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TRUMPTOWN: A swirling Jonestown Vortex of cult-like brainwashing and Trumpist madness

Sean Cummings / Red Dirt Report
This "dude," at the GOP Convention in Cleveland, Ohio last summer, is decidedly not on the "Trump Train."
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Folks, it’s time to evolve ideas. You know, evolution didn’t end with us growing thumbs. You do know that, right? Didn’t end there. We’re at the point, now, where we’re going to have to evolve ideas. The reason the world is so fucked up is we’re undergoing evolution. And the reason our institutions, our traditional religions, are all crumbling, is because they’re no longer relevant. They’re no longer relevant. So it’s time for us to create a new philosophy and perhaps even a new religion, you see. And that’s okay because that’s our right, because we are free children of God with minds who can imagine anything, and that’s kind of our role.” – Bill Hicks

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cults come and go. In my lifetime I’ve noted a number of them. A family member was involved in a dangerous one in the 1970’s, but thankfully got out of it before things got seriously out of control.

And then there is the notorious and crazed cult leader Jim Jones brought us the Jonestown Massacre of November 1978 at the Peoples Temple in Guyana. This is where hundreds of his brainwashed followers committed suicide – allegedly – after drinking poisoned Flavor Aid in the socialistic, communal compound there in the South American jungle. A compound that was praised by representatives of the Soviet government at the time for its commitment to socialism and communism.

The deaths at Jonestown included a congressman – U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.) – who was at Jonestown investigating Jim Jones’s suspect activities after receiving numerous complaints about the Peoples Temple, based in San Francisco, from family members concerned about loved ones now belonging to Jones's cult.

Ryan, of course, would not be able to conclude his congressional investigation. He was dead.

In fact, until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 918 people killed at Jonestown represented the largest loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act, up to that time.

And I don’t have to tell you all about Charles Manson and “The Family.” The Family did what Charlie told them to do. And they did it … “Helter Skelter” and all.

SURVIVAL MODE

Growing up in Arkansas in the mid-1980’s, we had the Christian Identity, white supremacist survivalist cult, The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, based in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains. At the time, the CSA were identified as “domestic terrorists” by the FBI in 1985, when the compound was ultimately seized and the CSA was destroyed. There were a lot of survivalists and doomsayers back then, particularly in Middle America, which was in the midst of the Farm Crisis. It was a dark time for the "Silent Majority" who heartily embraced Reagan's notion of "Morning in America."

At the time, my school chum Kelsey, a burgeoning cartoonist of the Berkeley Breathed-esque, Bloom County variety, even inserted a Covenant, The Sword and The Arm of Lord panel in his Scranton Village cartoon series. It very much mirrored the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh Hindu cultists in Oregon who tried to poison the food at a salad bar in a nearby town, as portrayed in Bloom County strips at the time.

That attempt at domestic terrorism also took place in 1985. Inspired by the cultist insanity of the mid-80's zeitgeist, the Dada-esque New Wave electronic band Cabaret Voltaire's controversial album The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of the Lord was released, which featured samples of speeches by Charles Manson, which got them in some hot water with their label.

Eight years later, in the spring of ’93, was the Branch Davidian Mount Carmel compound near Waco, Texas, which went up in a fireball, killing 77 men, women and children after cult leader David Koresh refused to leave with his followers. In turn, frustrated with the lengthy siege, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms launched “tear gas” into the building, causing a blazing inferno to erupt. The official line is that the cultists committed suicide by burning the building down themselves. A horrific way to go.

Bill Hicks, the comedian noted at the beginning of this essay, even traveled to Waco to investigate what was going on for himself. He would later say that the US government was behind the inferno that killed the cultists.

Said Hicks in the months before his death: “The Branch Davidians did not start the fire. They were murdered in cold blood by the pussies, the liars, the scumbags — the ATF.”

Despite eyewitness reports to the contrary, the official, government line is that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh plotted – and followed through with – the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two years after the Waco siege, as an effort to get back at the government, although there are other theories as to what really happened out there as well. McVeigh - an Oswald-like figure - was executed exactly three months before 9/11/01.

Remains of the original Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building structure in downtown Oklahoma City. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

And it was 20 years ago this month that Marshall Applewhite and his Heaven’s Gate UFO cultists – the “Heaven’s Gate Away Team,” dressed in black and Nike Decade sneakers - committed mass suicide at their southern California compound, as they awaited a hoped-for UFO – allegedly following the Comet Hale-Bopp that strange spring of 1997.

And there have been many others over the years, some we probably never even heard about, the circumstances were so bizarre and disturbing. And yet, the idea of the cult has its appeal, particularly to disenfranchised folks who feel like the world is against them. Look at the Westboro Baptist Church folks. Have you seen anything like it?

And then there is the troubling, nationwide “Cult of Trump.” 

Yes, there is a decidedly worrisome phenomenon that is taking place here in America. People are exceedingly obsessed with President Donald J. Trump and what he represents. Or, perhaps, what people project onto this odd man who is prone to infantile tantrums and Howard Hughes-level eccentricities. And he is arguably the most powerful man in the known universe, with those nuclear codes and all. And he prefers his version of the truth. All other views be damned! A scary approach to the highest office in the land.

So, knowing that Trump is an exceedingly divisive figure and also seems to be as brittle as hell, just six weeks into this utterly bizarre “experiment” in governing a fucking country as big as America, well, it’s no real shock that there are folks out there who are willing to even die for Donald Trump.

And one of those people is Austin, Texas-based radio host, Internet news guy, and someone with a direct line to Trump (and an Infowars fan, to boot!), Alex Jones.

JONESTOWN, PT. 2

I remember when I first heard Alex Jones in the late 1990’s, when I was a big listener of the late-night conspiracy radio show Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. Yes, anyone who knows me, knows I have a weakness for a good conspiracy theory – within reason (or, perhaps not ...). I admit to having unconventional views, but they come from a place that is from the heart and from a deep desire to know the truth, even when powerful forces are telling you the exact opposite. It's in my DNA, it would seem.

Anyway, one day I sent an email message to Bell after he featured a “questionable guest” over a series of programs named “Dr. Jonathan Reed,” who allegedly killed an extraterrestrial in a remote area of Washington state. I was captivated by the tale I told him, but I also chided Bell for not asking harder questions. He responded by saying, essentially, that he was there to let Reed talk and for the audience to make up his own mind. As a journalist this frustrated me, but as someone who understands the entertainment value of shows like Coast to Coast AM, well, he had a point, and a show to sell to millions of listeners. After all, Reed’s tall tale – which turned out to be totally bogus – did result in big ratings for Bell’s show.

Reed's alleged "dead alien." (YouTube.com)

Around this same time, while listening to Art Bell, someone told me about this guy fearless radio guy Alex Jones down in Austin (I was living in the Dallas area at the time). Texas was already home to a few interesting radio guys. This included an old-school, anti-communist and "Bible prophecy" radio preacher named David J. Smith, who ran a radio show and Newswatch Magazine out of his church in Waxahachie, Texas, where I was based at the time.

I recall interviewing Smith at his church in 1999 and discussing his concerns about the Y2K bug that many thought was going to shut down computers around the world. Y2K fears did not come to pass, thankfully.

In fact, listen to this 1983 David J. Smith broadcast where he talks about "Russia in prophecy," and fake news and so forth. It could be 2017, if you didn't know the date it was aired, with its weird brew of end-times prophecy, conspiracies, Bircher dialogue and so forth. 

But when it came to the more contemporary and younger Alex Jones, I was introduced to his tapes through a friend, and then bought my own copies. It didn't take long for me to be hooked as he boldly sneaked into the secretive Bohemian Grove compound and exposed police state tactics under the Clinton administration. And when George W. Bush was president, Jones recorded himself yelling at the then-governor of Texas and getting hauled away by Bush's goons. A brave guy, I thought. He's got cojones! And with the uncertainty of a new millennium looming, Jones seemed like a true leader, when true leaders were scarce.

By the early 2000’s I was living in Louisiana and remained a fan, forwarding my stories to Jones and his Infowars crew. This was in the immediate years following the 9/11 attacks, which Jones convinced listeners was an "inside job." He seemed to make sense. He broke a lot of stories and seemed to fill a wide gap left by the shrinking old-line media. As I write this, my old employers at a Gannett-owned daily newspaper in Louisiana is going down to publishing only three days a week.

You saw what? (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Meanwhile, Jones's Infowars seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, despite increased negative attention in recent months.

In any event, it would take time, but I was eventually on the Infowars radar with my indie journalism, particularly after launching Red Dirt Report, which initially was a Drudge Report-like aggregator website, but ultimately - over a number of years - produced almost entirely original news and other content. I had seen the writing on the wall. Newspapers were folding. The Internet was where it was at. 

But as quickly as I did an interview with Jones years later (over my personal thoughts on the mysterious death of rising, right-wing media star Andrew Breitbart), I realized that the Jonesian ideology of fear and anger and nativism was wholly toxic and terrible and obnoxious. At the core, it was missing a key ingredient - love. And another - compassion. And also empathy. 

But by the time I ditched it, I saw it was too late for many others who were in too deep, fully devoted to Trumpism. Some did leave, like writer/researcher Kurt Nimmo, who personally witnessed the once-independent truthseeker Jones guzzle a Big Gulp of orange-flavored Trump Aid. This shocking shift resulted in Nimmo (and others, from what I've been told) in leaving the Infowars team after 8 years of hard work, "fighting the info war."

Don't drink the "Orange Drink." 

I disagree with Alex Jones on Donald Trump,” Nimmo said in an email to The Daily Beast last month. “I believe Donald Trump is an enabler of crony capitalism, the same as his predecessor. I also believe he will not end the wars started by Bush and continued by Obama. I cannot support a man who will further war and murder. Alex Jones has more or less ignored this and considers Trump a patriot and a defender of the Constitution. This is clearly wrong.

Those first seeds of skepticism about Alex Jones came my way in 2004 at the Libertarian Presidential Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. A young man at a table was selling “Just Say No to Skull & Bones” bumper stickers. I asked him about them and he said he was from Austin. Really? I said. So you must be a fan of Infowars and Alex Jones? I assumed this because Jones was anti-Skull & Bones, a secrective society based at Yale University, which calls both George W. Bush and John Kerry members.

The bumper-sticker seller scowled and went on a rant about how much he hated Jones and his obsession with selling products and how he is not the "grassroots guy" he presents himself to be and that his loudmouthed schtick was all for show and ratings.

I was shocked. I thought most "awakened" folks from Austin (like filmmaker Richard Linklater, for instance) were getting hip to Jones’s attacks against the so-called “New World Order” and the “globalists.” Linklater liked Jones enough to feature him in a couple of his rotoscoping films, including Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, based on Philip K. Dick's brilliant, dystopian novel.

Alex Jones was really great in the early days. He seemed to be bringing people from all corners of the political spectrum into the search for truth in a world built on lies. He had the Constitution Party guys alongside supporters of progressive Democrat Dennis Kucinich.

Now ... not so much.

A screenshot of Alex Jones as he appeared in Richard Linklater's 2006 film A Scanner Darkly. (Warner Bros.)

And others were getting wise to Jones, it seemed. He mouthed off and seemed sincere. But there seemed to be something else. I just couldn't put my finger on it. 

Just check out this blog, which notes countless examples, between 2009 and 2016, of times when Jones went into a mental state that was the equivalent of a jungle compound run by a madman with an iron fist and a lust for blood and classic literature.

Don't get me wrong. Alex Jones is very, very smart, and can pull historical knowledge out of the air like nobody's business. But it's all seemingly viewed through a nativist, Judeo-Christian, paleo-conservative prism, and I reckon Jones sees Trump as about as close to a "perfect" president as he'll see in his lifetime. And yet Trump has been married multiple times, scammed folks who went to his bogus "university," got a deferment from the draft and avoided serving in the Vietnam War, even though he was of age to serve. Just another wealthy huckster and another chickenhawk - and yet Jones seems to be ok with that.

"The horror. The horror."

And while I was a libertarian in the 2000's, I still listened to Jones. In fact, in 2006, two years after that encounter in Atlanta, not long after moving to Oklahoma, I recall listening to Jones warn his listeners that “bone-crushing attacks” of terror were inevitable that autumn. I was intrigued, but skeptical at the same time. As a journalist I wanted more information. Where was Jones getting this information? But after the events of September 11th, which he seemed to have predicted, maybe he was really on to something. With the "war on terror" seemingly neverending, well, it seemed plausible, particularly with a reckless war pig like Bush in the White House.

"Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?

They leave that role to the poor"

-"War Pigs" by Black Sabbath

The “bone-crushing attacks” thankfully never came. Still, it soured me a bit on the guy who seemed to have lots of insider information about nefarious plots being planned against God-fearing, Christian Americans.

Look at what is going on with pious, Christian Republican tough-guy types like State Rep. John Bennett, who demonizes Muslims at every turn, demeaning vast swaths of people here in Oklahoma because of their religious beliefs. This is becoming more and more common in Trumplandia. It's "The Other." It's always been "The Other."

Type-O ... negative-land? (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

And let’s be clear, Alex Jones’s key audience is composed of Christians, cultural conservatives and libertarians. And plenty of self-described patriots who are concerned about the direction the world is going. I get that. I'm concerned as well, as we all should be. But to think Donald Trump will "right the ship" and bring us closer to peace and harmony is categorically absurd and Jones is smart enough to know that.

I've known many of these Trump supporters over the years. Reported on them. Worked with them. But at the core, it seems that fear, rather than love, is controlling them and directing them to Trumpism.

I urge Christians to recall 2 Timothy 1:7 - "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Love? Sound mind? Those notions don't come to mind when I think of Donald Trump, a man who certainly has a lot of power, however.

What else can explain it after all we know about Trump? It had to be more than just being against Hillary Clinton, a person I have never liked either. What is drawing otherwise good people to this man?

To me, living in a state of constant fear and seeking retribution is part of the real "anti-Christ" lifestyle and Trump is manipulating his many supporters for his own ends. And sadly, Alex Jones seems comfortable going down that dark road with Trump and his cult-like followers. Some of whom are people I know well and care about. But for some reason they can't see how bad Trump really is. 

Trump supporters at the 2016 GOP Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. (Sean Cummings / Red Dirt Report)

TRUMPTOWN

In fact, it is now the religious right – thrashing about, looking for anything that mirrors their own beliefs – that is propping up Trump and following Alex Jones’s every word. Note this recent Washington Post article, headlined “The religious right is steeling itself for a Biblical battle on Trump’s behalf.” The same pearl-clutching crowd who has a thing for women in pancake makeup, sitting on golden thrones and talking about "prosperity gospel."

And the religious right is attaching to anything that smacks of their fearful approach to daily life. They certainly don't like "that South American communist Pope" and even The New York Times featured an article over the weekend calling Pope Francis the "anti-Trump."

He makes no bones about his own Christian beliefs and a sort of paleo-conservative-and-libertarian political perspective, even though he would have New Deal-types like Webster Griffin Tarpley on from time-to-time, offering his political outlook, presented through a more classical liberal prism. It's hard to believe he would have guys like Tarpley on a decade or so ago. Now it's like alt-Rush Limbaugh. 

But by 2012, not long after my subtly bizarre interview with Jones (and this not too terribly long after Jones had referred to this website as "scholarly," which was very nice) I moved on. And this was particularly after a Bill Hicks-worthy “eye-opening” experience that December (some say Jones is really the late Bill Hicks - which is absurd, of course. Hicks would never support a foul and fiendish character like Trump).

I felt truly changed and with a clearer head, less clouded by the Jonesian fearmongering that I had subjected myself to for nearly 15 years. There were growing examples of what I call Jonesian "weirdness." His weird bromance with Charlie Sheen and other oddball celebrities. The repeated on-air visits from conmen-like guests and doomsday preachers who never seemed to get their predictions right but had plenty of books and "products" to sell the rubes. It was like the aforementioned Art Bell repeatedly inviting the bogus alien-killer guy on his show. It was for ratings, or so it seemed from Bell's email response to me back in the late 1990's.

Nowadays, when I hear The Alex Jones Show, I get glum and somewhat sick to my stomach, knowing that an odious, insidious, alt-right mentality has taken over and so many people think that building walls and isolating ourselves from the world - while continuing to bomb it on a daily basis - is the way to go.  

And this, despite the repeated denials from the Infowars team who are in some hardcore place where a "siege mentality" has taken over for the remaining core of Jones's compatriots at his Austin media compound.

By the way, if you like Alex Jones and don't believe me, read the comments from the fans sometime, if you don't mind nauseating rants that seem to never end. Butthurt "snowflakes" and "cupcakes" who are the real fascists and must be stopped - at all costs - even if it leads to a second civil war, something that has been predicted by Billy Meier and others.

The anger and hatred coming out of Austin and elsewhere is palpable, even with Trump now in the White House. It's as if they'll never be happy until some authoritarian Fourth Reich is established. Strong words? Well, what is the actual "endgame," here, to use a term Jones has incorporated into one of his documentary films, if the Trumpists get what they want?

Despite my concerns about Jones and those he influences, I do check in with Infowars from time-to-time, just to see what they are talking about. Obviously, Jones had nothing but contempt for President Obama – and, presumably, the machinations of our federal government. But that was no surprise. I was no big fan of Obama either, seeing him as a tool of the military-industrial complex that has the number of every president since atomic-bomb lobbing Harry S. Truman, if not long before.

Which is why when 2015 rolled around and Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring, Jones made it clear that he liked Trump, a vulgar misogynist who happens to be a billionaire and someone stupid enough to run for president. A "golden calf" with a bad combover for the rubes in 2017.

For me, it didn’t make sense, particularly after hearing him blast the New World Order types over the years. Sure, he liked Jesse Ventura, but Trump? Good god! What happened to this guy? Trump has a fifth grade vocabulary and simply reacts to everything. Just look at his Twitter feed any day of the week. And Jones thinks he's exactly the latter-day George Washington we need? It's embarrassing. It's sad.

Alex Jones has a thing for these alpha-male types. Warriors. Braveheart guys willing to sacrifice everything for an idea or belief system, no matter how bigoted it might be. Oh, and he likes to eat Texas barbecue shirtless, because, like Putin, he can. But is this simple entertainment? That line was blurred a long time ago.

And then a month ago, Jones says on his daily radio show: “Trump is so fire-breathing, so energetic, so cunning, so real, and he’s having results so amazing that it just makes me endeared to Trump – I’m ready to die for Trump, at this point. And I’m already ready to die for America, it’s the same feeling I have for America, because he is America, you’re America.”

"Ready to die for Trump"? Trump is America? What the hell? If that doesn’t sound like the crazed rantings of a Trump cultist, I don’t know what does.

I once really respected Alex Jones, a man who seemed to earnestly be on the path of “truth,” (whatever that means anymore). But in recent years, he has gone down a road of crypto-fascism and hucksterism that really concerns me, particularly when today he says on his radio show this week that folks who don't care for Trump and say so, are the enemy: “If they want a war, let's let them have it. Now they're getting their ass kicked in the economy, your approval ratings are going up. Sir, they don't care. They're going to intimidate and pay off and roll people in your second-level operation to try to burn you. You must go on the offense. This is war. You think George Washington kicked the Redcoats' ass just with information? No.”

That would be taking the "info war" to the next level it would seem.

Ironically, when anti-Jones people called his supporters - derisively - Jonestown Kool-Aid drinkers, well, there was something to it, even though I didn't see this early on. I thought those critics were simply part of the problem. But with Trump in and Jones and his gang pushing his agenda, I realize how wrong I was in those early days when Alex Jones could do no wrong. But hey, nobody's perfect, right?

But when you have the reach Jones has, some discretion and discernment is paramount. People take this stuff seriously.

And with Jones daily coming after anti-Trump folks - who have a constitutional right to express their opinions - it is a volatile mix, as we see Jewish cemeteries desecrated, Muslims attacked in the streets, and those identifying themselves as progressive or liberal or anti-fascist as the scum of the earth who should be punched and beaten. But I will add that progressives are only hurting their anti-Trump cause by being belligerent bullies, stepping on the First Amendment, and having little understanding of history. 

It appears things are going to get even uglier. And soon.

It's been building for years.

TRUMPISTS/CULTISTS

And really the rise of Trump and his cult-like supporters is a symptom of a larger problem. Trump draws the easily swayed and duped to his ideas. He has drawn interest and support from  everyone from neo-Nazis like celebrity Tila Tequila (above) to even rightist Hindu sects in India, as pictured below. 

"Only Donald Trump can save humanity," says a leader of an Indian Hindu nationalist group in 2016. (Associated Press)

Look at the Philippines! Look at Japan! Or a nuclear-powered North Korea viewing Seattle and other potential cities as targets. Look at the upcoming French vote, which The Economist is calling a new "French Revolution." But one from the Far Right. Revolution is coming. In what form remains to be seen. But if it goes the way the establishment Economist fears, all of Europe will change overnight. Another tally mark in the Trump/fascist column.

The alt-right and its fascist fanatics are frothing at the thought of a rightist French revolution.

But the Left is in total disarray and was lulled to sleep by eight years of Obama-approved neoliberalism and continued wars overseas, even though he was held up as someone worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Such is the state of things in the early 21st century.

And while Trump's Brain - Steve Bannon - says he is a "Leninist," and wants to "smash the state," he would be wise to read Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky's 1904 Our Political Tasks - Comrade Trotsky's response to Lenin's What Is To Be Done? - "We have to look forward, not only beyond the criminal head of Tsarism, but further still, over the top of the revolutionary barricades, beyond the smoking ruins of the Peter and Paul fortress, towards our own destiny; the irreconcilable fight of the proletariat against the whole bourgeois world."

What is the Trump "endgame"? What is America's destiny as seen through the Chinese-made "Make America Great Again" rose-colored, cheap sunglasses?

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and Donald Trump at Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in 2015. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

Trotsky was a visionary and an incredibly intelligent and even prescient individual, even unwittingly predicting the rise of Stalinism - which would lead to his own death 36 years later while Trotsky was in exile in Mexico and he was assassinated by a Stalinist agent.

As Trotsky wrote at the time: “In the internal politics of the Party these methods lead, as we shall see below, to the Party organisation “substituting” itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee.

It's as if we are seeing this play out - 100 years after the Russian Revolution - with Trump clamping down on every part of the government and demonizing the media and the Constitution. It's dictatorial. And like Stalin, Trump is exceedingly paranoid, seeing enemies everywhere.

But like Stalin, Trump has his hardcore supporters and followers (as does Putin, for that matter). They would lay down their lives for their leader, as many did for the cause in Soviet Russia. Interestingly, Stalin's popularity has risen significantly in Russia in recent years, particularly among the youth, who did not live under Communism.

As noted in a New York Times article one year ago, titled “Stalin, Russia’s New Hero,” it notes that Putin, since coming to power in 1999, has been raising the idea that Stalin’s legacy has become a tacit justification as the current Russian leader has strengthened its own grip on power. Under Stalin, “order” and national prestige trumped human rights or civil liberties, the article notes.

I point readers to this report, noting that Sweden is reinstituting the draft. If true, Russia really is making big plans, and much closer to American shores than anyone should feel comfortable about.

Perhaps Trump's jingoism and obsession with the military - and dramatically boosting military spending - is his way of boosting his influence and his ego and self-worth. But at what cost? And to what degree did Russia meddle in our affairs? Enough speculation, we need facts and if Trump knew something, impeachment proceedings should go forward. But we should not be goading Russia into global thermonuclear war. A war no one will win.

America's military might will be big. It will be beautiful. It will be yuge! (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

I've jokingly said that if Trump stays in office through 2020, we will all have to be committed. I sense that this situation is causing people to go full-tilt insane. And I don't say that lightly.

The online investigative news site Vice (a hard-hitting, investigative news source I respect) interviewed former Marxist cult member (ironically enough) Dr. Alexandra Stein for a story headlined “A cult member turned expert explains how anyone can be brainwashed."

Shockingly, Stein—who attended the Downing Street demonstrations against Donald Trump earlier this year—also believes that, going on her own criteria, the US president has all the makings of a cult leader.

"Is he charismatic and authoritarian? Yes. Is he building a steeply structured authoritarian hierarchy? It does look like he is," she says, pointing to how the Trump family's involvement in the government. "Is Trump's an absolute ideology? Yes! Does he show us this process of isolation, brainwashing and fear? (The Trump administration is) certainly causing fear. And the final one, does he have deployable followers? I think we're going to see it, unless we get rid of him quick."

"I think we're seeing enough; enough to say Trump is operating like a cult leader," Stein says, before adding tearfully, "I wish it wasn't so."

As do we.

EDITOR'S NOTE: (9:00 a.m. March 9, 2017) - This essay was edited for clarity and various corrections a day after it was posted.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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