Dmitry felt a lump in his throat. His turn was coming next. Even now, after all those months of work, the thumping in his heart might yet make him turn chicken. He couldn’t even hear the idea of his comrade Ilya.
“Dmitry?” He turned toward the facilitator. It proved difficult, but he swallowed that lump in his throat and lunged forward. “I’ve been studying suicidal death cults.” He could hear the sighs and snickers but continued. “At first, it’s easy to dismiss them as groups of crazy people. But that is not accurate. Only the person in charge is typically crazy, in the usual senses of the word. But the people who follow along — even to the death — fall under his spell.”
The Commissar cut him short, “Yes, yes. But what does any of this have to do with … what’s the point of this? How does it help us achieve our objective.”
Dmitry realized that having started, he had the courage to finish. “It’s predictable. It’s controllable. I think we can actually create a death cult.”
Dmitry smiled appreciatively and nodded at his comrades. “I know it sounds crazy, but let’s look at the data.” Dmitry tapped a few keys on his laptop and a correlation matrix appeared. He talked people through it. He then switched to a causal model with associated strength parameters based on his data. “Then, I applied this same model to two new countries in different societies. It works.”
The Commissar nodded. “OK, Dmitry. Nice work. But so what? Our enemy already has death cults popping up from time to time. How is our adding one or two more going to help? Are you saying we can make them into suicide bombers?”
Dmitry saw a chance to ingratiate himself to his Commissar so he took it. “That’s an even better idea but I hadn’t thought of it. What I was talking about was a large scale death cult. There is no theoretical reason to limit a cult to a few score people. The math says that we can … that we can do it with millions. We can get millions of them to commit suicide, but even better, we can get many of them — not quite so many — but likely 100,000 to be suicide fighters. Maybe more. It would take a whole program of historical research to find the relevant instances, Commissar.”
Olga shook her head. She could stand no more. “This is all theory. How the — it’s ridiculous. Only a few very disturbed people would go along with being in a death cult. You’d have to set up a whole infrastructure, institutions, philosophy. It would take decades to grow it to a million people and all along the way, people not in the cult would point out to them,
‘Hey, you! You’re getting involved in a death cult! Is that what you really want to do?’
And, most of them would wake up and realize what would happening.”
“You raise good points Olga, but I am not suggesting we grow a death cult from scratch. I am suggesting we turn a large existing institution — which already has power and money — into a death cult. They have the language, the social media presence, the lists, the talking points.”
The Commissar broke in, “What are you talking about? What institution? The KKK?”
“No, Commissar, I am talking about the Republican Party.”
Silence crept in on titanic tank treads. Just as it had in Hungary. And East Germany. Before the damned Americans had ruined everything.
The gears were turning in the Commissar’s head. A plan, still vague, but forged with the realism that a half century of trying to destroy the Capitalist Dogs, had rendered in delightful deadly detail of doable mis-deeds. He mumbled under his breath, “Holy Mother of God! This might just work!”
The room broke out in a general and quite unruly discussion for a few moments before the Commissar banged on the table. “SILENCE!”
The Commissar continued, “Thank you. Now, this may or may not work but it’s the newest damned idea to come out of this unit in years. No-one talks about this once you leave this room. No exceptions. Not even your lover. Not your mother. Not your two month old. Not even your frigging dog! We’re going to develop this idea and then present it to our glorious President Putin.”
Olga frowned. “But Commissar, forgive me for stating the obvious, but they are not an illiterate people. It’s not like spreading lies used to be in some parts of the Middle East or Southeast Asia. They’re too educated to fall for it.”
Dmitry glanced at the Commissar who seemed to be signaling that Dmitry was on his own with this answer. “Olga, I’m glad you brought this up. It’s an important issue. But this is the beauty of using the Republican Party. They have already spent decades getting the “base” to listen only to their propaganda channel and only read the sources that are approved. So, for example, many of them go along with a whole raft of lies about climate change. In a way, that’s already a death cult! All I am doing is suggesting how we can speed it up. They already deny reality. They already defend unethical behavior among their own. They accept their media sources and I doubt they will even notice when we start pumping out the propaganda.”
Olga shook her head. “Who would we find to lead such a death cult? Some one so desperate that they would be willing to sell the lives of their own citizens? That doesn’t really sound feasible.”
Silence again descended upon the room like barrages of heavy artillery — but without the noise, of course.
Then, Ilya spoke up, “Many of them hate their countrymen with black skin or brown skin or red skin or yellow skin. We’ll pick someone with no ethics and no experience as a success. Someone who has failed at nearly everything he’s ever tried. Someone desperate for attention and adulation. And we can give him that. For that, he’ll lead the death cult. We can have the cult first turn their rage toward others. They will learn to follow that lead, killing mindlessly and with encouragement from their social media and television. Then, we just get them to turn all that anger and killing on themselves. I really think it can be done. Somewhere, in that vast land of greed, there has to be someone who’s a big enough loser to swallow the bait. I really think it can be done.”
“I think so too,” said Dmitry.
“I really think it can be done as well,” said the Commissar.
“I really don’t think we can get millions of Americans to kill themselves,” said Olga.
What do you think, fellow citizen of the planet? What do you think?
This story is actually the first of four chapters. Here are links to the rest of the story.
Chapter 2: Finding the Needle in the Haystack
In some ways, the Mueller testimony was disappointing. In other ways, it was very damning for Trump, though in a completely undramatic way. Then, I got to thinking: what could Mueller have said or done to change the minds of Trump’s supporters?
I really can’t think of anything. He could have said, for instance, “Well, Trump came to me and said that he thought the American public were stupid and it was his right to fool them because they were so stupid they deserve to be fooled. Of course, I got help from Russian! How the hell else could I have been elected. But you ain’t see nothing yet. I’m going to win in a landslide next time. You guys are losers! I’m a winner and I’m going to be dictator!”
Trump’s supporters would simply say that Mueller was lying; that Trump never said that.
Suppose Mueller said, “Well, actually there were 5000 witnesses to the meeting. Here are their names and phone numbers.”
Those people would immediately be decried as part of the effort to “get Trump.” In fact, at least one person on Fox News would suggest they were being paid to say that by George Soros and that they would be better off dead. They would all be seen as part of a vast conspiracy.
Does that sound too ridiculous? It is ridiculous, but many of the base already think that global warming and its attendant increase in flooding, drought, climate-related deaths, species extinction, sea level rising, worse forest fires, etc. — is a conspiracy — a conspiracy which require millions of people to be “on board” with faking data, photos, eye witness accounts, etc.
These are not just random people either. In tens of thousands of cases, these are scientists for whom truth is the highest value. They have dedicated their lives to finding the truth and yet, somehow, they’ve been corrupted in a single stroke.
So, I’m forced to conclude that Trumpism has gone beyond a religion to replace Christianity. It is indeed a cult. To me, the distinction is not in the sheer numbers of people, but the extent to which their belief is impervious to feedback from the real world.
There are many people who hold traditional faiths very much in reverence, whether it is Christianity or something else. But these religions focus on things that are spiritual in nature. The mainstream of such religions do not ask their adherents to believe things that are provably wrong about the physical world. The Catholic church, for instance, does not insist that the Earth is the center of the Universe just because they once believed it. They are very conservative, but they are not impervious to facts — not in the long run.
Here are links to some popular articles about religious cults. It would seem that Nazi Germany under Hitler was also something of a giant cult. Anyway, I wonder whether anyone is aware of first hand accounts of people from Germany who initially welcomed Hitler and Nazism and later realized the horrible and horrendous error of their ways.
If video is more your style.