Alanzo: Brainwashing Is a Sticky Belief – but Does It Exist?

By Allen ‘Alanzo; Stanfield

Aristotle’s Sausage wrote, “There are plenty of people within Nxivm, and DOS, who didn’t go along. Who said ‘screw this’ and left.”

Yes. These are the “misses” that never get counted for believers in brainwashing. It’s incredibly important to count the hits AND the misses. The misses usually give you a benchmark.

A great example of this sappy reasoning happens in AntiScientology when they talk about the poor “2nd Generation Scientologists”, or those who have been “born in” to Scientology.

They constantly say “but they never had a choice!!!”

All you have to do is count the number of children of Scientologists who never followed their parents into Scientology. That is by far the overwhelming majority. Only a small fraction of people followed their parents into Scientology. This proves 2nd Gens chose to join Scientology.

The sociologist Eileen Barker conducted a famous experiment on “Moonie Brainwashing” in the early 1980’s. Throughout the 70’s newspapers and TV shows were screeching that the Moonies held three-day seminars where people were being brainwashed into joining. All kinds of brainwashing techniques were claimed to be applied to people in those seminars to get them to join against their will.

So Eileen Barker attended these three day seminars and counted the people in the room on the 1st day, the 2nd day, and the 3rd day. Then she counted the number of people who joined out of all those who signed up for the seminars. She found that fully 90% of those who attended these three-day Moonie brainwashing seminars didn’t join up.

And she also found that the remaining 10% who did join up from these seminars quit the Moonies within two years.

So if brainwashing was really applied here, then it had no power. And if something like brainwashing has no power, does brainwashing really exist?


Steven Hassan is described as “America’s leading cult expert” and “America’s leading exit counselor.” 

“Cult Expert” Steven Hassan still claims to this day that Moonie brainwashing was applied and it’s VERY POWERFUL, without evidence and without any quantitative analysis.

But “Dr.” Steven Hassan has books to sell on brainwashing, and family members to terrify so he can shake them down for up to $40,000 per deprogramming.

He can’t let science get in the way of that.

Brainwashing is a sticky belief. Some people want it to be true so bad they’ll start switching words to describe it.

What AntiCultists believe when they use the term brainwashing is “a set of techniques cult leaders use to get you to believe things against your will, and against your own self-interests.” They often talk of a supposed “playbook” that ‘all cult leaders use’ to accomplish this.

Then, when you start examining this claim and giving them the science, anticultists switch terms.

Brainwashing becomes “mind control”.

Then you prove that’s the same thing and so mind control becomes ‘thought reform’.

Then, upon further inspection, that is abandoned and it becomes “undue influence”.

Then when you say this is a concept from law – one of the five ways a contract can be broken – not unique to cults and it’s been used in courts for 500 years, it becomes “coercive persuasion”.

And now we’re into techniques used on every used car lot in the western world.

See how the goalposts get moved? The original claim is abandoned and something else replaces it because people who have adopted the belief in brainwashing find it useful to rationalize, excuse, vilify and terrify people.

Some people, like Steven Hassan, Rachel Bernstein, Rick Ross, and Janja Lalich, build money-making careers out of terrifying people with it, so they can offer their deprogramming services.

It’s just like the belief in witchcraft. People believe in witchcraft. They write books about it. They form covens and cast spells and incantations. They accuse others of being witches so they can burn them at the stake and take their land and livestock. But when science studies whether all those spells and incantations actually do anything, witchcraft is found to be without power.

L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron Hubbard believed in brainwashing. But he also believed that psychiatrists came from the Planet Farsec.

L. Ron Hubbard revealed to his followers the existence of Xenu. the dictator of the “Galactic Confederacy” who brought billions of his people to Earth (then known as “Teegeeack”) in spacecraft 75 million years ago, placed them around volcanoes, and killed them with hydrogen bombs. Scientology scriptures hold that the spirits (thetans) of these murdered aliens adhere to humans, causing harm.

The CIA, through its MKUltra program and others, ran a kind of “brainwashing arms race” for decades because they thought the Russians and the Chinese had cracked the code on brainwashing. The CIA destroyed the minds of Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and many others through their brutal and cruel experimentation, and unleashed them on the world. These government operators deserve to be fully prosecuted but never will be.

The fact is that nobody, including L. Ron Hubbard, Keith Raniere, Jim Jones, Shoko Asahara, and Marshall Applewhite, can make you believe anything you don’t want to believe.

Jim Jones may or may not be a potent argument for the existence of brainwashing.

And so, when you really think about it, this might be more terrifying to people than believing in brainwashing.

A question was asked, “But do you believe people can be “radicalized”?”

I read a lot of scientific studies, including a 2006 paper called “The Market for Martyrs” by Laurence R. Iannaccone of George Mason University.

Here’s the abstract:

Injury-oriented sacrifice is a market phenomenon grounded in exchanges between a relatively small supply of “martyrs” and a relatively large number of “demanders” who benefit from the martyrs’ acts. Contrary to popular perception, it is because of limited demand rather than limited supply that such markets rarely flourish. Suicidal attacks almost never profit the groups best equipped to recruit, train, and direct the potential killers. Once established, however, the markets are hard to shut down from the supply side –because so few “martyrs” are required and because terrorist “firms” can readily substitute across different methods and recruits. On the other hand, relatively small changes in the political and economic environment can combine to undermine the market’s demand side.

Here’s my post on it: Scientific Studies That Debunk The Brainwashing Myth

A lot of people accuse me of being a “cult shill” for arguing this point, or claim that it proves I’m a secret Scientologist working for the Office of Special Affairs.

But the hard lessons I learned getting myself into and out of Scientology, and then getting myself into and out of Anti-Scientology, taught me that there are no “sides” to the truth. Fact and the truth exist no matter who benefits from it.

So call me a cult shill. But show me the evidence that supports the claim that brainwashing exists.

You can’t.

No one can.


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  • Even advocates of brainwashing theories have abandoned the term because it’s so loaded, and no one can agree on what it means. More accurate terminology, she said, includes terms like “conversion,” “conditioning,” and “coercion.”
    Like the famous Stanford Prison Experiment which showed how deference to authority can encourage people to do what they know is wrong.
    Or look at prisoners of war who publicly denounced their home country just to survive. When they are released from captivity, however, they revert to their true beliefs. People frequently abandon their beliefs as soon as they leave coercive environments — that’s why there’s so much pressure to stay inside one.

    • Hi Adam –

      You seem to be quoting someone here:

      “More accurate terminology, she said, includes terms like “conversion,” “conditioning,” and “coercion.” “


      Also, I think you have the Milgram Experiment mixed up with the Stanford Prison Experiment.

      It was the Milgram experiment which showed deference to authority.

      And the Stanford Prison Experiment, which claimed to investigate the development of norms and the effects of roles, labels, and social expectations in a simulated prison environment, has been repeatedly debunked in the recent decade and the experiment’s mascot, Philip Zimbardo, has been disgraced.

      Science marches on.


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