How to build a cult

Hot Air:

Michael Moore galvanized the Occupy Wall Street mob last week in an “address” amplified for the mob by means of a “human microphone.” The human microphone has caught on like a sold-out Christmas toy with OWS mobs across America, from Atlanta to Chicago to Riverside, California (the closest OWS mob to me), where a small but doughty group of Hoos hollered with all their might last Saturday night.

The human microphone idea is simple. The crowd repeats each phrase uttered by a speaker, in order to amplify the sound and ensure the message gets across. If you’re not alone in being reminded forcibly of kindergarten, wait, there’s more. Check out the Chicago link above, and scroll down for the links to photos of “spirit fingers,” “peace guns,” and “point of process” triangle hands. These methods of communication remind me of nothing so much as the cues used by grade school teachers with their young charges.


People used to get their buzz over responsive yelling by attending football games. Communicating in code, with hand gestures, was something that was fun for a while if you were a Boy Scout or a Campfire Girl, earning badges and learning special, secret things. Bird calls, writing in hieroglyphs, spelling out cuss words in American Sign Language – kids can have a lot of fun with codes.

But we have no tribal memory, as humans, of a time when it might have been a good idea to give a say over our lives or our government to people who adopt the communication modes of childhood. That would just be stupid. The kid-level communicating is cute when kids do it. It’s creepy and weird when the people doing it have the bodies of adults – and aren’t in a comms-challenged combat situation like a SWAT Team, a SEAL team, or an infantry patrol.

The “creep” factor is the one that struck J. Christian Adams, who posted the video of the Atlanta human-microphone incident for Pajamas. (Jazz Shaw today highlights the same mob’s ignorant dismissal of John Lewis.) And there is definitely an element of mindless invigoration to it. It’s one thing to listen to a demagogue (or even just someone giving administrative instructions), registering the message in your brain but not doing anything about it, at least for the moment. It’s another kind of action altogether, to vigorously repeat everything a speaker is saying. Doing so generates a powerful sense of noisy assent for everyone involved. You’re not just there listening and thinking: you’ve sold out your critical thinking faculties, and agreed to convey automatically whatever the speaker wants to say.

Most of us have been to church at least once. Think about a typical service.

You sing together. You bow (or kneel) and pray together. You recite scriptures together. There is a reason for that.

Humans are social animals. We naturally congregate together. We are hardwired to submit to peer pressure. That’s why fashion trends and fads come and go.

Some people are more susceptible than others, but if you change groups don’t be surprised to find yourself changing the way you dress, talk and behave.

The “people’s microphone” and the hand signals are a way to get people actively involved instead of just passively observing. Once you do that the hardwiring in their brains starts to do the rest. You’re not selling out your critical thinking faculties, you’re bypassing them.

That’s why people go to a OWS protest and come back as a member of the borg. They let themselves become assimilated. That’s also why they’ll urge you to go too.

Just come to a rally with me, and you’ll see what it’s all about.

BTW – They used the same techniques at Obama rallies. (Hint, hint)

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79 Responses to How to build a cult

  1. crawdad says:

    That’s why people go to a OWS protest and come back as a member of the borg. They let themselves become assimilated. That’s also why they’ll urge you to go too.

    That explains a lot.

  2. myiq2xu says:

    “Drink the Koolaid, drink the Koolaid”

  3. votermom says:

    It is very creepy.

  4. Lola-at-Large says:

    It’s just a Rainbow Gathering.

  5. votermom says:

    The Aasch experiment :

    “They must be right – there’s 4 of them and one of me” (informational conformity)
    “I know they’re wrong but why should I make waves.” (normative conformity)

    • DeniseVB says:

      Man, that’s like posting on DU and Daily Kos 😉

    • WMCB says:

      I’m going to tell you a story about myself. In high school, I had an crappy algebra teacher who taught by rote. We had a test one day, and 80% of the class got the “right” answer (same as him), a few got obviously wrong answers, and I got an answer very different from anyone else, but that I knew was correct.

      I challenged the teacher. He said I was wrong. I said “show me”. He worked the problem on the board. I pointed out where HE was wrong, and asked him to please look at my equation and show me where I’d made a mistake. He couldn’t. He got angry. He tried to bully me into accepting the “wrong” mark, because I had a freaking A in the class anyway, so what did it matter if I got a 90 instead of 100 on one test??!!

      He finally got pissed and said he was going to get the teacher’s book (which he had left in another class) so he could look at the key and shut me up. He left.

      After he left, I stood up on my desk, looked out at the class of around 30 who were laughing and shaking their heads at my stubbornness, and announced that I was taking five dollar bets from anyone there that I was right, and the teacher was wrong. I got a lot of takers.

      25 years later, when I visit my hometown, I still run into people who joke when they see me: “Hey! Don’t I still owe you five bucks?”

      I will readily admit if I’m wrong. But you have to show me where my logic failed. I can’t be bullied into it. If you can’t show me, then I trust my own brain and logic and judgement over yours, and I don’t give a fuck who you are.

      That’s who I am. 😀

      • myiq2xu says:

        In the old days you would have been burned at the stake.

      • WMCB says:

        Oh, and most of the comments from my friends and classmates while the teacher was gone were along the lines of “Be reasonable – most of us got the same answer as the teacher! How can you possibly be right if you are the only one who got that answer?”

        My response was: What the hell does that have to do with math?

      • LOVE this story! When you are right, you are right- and never let them tell you different!

        • myiq2xu says:

          I tell people to prove me wrong but they just get mad and leave.

        • WMCB says:

          PMM, I think that a lot of we PUMA’s and other Independents have that kind of personality. It’s why we don’t get assimilated by either side.

        • WMCB says:

          It’s a lot easier to question motives and accuse a person of being on the “side” of evil X, Y, or Q than to address their point.

          I don’t mind the terms “meme” or “talking point” being used to discuss the general political landscape. They’re apt terms. But when you pull that out as an actual argument against another person who is disagreeing with you, it’s a cop out.

        • votermom says:

          We’re a bunch of stubborn skeptics.

        • Mary says:

          My peeps. 🙂 Thank God for stubborn skeptics!!!

  6. WMCB says:

    Group verbal repetition is a powerful psychological tool. Cults use it, re-education camps used it, the military uses it, the church uses it, some pagan rituals use it, various secular seminars use it. Any psychologist can tell you how powerful it is – there are many studies.

    It’s not necessarily evil or bad. It’s a useful thing if you know that’s what you are doing. But people involved need to be aware of what it is. If I go to church and repeat the liturgy, I am aware that I am participating in a ritual that is psychologically and communally reinforcing of a belief I already choose to hold. That’s the whole point of liturgy, it’s not hidden.

    When you start using methods like that and telling the kids that it’s only for the purpose of people in the back hearing, I get suspicious.

  7. myiq2xu says:

    Via VastLeft:

    The “Occupy Boston” movement continues to grow and Monday demonstrators will focus on job creation.

    Hundreds are expected to take part in the march, from Dewey Square to the Charlestown bridge in support of President Obama’s jobs bill.

    • WMCB says:

      If there are sincere protestors in OWS who don’t want to be part of the Borg, they had better get some BIG anti-Obama signs and chants going, pronto. Otherwise, they are useful idiots.

    • Karma says:

      So when “Occupy Boston” starts chanting “Pass the Bill”, will some finally shake-off the new flavored Okool-aid or will they still believe their version is the real deal?

  8. Have you seen this- The DCCC is trying to assimilate the Borg.

    Now the campaign arm of congressional Democrats is using the ongoing protest to build support for the party.

    In an email to supporters, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Robby Mook notes that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week referred to the protesters as “mobs.”

    “Mobs? That must be what Republicans refer to as the middle class, or maybe the millions of unemployed Americans across the country,” the email says. It asks Democratic supporters to “send a message” to Republican leadership and sign a DCCC petition to “help us reach 100,000 strong standing with #OccupyWallStreet protestors.”

  9. WMCB says:

    Too funny! I saw a conversation in comments on HotAir as to whether the bad Obama polls are lulling R’s into complacency that O will lose anyway, so they don’t GOTV. One commenter responded thusly to that idea:

    Even if the polls said Obama was going to lose in a 99/1 landslide and I was chained to a wall in Nancy Pelosi’s basement, I would gnaw off my own arms to get to the polls and vote against his despicable carcass.

    My wife, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as apathetic as I am.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Too funny! I’ve seen many just as committed to getting to the polls to rearrange the seating chart in the House and Senate 🙂 I have a feeling Obama may be historic again and lose by the widest margin ever.

      In our congressional district, a really nice, competent and moderate Dem lost his seat in 2010 because it was all about getting rid of Pelosi. He lost by 10%. 2012 will be about getting rid of Reid (and probably why Macaca will win in Virginia :shudder: )

    • myiq2xu says:

      What if it was Scarlett Johansson’s basement?

      In that case I’d have to think about voting absentee.

  10. HELENK says:

    backtrack shutting everyone out and only talking to Jarrett.
    This is not a good sign

  11. DeniseVB says:

    The UK’s update on OWS. If this keeps up til mid-Nov, I’m going to ditch the mid-town ($$$)hotel and head to the protest with a sleeping bag 😀 Par-tay! Sex! Free Food ! Open Bar ! Robitussin! Oh wait…

  12. DandyTiger says:

    What makes assimilation and brainwashing and cult’s in general work best is if you have disenfranchised people. Say like people who feel let down by Obama, or people who were abandoned by the Dem party in the primaries. As much as any of those people think they’re strong willed, they’re more vulnerable than most. They’re alone, without a tribe, and they really, really want to belong to something. Easy pickings.

  13. DandyTiger says:

    Almost all of my Obot friends have joined up. Both the ones that have moved away from Obama and the ones still with him. FWIW.

  14. WMCB says:

    LOL! Scroll down to see the Fast and Furious movie poster starring Holder, Obama, and Issa

  15. DandyTiger says:

    There are a lot of studies and a lot of things to watch for. And there are many variations of how things work, but here are a few classic ones:

    1. People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations;
    2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
    3. They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
    4. They get a new identity based on the group;
    5. They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.
    • That all sounds familiar.

    • And once you have them roped in, you’ll probably first want them to join in their opposition to things that magically and funnily enough are all things against Obama. Complete coincidence of course.

    • myiq2xu says:

      They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;

      That’s how we do it here.

    • WMCB says:

      and their access to information is severely controlled.

      That last part is a big reason why I never bought into the whole “you can only read or comment on or analyze certain approved-as-pure news sources, otherwise your weak little mind is in danger of being deceived by the canny evil ones.”

      They remind me of fundamentalists. Can’t see that movie or listen to that music, might lead your fragile soul into sin.

      Anyone who wants to tell me that I have to restrict where I get information, in order to protect me from being corrupted, can fuck right off. I can think for myself, thanks. I can usually ferret out what’s a valid point and what’s bullshit, and it’s always a mixed bag from either side. I get it, thanks. I don’t need your mental training wheels.

      • DandyTiger says:

        Turns out you don’t have to physically limit people’s information access. Pretty hard to do these days. Instead peer pressure and a bit of programming will take care of that for you.

    • If they all start wearing black nike shoes and talk about comets, run.

  16. WMCB says:

    H/T commenter ohanson at His44. I don’t think either Issa or Attkinsson would be making such bold statements if they did not know that half the dirt has not even been released yet.

    “Local radio host scores Fast & Furious interview with Sharyl Attkisson” (at end, podcast of full interview with CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson by Philadelphia morning radio host Chris Stigall.)

    “Since the very beginning, those who knew a lot more about this case than I did, including officials who work for the Obama Administration […] have said this is bigger than Watergate.” Attkisson replied.

    • How can anyone be thinking about these scandals when there is OWS to pay attention too? 🙂

      • Mimi says:

        Timing is everything. It was rolled out just as the shit was hitting the fan.

      • 1539days says:

        Dumbasses like Hannity are falling for it, too. “Ooh, they lady showed her boobs.” “This guy’s a socialist!” Forget that. Fight the real enemy.

        • WMCB says:

          Did he get all upset over the boobies? Hannity really is stupid. I heard some lefty commentator the other day (forget who it was) say that he knows him well, and he really is who he seems to be. Said he’s truthfully the sweetest, nicest guy you’ll ever meet, do anything in the world for you, but has literally lived in an Ozzie and Harriet time warp his whole life. Sweet, naive, and dumb.

        • 1539days says:

          Sounds like Bob Beckel’s take on Hannity. He talked to the women on the radio. She said she did it because if you don’t assert your rights, you’ll lose them. Then she had to explain to him that NY law says you can be topless. She sounded more like a libertarian / Paul supporter than one of the typical morons.

  17. Damn, I need to start a cult. The moose cult. Got to get to work on that.

  18. WMCB says:

    Another protestor admits to being paid by various organizations:

  19. HELENK says:

    Tea Party rallies FOR Gibson Guitars
    Rally for an American company providing American jobs

  20. alice223 says:

    In my head, I know this is a creepy hypnotic that disengages a crowd from critical thinking. It creates a dangerous groupthink, where the listeners echo the words of the speaker instead of examining the words of the speaker.

    But even knowing that, I can’t stop giggling each time I see one of those clips. Especially when you get the wiggly jazz fingers. Even typing this, I’m starting to giggle. Reminds me of Monty Python:

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