government, but to other groups or individuals who are seen as “disruptive” or who don’t subscribe to the group’s loyalty
This term refers to a cult’s propensity to shower the loyal with love and affection. The word “family” is often used to describe the group, and emotional validation is given to members who are living and acting within the group’s guidelines and philosophy. The other side of that is shunning, in which members who question the leader or the group’s practices are cut off and even attacked or publicly denigrated. The ‘love bombing’ works in concert with group think, in which the group’s cohesiveness is based upon observance to all actions, beliefs and policies handed down by the leader. Obedience is rewarded with continued inclusion in the “family.”
In a cult, the leader is seen as having special access to God. In patriot groups with cult-like tendencies, the leader is seen as having special access to “the patriot hierarchy” or higher authorities within the movement. In some cases, the special knowledge refers to “connections” the leader claims to have, real or imagined, within government agencies and/or sources that somehow offer access to information that members can only get from him. Members do not normally directly interface with these higher authorities or sources except at specific times or events, and usually in the presence (or with the express permission of) the group’s leader. In day to day activities, the leader speaks with these authorities or sources himself and then disseminates their “will” or “intelligence” to the rest of the members. Often that “insider information” is used to bolster a leader’s control and validate his orders (“my source at DHS says…”). Members believe that this special access offers their group credibility and a higher standing within the movement. The closer the leader’s perceived relationship with the movement “authorities,” or the more often he refers to or disseminates “secret” information, the more apt these members are to follow his orders. Often, members are expected to act simply based on the fact that the leader has the special information—even if he refuses to share it all with the members.
The concept of cognitive dissonance is fairly well known. In a specific manner relating to the dynamic of a cult-like patriot group, however, there are additional points to consider. Because of the group’s loyalty to the leader, any information at odds with their belief system regarding his power or authority is summarily discarded. Even in the face of evidence of fraud or wrongdoing, members will defend him, honestly believing that in doing so they are defending the movement itself. Those who dare to openly discuss, expose, or even question the leader’s policies or orders are seen as the enemy.
Are All Patriot Groups Cults?
In a word, no. Of course not. Most patriots mean well. Many are looking for a group to belong to, to learn from, to stand with them and offer stability and camaraderie. These are not bad things; if more patriots stood together and acted together a lot more could be accomplished in the name of liberty. Many groups are made up of good, solid people who seek to foster liberty in their communities. Many solid groups may have a slight resemblance to some of these points; these are not cults at all.
The problem arises when an opportunistic, narcissistic or even corrupt person either forms his own group or takes control of an existing one. In many cases, these types of leaders are not satisfied being “members,” and seek power for themselves; they often leave groups to start their own, and people whose loyalty they have already cultivated will follow them. They end up forming the core membership of the new group.
When considering a group to join, look at the dynamic. Loyalty to the leader and the group is not necessarily a bad thing; unfailing obedience or adherence to group policies, however, is cause for concern. Ask yourself the following questions when observing a group:
• Do the members engage in individual liberty activities outside the group or do they only act AS a group?
• Are their actions derived only from information or orders given to them by their leader?
• Do they shun and even deride outsiders, especially former members? Does the list of “approved people” change based on information received from the leader?
• Does their leader have perceived special access to “higher authorities” or intelligence that members only get through him or her?
• Is there an internal hierarchy that shows that loyalty is rewarded with higher position or better access?
• When there are opportunities for action, do the members take initiative on their own? Or do they always consult the leader and wait for approval?
• Are they associated anywhere else? Do they consistently work well with other groups or do they only work with each other?
• Do they exhibit a loyalty to the leader as opposed to the cause itself?
• Is there evidence of cognitive dissonance in regards to the leader or the group itself?
• Does the group see itself as the “best” or “only” group who’s “doing it right”?
Getting Out of It
If you or a friend find yourself in a group that fits the above attributes, there are options. You could try bringing your concerns to leadership, but the very culture that created the situation will naturally ignore or even ostracize you for your concerns. In the end, your only option may be to leave the group, knowing that you may lose friends and contacts doing so. In a toxic patriot group, the chances of you changing it from the inside are next to zero.
Finding the Right Group
There are set environmental factors and cultural aspects of solid groups that are universal, and in the patriot movement it’s no different. These are the things you should be looking for.
• Willingness to learn, even from outside sources. A solid group is interested in mental and intellectual growth, even if it means learning from people they don’t like or are ideologically opposed to. They want to be better, faster, smarter, and more effective, and if you have something to teach them, they want to learn it—even if they don’t agree with you. (Toxic groups are only willing to learn from their leader, other group members, or from instructors and sources “approved” by the group leader.)
• Humility. A solid group doesn’t see themselves as somehow “better” than others individually or as a group. They understand that they’re simply one spoke in the wheel, and look to fulfill their role while staying cognizant of their place in the bigger picture. (A toxic group thinks they are the best/most effective/most important part of the bigger picture and see other groups as minor players.)
• Cooperation. Solid groups want to work with others to achieve more.(Toxic groups don’t cooperate with other groups, they either refuse to cooperate completely, or only “allow” other groups to work with them.)
• Independent Thinking. Their members are leaders in their own right; they think and act independently. You might see them involved in activities run by other groups, or serving as volunteers at actions while representing themselves instead of their core group. Group members may even have side projects of their own that they run completely independent and unaffiliated with their core group. (Toxic groups encourage an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude that values groupthink and group activities over individual involvement.)
• Respect. A solid group (and its leader) treats all members—and outsiders in the movement—with respect and integrity. (A toxic leadership respects only obedient followers, and may lie to members or pit
them against each other in tests of loyalty.)
• Focus and Self-Awareness. Solid groups know who they are, what they’re about, and have actionable goals for the direction of their group that directly relate to the movement and furthering the cause. They are open to criticism and capable of absorbing directional changes if they benefit the movement. (Toxic groups focus on promoting themselves and their own agenda. The cause itself is secondary.)
There are plenty more positive attributes of a good group, but these should get you started. Whatever group you choose—if you choose one at all—keep a teachable attitude, and look to contribute in a positive manner to the cause of liberty.
Sound like anyone you know or have heard of?
American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE