One of the essential aspects of operating an anti-authoritarian hacktivist cult is monitoring and controlling communications, both on the cult member-to-cult member level and within the minds of individual cult members. This is what is known as Milieu Control, and is not as complicated as many people think. All we’re actually talking about is controlling more or less every single word your cult members say to each other, and to non-cult members, and, ultimately, to themselves.
In an anti-authoritarian hacktivist cult, Milieu Control is best achieved through peer pressure, social stigmatization, and other group-think tactics, rather than with threats of actual violence. Implying that anyone talking to the authorities (or “outsiders” in general) about cult activities will be hunted down and brutally eviscerated by an acid-crazed kill-squad of lullaby-singing former cheerleaders with 8-inch Bowie knives may get the job done in a conventional cult — i.e. one with a psychotic Charles Manson-type leader who the members believe is both Jesus and Lucifer — but it’s liable to put off your hacktivist types, who don’t go in for religion all that much, not to mention the whole acid-crazed “killer hippie” thing.
This doesn’t mean your hacktivist cult should be entirely paranoia-free. On the contrary, paranoia is vital, as it’s virtually impossible to get any kind of decent Milieu Control without it. The point is, in a hacktivist cult, you need to keep the paranoia flowing mostly from the inside outward, at least for the vast majority of cult members. The authorities should be the primary threat that everyone lives in constant fear of. You want your cult members believing they are under constant surveillance by government agents, who are liable to storm through the doors of their squats (or parents’ houses) at any moment. Later, once you’ve got them all paranoid, and seeing “agents” everywhere they look, you can channel this outwardly-directed paranoia into a deeper inwardly-directed paranoia, which will lead them to fear your charismatic cult leader even more than they fear the authorities, and to regard him as a type of “higher” being, like a god, or prophet, or revolutionary hero, or the loving but somewhat frightening father they never had, or couldn’t ever please. But that comes later. The first priority is your outwardly-directed paranoia.
New cult members should be introduced to the concept of “security culture,” ideally involving a complicated scheme with numbered levels of “operational security,” and generally made to feel as paranoid as possible about who they talk to about cult activities. When socializing with newer cult members, make sure to drop subtle hints about “snitches” — i.e. former members who betrayed the cult by discussing “secrets” with the authorities, or “outsiders.” Starting rumors about current cult members who have fallen out of favor with your charismatic cult leader — i.e. how they might be “snitches,” or “traitors,” or parts of some elaborate government conspiracy to defame or otherwise neutralize your cult leader — is also an effective technique. In any sort of public gathering, make sure to warn that there are “infiltrators” present, as not only will this increase paranoia, it will make new cult members extremely uncomfortable and eager to prove their loyalty to the cult. Encourage new cult members not to use their real names or to refer to the real names of other cult members. Get the Tor and Signal thing going.
These are just few suggestions. Any technique that leads your cult members to enter a state of hypervigilance, or constant low-level paranoia, wherein anyone who isn’t a member of the cult is regarded as a potential threat, and possibly even a government agent, will help you to maintain control of your milieu, and ultimately the minds of your individual cult members.
Your initial investment in Milieu Control will pay off tenfold as you grow your cult and experience the inevitable intra-cult crises that every cult eventually experiences. These intra-cult crises are not to be feared — they are part and parcel of running any cult — and, if managed properly, are opportunities both to reinforce loyalty within the cult and to purge it of potential troublemakers. When the inevitable occurs and, for example, some of your less-devoted cult members rebel against your charismatic cult leader, and publicly accuse him of … well, being a cult leader, and of deceiving, exploiting and manipulating people, or touching them inappropriately, or serially drugging and anally raping them, and then bragging about it to his celebrity friends, you’re going to want to be able to depend on the rest of the cult to rush to his defense, categorically deny said accusations, and accuse the accusers of orchestrating some byzantine international conspiracy to baselessly persecute him and destroy him professionally. Assuming you’ve been controlling your milieu, you won’t have to order your cult members to do this — they will do it automatically (albeit it an embarrassingly cultish way that will seem really creepy to non-cult members, who’ll be following the drama on Twitter.com).
Not only will this reinforce unquestioning loyalty to your charismatic cult leader, and to the cult itself, among your remaining die-hard cult members, but it will escalate the intra-cult paranoia, and help create a siege-type atmosphere wherein your persecuted charismatic cult leader will achieve the kind of “martyr status” that every charismatic cult leader craves.
Once he’s done that, he’s more or less untouchable, as any future accusations will be attributed to malicious entities (e.g. government operatives or spiteful ex-cult members), and will only serve to reinforce his persecuted martyr status, at which point your hacktivist cult will have evolved to the stage where it milieu-controls itself.
All right, that does it for Milieu Control. We’ll be back, at some point, with Part 3 of our series, which will focus on another essential aspect of operating your hacktivist cult. Until then, enjoy the rest of the Summer …