One of the many classics in social psychology from the mid-20th century was Leon Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails (1956). The point of the study was to infiltrate a doomsday cult. It was a cult whose leader had declared the world would come to an end on a specific day. Festinger had his assistants ingratiate themselves to the point of being accepted by the members enough to be able to bear witness to the goings on of the cult. The real interest was centered around the day after – what would these people do the day after doomsday? When the last day of existence had come and gone, what would they do to repair that rupture in their expected reality?
You can start to see that this takes on a lot of levels of meaning. At stake here is nothing less than our commitment to what we believe is real. Somehow all of us are implicated in this scenario whether we see it right away or not.
I say this because the phenomena of millenarian cults have been around nearly as long as Christianity itself. The very nature of the New Testament with its ending in the Revelations of John sets up almost any evangelical, charismatic preacher with enough fire in his belly to start a cult and preach the end of days.
So, this kind of cult is nothing new. There was a rash of them prior to 1000 AD as one might expect. Yet, they have always been around in one form or another, it is something that comes easily to extremist fundamentalist Christians.
What Festinger was privy to was a modern happening of the same case, and what happened was profound and fascinating.
Essentially, what happened after the last day had come and gone resembled a quest for reaffirmation. It was as if the people looked for reasons to explain why that might not have been the real last day after all. The leader of the cult talked about it being a test. Whoever quit the cult now was not a true-believer. This was the ultimate test. In other words, the first thing people did was not to quit, or get mad at the leader. They did not declare the leader was a false prophet or the cult was a fake. The first thing they did was lunge for any reason they could to justify what happened as the event that was really meant to be, as confusing as that seemed.
On the level of common sense, one might think people would get mad, laugh at the leader of the cult, quit, or something like that. But, the opposite was true. Festinger said that when the people’s perceived reality turned out not to be true, that it caused a traumatic, emotional upset in their state of mind. This state of confusion in which the person’s inner belief of the world does not match up with their outer experience of the world, Festinger termed cognitive dissonance.
The fascinating thing was that the result of experiencing this cognitive dissonance was a concerted attempt to maintain the reality that was being ruptured. It was plainly evident the rupture was happening right in front of their eyes. This shows that our beliefs are very powerful, and when something we believe most fervently is contradicted, our mind will still do everything it can to hold onto that belief as long as it possibly can.
In other words, the membership does eventually die off, but it happens gradually and over time. It actually happens with little fuss, and it just happens over time. When people get conned they do not want to run around admitting they have been conned because that is tantamount to inviting public humiliation. The same thing happens when people discover, slowly, that they are a true-believer involved in a group of true-believers, but they might not want to be involved anymore. But, it takes time.
The media did such a biased job of reporting the campaign that Democrats were full of true-believerism to the point of experiencing a trauma on the night of the election. They are not going to wake up, and walk away from it. They are going to continue sleepwalking their way through their reality like they have all along. They are all the left-wing people who either (a) have learned that it is convenient to hate business and the people who run the world of business, or (b) they are among those people who run the world of business and they are particularly beholden to globalism – and they like pretending to be on the side of the little guy, all the marginalized people who hate business.
Obama was a college professor who was part of the left-wing, radical, post-American ideology that came to life in the American academe when a generation of affirmative action professors decided they did not want equal rights anymore, they wanted the whole country. They wanted to remake America in their new globalist, post-American vision, and it would be a place in which white men and their kind were at the bottom of the pecking order. Besides, America as a country would not exist anymore once the borders were gone. And the white man’s power would not exist once everybody who was not a white man woke up. Obama was like the chosen messenger of that prophecy. He was a Black-White college professor, who had spent years living as an Islamic boy, and he cared nothing for business, so he was all about the identity politics, and he was emblematic of that movement.
The problem is that liberal, college professors may incite college students, and they may run for office occasionally, but they do not have a clue how the world works because they know absolutely nothing about how to run a business. A lot of people do not realize it, but college professors consider themselves to be a class apart from everyone else. They do not even consider themselves to be part of the working/middle/upper class social structure that the rest of you inhabit. They think they are in a class by themselves, over on the left, the academic class. They consider it an insult of the highest order for anyone to impute that they would ever in any way be caught emulating the world of business. They are a world apart from it, and in the celestial order of things, they are above it.
So, when Obama told his followers to vote for Hillary, instead of the big, white, businessman, or he would consider it a personal insult, he meant it. And now, the wrath of truth is being visited upon the heathen masses who have forsaken the mission of the post-American, globalist, borderless America that the Democrats came so close to instantiating. And what will the true-believers do? They will believe more fervently than ever. The last thing they are going to do is look for a weakness among their beliefs or their leaders. They will tell themselves that this is the darkest of times, but those who are the true-believers will not lose the faith now. In fact, they will renew their vows to keep the faith stronger than ever. And that is what the Democrats are doing now as they grasp for any sign of life. One minute they were dancing in the ballroom of the Titanic, and the next minute they were scurrying like rats on the deck, after the last thing they never thought would happen, actually did happen.
When the traumatic reality seeps in for long enough they will eventually give in and allow themselves to be reprogrammed. The thing is, when people believe something, it is really the most powerful thing in the world, because even if what they believe is patently and obviously false, if they believe it enough, their minds will do everything possible to hold onto that reality. If you believe something, the force of that belief is almost as powerful as the force of reality itself. It has to be or else we would not be able to latch onto a sense of reality, perceive it and believe in it. We have to be able to perceive the world as something that is consistent, sustainable, repetitive, and consequential. The reason we can perceive reality is because we impose logic on the world around us, we imagine the logical linkages between things, and we think we see something that might be real. If we could not do that, then we could never perceive or achieve any kind of consistency, or any kind of experienced of reality.
Our entire experience in the world is based on being able to impose logic on our lives, to create consistent, reliable realities, but although we have a tendency to do this, we are never guaranteed of the results. Therefore, the mind will perceive a reality, and decide to believe in it. And if that thing turns out not to be real, then the mind will be among the last to know, because it will fight against that cognitive dissonance, in a last ditch effort to cling to its belief until it has been traumatically relieved of the ability to hold onto it any longer.
Incidentally, the difference between a cult and a religion, or a denomination of a religion, is merely in the proportion of believers. Whatever most people are doing is what will be considered normal, no matter how crazy it is. And when the Democrats lost, it was as if they had been demoted from being the official, normal, state religion to being a radical cult with no leader and no vision for the future. So, now what will they do?
They will do what people always do when prophecy fails. They will renew their vows, cling to their deepest religious beliefs, and they will believe stronger than ever before, for as long as they possibly can.
Festinger, L. (1956). When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destination of the World. Harper.
Shoko Asahara (Cover). (1995, 3 Apr). Time. Retrieved from