Beginning in the 1990s, I did extensive research and spoke out publicly about extremist groups. The interesting thing I learned in my studies, and from talking with former members, is that all authoritarian leaders use the same tactics and have similar personalities. If the fictional cult leader, Brother Jonah, in my novel, HUNT FOR REDEMPTION, were to teach someone how to be an effective leader, here is what he might suggest:
1. Lie to followers. They won’t care. Tell them what they want to hear.
2. Delegitimize anyone or any source critical of group. They are the true liars.
3. Tell followers their lives will be better under leader’s authority.
4. Manipulate followers into group mentality. Individual thoughts, especially doubts, should not permitted.
5. Use repetitive words: Believe me. Trust me. True enemies. Falsehoods about me
6. Control information. Leader and organization is the only legit source for information.
7. Hold large gatherings, pump up crowd, make it upbeat, publicly denounce & ridicule detractors, give them raw meat.
8. Dress to impress. Look successful and confident. Charisma goes a long way.
9. Find a way to relate to followers on their level. Brother Jonah said, “I’m just a simple country boy.” (In an expensive tailored suit, Italian loafers, and diamond pinky ring. But so what?)
10. Use others to do your dirty work. Don’t get your hands dirty. Don’t let anything lead back to you. Cover your derriere.
11. Be entertaining. It is more important than content.
12. Spin verbal attacks to make yourself the victim. You are being mistreated by non-believers, the press, the opposition.
My suspense novel, HUNT FOR REDEMPTION, is available on Amazon.
Susan Mills Wilson is a native of North Carolina where she writes romantic suspense. She is the leader of the Charlotte Writers Club Mystery Critique Group and a member of Charlotte Writers Club. Subscribe to Susan’s blog at www.susanmillswilson.com.