A psychological portrait of the sitting president, whom the author considers a master of mind control.
Having been a longtime member of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and now an apostate, Hassan (Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, 2012, etc.), the director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, is an authority on breaking away from cults. That there is a “cult of Trump” is something he takes as given; were there not, Evangelical Christians would not be allying with a man twice divorced and, by his own admission, many times adulterous, among other sins of the flesh and spirit. “Trump’s over 500 rallies are far more choreographed and stage-managed than Moon’s assemblies ever were,” writes the author, going on to examine the techniques of gaslighting and outright lying that Trump has employed from the very beginning, “influence techniques with a need for attention and control over others.” Even if one does not accept that Trump is a cult leader as such—all politicians, after all, have their core of true believers—Hassan makes it clear that he is a master of certain rhetorical devices that do not require much intelligence but speak to much practice: the repetition of words and phrases (e.g., “I’m a very stable genius, very smart”) that, through “a primarily unconscious and memory-based process,” lead the listener to think that they must be coming from more than one source and are therefore true, "crowding out analytical thinking and causing the mind to retreat into a kind of trance.” Hassan also counsels that challenging a cult member about the veracity of his or her object of veneration is bound to produce only a defensive reaction; in its place, he offers a diet that includes a good dose of healthy skepticism about what we read and hear. The author’s dark likening of Trump’s followers to those who drank poison at Jonestown is, let us hope, hyperbolic.
An argument that, though seemingly from the fringe, bears consideration as the next election cycle heats up.