Day 145: Diane Benscoter on how cults rewire the brain.

Aged 17, Diane Benscoter went to a peace protest and within a week believed she had been specially chosen by God to be Sun Myong Moon’s disciple. She spent five years as a Moonie, until her family had her deprogrammed and she became a deprogrammer herself. After five years as a deprogrammer she was arrested for kidnapping and gave up for many years until she decided to write her book.
As she was writing, Benscoter came across a documentary on Jonestown, where 900 people died in one day, most by committing suicide. She had to admit to herself that she knew how this could happen and how people could be brainwashed. She describes it as a ‘Viral- memetic infection.’
According to Benscoter, vulnerable people revert to easy circular thinking. This becomes impenetrable and creates an idea of ‘us and them.’ It also makes anything rationalisable. Scientists are starting to look inside the brain; she’s convinced hers would look different from those who think rationally. This gives her hope, as it means cults are a human problem that can be fixed. She is now on a mission to battle extreme mentalities and their consequences.


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