Skip to main content

A psychiatrist named Robert Jay Lifton outlined three defining features shared by destructive cults. They are highlighted below in this screenshot from an article in The Guardian:

Let’s run the checklist, shall we? Let’s start with number one.

Admittedly, prime minister Robert Abela perhaps isn’t the best claimant for the mantle of ‘a charismatic leader’. The man couldn’t charm the pants off a hired strip-tease dancer if he tried.

The fact that the leader’s word is final within the Labour Party is a given. Robert Abela is certainly not ‘an object of worship’, though – while most Labour Party delegates do not seem to be willing to break ranks just yet, it is evident that Abela does not inspire confidence. It is equally evident that the Labour Party has drifted away from the original principles that sustained the group.

While it is definitely the case that no leader of the Labour Party has ever had any meaningful accountability, this particular destructive cult is split into factions who are both codependent and mutually unhappy about the other’s existence. Abela will never be capable of becoming the single most defining element of the group unless disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat spends some time behind bars catching up with his old ‘food, wine, women‘ buddy, alleged murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech.

That prospect would all but guarantee the Labour Party’s implosion, a consequence which would be unthinkable for someone like our prime minister but would actually benefit the country immensely if it were to occur. Someone like Abela would not be able to understand that making the right call to benefit the greater good would be a far more respectable legacy than being the sod who kept trying to hold a corrupt government together. Abela’s Faustian pact with his fraudulent predecessor does not make his decision to sign it any more acceptable.

So, the verdict on criterion number one – the basic ingredients are all there, but the destructive cult is not united behind one leader, and is therefore in disarray. On to number two.

‘Thought reform’ is a term that fits the Labour Party’s communications strategy so well I almost wonder whether I should tuck it away instead of writing it here for fear of giving them any ideas. After all, they are the undisputed champions of paper-tiger reforms, and the likelihood of a scenario in which that jumped-up ONE reporter heading the justice ministry suddenly mandates lobotomies for everyone through a ‘Thought Reform Act’ does not seem too distant at this point.

The term fits their strategy so well it is basically the end stage of what needs to happen for someone to accept the notion that the Labour Party is a political entity worth considering as if it were any other of its kind. To accept this fundamentally flawed premise, one must cast aside all the cognitive dissonance that is generated by the Labour Party’s actions: its claims of being responsible for the country’s financial prosperity (while pissing away public money), its claims of being considerate of the environment (while simultaneously speeding up its eradication), its claims of being an exemplary EU member state that advocates for peace (all this while declaring war on its domestic enemies).

Believing the Labour Party’s propaganda is a feat worthy of the mental Olympics. It is apparent that much of the party apparatus is made up of opportunists far more than it is made up of believers these days, because the only guiding mantra remains access to power and money. The propaganda is for the electorate, not for those who see the machine, understand how it works, and wish to abuse it for personal profit.

‘Members of the group often doing things that are not in their own best interest, but consistently in the best interest of the group and its leader’ also fits them almost perfectly. Reading the comments section on any decently written news story, even relatively flat, unremarkable pieces, usually feels like looking at the last mutterings of a manic kamikaze pilot, someone who desperately needs to convince themselves that what they’ve committed themselves to is good for them.

Again, the group is not in a position to rally behind a singular leader, so the actions carried out by its members do not necessarily match the agenda of its leader. On the contrary, since the group’s unifying factor is personal gain for its members, members who are in a situation in which they feel they might personally benefit more from throwing someone else under the bus will do so if it comes to it. Just ask all the foot soldiers Abela lined up for the firing squad shortly after the Jean-Paul Sofia public inquiry report came out.

Verdict on criterion number two – very strong correlation with the notion of thought reform and the idea that members act largely to benefit the group, although it must be stressed that the defining feature of the Labour Party cult is the idea that the party’s survival is only vital insofar as it facilitates everyone’s personal enrichment.

Given that there is no ideological glue holding the party together, the minute the Labour Party loses access to the corridors of power is the minute people will abandon it in droves. It holds onto power so desperately because its top brass knows very well that there is nothing but power and its trappings which is keeping the party’s criminals-in-chief safely sheltered from any kind of justice.

As for the destructiveness and exploitation which is described in criterion number three, I think this is something which is apparent to us all. In our sad case, the damage is even worse than what a cult would typically only be able to do to its own members, because the Labour Party cult is in power and therefore, in a position to do damage to society at large.

The cult’s greatest asset is its ability to weaponise your sense of resignation and apathy. The callous dismissals of public anger are not simply a matter of a lack of tact or manners. Bear in mind that whenever they do want to try on the mask of empathy for size, they can act like it – it is not a question of them not getting it. It is a question of deliberately feeding the idea that politicians will not change their course of action just because public opinion has turned on them.

While it is no Bureau 121, the Labour Party does have a coordinated network of online trolls who are tasked with shaping public discourse and bleating out the party’s talking points whenever and wherever necessary. It also has people monitoring what others are saying, what the talking points of the dissenting side are, and what the popular sound bites of the day seem to be.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that they don’t take notes whenever they see one of us post something expressing disillusionment and/or a sense of helplessness. Don’t assume that they do not specifically gauge their discourse, their decisions, and their denials of accountability based on how much they think they can get away with, because they do, with every single issue that comes up in the public sphere.

Another thing you should be conscious of is the fact that your admission of defeat entrenches the cult’s sense of invincibility in the face of opposition, a vicious cycle which always just emboldens them to do worse.

If you are in doubt about whether the Labour Party is obsessed with gauging public opinion and seeing just how much it needs to concede to avoid being labelled completely totalitarian, just look at every U-turn Abela has made in his tenure as prime minister so far – the minute he perceives that public opinion has turned on him is the minute he makes the ‘correct’ call.

The cult’s ideal scenario is a situation in which there is nothing but despair in the air, when all hope feels like it is lost, when we all feel like all we can do is just lie down and take it while we numb ourselves with any form of escapism that is available to us.

Don’t be fooled by their bravado – if we all marched together and headed their way to ransack the Labour Party cult’s palace, all they’d be able to do is shit the bed and hope we believe them when they pretend it was someone else who smeared the linen.

Leave a Reply