Getting a better handle on what created the reality-and-facts-suspending so-called “Cult of Trump” now so endangering core democratic institutions emanating from the Oval Office, one may start by asking what happened in America from the time that the national psyche was defined by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 to the mythical Gordon Gecco’s “Greed is Good” speech in the 1987 movie, “Wall Street.”
That national “paradigm shift” was real. I observed the transformation as one not only trained as a journalist, but as a student of social philosophy and as a passionate activist myself, steeped in the progressive radicalism of the late 1960s until everything began tipping south in the early 1970s and then turned into the ugly “Reagan revolution.” The change was from a nation of young, inspired rebels for justice and equality into one dominated by selfishness, self-interest and greed.
Last week, I wrote about the Russian Mafia, and its control of Trump, in this era. The paradigm shift was engineered by powerful and cynical forces that constitute the current, oligarchic “one percent” of the wealthiest among us who continue, with the Russians, their efforts to consolidate power, always living in fear of being overwhelmingly outnumbered from a democratic and egalitarian standpoint. I came into the late 1960s as a college graduate who enrolled in the progressive Pacific School of Religion seminary in Berkeley, California, and earned a master’s degree with honors. The Vietnam War was raging and the racial justice echoes of the recently-slain Dr. King rebounded everywhere. Taking my own stand, I “came out” as gay, jumping on board with those who were founding a new movement for equality. But the counterrevolution was already well underway, too, fueled by covert subversions laced with drugs and radical hedonist “sexual freedom.”
The latter was deployed against the gay movement and, in particular, feminist advocates of gender equality, seen as perhaps the most subversive group of all. It purported to entitle males to have their way with women (and children), and to envision them from an exploitative and pornographic, drug-dazed standpoint. Society is still suffering the consequences of this, though thankfully, the #MeToo movement has recently begun standing up to it. In the 1960s and 1970s, cults were also spawned by the thousands, drawing in unsuspecting youth and entrapping them in mind-altering environments. Most of them were, as it turned out, right wing in nature, even if not immediately evident. Exemplary was the aggressive Children of God, whose members infiltrated fundamentalist churches and helped politicize them, many for the first time. The case of LaRouche was no different. LaRouche, an aging Trotskyite, lectured on the steps at Columbia University to form a group of brainy student leftists. By around 1974, heavy doses of paranoia, sensory and material deprivations effectively turned them into a cult that physically attacked remnants of the old left and by the mid-1970s, found pseudo-social justifications for aligning with arch-conservative elements of the “alt-right.”
I experienced that first hand. I joined LaRouche as a refugee from the radical hedonism that had overtaken the gay movement even as, because of my gay activism, I was persona non grata to my family. None of the members when I joined were right wing or anti-Semitic. I was gay and my partner was Jewish. The group’s intellectual focus appealed to my seminary experience. I was saved from the worst mental abuses of the cult because, as a graduate seminarian, I actually read the original works of many of the classic cultural giants that the cult only alluded to in justifying its twisted thinking. The cult’s greatest damage was caused by its relentless fundraising, which not only drained its members with 16-hour “deployments” to street corners and airports, but identified and targeted thousands subsequently driven to political apathy by being ripped off for countless sums of money with groundless promises of short-term loan repayments.
I left three decades ago, though coerced to stay longer than I should have. Reclaiming my life as a newspaperman has been my greatest happiness. Nothing rankles me more than someone’s assumption my life is somehow linked to what went before. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.