CultNews recently received some interesting questions from a reader concerned about President Donald Trump.

The reader said, “I often wonder if my cousins are members of a cult. They worship Donald Trump. He has become a god-like figure in their lives and no matter what Trump does, their feelings do not change.”

The reader then asks, “If this is the case, will they ever change? I cannot talk with them because they see me as some type of liberal demon. It’s uncomfortable to be around them so I just stopped trying to have a relationship. What do cult leaders really want? What do their followers want?” 

Analysis by Rick Alan Ross

CultNews response

Donald Trump is not an absolute authoritarian “cult” leader like a Jim Jones, Charles Manson or David Koresh. He was democratically elected and is subject to congressional oversight, judicial review by the courts and must run to be reelected. The President of the United States is also constitutionally limited by law to no more than two terms (eight years) as president. None of this matches the history or narrative of cult leaders like Jones, Manson and Koresh.

Trump supporters do seem to be narrowly focused on frequently partisan news sources, which can affect their critical thinking, but these sources of information fit within the boundaries of propaganda and are not part of the framework of an intentionally planned thought reform program (“brainwashing”) run by Donald Trump.

Donald J. Trump

Trump supporters are not cult victims

Moreover, most Trump supporters already shared and appreciated Donald Trump’s ideas, feelings and attitudes before they voted for him. He didn’t change them deceptively through coercive persuasion without their knowledge and consent. Instead, like a savvy salesman, Donald Trump effectively shaped and marketed himself and his brand in response to the Republican base. He implicitly understood what that political base wanted in a candidate, which is why he won its primary. And his persistently precise perception of the attitude of the majority of Republican voters has repeatedly proven to be correct according to his polling numbers.

Trump supporters are not cult victims. Specifically, people that support Donald Trump are typically not happy about recent changes in the United States. This includes concerns about the shifting demographics of the country, immigration, increasing frustration regarding “globalization” through entities like the UN and various international treaties and agreements, growing discomfort about interdependent world trading markets, rejection of LGBT rights such as gay marriage, fears about the centralization of government and unhappiness about certain women’s rights such as reproductive choice. Many Trump supporters are also upset about questions being raised about gun rights. There is also substantial resentment and suspicion amongst Trump supporters about the influence and power of the “intellectual elite.” And religious leaders that support Donald Trump seem to be deeply troubled by decreasing church attendance and the corresponding decline of religious influence in the United States.

Trump did not need to implant these preexisting attitudes and concerns through “mind control,” which was already there and quite evident within the Republican base. Again, like a good salesman Donald Trump simply effectively marketed himself by tailoring his presidential campaign to concisely capitalize on existing concerns abundantly evident in the Republican base.

In his soon to be released book “It Was All a Lie” author Stuart Stevens interestingly concludes that Donald Trump ultimately represents today’s “Republican party in a purified form.” Stevens, a purported “veteran Republican strategist,” writes, “There is nothing strange or unexpected about Donald Trump. He is the logical conclusion of what the Republican party became over the last 50 or so years.”

Cultural divide

Summarizing the situation, Trump supporters appear to be generally uncomfortable and/or unhappy with recent cultural change in America. And to a large extent there are cultural lines of separation, or a cultural divide, which has become increasingly apparent between urban and rural Americans, as well as between coastal Americans and those that live within the middle of the country.

Apparently, Americans that support Donald Trump feel that he represents meaningful resistance to unwanted change. And Trump supporters think he can reverse certain cultural trends. Trump’s most popular slogans and mantras like “Build the Wall” and “Make America Great Again” seem to reflect this sentiment.

Some cult-like aspects, but not a “destructive cult”

There are aspects of Donald Trump and his supporters that may appear at times to be cult-like, such as Trump’s rather narcissistic seemingly messianic claim made in 2016 that “only [he] can fix this,” or his supporters apparent penchant for cognitive dissonance. CultNews commented about this in 2016. But it’s just too simplistic to dismiss an entire political movement and a democratically elected president as a “destructive cult” without noting the distinct differences that separate Donald Trump from historical cult leaders and his supporters from the victims of destructive cults.

Instead of characterizing devotion to Donald Trump as a “cult” without qualification, it’s preferable, more objective, accurate and concise to recognize the nuances and complexity of the cultural currents and rifts that are polarizing Americans. Donald Trump may have a kind of fan base or “cult following” like many celebrities, but he does not match the criteria that defines cult leaders who have historically exercised virtually limitless unchecked dictatorial power over their followers. Trump is also not empowered by a deliberate “brainwashing” process deceptively done through a premeditated intentionally planned thought reform program with the goal of “mind control.” It serves no useful purpose to reduce the word “cult” to a “buzz word,” rather than recognize its precise range of meaning and boundaries.

Robert Jay Lifton, a psychiatrist well known for his writings about thought reform and cult formation reportedly made the distinction that, “Trump is not totalistic like [Shoko Asahara] the leader of [the Japanese cult] Aum Shinrikyo.”

Deprogramming Trump supporters?

It’s also important to note that true believers cannot be “deprogrammed” regarding their personally held individual beliefs. Simply put, they were not programmed in the first place and therefore cannot be deprogrammed. Such true believers may eventually become disillusioned and move on, but this will be a personal choice, not the result of an intervention.

Historically, cult deprogramming is essentially an educational process, which centers upon the examination and unwinding of a thought reform program deceptively used without informed consent and knowingly maintained by a group or leader that uses coercive persuasion. This does not fit the profile or the circumstances of typical Trump supporters who already agreed with and endorsed Donald Trump’s core beliefs and the proscribed path he promised to implement for the United States.

Politicizing the word “cult” and using it to label Trump supporters serves no useful or constructive purpose. It dismissively demonizes a majority of the Republican party and other voters that support Donald Trump without recognizing their preexisting personal sentiments. This inaccurate labeling also denigrates the suffering of real cult victims.

Michael Langone, a counseling psychologist and the director of the International Cultic Studies Association told a journalist in an interview, “I can understand why people don’t like Trump,” However, Langone concluded “But to jump from not liking Trump to Trump as cult leader, I think, is a bit of a leap.”


This Thanksgiving rather than being confrontational with relatives that disagree with your politics, it’s preferable to avoid conflict and instead focus on the family values, which you share in common. Talk about happy memories that confirm those values and earnestly express your appreciation for the opportunity of gathering for another Thanksgiving dinner together.

Thankfully we live in a free country, not a cult compound, where each election cycle provides an opportunity for American citizens to cast their vote privately and decide what changes will ultimately prevail and/or who will be the President of the United States.

Rick Alan Ross is a judicially qualified and accepted court expert witness who has testified in ten states including United States Federal Court concerning controversial authoritarian groups, some that have been called “cults” and the coercive persuasion techniques they frequently employ.

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The A&E reality series Growing Up Gotti, featuring Victoria Gotti the daughter of deceased Mafia boss John Gotti and his three grandsons may have a cult following, but not quite the kind that’s good for ratings.

On last night’s show the “Mafia princess” introduced viewers to her “friend” Debra Pearl, a therapist brought in to provide “professional help” on the segment, but what those watching didn’t know is that Ms. Pearl’s form of therapy has been called “cult” “headgames.”

Debra Pearl is a twenty-five year devotee of so-called “Social Therapy,” a controversial group process created by self-described “Marxist/Leninist revolutionary” Fred Newman.

According to Newman his therapy is about “two workers, revolutionary therapist and slave/patient, [and their] struggle together to make a revolution through their practice.” The goal is “helping the slave reach the point of insurrection” and “to make proletarian truth and freedom where there is now bourgeois truth and slavery.”

However, Mr. Newman seems a bit “bourgeois” himself, with his four-story townhouse in Greenwich Village that just might be worth more than the Gotti mansion and he reportedly summers in the Hamptons.

Doesn’t the daughter of a Mafia boss seem like an unlikely pal for the follower of an avowed revolutionary that once said, “I don’t like the institution of the family in any of its forms”?

Maybe Mama Gotti better watch out whom she lets into her house?

Not only did Ms. Pearl offer “therapy,” but also signs were conspicuously shown inside and outside her office that essentially advertised “Social Therapy” and the “East Side Institute.”

Was this a reality show or an infomercial for a guru group?

Another long-time Newman devotee has been stirring things up for her “friend” too.

Lenora Fulani, once friendly with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has become something of a political pariah and potential liability for the re-election of Mayor Mike.

This month former NYC Mayor Ed Koch advised Mayor Blumberg to dump Fulani, who has a penchant for anti-Semitic remarks like her guru Fred Newman reported Newsday.

Newman says, “The Jew, the dirty Jew, once the ultimate victim of capitalism’s soul, fascism, would become a victimizer on behalf of capitalism; a self-righteous dehumanizer and murderer of people of color; a racist bigot.”

Maybe Koch should stop by Victoria Gotti’s Long Island home and offer some advice about her “friend”?

The moral of this story seems to be “with friends like these who needs enemies.”

Lenora Fulani, follower of alleged “cult leader” Fred Newman, is a pivotal player within New York’s Independent party. This has given Fulani and her mentor some political clout, which critics say has led to favors.

Visible evidence of Fulani’s political connections and influence could be seen at a recent NYC fundraiser attended by US Senator Charles Schumer and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reports NY 1.

Schumer spoke at the event as Fulani stood behind him.

Critics say Fulani is little more than a front for Fred Newman. And that her involvement in politics is a way of gaining attention and gathering favors for the controversial group often called the “Newmanites,” such as a $8.5 million tax-free bond issue for the All Stars Project Inc., another one of Fred Newman’s interests.

Last year NY Attorney General Elliot Spitzer claimed he would investigate All Stars for reported financial irregularities.

Fred Newman is the founding father of something called “Social Therapy,” which critics say is little more than “brainwashing.”

Newman says, “The proletarian or revolutionary therapist is a leader. Proletarian therapy is not leaderless. To say the leader is non-authoritarian is not the same as saying it is leaderless. The identification of leader with authoritarian is a bourgeois identification. The revolutionary leader leads the suffering and struggling worker from the bourgeois ego to the proletarian ego, through an authoritarian act of violent overthrow. For as Engles pointed out, ‘A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is…’ But it is proletarian authority–the dictatorship of the proletarian rather than bourgeois authority. Revolutionary therapy involves an act of insurrection; of overthrow. The therapist is not a substitute conscience; the therapist is another worker who has been through the insurrection and is still working and struggling during the long period of withering away of the proletarian ego.”


But in New York’s last very close mayoral election Bloomberg needed every vote he could muster and the billionaire businessman may not have won without the devotion and grass roots organizing provided by Newman’s faithful followers.

The mayor later donated $50,000 to the All Star Project.

Some elected officials are said to have a “cult following,” but this analogy just might be literally true for Mayor Bloomberg.

Yesterday MSNBC picked up the story about “Dr.” John Gray and his “worthless” degrees.

Jeanette Walls wrote that the author of the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus “has credentials from the twilight zone.”

Gray’s assistant Rosalinda Lynch attempted to defend the “doctor” by claiming that the recent reports about Gray were “very poorly researched, incorrect, mean-spirited and of little consequence.”

CultNews not only stands firmly behind those reports, but also has more to add.

Lynch is apparently in charge of Gray’s spin machine.

She recently stated that his “Ph.D. from Columbia Pacific University [CPU]…was fully approved by the State of California during [his]…tenure.”

However, this effort at spin avoids the fact that the degree is not, nor has it ever been accredited and thus is essentially “worthless.”

A report about CPU on Quackwatch specifically includes John Gray on its list.

Lynch made what appears to be a deliberately misleading statement on behalf of her employer.

She said, “His second doctorate is from Governor’s State University in Illinois, which is fully accredited.”

However, according to the university the doctorate Lynch refers to is a “honorary degree,” that was given to Gray when he spoke at its 2003 commencement.

One again, it is certainly not an accredited degree. And Governor’s State University in Illinois doesn’t have a doctorate program.

Lynch even seems willing to lie for her boss.

She stated, “He has a masters from the American branch of the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, which is fully accredited.”

CultNews called both the registrar and alumni association at Iowa’s Maharishi U, and Gray is neither listed there as a graduate or alumni.

Perhaps Lynch is as much taken in by Gray, as many mainstream media outlets seem to have been.

Gray’s assistant once offered an emotional testimonial on

Rosalinda Lynch posted, “I would like to thank [you] for writing Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. I’ve had some relationships in or out of desperation or loneliness. I have had engagement offers, but all for wrongful reasons. I know the next time I would like to have it for the right reasons.”

Sounds like Lynch may fit within the category of the “doctor’s” loyal cult following composed of true believers.

What about the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), that both list Gray as a professional member?

Was his acceptance into these organizations granted as a matter of faith?

John Gray clearly violated both the ACA and IAMFC professional membership requirements, which stipulate that an applicant must have appropriate educational credentials, and be honest not misleading about his or her education.

And how about all those licensed mental health professionals that paid Gray fees for the privilege of being licensed as “Mars/Venus Counseling Centers“?

What professional status is there to being “personally trained by Dr. John Gray,” when Gray has no accredited credentials?

Ms. Lynch was sent an email yesterday citing specifically the substance of this report.

There was no response from Mr. Gray’s office.

Note: CultNews has been unable to verify that John Gray is a high school graduate, though one of his office assistants insists he did complete the 12th grade and received an accredited diploma.

Relationship guru John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, is established seemingly as a permanent fixture in popular culture and has something of a cult following.

Mars/Venus has reportedly sold more than 15 million copies since its publication in 1992. And Gray has sold millions of additional books through various spin-offs of that original bestseller.

According to his Mars/Venus website, “John Gray, Ph.D. is the best-selling relationship author of all time.”

Based upon that phenomenal publishing success Gray continued to expand his presence as a relationship guru by doling out professional advice to millions of readers weekly. He does this through a syndicated column within major daily newspapers coast to coast, from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Daily News.

Gray’s column even appears internationally through publications in England, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Korea, Latin America and the South Pacific.

John Gray is also a regular featured “expert” within Redbook, Brides and Parents magazines and has been profiled by USA Today, Time, Forbes, TV Guide and People.

Almost all the major television networks have given Gray a platform to hold forth with his special brand of counseling for couples, singles and families. He has sat with Larry King, Oprah and Phil Donahue.

In 2000 Gray launched his own syndicated TV show hosted by actress Cybill Shepherd, which premiered in more than 180 television markets, though it was later cancelled.

Not discouraged Gray later gave birth to a Las Vegas show titled Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus at the Flamingo Hotel.

John Gray has turned his book into a brand and wrought a financial empire through publishing, a chain of licensed counseling centers, seminar workshops, a syndicated advice column, television and radio broadcasts, not to mention the lucrative lecture circuit.

The synergy between all of Gray’s various interests and enterprises have undoubtedly made him a wealthy man.

But the basis upon which John Gray built his professional career and counseling conglomerate is not sound and seems to be essentially faked.

The relationship guru who constantly promotes himself as “Dr. John Gray” and lists a “Ph.D.” has only one accredited degree, a high school diploma.

Previously reported that Gray’s doctorate is “worthless.” According to California’s attorney general a “diploma mill” that was later shut down issued it.

CultNews kept checking further and can now report that both of John Gray’s other purported degrees are also unaccredited and essentially worthless too.

Neither his BA nor his MA is from an accredited institution of higher education.

Gray received his undergraduate degrees from Maharishi European Research University in Seelisberg, Switzerland before returning to the United States in 1982, according to his posted bio at Brooks International.

Maharishi European Research University in Switzerland is not accredited according to World Education Services (WES) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Both accrediting organizations could not find the Swiss Maharishi U anywhere in their exhaustive and well-maintained databases.

The Swiss school should not be confused with Maharishi University of Management in Iowa.

Maharishi University in Iowa was not granted accreditation to issue a Masters degree in psychology until 1984 according to records kept by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS). The NCACS is the regional organization that has accredited the school.

John Gray is a professional member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), which he prominently lists on his bio.

However, the ACA requires its professional members to have at least a Masters degree accredited by CHEA.

Mr. Gray apparently disregarded that standard and the ACA must not have checked.

Associate Director of Member Services Carol Neiman explained that members are on an “honor system” due to the size of the organization, they have 50,000 members.

Neiman pointed out that the ACA Code of Ethics specifically states that members must “advertise or represent…their credentials in an accurate manner that is not false, misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent.”

The ACA code also states members “are responsible for correcting any known misrepresentations of their credentials by others.”

But Gray has not corrected Publisher Harper Collins that represents him as a “Ph.D.” in his latest book Mars and Venus in the Workplace (2002).

It appears that Gray not only failed the ACA “honor system,” but also has violated its ethical guidelines.

Gray also says in his bio that he is a “Consulting Editor of the Family Journal,” which is a quarterly publication put out by the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC). And he adds that he is a “member of [its] …distinguished advisory board.”

But John Gray does not meet the minimum educational requirements to be a member of the IAMFC.

The IAMFC Ethics Standards regarding competence read, “The minimal level of training shall be considered a master’s degree.” Moreover, members must “accurately represent their education…credentials [and] make concerted efforts to ensure that statements others make about them and/or their credentials are accurate.”

Mr. Gray again appears to be rather ethically challenged.

Gray has also claimed the title of “Fellow and Diplomat of the American Board of Medical Psychotherapists and Psychodiagnosticians.”

Perhaps this is another organization that relies upon the “honor system”?

“Dr.” Gray also claims he is a “Certified Family Therapist,” though he does not specify what organization certified him.

He is certainly not certified or licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, which would be the regulating body within the state where Mr. Gray resides.

Ironically, Gray himself has gone into the licensing business through his Mars/Venus counseling centers. But he advises that the counseling center licensee program is only “open to licensed mental health professionals,” something he clearly is not.

Remember the Hans Christian Anderson story The Emperor’s New Suit?

The fable relates how swindlers convinced a ruler that they were weavers, but only those fit for office could see their clothes.

At the end of this story the Emperor parades naked down the street, but the people along the way for some time refuse to admit he has nothing on.

Well in this modern version Gray has woven his own finery composed of credentials from schools that are essentially invisible, at least according to respected accrediting organizations such as WES and CHEA.

And organizations like the ACA, IAMFC, book publishers and newspapers, network television and various other media outlets have somehow failed to see the naked truth.

Even though information about Gray’s “worthless” doctorate has been on the Internet for some time.

Doesn’t anyone ever Google him?

John Gray’s office was contacted the day before this article was posted for a response. A woman that identified herself as an “assistant” took notes and said Mr. Gray would be contacted regarding the substance of this report.

However, he never responded.

The assistant insisted though that Mr. Gray did have an accredited high school diploma and she said Governor’s State University in Illinois also had given him an “honorary degree.”

How can anyone trust advice from someone like this?

Rather than basing his expert status upon his personal experience, Mr. Gray chose instead to mislead both the public and professionals by clothing himself with a mantle of degrees and dubiously achieved memberships.

However, when scrutinized it can be seen that John Gray “has nothing on at all,” much like the Emperor in Anderson’s fable.

In the end Mr. Gray comes across as more of a poser than a professional.

It seems that well-known relationship gurus “Dr.” John Gray and “Dr.” Barbara De Angelis have bogus credentials reports Men News Daily.

Apparently the two both obtained their touted “doctorates” from a “diploma mill” shut down two years ago by the California state attorney general’s office.

Gray and De Angelis received doctorates from Columbia Pacific University, which California officials described as a “diploma mill” that issued “totally worthless degrees.”

Nevertheless these lauded experts have been a hot ticket on the lecture circuit (Gray is $30,000-$50,000 and De Angelis starts at $15,000) and they hold forth on such popular TV shows as Oprah, Good Morning America, and Larry King Live.

Gray and De Angelis routinely pass themselves off with the attached title of “Ph.D.”

Gray’s bestseller Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has sold 15 million copies worldwide and developed quite a cult following for the author.

De Angelis has written more than a dozen books, produced a video series, infomercial and was featured on CNN as a “relationship expert.”

Some might think that John Gray is trained in psychology and/or counseling, but instead he has degrees in Eastern Philosophy and they are hardly Ivy League. Gray reportedly picked up both his Bachelor’s and Master’s from the Maharishi European Research University in Switzerland.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. And Gray was once one of his celibate monks, before becoming a guru of sorts himself.

Well, maybe it takes a guru to make a guru.

De Angelis has more in common with Gray than a “worthless” Ph.D., the two were once married.

De Angelis was Gray’s first wife, though he was her third husband. Barbara then went on to marry twice more, while John is still on his second marriage.

Another TM devotee magician Doug Henning was Barbara’s second hubby. Maybe she met Gray while attending a seminar at Maharishi U? Wouldn’t that be guru-romantic?

De Angelis did double duty as Henning’s assistant in his magic act. Perhaps she is now playing the role of a “doctor” for her second act.

Secrets for Making Love Work,” is the title of a De Angelis produced video series. But will Barbara learn the secret herself the fifth time around?

And do these two “doctors” really posses the personal histories and/or credentials to commend them as “relationship experts”?

The popular radio “Sex Doctor” and perhaps the gold standard for a relationship guru might be Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

At least “Dr. Ruth” really is a doctor (Ph.D.) and though twice divorced, her third marriage has held together for more than four decades.

In fact both of Westheimer’s children have an accredited Ph.D., which is more than you can say for either “doctors” John Gray or Barbara DeAngelis.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder and leader of Transcendental Meditation (TM), is attempting to make inroads within America’s public schools reports the Fairfield Ledger.

In press conferences carried by satellite uplink across the United States and in Canada the guru’s devotees touted TM as “consciousness-based education.”

Perennial presidential candidate John Hagelin, Maharishi’s pick for the White House, was busy spinning for his mentor.

“Conventional education has failed in its purpose of developing full human ability,” Hagelin told a crowd. “Maharishi’s consciousness-based education focuses on the development of the knower,” he claimed.


Is that the same educational process that has apparently transformed Hagelin from a Harvard Ph.D. to little more than a stooge for Maharishi?

Maybe that’s the point of “Maharishi…ED,” to persuade people and draw them into orbit around the old guru. This certainly seems to be the case with Hagelin and many other TM enthusiasts.

Another of the guru’s groupies proclaimed that through Maharishi’s teachings “a new world of angelic individuals” might be created.

But public schools are a place for education, not indoctrination according to some spiritual master’s special philosophy.

It appears that Maharishi and his cult following, are hoping to indoctrinate school children.

In a strange twist a controversial rabbi known for his music and scandal, lives on through pop bands in New York City that have drawn an ultra-Orthodox Jewish cult-following

The Moshav Band and Soulfarm band members grew up within communities founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach in Israel in the late 70’s. Now they play in Manhattan clubs to head-banging fans often with covered heads reports the New York Times.

Carlebach, an inspiration for the bands, was a pop rabbi with a cult following of his own. His music drew upon traditional Chasidic melodies and themes.

The rabbi died in 1994, but left behind mixed legacies of music and scandal.

Many considered him a musical genius, but he also allegedly had a penchant for sexually harassing women during his long career. Some of those women later spoke out.

Carlebach was quite controversial amongst his Lubavitch brethren for his touchy-feely approach. Such contact between men and women is strictly proscribed among ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups.

And it seems Carlebach did much more than simply hug many of the ladies he met.

But the rabbi’s musical legacy has endured long after his death. Now the NY bands have created a new form of pop fusion music composed of a little bit Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers and Carlebach.

Carlebach would probably be pleased. The constantly touring rabbi wanted to make Chasidic music and thought more accessible. One promoter observed that he “revolutionized Jewish music.”

For the Orthodox Jewish young people that have become the fans of his musical progeny the music is perhaps a “gentle form of rebellion.” But because of its Chasidic themes, attending clubs that stage these bands is apparently permissible.

The net effect is that otherwise largely cloistered ultra-Orthodox youth have found a vehicle to break out of their strictly controlled and insular communities.

Again, Carlebach would probably have liked that. And it is something of a celebration of the positive legacy he left behind.

As for the bands, one member observed that the Chasidic/Carlebach influence apparent in their performances has “gotten us a lot of work.”

Organizations or groups that are personality-driven and/or essentially defined by the personality of a charismatic leader, have often been called “cults.”

However, not all cults are destructive and many over the centuries have been relatively benign.

It seems some American corporations can be seen as consumer “cults,” often driven and/or defined by their founder’s personality.

The saga of the corporate Multi-media Empire wrought by Martha Stewart appears to be one example.

This commercial kingdom is so identified and defined by its creator, it is called “Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.”

But Martha’s empire has lost half its value, since the stature of its leader began to crumble.

Would Stewart’s cult following stay loyal to the brand without the presence of her personality?

Martha Stewart is an “extreme case of this corporate cult of personality,” reports the Boston Globe.

But there are other personality-driven enterprises such as Oprah Winfey’s synergistic media holdings, which continue to thrive.

Rosie O’Donnell seemed to be embarking on the path of Oprah, until “coming out” became more important to the talk show host than being in the money.

What will be Martha Stewart’s corporate legacy if she is killed in court?

Will her magazine fold, like George did, not long after founder John F. Kennedy Jr. died?

Most cults end or slowly whither away after the leader dies or self-destructs.

There is no “Family” without Charles Manson. And groups like Synanon, Aum and the Nuwaubians faded after their leaders were prosecuted.

But it seems that if there are significant assets and an ample cash flow “cults” can continue after a founder dies.

Witness how Scientology soldiers on undaunted by L. Ron Hubbard’s death in the 80s. Its celebrity faithful like John Travolta and Tom Cruise have not lost faith and keep paying for Hubbard’s “technology.”

The die-hard followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh still watch his videos long after their leader’s demise. And they gather to honor him at the still active ashram he started in India.

But after Herbert Armstrong died his Worldwide Church of God struggled to establish a new identity. And it shrank as adherents exited. It seems without Armstrong there was no lasting loyalty.

Which historical “cult” example will Stewart’s “corporate cult of personality” parallel?

Will there be consumer fealty for “Martha Stewart Living,” if Martha is living in prison?

Her fans might move on to a less controversial and/or embattled “domestic diva.”

Martha Stewart may have taught Americans that simplicity is timeless, but it seems probable that her cult following will dwindle if she does any time.

Japanese authorities continue to closely monitor a strange “cult” called “Pana Wave.”

The nomadic group’s eerie caravan of white vans continues to roam across Japan, reports The Japan Times.

Pana Wave’s leader Yuko Chino makes increasingly strange pronouncements and proclamations.

In one statement the 69-year-old woman said, “approach of the Nibiru star will be delayed nearly a week from Monday, and those who do not listen to this message will face death.”

This may mean her previous prophecy that the world would end May 15th has been “delayed.”

Chino claims she is dying from cancer, which her followers attribute to a conspiracy by “extremists” and “radicals” bombarding her with “harmful electromagnetic transmissions.”

Pana Wave members wear white to protect themselves from these alleged death rays.

In one recent interview the cult’s leader said that a baby seal “would spare mankind from certain destruction,” reports Mainichi Daily News.

It must be understood that the Japanese have good reason to be disturbed by doomsday cults. After all, in 1995 the city of Tokyo endured a poison gas attack launched by the doomsday cult called Aum.

Aum’s leader Shoko Asahara, much like Yuko Chino, fed his followers with constant prophecies of coming catastrophe.

Eventually, this madman personally fulfilled his dark visions by creating a catastrophe himself that sent thousands of Japanese to hospitals and killed twelve.

Asahara’s long trial only recently ended and he is likely to be sentenced to death by hanging.

However, it is also possible that Chino and her cult following are simply publicity seekers. After all, most cult leaders are ego-driven and appear to need and feed upon attention.

Despite reports that the Pana Wave leader will die in days, it seems Ms. Chino is well enough to do demanding interviews and prepare public statements, reports BBC.

It may be that Pana Wave has more in common with a “cult” called the Raelians than it does with Aum.

The Raelians and their leader “Rael” (Claude Vorilhon) became known through a series of publicity stunts. The most recent was the claim that they had produced the “first human clone,” which now appears to have been a deliberate hoax.

Perhaps Chino like Rael craves the media spotlight. And the strange activities of Pana Wave are cynically calculated to garner as much attention for the cult and its leader as possible.

Let’s hope so.

After the horrors of Aum the Japanese could use a good laugh.