This course offers an introduction to thought reform techniques employed by various states and organizations that have exercised extraordinary degrees of social control over their members. Students taking this course will be able to describe the “brainwashing” methods used by the Chinese and North Korean communists and the social control mechanisms employed by religious cults and other highly authoritarian groups to recruit, control, and deploy their followers. They will be able to explain and discuss the nature of charismatic leadership. Among the groups covered as case studies in this course are the Manson Family, the Unification Church, the People’s Temple, the Order of the Solar Temple, Aum Shinrikyo, and Heaven’s Gate.
Assess the literature on cults; discuss the difficulties with the term “cult,” and how cults are relevant in a security context.
Identify who joins cults, why they join, and the role of marketing the
growth of cults.
Identify the difference between a religious group, a religious cult, and religiously inspired terrorism.
Assess religion as a cultural system and apply that theory to cults.
Appraise scholarly literature on cult activity, legal ramifications, and ethics; integrate the information to create effective communications to combat security risks posed by cult activity.
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