cover image The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control

The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control

Steven Hassan. Free Press, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9821-2733-6

Brainwashing, not politics, explains Donald Trump’s presidency, according to this overwrought jeremiad. Hassan (Combating Cult Mind Control), an anticult counselor who left Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church after being deprogrammed, argues that President Trump’s base constitutes a cult that the president—assisted by Fox News, the Christian right, the alt-right, and Russian agents—manipulates with mind-control techniques. These include flattering audiences; fear-mongering against immigrants and reporters to create an us-vs.-them mentality, using “hypnotically repetitious” slogans and chants at rallies; distributing MAGA hats to “anchor” approved thoughts, disorienting people with false or nonsensical tweets, seeking to “delegitimize” government through policies and judicial appointments, and forcing underlings to eat junk food and dress alike. Recasting politics as psychopathology, Hassan offers tips on deprogramming Trump supporters and recommends that aspiring presidential candidates undergo “a full neuropsychiatric, forensic evaluation” before being certified to run. Hassan’s concept of cultic mind control is so promiscuous—“alternating praise and criticism is a common technique in cults”—that virtually everything politicians normally do could qualify, and his caricature of brainwashed Trump voters doesn’t engage with their substantive policy concerns. Readers hoping for an illuminating analysis of Trump’s appeal will have to look elsewhere. (Oct.)