Weird & Güd - Don't Deprogram the Deviants

Sometimes the WrongThink is so right

I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, some hermit-ism required after all.

Dean Ellis

The Weird

Last newsletter we peeked into the wonderfully weird world of cults. In a cult, certain activities are a no-go, like questioning and, you know, thinking. During the rise of cults, people were perplexed over how they got followers to do unthinkable acts like committing mass suicide or murdering pregnant Sharon Tate. How could these sweet, blonde, once happy sons and daughters suddenly turn into cold-blooded killers and hippies? (Depending on your politics during the 70s, same thing).

It had to be something sinister, something deeply malevolent that would allow us to dole out condemnation while preserving the innocence of sweet, baseball-loving Bobby Joe. It had to be….mind control.

When some evil-doer has turned your precious offspring against you through mind-control (the obvious culprit in your teenager’s rebellion), the only answer is to undo what’s been done by using an equally mechanistic term — deprogramming. This was a real solution used by a handful of deprogrammers who by today’s standards would seem in need of their own deprogramming.

The delightfully named Rick Ross conducted deprogramming of a 14-year old that you can watch in all its 80s glory (this is quality reality TV), was sued into oblivion for false imprisonment by a “failed deprogramming” subject, and worked with the FBI during the Waco siege (not exactly a resume highlight).

There’s also Ted Patrick, known as the father of deprogramming, who pioneered the deprogrammer’s arsenal of kidnapping and false imprisonment. He once kidnapped a 35-year old woman and handcuffed her to a bed for 2 weeks while denying her food as a means to help her parents break her of the heinous mind control of leftist politics (thou shalt not cancel thy parents).

Deprogramming has since gone out of style when psychology moved away from the idea that people could become automatons overnight. No matter how hard we try, we keep rediscovering that the only way to understand people is to treat them like independently thinking beings. Ugh.

Stardust and the villain's head--Fletcher Hanks. 7.5/10 on the Scale of Obviousness.

Deprogramming isn’t just an unusual blip in history, though. The idea of blank slate-ing someone’s mind and creating a “right-thinking” person, as the Maoist government termed it, has been explored by communist regimes, Nazi Germany, and the United States. What a fun bunch.

The idea of “unlearning” and “re-education” has been around as long as there have been systems that depend on suppressing contradictory thought. People have this pesky habit of thinking about things, which can make sending them to die in an unjust war, murdering their neighbors for holding the wrong heritage, or murdering them for holding the wrong ideas, kind of difficult.

Replaces and cancels the previous Johnnythehorse.

Most of us don’t grow up learning to be murdering machines or drones, as despotic rulers tragically realize again and again. Even rats have an innate sense of fairness and unless you’re a sociopath, you’ll feel unease at watching even an enemy’s execution, as masses of soldiers discover upon returning from war. Most people are good, albeit struggling amid the suffering of life; we aren’t so full of evil in need of purging that our goodness can only be seen after a period of atonement — I mean, unlearning.

Unlearning Complete.

Life is not meant to be lived in a verb behind the prefix un-. Later research found deprogramming to be not only bunk, but bad. A person who is “successfully” deprogrammed has to admit that their mind, their autonomy, was beyond their control. Deprogramming brings into question not only the decisions that led a person into a cult, but every decision they’ll ever make.

When you’re told the choices you made are not truly your choices, but the result of some unknown, devious influence, all your future choices are questioned as well.

4CP | Four Color Process

If you can no longer trust yourself to make the right choice,
you become dependent on an outside source to guide those choices for you.

Teaching someone that their decision making is untrustworthy is to reduce them to a child too young to know right from wrong. Deprogramming aimed to remove a person’s dependency on a cult, but it turns out that attempting to undo a person’s thinking patterns makes them doubly vulnerable to believing that only someone else can discern the right choices for them.

Like all children who will grow up, taking responsibility for both your actions and your thoughts is the best way to guard yourself against a neverending list of those who would happily make your decisions for you.

The Güd

Ida Rentoul, 1916

An ode to goth clubs.

Goth clubs are overwhelmingly güd, especially if they’re in some dingy space rented only by the night where there’s nothing but a concrete floor and a half-hearted attempt at eerie lighting. You probably didn’t expect The Güd to be dedicated to goth clubs, but considering clubs have taken on a completely new layer of grime in our post-pandemic world, it’s worth a moment to appreciate the once benign act of sweating in a room full of people all breathing the same air.

Thanks COVID, everything is officially disgusting.

Goth clubs are better than other clubs and you know why? Because almost everyone inside them is ugly or an outcast, and I say that with total love. The whole popular-kids-being-jerks trope is only a trope because it’s so true it’s become cliche. We won’t talk about why it’s true, but only that if you go to a goth club, you’ll avoid the popular crowd, which includes that tense atmosphere where you’re pretty sure that plastered guy in the too-tight shirt is going to assault the next person that bumps into him.

Pterocarpus Angolensi, or as I would call it, the Goth Tree.
It bleeds red sap when cut that acts just as blood would to seal the incision. Even nature is goth.

Don’t discount the goths. This subculture has been around since the 80s and takes its cue from the music of Joy Division and The Cure, but its influences stretch back farther to historic figures like Nietzsche, Edgar Allen Poe, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

You might not notice them walking their dog down the street, but goths live amongst us. They’re one of the only subcultures that remain dedicated into adulthood; you’ve seen nothing until you’ve seen a 60-year-old guy swaying with abandon to Depeche Mode while in full goth gear.

From fashion inspired by Victorian mourning that finds its way on to runways, movies like Beetlejuice and The Matrix, and even books like The Sandman from Neil Gaiman, goth culture is all our cultures.

Related image
1910s silent film star Theda Bara in dark eyeliner & posing with morbid props before Hot Topic made it easy.

Groups don’t get much love from me but goths are one group I respect; they’ve been flouting societal norms of sexuality, appearance, and identity while consistently producing great art and music for decades.

Goths are what every group should aspire to — they provide community, acceptance, and culture all without an oppressive requirement for conformity or aggressive proselyting.

Though I don’t think I’d mind if some goth kids showed up at my door with a pamphlet asking if I’ve accepted my lord and savior, Nick Cave. John Everett Millais Ophelia Cropped Large Art Print ...
Ophelia, 1851 by John Everett Millais
Millais might not have realized at the time, but dead girl with flowers would be a hit subculture roughly a century later.

Like every well-behaved group, goths have drawn the ire of outsiders, even being the victims of hate crimes. Yep, that’s right, you can commit a hate crime against goths as per Judge Anthony Russel who ruled against the attackers of a goth couple in Lancashire. Even a judge deemed goths to be “perfectly peaceful, law-abiding people who pose no threat to anybody,” which is also my criteria for club-goers.

While I’m probably the world’s worst goth thanks to my love of brightly colored dresses (tropical goth is a thing) and my tendency to do the opposite of whatever’s expected of me, including conforming to a non-conformist aesthetic, there’s something oddly liberating about a room full of awkward people completely dedicated to a subculture that has said “fuck off!” to every new trend for decades.

We all choose our groups eventually. Hold your chosen group to the goth standard set forth by Judge Russel and perhaps all our groups might one day live in an ever-interesting, ever-weird patchwork world.

Goth Güdness Activated.

I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.

I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.