Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as “Shoko Asahara” led his followers to a day of reckoning, but it wasn’t the one he predicted, instead it was the beginning of the end for him and the cult he created called ”Aum Supreme Truth.”

Aum leader MatsumotoAsahara was sentenced to death in February 2004 for the poison gas attack he ordered in Tokyo, which claimed of lives of twelve people and injured 5,500. Including the murder of a lawyer and his family and other related crimes, 27 lives were lost in the wake of Matsumoto’s madness.

Japanese justice moves slowly and after 11 years and with all his appeals exhausted the cult leader may soon be executed by hanging on the gallows.

In the past decade Aum has disintegrated and splintered into factions as its founder, who was once regarded as divine, lapsed into silence. Today the man that once ruled the sect like a king languishes in a jail cell alone wearing diapers, apparently unwilling or unable to communicate or even use a toilet. 

One of the guru’s lieutenants also convicted of cult crimes and sentenced to death says that Matsumoto might remain a symbol to some of his remaining followers after his death.

“If Matsumoto is to be executed without testifying, he will become a martyr,” Kenichi Hirose, 41 wrote in a letter, reports Yomiuri Shimbun.   

“If Matsumoto is going to have his death sentence finalized without testifying, fails to atone for his actions and maintains a barrier of self-containment, I’ve nothing to say to him,” Hirose also said.

Throughout the years since his arrest the once talkative guru has been mute. He did not speak coherently during his court trial, though at times he has demonstrated the ability to masturbate in front of his jailers.

Regardless of whether Matsumoto is faking, or has unraveled without the power he once held, the murderous cult leader will not be protected by an insanity defense.

Tokyo High Court on Monday rejected an objection filed his lawyers and nothing remains between the heinous cult leader and the hangman. 

Ever wonder what happened to the Japanese cult leader responsible for gassing thousands of Tokyo subway riders in 1994?

Shoko Asahara, jailed founder of AumWell it has been more than a decade and Shoko Asahara, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, is still taking up cell space in his own very special quiet way.

The once all-powerful and outspoken cult leader now just mumbles incoherently, makes bizarre gestures and wets himself.

His lawyers say Asahara was “unfit for trial” and they keep demanding more definitive psychiatric tests.

However, the Japanese courts have ruled otherwise and declared the guru “fit for trial” reports Ireland On-line.

“He’s incapable of any form of communication whatsoever,” says a psychopathology expert that visited Asahara in prison.

Apparently he suffers from “stress” brought on by “confinement.”

His lawyers shouldn’t expect any sympathy though from the Japanese courts or the public. Asahara is responsible for the murder of twelve subway riders and the injuries of thousands rushed to hospitals for emergency care.

Once the grand master that controlled a financial empire and ruled as a tyrant over an estimated 40,000 followers this self-proclaimed messiah can’t seem to adjust to the reality of life as a mere mortal supervised by prison authorities.

It’s no great shock though that Asahara has ultimately proven to be as crazy as other cult leaders from the past.

However, unlike Jim Jones, David Koresh, Luc Joret, Marshall Applewhite, or Joseph Kibwetere, Asahara decided not to do himself in when his luck ran out.

Instead he hid hoping to somehow get away with his crimes.

Now forced to face a life without the trappings of his former glory Asahara has shut down and shut out the world around him.  

In the end a living example of what makes cult leaders tick and often ultimately unwind.

Dianetics
Salon calls Scientology Dianetics “stranger than fiction”

Academics often called “cult apologists” have come to the rescue and defended both Tom Cruise and Scientology in the press lately.

J. Gordon Melton and David G. Bromley were both quoted in a recent article run within the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bromley is an old friend of Scientology and has been officially recommended by the controversial church as a “religious resource.”

The so-called “new Cult Awareness Network” reportedly run by Scientology also once recommended both Bromley and Melton for “factual information on new religions,” in the wake of a California cult (“Heaven’s Gate“) mass suicide in 1997.

David Bromley’s frequent writing partner Anson Shupe made a bundle working for Scientology lawyers. He helped Scientology knock off its perceived nemesis the “old Cult Awareness Network” enabling a Scientologist attorney to eventually buy its name and files through a bankruptcy proceeding.

The files of Scientology’s former foe were later handed over to J. Gordon Melton.

Melton and Bromley can almost always be counted on to defend virtually any group called a “cult” no matter how heinous or harmful.

Bromley told the Chicago Sun-Times, “Cult is a four-letter word for a religion you don’t like.”

It seems Time Magazine must have got it wrong when it called Scientology the “Cult of Greed,” despite the fact that a subsequent libel suit filed against the publication by the purported “cult” sputtered to a dismissal without ever going to trial.

Mr. Melton has raked in quite a nest egg working for groups like the Children of God and the International Church of Christ. He was paid by J.Z. Knight (known as Ramtha) to write a book, not to mention his all expenses paid trip to Japan courtesy of the infamous cult known as “Aum Supreme Truth.”

Melton arrived in Japan in 1995 and promptly pronounced that Aum was the victim of “persecution,” despite the fact that the cult had gassed the Tokyo Subway system sending thousands of Japanese to hospitals and killing twelve.

Melton told the Chicago Sun-Times that “new religions,” his supposedly politically correct euphemism to describe “cults,” put people off because of their “newness.”

However, it appears that what puts people off most about Tom Cruise’s behavior and his strange Scientology banter is the bizarre nature of it all.

Today the London Free Press asked, “Has Cruise Cracked?”

Meanwhile Salon Magazine published a critique of Scientology and its founder titled “Stranger than Fiction.”

How convenient is the timing that these two alleged academics Melton and Bromley are now helping out Scientology’s “poster boy” Tom Cruise.

But the news media should know that such specious scholars cannot be counted upon for any meaningful objectivity, they are politically if not literally invested in their positions.

Benjamin Zablocki, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University put it succinctly when he said, “The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied…This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal.”

Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta in Canada concluded, “Scholars who compromise objectivity or academic integrity threaten to diminish the reputation of social science.”

Rich religious groups like Scientology can easily afford to pump cash into the pockets of quite a few professors and assorted academics. Perhaps the press should scrutinize more carefully the likes of sources such as David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Melton.

J. Gordon Melton, a somewhat specious “scholar” of what he refers to as “new religious movements” received a rather questionable gift from a foundation linked to a purported “cult,” reports Moving On.org.

Moving On.org is a Web site created by and for young adults with parents who joined the notorious “Children of God” (COG).

The Web site recently made public a portion of a 2000 IRS disclosure document that lists a $10,000.00 gift given to the so-called “International Religious Directory,” which is a pet project of Mr. Melton.

The gift-giver is the Family Care Foundation, an organization founded by COG leaders.

Infamous sexual predator “Moses” David Berg who died in 1994 once defined COG as its absolute leader.

The group taught members to sexualize their minor children and encouraged its women to become “hookers for Christ.”

COG is now known as “The Family” and has been in the news lately due to a grizzly murder-suicide.

Ricky Rodriquez the son of its current leader Karen Zerby, Berg’s widow known as “Mama Maria” to her followers, committed suicide after murdering his former nanny Angela Smith. The young man who left COG about five years ago claimed she had molested him as a child.

Ms. Smith at the time of her death was listed as a director of the Family Care Foundation, which is reportedly “an arm of The Family.”

J. Gordon Melton has often been labeled a “cult apologist” because of his friendly relationships with such groups, but until now no one knew exactly how lucrative his COG connection was through the Family Care Foundation.

Mr. Melton seems to have made something of a career out of selling his scholarly services to various fringe groups, often called “cults.” His list of sponsors and/or clients has included JZ Knight or “Ramtha,” a new age guru that funded a Melton book project. And also Aum the terrorist Japanese cult, which paid the peripatetic apologist’s expenses to come to Tokyo after they gassed that city’s subways sending thousands to hospitals.

Mr. Melton’s motto seems to be, “have apologies will travel,” apparently that is when some substantial funding is made available.

Note: Supposedly objective academic papers by J. Gordon Melton and others often called “cult apologists” have recently been linked on-line through a Web site database. Many of the authors listed such as Dick Anthony & Thomas Robbins, David Bromley, Jeffrey Hadden, James Lewis, James T. Richardson and James Tabor have been recommended either by Scientology or the Scientology-linked “new Cult Awareness Network” as “resources.” Anson Shupe who is listed once worked for lawyers linked to Scientology. Another listed author Eileen Barker has received funding from Rev. Moon. Scholar Rocheford E. Burke cashed some checks from Krishna/ISCKON while Professor Susan Palmer worked closely with the Raelians. Cult apology appears to be a meaningful source of income for some within the academic community. The Web site CESNUR, which is home for many of the papers listed is run by Massimo Introvigne, a controversial man that works closely with many groups called “cults.”

The old adage “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” may be useful to Tsunami survivors receiving attention from some specious sects and groups called “cults.”

Just like in the movie Troy something sinister and/or self-serving can be concealed in a “gift horse,” and it’s probably not Brad Pitt.

In recent days a growing array of controversial religious organizations, gurus and self-styled healers have launched efforts for Tsunami relief, but who are they really focused upon helping?

Do their programs reflect a genuine desire to assist the victims of the most horrific catastrophe of the 21st Century, or are they just there to play the disaster for publicity and possibly some new recruits?

South African Scientologists are using church branches as drop-off points for clothes and other goods targeted for relief reports IOL.

And Scientologists flying in from all over.

Scientology has sent volunteers from Australia to identify bodies reported the AAP.

English Scientologists and even a voluteer from Utah funded by an anonymous businessman are being flown in to somehow help reports Surrey On Line and the and the Salt Lake Tribune.

Scientology volunteers are known for their bright yellow jackets emblazoned with “Scientology Volunteer Ministers” worn when doing their charitable chores.

Scientology says that over 200 “volunteer ministers” are helping in tsunami-hit countries.

In a strange twist Scientology has trained Tibetan monks to help tsunami survivors through so-called “touch assists,” which seems to be Scientology’s version of the popular Pentecostal practice known as “laying on of hands” for healing. Scientology volunteers and the Buddhist monks using their method will touch survivors to help heal their trauma reports the AFP.

Another controversial group concerned about the trauma of tsunami survivors is the “Gentle Wind Project.” This organization is sending its so-called “trauma cards” to Sumatra, which supposedly have “the ability to forgive and [help users] move forward in life” according to one testimonial featured on the group’s Web site. But critics have dismissed the cards as “quackery” and a doctor warned that groups pushing such products often find “people who are desperate…and then take advantage of them.”

Madonna’s much-hyped “Kabbalah Centre” is shipping 10,000 bottles of its touted “Kabbalah Water,” which the pop diva seems to believe has spiritual properties reported MSNBC.

Wouldn’t regular bottled tap water be just as effective and much cheaper? But then that couldn’t afford a photo op with glitzy “Kabbalah Centre” labeling would it?

And then there is the so-called “Art of Living” organization led by a former associate of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.” He has dispatched his disciples to teach tsunami victims “yoga” and “meditation.”

Hey Sri Sri how about funding some conventional classrooms for children rather than pushing your “yoga”?

Another pitch comes from Guru Sri Chinmoy of New York. His followers are collecting for something called “The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles” organization and say they are now “engaged in an urgent global effort to bring desperately needed relief to the survivors.”

But Chinmoy, who has been embroiled in sex scandals and called a sleazy swami,” doesn’t seem to fit the “world harmony leader” title claimed at the group’s fund-raising Web site.

Mata” the hugging mama guru has reportedly laid down some hard cash reported one news service.

But will she want a photo op hugging her check like “Summa Ching Hai” when she dropped some dough on the Red Cross for September 11th victims?

Meanwhile hate preacher Fred Phelps from Kansas wants everyone to know that he is “thankful” God killed Swedish citizens through this particular disaster, something about their collective sexual sins reported Raw Print.

Is that Fred smiling over there for the cameras with his “God Hates Fags” sign?

Who will land next with the next wave of volunteers?

Maybe some Falun Gongers will show up to teach exercise classes and pass out flyers, or will it be Sai baba the guru philanthropist and alleged pedophile?

Nothing new about such activities by specious groups after a disaster except the size and depth of this terrible tragedy.

Scientology volunteers were seen at Ground Zero not long after the Twin Towers collapsed. And John Travolta seemed anxious for his photo-op when he visited the site.

Then Tom Cruise launched the Scientology-linked “Downtown Medical,” located in lower Manhattan, which provided the so-called “purification rundown” for the detoxification of FDNY firemen and others that worked at Ground Zero.

People are the most vulnerable to undue influence and recruitment efforts by groups called “cults” when experiencing a personal crisis, loss and/or going through a difficult transition. When people are isolated from family, friends, their community and familiar support systems they are likely to be weakened and more susceptible.

Sound like Tsunami victims?

Meanwhile mainstream religious and relief organizations and government agencies are focused upon providing practical help to the massive numbers of survivors such as potable not magical water, medical care and the restoration of basic services through the rebuilding of infrastructure.

CNN reports that this is the largest humanitarian effort in recorded history.

Let’s hope that that these practical efforts reach the tsunami victims before any so-called “cults” exploit their vulnerabilities or use them as backdrops for some photo-op.

Scientology must be getting pretty desperate for recruits. The organization that boasts celebrity supporters such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta has literally gone underground in an apparent effort to dig up new members.

Devotees of the controversial church, which has been called a “cult,” set up shop working shifts with their E-meters shilling “stress tests” to passer-byes in New York’s Grand Central Station.

A concerned passenger also told CultNews that Scientologists could be seen doing the same around access points to the PATH trains, which links New Jersey residents to Manhattan.

Scientology’s “stress test” often utilizes an “E-meter.” This contraption involves holding metal cans connected to a box with a moving needle that supposedly measures the mind, or at least that what Scientologists believe as an article of faith.

The founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reportedly claimed that the E-meter could register mental aberrations or “engrams” caused by traumas.

Counseling or “auditing” sessions within Scientology use the E-meter to help knock out those nasty engrams.

Hubbard once reportedly claimed this process could cure blindness and even improve a person’s intelligence and appearance.

Maybe that’s what makes Tom Cruise so smart and gave John Travolta his good looks?

However, it doesn’t seem to be working so well for Kirstie Alley lately. The star of the new show “Fat Actress” now weighs in at over 200.

For more details about Scientology and its wares see Time Magazine’s Scientology the Cult of Greed.”

But now back to the Scientologists working NYC subways for fresh recruits.

A concerned passenger told CultNews that the MTA transit authority was contacted to find out if it’s legal for these religious recruiters to go underground in Manhattan.

It turns out that Scientology may be breaking some rules.

“We regret if you experienced difficulty while using our subway system,” MTA responded. “Please be aware that the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department is vigilant in thwarting illegal activity in the subway system, and maintains an extensive police presence with officers patrolling our facilities at all times, both in uniform and undercover,” the official advised.

MTA also said, “Supervision in the Transit Bureau has been alerted to the conditions you reported at the 42nd Street-Grand Central Station, and will take steps to deploy their officers accordingly. In addition, personnel in our Division of Station Operations will monitor the location in question and any illegal activity observed will be reported immediately to field supervision.”

But why is Scientology so desperate that its devotees are working underground?

Can it be that its aging stars are no longer the draw they once were?

Maybe Madonna and her Kabbalah Centre “cult,” which includes Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher and other younger stars, has effectively bumped the old Hollywood “cult” favorite.

Perhaps the subways may soon replace Scientology’s “Celebrity Centers” and the tabloids as the most common venue to learn about the controversial church.

Cult apology is a trade for some, but it may be a “politically correct” calling for others.

This week National Public Radio (NPR) “All Things Considered” apparently was on a mission, the program featured well-known “cult apologists” in a broadcast about “New Religions.”

The two-part series hosted by Barbara Bradley Hagerty discussed the history of so-called “new religious movements (NRMs),” which is a politically correct euphemism for groups commonly called “cults.”

Feigning academic objectivity was J. Gordon Melton and James Lewis.

Both men have long been closely associated with well-known “cults,” such as the notorious “Cult of Greed” (Time Magazine May 1991) Scientology, which has recommended the two as “religious resources.”

Melton frequently hires himself out to “cults.”

Melton, the founder of the “Institute for the Study of American Religion,” has worked for the likes of J.Z. Knight, a woman who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old spirit named “Ramtha.”

“Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati” a former Brooklyn housewife and the leader of the Kashi Ashram in Florida also has retained Melton.

Melton’s professional “research,” which frequently flatters “cult leaders,” seems to provide them with academic cover, but for a price.

The peripatetic apologists Lewis and Melton were once flown to Japan all expenses paid by the notorious cult Aum, just after its leader and many members were arrested for gassing Tokyo’s subways.

Lewis claimed at a press conference after conducting an “investigation” based upon photos and documents provided by the cult, that Aum could not have produced the poison gas used to murder 12 Japanese and send thousands to hospitals.

Not to be left out Melton chimed in that the Japanese authorities “were threatening the group’s religious freedom.”

For those that don’t already know, Aum’s leader Shoko Asahara and his key subordinates were found guilty and sentenced to death through a court process that included overwhelming evidence.

Apparently Lewis and Melton overlooked and/or ignored such factual information.

Another “scholar” featured on the NPR program was Catherine Wessinger.

This academic once described the suicide cult “Heaven’s Gate” led by lunatic Marshall Applewhite as “definitely Gnostic…very similar to Hinduism (and also Buddhism).” She concluded, “The outcome with Heaven’s Gate certainly calls into question traditional Hindu beliefs and practices.”

Huh?

What about the more obvious explanation that Applewhite was crazy? After all, the cult leader did once sign himself into a mental hospital, wasn’t his psychological instability a factor?

Wessinger says, “I’m not trained in psychology so I don’t articulate those opinions…”

Wessinger also engages in something like revisionist history regarding Jonestown led by another madman Jim Jones. This cult tragedy claimed the lives of more than 900 Americans in 1978. According to Wessinger “they would still be here. But due to the attacks and investigations they endured…”

Melton, Lewis and Wessinger might be the cult version of the “Three Stooges,” or maybe more like the proverbial monkeys that “hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil” when it comes to cults.

Whatever they are NPR appears to be just plain dumb, for either not doing its own research, or simply ignoring the facts in favor of some sort of “political correctness.”

Here are some glaring examples:

NPR discussed Krishna without even mentioning that the “cult” is currently embroiled in a $400 million dollar class action lawsuit filed by its childhood victims.

The Waco Davidians were labeled as a “new religious movement (NRM),” even though they are commonly called a “cult.” No mention was made about David Koresh’s bizarre claim that he was “The Lamb of God” or how the cult leader exploited and abused his followers, including the rape of a 10-year-old.

Another “NRM” mentioned was the Raelians, but again nothing about the sordid history of leader Claude Vorilhon (“Rael”) or the context of the group’s clone claim, within an endless series of self-serving publicity stunts.

Instead, all these groups were essentially whitewashed under the politically correct rubric of “new religious movements.”

And the word “cult” was never even used once throughout the entire program.

After all, according to the NPR “scholars” any meaningful discussion of “cult” bad behavior may be characterized as “persecution” and/or an “attack” upon “religious freedom.”

Note: In its second installment yesterday NPR featured yet another “cult apologist” Lorne L. Dawson. This program discussed the “Toronto Blessing,” an aberration on the fringes of the Charismatic Movement. However, in what can easily be seen as misleading, the report focused on the bizarre aspects of this Canadian group as if it offered listeners a pivotal understanding of Pentecostal Christianity.

Karen Robidoux was found not guilty of second-degree murder, in the 1999 death of her infant child this week, reported the Taunton Gazette.

The Massachusetts mother was accused of starving her baby son Samuel to death.

Robidoux’s husband Jacques was convicted for Samuel’s murder in 2002 and is now serving a life sentence.

But the mother’s attorney, Joseph Krowski, offered the defense that cult “brainwashing” coerced Karen Robidoux’s behavior

The attorney argued that his client was victimized, abused and ultimately controlled by an obscure religious sect led by her father-in-law Roland Robidoux called “The Body.”

“There were two victims here, Karen and Samuel,” Robidoux’s older sister told the press.

And after seven hours of deliberation the jury agreed with the defense and its witnesses, acquitting the “cult” mom of murder, but finding her guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery.

“Because a child died, it may be an unpopular verdict, but we felt Karen Robidoux’s intent was not to kill her baby,” the jury foreman told the Boston Herald.

He later added, “I do believe she was psychologically held prisoner,” and concluded “she has suffered enough” reported NBC News.

Private journals kept by a “cult” member were made public after the verdict and they offered further proof of Roland Robidoux’s total control over his followers reported the Boston Herald.

“Dad [Roland Robidoux] feels that the end is coming soon…Our prayers should not be for Samuel to be healed but for God’s purposes to be fulfilled…What can we do for Samuel? Nothing…God is the master. We are his servants,” wrote the “cult” member.

The mother of four was sentenced to time served and walked out of the Bristol courthouse a free woman reported the Boston Globe.

“I’m just glad the nightmare door is shut,” she told reporters on the courthouse steps.

“It was a trail-blazing case that will affect all cult cases nationally. It’s now been proven what can happen when someone is brainwashed,” said nationally known forensic pathologist Dr. Millard Bass.

In Virginia late last year another jury came to a similar conclusion regarding the sentencing of “D.C. sniper” Lee Malvo. His lawyers also claimed their client was “brainwashed.”

The teenager’s defense team contended that he was dominated and controlled by his mentor John Mohammed.

Mohammed was sentenced to death, but Malvo was sent to prison for life.

In a noteworthy child custody case in North Carolina this fall a judge ruled that the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) exerted “complete control over the mind, body and spirit of its members, both adults and children.”

WOFF led by Jane Whaley has been called a “cult.”

The Carolina judge concluded, “The environment created at WOFF has an adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of children,” and he subsequently ordered them to be removed from the group.

In a tacit acknowledgement of cult “brainwashing” another judge in California granted the release last year of a woman charged with the death of her small child to receive “deprogramming.”

Later that same judge sentenced the cult leader to 16 years in prison, while charges were dismissed against two of his followers.

The mother charged received an eleven-year sentence and told the court, “Mind control is a reality.”

CultNews reported that professional cult apologist Dick Anthony was involved in both the California and Carolina cases. Anthony is a psychologist and well paid for his work, but he failed his clients abysmally.

Judging from the prosecution’s arguments in the Robidoux case, they apparently were receiving input from someone like Anthony.

But the Robidoux verdict may be the most colossal setback for cults and their apologists to date. And will likely be cited in the future as proof of “brainwashing.”

Overall, 2003 was possibly the worst year ever for cults and their apologists.

They even attempted fruitlessly to dismiss the “brainwashing” of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart.

But brainwashing has become understandable to the public after Jonestown, Waco and the “Heaven’s Gate” suicides. It is no longer the mystery it once was when Charles Manson and his followers entered the California judicial system.

Europeans likewise came to acutely understand the cult brainwashing phenomenon through the Solar Temple suicides in Switzerland. And the Japanese were forced to confront this reality by the cult Aum, when it attacked Tokyo’s subways.

Joseph Kibwetere sent shockwaves through Africa when he led hundreds of his followers to death in Uganda shortly after the Millenium, once again demonstrating the power of cult mind control.

And isn’t “brainwashing” something Osama bin Laden has used to transform his followers into tools of terror?

Cults and their apologists will have increasing difficulty convincing anyone that “brainwashing” is only a “theory.”

The Robidoux verdict is evidence of that.

Lee Boyd Malvo, the teenager known as the D.C. sniper is now on trial for murder.

At 17 he and his mentor/father figure John Muhammad went on a killing spree that left ten dead in its wake and terrified a nation.

Now 18 Malvo is literally fighting for his own life in a Virginia courtroom. His attorney’s hope that an “insanity” defense based upon a “brainwashing” claim will explain the boy killer’s behavior and somehow ameliorate the outcome of the trial.

John Allen Muhammad the man that allegedly “brainwashed” Malvo has already been convicted and is almost certain to receive the death penalty. If his surrogate son and accomplice is found guilty, it is likely that he will receive the same sentence.

Opinions in the press vary, but some are calling the “insanity defense” in this case “crazy” reports Slate.

And the Washington Post points out those witnesses, who observed Muhammad and Malvo together, differ in their assessment of the relationship.

Some see Muhammad as a controlling and dominant figure that molded the boy into a “killing machine.”

Others say the two appeared more like friends, without readily seen evidence of a dominant/submissive relationship.

Malvo’s taped confession is chilling. The teenager admits, “I intended to kill them all.” And when asked if he personally pulled the trigger in the shootings the boy answers, “In all of them” reports Associated Press.

With such testimony, not to mention the physical evidence piled up by the prosecution, Malvo really has no other meaningful option than to plead insanity.

But was the boy “brainwashed” by John Muhammad or is this some clever lawyer’s contrived defense?

The “brainwashing” defense did not work for Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by a political cult in the 1970s.

Hearst an heir to a newspaper fortune was coerced into becoming the pawn of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), but was nevertheless ultimately convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to prison.

President Jimmy Carter later commuted her sentence and Bill Clinton pardoned Hearst before leaving the White House.

Public awareness regarding “brainwashing” has evolved considerably since the Manson murders in 1969 and Patty Hearst’s conviction during 1976.

The Jonestown mass suicide/murder of 1978, which claimed the lives of almost 1,000 followers of cult leader Jim Jones in the jungles of South America, shocked the public and created an acute awareness of the power of coercive persuasion.

The image of parents giving their children cyanide was certainly compelling proof of the power of Jim Jones’ brainwashing.

After Jonestown Americans suddenly seemed to see the destructive cults that existed throughout the country and began to more readily recognize their methods of gaining undue influence. In repeated news stories cult “brainwashing” was discussed during the 1980s and 1990s.

Then came Waco in 1993, the second longest standoff in US history, between the cult known as the Branch Davidians and federal law enforcement. The end would once again be tragedy, when David Koresh and his followers chose death for themselves and their children.

In a succession of similar tragedies one cult after another would demonstrate the effectiveness of its own brand of brainwashing.

1994 the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland.

1995 — the Aum gas attack of Tokyo subways that killed 12.

1997 — 39 members of “Heaven’s Gate” commit suicide near San Diego.

2000 — the horrific mass murder/suicide of the doomsday group known as the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments in Uganda, which may have claimed more lives than Jonestown.

9-11-2001 — the senseless murder of 3,000 people in the World Trade Center attack, once again perpetrated by the seemingly “brainwashed” followers of a madman, Osama bin Laden.

Self-proclaimed “prophet” Brian Mitchell was able to brainwash Elizabeth Smart from a dutiful family member into his seemingly willing follower in approximately 60 days. Smart subsequently denied her identity to police and did not attempt to escape the lunatic that abducted her at knifepoint.

Muhammad apparently controlled Malvo’s associations, environment and dominated his thinking in a nomadic lifestyle similar to the one Mitchell constructed around Elizabeth Smart.

How have madmen from Manson to Mitchell persuaded normal people to act insane?

The process of thought reform, commonly called “brainwashing” has probably been used in various forms throughout human history. Its mechanics have been explained in detail by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his seminal book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.

Lifton, who once taught at Harvard Medical School, identified the features of “brainwashing” through eight specific criteria; Milieu Control, Mystical Manipulation, the Demand for Purity, the Cult of Confession, the Sacred Science, Loading the Language, Doctrine over Person and the Dispensing of Existence (see Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism).

Essentially what Lifton observed is that if an environment displays at least six of these characteristics simultaneously, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is thought reform or “brainwashing.”

But can this work when only two people are involved?

The phenomenon of an abused spouse, often caught within what has been called a “cultic relationship,” also displays many of the same features described by Lifton. Experts have frequently labeled this the “battered woman’s syndrome.”

Was Malvo caught within the web of a “cultic relationship”?

Based upon some of the accounts that have surfaced from his family and witnesses he may have been.

But unlike Patty Hearst, who was eventually pardoned for her brainwashed behavior, Malvo’s deeds under the influence of his leader have included murder.

Perhaps the teenager was a victim of John Muhammad, but what about the victims of their rampage?

Ten people died as a direct result of Malvo’s “insanity,” and even though Muhammad may have been the master-planner of this killing spree, his puppet still pulled the trigger.

Society seems willing to forgive the misdeeds of “brainwashing” victims, but such forgiveness is far less likely if they have committed violent crimes.

The followers of Charles Manson murdered for him. Manson was later convicted like Muhammad, through a prosecution largely based upon undue influence. However, his followers were also convicted and sentenced to death.

Later the death sentences of the Manson Family were changed to life in prison. But despite their impassioned pleas that they were essentially “brainwashed,” Manson’s former followers such as Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten have repeatedly been denied parole.

As the Virginia jury weighs its verdict they are more likely to consider those caught within the sniper’s sights than the boy captured within the web of a madman’s undue influence.

Malvo’s only hope may come after his conviction, when his alleged “insanity” might mitigate sentencing.

At that point the claim of “brainwashing” might provide the basis for a sentence of life in prison, rather than the death penalty.

After a seemingly contrived media blitz about Tom Cruise’s dyslexia, the other shoe finally dropped.

Applied Scholastics International” opened its doors last week in St. Louis, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The program is closely related to Scientology and was founded, is largely staffed and coordinated by its practitioners.

A spokesperson for the program says it’s “secular,” but it is admittedly based upon the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Cult apologist J. Gordon Melton, was apparently flown in to assure anyone interested that this effort “has to be separate, or it would just be too controversial,” reported The News Tribune.

Melton previously offered apologies for the terroist cult Aum in Japan after the group gassed Tokyo subways. Cult members paid for his travel expenses.

Tom Cruise, actresses Jenna Elfman and Anne Archer and musician Isaac Hayes, all Scientologists, were there for the grand opening reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cruise, the featured speaker proclaimed, “Study Technology works.”

But the former “Top Gun” offered no proof other than an anecdotal story.

For that matter, there is no meaningful independent peer-reviewed and published scientific study proving the effectiveness of any of Hubbard’s touted “technology,” to cure anything.

Even Cruise’s alleged cure from dyslexia has never been independently verified.

No one seems to care about such facts though in an increasingly celebrity-driven pop culture. If a movie star says something is true, it must be. And there are always those photo ops.

The Hollywood TV show Extra ran a clip about the opening of the St. Louis center without even mentioning the Scientology connection.

Scientology certainly is expert at managing and milking its celebrities for its maximum benefit through carefully coordinated media events in an ongoing effort to plug pet projects.

Cruise and other Hollywood types that showed up in St. Louis are just one more example of Scientology’s slick publicity machine.

Isaac Hayes even cut the opening ribbon for yet another staged photo op.