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What You Should Know About CESNUR

CESNUR and Brainwashing

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CESNUR and Brainwashing

As noted earlier, CESNUR is concerned about brainwashing theories. Thus the folks at CESNUR spend lots of time and effort attacking what they consider to be misconceptions regarding the issue of "brainwashing." The suggestion is that all or most anticult and countercult professionals believe cult members are "brainwashed zombies" in need of "deprogramming." However, that is not the case.

In this section, we'll see how CESNUR defends its views on brainwashing. First, though, let's take a look at the moderate position:
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Moderate position on "brainwashing" and "mind control"

Like the vast majority of anticult- and countercult organizations, Apologetics Index maintains a moderate view regarding this issue:

Many groups use unethical persuasion tactics in recruiting and retaining members. These methods can range from love bombing to scare tactics (imposing high exit costs, e.g. convincing a person that leaving the group means losing one's salvation).

While such psychological manipulation can be seen as a form of mind control, Apologetics Index does not hold the view that individuals who join - or remain with - cultic movements become irresponsible, mindless automatons, unable to think for themselves.

We recognize Phillip Zimbardo's view as realistic:

A remarkable thing about cult mind control is that it's so ordinary in the tactics and strategies of social influence employed. They are variants of well-known social psychological principles of compliance, conformity, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, framing, emotional manipulation, and others that are used on all of us daily to entice us: to buy, to try, to donate, to vote, to join, to change, to believe, to love, to hate the enemy.

Cult mind control is not different in kind from these everyday varieties, but in its greater intensity, persistence, duration, and scope. One difference is in its greater efforts to block quitting the group, by imposing high exit costs, replete with induced phobias of harm, failure, and personal isolation.
Phillip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., What Is The Message Behind Today's Cults?Off-site Link

Again, the vast majority of anticult- and countercult professionals hold a similar, balanced position on this issue. Not so CESNUR. It summarily dismisses brainwashing theories and attempts to convince interested parties that the discussion has been closed. Not so fast, says sociologist Benjamin Zablocki:

Social scientists seeking to debunk the brainwashing conjecture have often spoken as if extensive research has already been done on the behavior of cult participants and as if definitive conclusions could now be formed. And, indeed, there has been a great deal published concerning cults in the past ten years. However, a close examination of this vast quantity of writings shows that it is based upon a very skimpy body of actual data. Most of the best research that has been done consists of ethnographic monographs on single NRMs, and all of this remains to be synthesized. The few epidemiological or other comparative and quantitative studies have most often been based upon small sample sizes and unrepresentative samples.69 I also think some researchers have been naive in underestimating the ability of cults to put a favorable spin on research findings by "helping" social science investigators get in touch with subjects to be interviewed. At the other end of the spectrum, samples based upon psychiatric outpatient lists are similarly biased.
Benjamin Zablocki, The Blacklisting of a Concept: The Strange History of the Brainwashing Conjecture in the Sociology of Religion., Nova Religio (Note: article available to subscribers only. ExcerptsOff-site Link)

Basically, Zablocki argues against polarization and for moderation among those who either support or deny the existence of brainwashing. CESNUR, however, appears not to be interested in a balanced approach.
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CESNUR's Fight Against Brainwashing Theories

The following exchange of articles and messages illustrates not only CESNUR's views regarding brainwashing, but also provides insight into how the organization presents and defends itself.

In April, 1998, GRIS (Group of Research and Information on the Sects), an Italian counter-cult organization, published an article called:

In it, dr. Alberto Amitrani and dr. Raffaella Di Marzio expose CESNUR's (and Massimo Introvigne's) misrepresentation of an APA (American Psychological Association) memo (included with article) on "Mind Control". The article is mirrored hereOff-site Link.  (1) 

CESNUR responded to the above article in it.politica.cattoliciOff-site Link, a Usenet newsgroup. That message, archived by Deja NewsOff-site Link, said:

CESNUR has just being attacked on the Web by GRIS, the Italian counter-cult Catholic organization, on brainwashing. Although GRIS includes some fine and nice persons and we have always avoided any direct attack, now we are more or less accused of lying about the American Psychological Association's position, and legitimate defense suggested to reply.
Our reply (with references to the original criticism) is at
http://www.cesnur.org/GRIS.htm
Interestingly, GRIS thanks Langone and Zablocki for their co-operation
in preparing the attack.
Best regards to all
Massimo Introvigne

"Langone" refers to Michael Langone, and Zablocki refers to Benjamin Zablocki

The URL mentioned in the message led to a CESNUR Press Release which soon was taken offline. However, a site critical of CESNUR posted an English translation of the Press Release:

In turn, GRIS responded to CESNUR's Press Release:

In it's Usenet message, CESNUR said "...we are more or less accused of lying about the American Psychological Association's position...". Understandably, CESNUR therefore defends its views on its own web site:

But for a long-story-short approach, see

Introvigne DixitOff-site Link
A textual comparison between CESNUR's statements and the content of the "APA Memorandum" of 11 May, 1987.

See also:

In November, 1998, CESNUR posted

"Liar, Liar": Brainwashing, CESNUR and APAOff-site Link an article by Massimo Introvigne.

One response to that latest attempt at self-justification and re-direction is found here:

And GRIS' response to "Liar, Liar" is here:

The story continues...

More on "Brainwashing"

For more on the subject of brainwashing, see dr. Alberto Amitrani's

Blind, or just don't want to see?Off-site Link: "Brainwashing", mystification and suspicion - by dr. Alberto Amitrani and dr. Raffaella Di Marzio

Additional articles are listed here.
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