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The truth seems to be that propaganda on its own
cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it
inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep
people persuaded once they have ceased to believe.
It penetrates into minds already open, and rather
than instill opinion it articulates and justifies opinions
already present in the minds of its recipients
                              Eric Hoffer

Cults: Mixed And Filtered Information

There is something very important to realize about this never ending stream of new information. That is: No matter what new or existing information is presented, it is filtered through the cult and its standards.

 That may not sound like much of an issue, but it is a very telling point about both the honesty and integrity of an organization -- especially one claiming to teach virtues such as integrity, courtesy, honesty and respect. The information always comes from the cult, even if it from an outside source. This goes beyond spin That is to say, that no matter what is being presented, it is being taught through the cult's authority, interpretation, editing and as though it were part of the cult's inherent information.

A very good summary of this phenomenon was made by a renowned martial artist when speaking of a particular school that was trying to entice him to come and teach. When a friend tried to warn him about the group, he laughed at the warning and said, "I know what those people are. They are pirates. They steal from you and then claim it has been in their family for generations."  When he made this comment, this martial artist did not know Marc had dealt with the same behavior with this group. As a guest instructor,  he  had taught a basic concept of blocking to members of this group while the head instructor watched the class. The move was not present in the system, as it was a hard-style school and the move is from a soft-style. Six months later, the same instructor cooked up a story about how his Master had taught him this super, secret, all-purpose move and sworn him to secrecy about it for 20 years. The time was now up and  he could teach this secret bunkai. It was the exact same move! A move the head instructor neither fully understood or could do correctly. And yet he was teaching it as a revealed part of his system. His students, however, were in awe of the new revealed information that the grandmaster had passed onto the Master and he now passed onto them. This is why Marc nearly fell of my chair laughing at the other martial artist's keen "pirate" observation. It is a perfect example of pillaged information being passed off as the sage teachings of the Master's master.

In the same way that competition teams are always watching at tournaments for new flash moves that impress the judges to incorporate into their own demonstrations, both cults and shady martial arts instructors are always on the prowl for new ideas that they can snatch up and pass off as their own. The problem is that it isn't just physical techniques that they plunder. Information  from independent fields -- complete with experts of their very own (i.e. law, medicine, teaching, religion, etc) -- are all presented within the authority of the cult. Complicated subjects, that require their own specialized training, are presenting as overly-simplified concepts. They are stuffed into the box of the cult's perspective and then presented, not only as though they are the complete picture, but as proof of how complete the system is. "See? We can teach you about that too!"

Amazingly enough, no matter how complicated the subject really is, the edited version the cult is  offering will be presented as "what you really need to know about it." Stop and think about that. How can an ancient traditional fighting system from another culture know the use of force laws of  the 21st century country you live in? While we're at it, how can it be knowledgeable about the tactics and strategies of modern criminals and aggressors? According to the cult, it is the ultimate in one-stop shopping.   You don't have to go out and do your own pesky research or bother to listen to anybody else, they've got it covered for you.

A telling point about cults is  watch the reactions of professionals from these fields about the information you were presented. This going to tell you how realistic the information is. Like the time the so-called knife fighting expert told a Chicago seminar that a technique for slitting someone's throat from behind was self-defense. While this all-knowing-guru was saying this, a Clark County District Attorney was standing in the back of the room shaking his head. The guru was telling people that an act of murder was self-defense. Unfortunately for the rest of the seminar attendees, the DA had too much class to say that the instructor was wrong. When you see professionals in the field flinch when you tell them what you were told stop telling what you think you know and start asking them what they know.

This kind of simplistic  interpretation of complex subject happens all the time in cults. We have on several occasions shown video tapes by supposed knife fighting experts to attorneys and district attorneys to confirm our suspicion that what is being taught as a viable knife technique would in fact, put you in prison for manslaughter, or give you an assault with a deadly weapon conviction. Yet, this information is regularly promoted as self-defense by people who have no idea of the restrictions and legal standards of that term.

 Even more common than incorrect legal advice is how often erroneous history, cultural and religious information is  presented by cult leaders. In  his life Marc has made independent study of Oriental religions outside the context of my martial arts training. On top of that, his major in college was history. Having said that, he will be the first to admit that I am not an expert in these fields. But from those two experiences he can state, with absolute certainty, that when it comes to history, culture and religion, NOTHING is ever simplistic or static. There is no credibility to any blanket statement about "how it was done," especially over thousand years and in a distant country.   Things change, people have different opinions, politics, power struggles and technology, all contribute to ongoing and complex social dynamics and on-going change. As any history, poli-sci or theology teacher can -- and will -- tell you.

This is why so often, when hearing outrageous, unsubstantiated claims about the ancient spiritual roots of this warrior culture, my reaction is "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Where'd you get that BS?" A lot of so-called "ancient fighting systems" don't date back beyond the first part of the 20th century and were strongly influenced by WWII Japan's militancy and propaganda to glorify ancient warrior traditions (this includes the martial art systems of the countries Japan invaded). There is no historical documentation that these specific arts extend back a thousand years (or longer) that would withstand review by a professional historian. What there are, however, is a lot of spinmiesters who are trying to borrow credibility from the past. As such, these Masters take incomplete tidbits of information tie them to ancient warrior traditions and feed them to cult members to enhance their own authority.

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