Steven Hassan (@CultExpert) has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence (authoritarian control). With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence and controlling groups and individuals. He is the founder of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, and a founding collaborator of the #iGotOut movement.
What We Discuss with Steven Hassan:
- How a disinformation crusade like QAnon takes root and thrives in the politically polarized petri dish of modern America (with a little help from its outside adversaries).
- Why the trope of non-human elites ritualistically sustaining themselves on the essence of innocent children should seem familiar — because this blood libel has been most famously used to normalize the persecution of Jews from the Middle Ages to the Holocaust and beyond.
- How QAnon appeals not only to the predictable dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks demographic, but a surprising number of seemingly otherwise intelligent people who are counterintuitively more susceptible to its influence than most.
- How Steven’s BITE model applies to QAnon’s manipulation of behavior, information, thought, and emotion among its followers to show it for what it is: a destructive cult with elements of psyops thrown in for good measure.
- What we can and should do when people we care about have been sucked down the QAnon rabbit hole and we want to see them safely tethered back to reality.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
QAnon is a modern-day conspiracy cult espousing the belief that Donald Trump is masterminding a reckoning against a cabal of Satanic Democrats and Hollywood elites who cannibalize children (perhaps as pizza toppings) in order to remain forever-young puppetmasters of the world. It sounds like the stupidest sci-fi novel L. Ron Hubbard’s worst fever dreams could have cooked up and should be laughably treated as such, but an untold number of your family, friends, neighbors, and even government representatives subscribe to this load of half-chewed baloney as fact. But how? Freedom of Mind Resource Center founder and #iGotOut founding collaborator (and ex-Moonie) Steven Hassan joins us to try and make sense of how the QAnon phenomenon became so pervasive and figure out what we can do to help shake its influence over the mainstream and our loved ones.
If you want to learn why your crazy uncle somehow got way crazier and what keeps your grandma staying up well past 2:00 a.m. perusing the weird part of YouTube, this episode may give you a bit more insight and even the tools to help them leave QAnon behind. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss our two-parter with former mobster Anthony S. Luciano? Get caught up by starting with episode 425: Anthony S. Luciano Raimondi | The Mob Enforcer Part One here!
THANKS, STEVEN HASSAN!
If you enjoyed this session with Steven Hassan, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Steven Hassan | Combating Cult Mind Control Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Steven Hassan | Combating Cult Mind Control Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Combating Cult Mind Control: The Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults by Steven Hassan
- Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs by Steven Hassan
- The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steven Hassan
- Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- Steven Hassan | Instagram
- Steven Hassan | Facebook
- Steven Hassan | Twitter
- Steven Hassan | YouTube
- Steven Hassan’s BITE Model of Authoritarian Control | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- QAnon 101: The Search for Q | Vice
- Dismantling QAnon: A TEDxMidAtlantic Must Watch Program | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- How to Help People Involved in QAnon: A Reddit AMA: QAnonCasualties | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- ‘Trump Just Used Us and Our Fear’: One Woman’s Journey Out of QAnon | The New York Times
- The QAnon Media Ecosystem Is Not Helping People to Exit | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- Conspiracy Resources | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- How to Help | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- Blood Libel | The Holocaust Encyclopedia
- Satya Sai Baba’s Tricks Identified | Kishore Kumar, YouTube
- QAnon and the BITE Model (Control of Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions) | Freedom of Mind Resource Center
- Cognitive Dissonance Theory | Simply Psychology
- Garry Kasparov Would Like You to Stop Saying ‘Trump Is Playing 4-D Chess’ | Politico
- Active Measures | Prime Video
- The Vow | Prime Video
- We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee
- Celeste Headlee | How to Have Conversations That Matter | Jordan Harbinger
- How to Avoid Scams | Deep Dive | Jordan Harbinger
Transcript for Steven Hassan | The #iGotOut Guide to Quitting QAnon (Episode 471)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Steven Hassan: You're not going to be effective helping someone in a QAnon cult by trying to be factual, by trying to point out specific things. If you ask them to go back in time and then you can ask them to walk slowly, how they came to where they are today. And in that process, you're starting from a place where they're not under mind control and you're able to then ask questions and remind them that this was — what video was it that really captured your attention and made you take it seriously? Or was there a particular person in your life?
[00:00:42] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills, the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional Emmy-nominated comedian, drug trafficker, or neuroscientist. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:10] If you're new to the show or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we now have episodes starter packs. These are collections of your favorite episodes, organized by popular topics to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on this show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started with us which of course we always appreciate.
[00:01:31] Today, we're doing a little bit of a deep dive into QAnon, how this bizarre cult, which is really what it is. So it's hard to sort of put Q into a box here, QAnon. They claimed that there are people with high level security clearances in the government, leaking important information in the form of these cryptic riddles. They post on social media, whoever it is. It's a group of people we suspect. They post these cryptic riddles or Bible quotes or whatever it is on social media. And then people who call themselves Bakers. Go and search the Internet and essentially connect dots that are just not even there in the social media posts. And then come up with conclusions or predictions about things that are going to happen.
[00:02:14] Such as there's a secret cabal of Democrats and shape-shifting lizard aliens that drink children's blood to stay young. And no, I'm not making that up. That is a real claim. This is a centuries old conspiracy theory minus the Democrats, of course. Called the Blood Libel that has been used for hundreds and hundreds of years on everyone from Christians to Jews to now Democrats and Hollywood celebrities. They also claim that JFK, Jr. faked his own death so that he could come back and replace Mike Pence as the vice president of the United States. Why he would do that? Of course, it's anyone's guess and makes absolutely no sense, along with everything else these people claim. There are dozens and dozens, more claims about events and people that have obviously never come to be. I'm just giving you a small sample of the crazy here.
[00:02:56] Today, we'll get into who Q claims to be, why tons of people, especially Baby Boomer Generation are into it now. We estimate there are millions of people following this. So that's why I'm bothering you today with this stupidity, really, which is what it is in many respects. Otherwise, this would safely be ignored, but so many people are drinking the digital Kool-Aid. It's causing problems in families. Our Feedback Friday advice inbox is full of people. Just like you, that say, "My grandma, my grandpa, my uncle, my parents are into this insanity. What do I do?" So, if you want to learn why your crazy Uncle Frank just got way crazier and why your grandma is now staying up until 2:00 a.m. watching YouTube insanity, this episode may just give you a bit more insight here. And I brought my friend and cult expert returning guest to the show. Steven Hassan. Dr. Steven Hassan, I might add now who gave us our deep dive, our two-part deep dive on cults a few years ago. I brought him back on the show to do a dive into this and tell us just what the hell is going on here.
[00:03:57] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all of these great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it's because of the network. I'm teaching you how to build your network for free, whether it's for personal, job, career, whatever over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Most of the guests on the show, they're in the course, they subscribe to the course. They contribute to this course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now let's talk about QAnon with Dr. Steven Hassan.
[00:04:24] So are you Dr. Steven Hassan now? Are we going to have to update?
[00:04:26] Steven Hassan: I am. I am Dr. Steven Hassan and my dissertation is on undue influence trafficking, mind control, thought reform, and the law. And I did a quantitative study on my BITE model, and it came out very significant for authoritarian control. So instead of calling it the BITE model of mind control, I'm now referring to it as the BITE model of authoritarian control, which works actually quite better in terms of explaining to the public authoritarianism.
[00:04:59] Jordan Harbinger: So it sounds a little bit, not that the other way sounded hokey, but I got to say it's an upgrade because now you can talk about any authoritarian regime and not just alien zapping us with the lasers or whatever people think of when they think of mind control, right?
[00:05:11] Steven Hassan: Yeah, exactly. And when I looked at the dictionary definition of authoritarianism, it basically said blind submission to authority and suppression of your own individual thoughts and well, that's what it is. It really fits.
[00:05:26] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, so let's dive right in because there's—
[00:05:29] Steven Hassan: Can I just compliment first?
[00:05:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:32] Steven Hassan: Since being on your podcast, the first time I've become a fan and you've had such interesting guests that I've learned a lot from.
[00:05:39] Jordan Harbinger: I'm glad to hear that.
[00:05:40] Steven Hassan: I love that you're so interested in the mind and psychology and cults and helping people to get out of situations as well as preventively educated. So when you asked me if I'd be up for doing this, I'm like, "Absolutely."
[00:05:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, I'm glad you could make it. I mean, I know we're doing it on a weekend, so I really appreciate it. But I know you have just as much of a passion for getting people out of cults or authoritarian mind control. I guess we'll use your term, right? Right away.
[00:06:09] Steven Hassan: Right.
[00:06:09] Jordan Harbinger: You're one of the first people that I thought of when I thought of QAnon and figuring out what the heck it was. Because I went through it a few stages with this, which I assume people go through with any new movement or cult, which is me thinking, "This is dumb. It's never going to catch on." When it caught on, I thought, "What kind of craziness is this? It can't get that big." And then when it got big, I thought, "Well, we must just have a lot of stupid people." And now I'm in the — I don't know, whatever your fourth or fifth stage where I go, "Wait, there's a lot of intelligent people that are in it." There's also a hell of a lot of people that are not educated or intelligent in it, I would say the majority, but it's not just — there's people who are in it, where I go, "What? Why would you, how did this happen to you?" And that's what got me thinking, "Oh, it's just like a cult." It's like those cults where you pass the celebrity center on Hollywood Boulevard and you go, "What kind of idiot joins that?" And then you meet somebody, you respect and they're in there and you go, "What happened?" And then you realize that mind control doesn't just afflict Uncle Frank, who goes to Thanksgiving because he thinks that I don't know, the Jews are invading our, you know, media or whatever, conspiracy. It's not just those people. It's people that should know better, but don't and have been manipulated.
[00:07:16] Steven Hassan: Right. And I would say as a generalization, everybody walks around thinking, "It could never happen to me. I'm too smart. I'm educated, I'm traveled." And it's that myth of invulnerability or that lack of humility or that lack of awareness of just how the mind works and how — I know you're into magic and how people — so attention can be redirected and manipulated. And impressions created. And they're like, "Wow, that's spirits — that's magical."
[00:07:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:48] Steven Hassan: And then the cult leaders say, "Yes, that's spiritual. Like Sai Baba would do a prestidigitation. Is that the right word?
[00:07:56] Jordan Harbinger: Prestidigitation? What is that?
[00:07:57] Steven Hassan: He would bring out Rolex watches out of thin air and people were sure he manifested it from divine power versus sleight of hand.
[00:08:06] Jordan Harbinger: And again, when you say it, I think what kind of dunce, I mean, when I'm looking at magic on America's Got Talent, I know that what I'm seeing is a trick. I'm just in awe of how much practice it must've taken for this guy to look like he's constantly pulling playing cards out of the air when they must be, I don't know, up his sleeves or something. I mean, it just, you just recognize the skill. Just like I would a basketball player who can seemingly slam a shot from the line like that to me is impressive. I guess it's amazing in a bad way, for me, when people say, "This must be actual magic. Everything I know must be wrong."
[00:08:40] And we'll get into that in a little bit, but I want to start off with just a brief definition. What is QAnon? Because I defined it before as a conspiracy theory or a prank or a hoax, and now it's become — has it become, is it officially a cult? It sure seems to be.
[00:08:55] Steven Hassan: I do believe that it's an authoritarian political call and it has different branches. Some are more religious than others. Some are into just believing in trafficking and saving children. But I did a BITE model analysis of QAnon. It's on my website at freedomofmind.com. And people act like they have been programmed into this radical sealed ideology of us versus them, black and white, good versus evil. All the critical media is fake media. All of their stuff is true. And what their leaders are saying are correct. And just a ton of fear manipulation, hate manipulation.
[00:09:39] So, you know, we could go through the entire model. I didn't bring it up on my computer before this call, but it really is not just a conspiracy theory. It's an actual PSYOPs, authoritarians PSYOPs. And the goal is to create dependent, obedient followers who will give money and donate their time and recruit others and do political actions.
[00:10:03] Jordan Harbinger: When you say PSYOPs, a lot of people don't necessarily know what that is, but are we talking about, like what we would be talking about when we see Cold War Russia propaganda, or something along those lines?
[00:10:14] Steven Hassan: It's more advanced. It's a psychological operation. And in my book, The Cult of Trump, I talk about a fourth-generation warfare, which is psychological warfare, not to convince the other side to join you, but to disrupt, disorient, too de-legitimized leaders, de-legitimized institutions like governments, de-legitimized science. You know, so the COVID was a hoax. But the idea is to make people so confused and so disoriented that they all respond to the very confident voice that says, "I know what is going on here. Trust me. Everything will be fine."
[00:10:58] Jordan Harbinger: Well, that's interesting. You should say, "Trust me, everything will be fine," because one of the taglines that I see, I did way too much Q research. Of course, not as much as anybody who studies this, but let's just say my weekend has gone down a pretty negative rabbit hole studying Q. And what you see is mottos, like "Where we go, one, we go all," which is a little creepy, but also is kind of along those lines. And also, "Trust the plan." You'll see this in forums where people say things like, "Hey, so the inauguration did happen, even though Q said it wasn't going to happen. And Q said this was going to happen and it never happened." And someone will say, "What's wrong with you? Trust the plan." And other people will be like, "Ban this guy from the forum. Trust the plan, idiot," you know, stuff like that. And it really just screams, "Hey, critical thinking, get that sh*t out of here." Like that's what I see on the forum.
[00:11:47] Steven Hassan: Yeah. So as a Moonie, to remind your listeners, if they haven't heard my podcast previously with you, I was involved with the Moonies cult in the mid-70s. So I very much understand the mindset so well, and this notion where you're trained to do thought-stopping; to shut down any critical thought against the leader, the doctrine, or the group; to stay centered and to be trustworthy; and in case of religious, commitments to not let Satan get to you.
[00:12:20] And people can be reprogrammed pretty easily as many people can be hypnotized, covertly. Their minds can be hacked. And what's terrifying for family members and friends is when somebody goes down that rabbit hole and they start proselytizing to them. And any rational conversation goes out the window because they're so into it.
[00:12:44] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned earlier the BITE model. And I would love to talk a little bit about that for people who didn't hear our two-parter from — man, like three years ago, it was at least, I don't know, for quite a while ago. We'll link to that in the show notes where we went over the BITE model in depth. But I would love to hear what that sort of two, three-minute definition is for people that have no idea what you're talking about. You originated this and it's basically the model that people now use to analyze mind control, authoritarian mind control, cult mind control, whatever you want to call it.
[00:13:12] Steven Hassan: And I did my doctoral dissertation on it. So it's actually now a scientifically validated instrument.
[00:13:19] Jordan Harbinger: That's cool.
[00:13:20] Steven Hassan: And essentially when I first got out of the Moonies and started studying brainwashing and mind control, I learned all the models of former military intelligence folks, people like Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Louis West Edgar Schein. And then when I read the book, When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger and learned about cognitive dissonance theory, I thought thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and people want to have alignments between their behavior, their thoughts, and their feelings.
[00:13:52] That's like an organizing principle because people don't like to be in conflict, fundamentally. I thought I could take those three, take those other models, and think about the actual behaviors that went into how I was recruited, how I recruited other people, how we indoctrinated people and begin to just kind of break it down to the elements that are most important. And what I realized there was something really important missing. And I came to the realization that it was information control, the lying, lack of informed consent for people who are familiar with the law and legal concepts.
[00:14:29] Jordan Harbinger: So lack of informed consent would be where maybe, I just don't tell you what we're going to do. And QAnon does this too, right? They say, "Hey, look, this is about saving the children. We're just against pedophiles. What are you pro pedophile? Are you creep?" And you go, "Well, no, I'm for getting pedophiles off the streets," and then it's like... three weeks later, you're up at four o'clock in the morning watching videos about how Nancy Pelosi is secretly a lizard person from another planet.
[00:14:55] Steven Hassan: Yeah, so I kind of categorize the deception as outright lying, distortions to make it palatable, to kind of twist things and put the focus on certain things, or withholding vital information. And it's my position that any legitimate group, any legitimate movement, any legitimate relationship, you should know upfront, who you're getting involved with, what they believe, and what's going to happen to you if you get involved. And not just be love-bombed, and welcome — we're working together to save the planet. Who doesn't want to help other people? Great. But it's the information that's so vital at the top of the pyramid that people at the bottom have no knowledge of nor do they know the history of it.
[00:15:43] If they were recruiting and say — you know, Q predicted Hillary Clinton was going to be arrested in 2017, it didn't happen. That would be a very different vibe.
[00:15:54] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:15:54] Steven Hassan: They're saying, "We have the top-military intelligence folks that know what's really going on and who want to purge the government of all the bad stuff, et cetera." But getting back to the BITE model information control — I mean, information is what we exist on as human beings. The brain is taking in information at such high rates. As you've said with many of your guests, that we have this filtering mechanism through our beliefs, through our unconscious heuristics.
[00:16:26] And it's really critical what your sources of information are. It's really critical to be able to assess. Are there facts? Is there evidence or is this a claim? And as you've said on your show, the more extreme the claim, the more extreme the proof has to be before you even take it seriously. The frame has always flipped where it's your responsibility to do the research instead of them who is recruiting you to the research. And then when I actually talk with people and ask what changed their mind and what research, it wasn't research, they were just being indoctrinated.
[00:17:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. The common retort to me, talking to people online or in person about Q, is they say, "Do your research." And I go, "What do you mean? Because that's what anti-vaxxers say to me too." And then when I asked for the research, they sent me five YouTube videos that are mixtures of other people's YouTube videos, half the time, kind of smashed together with weird music and or hypnotic music or just bad music. And then a voiceover by somebody who's recording this from what I can only imagine is either their own or their mothers or even their grandmother's basement somewhere.
[00:17:38] And that's supposed to be researched and then I'll say, "Oh, okay, well, here's a couple of articles from USA Today," another one from the Washington Post and the New York Times, or even just a regular magazine about science or psychology. And they'll go, "Ah, you sheep! Mainstream media, no wonder you don't know anything." So any source you bring that has anything to do with actual science, you're a sheep for reading it. And you're an idiot for reading it. But then they'll bring out something that is the equivalent of belly button lint in written form. And they expect you to just swallow it whole.
[00:18:12] Steven Hassan: I love the belly button lint. That's fantastic. You know, as a Moonie, anything critical of Sun Myung Moon and the Unification, that was communist propaganda. It wasn't facts. It's that same kind of mindset. If you accept the authority figures, instructions of what you can trust and what you can't trust, then you are not using an internal locus of control. "Hey, it's my life. You're wanting my time. You're wanting mine money. You're wanting my volunteer labor. I need to make sure that what you're saying is correct to me," and people get overwhelmed.
[00:18:51] And I guess I want to say also that people are in particularly vulnerable moments of the last few years, but especially this last year where the pandemic, the economy. People are so stressed out. They're so anxious. So many people are not sleeping well, it makes the brain not think clearly. And it makes people much more receptive to that kind of very confident voice that we know. "You'll see. Trump thinks five dimensions more than you do. So don't make evaluations. It may look like silly, but actually, it's part of the plan," as he said.
[00:19:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right. People will say, "Well, General Flynn is playing 5D chess." And it's like, "Really? This guy who was going to go to prison until the last second is really five steps ahead of everyone else." You know, it doesn't make any sense. You get backed into the corner by an FBI in a very elementary lie. That was quite easily disproven by their own surveillance and information. That's 5D chess, but then they're like, "No, no, that was also part of the plan because then he was inside and recruiting other people on the inside." It's just a bunch of—
[00:20:02] Steven Hassan: Yeah, it's called rationalizing and justifying and trying to fit pieces together that actually don't make any sense.
[00:20:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on. I don't want people to be like, oh, this is just some anti — I guess Flynn, I don't know if he's political now. or just kind of an outside the politics box figure.,
[00:20:18] Steven Hassan: Oh, he's very political, he's got his digital soldiers.
[00:20:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:20:21] Steven Hassan: And he's making a lot of money. No, I think for me the issue is authoritarianism. Not right or left
[00:20:27] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That's, I guess, what I mean. It's not—
[00:20:29] Steven Hassan: Yeah.
[00:20:29] Jordan Harbinger: There's a lot of people who listen and they're like, "Hey, I voted for Donald Trump, QAnon knucklehead." And I'm not trying to say that. I'm trying to say—
[00:20:35] Steven Hassan: Definitely not.
[00:20:36] Jordan Harbinger: —those right and left. And then there's people that the right and the left could both agree. We would look at them and go, "What the hell is wrong with your grandma? What is she talking about or what?" Or, "What's wrong with your brother? He's crazy." That's what I'm trying to help right now.
[00:20:48] Steven Hassan: There's a lot of Trump supporters and believers that think QAnon is patently not stupid.
[00:20:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:20:55] Steven Hassan: And I hate to even mention his name, but I think I will, Steve Bannon, even recently said, "QAnon, it's BS like anyone who believes that is nuts." The architect of Trump's entire presidential run said QAnon is nuts. But if you're a QAnon believer do you think you're going to take that seriously? No.
[00:21:17] Jordan Harbinger: No, no. You either say, "He's the enemy now. He's been brainwashed," or, you say, "He's supposed to say that so that he seems like an ally of the people that were against."
[00:21:27] Steven Hassan: You got it.
[00:21:28] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, I had a long weekend, let me tell you.
[00:21:31] Steven Hassan: Yes, yeah.
[00:21:32] Jordan Harbinger: I heard everything—
[00:21:33] Steven Hassan: Yeah.
[00:21:33] Jordan Harbinger: —in 48 hours from anybody Q related that would sit down and talk to me online. And I had some pretty disturbing conversations with — here's the thing with perfectly nice people that I really felt bad for because it has ruined some of their lives. There's people that have lost their jobs because their coworkers found out that they were spreading this stuff around. They've been doxed, their family's getting harassed or they're alienated from their family. I've had people write into the Feedback Friday inbox for the show that say things like, "Hey, my grandma's being really weird," and then a month later, "Okay. I figured out what it is. She's watching YouTube at 4:00 a.m." Because this person was waking up to like texts and emails from her grandmother that was awake at an hour where she's half the time getting up in an hour to go to church, you know? And now she's up watching YouTube at that hour. It's like this unfortunate rabbit hole that a lot of people are going down and it's not just young people. It's not just old people. It's not just uneducated people.
[00:22:30] And that's one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is to outline this because I think there's a lot of people right now that are at home going, "What's happening to dad? Why is my uncle being so weird?" And they don't even know what it is or they've heard of the Q thing, but it didn't really register that. That was the thing they thought it was one of a hundred weird things that their uncle had been rambling about and they don't know. And you're right, I think now that a lot of people are maybe unemployed or just working from home and have a lot more time because they can't go anywhere to watch and consume this stuff.
[00:23:02] I know for me, when I started working from home in 2007 or 2008, it took me a long time to figure out how to be very disciplined and work from home all the time in a very efficient way. If somebody just got thrown into working from home in 2020, there's almost no way that they are not just wasting tons of time doing whatever they're doing, Candy Crush or something else. But unfortunately, a large number of those people I think are watching YouTube videos and going down rabbit holes between Zoom meetings and sometimes those rabbit holes lead to — what is it? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion animation series or some craziness.
[00:23:34] Steven Hassan: Exactly. And until relatively recently, the algorithms, the AI thing on YouTube were radicalizing people to the left and the right, because they wanted more time and attention. So they would do suggestions. If you liked this video, try this one and it would get increasingly more crazy and radicalized. You know, the whole digital revolution is a new thing for the human species and we have yet to develop the wisdom to apply it to tech in a way that makes sense and doesn't really do a lot of harm as it's doing a lot of good in other areas.
[00:24:17] And we really need guidelines of ethics for this, these platforms, because they're made to be sticky. They're made to release, you know, dopamine and norepinephrine and all kinds of chemicals to make us feel like we need to do more. We need to do more. We need to do more and we need to be in control of our devices. We need to need to be in control of what information we're consuming and not the other way around doing what it's telling us to do.
[00:24:48] Jordan Harbinger: For people that don't necessarily know here, Q — we don't know who is controlling it. If we had to point to what it is, aside from the cults, I mean, is it a social media account, a series of social media accounts? Where does the information or the misinformation or the disinformation actually, where does it come from? Where does it start? That we know, where can we trace it back to?
[00:25:08] Steven Hassan: So this past year I collaborated with a number of disinformation experts, people like Dave Troy, alternate reality gaming expert Jim Stewartson and other people who are scholars and data mining on Twitter. And they pretty much tracked it back to the original drop and who did it and who followed it. And so we have a pretty good idea of its Genesis, but it's been morphing. And there appears now to be a number of individuals who've been linked directly to QAnon. I believe Vice has a three-part series of just as breaking that resonates with everything that my fellow researchers have found out.
[00:25:56] And they're using hypnosis. They're using alternate reality game theory, again, to make it stimulating to people to figure out what the Q drops mean and a whole community type contagion effect going on. I need to just say that a fellow named Gregg Housh, who is at the very beginning of the Anonymous Movement, I met him in the context of these massive protests against Scientology a bunch of years ago, all around the world that I had never seen before.
[00:26:29] Jordan Harbinger: I remember those.
[00:26:30] Steven Hassan: Guy Fawkes mask and everything — and I had been protesting Scientology since I got out on the Moonies in 76. So I didn't need to wear a mask, but they were wearing masks to protect themselves from being harassed. And anyway, it turned out he was centrally involved in the whole effort to out Scientology. And I asked him about QAnon, and he said, "Oh, I know the people who started that. It was a goof on the Trump people." He said, "Anyone who believes that's stupid because it was a goof." It didn't go anywhere on Fortune. They went to HN, then they realized they could sell merchandise.
[00:27:03] Jordan Harbinger: So Fortune and HN, for those who don't know are like these — I won't say dark web because they're not really that, but they're just sort of very much off the beaten path message boards that are nihilistic and they're full of crazy dark humor and negativity. And also some pranks originate there that are like misinformation pranks. Memes originate there. So it's no surprise that something like QAnon was dreamed up by a couple of — there's plenty of normal people that use these boards, but a lot of them are kind of like basement dwelling, neckbeardy type people too, right?
[00:27:36] Steven Hassan: Yeah. I think they're hackers, a lot of hackers that I'm aware of, but the point is from his point of view, it was not started as a military PSYOPs.
[00:27:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:27:45] Steven Hassan: It was started as a joke, but then he said the Russians got involved.
[00:27:50] Jordan Harbinger: I believe this.
[00:27:51] Steven Hassan: But he didn't name anybody.
[00:27:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:53] Steven Hassan: So I can't name anybody, but it turns out that there's Jim Watkins, his son, Ron got involved.
[00:28:01] Jordan Harbinger: These guys own, they owned 8Chan, right? The message board.
[00:28:05] Steven Hassan: Right. So the Q drops couldn't be done unless it was coming through them.
[00:28:10] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:28:10] Steven Hassan: They weren't writing the drop, but they were posting the drop or allowing it to be posted, so they know. And then this guy named Thomas Schoenberger, then Flynn, there's all these — what shocked me is the former military intelligence people who are involved with this operation. It's very frightening because they're anti-democracy or anti-rule of law.
[00:28:34] Jordan Harbinger: What do you make of that? So of course, people who are interested in Q say things like, "Well, look, if there's all these ex-military intelligence people. Then that lends legitimacy." And I don't totally disagree with that. I mean, if I found something in a bunch of ex-CIA guys were saying, "Hey, this is legit." I'd probably go, "Oh, well, why would I think that I know better than you?" But also Q is almost decidedly anti-America now. Somebody who is with Q will say it's the most American thing ever, but it's really not. It's very anti-democratic like you said. What's going on when someone like General Flynn or somebody else who's ex-military intelligence says, "Hey, I'm just going to go along with this, even though we're pretty damn sure that it's not only a goof, it's also a grift that sells merchandise and makes people rich and possibly also being used by Russian intelligence to basically screw with us."
[00:29:21] Steven Hassan: Right. So in my research for The Cult of Trump, that was one of the central questions, like what is this thing? And so a lot of the research popped up former Russian CIA experts and such were like, this is Russian propaganda, this is Russian kompromat and firehose propaganda and active measures is the term. There's a very good documentary in 2018 called Active Measures. I highly recommend if anyone's interested.
[00:29:53] Jordan Harbinger: We'll link to it. I've seen it. I've I don't remember it too well, but we'll link it in the show notes.
[00:29:57] Steven Hassan: It documents Russian involvement in 2016. But what I realized is that Trump is kind of this thing that is being used by very powerful forces for their own purposes. And he likes attention, he likes money, he likes power, but it's not his idea. There are people influencing him. So then you say, well, who's who else? And what was clear is that there is a Christian right movement that's been going for decades. When I wrote the book, I was not aware of Anne Nelson's work on the council of national policy. That she names the main figures in that. And they're the same figures of what I came up with when I talked about Mike Pence being in The Family, which is a cult that started the National Prayer Breakfast.
[00:30:51] Jordan Harbinger: And there's a documentary on The Family on—
[00:30:54] Steven Hassan: Netflix.
[00:30:54] Jordan Harbinger: Netflix, right. And it's called The Family, right?
[00:30:56] Steven Hassan: Yes. It's five and a half hours. It's highly recommended. And it turned out in watching that and reading Jeffrey Sharlet's books, I realized my former cult leader who claimed to be the Messiah who wanted to take over the US government. He was involved with The Family with that the prayer breakfast brought to see Nixon during Watergate. Then next thing I'm fasting for three days on the Capitol stairs with hundreds of Moonies, because God wants Nixon to be president. He doesn't want Nixon to resign or be kicked out of office. So, I mean, I was there.
[00:31:30] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds familiar, right?
[00:31:32] Steven Hassan: Yeah.
[00:31:32] Jordan Harbinger: When you were doing like, was it 60s or 70s version of storm the Capitol, except you were just starving yourself on a—
[00:31:38] Steven Hassan: It was 74 and I was believing that democracy was satanic. God needed to take over Congress and Senate. We need to put infiltrators inside. No kidding.
[00:31:50] Jordan Harbinger: Is it 44, 45 years since you were in the Moonies and you've been tracking this?
[00:31:56] Steven Hassan: Yeah. My deprogramming moment was May 11th, 1976.
[00:32:02] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So it's almost like you had an internship and then you decided to go into tracking a cult, but first you had to have a practical.
[00:32:10] Steven Hassan: Yeah. Let me share a quick story. So I have a cast on my leg because I fell asleep at the wheel of a Moonie van, almost died, which is how my family found me to deprogram me. I was exposed to Chinese communist brainwashing models. That's what gave me a framework to go because I was sure I wasn't brainwashed. And I was sure I wasn't in a cult.
[00:32:31] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:32:31] Steven Hassan: I went through all of that and I did realize, Moon's a liar. How could he be of God if he's a liar? And I went to Robert Lifton, the guy who wrote the book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. I'm this college dropout, ashamed, embarrassed, like broken soul. Like who am I an outlet? I have fallen for this and he's this Yale psychiatrist and he's listening to me and I'm telling him how Moonie's work. And he said, "You know, I've only studied the second hand, but you've lived it. They did it to you and you did it to others. And what you're describing is far more sophisticated than what the Chinese did in the 50s. You need to study psychology and explain it to people like me."
[00:33:16] Later, I became a therapist. I became a mental health professional, but that's called a therapeutic reframe. It's like, okay, you have lemons, make lemonade.
[00:33:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:33:27] Steven Hassan: Enjoy the taste and make some juices—
[00:33:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, it's some sweet lemonade man because I am always interested in your stuff and I just, I really do — I hate puns — devour your material, but with where we are with the lemon puns.
[00:33:41] Steven Hassan: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Steven Hassan. We'll be right back.
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[00:36:28] Jordan Harbinger: Now back to Dr. Steven Hassan on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:36:34] It really is so useful, especially right now. I mean, you and I have been talking about Q for years and there was a part of me that thought, again, it's not going to catch on, so we don't really need to do a show about it. And then it became kind of like, "Okay, is this going to go away? Or what?" And now I'm like, "For God's sake, just go away." Right? But even if it does go away, we still have to understand it because even though Joe Biden's the president now, and maybe a lot of people will exit Q because one of their chief predictions was that their inauguration would never happen. Trump would still be the president, et cetera.
[00:37:04] Steven Hassan: Right.
[00:37:05] Jordan Harbinger: There are people that now say, "Trump is the president. It's just a big secret. Joe Biden was never inaugurated. He's in prison somewhere. He got arrested. That's why he had that cast on his leg because they tackled him." I mean, there's just people jumping through even more hoops. And what I learned during my deep dive this weekend was a lot of the QAnon supporters were, or are just flat earthers that have found the new thing. So there's going to be another thing, whether it's more QAnon stuff, or whether it's just some other type of mind control baloney. That's just flat earth, Q 3.0. It's going to keep happening because the victims are still there and the victims are what make the cult possible in the first place.
[00:37:45] Steven Hassan: Yeah, it's sad. The key of all of my work, helping people exit is learning how the mind works and how an unethical influence is done. And teaching people about other cults, so they won't be thought stopping, but they'll actually be able to learn about NXIVM and how Keith Raniere was covertly, hypnotizing people. And they were branding women by their genitals. By looking at other cults and going, "How does a billionaire heiress get into that?"
[00:38:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:15] Steven Hassan: Or, how does an actress allow herself to now be facing jail time, because she was part of this conspiracy for a women's empowerment group to swear slavery and give collateral of what would be damaging if she ever left, right?
[00:38:33] Jordan Harbinger: And if you haven't seen The Vow, we will link to that in the show notes. The Vow is a multi-part series. I always forget where this is. This is on HBO or was it—
[00:38:40] Steven Hassan: It's on HBO and Mark Vicente, who was a filmmaker before he got into the NXIVM cult was deemed the filmmaker in the cults. So he got to film Keith Raniere and all kinds of things. So when he left, he had all this footage.
[00:38:56] Jordan Harbinger: One of the most complete documentaries you'll ever see, because this guy recorded seemingly every phone call. He's got videotape of them playing volleyball at two o'clock in the morning. And then the cult leader, giving a talk. He's got interviews with everybody in the cult. He's got footage of every seminar. You just never see a documentary that's complete, unless — the only thing that has more footage has got to be like those planet earth documentaries, whether they take 10 years and film lions in the Sahara or something. I mean, this guy has everything.
[00:39:23] Steven Hassan: No, it's really, it's very unique and I really want to give kudos to Mark Vicente and Sarah Edmondson and Bonnie and Nippy, Sarah's husband, for the bravery to not only leave the group and sue, and because Keith Raniere is in jail has a sentence of 120 years, had the nerve and the chutzpah to take them to court and win, but to be public and show their journey.
[00:39:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:39:50] Steven Hassan: And it's a document. Because for me, it shows the attractiveness of how people can be sucked in incrementally into one of these types of groups. But if I can get back to QAnon—
[00:40:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:04] Steven Hassan: —for a minute and just say that, so I've been helping people get out of groups for decades, and my approach has evolved over time, especially when the digital age happened and cell phones happened that became almost impossible to do a spring on somebody. "Hi, we'd like you to talk with someone for a few days, you know, don't go back to the group and just give us three days and cry and beg for a voluntary thing." You can't do that anymore with cell phones, unless they give up the cell phone.
[00:40:36] Jordan Harbinger: Because they're just getting reprogrammed via text message.
[00:40:39] Steven Hassan: They're being constantly monitored and texted and notified. It's impossible. So I had to develop a different approach. And what I realized is who a cult member's going to most be influenced by is someone they loved or love, friend, family member. People they had real relationships with. And what was missing is they needed coaching on how to talk in a way that would be effective, where they wouldn't feel like they're being screamed at so that they have to defend and cut off contact because they can't take it anymore, which is basically what's been happening with millions of Americans who are like, "I can't stand my brother. I can't stand my uncle. I blocked him. I muted him. I haven't talked to him in years." For me, as a cult expert, that's the worst thing you can do if someone's in a cult, instead of isolate and not have good connection with the outside world. Because then, it just reinforces the black and white bubble of being in the cult.
[00:41:41] Jordan Harbinger: Instead of cutting them off, we maybe if we need time for ourselves, we can take a time out, circle back. You shared this on a Reddit forum that was about — you did an AMA in, is it QAnon casualties? Is the forum?
[00:41:53] Steven Hassan: Exactly. Yeah, there were like 65,000 casualties and I believe tripled in size because there's so many people realizing, "You know what? I'm worried about my brother. I'm worried about my sister. I'm worried about my aunt or my uncle. What do I do?" But people want like an easy fix like say, "Abracadabra, and they'll wake up." And it doesn't work that way. It was a process of indoctrination that people got into this rabbit hole and it's a process of ethical influence and respect, kindness, curiosity, taking a frame.
[00:42:30] I know you're an expert on frame. You don't want to use their frame. You want to use a frame of, "Look, I just want to know what's true. And I respect you. You're smart. You have integrity." "I think I'm smart. I think I have integrity. Whatever stands up to scrutiny, then we both should follow that, right?" "Yep." "So you say that this exists, please show me the evidence and convince me." But instead of getting 60 links, you know, that would take you three months to go through, you say, "Send me one thing, I'll watch it or we'll watch it together and promise we'll discuss it. And then I'll take a turn and I'd like to give you one thing and promise me you'll discuss it."
[00:43:14] So it becomes a matter of not, "I'm right. You're wrong," or, "You're right and I'm wrong," but "We're looking together to try to understand what is real and what's proven, and what's not."
[00:43:28] Jordan Harbinger: You also recommended Celeste Headlee's book, We Need to Talk. She does TED Talks. We'll link to that in the show notes. Of course, she did our show because she's a friend of mine, episode 423.
[00:43:37] Steven Hassan: That's how I learned about her.
[00:43:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, it is.
[00:43:40] Steven Hassan: She's on your podcast.
[00:43:41] Jordan Harbinger: Great.
[00:43:42] Steven Hassan: Kudos to you.
[00:43:43] Jordan Harbinger: Great. Thank you. Yeah, the book has nothing to do with cults, by the way, folks. It focuses on teaching people how to talk and mostly listen with curiosity rather than judgment. Again, that's 423 of this show and we'll link that in the show notes. I think we're going to have a lot of links in the show notes.
[00:43:58] Steven Hassan: No, it's the basis of rapport and trust building and my book, Freedom of Mind. And she does more of the scientific research of what actually works in communication.
[00:44:08] Jordan Harbinger: What's bizarre to me and what's interesting about Q also, is that okay, so there's posts on 8kun or whatever it is now and Twitter that are these drops. And going back to what you'd mentioned about alternate reality games, the quickest explanation, I guess I could give of an alternate reality game is it's kind of like a very complex, real life scavenger hunt. You know, where you're running around the city with your friends and they give you a riddle and it takes you to a sporting goods store. And outside of the sporting goods store, there's a flyer board. And one of the flyers on the board has your next clue. Alternate reality games are like that, but they involve the Internet. They're also involving real life and there's very complex puzzles. So for some of them like me who love escape rooms, it's actually really cool to look at these things.
[00:44:51] The problem is it goes back to what your concept or the concept of informed consent. If I'm playing an alternate reality game and I'm in an escape room and they say, "Hey, there's a real life component to this." I go, "Hey, cool. Let's play this with a bunch of friends." But if you tell me that this is an alternate reality game, and then suddenly you're making me do things that are very weird. Like you're trying to get into my bank accounts and make me isolate myself from my family. And then you're telling me, "Just kidding, all the Jews are lizard people from another planet. And by the way, the government is a bunch of pedophiles that drink children's blood," which by the way, are not things I just made up. These are actual Q beliefs. This is unethical and there is no informed consent. And you're just leading me down this weird path. I thought we're playing a game. And then it's like, I wake up three months later with no job, no friends that'll still talk to me. And I'm watching videos at 4 a.m., like I mentioned before.
[00:45:39] Steven Hassan: But let me tell you that most people in my understanding don't even know about alternate reality game.
[00:45:45] Jordan Harbinger: No, nobody does. I just found out about them and I went, "Oh, that's what these things are." I never even thought that there was — I guess I just never even thought twice about it. I just play escape rooms and that's kind of where I begin and end.
[00:45:56] Steven Hassan: In my research, Jim Stewartson shared a five-minute hypnosis insertion of Cicada 3301, which was the peak cursor of QAnon into Assassin's Creed and showed it to me. And I had never seen, this assassin, you know, coming into a chamber and the voice was talking about — I mean, that was all new to me. And I'm like, "That's how they're getting people. I can totally understand."
[00:46:25] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, Assassin's Creed is a very popular video game. I've played it. I enjoy those types of games on and off. I'm not a huge gamer, but there is the booming voice and there are these puzzles and I'll go, "What the hell was that?" Because I just play the game. I don't go down those rabbit holes generally, but I'll Google. What was the deal with the moth and the tomb in the middle of the desert that doesn't seem to be related to the game at all? And there's whole discussion forums that are like, actually that's a head nod to this other thing, and then that thing. And if you have unlimited amounts of time, you can find out that — it's mind blowing to say this. I can't believe it. It can drag you into this sort of 8chan hacker gamer, alternate reality world.
[00:47:06] That's not necessarily healthy. That's beyond gaming and beyond some harmless fun that leads people into playing puzzles. It can lead you straight into something like QAnon. And I know that sounds ludicrous and I'm sort of putting an asterisk by it because I think most people just enjoy the game, and that's it. But there's definitely a percentage of people that went into the Capitol building and are now getting pursued by the FBI because somewhere in their past, they got involved in this.
[00:47:32] And it really makes me sound like my parents who say, "These things are going to rot your mind, you know, these video games." And I'm like, "What are you talking about? This is harmless fun." And now I'm like, "They're accidentally right." This is a broken clock is right. Twice a day situation, but they were right kind of, and this is one of those examples of where they are.
[00:47:48] Steven Hassan: Right. I guess what I want your listeners to understand that there really is a myth if you think you're invulnerable. Like, if you're dead, then you're invulnerable to unethical influence. If you are a thinking caring person who wants to improve and cares about the world and cares about relationships, unless you have a toolbox of how-to reality test things and unless you have — this is another point I wanted to make for your listeners is I'm recommending that you create like a web of trust with key friends and family members that you can reality test things. If something comes your way, that's so different, you go, "What do you think of this?" And choose people that aren't just thinking, just like you. Like choose friends who are oppositional.
[00:48:37] Jordan Harbinger: That's a really good idea. And it reminds me of when I had Shaquille O'Neal in the show, he talked about the panel where he'll get an idea from somebody. And then he'll ask at the same time on the same conference call, I think it's like his old coach, his uncle, his mom, his lawyer, and his accountant, and there might be somebody else. And I could be getting some of these wrong. But the reason he did that is because if his accountant brought up the idea — he thinks it's good, but maybe the accountant, there's something that he's not seeing. So the lawyer might catch that his manager might catch that his mom might catch that. And if his uncle brings in an idea, the lawyer and the accountant might say, "Hey, it sounds good, but they're going to screw you over in these other ways that you guys just aren't thinking about," or more than likely.
[00:49:17] And he said, this has happened to someone, will bring him an idea and he'll say, "Hey, I love this." And the accountant says, "Sounds profitable." And the lawyer says, "Don't see any issue here." And his mom goes, "You're going to hate that after like two weeks," and he'll go, "Yeah, you're right." And then, he just doesn't do it. This is a really good idea because — and my wife does this for me, but I also have other folks in my life. I've assembled this panel, not just for the business, but I'll bring ideas to them and they'll say, "But I don't get why this is not the dumbest thing in the world. Explain it to me," and they'll make me explain things. And as I'm explaining, I go, "Yeah, this just sounds dumb or sounds bad, or it's a terrible idea, or it's going to fall apart and I hadn't thought it through," but since they're asking me these questions, either deliberately or not, I'm forced to go through the thought process, the critical thinking process that often has me talk myself out of. Something is not a great idea in the first place.
[00:50:06] Steven Hassan: Yep. So it’s highly recommended. But as you were talking, I was remembering when I exited the Moonies, I realized my whole family had been traumatized like for years.
[00:50:16] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:50:17] Steven Hassan: And they were so scared, I was going to go back to the Moonies or get into some other cults. And I can imagine there are millions of Americans worried about their loved ones, even if they've left QAnon.
[00:50:28] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:50:28] Steven Hassan: And I felt for them and they said, "But we tried to tell you it was a cult. We told Moon couldn't be the Messiah. How come you didn't listen to me." And I'm like, "I wish I had. Trust me. I wish I could go back in time and do it differently." But then I came up with the idea of doing an invisible card. I said, "I'm going to give you a card. That you can use for the rest of my life." That said, if you ever see me doing anything or saying anything that concerns you, you take the card out and you go, "Steve, remember you gave me that card that I could help you reality test and you would listen to me. And you would explore and research what my concerns are." And I'm like, "I'm giving this to you," all my closest family and friends, and that helped them a lot.
[00:51:16] But definitely, there is a therapeutic recovery period when you wake up from one of these totalistic, because there's a dissociative phenomenon where you have a whole new belief system and you think — your mind isn't working the same way. And so there really is a benefit to getting help from therapists who know how to help, not just any therapist. And also listening to former members who were speaking out about their experiences. Because a lot of people come out, they don't remember too much, but then they're watching a podcast of someone in another cult and they're going, "Oh, we did that too."
[00:51:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:51:56] Steven Hassan: "That reminds me also of that." And it's very important to process. How did you get in and how do you protect yourself so that you never get sucked in again to anything?
[00:52:08] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. It's almost like becoming the victim of a con or something and you go, "Wait. Okay. So why did I become a victim here?" And I've done an episode on why people fall for scams. And it's often some of the same reasons that people fall forth cults like Q. Vanity, they think they know something that other people don't, and that they're ahead of the curve. They feel a sense of control. There's a million other reasons I won't go down that road, but if you want to see why people fall for scams, me and Gabriel Mizrahi did an episode about it for this show. I can't remember the number, but we'll link it in the show notes. Why People Fall for Scams, I think, is the title.
[00:52:39] Steven Hassan: Yeah, I listened to that one too. Like I said, you're doing a lot of great content for your listeners. And frankly, we want the planet to get educated about how these things work. Because we know each person is a valuable contributor potentially to making the planet work.
[00:52:59] Jordan Harbinger: The only form of self-defense you can have is understanding the mechanism by which you became a victim the first time. Otherwise, you could just very easily dive into something else. And I see this a lot. I'm sure you see it more, but I noticed a pattern in my life or I should say where people in my life, they will — let's say, I know somebody who is an ex — I don't want to throw shade on a religion here, but people who are ex, let's say Jehovah's witnesses because this is the actual person and I don't — look, nothing against Jehovah's witnesses, right?
[00:53:26] Steven Hassan: I've done a lot of work with Watchtower.
[00:53:29] Jordan Harbinger: Plenty of people who are listening to this show and maybe our Jehovah's witnesses, and I'm not trying to insult you, but I know a lot of people who've come out of being raised in that type of religious group. And they are the first people to go straight into something else. And I noticed this over time and I thought, "What is the deal here?" Jen, my wife and I were talking about this and she said something pretty insightful. She goes, "Well, maybe when you're raised to not question anything. And then you leave that thing because you started questioning it. Your questioning of things doesn't necessarily carry over to the new thing that you're into." So you might leave Jehovah's witnesses and then get right into multi-level marketing and then get right into conspiracy theories and then get right into psychic mysticism.
[00:54:09] And we've got a friend who was raised a Jehovah's witness and she thinks that she can channel spirits, but she's otherwise normal. She's not mentally ill. She just believes in a lot of things where I go, "That's not true. And here's why." And after talking with her at length, sometimes she says, "Maybe you're right, but I still like to believe it." And I go, "Aha. Okay. So we're there." But she will jump from one thing to another. I didn't understand it for the longest time, but I'm telling me what's going on here because I feel like there's a hole in her psyche where she was raised with this, this iron clad steel ball that was in this one place in her mental, in her psyche, right? And then she removed that thing. She ripped it out and said, "This is a bunch of crap and hasn't done me any service," but now there's a hole there. And all this mysticism and other stuff fills that hole for her and it makes her feel comfortable.
[00:54:53] Steven Hassan: Yep. So this is a very important point. This is a chart on my website. You can have a PDF for your—
[00:55:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, we'll link to this.
[00:55:01] Steven Hassan: But ethical influence, unethical influence. And if you're raised in an authoritarian family or cult or religion, the highest virtue is obedience. And if you're in a group that has corporal punishment where you're beaten as a child, unless you obey, your authentic self can't really grow because you have to grow in the image of the cult. Then you leave and you don't know who you are. It's very different for me. I grew up here. 19, I got in. At 21 and a half, almost 22, I got out. I had to have a reference point for like ego and security, et cetera. Just physically leaving doesn't help the brain understand what's normal, like what's normal and what's healthy. And so when I'm working with people born into cults, I have to explain to them as a mental health professional, what a normal childhood will be like.
[00:55:59] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So this reminds me of those people that are raised by parents that are say narcissistic or physically abusive.
[00:56:04] Steven Hassan: Exactly.
[00:56:04] Jordan Harbinger: And then they end up with a partner that's like that. And you go, "What the hell? You didn't learn your lesson from being raised in there." And the answer is their brain literally formed around that environment.
[00:56:14] Steven Hassan: Exactly. It's familiar. And there's a quest that I believe that we want to heal ourselves. So we want to heal our childhood. So we gravitate to a guru. You know, you got sexually abused as a child. You wind up in with a guru who's going to sexually abuse you too, because of these unconscious things firing out, but having healthy role models, understanding what's normal and healthy, and reprocessing your indoctrination.
[00:56:45] If I can take a minute to just talk about that for a minute, so a very powerful technique to help people heal is a visualization technique for lack of a better way of calling it. Where I ask people, once they've learned about brainwashing and cult mind control, I ask them to imagine going back to a moment in the cults, where something terrible was done to them. And I asked them to imagine if they knew then what they know now, what they would do differently.
[00:57:15] So I'll give you an example. In my experience, I was a creative writing major in college. I wrote poetry. And in my Moonie indoctrination, they wanted to get rid of my real identity, they told me about Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice the thing he loved the most to Sun. And they gave me the speech about my poetry was my Isaac. Was I prepared to sacrifice it? And they told me to throw it in the garbage can. And I did, right? So I'm out of the Moonies and I'm missing the bulk of my creative works of my entire previous life.
[00:57:53] So to do this technique, I go back to that moment where they're giving me the speech about Abraham and they're telling me to throw it out, but now I'm out of the Moonies. I know what cults are and I say. "No way, this is my poetry. This is a cult. I'm leaving and walking out the door." Even though I know historically what actually happened, it's very empowering. And you kind of redoing personal history with a focus on here and now power. Like I have assertiveness, I can say, no. I can say, get lost. I can walk out the door if I'm in an unhealthy relationship or cult.
[00:58:30] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. And I thought about that, you told me that, years ago and I thought, "Oh my gosh, would I ever delete the podcast?" And the answer is, I can't because there are millions of other people that have copies of all of these files, so we're stuck with that. It's in the ether forever.
[00:58:44] Going back to some of Q beliefs, like I read these predictions and I just — so these are posted in social media and then these people named who called themselves Bakers, they literally pull some straight out of a beautiful mind, right? Where they're taking a string from this phrase that was in the Q drop, the little post. It's got three words and one of them is misspelled. That's not an accident. If you take each letter of that word, it makes this acronym out of these things. And they're all from this book of the Bible. And then if you look at that book of the Bible and the names that come up the most in that book of the Bible are James. And so who's in the news right now, General James Mattis. That's the guy who's going to make all the arrests. And it's like, if you're looking at this and you're not in the Q bubble. Like, you're me doing research on it. You go, "Holy hell. That's a leap. Like that's leap after leap, after leap, after leap."
[00:59:35] Steven Hassan: Yeah.
[00:59:35] Jordan Harbinger: And it doesn't make any sense. One particularly dumb prediction. I shouldn't say dumb. One, particularly ridiculous prediction. Is that JFK Jr. faked his own death in order to come back later as Trump's new vice president and replace Mike Pence. Obviously, that didn't happen. It's too late for it to happen. And when I asked people, "Hey, what do you think about that?" They go, "Well, what could happen? It was supposed to happen this time, but what we think will happen is that Trump will run again and he'll win. And then, it will happen again. We just got the dates wrong." And I go, "You know, this reminds me of those people that say the world's going to end in 1997." "Oops, sorry. I'm at 2007." "You know what? I meant, 2012." "Actually, I meant 2020." And then they vanished for three more years because it's 2021 and it hasn't happened. And they're going to come back in 2024 and go, "2025, we were wrong the whole time. It's definitely happening next year." This just, this has been happening for thousands of years with cults.
[01:00:28] Steven Hassan: Yeah. And you've talked on your show so many times about confirmation bias and how we tend to look for things that confirm our existing beliefs and ignore everything else. And you're not going to be effective helping someone in the QAnon cult by trying to be factual by trying to point out specific things. If you ask them to go back in time to the first time they heard of Trump, for example, and that which I've done with some people, most of the people had negative things about Trump. So it's asking them to go back in time. "Oh, I saw The Apprentice, he was a jerk," or "I thought, he was a playboy and he cheated on his wife," you know, so many different wives, et cetera.
[01:01:11] So you bring them back in time and then you can ask them to walk slowly, how they came to where they are today. And in that process, you're starting from a place where they're not under mind control. And you're able to then ask questions and remind them that this was what video was it that really captured your attention and made you take it seriously? Or was there a particular person in your life? Was it your wife, a coworker? I've heard so many people telling me the Epoch Times is what convinced them.
[01:01:46] Jordan Harbinger: See I used to love Epoch Times. And then I found out it was the Falun Gong, sort of right-wing also run by a cult newspaper and I went, "Damn it."
[01:01:53] Steven Hassan: With a leader who claims to be enlightened and is part of an alien conspiracy. Is this your source of data that you really want to rely on?
[01:02:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:02:02] Steven Hassan: Or my former cult has the Washington Times to this day.
[01:02:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Not the Washington Post, the Washington Times.
[01:02:09] Steven Hassan: But my point just is what I want to get to is to say that I take the position, not that my job is to get people out of cults, but my job is to empower people, to think for themselves and make their own decisions, and share my journey and share my knowledge with them. But they're the ones who will decide if they want to stay in or leave. And one of the universal mind control techniques at all, cults use is phobia indoctrination. The inculcation of irrational fears that if you don't stay in the group, terrible things are going to happen to the world, terrible things are going to happen to the babies and children, whatever.
[01:02:50] But in the mind of a cult member who's been indoctrinated, they can imagine leaving and being happy and fulfilled. And that's a very important question for people who have a loved one or a friend who is involved with QAnon to ask. What would happen if you decided that this wasn't what you thought it was? Can you imagine being happy and fulfilled? And usually they are very uncomfortable to even consider the possibility, but then if you get them to visualize other people who've left and are happy and glad that they've left, then all of a sudden it opens a door.
[01:03:28] And this is a reason that cults don't like ex-members in particular who are articulate and who are happy and successful because we are the walking phobia cure. "Hey, I am not possessed by Satan and I'm not drooling. And actually, I'm married with a kid and have a very nice life. Thank you."
[01:03:52] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Steven Hassan. We'll be right back.
[01:03:57] This episode is sponsored in part by LifeLock. You've seen all these security breaches online. It's in the news constantly, bulk data theft and sale and identity theft and ransomware outbreaks. It's important to understand how cybercrime and identity theft are affecting our lives. And every day, your information is at risk on the Internet and you could miss certain identity threats if all you're doing is monitoring your credit. LifeLock fills in the gaps here. LifeLock is the leader in identity theft protection. I got it when I separated from my former company, because my personal information was in the hands of people that I didn't trust anymore. Right? And that's the case for you if you switch jobs, you get into a little scrap with HR. You don't know where your social security numbers going or all your personal info. LifeLock will detect whether Janice in accounting stole your info and is now buying Beanie Babies rampantly on eBay with your personal info attached. And if LifeLock detects that your information has been potentially compromised, they'll send you an alert.
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[01:06:25] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help. I know what you're thinking. I don't need therapy. My friends are my therapist. We know what your friends are probably freaking sick of hearing about all your problems, but good friends — look, I get it, they're natural sounding boards for our anxieties, and it is true that talking with a friend can be very therapeutic. These kinds of chats do take a toll on your relationship and your friends aren't trained. So rather than burden them with all of the crap going on in your life all the time or your past, or your childhood, why not talk with an expert instead? Therapists can deepen the conversation. They can educate you. They can give you tools. So if you've been avoiding therapy, because you're using the excuse that your friends are your therapists consider this, your sign to check out Better Help today. I think it's a really nice service. A lot of people are using it. A lot of you have written in about how much you love it. And The Jordan Harbinger Show listeners get 10 percent off their first month at betterhelp.com/jordan.
[01:07:16] Jen Harbinger: Visit better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan and join over one million people who have taken charge of the mental health with the help of an experienced Better Help professional.
[01:07:24] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks so much for listening to the show. I know this episode is almost brutally painful just in how we're being forced to cover some of the most ridiculous things that I've ever heard in my entire life. But I know the subject is near and dear to your hearts for many reasons, just because there are family members getting sucked into this. And it's like a slow motion train wreck. You just can't stop looking at. And I do appreciate when you support our advertisers, that's what keeps us going. All of the deals, all the links, they're all in one place on our website, all those codes, you don't have to remember that stuff. Just go to jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please do consider supporting those who support us.
[01:07:57] And don't forget, we've got worksheets for today's episode. Those might be particularly important, especially with this whole QAnon and what to do to help get your relatives out of here. If you want some of the drills and exercises talked about today during the show, those are also all in one easy place. There's a link to the worksheets in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. All right, now, for the conclusion of our episode with Dr. Steven Hassan.
[01:08:21] You're their worst nightmare, right? It's like Scientology has that. Well, every cult has this, right? It's, "Hey, they got out and they seem fine." They don't want people to even be near that. I think another thing that keeps people indoctrinated in something like Q or any cult or any scam even is, is shame, right? People who've been tricked. People who thought, for example, that there's some grand plan to overthrow the government and have mass arrests. And now they're facing jail time of their own for throwing a brick through a state house window, right? These are often the strongest believers.
[01:08:50] And it works with financial scams too. Nobody wants to bear the shame of admitting to themselves and to their family and friends that they got tripped. It's such a shame. It's such a powerful human emotion. And so the side effect is if people start having doubts, they push people away who might've said, "Hey, look, you're in the middle of a scam or a cult." So these Q believers will only socialize online or in person with other believers, which then reinforces their beliefs, which keeps them in the orbit and then makes them feel like, "Well, crap. Even if I don't a hundred percent believe anything, what am I going to not have any friends now, too."
[01:09:23] Steven Hassan: Right. And the shunning that the Jehovah's witnesses do and other cults is a real thing. That's not a phobia. That's an actual thing where people will be mean to you. I wrote about David Weissman, who was a self-professed MAGA troll, and he taught, interacted with Sarah Silverman online and started treating him with respect as a veteran and asked him what his solution was for gun control. And it made him think. "Oh, a celebrity is asking me what I care — what I think about something. And I'm not even sure I just was against what the Democrats were saying and he got out and then all of his buddies turned on him, "You traitor." And I'm like, "That's exactly what cults do."
[01:10:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:10:11] Steven Hassan: Exactly. I know that one personally.
[01:10:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it hits close to home. I got to say one thing I was surprised by, but probably shouldn't have been, is how heavily monetized Q is. There are stickers. Okay, fine, there are stores. There's clothing, there's events, there's books, there's coffee, there's key chains. There are online events that you have to pay to attend. I mean, it's just flat earth all over again where people may not even necessarily believe in it, but if you're at the top of it, you're just grifting so hard that you're like, "Am I going to quit? I'm making 150 grand a year selling Q coffee and books about Q that get me on the speaking circuit where I then sell more books about Q and then people buy my sweatshirts that say," I don't know, "Where we go one, we go all,"or whatever sort of motto there is. "I'm killing it. What am I going to do? Just go broke now." And then they kind of stay in there. But rarely do you see something that is so heavily monetized. I mean, I'm sure there are Moonie t-shirts and things like that, but Holy cow, there are a lot of Q items that you can buy, I mean, just a million.
[01:11:16] Steven Hassan: They're trying to get amplifiers, right? And who's more motivated if you're selling merchandise and going to make some money from it? And my understanding is Russian propagandists would approach different podcasters and feed them stories, and they would make money from you putting up YouTube videos and whatever. And so there was a motivation to make money, not because they believed the stories that they were generating and not realizing that they were working for an enemy of the United States.
[01:11:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I've gotten a few of those and they're always suspicious. It's like, "Hey, do you want to make $25,000 having a self-published author on?" What self-published author has a marketing budget that has to be multiple six figures to put their crap out there for free. Like this doesn't make sense.
[01:12:06] Steven Hassan: Right.
[01:12:06] Jordan Harbinger: Something doesn't add up.
[01:12:07] Steven Hassan: No. And your reputation, your integrity, you know, you want to be able to look in the mirror at night. You want to look in your wife's eyes or your kid and feel good about yourself. In the end, like I learned my lesson really well by being in the Moonies. But don't think that people haven't tried to get me into multi-level marketing groups and a million other things. I'm like, "Let's see the, let's see your tax forms for the last three years if you've made so much money." And they never—
[01:12:38] Jordan Harbinger: I always say that. That's the end of the conversation. I've never gotten an email reply with anything other than either a dodge or, you know, a giant middle finger in so many words. "Show me your Schedule C." "What? "You know, the form that shows me how much profit you made. I want to see that." And then it's just like, "Well, if you're going to be insulting." "I mean, look, if I'm telling you that I have a great business and that I'm in a great business and that you should be in a great business, the first thing I'm going to show you is how much money."
[01:13:03] Steven Hassan: Yeah. A hundred percent. And it goes for religious groups to. The legitimate religious groups if you ask to see their accounting records, they show it to you.
[01:13:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:13:12] Steven Hassan: And the cults and the authoritarian groups, they're like, "What's wrong with you? Are you having trust issues?" And they try to turn it around on you because you're asking and you're like, "No, you're a nonprofit. You said we can look at your books. I want to see them." "Nope."
[01:13:26] Jordan Harbinger: You know, another thing it fascinates me about the Q movement here is, and someone phrased this really well in another documentary called, I think it's called Seeking a Flat Earth or Searching for a Flat Earth. We'll link to it. It's a YouTube video really, really, really well done. Anti-flat earther who then takes a hard right turn and goes into Q stuff. And it's just brilliant. The guy's super brilliant. He calls it a big tent conspiracy, which means — and I don't know if he invented this — but basically other conspiracies can fit inside it.
[01:13:53] What you'll notice about Q, which makes it a little bit hard to pin down is it'll start off with, "Hey Democrats and Hollywood people are drinking children's blood to get adrenochrome and stay young." And then their buddy says, "Well, yeah, 9/11 was an inside job and also adrenochrome," and then somebody else says, "Well, also Obama's coming to get our guns," or whoever, "Biden's coming to get our guns." And there's just almost an infinite number of these, but they're also kind of underneath now the Q umbrella, but also doing their little sub crazy, right?
[01:14:23] Steven Hassan: Yep.
[01:14:24] Jordan Harbinger: And it's movement jacking, I think is what the technical term is, right?
[01:14:27] Steven Hassan: Yep. But I want to say in defense of Q believers, at least the recruitment videos that I saw that were very effective, they started with truthful things. So they start with, you know, the CIA did mind control research, MKUltra. And then they did Operation Mockingbird where they were recruiting journalists and media people. And then Paperclip is where they were bringing in Nazi scientists and doctors. All of those are true. Like, that's not a conspiracy theory. That is real, but in hypnosis, there's something called creating a yes set where you say something true, another true, another true, another true. The mind starts going into an inertia of, well, the next thing must be true too, but you say something a little vague, right? And you build it in, but there are some very real things.
[01:15:24] Like there is Black Ops and there is such a thing as mind control experiments using hypnosis and electroshock and LSD. And where I get to be effective is where I'm telling them about the Moonies. And they're like, "Oh, that was a cult for sure, the mass weddings and everything." And I'm like, well, there was a congressional investigation into Korean CIA activities in the US and the founder under oath of the Korean CIA said he organized and utilized the Unification Church for use as a political tool to brainwash people in South Korea to counter North Korean brainwashing. And I know you're an expert on North Korea.
[01:16:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, well, sort of.
[01:16:07] Steven Hassan: But it became like an op to stabilize the South Korean government that got brought to the US because of the anti-Vietnam war movement to stop the communists. And that's where I got in. So when I say, "You know, I'm MKUltra 2.0, like I was a victim. Like I turned my back on my family, my religion." They're like, "Really? Tell me more." And then I can explain Chinese communist brainwashing which, you know, they're all negative on China, love Russia. They seem just neutral to Russia, but they definitely will listen to anything about Chinese brainwashing or traffickers and pimps. They are interested to hear my work helping victims of traffickers. So I can talk about the techniques and really it's the bones of the effort of helping people to start critically re-evaluating what their beliefs are.
[01:17:02] Jordan Harbinger: What about somebody listening right now who is into Q or is on the fence? First of all, they've probably turned off this one podcast minutes—
[01:17:09] Steven Hassan: Don't say that. You never know.
[01:17:12] Jordan Harbinger: You never know. That's true.
[01:17:13] Steven Hassan: You have a lot of fans and I bet that there's a bunch of people who would listen, even though you have me on.
[01:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: Right, there might be some that went in. "I already know what QAnon is. I'm not going to listen to this." I changed my opinion. I used to think Q believers were just, you know, obvious idiots. I don't think that anymore. I really do think that it's really easy enough to fall into this. And I know if you're listening and you're on the fence or you're into Q you're probably angry at us by now. But a lot of people do trust me and I hope that you, even if you're believing in Q, you trust me as well. You know, that I help people on this show. I want people to know that we're here for them when it comes to untangling this. We're not going to make fun of them, make them feel stupid, and that we can help them make some sense here if they find themselves getting sucked into this.
[01:17:56] And I noticed that in your advice on Reddit, in the QAnon casualties' forum, what you'd said for people who are, who have friends, family loved ones in Q are getting sucked into this is stop trying to win the argument of who is right or who is wrong. Take your ego out of this. Talk about your relationship and how you care about the person. Say things like, "You're not sure," right? That gives them permission to question too, because if you insist, "You know the truth," that often makes people dig in deeper. So I hope people don't feel dumb for having gotten manipulated into something like this or for starting to go down that path. Because the last thing I would want is for somebody to say, "Well, even Jordan thinks I'm an idiot will screw them." And then they're going whole hog into this.
[01:18:38] You also said — and I thought this was very insightful, you said that trying to reason, provide facts and win the argument. It's only going to backfire. So you have to adopt a curious, concerned approach and focus on rapport and trust building first, before anything. And apologize if you said harsh mean or derogatory things. This is extremely important because I can imagine, I'm trying to think of how my dad would handle it if I were joining a call or my mom, they wouldn't be like, "So, what do you think?" They'd be like, "You're an idiot. Damn it. Give me your checkbook," you know?
[01:19:09] Steven Hassan: That's what my dad did. If I can share a quick story with my dad. So I'm in the cult. I dropped out of college, quit my job, et cetera. My father calls me at the Moonie center and he says, "Hey, Steve," my father had a hardware store.
[01:19:24] Jordan Harbinger: It can't be called the Moonie's center though, right? It's called something else.
[01:19:27] Steven Hassan: A Unification Church Center.
[01:19:29] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, that makes more sense. I just thought what a terrible.
[01:19:32] Steven Hassan: Yes, and CARP, collegiate association for the researcher principle, which I set up after I dropped out of college as a student club.
[01:19:40] Jordan Harbinger: Gosh.
[01:19:40] Steven Hassan: But that's a whole nother story. But my father, he says, "Hey," and I should say, you know, all in the family, like that's the area I grew up in like fall in the family, attached house.
[01:19:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:19:52] Steven Hassan: Yeah, my father wasn't as bad as Archie, but—
[01:19:54] Jordan Harbinger: No one was as bad as Archie. That's the point.
[01:19:57] Steven Hassan: In any case, he goes, "Steve, I read it in the newspaper that Moon has an M16 gun factory. What kind of Messiah has an M16 gun factory?"
[01:20:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:20:07] Steven Hassan: Okay.
[01:20:07] Jordan Harbinger: Legit question.
[01:20:08] Steven Hassan: Right. So Steve, the Moonie, goes in his head, "Crush Satan, crush Satan, glory to heaven, peace on Earth, true parents, true parents." So I was trained to do thought stopping—
[01:20:19] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[01:20:20] Steven Hassan: —when I was being attacked or when the group was being attacked. And he said, "No, really? I want to know." And I said, "We don't have a gun factor. I can assure you." And I hung up.
[01:20:30] Jordan Harbinger: Which is a lie, right?
[01:20:32] Steven Hassan: So I went to the leader after I hung up, I said, "My father said, there's a newspaper article that says we have an M16 gun factory. Do we?" And he said, "No, we have an air rifle factory, but we don't have any M16 gun factory." But my father never followed up and his intention was to help me, but he drove me deeper in, and at that point, the cult said, "It's clear, your father is possessed by Satan. The communist media has gone to him. Cut off contact." What my father should have said, if I could go back in time and coach him, is if he called me up, he said, "Hey Steve, I have a problem." "Yeah, what's up dad?" "Well, the neighbor said something that was very upsetting and I didn't know how to answer him." "Okay, dad, what, what?" "Well, he said that there was an article in the newspaper that said the Moonies had an M16 gun factory. What kind of Messiah has an M16 gun factory? And I didn't know how to answer him. How should I have answered him?"
[01:21:32] And that would have made me think. That would have made me problem solve that would have made an alliance with him to help the neighbor. I still would have gone to my leader. I still would have gotten the lie, but I would have called my father back and said, "I asked my leader, we don't have a M16 gun factory. It's just the air rifle." And then my father could have, if I was coaching him, could have said, "Oh, that's such a relief, but now that means they can sue," I think it was the Washington Post or New York Times or something, "That means they should sue for writing something that isn't true."
[01:22:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, defamation.
[01:22:08] Steven Hassan: Right. And I would have been, "Yeah, thanks for the tip. I'll go back." And then I would have gone back to the leader and then my father go follow it up. "So what was the lawsuit filed? I'd like to see it." And he could have kept it going. It really would have created dissonance and it really could have made me stop and think. And then that we could have gotten the proof that there was an M16 gun factory. " Steve, you said that your leader said they don't have it now, you know, they do it doesn't sound that trustworthy. Can you really trust that person?"
[01:22:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "He lied to you about that. What do you think of that?"
[01:22:44] Steven Hassan: Yeah, that's the technique. That's going to get through a question. "Help me out. I'm trying to understand. I'm curious, I'm motivated. I really want to believe in you." "Steve, you're an extra honors student. You think this is real? Tell me why."
[01:23:00] Jordan Harbinger: I take a similar attack and I probably should actually do more of this, but I occasionally get like white supremacists that will hit me up because they'll say, "Oh, look at you, you kike," or whatever, you know, they'll say something horrible. And I'll say, "What makes you say that?" "Oh, well, you know, you type of people are all the same and this and that and Hitler, this and that." And I'll go, "How did you get interested in all this?" And I really take a curious approach. I don't do it as well as you do, but I did take a curious approach and I will tell you that there have been times where people come back and say, "Yeah, you know, I don't know. Just my brother was into it. And so I saw it like, I would look at it, but you know, you're sitting here talking to me and like, I don't know. I don't know. Do you play Xbox?" And I can tell that what's happening in their brain is they're going, if Jews are all bad and I'm talking to one right now and it doesn't really make a difference. And I'm looking at all these things, and I'm thinking about where the sources are and I'm thinking about whether this is good for me, and none of it's quite adding up. And then you just find, I'd always, the conclusion is always that the person is super lonely. That's almost exclusively what I find with really hateful people is they're extremely lonely.
[01:24:01] Steven Hassan: It's lonely. The paradox is being nice.
[01:24:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:24:05] Steven Hassan: My friend Arno Michaelis, who was a major white power recruiter. He had a band and everything. I've done a few interviews with him. He was given a job by a Jew, so he was making money and the owner saw him. He wasn't eating lunch with everyone else. He said, "Are you hungry?" and he gave him half of his sandwich. And that was not supposed to happen, but it's that kind of getting to the humanity, not the ideology, but the humanity of, "You're hungry, let me help you."
[01:24:37] Jordan Harbinger: I love this. There's so much more we could talk about, I do want to leave on a very practical note though. Okay, so what if our brother, family, grandma, whatever is in Q, how do we start or in Q, that you're not really in, you're just following, right? What do we start with? What would be the Q equivalent question of the gun factory example that you just gave?
[01:24:55] Steven Hassan: So a critical thing is, "Did you cut off contact?" If so, how long were you the one cutting off contact or was the other person the one? Because you really need to customize.
[01:25:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:25:08] Steven Hassan: And if it was you that was being mean or you, that was blocking and cutting off you start by saying, "I miss you. You're my brother. You're my sister. You're my uncle. I really miss you. You're so special to me. I really want to ask your forgiveness because I was rude. Forgive me. Can we do a redo because you mean that much to me?"
[01:25:31] Jordan Harbinger: Going to be some tears on these phone calls.
[01:25:33] Steven Hassan: And what got me to agree to a deprogramming because I was such a fanatical. I would have died on command or killed on command. What got me to agree was my father cried. He looked at me and his tears and he said, "What would you do if it was your son? Who dropped out of college and got involved with a controversial group? How would you feel?" But he was crying that got me right in the heart, like right past all the Moonie indoctrination. It's like the dude really is worried about me. He sincerely cares and I'm like, "But dad, I'm not brainwashed. I'm not in a cult." He said, "So give me a few days and prove it. Just open your mind, listen to what they have to say, ask questions. And then if you want to go back in a few days, I'll drive you there myself, but at least your mother and I will be able to sleep at night knowing we did the responsible thing."
[01:26:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:26:26] Steven Hassan: That was a killer deal closer. Like, of course, I want my parents to sleep at night.
[01:26:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, exactly.
[01:26:33] Steven Hassan: I love my parents. And I'm not sure that I'm not under mind control.
[01:26:38] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So we call these people. We tell them we miss them and we reopened the dialogue. If it, if indeed it's been closed by us or them.
[01:26:45] Steven Hassan: Right. But don't start by — you must be really, you know, feeling confused or some type of judgment because you don't know what they're feeling and they may say, "I'm not ready to talk to you," and you go, "Well, I want you to know as soon as you are my heart is open. My phone is open. I would really love it. And I promise you I'll be a much better listener than I was in the past because I care about you." And love is stronger than mind control. I keep saying that, but love is about not behavior but being this like, "I love you for you. And you're my brother and I love you."
[01:27:27] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So we reopened the dialogue and then how do we start to get them to question these, some of these JFK Jr. is really alive type of things?
[01:27:35] Steven Hassan: So the critical thing for me is encouraging the person to go back in time to how they got involved and what was important to them initially, because it's probably different now.
[01:27:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right like the whole save the children thing. Like I just want to defend children against abuse.
[01:27:53] Steven Hassan: Exactly. And if they wanted to save the children, you go, "That's such an admirable thing. Children need our help. Tell me what your understanding of what practical things people were being doing to help trafficked children. Would you be interested to meet someone whose full time occupation is helping trafficked children? Because I can introduce you."
[01:28:18] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:28:18] Steven Hassan: Or something like that. But the bottom line is they have the key for how to get them out and you want to empower them to help themselves to get out where they feel empowered. Not where you're they feel pressured or coerced by you to adopt your belief system.
[01:28:36] Jordan Harbinger: Dr. Steven Hassan, this has been great. I'm so glad I can call you doctor now because I think I did it before by accident and we had to correct it and I felt really awkward about that. And now it's true.
[01:28:46] Steven Hassan: Yeah. It's amazing. You know, I rebelled against the idea of getting the letters and—
[01:28:52] Jordan Harbinger: Why?
[01:28:53] Steven Hassan: Because it's the elitist, because, you know, I knew more than doctors on the subject.
[01:28:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:28:58] Steven Hassan: And people said, I didn't need it. But then about five years ago, I started realizing the law is a hundred years out of date in terms of understanding the human mind and that nothing was changing policy-wise because the law needs to be updated. So I was encouraged by a law professor in Emeritus, Alan Scheflin to stop calling a brainwashing, talk about undue influence. And then I got involved with this forensic think tank associated with Harvard Medical School, the program in psychiatry and the law. I did a presentation and they were like, "This is really important. You can come to meetings if you want." And one of the professors said, "You should go get a doctorate. I'll supervise your research. Judges want quantitative scientific stuff, not anecdotal qualitative stuff. You need to make this a real thing." And so he said, "I'll help you. I'll supervise you." I talked with my wife. She's like, "Go for it if you want."
[01:29:57] Jordan Harbinger: Great.
[01:29:58] Steven Hassan: And I'm like, "I'm 63. Can I do this?" I really had self-doubts, but it was great for my brain and learning so much. I got better at writing. I learned how to write academically. And I'm hoping it's going to open up some doors, so legitimacy for former members to go—
[01:30:16] Jordan Harbinger: I think so.
[01:30:16] Steven Hassan: —intelligent, educated people can be in cults and they're good people who can make a contribution. We need them.
[01:30:24] Jordan Harbinger: I think it'll also take a bite out of the criticism that you were facing before, where people say, "You know this guy, he's not — this isn't science. This is a guy who wrote a book. He makes his money off of deprogramming. You know, it's a grift," and now you're like, "Well, no, this is science. I made the science. So try again."
[01:30:41] Steven Hassan: Well, I did a scientific study. What I'm hoping is many more people will check my results.
[01:30:46] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:30:47] Steven Hassan: And do more research. And if my research is off — I’ve created a framework where I'm connecting the dots with brainwashing, thought reform, mind control, coercive control in the UK, trafficking law in the US, undue influence with the elderly and then my model. And so there's a framework for judges and jurors to look at any case and go in fluency, "What were their unique vulnerabilities? Influencer predator, qualities of malignant narcissist, and systematic techniques used over time to create a radical personality change that's different. And let a judge and jury decide.
[01:31:27] Jordan Harbinger: Well, it's important work and I'm glad to be your friend. And thank you for coming on today. This is fascinating. It's long overdue. We've been talking about it forever. I'm really glad we finally got a chance to do it.
[01:31:36] Steven Hassan: I want to thank you for one more thing if I may.
[01:31:39] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:31:39] Steven Hassan: You can cut it out if you want, but I joined you at the maximum-security prison for your 40th birthday, and it really did alter my experience of reality and really put to the fore how much justice reform needs to happen. So thank you for doing that.
[01:31:58] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much, once again, fascinating.
[01:32:01] Steven Hassan: Yeah, it's my pleasure. Keep up the good work.
[01:32:06] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, Anthony Luciano Raimondi was born into the world of organized crime, spent much of his life as a mob enforcer, and played a part in heists and assassinations, allegedly. Here's a preview of my conversation with a former Italian mob.
[01:32:24] Anthony Raimondi: So I'm in the club and I put many envelopes together. This guy walks in. So I get up, I say, "Excuse me. Can I help you?" "Yeah. I want to talk to you." He pulled out a gun. I still got the first scar right over here. This guy beat me so bad. I don't even know how I made it back downtown. I was crawling out of the place. Literally, I was crawling out of the place. And I remembered him saying, "You just come back here. Your mother is going to have a close coffin for you. I'm going to blow your f*cking head off. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that."
[01:32:49] My cousin takes you out from the hospital about five, six days later. They told me who this guy was. I went to see Joey D. We went to the basement, all weapons, his family was gun runners. I mean, if you want a B-52 bomb, hit them. They're there for you in three days. They'll have it at your doorstep. I mean, they have bazooka, they have hand grenades. I mean, they have stuff like you'd never saw. He goes, "Pick out something."
[01:33:09] I take off with my cousin's car and I drive to Third Avenue. And I parked. Right in front of the place, there's a parking space. I got the gun on my waistband. I got to go in and Dukie the bartender sees me. He goes, "What are you doing here?" I say, "Don't worry about this. I want to talk to him." I figured out he would really talk to me. When I walked through and I turned around, I'd seen him, he had his back to me. And he was talking to this girl Karen from school. I will never forget Karen.
[01:33:31] The musical was down and I hear her tell him, she says, "Anthony's behind you." For whatever reason before she'd even say I had this gun in my hand. This guy gets up. "Why did I tell you? You dirty mother f*cker. Your mother is going to have a closed coffin. I'm going to blow your f*cking head." He opens his jacket and I'd seen the gun in his waistband. He puts his hand on it. I just picked up my hand like this and emptied the whole clip into him.
[01:33:50] Joe Colombo goes, "Give him a drink." He gives me a 7. He goes, "Look at this kid. He just kills somebody and he's sitting there calm as a cucumber.
[01:33:56] Jordan Harbinger: For more with former Italian mob enforcer, Anthony Raimondo, including the many creative ways mobsters have gotten rid of bodies over the years. Check out episode 425 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:34:10] All right. This has been — enlightening, it's not quite the right word that I wanted to use here, but I suppose that that's true. We did another episode on conspiracy theories with Mick West about why people follow conspiracy theories in the first place. There's a lot about the psychology of why people get sucked into these things, just generally not QAnon specifically, and why people like to believe this craziness. People are building little followings inside it to validate their ego, right? There's people who think that they have specific information that only they have figured out and so they've got a few thousand followers and people just get drunk on these fake Internet points. This clout, they imagine they have.
[01:34:45] Also with cults, this is sort of something new that I've learned after doing our episode with Tim Ballard about human trafficking and child trafficking. There are so many front groups in one of those that are driving legit child trafficking experts like Timothy Ballard crazy, are things that QAnon does like, save the children. It's a common hashtag, but a lot of these so-called anti-pedophile groups that are popping up now, they're not doing anything to help. They're just creating noise that gets in the way of real trafficking work and they are recruiting for QAnon. So you got to be really careful here. You think, "Oh my God, I want to stop pedophiles. Let me donate. Let me go to this rally. Let me go to this meeting." And then suddenly you're getting taught to buy all these Karens about how our children are being trapped in a basement and there are secret underground tunnels, and it's all just garbage and it's just creating noise.
[01:35:33] QAnon is like a real-life scavenger hunt or LARP, right? A live action role-play. You ever see those guys that run around in the forest and they have like foams, swords and shields, and they're pretending to be medieval doing battles? It actually looks really, really fun. I'm not going to lie. The Internet in QAnon is kind of like a LARP, except it's highly unethical. It forces people in. They'll say something like, "If you care about children, you'll join us. And if you don't, maybe you're on the other side." And also it gets people involved that really think that there is a serious problem that Q is solving. It's just a complete waste of energy. It's like people in search of a flat earth, they want things to be simple. And yet then they go and overcomplicate things in a totally random way that doesn't actually affect anything and damages their life in fact.
[01:36:15] One of the practical exercises that we didn't really get to touch on is if somebody, you know, is getting sucked into QAnon, you can find another cult that they think is bad. So child trafficking, Chinese Communist Party propaganda, whatever it is, get into the details. Get into the conspiracy theories there and discussing this will often help conspiracy theorists see the holes in their own thinking. Mick West and I talked about this as well. You can't say, "Look, there is no flat earth," to somebody who's a flat earther. What you can do is say, "What about those people who think that lizard people control the media?" And they'll go, "Oh, this is dumb because you know, there's no evidence for it and people have repeatedly debunked that," and they get to see the holes in their own thinking.
[01:36:53] It doesn't happen instantly, but it does create a frame where they can think critically for the first time in a long time about the other group. And then eventually some of that will seep out into their own group, but this takes patience. It takes a lot of effort. So it's really only worth doing for close friends and family. It's very unfortunate. People convert themselves relatively quickly into these things, but the deprogramming is what takes — unfortunately, it takes a very long time.
[01:37:17] Big thank you to Dr. Steven Hassan. Congratulations again, my friend, on becoming a PhD. That's very impressive. And it's a relief because I accidentally called him Dr. Steven Hassan in our first episode when he wasn't yet, and now I don't have to change anything. I can just lazily be right. Links to all his stuff will be in the show notes as well. Please do use our website links if you buy books and things like that from the guests. They do help support the show. Worksheets for the episode in the show notes. Transcripts in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on the YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. Or you can hit me on LinkedIn. I love connecting with you there as well.
[01:37:53] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same systems, software, tiny habits. I built something called connectionfox.com. That you all can use as well. But I teach you the systems and the software for free over at our Six-Minute Networking course. That course is at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you're thirsty, people. You've got to create relationships before you need them. Don't be the person awkwardly inviting your friends that you haven't seen in eight years out for quesadilla and then asking them for a favor. It's just cringe. So dig that well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to this course and the newsletter, which we never send out. There's no spam. Join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:38:33] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who is getting sucked into QAnon, share this with them. If you know somebody who knows somebody who is getting sucked into QAnon, share this with them. And if you know people who are interested in the phenomenon of conspiracy theories in cult, this is a great one to share. I hope you find something great in every episode, because I bust my butt making this for you all. So please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show, so that you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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