CNN long ago stopped reporting the news. These days they seem to be going in for comedy, albeit of the unintentional kind. Last week, anchor Don Lemon announced with a straight face that he is “not a partisan” or “some liberal Democrat.” (He wants you to know he is also not a conservative Republican, which he claims some people have taken him for.)
This week the network whose motto is “Facts First” is promoting the notion that Donald Trump is a cult leader who, like Jim Jones, uses “mind control” to persuade hapless Americans to support him.
Brian Stelter, host of the wonderfully named “Reliable Sources,” shared the news, which is also the stuff of a book titled “The Cult of Trump” by “mental health counselor” Steven Hassan. Hassan is himself a former member of the Unification Church, so who better to lecture the rest of us on cults.
Stelter introduced an appearance by Hassan by noting:
The word cult has been popping up more and more. Think back to two weeks ago on this program, Anthony Scaramucci talked about his claim that Trump supporters are in a cult. Just last week, Dan Rather said he thinks Trump seems increasingly cultish. And this weekend in The Washington Post, Trump critic and Republican strategist John Weaver said, the GOP is ‘not a party anymore in the traditional sense; It’s a cult.’
When you start citing Dan Rather as an arbiter of truth you’re in trouble.
Here’s a video of the segment courtesy of NewsBusters. A transcript follows:
STEVEN HASSAN: So, I define a destructive cult as an authoritarian pyramid-structured group with someone at the top who claims to have total power and total wisdom that uses the deception and control of behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions to make people loyal and dependent and obedient followers.
So, for me, the issue between an ethical healthy cult, where you’re free to think and free to leave, versus a destructive cult. I’m referring to Trump’s organization and followership as a destructive cult, where people are being fed propaganda and they’re not being encouraged to think for themselves. They’re not being encouraged to really explore and look at the details and arrive at their own conclusion. Much of what they’re hearing is emotionally driven, loaded words, thought-stopping and thought-terminating-type clichés like “fake news” or “build the wall” or “make America great again.”
BRIAN STELTER: You say the President is using mind control, but how is that provable?
HASSAN: So, we can start with the pathological lying, which is characteristic of destructive cult leaders. Saying things in a very confident way that have nothing to do with facts or truthfulness. The blaming others and never taking responsibility for his own failures and faults. Shunning and kicking out anyone who raises questions or concerns about his own behavior. His use of fearmongering, immigration is a horrible thing.
STELTER: It is frightening to hear a cult expert say that you see all of these signs right now today in American politics.
HASSAN: But wake up. This is what’s happening and our democracy is at stake here. Freedom of the press is absolutely vital for a healthy country. And anyone like him that says press is the enemy of the people, that’s what Hubbard would say. That’s what Moon said. That’s what la Reusch said. Why? Because their demagogues.
STELTER: So, finally, the first step, if you say this is a cult, what’s the first step of deprogramming?
HASSAN: The first step with anyone who’s a true believer is contact with people that are outside the bubble. Cult leaders want to isolate their people. They want — they want family and friends to just disappear rather than keep engaged. Hey, did you read this article? What do you think of it? You know, I’ll watch one of your shows, watch one of my shows. In other words, appealing to the person’s true self, their authentic self, that wants to be a good person, that wants — that believes in America and democracy and truth.
STELTER: For the people who are dreading Thanksgiving, you’re saying it’s an opportunity to get together?
HASSAN: Exactly. Let’s — we’re family. We’re friends, let’s talk. And you know, truth will out. Truth will stand up to scrutiny.
Shorter Steven Hassan: If you support the president, it’s because your mind has been taken over and you need to be deprogrammed.
Meantime, some of the techniques Hassan describes, such as hammering the masses with propaganda and pathological lying do have a familiar ring. Recall “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”? How about the way the Obama administration framed the raid on Benghazi? Only in those cases, CNN, which repeated the lies, was a co-conspiriter.