On Political Cults


Published on undefined

Written by Nick Hughes

9 min read

I have first-hand experience of seeing a cult in operation. I was never a member, but I was close enough to it to witness how a group of young people who all shared a hobby ended up being part of a genuine cult, with its own Svengali like figure and adopting an apocalyptic vision for the future. I witnessed friends suddenly drop out of their studies, become distant from their families and, on one occasion, watched an initiation ceremony take place from a distance and all because of one man, who claimed to have had great wisdom and “insider knowledge” and who gathered enough people around him to make his cult happen.

I was in my late teens and living far away from where I live now; that time of life when secondary school is winding down and one is working out what happens afterwards. Like a lot of young men around 13-25 and who weren’t inclined to be sporty I joined a gaming club. There we played various types of wargames, Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller and other types of role playing games. The guy who ran this club was called Paul and he was 25 years old at the time. He’d hired this suite of rooms upstairs from a Chinese take-away which consisted of half a dozen rooms with tables and chairs with the intention that gamers would book one of those rooms to run their games. It ran all weekend and everyday in the school holidays so, at first, it seemed ideal. But it was the personalities there that led it into being a cult.

Paul was the dominant figure there; his game of D&D was the most exclusive and sought after game to get into and it was strictly invitation only. He provided the venue, the players and affirmation if you made it into his game. I ran a game for players who didn’t care for D&D and we became the “outer circle”; the ones the D&D players viewed with suspicion. But our money was as good as anyone else’s. Paul was a big guy, well over 6 feet tall and heavily built. He held court in the club and afterwards when we would decamp to a local, late night coffee shop to hang out. He had an apocalyptic view of the world and would preach a message of doomsday: Never ranting, never OTT, his method was to listen to some 17 year old kid talking about what they were going to study at university whereupon he would say “and after 3 years of studying and planning you get your degree, look up in the sky and see the nuclear bombs going off” with a mocking smile on his face. If challenged Paul would say “I have insider knowledge…I know Colonel Hackworth.”

Colonel David Hackworth was a former United States Army officer who served in the Vietnam War and was, “eccentric” to say the least. As well as being a decorated combat officer he also ran a brothel and other business interests and was almost court-martialled. He was also involved in the strange “First Earth Battalion” which experimented with New Age Philosophies and pagan magic and which can be read about in Jon Ronson’s book “The Men Who Stare At Goats”. After the Vietnam war had ended, Hackworth became a commentator on military matters and would be an extremely staunch critic of the US military and government going so far as to claim on multiple occasions that the United States desired starting a global nuclear war. He moved to Queensland, Australia claiming that it was a place that was safe from nuclear attack and that’s where Paul met him. Paul was now fired up by what Hackworth had told him and now began to preach this end of the world message to the young people in his circle: There was no hope for them, no need to study, no need to start a career, no need to form long term relationships. Paul broke up a relationship between one of his inner circle and the sister of one of my friends. This friend desperately wanted to be in the inner circle but was kept out because he was seen as bossy, egotistical and too enthusiastic. As Paul told Ron, the inner circle person, he had to break up with the sister in front of her face, my friend was told to sit outside, wait, and not intervene. I, along with the others in my group, pleaded with our friend to stand up to Paul and protect his sister but he sat there, slumped, saying nothing. If we went to the café afterwards, the person who was absent that evening would be slagged off by Paul and his cronies. One inner circle person was getting too big a personality in his own right and had to be purged. Paul started a rumour that Rod was starting a “witches’ coven” and that he dabbled in black magic. The rumour stuck with some as Rod kept his personal life separate from his social life and was, if not actually a loner, someone who was comfortable in his own skin and didn’t require the affirmation of others.

In reality, it was all projection on Paul’s part. He introduced secret ceremonies into the club which only his closest crowd were involved. Pretty soon all his group, plus some others, started wearing pewter pentagram pendants around their necks and would quote the Book of Revelation or Aleister Crowley. One by one, people started dropping out of university, getting low status menial jobs instead of the careers they originally wanted and became detached from their friends. In the end there were 3 of us left who didn’t go along with all this. I always refused to go along with Paul and would clash with him often and another friend of mine spied on one of Paul’s private gaming sessions and witnessed a black magic ceremony taking place. I didn’t need any more convincing and about 4 of us quit that scene. A few years later I heard that Paul was now a guidance counsellor at a secondary school to which a former gaming colleague said “God help those kids”.

That experience of seeing a cult form, work and the kinds of personalities that are involved has stayed with me over the years and I spot the signs of such personality types and behaviours from time to time. I seem to be able to pick a “wrong ‘un” or someone who is likely to become a victim of a cult in any group dynamic. Fortunately it doesn’t happen very often. The things I observed with the gaming cult I see mirrored in the more destructive and murderous cults such as Heaven’s Gate or Jim Jones’ People’s Temple but also in the political cults that have emerged in recent years. Not all have to be murderous, but they are powder kegs which could become murderous.

The current political Left are often described as a cult. The worship of the NHS, the adherence to mantras, doctrines and core ideology, the detachment from wider society are all hallmarks of cult like behaviour but I would say that the Left’s current beliefs and actions are more like a religious faith than a cult. Cults need leaders, actual human beings who can be held up as paragons whose wisdom and judgement can never be questioned. The Left don’t really have such figures, Greta Thunberg being the closest they have but as she’s already a mouthpiece for someone else it’s hard to call her a leader…her status among the Left is more akin to the Virgin Mary. It’s not the blessed leader but the ideology that is sacrosanct and can never be criticised.

By contrast the Right do cults easily. Mussolini and Hitler showed how it could be done and Oswald Moseley gave it a good try in the UK. Since the defeat of Nazism and Fascism in World War 2, some who claim to be on the Right are a cult in search of a leader to show them the way. For a while General Pinochet was seen as this person but, in the end, he wasn’t good enough…after all, he had a referendum on his leadership of Chile. The Austrian economists had their devotees but some of them, particularly the Austrian Austrians like Mises and Hayek weren’t radical enough so the American Austrians like Rothbard and Hoppe were held up as unimpeachable sources because they’re prepared to go much further. But these economists are like Old Testament Prophets, they are not the great leader and in that the quest continues, solidifying around Nick Fuentes’ Groypers, Mark Collet’s Patriotic Alternative and the Neo-Reactionaries.

These groups share similar tropes to the cult I witnessed all those years ago: The sacred texts, the unimpeachable leader, their claims to great wisdom and insider knowledge, the symbols and phrases that indicate group membership, the former insider who’s now been branded the enemy, the “heavy” right hand man who always accompanies the Leader, the desperate who want to be inner circle and will sell out their families and friends to achieve it, the snivelling liar who pretends to be friends with the outsiders so he or she can find out what they’re saying and report it back to the leader…the causes change, the details remain the same.

But always at the core is a message of doom and catastrophe. The end of the world prophesying is always there even though the exact cause of the end of civilisation changes. This is designed to capitalise on the fears of the era, whether it be nuclear war, the return of Satan and his minions, the environment or collapse of supply chains. It’s designed to exploit people’s worries because when they become desperate to escape the catastrophe, or at least be the one who survives it, they will turn to the person who claims “great wisdom and knowledge” for help. As they scratch an existence from the soil as the cities of the world lie in ruin, at least they’ll be able to say “but I survived because I trusted in Hoppe”. It’s when the anticipated disaster doesn’t arrive that these cults either break apart or, tragically, they kill themselves.

To be part of a cult is to detach yourself from the world hence the call to leave homes and join in some kind of commune. In today’s digital world you don’t even have to leave home: You can pinch yourself off into a group online and ferment your thoughts with other like minded people and never have any human interaction outside of that ever again. You can even dehumanise those who aren’t on the same journey as you. Make up stories of their evil or immoral behaviour and spread rumours. Advocate for something nasty to happen to an opponent: It’s surprising to note how many cultists harbour murder fantasies of their political opponents and “backsliders”.

The modern day political cults and faiths have dispensed with the supernatural aspects that ones back in the past did but, in return, they have elevated certain texts to Bible status. Whilst the Left don’t put great faith in the authors…after all, authors can fall foul of the movement and be purged…and the Right elevate them to mythic status, both are searching for “purity” of thought and action and don’t care who gets hurt in the quest. What unites them is a complete lack of regard or basic respect for everyday human beings because in the end a cult is all about the ego: I’m better than you because I have “insider knowledge” and you don’t. I will ascend to the Utopia, the heavens, the bright shining light and you won’t. I’m special, you’re not worthy.

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