Open Minds on Air Episode 5 – Brainwashing and Cult Apologists

By 2018-07-30T22:47:02+00:00on July 28th, 2018
Brainwashing, Religious Cults, Interviews|5 Comments

In this episode, Jon Atack and Pearse Redmond speak with their good friend Yuval Laor. They start by discussing a recent article by professor Rebecca Moore entitled The Brainwashing Myth, dissecting the strange assertions Moore makes, primarily that brainwashing does not exist. They also talk about her three “scientific, neutral, and precise” terms which can replace brainwashing.

Jon and Yuval talk about the historical roots of the term from ancient China to the through reform camps of the 50’s. They also address our problems with the flawed term “new religious movement”, discussing Moore’s history defending Jim Jones and The Peoples’ Temple. They talk about her sisters, Carolyn Layton and Annie Moore, both high-ranking members who organized and oversaw the murder of over 900 people. They look at how this has colored Rebecca Moore’s books defending Jones and the legacy of the Peoples Temple. They close out by talking about the problem of arguing over semantics within the counter-cult world.

What do you think about this podcast? Do you agree? Do you have a story about brainwashing – or the misuse of the term – that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

You may also download episode 5 as an .mp3 here.

Show Notes:

The Brainwashing Myth

Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple 

Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple

Jim Jones’ Tenured Apologist 

Jonestown Apologists Alert 

Mind Control and Jonestown

This article was compiled by the Open Minds Editorial Staff.


  1. Steven Hassan July 30, 2018 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed listening to this podcast. and think a lot of important points were covered. Since Jon invited listeners to disagree with things, I have a very rare issue with Jon regarding Jeffrey Toobin and his work on Patricia Hearst and SLA. I admit, Jon read the book and I have not. But I watched Toobin’s CNN documentary series and wrote this blog about my thoughts. I invite folks to comment and of course, Jon to respond. . Thanks for all your good work and I do appreciate your mentioning my work. Yuval, when is your new book going to come out? Thanks, Steve Hassan

  2. Rebecca Moore August 1, 2018 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Really? Was that the best defense of the brainwashing theory that could be mustered? Panel members spent more time attacking the messenger—me—than addressing the message. And when they did consider what brainwashing is, they used the 3-C language I had presented—conversion, conditioning, coercion—to define what they meant.

    I appreciate the Open Mind managers providing a link to the “Alternative Considerations” website, so that readers can see that there is a wide range of alternatives considered: from articles by Steve Hassan and Philip Zimbardo (Open Mind Foundation Advisory Board Members), to analyses by Janja Lalich (mentioned positively in the podcast), to lots of conspiracy articles, which seemed to be favored by one panel member. I invite you to take a look.

    Although there were a number of snide comments and cheap shots made throughout the podcast, I will respond to only a single egregious falsehood: the statement that I have never held my sisters responsible for what they did (about 23 minutes into the program). I would refer people to the following books and articles where I have acknowledged my sisters’ complicity in planning the deaths: “Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple” (p. 85); “Rhetoric, Revolution, and Resistance in Jonestown, Guyana” at; “Annie: An Enigma,” at; “Narratives of Persecution, Suffering, and Violence,” in “Violence and New Religious Movements” (Oxford 2011), among others.

    I am grateful that there is a link to the original article, so that open-minded readers might judge for themselves the merits of my argument, and observe what the panelists failed to mention. I also encourage anyone to write an article for “The Conversation” to present a cogent defense of brainwashing theories: They gave me 1360 words.

    Sincerely, Rebecca Moore

  3. peter meier August 3, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

    As my english is not so good, to follow this long conversation, i ask, if it is possible, to have the output in written, so i can reread some complicated concepts?

  4. Pearse Redmond August 10, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    I actually find most of Toobins writing and analysis to be extremely flawed (particularly his book on OJ Simpson). Generally speaking I do believe that Hearst suffered some form of abuse and was brain

    Glad you liked the show! We would of course love to have you on sometime soon.

  5. Spike August 12, 2018 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Peter, Spike Robinson here.

    You might find this page helpful:

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