UK Video 2014: How are young people recruited into cults (ref. to 12T)

Cult Classic: The UK’s Most Controversial Groups


We sent out Live contributor Bradley to make a documentary on new religious movements (known to some as cults), for the first episode of White Noise, a series uncovering issues affecting young people that mainstream media are ignoring. Here is what he discovered

The process of making the first White Noise, Live’s series of documentaries (this one on cults or ‘minority religions’ in the UK), was one of discovery and having my opinions completely shattered.

I’ve always been fascinated by extreme cults, how a collective can completely brainwash people into believing strange ideas and at times control their lives with horrific consequences. The mass ‘suicide’ of the Jonestown Massacre is probably the most famous example of when a cult can lead to tragedy.

I had assumed that cults were an American phenomenon. This was the first opinion that was shattered. According to Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre, there are between 500 and 1,000 ‘cults’ operating in the UK. Inform, the independent think tank on new religious movements or ’cults’, has over 2,000 groups listed on its database.

I’d assumed that only vulnerable people or those who were susceptible to suggestion were the easiest recruits for these groups. Again, apparently the easiest people to recruit are intelligent, well-rounded individuals (the case with Freedomain Radio which you’ll see in the documentary showed this). The average person, according to CIC, can be broken down in 4 days. Another opinion shattered.

“These groups should in fact be treated separately and not tarnished with the same brush. They exist on a spectrum ranging from dangerous to (arguably) no more harmful than any large, organised religion.”

Perhaps the most important discovery was that these groups are not the same. A reactionary dismissal of them as absurd and dangerous fails to appreciate their differences. These groups should in fact be treated separately and not tarnished with the same brush. They exist on a spectrum ranging from dangerous to (arguably) no more harmful than any large, organised religion. Each one should be carefully considered, their beliefs listened to as well as their criticisms.

This documentary is notable not only for the groups we feature, but also for the groups we were unable to feature. Happy Science essentially believe that all religions are true, that they all believe the same thing and should stop fighting each other. A valuable belief if you ask me.  On the other hand, they also believe that their master is the latest incarnation of God and could talk to dead people. He had interviewed Margaret Thatcher and Osama Bin Laden (once they had died) to name a few.

Twelve Tribes were an interesting case study: An evangelical Christian group who live on a commune in Devon. They had caused controversy when a documentary filmmaker exposed their beating of children in Germany. After similar allegations here in the UK, the NSPCC found insufficient evidence and closed the investigation. They have ways different to our own, live secluded in their farm community and invite anyone to come and stay.

These are only two of the groups that we couldn’t include for different reasons (believe me there are more). My experiences with them are now secrets that only alcohol can reveal. But these examples and the documentary are simply meant to give a taste of the spectrum of new religious movements or ‘cults’. These groups do exist, they are out there, some are dangerous and others may offer meaningful spirituality. This White Noise hopefully makes the unknown a little more knowable.

If you or someone you know have been affected by any of the issues raised in the film you can get support and information from the Cult Information Centre, Inform or Family Survival Trust.


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