Part 3 - Defining a Cult

Ben Shenton

March 9, 2018

Part 2 - Defining a Cult

Controlling the Narrative - Good versus Bad

One of the most critical tools in implementing an ideology is the controlling of the narrative.
What is talked about and how events are characterized goes a long way in calibrating the groups belief systems and their implementation and fosters either a healthy or toxic culture that its adherents function in.  What is talked about and what information is provided to support their world view is controlled by the narrative.

In the army the most critical thing to protect is the morale of the troops. What they are told deeply affects their willingness to put their lives on the line as they fight the enemy. Any soldier who affects the morale of the troops can be court marshaled.  Every organisation looks for 'stories' that support the culture they are attempting to build and will wisely broadcast these.  A coach of any sports team pays particular attention to creating or changing a toxic culture by using a narrative that each team member imbibes and makes part of their every day conversation.

Any leader building a healthy culture does this, yet so do cults.  When I was growing up in 'The Family' cult all information that came into our possession was vetted.  The music we listened to, the radio broadcasts, the books we read. Even the newspapers were vetted and articles cut out if they didn't pass the strict rules of censorship. What I believed about the police in society or politicians, world events were shaped by stories I was told over and over again and the opinion that the leader and her trained confidants we called 'Aunties' or 'Uncles' that look after us day in day out rehearsed to us.

Controlling the narrative is something that has been around since the formation of a society. It plays out with the town crier, pamphlet drops, posters hung up in public spaces, the media being controlled by the state so that only the governments views are broadcast. Dissenters disappearing and their families never see them again.  In Argentina the death flights where dissenters were flown and to sea, shot and dumped, in Cambodia it was the killing fields , the Gulags of Communist Russia, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and throughout repressive regimes in the middle east are proof enough.

Each of these social groups from the smallest to the largest are only separated from a 'cult' when the individual is intimidated and bullied into adhering to those rules and regulations that are clearly not for their or the wider societies long term good.  The consequences that play out over time are ignored or characterized in a light that supports the ideology that is being peddled, we've all heard the terms 'group think' and the dangers it has in producing outcomes where all the warning signs are ignored.

We've all heard the terms - political spin, indoctrination, propaganda and immediately think Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, Stalin Russia, the Tokyo Rose broadcast of wartime in Japan during World War II and on and on.  It's time to think what's trending in main stream media with the specific stories appearing in all outlets designed to shape the world view of western society, the manipulation of what's trending on social media and it's use to control with the shaming done through social media avenues and hashtags like #MeToo tags where no one is given the right of reply or presumption of innocence. Then there's the educational institutions that gate keep the ideologies of a society and indoctrinate each new generation through what is taught by the careful placement of texts shouting a very specific ideology that is buried into their curriculum with the books that are inserted into the reading lists that push an agenda and deliberately shape a worldview.

Yet with the digital age and the ability to be able to read news feeds from many countries and outlets it's very clear that a consistent narrative on issues and the same stories with the same political or social agenda appear.  It is as if main stream media is provided the same talking points day by day.

Then social media is used to denigrate, shame and control anyone who doesn't believe what the current agenda is.  Modern day censorship and bullying and intimidation through the all pervasive social media applications that we carry with us on our smart phones where ever we go is alive and well. It reaches into every corner of our lives controlling the narrative that we live by; training us on how we should think and rewarding us and punishing us in differing measures with either the promise of being liked and popular that is measured by likes and followers and tags we create that trend or it's removal of this if we put one step out of line by not following the current group think.

Part 4 - Defining a Cult

Join the Conversation