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The Cult – TV Drama Blog

The Cult is an ambitious TV Show. But how does it compare to the real thing? Cultwatch’s founder and director compares the fiction with the reality of cult existence. An irreverent look at the show featuring insights about how cults operate in the real world. Learn what you need to know to protect yourself and your friends and family.

 

THE CULT – Blog

 
 

Members of the cult Momentum in white, and the Liberators in black
Prelude to the First Episode
So TV2′s new show The Cult is about a cult (just a guess) and being the director of Cultwatch I had the brainwave that if I did a blog comparing week by week, episode by episode, this fictional cult with the psychology of the real thing, then people would find that pretty interesting.I figured it wouldn’t matter if The Cult show is completely inaccurate since I could enlighten you on why it’s inaccurate, or if the show is true to life, because then I could underline the points you needed to take from the drama. Either way as the pixels of the show’s final episode faded and you read my last entry, then you’d know how cults work and how they control, which after all is one of the primary aims of Cultwatch – education. Then there would be no more cults because everyone could spot them, no more emails from distressed parents wondering why their beloved daughter now thinks they are Satan, and I could take a day off – maybe even find enough time to have a proper mid-life crisis.So before the first episode airs what should we expect if the show’s writers have captured the essence of a cult? Let’s start with the cult leader Edward North (played by Latham Gaines) who leads the New Zealand branch of the international cult called “Momentum”.Real cult leaders are narcissists, so expect Edward North to want to control a group of utterly obedient sycophants, and react strongly to any hint of rebellion or criticism. His need of admiration from his followers should be so deep that if the admiration was to cease then he would fall into the void of non-existence – admiration is what confirms to the narcissus that he exists. Yet he will exploit the cult’s members ruthlessly, the very people who love him he will treat like expendable dirt. The narcissistic cult leader is an emotional black-hole that sucks everything around him into the crush of the time-event horizon that is cult existence.What will be interesting is to discover which type of cult leader the show’s writers have chosen to make Mr. North. Will he be the conman? The conman is the rare type of leader who is deliberately pulling the wool over his followers eyes. But I hope they have gone with the second type, the type that really believes his own dog food. This leader thinks that he actually is the chosen one whom God (or the aliens or whatever) has selected to prepare his followers for Armageddon. He’ll have grandiose visions of his importance and his eyes will be filled with the solid stare of the man who knows.In summary Edward North should project a calm confident strongly charismatic image, but behind the scenes be a bit of a loony.Up next are the cult lieutenants. There are three layers to a cult: the cult leader in the center, and then around him the inner and outer circles.

The inner circle is made up of the cult leader’s lieutenants, these are the cult’s hard men and women. The Gestapo. The lieutenant’s prestige is linked to their standing with the cult leader, and so they will do anything to ingratiate themselves with their power source – like sorting out trouble or fleecing money from the cult members to buy the leader expensive presents.

A cult’s lieutenants are perpetually in a power struggle with each other, in fact a clever cult leader will exasperate this by giving the lieutenants similar goals and overlapping spheres of authority. It’s likely The Cult drama will feature some spectacular inter-factional fighting.

The biggest problem with being a lieutenant is that if something major goes wrong, then they risk being the fall guy – the cult leader is incapable of error, therefore one of the lieutenants must take the bullet. A lieutenant’s greatest fear is being cast out, into the outer circle.

The outer circle are the ordinary cult members. The true believers. These are the cult’s worker bees who provide the money and labour. They provide the leader with the worship he needs, and they’ll do anything for him: from baby sitting to selling their homes, to stealing, to sex, and in some real life cults even to murder.

They are also the ones trapped in the web that the narcissistic leader has spun. The web consists of isolated compounds to keep the members physically trapped, and the demonising of former friends and family to keep the cult members mentally isolated. The cult is their new family.

Over all the cult should be like a big dysfunctional family, and most of its members will have stepped sideways into the cult from a dysfunctional upbringing.

As the cult members cut themselves off from their friends and family, this will, just as in real life, cause a reaction by those who love them. In The Cult drama the “Liberators” represent those disenfranchised from their loved ones. The Liberators come together to fight Momentum and rescue the cult’s members.

I’ll talk a lot more about the Liberators as this blog rolls on. But I’ll mention one of the Liberators now, Hugo (played by Will Wallace) is an ex-SAS (special forces) man that works as the Liberators’ bodyguard.

Of course CULTWATCH is a charitable trust, and so we have a mountain of spare cash :), that pays for our amazing NORAD like underground HQ, and not just one but a gaggle of ex-SAS bodyguards to protect us from all those foaming-mouth cult lieutenants.

But honestly the reality isn’t that glamorous, ex-SAS guys are great in a scrap, but most of the time they sit round our underground HQ drinking lager and discussing amongst themselves why none of them can score a women. I haven’t had the heart to point out that women look sideways at men who go out into the wild and spend days under a bush together while wearing makeup. But despite that, let us hope that Hugo has better luck.

This blog entry has talked a lot about what we might see. Next entry I’ll discuss The Cult‘s first episode. Let’s discover how it turns out…

Episode 1
So, if you’re ever in a supermarket and pick up a random magazine to peruse, and hidden inside that magazine is a white envelope emblazoned with your type written name, then I suggest you panic – because you’re about to get shot in the stomach.Of course they taught us that in school, but Michael Lewis (played by Renato Bartolomei) must have skipped that class.So begins The Cult with Michael (the one who seems like the hero for now) getting a lead breakfast. But many others are getting these white envelopes too, containing a photo of their loved one and an internet address for a secret chat site. But fortunately none of these other envelopes are hidden in random supermarket magazines, and so no one else gets shot.In this first episode a few cult traits are revealed: The cult’s compound is isolated deep in New Zealand bush. Isolation from the outside world is important if the cult leader is to unanchor his follower’s minds from reality and tow their minds into the shoals of his own warped world view. The Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite would have found it much harder to convince his followers that suicide was the path to a spaceship hovering behind the comet Hale-Bopp, had it not been for the physical isolation afforded by their three acre rented mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California.After a scene when Michael’s cult member son Ryan Lewis (played by Gareth Reeves) emerges from three weeks isolation in a floatation tank where glowing light balls snow around him, the cult’s leader Edward North (played by Lathan Gaines) takes him aside. He compliments him on renouncing his relationship with his Father, and then informs Ryan that to move to the next level he must renounce his relationship with his brother Nathan too. His reward for doing this is the prospect of advancement and a “Sanctioned Relationship”.This is typical cult practice, and is called “Relationship Control”. More important than isolating members physically is isolating them socially. We are relational beings, most of what we do and say is influenced by other people. It follows that if you can control the people that your target interacts with, then you can control your target. This is one of a cult’s defining characteristics, and something you should remember to watch out for.Several times we hear the cult’s leader tell their members that blood and DNA doesn’t make a family, and that those in the cult are their new family now. Here Edward North is laying the groundwork to prepare his followers to give up their actual family, by knocking out from under them the normal notion of what a family is.

Sanctioned relationships is also a classic cult trait. Here not only is the leader controlling who you can see, he is also turning your desire for a loving relationship into a carrot. If you do what he says, then you will be rewarded with an intimate relationship with the cult member you happen to be infatuated with.

In male dominated cults often the most desirable female members are treated less harshly, while unknowingly being dangled in front of the noses of a number of big-eyed male followers.

In this first installment we saw other cult techniques employed, but I’ll comment on those in future blog posts. For now, just remember Physical Isolation and Relationship Control.

In this episode things have not being going well for Michael, near the end he crashes his car. It lays upside down on its roof playing some sort of rap music, or it could be the horn stuck on, hard to tell. And after he crawls out someone hits him on the head several times.

So, what will happen next? Has the cult enticed the Liberators to New Zealand so they can perform medical experiments on them? Who is the traitor in the Liberator’s camp (there has to be at least one)? When will we hear about the cult’s Armageddon scenario, and wouldn’t it be a funny twist if they actually turned out to be right? Will there be aliens? Is Michael actually an ex-cult member with his memory wiped? Was Michael actually a secret agent sent by the CIA to infiltrate the cult and they wiped his memory, and if so, what if the cult then wiped his memory too? If you have your memory wiped twice is it a good idea to have your brain defragged? Perhaps the aliens will have some intergalactic open-source software up to the task? We can only wait and see!

Oh, one last thing before I go (as I write this one of our ex-SAS men is prodding me in the back with his copy of “The Game”). My comment last week about the makeup and not being able to score a woman got all our ex-SAS bodyguards rather miffed. They spent half-an hour in conference and then declared that one of their number “Killer” (they all have nicknames like this) dated a woman back in 2002. They insist I tell you that Killer’s romance lasted three whole weeks, and would have lasted longer if he hadn’t given this widowed mum’s six year old son a box of flash-bangs (a fire-cracker of some sort) to use for Guy Fawkes. Apparently what really ended the relationship, was his mistake in mentioning to the child that the SAS normally use these fire-crackers inside.

There, that’s made them happy. Chuffed even. Until next week!

Episode 2
Well I’m happy, in the second episode they are ramping up the drama. That’s good to see. We are starting to get flashbacks to fill in the back-story. The standard wisdom is that flashbacks slow down the action, but I like them.I remember as a kid watching a show called Magnum P.I. about this private investigator with a pterodactyl sized mustache clinging to the underside of his nose. Whenever something important was happening when he really needed to be paying attention, or perhaps when the show’s editor realized that they hadn’t shot enough footage that week, they would insert this flashback from Magnum’s tour in Vietnam. If my childhood memory serves me correctly Magnum was holding the hands of a fellow soldier who was dangling out the side of a helicopter, but Magnum couldn’t hold on to him and he falls into the rocky river below. (But he falls in slow motion, so I’m sure he survived.)The problem was that Magnum’s flashback was always the same one. With The Cult they have had a breakthrough, making all of their flashbacks different! Genius. Personally I was always envious of Magnum’s flashback, what a useful thing to have. In fact I’ve tried using it as an excuse, like at school when the teacher had just been explaining – whatever it is that teachers explain – and then vindictively asked me a question, “Oh I’m sorry Sir, I was having a flashback to Nam”.During one of The Cult’s flashbacks we learn that Ryan’s in-cult girlfriend had actually recruited him. In fact it looks like the relationship is a setup.This is not uncommon. Many cults recruit new members via relationships, and I’m not meaning an accidental recruitment where genuine friendship is offered and you become interested in your new friends beliefs. Rather I mean that cult recruitment is often a deliberate manipulation of interactions designed to draw you into the group with the tractor-beam power of simulated friendship.The attractive boy or girl who happens to be surprisingly interested in you. The businessman you respect who pays you attention. The work colleague or fellow student on campus who makes a beeline to you. The difference between real friendship and the cult’s version is that real friendship happens because two people want it, whereas cult friendship happens because one person wants it, while the other is being instructed to lead you on.This hidden agenda has been exploited powerfully by many cults. The International Church of Christ – when it was big in the nineties – trawled student campuses around the world for lonely out-of-town students. The cult boys and girls reported the various contacts they made to their controllers known as “disciplers”, and these contacts were discussed in the leader’s meetings. Particularly fine catches – the rich, the smart, and the attractive – received special attention. Cult members who had similar interests to these premium contacts were instructed by the cult’s leaders to also become their friends.

The Children of God cult, also known as The Family of Love, introduced in 1974 a technique called “flirty fishing” where their female members would offer sex to recruit new members. This policy ended in 1987 – just so you know. The cult’s founder David Berg certainly understood the power of relationships as a tool to draw people into his cult.

The name us counter-cult types use for recruitment through manufactured relationships is “Love Bombing”. Love Bombing is one of the most powerful proselytizing techniques in a cult’s arsenal. So be aware. Watch out for instant friendships. Remembering that real friendships take time. If you planted an acorn, and the next day a hundred foot oak tree was there, you’d be suspicious wouldn’t you? It’s the same with friendships: if you planted an acorn and the next day a new friend was growing out of the ground… oh wait, I’m messing up my metaphors. I mean, if you plant the seed of friendship then that friendship should grow normally, if it springs up with unnatural speed then you know something is wrong.

I’ll talk more about Love Bombing in a later post because this is not the whole story, Love Bombing has another sinister side.

Now back to the actual story. Michael has had a better episode this time, since no one hit him on the head. But as a whole things are going badly for the Liberators during the flashnows (if scenes set in the past are called flashbacks, then surely scenes set in the present are called flashnows).

There is a mysterious man working against them who seems to be controlled by the cult’s leader Edward North. This man collects bodies, ties people to beds, and likes to listen intently to the sound of small bugs – the electronic kind that is. I’ll call him The Man until we find out more about him. The liberator’s first plan to get everyone out of the cult compound is foiled by The Man.

And the police have been added into the mix. They are suspicious about the “goings on”, but then that is their job. It must be annoying being married to a policeman, I imagine the conversations go like this:

Policeman’s Wife: “Welcome home dear, I’ve cooked halibut.”
Policeman: “Likely story my love, can I see the receipt for the fish? And where were you at two thirty this afternoon, the time of the Lynnfield bank job?”

Let’s see if the Liberators have more success next week. Until then.

Episode 3
So now we know. The worst job you can have in life is installing solar panels. You’ll get threatened, beaten up, get forced into kidnapping and bank robbery, and then be killed – all in the space of one episode. I had heard that the life expectancy of Solar Panel Installers was less than that of Blind Stunt Pilots, but I didn’t believe it until now.The Man also makes an indirect appearance in this installment of The Cult. He seems to have delivered Michael’s son Nathan into the hands of the Liberators. Was it The Man who sent the envelopes that brought the Liberators together? The actors are acting suspicious now, wondering these thoughts out loud. And Edward North, the cult’s leader, seems not to know about The Man.But the strangest event was Edward North’s latest task for his cult members, digging up their own coffins. The imagery of a long shed filled with white coffins was startling – perhaps a foreshadowing of what might be in the cult’s future. We have all seen the pictures of bodies from Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate. If they gave Oscars for single scenes in a TV series, then I think this scene would be nominated.Edward’s North’s purpose in making his followers dig up these coffins was to provide them with an emotional moment to underline their death to their old life and biological family.These “emotional moments” or epiphanies are the bread and butter of both cults and normal belief systems. After all it would be fair to say that a belief system that doesn’t make you feel would be pretty unattractive, and is certainly the reason that accountancy can’t be found in the list of the world’s major religions.However there is a danger with epiphanies and the feelings they produce. But before I can explain this danger, we need to understand the nature of an epiphany. Here’s a dictionary definition: “Epiphany, A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.”We’ve all had those “Aha!” moments when we have finally grasped a concept or changed our thinking. You’re embarrassed at school because you can’t figure calculus, and then suddenly it all falls into place. You have been puzzling about how to put that bookshelf together, and then you see. Your family was dysfunctional and so you were brought up believing that you must keep up appearances; so you have carried this unwritten rule that family problems must never be talked about into your own family, then one day you realize that it’s unhealthy, and that life is often messy, and it’s OK to drop the veil of perfection and openly discuss these issues.

These moments, depending on the significance of the realization, can produce powerful feelings. Feelings of clarity. Feelings of pride as you look down on those still stuck in their wrong thinking. Feelings of release, especially if the realization sets you free from a long carried burden, such as the burden of keeping up appearances.

So where’s the danger in this? Surely these epiphanies are a good thing? Well often they are, but here’s the rub, you can stretch the feelings epiphanies produce into emotional proofs to validate teachings and practices that are not right or good.

Think about this. You probably have fallen in love at some point in your life. Do you remember that feeling? The emotional surge as the epiphany – of what that person is to you – exploded in your heart? The way they looked when you first saw him or her? (Or if you’re an accountant, how your first big-buttoned calculator glistened as it emerged from its bubble wrap. How you stroked it, as you whispered, “My one. My own. My precious.”)

Can you remember how your beloved could do no wrong? How actions that would drive you crazy if performed by anyone else, became sources of endearment? How you believed that you had found perfection in a person?

Of course, logically you knew he or she wasn’t perfect. But reasoning had long been washed out your ears by that rogue wave of love. And it is during this crazy time, that cult leaders can make you sell your house and give them the money, or convince you to disown your biological family, or even take your own life.

If they have succeeded in giving you a deep epiphany then you will attribute that amazing feeling to them, in the same way you attributed the feelings of love to your beloved. And so you will think your leader infallible, just as you could see no imperfection in your beloved.

But it doesn’t follow that because someone induces feelings in you that they are somehow perfect. Adolf Hitler was very good at inducing feelings both in crowds and one on one, but his teachings were poison.

So you need to be aware of this dynamic. You need to keep in mind the danger of the epiphany. Great feelings do not validate everything someone teaches, you need to keep your brain engaged.

Back to The Cult. I’m looking forward to the next episode, since I want to find out more about The Man. Is The Man conducting an experiment on both the cult and the Liberators? Is The Man a metaphor for the script writers? Or are the aliens finally going to turn up? Until next week.

Episode 4
The big question is, of course, what are they going to do now they have run out of Solar Panel Installers?The slightly bigger question is, of course, who is The Man?The other big question, which is bigger than the big question, but not quite as big as the slightly bigger question, and therefore rightly named “The other big question between the big question and the slightly bigger question” is, of course, where are the aliens?This episode we learn the answer to the slightly bigger question, but nothing about the aliens. Except, that Saul the cult security guy, as he pulls out the solar panel guy’s body from the stream has a long cut scene where he focuses on this rather suspicious flower. The flower seems to communicate with him. Could this flower be the first appearance of the aliens?At least we can be sure now about the answer to the slightly bigger question, the identity of The Man. The Man’s name is Sophie McIntyre. Sophie is a rather unusual name for a guy. Which leads to two possibilities, either his parents were insane when they named him, or The Man is actually a woman. One reader with the girls name Hannah (sorry if I spelt that backwards), emailed after my last post to point out that The Man has breasts, and in fact is an actress from another TV series “McLeod’s Daughters“. I count myself fortunate to have readers so wise in the ways of science.McLeod’s Daughters by the way is a TV series I have never watched, but I know some of my readers will also never have seen the show and will be wondering what it is. Fortunately its theme is pretty easy to deduce. First we take the propensity of actors to play the same sort of part, here in The CultSophie McIntyre has done a lot of sulking around and clandestine stuff, and in this episode we see her wielding a knife. Second, in both TV series her last name is Scottish. Therefore, it is obvious thatMcLeod’s Daughters is about an ancient Amazonian female warrior tribe from a little known tributary of the Amazon located in the Scottish highlands. I imagine it is an extremely violent show with an oversupply of ninjas. There you go, I’m sure I’ve hit the nail on the head.Back to The Cult. So The Man, is a woman. And we learn that she is a “deprogrammer”.

Is a deprogrammer an evil software developer who deletes other peoples code? Not in this context. In regard to the cults a deprogrammer is an expert able to undo the mind control that is influencing a cult member’s mind.

Before we go on it is important that I define terms. First notice I said “mind control”, and not “brain washing”. Brain washing is indoctrination by torture, and as a rule is not something established cults do. However the cults do perform mind control, because mind control is more legal and much more effective than brain washing. Mind control is not the literal ability to take over someones mind, like a Jedi master in Star Wars is able to control the minds of the weak. Rather mind control is a series of techniques working together to manipulate a person. In some ways it is more like having a gun pointed at your head. Like a gun, mind control is a threat. Obey me or you will lose your family, your friends, your salvation, and God will hate you. It is manipulation based on fear.

Mind control is a world that the cult leader builds in the cult member’s mind. It is a perception of reality which skews the cult member’s thoughts towards utter obedience. However, and here is an important point. The cult member is complicit in allowing this to happen. In other words a measure of responsibility lies with the cult member. Certainly the cult leader and the cult system is mostly to blame, but ex-cult members need to understand that they allowed this to happen to them. Only through understanding their part in the game, will ex-cult members realize that they can resist these tactics and ultimately purge the effects of mind control from their daily thinking.

Now mind control is what you are learning about as you read these blog posts. My hope is that after we have finished enjoying The Cult together, that you will also be inoculated against mind control. And don’t think that mind control is only employed by the cults. Mind control can be found in the small, in unhealthy marriage relationships, boyfriend girlfriend relationships, and in your working environment. It also can be found in the large, in countries and movements, like Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

Next episode I’m hoping we will be seeing Sophie the deprogrammer in action. So we can talk more about what deprogrammers do.

Talking about relationships, my ex-SAS guys can’t figure why Hugo the on screen ex-SAS guy just doesn’t call in an air strike on the cult’s compound. I tried to explain that the Liberators have relationships with people in the compound and so don’t want them blown up, but it was pointless. The conversation went like this:

Killer: “Re-lation? Relation ships? You guys have any idea what the civy is talking about?”
DOC: “Maybe Relation is a country?”
Limb-Shredder: “So the Liberators co-own ships, registered in Relation, with the people in the compound. Surely it’s to their advantage if those people are dead. Then they can have the ships all to themselves.”
Me: “No. Relationship is one word. Relationships are what women want.”
All of them: “Women!”
DOC: “So if we went shares in our own container ship, then we could each get a woman?”
Limb-Shredder: “But Gaz at the parachuting club has a woman, and I’m sure he doesn’t own a ship.”
Me: “Nargh! This is hurting my head. Don’t you guys need to go and practice underwater knife fighting, or something?”
Killer: “So have you ever kissed a woman?”
Me: “What? Yes, of course.”
Killer: “What’s it like?”

Episode 5
I remember as a young boy turning on the TV for the mid afternoon movie, and thinking oh boy a war movie! I would bury myself into my Dad’s comfy chair filled with boyish expectation of tanks and fighters and battleships, and steel helmeted Germans pointing at the sky yelling, “Achtung Spitfire!”.Only if you have ever been a child, and I assume most of you have, could you understand the feeling of despair that results from childhood disappointment. Like believing that the present under the Christmas tree is a model rocket-ship, only to discover on Christmas day it’s a box filled with socks. For a young boy events like that are soul destroying.Regarding war movies, there was one particular actor who was my own personal boyhood-destroyer-of-souls.Elvis. The moment Elvis appeared in a war movie my heart would sink down, all the way to the molten core of the earth. I would find myself verbalizing uncontrollably, “No! No! Noooooo please nooooo!” as my exciting afternoon transmogrified itself into gloom filled boredom.You see, every time Elvis appeared, the movie would descend into bouts of singing. People would burst into song at the most inappropriate time (which in a war movie is always) and when it reached it’s nadir there would be dancing too.This is not normal. People in real life do not suddenly start bouncing around on their feet strumming guitars and singing about what is, has, or is about to happen to them. They especially don’t do that if they are soldiers. I know, because as a boy I read Commando Comics, and those characters never, and I mean never, burst into song.So what has this got to do with The Cult? There is a scene this episode where Saul decides to speak to the old man who was looking after Jenny, and I must admit I was not expecting Saul to burst into a song and dance routine. I must really underline that I was not expecting that. I mean so far The Cult has been a serious drama. But in this scene Saul gets the same glint in his eye that Elvis would have, just before he picked up a guitar and wrecked a promising movie.

And thankfully I wasn’t disappointed, because Saul didn’t start either singing or dancing. What’s more there was no background music for him to lip-sync, or dancing girls, or men hopping around with trashcan lids on their feet. I feel the show’s director brought the series to the brink of a musical, and then he wisely chose another path.

This episode things are starting to heat up. The calm before the storm. Hugo the ex-SAS bodyguard wheeled out a much bigger gun, a scoped rifle (no doubt there is a gun-nut out there who will email me its type). And we learned that the cult has its own collection of guns too.

This is not without precedent. David Koresh’s followers at Waco were festooned with guns, they even had a .50 caliber sniper’s rifle. The Jonestown boys had guns too, which they used to mow down people, including a US senator. The Orange People under Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had an armed security force (which thankfully didn’t result in any bloodshed). And even in New Zealand there have been cults caught arming themselves and making bombs.

Why? Why do some cults spout peace and love, while at the same time crawling through the undergrowth into Rambo land? Well it relates to another important part of mind control known as an “Us verses Them” environment.

In this episode of The Cult when the Liberator’s Hugo produces his rifle, Nathan who has come out of the cult says, “They’ve got guns too. For protection from the outsiders.”

For a mind control environment to function properly the cult leader needs to create a war like environment. A cauldron that the cult members are trapped in along with their enemy, as the cauldron heats up. The cult members are the “Us”, the insiders. Everyone else is “Them”, the outsiders.

Think of it this way. Imagine a football coach giving his team this pep talk, “We’re going to stand in a large field for an hour holding this egg shaped inflatable leather ball. So let’s train really hard to prepare.” After a talk like that I’d bet that his players wouldn’t be inspired to train hard at all. Heck, I could be a football player if it just means standing in a field. No, the coach is more likely to say something like, “This Saturday we’re playing the Dakota University Maulers. They have won this championship five times in a row, their players are all seven feet tall, and when the TV cameras aren’t watching they have been known to resort to cannibalism. So if we want to win, we have to train harder than we have ever trained before…” The coach knows he has to introduce an enemy so his players has a “Them” to focus on, a Them to resist. A reason to fight.

An enemy helps define what your group is, what they stand for, and goes a long way to building the group’s esprit de corps. With an enemy it means you are at war, and war is justification for throwing out the normal rules of living. In war it is normal for the leader to have absolute power. In war you are meant to sacrifice yourself for the greater good of the group. In war deception is justified since the enemy has no right to know the truth.

Creating and feeding an “Us verses Them” environment gives a cult leader heightened powers. Often one group of the outsiders are focused on as the cult’s primary enemy. For David Koresh’s followers in Waco it was the US Government, for the International Church of Christ it was all the supposedly worldly Christian churches, and in Nazi Germany (remember last week I talked about mind control being used “in the large”, in this case at the national level) their primary created enemy were the Jewish people.

This “Us verses Them” dynamic is important to remember when dealing with real cults, and important to remember when watching The Cult. I predict that because of this dynamic, The Cultwill soon be heating up. Expect gun battles and more murders. And hopefully, even though we’ve been talking about war this post, Elvis will not turn up and start singing.

One last thing. Did you notice that the Alien Flower made another appearance in this episode? Jenni’s Mum Frances is captivated by it for a moment. Although I think the writers have made a mistake: the flower is too small, it’s not even a baby Triffid – the most it could do is sting their toes. Well I guess you can’t get everything right. Until the next episode.

Episode 6
There’s a lot of kidnapping going on in this sixth episode of The Cult. The Liberators kidnap cult member Cynthia Ross, the cult’s neurologist come mad scientist, and accidentally end up kidnapping a young child too. Then the cult kidnaps the Seger’s daughter Jenni, with the help it seems of The Man (Sophie MacIntyre).They want Cynthia to tell them what’s wrong with Jenni, who is looking a bit genetically engineered. But of course Jenni is really an actress, and they are all genetically engineered aren’t they? I mean Jenni looks like a young woman in her twenties, but don’t be fooled, in reality she is probably a seventy two year old grandmother who has discovered the miracles of plastic surgery. I have it on good authority, well OK maybe “good” is too strong a word here, perhaps “questionable” would be better. Actually, to be honest, “dodgy” would be closer to the truth. I have it on dodgy authority that Kirsten Dunst who is always causing Spider-man trouble by being kidnapped and tied to things about to explode, is actually two hundred and nine years old. Yes you heard it here first.This episode we see the cult’s leader Edward North increasing the cult’s isolation (I talked about isolation in episode one’s post) by electrifying the compound’s fence. One of the cult members asks if it is to keep people out, or keep people in? A rather profound statement since the reason cults isolate their members is to keep them in. Every cult has its “Berlin Wall”, but unlike The Cult, this wall is not physical but instead built up stone by stone in the member’s mind.Another event takes place within the cult, which this time does not reflect the reality of mind control cults. Cult member Andy Wills (played by Kip Chapman) narks on cult member Ryan about his in-cult-girlfriend’s pregnancy. Normally in a cult divulging secrets to leadership about other members is rewarded. But in this episode cult leader Edward North punishes Andy, telling him off for breaking Ryan’s confidence. If Edward North is not feinting morality with this action and in fact the relaying of secrets is not encouraged, then his cult is missing one important aspect of real cults – a “Reporting Structure”.To keep tuning a mind control environment, by catching members who are not towing the line or are asking questions that they shouldn’t, cult leadership needs to monitor the members as closely as they can. Who is forming relationships with who? Who is expressing doubts? Who is breaking the unwritten rules? What interactions are people having with the outside? Who is withholding money? Who is not attending all the meetings? Who is slacking in their recruitment work?In Nazi Germany the Gestapo (secret police) had very few agents operating in German towns, yet these agents collected vast amounts of information about the town’s people. How? They promoted the idea that it was right to report your neighbor if they seemed to be acting suspiciously. So it was the town’s people who did the watching, and the Gestapo’s files quickly filled with denouncements.Mind control cults work the same way. Reporting on your fellow members is promoted as a virtue. “Watch out for struggling brothers and sisters”, the International Church of Christ cult was told. Ex-members of that cult reported having people even going through their sock drawers as fellow cult members trawled for information to feed upwards to leadership.

In a cult it’s like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, except the cameras are not physical cameras but the eyes of the people around you. Along with providing a “feedback loop” for the cult’s leadership, the cult’s Reporting Structure allows another cult phenomenon called “Mystical Manipulation” (a term I believe was coined by cult exit-counselor Steven Hassan).

Mystical manipulation is a way for cult leadership to make themselves seem more god like. Here’s how it works. Imagine you’re a new member of a religious group. The people are very warm and friendly (see my post on episode two about “Love Bombing”), and you develop one or two seemingly close friendships. One day you confess one of your deepest secrets to your trusted new friend – perhaps you stole some money, or have a problem with drugs, or like listening to Elvis.

So unknown to you, your new “friend” reports this secret to leadership (gaining themselves brownie points with the leaders). Then the next time the group has a meeting, during the leader’s talk you hear him say, “…and God told me that one of you here is struggling with drugs and burdened by the guilt of theft, but God wants you to know that you are now in the right place with us…”

Not suspecting for a moment that your new friend broke your trust, you hear the leader’s words and are convinced God has spoken to you through the leader.

So if God has just spoken to you through the leader, then the leader must be OK, and the group must be OK too. You are filled with wonder and your resistance to joining the group is seriously decreased. That’s Mystical Manipulation, the creation of a fabricated epiphany within you to convince you the group is right.

A cult’s reporting structure also interacts powerfully with another element of mind control called Relationship Control, which I mentioned in the post on episode one. I’ll talk more about this interaction in a later post.

In the meantime I hope this kidnapping epidemic stops in The Cult. Otherwise all the cult members will be trapped in the Liberator’s house, and all the Liberators will be trapped in the cult compound – I’d hate to see what deus-ex-machina the show’s writers would need to create to get them out of that one.

Until the next episode.

Episode 7
Me: “Why are you guys all Ramboed up? How can you even walk carrying all those weapons?”
Killer: “We’re going to find that Sophie MacIntyre and pull her head off.”
Me: “No. You can’t do that. She’s just acting, it’s not real.”
Killer: “Can’t we pull her head off just a little bit?”
Me: “No, because it didn’t really happen. He’s alive, it was fake blood. It’s a TV drama, not a reality show.”
DOC: “So he’s an actor too? Maybe it’s true, I don’t remember ever seeing him around the squadron.”
Limb-Shredder: “TV drama? I knew that of course.”
Me: “Oi, where did you get that tank!”
Killer: “What makes you think it’s a tank?”
Me: “Maybe the caterpillar tracks, and the turret on top with the huge cannon poking out.”
DOC: “I hoped he wouldn’t notice that.”
Me: “How couldn’t I notice it? It’s the size of a truck. Where did you get it?”
Killer: “Don’t know. It was a mail order prize.”
Limb-Shredder: “A free supermarket sample.”
DOC: “It’s my Mum’s.”
It took another half hour to convince our ex-SAS bodyguards that The Man’s (Sophie MacIntyre) murdering of Hugo the Liberator’s ex-SAS bodyguard in this episode of The Cult was really just make believe.It is starting to look like The Man is really after the cult’s genetic engineering experiments, and not to help one of the cult members get out. Maybe she is an agent of the Alien Flower? Which incidentally puts in another appearance this episode. I sure hope the show’s writers reveal the true nature of the Alien Flower soon, and do not try and disguise it by claiming it contains some sort of drug compound needed for their experiments, or is the touchstone of a shared memory for all cult members.In this episode the Alien Flower woos Michael Lewis, which adds further evidence to my earlier prediction that he has had his memory erased. And cult leader Edward North tells Michael that he is more important than Cynthia Ross, the cult’s mad scientist. Regarding the Alien Flower, you may be wondering what type of flower it is, thankfully my friends acknowledge me as a recognized authority in the field of botany and gardening, which allows me to confidently identify the Alien Flower as a fully grown larch.Sophie MacIntyre (played by Lisa Chappell) introduced herself to us as a cult deprogrammer. I promised back in episode four to explain what deprogrammers do. Well they don’t do what Sophie does: torture, murdering, and doing deals with evil mad scientists. Some do have bad haircuts though, so at least that part is plausible (my ex-SAS guys made me say that).Deprogramming is a term used to describe those who kidnap cult members and then imprison them while they attempt to break their cult indoctrination and allegiance. This practice is outdated and not often used. Cultwatch and all other counter-cult organizations I know of will have nothing to do with these practices. Primarily because kidnapping and keeping people locked up against their will is both illegal and unethical.The modern equivalent of deprogramming is called exit-counseling. Exit-counseling differs from deprogramming in that the exit-counselor will not talk with the cult member unless the cult member is willing. So the family and friends of the cult member become heavily involved in bringing the cult member to the point where they are ready to discuss their group with someone outside of the cult. This process and the exit-counseling is called an “intervention”.If you have a loved one involved in a group you suspect is a cult, then it is important to not do anything that will make a later intervention impossible.First, it is important not to call your loved one’s group a cult – especially if you think they are heavily involved. Most cult leaders will ensure their new recruits are told that “the enemy” will call them a cult. This is a preemptive strike designed to defuse the moment when a parent or friend tells them about the nature of their group. In fact, cult leaders twist this pending event to their advantage. They indoctrinate their new followers with the idea that the devil (or whichever enemy they have chosen) will seek to stop the recruit carrying on in the one true way.

So when a cult member is told by a parent that their group is a cult, then their programming triggers: first, confirming the validity of the group since they predicted this would happen, and second, identifying you with the enemy. By calling their group a cult you are confirming the idea that you are part of “them”, you are an agent of the devil!

Second, the most important thing of all is to keep the lines of communication open. A cult will seek to isolate your loved one from you. You must work to appear as non-threatening to the cult leaders as you can, while reinforcing your relationship with your loved one.

You should act preemptively yourself, especially if your loved one is a student away from home. Keep up communication. Share with them about what a mind control cult is like. Get them to agree to discuss any new group or church they are thinking of going along to with you and their friends. These simple steps can prevent years of heartbreak – make the effort.

Third, learn as much as you can about the cult and mind control. Get your loved one’s old friends on your side, and help them understand how mind control works. If you know about the cult, then often you can use the “is that smoke?” technique: instead of saying, “fire fire fire!” or in other-words “It’s a cult! Get out!”, you can say, “is that smoke?”. Show them the smoke by asking questions that direct your loved ones thinking towards the answers – and let them find the fire themselves.

Fourth, if you can, the quickest intervention of all is to get your loved one away from the group. Get them to come home if they are in another city, or take them out of town on an amazing holiday. The longer you can keep them away from the group the more the cult member will gain perspective. Often a holiday from a cult is enough to get them out by itself, especially if you can ask lots of “is that smoke?” questions.

Fifth, if you do decide to employ an exit counselor then make sure they are well known in the field and have a good reputation. Follow their advice, and discuss fees up front. Just so you know, Cultwatch is run by part-time volunteers; so while we do speak with cult members when we can, we do not charge for what we do and we do not provide full on exit-counseling. You are best served by a professional exit-counselor if you can afford one, who can dedicate a good amount of time to your situation.

So, until the next episode!

Episode 8
“Hello caller, what is troubling you today?”
“Things aren’t going too well between me and my boyfriend.”
“And what’s your name?”
“Cynthia, I’m a first time caller, I don’t know what to do.”
“So what is the problem Cynthia?”
“I think I’ve accidentally turned my boyfriend into a zombie.”
“A zombie? Do you mean you’ve been overworking him? You have to let him rest. Have you considered a relaxing holiday together?”
“No, it wasn’t overwork, I’m pretty sure it was the experimental neurological drug I’ve created. It worked fine on animals, but I guess I should have chosen another human to test it on.”
“Um, well, this is a first for me, what do you do for a living Cynthia?”
“I’m a mad scientist.”
“OK, um, how violent is your boyfriend? How did you stop him feasting on your flesh?”
“I think he’s more of a pacifist zombie, he just sits there.”
“Well in all my years as a radio counselor and agony-aunt this is the first time I’ve ever given this advice, if your zombie boyfriend turns violent Cynthia then the only way to stop him is decapitation.”
“I should cut his head off?”
“I’m afraid so Cynthia, some relationship issues require drastic measures. Do you have an axe or chainsaw handy?”
“No, nothing like that. I do own a cheese grater, would that do?”
So far in The Cult we have discovered character back story via flashbacks, but Cynthia Ross has taken the cake with her flashback sequence. This episode we see her trying her experimental drug on her boyfriend. Designed to take away his traumatic emotional memories the drug instead has taken away all his memories and turned him into a lifeless zombie – with the signature weird left eye, just like the Seger’s in cult daughter Jenni.With this flash back The Cult has stepped up a notch from mere entertainment, since it has at last provided us with a moral. The moral of this story is simple, do not conduct medical experiments on your loved ones. Of course I already knew that, but thousands don’t.The cult leader Edward North’s desire to have his follower’s memories wiped is an interesting parallel with what real cults do. The cults furtively perform on their members a process called “Identity Replacement”.People often comment to us that their son or daughter caught up in a cult have become a completely different person. Not in the way that someone who becomes say a Christian might stop certain vices but still retain their same personality, but instead their son or daughter has gone away as themselves and come back with a completely different personality.This three stage process is used overtly in the military. First, new recruits come in dressed as actuaries, builders, cowboys and homies. The army takes away their civilian clothes and gives them all the same clothes. They cut their hair short. They make them stand and walk in a certain way. During this stage the army is deliberately destroying the recruit’s past identity. The second stage consists of being yelled at a lot by the Sergent Majors, who find yelling a very satisfying way to spend a day. During this period the new recruits are filled with army doctrine: how to clean their gun, how to shine their boots, how to pretend to be a bush.The third stage is when the recruits have finished their basic training. They graduate and are assigned to their units. In this stage the army rewards their achievement with official approval in the form of ceremony and obvious acceptance into the real army, acceptance which the recruits were formally made to feel unworthy of.The army performs this process because when the fighting starts they need their people to act as a unit and follow orders instantly. They need everyone the same, they need everyone to be army.

A mind control cult performs this same sequence, the difference being that their new recruit has no idea what is coming. The new recruit is melted down with the heat of guilt and character assassination. He is made to believe that his former life and belief system contained nothing of value. Next he enters into a period of heavy indoctrination. The liquid metal of his self is poured into the cult shaped mould. Finally the new cult member is pulled smoldering from the mould and accepted into the cult.

A cult leader wants an army of people to do his bidding. He needs everyone to be the same because his narcissistic insecurities demand it. He needs to replace their identity with the cult identity so they feel like the cult is their new family, and because it reinforces the cult’s “Us verses Them” environment.

A common observation made by people who visit cult groups, is that everyone seems the same. They walk, dress, smile, eat, and talk the same. A normal religious or self-help group does not require this outward consistency, but a cult needs it to function.

If you watch The Cult you will see that the cult members all dress the same, this type of uniform is part of identity replacement.

So back to the show. We have discovered that the cult has made coffins for each of the liberators. I think that would be a brilliant candid camera trick. Imagine someone being taken innocently to a stranger’s house, perhaps as a date at a party, then being given wrong directions to the bathroom. They open the door and walk into a room containing a coffin marked with their name. That’s what happened to three members of the Liberators this episode while they were skulking around the cult’s compound. Now that would be a party story worth having.

Until next episode.

Episode 9
Well the Alien flower is back in this episode of The Cult, having a nice relaxing bath in the cult’s flotation tank. This is the Alien flower’s fourth appearance in the cult and I doubt the last – I expect a speaking role for it soon.The cult’s leader Edward North is feeling the pressure to ramp up his plans. Externally a pending visit from Momentum’s head body and Saul’s suspicion that the Liberators have called the police is reducing the amount of time he thinks he has. Also Cynthia the cult’s mad scientist in her own purposes has been manufacturing events to force Edward’s hand.This episode Edward announces the “Commencement”. None of the ordinary members of the cult seem to know what is commencing, but they seem to think it is an awfully good idea anyway. Whatever it is, it’s going to be bad, probably involving alien flowers, zombie making drugs, guns, coffins, and lots of dead bodies. At least here is a plot line we have never seen in Coronation Street (I don’t watch Corro Street by the way, but my Grandmother has watched since it started in the 1960s, and she knows).A cult leader needs to promote a problem. Not because he wants to solve the problem, but because he can use the problem to drive the group. The cult leader will tell the group that they alone are the solution, or that they alone will survive the problem – but only if they keep true to the cult’s beliefs and practices. The problem should be always a few years out and can be almost anything, climate change, the imminent second coming, alien invasion, rampant hypocrisy in the church, or any other sort of physical or spiritual apocalypse.Once the cult members believe in the problem, then the final solution to the problem seems justified. Normally chopping one of your legs off would be insane, but if your leg has gangrene (the problem) then the insane has just become the only sane solution.The Heaven’s Gate cult members were taught that the earth was about to be “Recycled” (the problem), and so they were doomed. Unless that is, they escaped the earth before that happened. And what was the way to do that? By killing their “body vessels” so they could travel to a spaceship behind the comet Hale-Bopp (the solution).Jonestown cult members were convinced by their leader that the evil “capitalist pig” CIA were about to parachute in and take over their socialist paradise (the problem). The best way out was to commit “revolutionary suicide” (the solution). Nine hundred and nine people died.

Most of the time in real cults, the solution to the problem does not require killing yourself. Instead it demands a radical sacrifice. Perhaps selling your house and giving the money to the cult leadership, so they can further the cult’s cause before the apocalypse. Maybe working eighteen hours a day six days a week for the cult. Maybe committing a crime. The problem is used to compel the cult members to do things that normally they would never do. It is a tool of the cult leader to control.

Edward North is emphasizing that those from the outside are trying to destroy their cult family. He is underlining that something radical needs to be done to solve this problem. Let’s see how far he can get his followers to go. Already cracks are starting to show in some of the cult members, with Hannah saying this episode that she “doesn’t know what to believe any more”.

Part of the reason cult leaders like their followers to make huge sacrifices is because it ties followers who are cracking, like Hannah, to the cult. Imagine that you have sold your house and given the money to a group. In that case, if you start having doubts then you are likely to push those out of your mind. Why? Because your personal commitment to the group being right has been deepened by your vast sacrifice. If the group’s wrong, then you gave up your house for no reason. So the group can’t be wrong, it must be right. It has to be!

The same applies to those who have given their lives to working for the group. Imagine you have worked for the past ten years. If you discover the group is wrong then you have wasted those years. In fact it is worse than that, because your effort went to propping up an evil cause – it didn’t have a neutral result but a negative one. So the group must be right, because if it isn’t then the reality is too dreadful to contemplate.

Let me tell you a secret. There are many high up members in various cults around the world who no longer believe in their heart that their group is what it claims to be. But they can’t leave, because it is their life, it is all they have. To face reality would be too painful, and they would be too ashamed, since everyone knows they have always promoted this group. And so they stay, wasting what life they have left – their own fears keeping them in a bondage of despair until the days of their lives are completely spent.

But I don’t think that is going to happen to Edward North. He hasn’t got that many episodes left. Also one common theme, as yet unexplored, is that everyone involved in the cult and the Liberators seem to have had a near death experience.

I had a near death experience once. I cooked up a good feed of steak and chips on the BBQ, complete with fried onions. Then I walked to the fridge and discovered I was out of tomato sauce. The bottle was completely empty. Honestly, even just writing about that trauma from all those years ago still makes me shake to this day.

Until next episode.

Episode 10
This episode we’re uncovering the back story of The Man, when she had blond hair and a daughter. But everything turns to custard when she tries to deprogram a Momentum cult member.She loses her daughter and spends some time getting very angry at the sea (there is a long scene where she is screaming at the ocean) but then figures out that it would be easier to launch a vendetta against Momentum than a large body of water. So she meets up with a mysterious woman with a thick Russian accent who tells her to focus on Edward North as a way to hurt Momentum.So later we see The Man snipe Edward North, her bullet hitting him in the shoulder. But Edward survives this assassination attempt since there are still three episodes to go.If I had been writing that plot line then I would have had The Man standing over Edward North’s body and noticing a birthmark on the back of his left hand. The same birthmark that The Man’s daughter had. Too late, The Man would have realized, that Edward North was in fact her own daughter who had a sex change and who had time traveled back in time (thanks to the Alien Flower) allowing her to be older than her mother. The Man’s mad vendetta would have ended up killing the very one she loved. Oh the irony of it. But this plot line is too cutting edge, too avant-garde, which is why the show’s writers didn’t ask me to write that part. But mark my words, now it’s out there, expect to see it in a movie or novel soon.But something rather ironic does occur this episode. The Man is given a DVD by the thick Russian accent. Next The Man has a Quentin Tarantino face off with the cult security chief Saul, but instead of it ending in gunfire The Man gives Saul the DVD – a slick move that out Tarantinos Tarantino. So Saul gives the DVD to Edward North. Edward North then, wait for it, wait, wait a bit more, he watches the DVD. What is on the DVD? A video of the Swedish Momentum compound burning down. Now assuming that Swedish buildings aren’t normally on fire (after all, a different culture might do buildings differently from us), then it seems that Momentum was attacked. This sets Edward North off in a panic, and he decides that the commencement of the commencement must be brought forward.But that isn’t the ironic part. What is ironic is that normally the cult leader is the one controlling the information, and here we have a cult leader himself being duped by controlled information (because the implication is that the burning of the Swedish compound was faked).A cult needs to control the information its members receive. Because if you control the information then you control the person.

Information is what we use to make our decisions. You voted the way you did in the last election because your information told you which party or presidential candidate best matched your political preferences. You drove a certain route because the information on your map indicated that was the way to get there. You decided to buy that new shiny thing because your bank balance told you that you could afford the expenditure.

If I could have controlled the information you had about the party or presidential candidate, then it would have been me, not you, deciding how you should vote. If I had drawn the map you used, then I could have had you taking a crazy path all over the city. If I controlled the information about your current bank balance, then I could have embarrassed you at the checkout.

Information is power. The cults know they must control the information their members receive. They must massage the information so it best fits the party line. They must stop information that would make their members question. They must invent information to reinforce their teachings.

The problem is that most cult members do not live in compounds where information can be completely filtered. The bulk of the world’s cult members can listen to the radio, watch the telly, read the paper, and surf the net. So how is a cult leader meant to cope these days? It sounds a bit unfair doesn’t it for our poor megalomaniacs. Well, there are two primary strategies employed by the cults to get around these problems:

First, the leaders ban their followers from using the media. Cult members are told not to listen to the radio, or read newspapers, or go online. For example one major church in Auckland told their people not to look up tithing on the Internet, just after we released our web site www.TithingDebate.com. But as a rule this is not an effective strategy, since the cult members will secretly access the media: those told not to have a TV in their home will hide the receiver in a cupboard, those told not to have a radio will listen to them under the sheets at night, and those banned from the Internet will surf at work where their leaders can’t see.

But the second strategy is much more effective. The cult leaders indoctrinate their members with a thought process called “Auto Tainting”. The idea is simple, any information from cult leadership is automatically good, any information from outside is very suspect, and any information from the cult’s critics comes straight out of the devil’s mouth. Cult members are taught to automatically classify information based on its source, rather than classify the information with rational thought.

For recovering ex-cult members it is very important to eliminate the Auto Tainting thought processes, and relearn how to look at information objectively. Remember, falsehood runs from the truth, but truth doesn’t run from falsehood. If what your group believes is true, then there is nothing to fear from examining those beliefs in the full light of day.

Back to the show. In this episode of The Cult we got our biggest clue yet that the commencement is going to result in a lot of dead bodies. Edward North has told his followers that the path to enlightenment is through death. Spooky stuff.

Until next episode.

Episode 11
My folks were always putting him down (down, down)
They said he came from the wrong side of sane
(whatcha mean when ya say that he came from the wrong side of sane?)
They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad
That’s why I fell for (the leader of the cult)
So Edward North gets a girl, sort of, this episode. At least in his flashback he does. He also gets pushed into a pool and drowned by the girl’s jealous Momentum cult leader. But that’s OK because the Alien Flower rescues him and makes golden string come out of his stomach. Then Edward comes back to life and starts his mad quest presumably to return to Alien Flower land, and get some more of that wiggly string.Of course my summary might not be exactly what the show’s writers intended in their depiction of the afterlife. But when Edward is there he sees some of the others including Michael and Saul. It turns out that they all were revived from their near-death experience at the very same minute on the same day. Is Edward convinced that he must take everyone he saw and die together with them so he can return to the afterlife?Well we’re going to find out next week, since the last two episodes of The Cult are going to play back to back.This episode Edward says something revealing to Saul, after Saul fails to protect the cult’s mad scientist Cynthia, “If you can’t do your job then what use are you to me!”. This is a depiction of a typical cult leader’s world view – everyone in his cult is there only to serve him and his purposes. This is why cult members who seek a reciprocal relationship with their leader are surprised to discover that the relationship is only one way, from them to the leader.Flashback Edward also says something extremely insightful, to the Momentum cult leader who ends up drowning him, “I think that the ideas in this pamphlet are basically just a way to get people to fork out for seminars so you can have a swimming pool.” A brilliant one liner, that exposes the motivation and tactics of money focused cult leaders.Most cult leaders are in it for the money, and one of their favorite tactics is copied from the realm of multilevel marketing. And how much would you pay to discover this tactic? Five thousand dollars? No, this day only I’m letting you have this secret tactic for not four thousand, not three thousand, not even a thousand dollars. This day you can have this secret for $99.99! Yes that’s right, for less than the cost of a woman’s haircut you can have the secret of unlimited wealth originally discovered by the ancient Egyptian Guild of Gnome Sculptors in 800BC. Send your cash in unmarked bills to this address…Look, I’ll take it on trust that you’ll send me the greens. So here’s the secret of multilevel marketing: build a captive group who believe a dream, then sell books, videos, and seminars promoting the dream to this captive audience.Like me I’m sure you’ve had a phone call from someone you met briefly when you were five, who says, “Can I interest you in a business opportunity?” or “Have you considered getting into eCommerce?”. That’s the dream or “business plan” the poor guy has been sold. That he can build a “down-line” team of people under him selling toothpaste say, or carpet cleaner, or web sites, or whatever. And by doing so he can become incredibly rich.

The people who sold him this dream are actually very rich. They will tell him that they became rich by following the dream. They didn’t. They got rich by selling their products promoting the dream. They sell their books, tapes, DVDs, seminars, t-shirts, retreats, and anything else they can think of to their captive market of dream believers.

This model has even been seen in some Christian Churches, where the leaders sell their books and DVDs and hyped seminars to their congregation. The congregation are sold a distorted version of Christianity (the dream) which is all about obeying the leader and giving money to their church organization, because then God will supposedly give you even more money back. Sort of like a spiritual alchemy, donate your block of lead and get a block of gold back. I really feel for these leaders, they must struggle when saying “Amen” at the end of their prayers, when every bone in their body wants them to say, “Ca-ching!”.

The other money making tactic the cults use is “bait and wait”. You attend a free seminar, or retreat, or IQ test, and the result is always the same. You have some real mental or spiritual problems. But don’t worry since we have a seminar that will fix that. It costs a hundred dollars, but really that isn’t much to pay to sort your life out is it? However at the end of that seminar it’s revealed that you still have problems, but don’t worry because we have a course for that too. That next course costs a thousand dollars. But guess what, at the end of that course you still have problems, so you better do the ten thousand dollar course. What you don’t have the money? Well you can still do the course, if you work for us selling our courses. That’s Bait and Wait.

These are scams of course. But that’s the cults for you, they exist in the grey area between what is illegal and what is ethical.

Edward North however is definitely planning something illegal, murder it would seem. Unless he can convince all the Liberators to kill themselves – which I doubt.

What will really be interesting to see is, if Edward succeeds in his plans then what will happen to him? In the show’s version of the afterlife Edward first appeared lying in the mud, and a hand comes up from the mud trying to grab him. But he manages to get up and see the Alien Flower and get the golden wiggly string. But if Edward murders these people, then perhaps the hands from the mud will drag him down?

That is unless he just plans to wipe their memories with his mad scientist’s drug, and have himself a pack of zombie actors for his mates. We shall see.

Onwards to the finale!

Episode 12 and 13 (aired back to back)
It was the indifferent of times, it was the middling of times; it was the age of being kidnapped, it was the age of escaping; it was the epoch of suspended disbelief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light clothes, it was the season of dark clothes; it was the spring of plot-lines, it was the winter of plot-lines; we had every character before us, we had no one to love before us; we were all going into the cult compound, we were all going the other way. (Sorry Mr Dickens.)The Cult had its moments, episode eleven being particularly good. But at the end the plot-lines didn’t converge like rockets into one almighty explosion, rather they sort of streaked at random around the sky and then petered out.Admittedly The Cult only cost four million US dollars for the entire thirteen episodes, which is the budget of a single episode of your average TV drama. So what they did with their cash is amazing. But for me, from a pure entertainment perspective, I thought there were some problems that could have been addressed. Since we are at the end of the series now, I’ll mention a couple.First, a fictional story only works if its audience can identify with one of the characters. That magic of identification let’s us be engrossed in the story. But if we are to identify with a character, then we need a character that does at least two things: act sensibly, and push his or her cause to the max. We can’t identify with someone who acts like a moron.Have you ever played a computer game and had an enemy run into a wall and keep running on the spot, or perhaps a enemy remaining oblivious to anything being wrong just after you’ve blown his mate three feet away from him into confetti? Unfortunately The Cult sometimes made their characters act like these brain-dead game enemies.Edward North the cult leader being a prime example these final two episodes. At one point he brings the captured Michael and the others into his cult meeting, and announces to his people that Michael and crew are going to be their new leaders (eh?). But Edward forgot to ensure that Michael is on his side; so Michael tells Edward’s cult members that both Edward and his plan is nuts. Then Edward, surprised at this turn of events, gets his guards to quickly remove them.Later Edward – determined to change Michael’s mind – has Michael brought into the mad scientist’s lair. He shows him his son Ryan strapped to a gurney, with his left eye propped open with a surgical instrument, and mad scientist Cynthia about to inject blue zombie liquid into his son’s eyeball. “I wanted you to witness this Michael. It’s the beginning of a new world, a world that works…” Now forgive me, but even I know that the way to convince someone of your point of view is not to wheel out their bound child and act excited about performing medical experiments on them. This tactic obviously does not convince Michael either, who pulls a gun on Edward. Edward, again, seems surprised by this turn of events.

These sort of unrealistic incidents are driven by the corners the writers have written themselves into. They are not the logical actions of a determined character pushing his cause the best he can. These unrealistic incidents not only prevent us identifying with the character, they also break our suspension of disbelief because we sense the wires and rigging holding up the plot.

Regarding the ending, there is no clever twist or surprise or glowing reward for all our hours watching. Instead of a Waco style show down (bad in the real world, but good entertainment in the fictional) nothing spectacular happens.

All Edward’s followers decide to leave him (that actually has happened before with cult leaders). So Edward after shooting his former girlfriend and pointing a gun at the police, goes and has a pity party on a hospital bed; until the Russian accent and her troops comes to claim him. Meanwhile The Man runs off, and mad scientist Cynthia (a psychopath for the entire series) suddenly starts caring about zombie Hannah and rescues her by driving her out of the cult compound. Then at the very end when everyone is leaving Michael sees his dead wife, but she disappears.

Finally, comes the very last shot. Which is, you guessed it, the Alien Flower. Michael’s hand reaches down to pick the Alien Flower and the credits roll, because obviously the Alien Flower would have vaporized Michael for trying to kill it and the budget had run out for that last effect shot.

So the series is over. But don’t get me wrong, The Cult isn’t terrible, however more attention to the fundamentals of story telling could have made it great.

From the perspective of counter-cult work, the series didn’t really focus on the true dynamics of a cult. But that is OK, since a TV drama’s goal is entertainment not education. But, as you can see from my Blog posts, The Cult did contain moments where the practices and techniques of real cults came through.

So that was The Cult. Will the Alien Flower be back in a sequel? I imagine so.

I hope that by reading this Blog you have gained a good idea about how real cults will try to recruit you and keep you trapped in their twisted system.

To find out more about cults read our other articles at www.Cultwatch.com

Thank you for reading, and I wish you a nice day, especially one where no one performs medical experiments on your loved ones.