My friend Shanna did a wildly fascinating interview with Diane Benscoter, a lady who joined the Moonies at the age of 17 and was later “deprogrammed.”
Could you speak a little bit about deprogramming? You were deprogrammed and became a deprogrammer, but it’s a rather controversial practice and many think that it brings up ethical issues relating to free will.
Yeah, I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll try to give the main points first. One — involuntary deprogrammings, which I was involved with, aren’t really taking place anymore and definitely not as they were. Looking back on it, I think there are ethical issues there. Still, I totally understand why people did it, why I did it — desperation, not knowing what to do, love of their child. You’re dealing with a problem that hasn’t been defined psychologically, so you can’t lock people in a mental hospital for it.
Now, I had one foot in and one foot out of the Moonies when I was deprogrammed. My faith was already wavering. Also, I had a loving family. But, to pull a belief system away from someone who doesn’t have the correct support system can be very dangerous. It’s like chemotherapy. Chemotherapy many times cures cancer, but it can also kill people. So, I’m not going to say that deprogramming is the way. And that‘s why I’ve gone in the direction of prevention.
Also, some people came to deprogramming more professionally that others. Some made mistakes and some used really admirable techniques. For the most part, in the ones that I was a part of, we just talked to the person and made sure that they ate and slept well. We were trying to introduce rational thought and a healthy mental state. We presented no new philosophy and no desire for them to take up any of our personal beliefs. We simply tried to explain that much of what they had been told was not true and was possibly brainwashing. We based our techniques on psychological theory, especially the work of Robert Lifton.