I want to heartily recommend Lawrence Wright's piece on Paul Haggis and Scientology. I've been working on a piece that's required some rethinking of the Nation of Islam, so it was interesting to be doing that thinking, and reading this piece at the same time.
What's interesting to me about Wright's piece (and with the Nation) is how a group that brooks no real dissent, and is deeply conspiratorial about the outside world, careens right into violence. That violence is then rationalized or utterly ignored. I was tempted to write this off to the sociology of cults. But thinking on this more, I'm not quite convinced that cults work entirely differently than the rest of society. Surely since the formation of the DEA, an incredible amount of violence has followed that is rationalized or utterly ignored.
This isn't so much an argument, as it is me thinking out loud. It just occurs to me that, as Americans and maybe as members of any state, we excuse a tremendous amount of violence done in our name. And we don't just excuse it, as in "We know we messed up." We pretend that we were right all along, and we rationalize it away. I'm not sure it matters how many innocents the cops shoot. The overriding mandate is to protect our collective security. I'm just wondering if cults work in much the same way.
Call me naive, but I was utterly shocked to see Anne Archer and (ostensibly) Tom Cruise explain the evidence away. I guess I shouldn't be, though.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power