Steve Hassan Practices Information Control
Update: For those who have implied I am lying about Steve Hassan’s deletions see:
for a snapshot of the conversation, as it existed on January 10, 2012. Then click here for the conversation, as it exists today with my posting deleted.
Steve Hassan has proclaimed himself to be a “cult-expert” and at times, America’s Leading Exit Counselor. These appellations are ironic indeed given the way he deals with those who disagree with him. In the past few days, Steve Hassan has deleted two politely phrased comments I have made on his Freedom of Mind Resource Center Inc. and Author Facebook pages and I have been blocked from making further postings on these pages. Apparently he does not want to contaminate his pages with the thoughts of those who disagree with him. On this FB page you’ll see “xoxo” and heart icons and praise from his sycophants but what you will not see is any kind of serious challenge to his unsubstantiated assertions he makes in the name of being a “cult expert”.
[update: the same thing happened to another person recently who posted a link on Hassan's Facebook page to a critical book review of Hassan's latest book-- the posting was deleted and the person who posed it was banned from posting anything further. It would be understandable if the postings had included personal attacks, but they did not. Clearly, Steve Hassan will not tolerate criticism, it would seem.] Since that time, he has deleted the postings of other people who posted things that were a challenge to his views.
Before going any further, some people will respond to this by pointing out the obvious, that people who Hassan bans are free to post elsewhere, as if that somehow makes what he did not problematic. Of course they can and of course Hassan has every right to ban whomever he chooses from his sites, but that’s not the point. Yes, to make my position perfectly clear, Steven Alan Hassan has every right to engage in hypocritical behavior and engage in information control. However, people equally have the same right to call him out on his behavior and such exercise of free speech which we also have a right to, in no way violates his rights. I find it interesting that some people seem to feel that the expression of my opinion violates his rights, as if he is the only one entitled to such rights. Rights go both ways.
The point is that as a self-proclaimed expert on “cults” we have the right to expect that he would be modeling non-cult-like behavior and practicing what he preaches and that includes open acceptance and discussion of criticism, rather than shutting out criticism, as he has done repeatedly. If a group Hassan considers a “cult” engaged in that kind of behavior, he would be all over it very loudly, but when he does it, apparently it is somehow not supposed to be a problem. To me, such hypocritical behavior is a big problem.
There are also those who have asked me why don’t I just focus on fighting Scientology, rather than criticizing “cult experts”? There are plenty of people who are out of Scientology much more recently and were in much higher positions than I was who are far more qualified to do so and are doing quite an excellent job. My role, as I see it, is to focus on the broader, bigger picture of cult like behavior. If the “cult experts” engage in such behavior, then their words and actions are all for naught and as many others have pointed out, such behavior is all too common among people who profess to be “fighting cults” or “education the public” about “cult mind control” and yet engage in the very tactics they accuse the cults of, such as information control. Scientology itself, as most have noticed, has very little power these days, except over a relatively small group of adherents. It is much more interesting and important to focus on behaviors that make such abuses possible in the first place and Steven Hassan, in my opinion, is part of that problem.
I have no doubt that Steve Hassan will come up with some kind of rationalization for why it was okay to delete my comments, but not okay when cults delete comments from critics. He will probably give this rationalization, not publicly, but privately to selected people. I predict he will say he did it because he considers, in his “expert” opinion that I am an unrecovered ex-cult member with serious issues that needs intensive therapy and that therefore he had to delete my postings and block me from posting, so as to not to harm the oh so fragile ex-cult members that visit his site — or words to that effect. Maybe he’ll even accuse me of “mind controlling” people with my postings but of course he will not do this to my face because that would mean actually having to have a discussion with me and honestly responding to and dealing with my arguments and needing to hear my rebuttals, etc.
If Steve Hassan is offering anyone some kind of rationalization about his information control of my postings to anyone reading this, all I ask is that you please stop, reflect, and think this through. Isn’t this exactly what cultists do to protect their members? Denigrate critics or deem them to have personal/mental/emotional problems or accuse them of in some way being controlling all as a way of isolating followers from anyone who dares to question. I believe that according to Steve Hassan’s BITE model, that would be information control. Steve Hassan has also said that the truth will stand up to scrutiny, so what is he so afraid of that he has to delete my words? In my opinion, Steve Hassan deleting my postings is practicing information control. The only problem is that he can only control his own websites, blogs and FB pages. He cannot control what people write on the internet and hence, he will be called out on his behavior.
In contrast, as people who read this blog can see that I allow for open, free discussion and many people who have disagreed with me have commented here. Steve Hassan, in contrast, has no mechanism on his blog for anyone to comment and on his Facebook pages, apparently he only allows comments from people who are favorable towards his approach.
My posting on his Freedom of Mind Resource Facebook page was in response to a posting made by ex-Mormon David Van der Leek, who had opined that he considered the Mormon church to be a cult. Click here to read the discussion that ensued, minus the posting of mine which he deleted where I linked to my blog article where I had expressed a dissenting opinion. My posting contained no personal attacks on Steve Hassan, only an expression of disagreement. In the discussion, Steve immediately asked David how he felt about Romney and Huntsman “wishing to become President of the USA.” David’s initial response was non-commital, saying that he was a Canadian citizen and distrusted politics in general, but Steve immediately jumped in with a leading question, which in a court of law would have been considered grounds for objection (leading the witness). He asked David:
Is there a concern that he might get instructions or possibly ordered from the “Prophet?” Could he say “no” if a revelation is received, and communicated to him if he was President that would interfere with his objectivity as leader of a very diverse nation of believers?
David responded that “to say no to Mormon authority would be like saying no to God.” Steve Hassan has a habit of uncritically accepting proclamations made by former member of group, so in spite of my documentation and proof that David is incorrect, Steve would dismiss any rebuttal from me and go with the long-time former member. For those who are not so uncritically accepting, being very familiar with the Mormon religion, I know this to be incorrect and here’s why. The Mormon (LDS) religion does not consider Joseph Smith or any of its living prophet deities. The only deities are God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Prophets, Bishops and other church leaders are not claimed to be infallible. On the contrary, there are a number of checks and balances within the system that allow for correction, should a leader take an action that a member believes was unwise or even harmful. Go here to read what Jeff Lindsay, who served as a bishop for a Wisconsin ward had to say about how he was always open to feedback from other during his tenure as a bishop. If a member feels an injustice has occurred involving a bishop, that person does have recourse to go to someone with higher authority than the bishop. Even the Prophet has counsel.
On the contrary, there is abundant evidence that the many current LDS elected officials do not impose their religious beliefs upon others. For example, Romney has taken a pro choice position on abortion, something that he and the LDS religion are strongly opposed to, yet his political position on this issue has been pro choice. There is no evidence or good reason to believe that if elected, Romney would govern by the dictates of church leaders. The US President doesn’t have that kind of power anyway, as the system has checks and balances.
Personally, I would have no problem voting for a Mormon running for political office. For example, if I were a Minnesota resident, I would have gladly campaigned and voted for Chris Barden for state Attorney General (who unfortunately lost the election last year), who has been a champion for cracking down on bogus mental health practices.
Hassan immediately banned me from his “Freedom of Mind Page.” However, I had not been banned from his Author page. The second posting I responded to concerned Steve Hassan posting an interview he did with John Walsh, shortly after Elizabeth Smart had been found. Click here to view it. I made a brief, simple comment about Elizabeth Smart’s resilience and support from her loving Mormon family and having gone on a mission with no attacks on Steve Hassan whatsoever, and guess what happened? No big surprise by this time, by the following morning my posting had been removed and I have been banned from posting there.
The fact is that Steve Hassan’s dire predictions about what happens to ex-cult members who do not get his “expert” form of post cult therapy and his diagnosis of ex-cult members of having “dissociative” disorders, did not apply to Elizabeth Smart, who did just fine without Steve Hassan and although her mother reported she did have some form of therapy, the therapy was obviously oriented towards encouraging her resilience and nearly a decade later, she is doing very well. The naysayers keep saying her trauma is going to pop up later and get her, but there is no good evidence for delayed onset PTSD which contrary to popular belief, is actually quite rare according to more carefully conducted studies. What evidence does strongly show is that family and social support are very strong determining factors of a person’s recovery and Elizabeth Smart had that with her close, loving, Mormon family and she has stated in numerous interviews that she has drawn strength from her religion (yes, the one Steve Hassan considers to be a cult). Contrast the reality of Elizabeth Smart’s resilience with what Steve Hassan in 2003 predicted would happen to her, which never materialized:
But Hassan worries that when things calm down, when she’s no longer basking in the feel of her own clothes and the taste of home-cooked food, she may long for the person known as “Augustine.”
“There is a nine-month-old formed identity that is indoctrinated with this man’s belief,” Hassan said. “I think ‘Augustine’ will miss him and she may feel some anxiety and panic over that.”
There is no evidence that Elizabeth Smart ever developed such an “identity”. In fact, her recent testimony directly contradicts this. She maintained her identity throughout the experience.
Hassan also asserted:
Hassan believes once Mitchell had Elizabeth he immediately began to drive home his belief system, laid out in a dense 27-page manifesto in which he declared himself a messenger of God. “He likely began saying in a very fanatical way that he was a prophet, and that she was meant to be his wife,” he said. “He knew the right words to say because he was a Mormon who was excommunicated and she was Mormon.”
This connection between them, a shared knowledge of religious doctrine and reference points, allowed the hold over her to become that much stronger.
“Someone who already believes in God and the revelation as a respected religious experience is more … vulnerable,” he said.
Again, there is no evidence that people who believe in God and revelation are more vulnerable to cults, but he states his speculation as if it were a proven fact.
Elizabeth Smart testified as to the actual reason she didn’t ask for help and it had nothing to do with Hassan’s “cult” identity” theory. Let’s use Occam’s Razor. The truth is much simpler. He threatened her life.
A prosecutor asked Smart whether Mitchell gave her instructions about how to behave as they went into public. Smart testified that, “If I try to run away I will be killed. He said I wasn’t to talk to anybody. I wasn’t to go anywhere without him that I needed to stay next to him at all times.
and she said this about a police officer who almost discovered them:
“I felt like hope was walking out the door. I was mad at myself that I didn’t say anything. Mad at myself for not taking a chance but I just felt like…I felt terrible. I felt terrible that the detective hadn’t pushed harder, and he just walked away. I felt mad at myself that I hadn’t done anything; that I hadn’t taken a chance. I thought something would have happened to me and to my family, but I was very upset,” said Smart.
Again, it is obvious that the reason why she didn’t say anything was because he had frightened her into thinking she and her family would be harmed if she did. No pseudoscientific “dual identity” theory needed to explain that. There is no indication of any “cult identity” that missed the experience which Elizabeth Smart described as her “nine months of hell.”
Hassan is now pointing out how open he is to other points of view because he posts the links to websites with which he disagrees on his website compilations of various groups. Those are not websites, however, that directly challenge him as I have. Additionally, there is no mention of the extensive critique of his work by cult experts David Clark, Carol Giambalvo, Noel Giambalvo, Kevin Garvey and Michael Langone in their chapter on exit counseling in a 1993 edited book entitled Recovery from Cults (something his supporters managed to get deleted from his Wikipedia page in the “Criticism” section). Obviously, Steve Hassan will not tolerate my challenges to his point of view. This is something people might want to consider, when contemplating his ability to help as as “cult expert”.
Update: A supporter of Hassan is also attempting to delete the following criticism of Steve Hassan from his Wikipedia entry:
Criticism from Other Cult Experts
Cult experts David Clark, Carol Giambalvo, Noel Giambalvo, Kevin Garvy and Michael Langone, PhD have criticized Steve Hassan’s approach to exit counseling in a chapter entitled “Exit Counseling: A Practical Overview” from an edited volume “. These authors stated that Hassan’s four core beliefs are “vague and rather standard fare for counseling approaches within the field of humanistic psychology. As with many humanistic counseling approaches, Hassan runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly, on the framework’s foundational ambiguity and thereby manipulating the client.” (p. 175). The authors gave Hassan an opportunity to respond. Hassan’s response was that the critique “exaggerates the manipulativeness of his approach” and offered clarification that he tries to “minimize the danger by taking a step-by-step approach to help the cultist ‘grow’”. Clark et al.’s reply is “Despite these clarifications of Hassan’s approach, we still have several concerns.” Their concerns were first, that Hassan did not clearly communicate this sensitivity in his writings, second, that other professionals who rely on Hassan’s writings might not be sensitive enough to the potential of his approach to become manipulative, third, that Hassan’s approach “even when practiced in its most pure form, strategic intervention therapy is still overtly intrusive” (p. 176). Their fourth objection is that “subordinating exit counseling to a family counseling structure is usually not necessary for a successful exit counseling.” Their central criticism is that Hassan’s approach is said to “effect” change without the cult-involved person’s prior approval and is hence, manipulative, whereas in contrast, Clark et al’s informational approach “invites” change. To date, no research exists that demonstrates the superiority of either method of exit counseling.
Why are Steve Hassan’s supporters making this attempt at information control?
Update: In his latest FB posting, Steven Hassan demonstrates how little he actually knows about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Someone asked him if Romney was still a Bishop and Hassan replies, “yes, I believe he is”. If Steve Hassan knew anything at all about the Mormon faith, he would understand that Bishop is a church calling and like any calling, it is only a temporary title — Bishops serve an average of 5 to 7 years. Romney has not been a Bishop since the 1980s. This, however, does not stop Steve from using his self-proclaimed “expertise” to answer questions about a faith he knows very little about. This is not a trivial blunder on his part, as it is indicative of his serious lack of knowledge on how church callings such as Bishop operate. Instead, Mr. Hassan appears to have only a superficial understanding into which he inserts his stereotypes and unsupported theories. It is also interesting and telling that thus far, his Ex-Mormon followers who know better, have apparently thus far not taken the trouble to correct him on this easily refutable blunder.