Jun 23, 2024

How Cult Leaders Use Provocatively Loaded Language to Control Their Followers

Lori Dorn
June 20, 2024

Otherwords is a PBS web series on Storied that digs deep into this quintessential human trait of language and finds the fascinating, thought-provoking, and funny stories behind the words and sounds we take for granted. Incorporating the fields of biology, history, cultural studies, literature, and more, linguistics has something for everyone and offers a unique perspective on what it means to be human.

Dr. Erica Brozovsky, PhD of the PBS series Otherwords explained how cult leaders use provocatively loaded language with their followers to create an adversarial relationship with the “other side” of their way of thinking – an “us versus them” mentality. It also keeps them invested, obedient, and ready to defend their way of thinking to anyone who questions them

"Loaded language is a general term for words or phrases that have deep emotional associations for the listener, like genocide, patriot, toxic, or vermin. …Through repetition, these leaders ingrained an intense emotional association in their follower’s psyche …They shut down argument and critical thinking, which is why they’re so handy to authoritarians who don’t like to be questioned."

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