“A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.) designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.”
I’m going to go through the characteristics of a cult and break down how they apply to military. You’ll see by the end of this list that the similarities are too blatant to be explained by accidental coincidence. The more you understand the design of a cult the more obvious it becomes that the military system was painstakingly designed around the cult model.
5 Characteristics of a Destructive Cult
1. “Authoritarian pyramid structure with authority at the top.”
There is no system of authority in the world that fits this description more than the military’s. All the enlisted grunts with no power are at the bottom, and a few generals who don’t get their hands dirty sit at the top raining orders down a clearly defined chain of command that nobody can question. This is an authoritarian pyramid structure.
In military basic training you’re forced to sit in classes which teach you the ranks of the pyramid authoritarian structure that you’ll have to spend the rest of your enlistment obeying. If you don’t follow every single order handed down the authoritarian pyramid structure then you’ll go to jail and get a dishonorable discharge.
Military leaders are not leaders. They’re dictators. They’re dystopian rulers. Military officers are morally equivalent to slave owners. When one human being gets to tell another human being that they have to do whatever they say or else they’ll go to jail or be shot then that make the subjugated human being a slave. This is inhumane and violates the basic human rights supposedly guaranteed to all human beings.
The authoritarian pyramid structure of the military is the largest human rights atrocity ever. It’s evil. It’s unconscionable that anyone would allow this human rights atrocity to exist. Yet it’s celebrated by humanity. We should all be ashamed and terrified over how eagerly we celebrate human right atrocities.
2. “Charismatic or messianic leader(s) (Messianic meaning they either say they are God OR that they alone can interpret the scriptures the way God intended.”
I used to know an enlisted soldier who had a coffee mug that said, “God couldn’t be everyone at once. So he created officers.” That coffee mug existed because officers have been compared to gods for years. There was even a movie titled “Gods and Generals.” I’ve often wondered if officers are taught to view themselves as gods in officer training school or if the comparison keeps coming up because they have god-sized egos and god-like power over their subordinates.
Just to remove all doubt of the officer corps claim to surrogate god-hood, all military chaplains are officers. The military has actually coopted religion and injected it into its ranks, and even though the military makes broad attempts to accommodate service members from every faith, if there’s ever an irreconcilable conflict of interest between the military’s goals and religious doctrine, military law supersedes religious law. Muslims can’t pray towards Mecca in the middle of an exercise, and Christians have to kill when ordered to.
Underneath all of this is the ever-pervasive belief that America is God’s favored country, and to serve America is to serve God’s will. From the Declaration of Independence to every State of the Union address, American politicians align their goals with God’s, which means every soldier serves God’s will by serving their leaders’ will.
3. “Deception in recruitment and/or fund raising.”
I really, really hate the common phrase in the military, “You knew what you were getting into when you signed up.” In reality, this isn’t the case at all (unless you were a military brat). That’s why so many people try to commit suicide in basic training. They think the rest of their career is going to be like basic training and they’d rather die. They wouldn’t try to commit suicide if they actually knew what they were getting into.
Also, half of basic training is spent in a classroom where you’re taught military rules, ranks, and history…because most people don’t know anything about it before they’re recruited. Part of passing basic training is taking a test to prove you know what you’re taught about the military, and very few people make a perfect score on that test. So most people don’t even know that much about the military after basic training.
Chances are you don’t even know how much you’re going to be getting paid before you join. And anyone who has enlisted will tell you their recruiter lied to them about a slew of things. If you don’t believe me, go talk to a recruiter. They’ll paint you a glorious picture about how the military is a wonderful summer camp that turns you into a man. They’ll never mention the indignity you’ll suffer and the systematic brainwashing that will strip you of your free will and turn you into a willing slave.
4. “Isolation from society — not necessarily physical isolation like on some compound in Waco, but this can be psychological isolation — the rest of the world is not saved, not Christian, not transformed (whatever) — the only valid source of feedback and information is the group.”
This is true on both levels. You’re isolated physically in a compound. In basic training during your indoctrination you’re totally isolated from the outside world. You’re literally locked on base behind barbed wire fences. Later you’re shipped all over the world where you don’t know anyone and might not even speak the local language.
Ideologically you’re separated from the rest of the world by your branch’s cult culture. You’re told you’re better than civilians. You’re told you’re elite. Your unit has slogans like, “If you ain’t Ammo you ain’t shit.” Or “The best supporting the rest.”
You’re even told your branch is better than the other branches. You’re told you’re serving the best government in the world (and thus the rest are inferior). You’re told your rank is better than others. You may even have separate dining facilities from the inferior people in your own branch.
Mental and physical isolation are standard practices in the United States military because the military knows how to run an effective cult.
5. “Use of mind control techniques (we use Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s criteria from chapter 22 of his book Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism to compare whether the eight psychological and social methods he lists are present in the group at question).”
Military customs and courtesies are designed around the framework of mind control. Let’s go through these 8 methods of mind control and see how they all have been systematically incorporated into the military.
1. “Milieu Control: Control of the environment and communication within the environment.”
Military bases are completely controlled. They even have laws on them that don’t apply to civilian land. Even your clothes are controlled. See what happens if you walk outside without your hat on or leave a button on your shirt unbuttoned. Communication is controlled through the chain of command. And you can’t make public statements about the military unless you’re a public affairs representative, and even then you have severe restrictions on what you can say.
2. “Mystical Manipulation: Seeks to promote specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that it appears to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment, while it actually has been orchestrated totalist leaders claim to be agents chosen by God, history, or some supernatural force, to carry out the mystical imperative the “principles” (God-centered or otherwise) can be put forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the cult and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation (or enlightenment)”
I’ll sum this up in one word, “patriotism.” What word is more mystical than that? Within the context of patriotism the best example I can give of “mystical manipulation” is saluting the flag. Twice a day on every military base (that has a loud speaker, which is most of them) the national anthem is played while the American flag is raised or lowered. When this happens, if you’re outside, you have to stop whatever you’re doing and salute the flag (or salute in the direction the music is coming from if you can’t see the flag).
You’re told you’re doing it out of patriotic respect for the flag. In reality you’re doing it because you were told you had to and because you’ll be punished if you don’t. Would you have ever come up with the idea yourself to stop in the middle of the street on cue to face an inanimate object and put your hand on your head until the music stopped? No. But if you’re in the military and you see someone not saluting the flag will you chase down the “perpetrator” and angrily yell at them for their lack of respect and patriotism? Probably. And you’ll think it was your idea.
Have you ever asked why soldiers have to keep their boots shined or their uniforms pressed? There’s no practical need for it. You might assume that it’s because soldiers are well disciplined, but all the soldiers in the military didn’t independently come to the same conclusion that it would be responsible to shine their boots and press their uniforms. They were ordered to do that upon fear of severe punishment. The reason soldiers are forced to shine their shoes and press their uniforms is to keep them in the habit of doing whatever their leaders order them to without ever asking why.
3. “Demand for Purity: The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group) one must continually change or conform to the group “norm”; tendencies towards guilt and shame are used as emotional levers for the group’s controlling and manipulative influences.”
Commander in Chief, George Bush said specifically that the United States military is fighting evil, which makes his side the good or holy side. Capitalism and Communism was divided the same way. We’ve used the term “axis of evil” more than once. Civilians are even stereotyped by the military as being weak, ignorant and ungrateful.
Within the military organization the norms of good and evil are constantly being updated, and one must constantly relearn what is right and wrong today. There was a time when blacks, women and homosexuals weren’t allowed in the military. Now they’re okay. Smoking inside, smoking while walking, and smoking outside designated areas used to be okay. Now they’re wrong. Walking while talking on a cell phone used to be okay. Now it’s wrong. Every year the uniform changes. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people break rules like smoking outside a designated area and someone bitched them out and asked, “Where’s your integrity?” Integrity has nothing to do with it, but you will be shamed into conforming to the group norms, and if that doesn’t work you’ll be punished.
4. “Confession: Cultic confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself sessions in which one confesses to one’s sin are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups with an active and dynamic thrust toward personal change”
In the military this really only happens in basic training. You’re told to admit that before you came into the military you were a useless, undisciplined slob. Now that you’re in the military you can wash away your sins by completing basic training and be transformed into a real man. Think of all the Marine commercials you’ve seen on TV where the guy picks up the sword and is surrounded by light and his clothes change into a crisp, military uniform.
5. “Sacred Science: The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology, holding it as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence questioning or criticizing those basic assumptions is prohibited a reverence is demanded for the ideology/doctrine, the originators of the ideology/doctrine, the present bearers of the ideology/doctrine offers considerable security to young people because it greatly simplifies the world and answers a contemporary need to combine a sacred set of dogmatic principles with a claim to a science embodying the truth about human behavior and human psychology.”
This goes back again to military recruits being told they’re fighting for the best nation in the world and that they’re in the best branch of their nation’s military. Our constitution is even encased in Washington DC in a bullet proof display case, and you’re not allowed to take pictures of it. That’s not to say the constitution is bad, but it does carry an air of sacredness. Even our money says, “In God we trust.” on it. Thus, meaning the preservers of that dollar are protecting something holy. Even the doctrine that takes away the military’s human rights is treated as sacred. Recruits are told that the Uniform Code of Military Justice holds them to a “higher” standard than regular people and that they should be proud of it.
6. “Loading the Language: Words are given new meanings — the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way — it becomes a “group” word or phrase.”
There are pamphlets and even classes for new spouses of military members that teach them the new language of the military so they’ll know what it means when their spouse says, “Before I go to the BX to pick up my BDUS. I’m taking the POV to the MPF to pick up my PCS orders to my next OCONUS assignment, which should be somewhere in USAFE.”
7. “Doctrine Over Person: If one questions the beliefs of the group or the leaders of the group, one is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to even question — it is always “turned around” on them and the questioner/criticizer is questioned rather than the questions answered directly the underlying assumption is that doctrine/ideology is ultimately more valid, true and real than any aspect of actual human character or human experience and one must subject one’s experience to that “truth” the experience of contradiction can be immediately associated with guilt one is made to feel that doubts are reflections of one’s own evil when doubt arises, conflicts become intense.”
I have personal experience with this. One of my supervisors asked me point blank why I wanted to get out of the military (after I already received my approval for separation). So I told him my reasons. A week later I was forced to re-swear my oath of allegiance to the military and the constitution.
You won’t last in the military if you just view it as a day job. You’re expected to buy into all the ideology. You’re expected to associate your identity with the military and be proud of it. Anything less and you’ll be ostracized by the group and bullied at work.
8. “Dispensing of Existence: Since the group has an absolute or totalist vision of truth, those who are not in the group are bound up in evil, are not enlightened, are not saved, and do not have the right to exist; impediments to legitimate being must be pushed away or destroyed one outside the group may always receive their right of existence by joining the group; fear manipulation — if one leaves this group, one leaves God or loses their salvation/transformation, or something bad will happen to them; the group is the “elite”, outsiders are “of the world”, “evil”, “unenlightened”, etc.”
I’ve already covered this enough that I don’t feel the need to retype it. If you need more validation then go ask a Marine how they feel about the military.
If you liked or hated this blog you’ll probably feel the same way about these:
- The military is a cult
- How and why military basic training brainwashes recruits
- 9 reasons not to join the united states military
- 4 reasons why American soldiers are as much victims as heroes
- You can support the UCMJ or the troops but not both
- Parallels between the Stanford prison experiment and student leaders in military tech school
- An overdue critique of the military caste system
- Objectively quantifying the heroism of the troops
- State of the Troops Address on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th
- An open letter to the U.S. military
- Lessons civilians can learn from the military
- The war debt