Joyce Brothers, Ph.D. has been a regular on television and within newspapers for many years. She graduated from Cornell in 1947 and received her doctorate in psychology in 1955. “Baby boomers” have literally grown up with her advice

Still syndicated as a columnist Brothers dispenses advice on an array of subjects.

This week she has tackled “cults,” “brainwashing” and “mind control” in two of her columns.

Her first piece on Monday assured the concerned grandmother of a Marine that “cult brainwashing” is not the same as “torture and brainwashing” used on prisoners of war (POWs). Brothers’ comments were featured within the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

However, her commentary is actually somewhat misleading.

Psychiatrist, author and researcher Robert Jay Lifton revealed in his seminal book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, that civilians incarcerated by North Korean Communists during the Korean Conflict, subjected to “thought reform,” often called “brainwashing,” were temporarily transformed without the use of “torture.”

Likewise, imminent clinical psychologist and author Margaret Singer discovered the same, through her examination and research regarding military prisoners, while working for Walter Reed Hospital.

In other words, what Lifton and Singer found, is that there is no significant difference between what was done to POWs and the techniques employed by destructive “cults” through their thought reform programs.

Today Brothers lays out for readers the basics regarding “mind control,” within the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The good doctor posits a couple of rather controversial points worth mentioning.

She said, “If the captors happen to be of the same religion as their captives…their task of mind control might be somewhat easier.”

Actually, this is a bit too simplistic.

For example, “cults” composed largely of former Roman Catholics, are actually most often schismatic groups that may have begun within a mainstream church and then were drawn away by a charismatic leader and later excommunicated, such as Christ Covenant Community.

Another example would be polygamist groups with many former mainline Mormons as members, such as “The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days” (“TLC”), which simply recruited within a state that, is overwhelmingly made up of Mormons.

Brothers also says, “The best targets for brainwashing are…upper and middle economic classes.”

But this can be seen as a direct result of cult recruitment efforts often focused at college and university campuses, where “upper and middles class” students are ubiquitous.

Both of these observations by Brothers can be seen as a kind of “victim bashing.”

That is, if the cult victim were not “religious” or “middle class” they would not be as vulnerable.

However, when psychiatrist John Clark of Harvard researched the issue of some demographic group’s special vulnerability to cult influence, he found no evidence to support such a theory.

Instead, Clark discovered this vulnerability to be widespread and that no special class or group was immune or predisposed to be taken in by cults.

Of course there are times when everyone is more vulnerable to suggestion, such as college students away from home and family for the first time in a new environment, people that are depressed and/or under extreme stress. And there is always the obvious vulnerability of a subject during a hypnotic trance, which might also include certain forms of meditation.

It seems there are no easy answers when attempting to understand whom destructive cults and leaders victimize.

Perhaps the only meaningful immunity that can be achieved is through specific education and increased awareness about destructive “cults,” their dynamics and the techniques they may employ to recruit, indoctrinate and retain members.

Is it possible that President Bush is now repaying Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s enduring support of his family, through plum political appointments?

Moon certainly has a history of generosity when it comes to the Bush family.

The controversial self-proclaimed “messiah,” who leads the Unification Church and controls a global financial empire worth billions, has given millions to former President Bush Sr. in honorariums for speeches.

Recently George W. Bush nominated Josette Shiner for the post of Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador. If confirmed she will influence US trade policy throughout Asia and Africa, reports Reuters.

Shiner is currently serving as the associate U.S. trade representative for policy and communications.

Her bio posted by the USTR includes a fifteen-year stint (1982-1997) at the Moon-controlled Washington Times. Shiner’s last position there was managing editor.

But what her official USTR biography doesn’t mention is that Shiner became a member of Moon’s Unification Church in 1975.

The Unification Church has often been called a “cult” and accused of “mind control.” Moon’s followers, historically called “Moonies,” accept him as a “messiah.”

Rev. Moon has very substantial business interests in Asia, which includes North Korea, South Korea and China.

Given Shiner’s background, will her role at Trade pose the potential for possible conflicts of interest?

The future ambassador certainly has a history of staunchly supporting Moon.

Shiner once said, “The Washington Times has been successful not in spite of Rev. Moon, but because of Rev. Moon. It is a fantastic success story.”

Moon reportedly has dumped $1.7 billion dollars into the newspaper, which has never made a profit. Some say its purpose is largely to garner him political influence within Washington.

Has that investment now begun to reap political dividends?

Shiner seemed to recognize Moon’s agenda when she said, “The Washington Times has become the sole source of media power in the world’s most powerful city defending those values which will lead the world out of darkness, panic and fear…I am deeply motivated to help fight this noble battle.”

But the former managing editor of the Times baled on that “battle” in 1997.

Shiner quit the Times to become the president of Empower America, associated with Jack Kemp. And that job helped her résumé as she subsequently moved higher up the Washington food chain

But according to Shiner she not only left Moon’s newspaper in 1997; she left his church too.

In an interview run in the Washington Post Shiner claimed she had become an Episcopalian.

The supposed ex-”Moonie” would not elaborate about her claimed change of heart, other than to say there was no “conversion” necessary. She was “just…received” at the Episcopal Church due to her early Catholic background.

The recently announced Shiner appointment is not the first time this President Bush has called upon someone with a Moon portfolio to fill an important government position.

Longtime Moon follower and political operative David Caprara was tapped by Bush in December to become the new director of AmeriCorps. at VISTA.

Like Shiner, Caprara previously made a professional pit stop at a Kemp connected organization.

Josette Shiner also recently changed her marital status. She divorced husband Whitney Shiner, a union that was once blessed by Rev. Moon.

Mr. Shiner, like his ex-wife, claims to have left the Unification Church. He is an associate professor at George Mason University in Washington.

So what is going on here?

Many “Moonies” did leave the organization in the late 90s after embarrassing details concerning the church’s First Family were made public by Rev. Moon’s former daughter-in-law Nansook Hong.

Hong’s tell-all book titled In the Shadow of the Moons, was published in 1998.

Was Josette Shiner just another disillusioned follower that left Moon orbit to embrace the traditional Christian messiah?

Or, has she simply moved undercover to the dark side of Moon, still helping her former boss and long-time mentor advance his political and global agenda?

Shiner once devotedly stated, “There is one man, one couple, in the world which has taken on the power of the anti-values media. That is Reverend and Mrs. Moon.”

Does she still believe that?

Perhaps this is all not that difficult to understand?

Shiner may have simply dumped her “messiah,” once she sensed he was no longer useful and had become instead a career liability.

The one-time Unification Church VIP, certainly has found favor from a far more powerful leader and lucrative source for future opportunities.

However, so far the soon-to-be “Ambassador Shiner,” hasn’t really explained her change of faith or “conversion” in any meaningful detail.

Interestingly, an old ruse observed as a “matter of faith” by many “Moonies” is called “heavenly deception.” Specifically, this is the practice of deliberate deceit to support a “heavenly” cause as defined by Rev. Moon.

Is Ms. Shiner presently engaged in some form of “heavenly deception” for the sake of her long-time “messiah”? The soon-to-be ambassador’s convenient conversion to mainline Christianity does seem a bit timely.

Most of Josette Shiner’s adult and professional life has been largely focused upon serving Rev. Moon. Where do her loyalties lie now?

Did the Baath Party and Iraq itself become a “cult” under the rule of Saddam?

The Baath political party is described as “entrenched in Saddam’s cult of personality,” by the China Post.

It is interesting to note that though there were 2 million Iraqis who claimed affiliation with the Baath Party, only 40,000 were actually “full members.” And that status required a multi-level process before final acceptance.

But rather than this process being based upon “cult brainwashing,” it is more likely that loyalty to Saddam was created through fear and greed.

The Baath Party that began in Damascus during 1947, eventually spawned two dictator families, one led by Assad in Syria and another controlled by Saddam.

Once upon a time Baath ideals were “unity, freedom and socialism.” But much like its Soviet predecessor, the party quickly devolved into little more than Stalinism. A dictator-driven centrally controlled hierarchy of elite loyalists ran everything.

One Iraqi in exile still defended this organizational structure explaining, “The [Baath Party] is accused of being a dictator party. It [had] to be. How else can you rule a country with six different ethnic and religious sects?”

However, many dictators have explained a need for totalitarianism with similar rationalizations, from Napoleon to Hitler. They too wanted a “united Europe” of desperate peoples, but under their rule.

The grand palaces and plentiful monuments of Saddam enveloped Iraq. Everywhere were statues and the likeness of the “great leader,” who became seemingly the personification of the country.

In many ways Saddam appeared to reflect the same megalomania typically associated with cult leaders.

Often when such charismatic leaders die their cult following or movement disintegrates.

Will there be an Iraq without Saddam?

Unlike North Korea, where the “Great Leader” has become a cult of religious devotion, Saddam ruled Iraq by “fear and favor,” not faith.

Though the Iraqi despot had his inner circle of sycophants and retainers who have now fled, the immediate looting that is taking place in Baghdad and Basra now that the enforcers are gone, is very telling.

Where is the “cult” of devotion now?

“The party became…[a] security system,” said one exiled Baathist.

But this is hardly a religion or cult.

The same former member outlined Baath priorities as informing on anyone “to protect the state,” anything could be done to “justify…the state” and those that deviated from “this path [would] be killed.”

This certainly describes the standards of a police state.

He concluded, “That was the end of any ideology.” And it seems the beginning of Saddam’s so-called “cult of personality.”

But after all the rhetoric, Saddam’s Iraq only turned out to be a “security system” run by thugs. And rather than “entrenched” the Iraqi people seem anxious to move on.

An old “Moonie brainwashing camp” was sold by the Unification Church of Rev. Moon in northern California, reports The Press Democrat.

The church led by the self-proclaimed “messiah” sold Aetna Springs resort, in a deal last month to a developer. The isolated site was once used to indoctrinate recruits through a process many see as “brainwashing.”

Attorney Ford Green was once held in Boonville a similar retreat. He said, “Aetna Springs for years was one of the Moonie brainwashing camps.” Ford says such camps are “pretty tough to leave,” adding, “I’m sure that was the desirable feature of the Aetna location — its isolation.”

The developer who bought Aetna Springs plans to turn it into a four-star resort.

Green said, “To have one less public health hazard in Napa County can’t be anything but good.”

Rev. Moon once spent time in a North Korean prisoner camp. Some say he may have learned about many of the techniques later used to “brainwash” recruits at his own camps largely through that experience.

Robert Jay Lifton, a noted psychiatrist, described those techniques in his book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism,” first published in 1961. The book would later be used as a means of explaining cult “brainwashing” to members during “deprogramming.”

Rev. Moon has become a powerful political figure in Washington since the days Aetna Springs was a thriving “Moonie” camp. He now owns the Washington Times newspaper, United Press International wire service and has close ties to the Bush family.

Today with tension mounting between the United States and North Korea, what can be done to promote better relations?

How about children called “Little Angels” performing precision drills to John Phillip Souza? And what if they did a rendition of “Amazing Grace” woven into a medley of Korean songs?

These are some of the routines a troop founded and still funded by Rev. Moon of the Unification Church can do. They recently went to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital as “ambassadors of peace,” reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The general director of “Little Angels” is the daughter of an old follower of Rev. Moon, but claims, “There’s nothing religious.”

However, given the history of the Unification Church and its hundreds of front organizations used for recruitment and to advance the personal agenda of its “messiah,” it is difficult to believe these “little angels” are totally innocent.

The children might be earnest, but Moon has used sincere people in the past to advance his purposes, which don’t appear angelic at all.

Personality cults and Communism have historically often gone hand in hand–from Stalin to Mao.

Oddly, today the only remaining political legacy of Stalinism is not in Russia, but within North Korea under the regime of the “Great Leader” Kim Jong Il.

And now an interesting historical exhibit has opened at Moscow’s Museum of Russian Contemporary History, titled, “Stalin: Man and Symbol.”

This retrospective explores the strange phenomenon of Stalinism through its residue of artifacts and memorabilia, which fills two rooms, reports the London Telegraph.

Stalin died in 1953 after a reign of terror that lasted thirty years and in many ways paralleled the modern history of North Korea.

Millions of Russians died through Stalinist purges, forced labor, gulags and mass starvation. But all this took place while the evil despot was seen as a benign father figure of almost supernatural stature, as the artifacts now on exhibit attest to.

Sound like the “Great Leader“?

But today Russians overwhelmingly recognize the horrors of that era, though a small minority still long for the certainty that accompanied Stalin’s rule.

There were no loose ends or ambiguity in Stalin’s Russia. He was the “great leader” and seemed to have all the answers.

Looking back it was Stalin’s total control of Soviet society, which enabled the dictator to essentially “brainwash” his people.

Russians were kept ignorant and unable to obtain and asses the information necessary to think outside of the box Stalin constructed, then known as the Soviet Empire.

Today some in Russia fear that admiration for President Vladimir Putin might evolve into another “personality cult.” However, it is doubtful that he has the will or the infrastructure to implement such a reactionary change.

Plainly put, Putin probably couldn’t close the box again, even if he wanted to. Russia is now a far more open society.

Old pensioner’s fond memories of Stalin seems like a longing for childhood, when daddy told them stories, controlled their lives and provided for the necessities.

It is very difficult for a totalitarian state to make the transition, from a society built upon learned dependence and absolute authority, to one based instead on independence and the value of individual freedom. In a free society people are expected to think for themselves.

North Korea’s Stalin was ironically born in Russia and died in 1994. But unlike his Russian prototype he left behind a family dynasty. Now Korea’s second Stalin rules over a closed, controlled and isolated domain with another son and heir apparent in waiting.

The question is, how many “Great Leaders” can North Korea endure?

Hopefully, one-day North Korea like Russia, will have an exhibit rather than a ruler to reflect upon the meaning of its own personality cult.

The museum curator of the Stalin artifacts said, “The exhibition is supposed to show how far propaganda can carry people in the praise of one person.”

Tomorrow the biggest birthday bash in the world will take place in North Korea. It will commemorate the 61st year of North Korea’s absolute dictator Kim Jong-iL, often called the “Great Leader,” reports The Guardian.

Never mind that the isolated nation has endured poverty, deprivation and starvation through the despot’s rule and now faces a growing crisis regarding nuclear weapons, it’s time to cut the cake and have a party.

The Workers party newspaper controlled by the “great” one gushed about the “magic of heaven” linked to the blessed event. There will be mass demonstrations, parades and endless speeches.

Some say North Korea represents perhaps the biggest cult in the world today. That is, a state devoted to one personality with complete totalitarian control.

The annual birthday bash tomorrow certainly reflects the depth and intensity of that devotion.

One Kim devotee said, “He is my father, also our father.”

Another birthday celebrant claimed, “No one can match his creativity and enthusiasm.”

This may be true. Kim has created a myriad of assets and holdings outside of his homeland and enthusiastically stashed away reportedly more than a billion dollars in foreign accounts.

Some say North Korea reflects “Big Brother-style brainwashing,” a reference to a fictional totalist world government described by George Orwell in his book 1984.

But even Orwell might be shocked at the level of control achieved by this “big daddy.”

Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church, is calling upon his devotees to go to Korea and “witness for peace,” reports The Billings Gazette.

In Montana the Unification Church is now called “The Family Church of Billings.” Its pastor hopped a flight for Seoul on Monday and an elder followed two days later.

One of the Moon devotees said, “We hope to relieve the tension.”

Perhaps things are getting a bit tense for Rev. Moon. The self-proclaimed “messiah” has sunk $55 million dollars in North Korea, through a company he owns called Pyonghwa Motors.

A Montana Moon follower said, “If there is an opportunity to go to North Korea, I’d go.”

It’s hard to believe that Moon, the supposedly conservative and staunchly anti-Communist owner of the Washington Times, or his followers, would want to help Communist North Korea, but they do.

Maybe it’s nostalgia? Moon was once held prisoner in North Korea for two years.

Perhaps Kim Jong Il the “Great Leader” of North Korea and Rev. Moon the “messiah” have more in common than meets the eye, after all they have both been called totalitarian “cult leaders.” And both men conrol billions of dollars as a result of that status.

Some say that dictator Kim Jong Il, known as the “Great Leader” to North Koreans, is little more than a “cult leader.” They point out the way he has systematically “brainwashed” his people and controls Korean society.

Well, like many historical cult leaders he also seems to have a penchant for living the good life, through the exploitation of followers.

While the people of North Korea remain largely impoverished and often go hungry Kim lives lavishly.

Newsweek (January 13, 2003) reported that the “Great Leader” is having a good time, while the world fears what he may do next.

On a special train ride through Russia Kim brought along his two armored Mercedes and told his host about the girls in Paris nightclubs. Later his beautiful female staff serenaded him. His beverage preferences for the trip were Bordeaux, Burgundy and Hennesy Paradis cognac at $650.00 per bottle. He consumed 20 course dinners.

Kim ordered 200 Class S Mercedes in 1998 for a total cost of $20 million. This beats Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who ended up with just 90 Rolls Royces, by the time he was deported from the US.

Kim has also imported pizza ovens and two Milanese chefs to teach his staff how to make pizzas. And he doesn’t like anchovies.

Where does all the money to pay for this come from?

Kim uses slave labor to mine gold in North Korea. And he reportedly has stashed away billions in Switzerland. The dictator also has a villa in Geneva as well as five other mansions in Europe.

In the end it seems that all that this “Great Leader” really represents, is a “Great Rip-off.”

“I will kill you like an American Imperialist,” is a popular curse in North Korea. The people there are subjected to a barrage of constant anti-US propaganda in an effort to unify the country, often through hate of the outside world, reports Associated Press.

A South Korean fisherman who was kidnapped and spent 20 years in North Korea said, “It’s a daily fodder in North Korea. The first thing you hear when you wake up for the day is some form of diatribe against the Americans.”

A North Korean who defected in 1994 says, “If you rule a destitute country with a personality cult, you must present the people with something to hate. It’s brainwashing.”

Not unlike totalitarian dictators of the past who promoted cults of personality North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il, known as “Dear One,” reinforces his control through fear and hate.

Like Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini, the original “Axis of Evil,” Kim Jung Il uses the requisite scapegoats, mythology, alleged conspiracies, grandiose pretension and xenophobia, to reinforce his rule.

North Korea, frequently described as a “Stalinist state,” follows that sorry chapter in Russian history closely too. Stalin was responsible for the deaths of millions of his countrymen and created an aura of almost supernatural power and mystique about him.

“Stalinism” was by definition personality-driven.

And just like Stalin the “Dear One” largely possesses the minds of his people by controlling all information within his country and virtually any contact with the outside world. Kim Jong Il has carefully crafted a worldview for North Koreans, which effectively excludes any objective accounts of history.

Hopefully, one day North Korea will follow Russian history one more step and eventually pull down the statues of the Stalinist demigods, who have brought that nation decades of needless misery.

But the pressing question now is what has the rest of the world learned from history about dealing with such tyrants?