In her article “Mind control experts monitor Twelve Tribes,” CBC News, 23 March 2015 (http://goo.gl/a5KqKR), Donna Carrerio discusses the controversial Winnipeg religious group, known as the Twelve Tribes. Carrerio reviews recent allegations against the group and consults the opinion of Steven Hassan, one of North America’s leading experts on cults and mind control to explain the issue.
The article begins by shedding light on recent allegations brought against the welfare and safety of children in the group. These allegations are juxtaposed to a recent claim by an ex-Twelve Tribe member who claims the group notoriously practiced corporal punishment and disciple against children. Similar allegations have been made against Twelve Tribe communities across the world.
Yet, despite criminal allegations, the Twelve Tribes continues to succeed in recruiting and maintaining members. A plea is made by Hassan for officials to look into this group, claiming that their behaviours are “very concerning.” Hassan divulges tactics deemed to be typical of “dangerous” cults, like an alluring ideology with hidden manipulative measures to control members. Hassan claims that the Twelve Tribes proclaimed “Christian” ideology is especially appealing to those in need of direction. However, once inside the group members may find themselves participating in behaviours that go against their moral judgment. Dissent is met with wrath and disapproval and many struggle with finding a way to leave – which leads to the article’s central focus: how can you help members of religious extremism re-evaluate their beliefs and transition out of the group?
The concern expressed in this article bears resemblance to a practice spawned out of the Anti-Cult Movement in the 20th century: deprogramming. The idea that people join cults do so under psychological pressure or manipulation were rampant. Worry over the psychological and physical safety of new religious movements gave way to deprogramming, a way of trying to reverse the effects of cult “brainwashing.” Deprogramming efforts are based on the belief that people who join new religious movements are in vulnerable states and can be talked into or “programmed” into joining the group.
The use of the term “mind control” in the article mimics the ideas underlying deprogramming. The process of being lured in by an alluring ideology, only to be forced into morally questionable practices is similar to the Anti-Cult ideas presented above. However, unlike some deprogramming practices of the past, Hassan is gentle and pragmatic in his approach. He helps people to step back and re-evaluate: “Is this really what you think it is? Or is this just a fantasy of what they told you to believe it is?”
Where Hassan departs from Anti-Cult ideas are his attitudes towards members of such groups. Hassan isn’t anti-cult per say, even though he practices deprogramming. He proposes that we refrain from calling them names, or treating them poorly. Hassan’s practices don’t share the same negativity or forcefulness associated with traditional deprogramming, such as kidnapping and containment. Instead, they are an evolution of the pasts, guided by concern rather than hostility.