Somewhere, over the rainbow, a blog is born. A blog for Kansas. A blog for America. A blog by a reporter with a difficult-to-pronounce last name. But most importantly, a blog that is AMERICA'S ONLY PLACE dedicated to the vital intersection of politics and Sunflowers. The Heartland gods nod in wise approval.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Are conventions like cults?

Working through another sleep-deprived, hammered-message political convention, I'm dogged by the same observation I had during the last one: I bet cults are a lot like this.

What?!? You say. How can one even make the comparison!?!? Hey -- after a days of sleep deprivation, repetitive messages and entrapment in an enclosed space, you'd start seeing similarities too. And where do you think the phrase "Drinking the Kool-Aid" comes from?

Following the thesis, I did a quick-and-dirty Web search that turned up this Web description of cults. It's from the University of Alabama (where the stars are so blue ...), so it seems appropriate for this blog:

A cult is a group characterized by (a) distinctive rituals of devotion to an idea or person, (b) isolation from mainstream ("evil") culture, and (c) a living, charismatic leader.

So, for four days, Republicans from across the country are pulled together in Madison Square Garden for speeches, workshops and songs devoted to the re-election of George W. Bush. They do this under a cordon of security officers and avoid protesters, many of whom are closer to the political mainstream of highly liberal New York City. Democrats may quibble with C, questioning Bush's charisma. That will get you nowhere with the Kool-Aid drinkers.

Cult leaders are usually bright individuals who are skilled at manipulating people. They claim special knowledge that they will give to "true believers."

Once again, Democrats may quibble with the choice of Bush as standard-bearer. But Karl Rove? Interesting ...

Cult recruits
A. Recruits are usually under 25.

B. About one-third have depressive symptoms, having just experienced a significant loss (e.g., death of a loved one, end of a relationship, loss of a job). Only 5-6% of recruits demonstrate major psychological problems prior to joining. Cults don't want new members with serious psychological problems.
C. At least temporarily, many recruits are suffering from low self-esteem.
D. Frequently, recruits come from middle-class backgrounds because such people tend to be more trusting of others. It is important to note that there can be exceptions to these characteristics.

This was probably more applicable in Boston. The Democratic Party has rules requiring a significant proportion of young delegates at their convention -- and certainly people who have lost their jobs, i.e. outsourcing -- are more likely to turn to the Democrats this year. And low self-esteem? Watch John Kerry as he attempts to figure himself out. War good? War bad? Warning signs, warning signs ... the nominee may need an intervention.

Recruitment techniques include the following:
A. Initial meeting that emphasizes care for the potential recruit and a general discussion of "philosophy of life". People are invited to return for a follow-up weekend retreat.

Also known as the presidential inauguration.

B. Weekend retreat involves songs, chanting, discussions, and sleep deprivation. Recruits are encouraged to make supportive statements. Commitments that are made voluntarily, publicly, and repeatedly are usually internalized.

Bingo, bingo, bingo, and bingo. From Lee Greenwood's "I'm proud to be an American" to "Four more years" to daily get-out-the-vote meeetings to schedules that start at 7:30 and end at midnight, every mind-control technique is in full force.

C. Physically and psychologically remove members from mainstream society.
D. Distract members from thinking "undesirable " thoughts. This is often accomplished through rituals, chanting, and sleep deprivation.
E. Gradually escalate demands placed on members.
F. Fixate members’ vision on the notion of a "promised land" and better life if they remain faithful.

Nobody, ain't nobody in this Garden leaving without a dose of indoctrination. And by Thursday, the faithful will burst on America, with ads, with door-to-door, with slogans, techniques and messages ready. Folks, we have a thesis.