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.”


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.

Another tragedy has occurred in California drawing public attention to the activity of small so-called “family cults.”

57-year-old Marcus D. Wesson was the head of what appears to have been a self-styled religious sect.

Wesson ruled like a polygamist patriarch over a small group of women and children. He was a stern authoritarian that lived off the wages of his “wives,” while he stayed home and collected welfare.

A forensic psychologist called Wesson a “charismatic psychopath” and compared him to past cult leaders like David Koresh and Brian Mitchell, the kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart reported the Mercury News.

Nine bodies lay in the wake of Wesson’s wrath. He is now charged with the murder of family members found in a twisted pile of corpses. Wesson was arrested covered in blood.

This gruesome “cult” crime is the worst mass murder in the history of Fresno, California. And some claim that local police could have done more to prevent it reports Associated Press.

Marcus Wesson is hauntingly reminiscent of another California “cult leader” named Winnfred Wright. Wright 46 was sentenced last year to a 16-year prison term for felony child abuse.

Wright’s 19-month old son died from complications connected to rickets, a rare disease contracted when someone is not exposed to the sun.

Like the Wessons the Wright family lived a bizarre life of imposed isolation.

The Wright household also like the Wessons was composed of women living in submission to one man’s rule and idiosyncratic beliefs, which included strict discipline and a strange diet that led to a child’s death.

Wright’s women later said they were “brainwashed,” and a judge agreed allowing one to be “deprogrammed,” but nevertheless later sentencing her to a prison term.

That woman told the court, “Mind control is a reality,” and expressed “great sorrow” about her baby’s death saying she would be “ashamed for the rest of [her] life” reported the Marin Independent Journal.

Marcus Wesson’s sister-in-law described him as “an evil person” that like Winnfred Wright demanded total control over his family of followers reported the Fresno Bee.

However, two of Wesson’s women broke away and took legal action to free their children.

But before police could return the two 7-year-olds to their waiting mothers they were both killed.

It seems that when confronted with losing control of his household kingdom Marcus Wesson decided to murder everyone.

In this sense he appears to be not unlike cult leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones and Luc Joret, who when faced with losing personal power also decided to kill their followers rather than surrender control.

But unlike Jones, Koresh and Joret, Marcus Wesson did not take his own life and will face justice.

Wesson’s sister-in-law told reporters that in the end he exercised “the ultimate control” of life or death over his family.

Now it seems the justice system will rightfully ultimately control the rest of Marcus Wesson’s sordid life.

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.

The New York Times is often cited for its “politically correct” view of the news, but it seems like the “paper of record” has gone a bit too far and invented its own version of history.

In an article misleadingly titled “Commune to Close” a NY Times reporter describes a cult compound forced into liquidation by bankruptcy as “an enduring relic of the hippie commune explosion of the 1960’s” based upon the “principles of Christian love.”


Instead, the group known as “Love Israel” is one of the most notorious cults of the 1970s, as repeatedly exposed through numerous press accounts readily available to any serious researcher.

This information is largely glossed over and/or ignored by the Times reporter, who prefers to describe the group as a “commune,” rather than the much more obvious and historically accurate “c” word, “cult.”

The Times also allowed the group’s dictatorial leader Paul Erdman, who goes by the name “Love Israel,” to have the last word about everything.

Erdman brushed off any reports about sexual and financial exploitation within the group as merely “rumors” and “falsehoods” based upon “prejudice.”


The Times does not report the allegations of abuse about Love Israel in any meaningful depth, which ultimately led to the group’s bankruptcy. No cult victims or affected families are quoted, even though talk-show host Steve Allen discussed his son’s involvement publicly.

For an accurate portrayal of recent and past events surrounding the cult see the commentary of Rabbi James Rudin, a long-time expert observer of the group.

About 40 diehard followers still remain loyal to the 63-year-old Erdman. The cult leader told the Times, “Wherever we go we can do the same thing…we’ll just take that right with us.”

No doubt “Love Israel” will continue to control and manipulate his remaining followers in the same way he always has.

By the way, the New York Times calls such control being “like-minded.”

Does this mean that the Times reporter might view Jonestown through such a politically correct prism as simply a “commune” of “like-minded” people?

Perhaps, given this reporter’s seeming penchant for revisionist history.

CultNews previously reported that The New York Times declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses a “Christian denomination,” conferring a status upon the group that they have never possessed historically.

And once the Times lauded Sai Baba, a purported “cult leader” UN officials expressed concerns about due to “widely reported allegations of sexual abuse involving youth and children,” as “a friend of India and all the world.”

Isn’t it about time for the Times to tell its reporters to take more time researching their stories.

A story titled Busting on the ?Cult Buster’ reported about personal attacks made in response to my comments within a previous article run by the New York Daily News.

Though Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre are cited within the recent story, there have been many other groups that have responded to criticism by attacking me personally over the years.

When I began working to expose cults in 1982 my family warned that eventually, if that work proved to be meaningful, cults might retaliate by exposing my past.

The old adage seems to apply, “If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger.”

The fact is many cults retaliate by “busting on” their critics.

Lloyd Grove accurately reported that as a young man of 21 and 22 I plead guilty (1975-76) to criminal conduct, resulting in a record that includes a misdemeanor and felony.

In 1983 those guilty verdicts were vacated by court order and my civil rights restored. This was done about the time I began coordinating a prisoner program and serving on an advisory board for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

I deeply regret and am sincerely sorry for the criminal mistakes I made almost thirty years ago, and have done everything possible to rectify those bad acts.

This included complete restitution, which was possible because my crime thankfully only included stolen property and was nonviolent. Those concerned stated they were satisfied in court. And the police did not oppose probation, which ended early and without incident in 1979.

Beginning in about 1988-89 groups that I criticized began investigating me, looking for anything they could use to discredit my work.

Scientology certainly has become the most notable nemesis of cult critics. Accordingly, they compiled and disseminated what is called a “dead agent” file about me, which literally reflects their belief in that old adage about the messenger.

Of course once the Internet became the “information highway” Scientology made the contents of that file publicly accessible online. It now includes 196 pages of typed text.

Groups like the Kabbalah Centre only need to point, click and print it out.

Since 1998 my response to that file has been likewise publicly available online through the Internet. And it has occasionally been updated to respond to new accusations.

Also available at this Web site are the archives “Hall of Flames” and “Flaming Websites,” which are filled with less than glowing descriptions of my work and personal history.

Interestingly, the bible teaches a path of rehabilitation that includes the following:

Acknowledge your wrongful conduct, specifically to those you have hurt and admit it to others openly.

Make whatever restitution is possible.

And then finally, change your life and don’t repeat such bad behavior.

This is exactly the route I chose almost thirty years ago.

This path met the expectations of those directly hurt by my crimes, the legal authorities, my family and community.

However, such an effort will never satisfy groups like Scientology, who don’t seem to believe in rehabilitation, unless they rehabilitate you.

And Scientology apparently does not believe in meaningful rehabilitation for itself. And in my experience neither does the Kabbalah Centre, despite the rabbinical credentials of its founder.

Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre don’t acknowledge misconduct reported about their respective founders and/or the injury caused by their teachings.

And by the way, reporting about Scientology’s bad behavior almost always begets the response that its critics are somehow “bigots” guilty of “persecution.”

But is it “bigotry” to report about criminal indictments, suicides and serious personal injuries linked to Scientology?

Don’t expect acts of contrition from Scientology or the Kabbalah Centre, instead they apparently prefer frivolous litigation and harassment to intimidate their critics.

Once at a deposition a Scientology lawyer asked me what I did to receive probation, was it part of some arranged plea agreement?

When I responded that there was no plea agreement he seemed incredulous, and asked why then did I plead guilty?

The answer, “because I was wrong,” appeared to startle him.

A consistent feature of many cults is their unwillingness to admit when they are wrong.

And historically, cult leaders like Jim Jones have died rather than admit or face the consequences of wrongdoing.

It seems impossible for many cults and/or their leaders to be meaningfully rehabilitated, as they appear unwilling to take the necessary first step, let alone complete the process.

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.

Stories about vast unknown conspiracies that involve CIA operatives and criminal underground societies, seem more like tired themes for formula films, rather than a subject for serious discussion.

However, as summer ended in New England such subjects became the focus of a conference staged by “abuse survivors” at a hotel in Hartford, Connecticut.

Narratives about secretive Satanists were everywhere at the gathering sponsored by S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind-Control and Ritual Torture).

Maybe Scott Peterson’s lawyers should have attended to take notes, which might help fuel their speculation concerning the alleged “cult” they say may have taken the life of Laci Peterson and her unborn child.

Anecdotal stories abounded everywhere at the conference with various villains. Besides the usual Satanic suspects there were accusations against Freemasons, secret CIA programs and the so-called “Illuminati.”

This event was reported with a dose of much needed skepticism by the Hartford Advocate.

“I was going to be part of their satanic world-domination plan,” said one self-proclaimed “survivor.”

“My father handed me over to the cult; I was like his gift,” explained an attendee.

“We were brainwashed by the cult and made to kill firstborn children,” claimed another.

Why were all these victims together in Hartford rather than within a witness protection program?

“Sharing like this is the best way to rid ourselves of…toxic memories,” stated the conference organizer. And of course there are always conference fees, not to mention books and tapes for sale at such events.

Being a “survivor” can become a kind of cottage industry for some.

And for those that think this is funny and comparable to a group of UFO believers waiting for their next “abduction,” think again.

People have suffered, but not from supposed “satanic ritual abuse.” Some stories told by “survivors” have led to false charges and criminal prosecutions that destroyed lives.

This includes witch-hunts like the McMartin pre-school case in California. Taxpayers spent $15 million dollars to find out there was no Satanic abuse at the school, but it ruined the McMartin family.

And there was an alleged “sex ring” in Wenatchee, Washington that was ultimately proven to be bogus after multiple arrests of innocent residents.

Even a police officer was falsely accused in Canada. He was eventually cleared and paid a large settlement for his suffering.

These are the real survivors, falsely accused and damaged by spurious charges and prosecutions.

The FBI once investigated claims of human sacrifice and a network of criminal Satanists. But a report concluded there was no objective physical evidence to substantiate anything.

So why do people want to believe such nonsense and play the role of “survivors”?

According to respected researcher Elizabeth Loftus it’s an “explanation for everything wrong in their lives.”

The noted psychologist sees conferences like the one SMART recently convened as an opportunity to “get together…reinforce each other…give each other a sense of importance.”

And the stories of “survivors” appear to confirm this.

Often their tales put them at the center of some vast and evil conspiracy; its central character, hero or heroine, somehow essential to the plot.

But in the end even those that spin such stories fail to see their own authentic suffering and real situation.

Obviously they are in need of ethical and constructive counseling from objective mental health professionals. But many instead rely upon “repressed” or “recovered” memory therapy and are often estranged from their families.

They “stay unwell and never get help” lamented Loftus.

Some journalists write hard-hitting news stories about destructive cults, which have often led to further action. They expose wrongdoing and the authorities often follow-up through criminal prosecution or some other enforcement action.

However, there are those reporters who seem to be more interested in presenting a pretty picture for their community, than exposing the truth about cults.

Three recent stories about well-known groups often called “cults,” expose what looks like a penchant for puff pieces. This is a term used to describe uncritical articles that are more positive spin and/or froth than substance.

In such puffery reporters largely let the “cult” tell the story, without asking anything really tough, or follow-up questions.

Here are some recent examples that seem to fit into the category of “puff piece” if not cult apology.

A recent story written about the notorious group “Ananda Marga,” which has been accused of violent crimes, child abuse and linked to suicide, described members as “covered in a life of peace.”

The journalist did ask a member about the “C” word (cult) though.

A devotee answered evasively, “You won’t lose your mind and be brainwashed.” And according to another member they are “not a religion.”


I guess that resolves everything, well at least the reporter seems to think so at the Kingston Jamaica Gleaner.

However, P.R. Sarkar the founder and “God-Man” of Ananda Marga who died in 1990 did some time in an Indian prison. And that government felt he was important enough to publish a book about his group titled, Ananda Marga: Soiling the Saffron Robe.

This was not a “puff piece” and Sarkar comes off as little more than a “sociopath,” hardly “covered in a life of peace.” And not apparently respected by Hindus.

The next journalist to offer up what amounts to cult apologies works in Ithaca, New York. This time the group is the “Twelve Tribes,” a racist anti-Semitic “cult” led by Elbert Eugene Spriggs, a former carnival barker.

The Twelve Tribes has a horrific history of child abuse, terrible custody battles, kidnappings and harsh exploitation, which rivals some of the worst “cults” in America.

In numerous news reports former members have spoken out about the abuse they endured under Spriggs harsh totalitarian rule.

But the leader they now call “Yoneq” lives in luxury, travelling between his homes in France, the United States and South America.

Forget about all this.

The reporter for the Ithaca Times says the Twelve Tribes are a “unorthodox religious group…that worships Jesus.”

Right. Didn’t Jim Jones make that claim?

“And they have now chosen Ithaca as their newest community,” the reporter happily adds.

The upstate New York journalist then essentially dismisses virtually every allegation against the Twelve Tribes offering readers instead their version of events.

No former member is quoted, no other opinions offered except, “Much of the content found on the Web can be described as derogatory.”

Is this in-depth journalism?

The article reads almost like an infomercial with a plug for the group’s website at the end.

Such positive spin for “cults” in not limited to America. “Down under” an Australian journalist seems to be plugging away for Scientology.

This Sydney Morning Herald reporter tells us the story of Hindu boy named Raja who found happiness at the Athena School in Sydney run by Scientologists.

There is nothing said about the troubled history of this controversial church, that Time Magazine named the “Cult of Greed.”

Instead readers are regaled with how happy the little boy is at his new school, which teaches from text originated by L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder.

This Australian article puffs on almost like an ad campaign, complete with a price quote per school term and a mention for a booklet by Hubbard called The Way to Happiness.

However, Lisa McPherson didn’t seem to find her “way to happiness” and instead died after a breakdown, while under the care of her friends at Scientology.

Somehow the Sydney reporter didn’t bother to include that little titbit.

Certainly these articles will not be nominated for Pulitzers.

Instead of reflecting professional journalism at its best these reporters seem be treading down a different path.

They didn’t do their research and/or chose to ignore it.

Their motto appears to be; Make nice, be happy and ignore reality.

Maybe that is “The Way to Happiness”?

But cults have a nasty way of getting headlines, through bad behavior and shattered lives. And eventually that cannot be ignored, even in Ithaca, Kingston or Sydney.

A sensational claim was made this week by a government official in Uganda regarding infamous African cult leader Joseph Kibwetere, reports New Vision.

Kibwetere led the cult called the “Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God,” which ended its history in 2001 through a horrific mass murder/suicide that claimed the lives of hundreds of followers.

This tragedy occurred after doomsday predictions made by Kibwetere and his accomplice Credonia Mwerinde failed to materialize at the turn of the millenium.

A Ugandan elected official told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that Kibwetere altered his appearance through “plastic surgery” and now lives in Israel.

He offered no proof to support this claim.

Kibwetere and Mwerinde’s bodies were never recovered. There were persistent rumors that Mwerinde may have escaped after looting the group’s assets.

However, many believe Kibwetere is dead, though his remains have never been positively identified.

It is very doubtful that such a notorious cult leader could have successfully entered Israel, which is a country known for its tight security and carefully monitored immigration.

The Ugandan cult murder/suicide probably exceeded the number of deaths at Jonestown, making it the most horrific cult tragedy in recorded history.

But due to the lack of forensic and technical assistance available in Uganda, a true count of the dead will never be known.

A bizarre cult has recently drawn heightened media attention in Japan through its strange behavior, reports BBC.

The group is called “Pana Wave,” led by 69-year old Hiroko Chino, a woman who began drawing a cult following during the 1970s.

Pana Wave overwhelmed and temporarily obstructed an isolated roadway near Giffo, Japan.

Their actions were prompted by a paranoid conspiracy theory, which claims there is an ongoing plot to kill their leader with a “weapon using electromagnetic waves.”

It appears Chino is dying from terminal cancer. And rather than accept that illness, she has spun a paranoid world of lurking enemies to maintain control and manipulate her followers further through fear.

Members of the group wore all white, including facemasks, to protect themselves from “harmful electromagnetic waves.” Even their vehicles were covered with white cloth.

Pana Wave members believe that white cloth blocks out the suspected destructive transmissions.

Chino has predicted the earth’s end is near. And Pana Wave reportedly has about 1,200 adherents.

One pamphlet states that if the leader dies cult members should “exterminate all humankind at once,” reports Reuters.

After the devastating gas attack of Tokyo’s subways in 1995 by another doomsday cult called Aum, the Japanese view such cult threats very seriously.

Police surrounded, questioned and eventually dispersed Chino’s followers. But the group remains under investigation.

Doomsday groups like Pana Wave are relatively common within the world of cults. And their leaders often manipulate members through fear of annihilation.

Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh and Jim Jones all used such dire predictions of coming catastrophe to draw their followers into compound life, within an insulated and isolated world of dread.

Rather than seeking to block out “electromagnetic waves,” Chino actually seems to be engaged in an ongoing process of blocking an outside frame of reference, which might provide her disciples with accurate feedback.

But historically as such a leader’s physical and/or mental well being unravels, a situation of high risk may develop.

Cult followers are often deeply dependent upon their leader to determine and/or define reality. They also typically allow that leader to do much of their thinking for them.

Given the history of destructive cults and Chino’s reported deteriorating health, the Japanese authorities have good reason to be concerned and monitor Pana Wave closely.