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Manual is a plot, say ex-cult members

Title: Manual is a plot, say ex-cult members
Date: Saturday, 11 May 1991
Publisher: The Age (Australia)
Author: Jacqui MacDonald
Main source: link (555 KiB)

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IN the early 1970s, a manual titled 'Deprogramming — The Constructive Destruction of Belief' was distributed in Australia and Britain to groups including politicians and journalists.

It circulated under the guise of legitimate practices used to retrieve believers from the clutches of various cults. But two American ex-cult members, recently in Australia, have claimed that the document is a Scientology plot in the United States to discredit deprogrammers. The Scientology church denies that it put out the manual.

The Americans, Joe and Sean, prefer to be known as "exit-consultants", because the term "deprogrammer" has become associated with kidnapping and other dubious activities that are outlined in the manual.

The techniques that the manual suggests are used by deprogrammers include "food termination", sleep withdrawal, shame inducement through nudity, physical correction and verbal stress.

It says food termination means withdrawing food and that the only fluid allowed is water. It argues that because deprogramming only lasts a couple of days there should be no medical danger. However, it concedes that if the sessions lasts for weeks, small quantities of food would be allowable.

It goes on to say that no sleep should be allowed during the deprogramming.

"When the subject falls asleep, he should be immediately awakened. Some of the methods used to keep the subject awake included rubbing iceblocks on the subject's body or making the subject stand so that if he falls asleep he wakes as he hits the ground."

On the use of nudity, the manual says: "Most subjects are very body conscious and having to stand naked in front of their opponents causes a person to become a temporary introvert." It says the slightest flaw in the person's physical make-up should be pointed out and the person should never be allowed to go to the toilet by himself.

Physical correction is described as punishment and should be done "with as little bruising as possible and the avoidance of fractures or internal injuries". The manual says the deprogrammer should always deny its use.

It says verbal stress is created by speaking constantly to the person in a loud voice. The manual recommends that deprogrammers use amplifying equipment.

Joe and Sean argue that legitimate deprogrammers do not use any of these techniques. "You have the right to believe in whatever you choose, but, you also have the right to know exactly what it is," Joe said.

"Usually when people realise what they've got themselves involved in they will make an informed choice."