• Nathan Max

Cult Following


Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP. Mostly unmasked supporters turned out in large numbers Thursday to see Donald Trump.

It’s recorded. We all heard it. Donald Trump, on tape, admitting he intentionally deceived and misled the American people with regard to the seriousness of the coronavirus.


And there they all were, the very next day. Crammed together. Unmasked. Cheering on their conquering hero without any regard to their own personal safety or the safety of those at home.


These are cult followers.


They have been brainwashed. They have been programmed. The leader told them not to believe what they heard with their own ears, and they willingly complied, as if we are living in the George Orwell dystopian novel 1984.


Donald Trump famously said in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election that his voters would stand by him if he shot someone in downtown New York City. It turns out, they are standing by him, even after his negligence, recklessness and incompetence has directly led to 195,000 American deaths and counting from COVID-19.


It seems there really is nothing Trump can do to turn his hard-core supporters against him.


Cults have three defining characteristics, according to psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, who once taught at Harvard Medical School and authored a paper entitled “Cult Formation” in 1981.


First, there is a charismatic leader. For those of us who have not been programmed, it’s hard to see the stumbling, stammering president as having charisma, but his fans seem to hang on his every word.

Second, there is a process of indoctrination that culminates with followers consistently acting in the best interest of the leader, without regard for themselves. In Michigan on Thursday, one rally attendee told a CNN reporter, “if I die, I die.”


Finally, the leader and his ruling partners exploit their followers for their own economic and sexual gain. Now, it doesn’t appear that Donald Trump has been having sex with his supporters’ wives and girlfriends, but there sure does seem to be a lot of financial impropriety going on with their campaign donations. Aside from that, it is fairly clear that Trump’s base of non-college-educated white men will be voting against their own economic interest.


To be fair, not all of Trump’s supporters meet this definition, and there are those who clearly have a vested interest in keeping this regime in place. Most notably, Trump’s America is a very friendly environment for the extremely wealthy and for rapacious capitalists.


Billionaires, millionaires and corporate magnates have all greatly benefited from Trump’s drive to slash taxes. Corporations have greatly benefited from Trump’s drive to eliminate regulations.


Local law-enforcement officers, who have always lived in an environment in which they can assault and murder civilians with near impunity, also would be wise to vote for Trump. He wants to allow them to continue their reign of terror on the populace, while Joe Biden seeks to reform their operations and create a world in which they are held accountable for their actions.


Those groups are acting in their own self-interest. They are not cultists.


But there is another element out there. It’s the one we see on TV, and it’s the one that dominates social media. They are the conspiracy theorists who believe Donald Trump is fighting cannibals, pedophiles and the deep state. They are the legions of red-hatted men and women who dismiss the virus as a hoax and refuse to cover their faces in public.


These people don’t care if four sources told a reporter at one of the nation’s most venerable news organizations that the president called fallen war heroes “losers” and “suckers.” If Trump said he didn’t do it, that’s good enough for them.


These people don’t care how many women the president is accused of assaulting or harassing, even when there is audio that essentially serves as a confession. If Trump said he didn’t do it, that’s good enough for them.


These people don’t care if the president said privately back in March that he was downplaying a deadly airborne virus, while publicly advocating for society to reopen against the wishes of every respected scientist and public-health expert. If Trump says it’s no big deal, that’s good enough for them.


There is nothing the leader can do or say that will turn his followers against him.


Their devotion to him is total.

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