Tag Archives: brainwashing

‘Undue Influence’ As A Possible Legal Recourse Against Authoritarian Churches And Bullying Ministers

Steve Hassan, an expert on religious cults and high-control groups, explains “undue influence” in this short video — and pay close attention to the segment starting at about the 38-second mark.

“In my experience, anyone is vulnerable to undue influence…” Another quick explainer:

Next, Hassan explains the problem with undue influence.

“[W]e’re using the legal term undue influence, because that best describes what it’s really about. It’s the exploitation and manipulation of someone with power over someone else to make them dependent and obedient…”

Here’s another interesting point, also from the video immediately above, regarding undue influence and its ability to manipulate vulnerable people:

“So there’s no informed consent. When you think of a destructive mind control cult, always think, people may say, ‘I chose to join,’ but they didn’t in my professional opinion choose to join. They were lied to, they were manipulated, and they were indoctrinated, and once I have a chance to teach them what we know about social psychology, what we know about hypnosis for example, people wake up and they realize, ‘I didn’t choose.'”
In the next video (below), Santa Clara Law Professor Alan Scheflin and Hassan give back-to-back presentations.

Scheflin quotes Lunde and Wilson from a 1977 publication: “No reported case in Anglo-American law has accepted brainwashing as a defense to criminal liability.”

That is why “undue influence” has become a more viable option by which to make legal claims against high-control groups.

Read more and see more videos at FreedomOfMind.com.

‘He was brainwashed’ — a Somali-American man’s account of his nephew’s recruitment by al-Shabaab

This evening, NBC Nightly News aired a report on Islamic extremists recruiting in Minneapolis.

“For years, Minneapolis has been a target for terrorist recruiters seeking angry, disillusioned young men,” reporter Ron Allen said.

Tens of thousands of Somalis live in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Little Mogadishu where recruitment of young men into Islamic extremist groups is “an all too familiar story,” Allen said.

Allen interviewed a Somali man about his nephew’s recruitment (the report included the names but did not show them on the screen, so I cannot spell them).

Allen: “You lost your nephew.”

Somali man: “Yeah.”

Allen: “What happened?”

Somali man: “He was brainwashed.”

The nephew, Allen said, was “lured” back to Somalia in 2008, when the kid was only 17 years old.

The nephew died a year later while fighting for al-Shabaab, the same group behind last year’s attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a town in the Minneapolis area, was also home to Douglas MacArthur McCain, who reportedly died last week while fighting for Islamic State.

The word “brainwash” has been used more frequently as Western males have started fighting for Islamic extremist groups.

Some have become radicalized before traveling to areas controlled by Islamic extremists, while others might have been tricked into entering extremist groups.

In at least one case, a young man (from Belgium) traveled to the Middle East because he was led to believe he would be helping a charitable organization, but the organization was actually an extremist group.

Like many stories, the story of Zia Adbul Haq of Queensland, Australia, suggests religious brainwashing is most successful in times of crisis.

The 33-year-old had told those closest to him that he’d travelled to the [Syrian] region to find a wife after the breakdown of his marriage…
Friends told an Australian news organization that Zia “fell off the rails and under the spell of the extremists,” and  “Zia has been brainwashed.”

Life’s difficulties also seemed to be making restless, unemployed young men in Minneapolis easy targets for jihadist brainwashing, as Allen of NBC News suggested.
Even when Somalis enter the U.S. for legitimate reasons, some of them, somehow, become radicalized. As Michelle Moons of Breitbart.com reports,
NCTC [National Counterterrorism Center] reports have noted the high level of terrorist activity in Somalia, as terrorist group al-Shabaab has intermittently controlled various key regions of Somalia. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention document cites Office of Refugee Resettlement statistics that list Minnesota, California, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. as locations where the majority of Somalis have settled in the U.S. Thousands have come to the U.S. as refugees under the banner of fleeing war and persecution in their home country. Current population estimates of Somali-born individuals living in the U.S. range from 35,760 to 150,000.

Trouble with radicalized Somalis has been building for years. Here’s a snapshot:

Oct. 31, 2011: “Suicide bomber in Somali attack was reportedly from Minneapolis

Aug. 5, 2010: “14 U.S. citizens charged with trying to join Somali terror group

July 20, 2009: “Minneapolis struggles with Somali gangs

Islamic State using cult brainwashing techniques

On NBC Nightly News this evening, Richard Engel interviewed an Belgian ex-soldier who rescued his own son from the grips of the Syrian militant group called Islamic State or Isis.

The ex-soldier’s son thought he would be helping Muslims, apparently in a charitable capacity.

But the Islamic State slowly drew the son into its agenda.

In the Nightly News report, the ex-soldier was shown making an incremental step toward Engel.

“You know, inside, step by step, they change the minds,” the ex-soldier said.

That could be a succinct explanation of how numerous cults, of many different stripes, turn recruits into foot soldiers, whether figuratively or literally.

I’m hoping NBC News will post the interview on their website.

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The BBC asks, ‘Is it possible to brainwash someone?’

Last month, the BBC’s Today program interviewed two experts who disagreed about the possibility of “brainwashing.” One of the interviewees, Dr. Kathleen Taylor, wrote a critcially acclaimed book entitled, Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control. I used Taylor’s book in my rebuttal of Hank Hanegraaff’s false and flippant comments about brainwashing; Hanegraaff has yet to respond to my rebuttal or retract his statements. Agree or disagree with Taylor’s research, this short (3:52) interview is worth a listen.

What’s left after the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes split? The question of brainwashing

The Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes split will soon run out of media attention, but an important question will remain just beneath the surface.

Scientology, Cruise’s religion, is often accused of “brainwashing” its members — and, of course, journalists have speculated that Scientology may have been a central factor in Holmes’ decision to leave.

But is brainwashing real? We should probably address that before the United States’ tensions with Iran cause us to switch mental channels.

Because if brainwashing is for real, then we probably ought to have some mental filters in place to protect ourselves and our loved ones. . . .

Read the entirity of this week’s Strange Days column here.

A new rebuttal to Hanegraaff’s claims about brainwashing re. Teen Mania

In 1998, in the academic journal Nova Religio, sociologist Benjamin Zablocki wrote, “Many scholars deny that brainwashing exists and consider its use as a social science concept to be epistemologically fraudulent. Others make grandiose claims for the brainwashing conjecture, often using it to account for virtually everything about human behavior in high-demand religious organizations. Neither of these approaches is helpful.”

Furthermore, in her 2004 book Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults, Janja Lilich wrote, “Brainwashing does not occur in every cult, and it can occur in other contexts.”

So brainwashing is a viable concept, and the context for brainwashing does not have to be a cult.

What does this have to do with anything?

Hank Hanegraaff said brainwashing has been “utterly discredited.”

He’s wrong.

While Zablocki wants to qualify and consider the use of the term “brainwashing,” he certainly does not believe the concept has been “utterly discredited,” to use Hanegraaff’s words.

Let me back up.

Late last year, after MSNBC aired a documentary suggesting that Teen Mania’s Honor Academy used mind control techniques, Hank Hanegraaff came to the youth organization’s defense. (Read a collection of related posts here.)

In his defense of Teen Mania, after the documentary aired, Hanegraaff said, in part, “Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited. If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.”

His use of the word “sophistry” backfired. I rebutted Hanegraaff’s claims here. I pointed to Kathleen Taylor’s critically acclaimed 2006 book, Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, published by Oxford University Press. I also quoted from the book.

I challenged Hanegraaff to withdraw his erroneous statements. To the best of my knowledge, to this day, he has not corrected his error.

Hanegraaff wasn’t the only defender of Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. However, consider Lalich’s definition of a cult in Bounded Choice: “A cult can be either a sharply bounded social group or a diffusely bounded social movement held together through shared commitment to a charismatic leader. It upholds a transcendent ideology (often but not always religious in nature) and requires a high level of personal commitment from its members in words and deeds.”

After watching the MSNBC documentary back in November, I think many people could reasonably say that some past practices of Teen Mania’s Honor Academy were cultic and controlling in nature. Whether those practicies continue, I don’t know.

A rebuttal to Hank Hanegraaff’s claims about brainwashing in China in his defense of Teen Mania

In my previous examination of Hank Hanegraaff’s defense of Teen Mania, I noted that Hanegraaff writes the following:

Equally significant is the fact that cult mind control as a sociological model has been utterly discredited.

If brainwashing techniques did not work in the 20th century reeducation camps of communist China, it is sophistry to suppose it to be effectively employed in the ESOAL (Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of A Lifetime) weekend retreat of TMM’s Honor Academy.

How interesting it was, then, to find the following book through my university’s library: Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control by Kathleen Taylor, published in August 2006 by Oxford University Press.

I want to quote a significant passage that rebuts Hanegraaff, but first, let’s unpack the significance of the book itself.

1. It was published recently. This is not Robert Jay Lifton’s work from decades ago. I don’t mean to suggest Lifton’s work is irrelevant, only that time has not left the topic of brainwashing behind.

2. It was published by a reputable press. Oxford University Press is about as reputable as publishers can get.

3. It was written by Kathleen Taylor, who, according to the book, is “a research scientist in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford.”

4. Better yet, “Brainwashing, her first book, was short-listed for the 2005 MIND Book of the Year Award and long-listed for the 2005 Aventis Science Book Prize.”

Now, the last nail in the coffin holding the remains of Hanegraaff’s irresponsible, shoddy research:

Taylor, referring to the United Nations’ efforts to defend South Korea during the Korean War, writes, “The United States, the major participant in this joint effort, soon noticed that something strange was happening to US troops taken captive by the enemy. Some emerged from prisoner of war camps as, apparently, converted Communists, ready to denounce their country of birth and sing the praises of the Maoist way of life. Of course, the phenomenon of prisoners forced to laud their captors was not a new one. But some of these soldiers continued their bizarre — and passionate — disloyalty even after they were free of the Communists’ grip. Unnerved by their behavior, and concerned about potential effects on morale, the US began to investigate what their CIA operative Edward Hunter had in 1950 publicly christened ‘brainwashing’. Hunter himself expresses his negative reactions very clearly in describing a victim of the strange new phenomenon.”

Taylor continues with an excerpt from Hunter’s book, also entitled Brainwashing. In that excerpt, Hunter describes the experience of interviewing someone who came out of a Maoist prisoner of war camp. After noting the “unnatural” way the former POW replied to the questions (distinguishing the replies from shell-shock or PTSD), Hunter notes, “This was Party discipline extended to the mind; a trance element was in it. It gave me a creepy feeling.”

Hanegraaff, if he has any intellectual honesty, must publicly recant the falsehoods in his defense of Teen Mania.