One of the hallmarks of totalitarianism is mass conformity to a psychotic official narrative. Not a regular official narrative, like the “Cold War” or the “War on Terror” narratives. A totally delusional official narrative that has little or no connection to reality and that is contradicted by a preponderance of facts.

Nazism and Stalinism are the classic examples, but the phenomenon is better observed in cults and other sub-cultural societal groups. Numerous examples will spring to mind: the Manson family, Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, the Church of Scientology, Heavens Gate, etc., each with its own psychotic official narrative: Helter Skelter, Christian Communism, Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy, and so on.

Looking in from the dominant culture (or back through time in the case of the Nazis), the delusional nature of these official narratives is glaringly obvious to most rational people. What many people fail to understand is that to those who fall prey to them (whether individual cult members or entire totalitarian societies) such narratives do not register as psychotic. On the contrary, they feel entirely normal. Everything in their social “reality” reifies and reaffirms the narrative, and anything that challenges or contradicts it is perceived as an existential threat.

These narratives are invariably paranoid, portraying the cult as threatened or persecuted by an evil enemy or antagonistic force which only unquestioning conformity to the cult’s ideology can save its members from. It makes little difference whether this antagonist is mainstream culture, body thetans, counter-revolutionaries, Jews, or a virus. The point is not the identity of the enemy. The point is the atmosphere of paranoia and hysteria the official narrative generates, which keeps the cult members (or the society) compliant.

In addition to being paranoid, these narratives are often internally inconsistent, illogical, and … well, just completely ridiculous. This does not weaken them, as one might suspect. Actually, it increases their power, as it forces their adherents to attempt to reconcile their inconsistency and irrationality, and in many cases utter absurdity, in order to remain in good standing with the cult. Such reconciliation is of course impossible, and causes the cult members’ minds to short circuit and abandon any semblance of critical thinking, which is precisely what the cult leader wants.

Moreover, cult leaders will often radically change these narratives for no apparent reason, forcing their cult members to abruptly forswear (and often even denounce as “heresy”) the beliefs they had previously been forced to profess, and behave as if they had never believed them, which causes their minds to further short circuit, until they eventually give up even trying to think rationally, and just mindlessly parrot whatever nonsensical gibberish the cult leader fills their heads with.

Also, the cult leader’s nonsensical gibberish is not as nonsensical as it may seem at first. Most of us, upon encountering such gibberish, assume that the cult leader is trying to communicate, and that something is very wrong with his brain. The cult leader isn’t trying to communicate. He is trying to disorient and control the listener’s mind. Listen to Charlie Manson “rapping.” Not just to what he says, but how he says it. Note how he sprinkles bits of truth into his stream of free-associated nonsense, and his repetitive use of thought-terminating clichés, described by Robert J. Lifton as follows:

“The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly selective, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. They become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.” — Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: : A Study of “Brainwashing” in China, 1961

If all this sounds familiar, good. Because the same techniques that most cult leaders use to control the minds of the members of their cults are used by totalitarian systems to control the minds of entire societies: Milieu Control, Loaded Language, Sacred Science, Demand for Purity, and other standard mind-control techniques. It can happen to pretty much any society, just as anyone can fall prey to a cult, given the right set of circumstances.

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