Why Are the Cults at War with the Media 1
Cults are complex phenomenon in the modern world because of their dubious positions towards the media and the sophisticated communication technology. They, based on their natural potentiality, misuse the media and modern means for censure, persuasion, distortion, brainwashing and mind-control activities against their insiders and sympathizers. Cults show diverse and double reactions in their dealing with the media that draw substantial public attention to accomplish a variety of objectives. Besides, the media in any form play a key role in the formation of public opinion and thought, life-style, and even the depiction of a nation’s destiny. For sure so important, versatile phenomena of the modernity never escape the attention of the cults. In the same way that the media can give warning against the threat and the evil nature of the cults, they can also be at their service, depending on the amount of revenue and how influentially they can master them, to instil noxious ideas into a society. However, since the media can hardly be an exclusive medium for the cults and in many occasions it is too expensive a means for propagation with the least expected outcome, and sometimes inflicts irreparable damages, the cults prefer not to invest much trust in the media. The case is sometimes different with the political cults. If we consider deliberate isolation tactic as one of the cults’ most common mechanisms of control and enforced dependency, then the social persuasion is the identical definition of the mechanism. The recruits are encouraged to disrupt their common lifestyle and leave whatever they are attached to behind to adapt themselves to the cult’s milieu in isolation. In this process, what is considered to be a threat in neutralizing the effects of the social persuasion will be the media which the cults favour to avoid. That is mostly because cults’ prompt of black-and-white thinking fails to be functional and productive in the media which has to be repelled. However, cults are not so powerful as the governments that can have total control over the media for social persuasion and people’s mind-control if they will. Quoting Orwell reasoning the effectiveness of the media coming under the complete control of the governments, Singer states: Orwell reasoned that if a government could control all media and interpersonal communication while simultaneously forcing citizens to speak in a politically controlled jargon, it could blunt independent thinking. If thought could be controlled, then rebellious actions against a regime could be pre- vented. 1 Milieu control, that is total control of members’ communication in the cults, is a mechanism to keep members from communicating anything other than what the cults approve and often involves discouraging members from contacting relatives or friends outside the cult and from reading, watching and listening to anything unapproved by the cult or the organization. Consequently, the effectiveness of the media in illuminating facts about the cults and active organizations is actually neutralized and the insiders are told not to believe and trust in anything they see or hear reported by the media that has to be accounted as an agent in the enemy’s front. In this way, the cults’ leaders blindfold members about historical facts: Milieu control also often involves discouraging members from contacting relatives or friends outside the group and from reading anything not approved by the organization. They are sometimes told not to believe anything they see or hear reported by the media. One left-wing political cult, for example, maintains that the Berlin Wall is still standing and that the "bourgeois capitalist" press war people to think otherwise in order to discredit communism. 2 As a result, cults’ hostile position against the media decreases the influence of the media on the members to a zero degree. Furthermore, cults exploit a variety of approaches and legal levers in the war against the media. Sometimes they use violent tactics such as threatening, intimidation and harassment to frighten away the critics, reporters, journalists and authors and to compel them cease anti-cult productions and programs: A metropolitan newspaper’s desk editor was harassed after he ran a piece critical of a local cult. He and his family had to move out of their home after receiving seventy-two hours of continuous phone calls from cult members. 3 As mentioned earlier, if possible, cults will set up complex networks of public relations and radio-TV stations to make a direct channel of communication and contact with the sympathizers rather than letting them refer to public media for information. Such a biased medium works as sufficient to hold the followers hooked onto the cult. As Singer explains: Cults have found many ways to restrict and control public information about them. Some groups have brochures, handouts for the press, and written overviews and endorsements of the group, often prepared by sophisticated public relations firms. In essence, these materials imply that "you need go no further. Here is who we are. Here is all you need to know to understand us perfectly. Take this material and use it. Everything is fine." The implication is that the material is objectively represented and relatively comprehensive. 4 As a leftist cult, Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) has adopted various tactics to muzzle and beat the media. It will be discussed in the following article. References: 1. Margaret Thaler Singer; Cults in Our Midst, JOSSEY-BASS, 2003, introduction. 2. Ibid, p. 70. 3. Ibid, p. 224. 4. Ibid, p. 226.