Reading this Veterans Day November 11th obituary of Paul Morantz, who died last month at 77 after a long career of bravely bearding dangerous cult fanatics who had temporarily mesmerized powerful people into supporting them. These cults included Synanon, the Peoples Temple, and the Unification Church.
The parallels to Trump’s far more pervasive and dangerous political cult are worth exploring.
Read Morantz’s full story here.
Paul Morantz, crusading lawyer once attacked with rattlesnake, dies at 77https://t.co/QxwTs2OrO0
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 2, 2022
Morantz was aware of the personal cost of his cult attacking as the Post-obit said:
“A year after the attack, in a Times profile, Mr. Morantz said he wished he “didn’t know anything about cults.”
“I have no desire to spend my life worrying about cults, groups or movements,” he added. “On the other hand, just because you don’t want to be involved anymore doesn’t mean you can turn your back when someone asks for help.” Many did!!!
Just as the rattlesnake in Morantz’s mailbox brought down an egregious cult called Synanon, the coup attempts to stop Biden’s assumption of the Presidency by Trump based on his fraudulent claims shows just how vital a free press and the rule of law are to keeping our democracy intact.
As a foundation executive in the late 1960’s I visited with Chuck Dederich, Synanon’s founder in its Santa Monica HQ before his claims of unique pathways to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction led to its worst excesses. My foundation was early in stopping funding Synanon as we assessed its potential for corruption, something into which all dictatorships evolve.
Here is a fascinating history of Synanon’s rise and fall which has not yet completely emerged for Trump in retribution for his high crimes and misdemeanors. His allies remain to finish his start.
You might find instructive its history in reading the LA Times April 13, 2018 story of the end of Synanon here.
— Los Angeles Magazine (@LAmag) December 19, 2018
A few paragraphs from that history shows how courageous Morantz was in standing up to intimidation, and how that intimidation by Trump and is allies requires swift attention and recognition which is yet far from adequate.
Paul Morantz was one of the few who tried to warn the world about Synanon. The journalist turned lawyer first sued the organization in 1977 on behalf of Frances and Ed Winn, who claimed that Frances had been kidnapped, brainwashed, and tortured by the group “for purposes of financial gain…despite her emotional instability.” They were awarded a $300,000 judgment. Morantz worked obsessively to get other members out, lobbying the Marin County supervisors and the state Department of Public Health to crack down on Synanon. He was scared; he knew Dederich was capable of violence. An apostate Synanon member had nearly been beaten to death. Morantz figured that his own name must be high on Dederich’s hit list. Threatening phone calls were coming at all hours of the night, but what really concerned him was when the threats stopped.
Morantz bought a shotgun. Constantly looking over his shoulder, he’d check under his car for bombs before getting in. He was exhausted. So as Morantz returned to his small home in Pacific Palisades the evening of October 11, 1977, he was eager to turn on the TV and relax over Game 1 of the World Series—the Dodgers versus the Yankees. “For one moment I’m not going to think about Synanon,” he told himself. “I’m just going to watch the baseball game.” Morantz placed his notebooks on the kitchen table and walked to the mail slot by his front door. Through the grill of the mailbox, he could see the outline of an unusually shaped package—a scarf, perhaps; it was hard to tell without his glasses.
Morantz remembers not so much the pain as the rattlesnake sank its fangs into his outstretched hand, but the regret. “They don’t get me with this. I’m not that stupid,” he was thinking. Then he heard a scream and realized it was his own. The four-and-a-half foot reptile, its rattler removed to keep it quiet, dropped to the floor and recoiled. Morantz dashed out the back door, yelling, “Call the police! Call an ambulance! I’ve been bitten by a rattlesnake! It’s Synanon! Synanon got me!”
Surely, based on the evidence offered by the House January 6th Committee’s hearings and the certainty of his indictment by the US Department of Justice, there are more parallels to be found to Trump’s end with both the Synanon and the Nixon histories.
Quickly, already we see many of Trump’s multiple supporters leaving a politically sinking ship, but sadly Trump’s legacy in destroying the credibility of our Supreme Court and the balance of our two-party system of governance will haunt us for decades. And some of those who espouse to his mantle remain active.
Trump’s rise and fall should serve as a reminder of how quickly false extremism which has turned into a dangerous cult can erupt to attack our freedoms. Will we survive his snakebite?
“What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”: https://t.co/fHuh0CG6JD
“We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”: https://t.co/TA4j7cp1tE
“From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”: https://t.co/lkC2t3E1A9 pic.twitter.com/bQsL2mLBcO
— Church and State (@ChurchAndStateN) November 1, 2021
Synanon Oral History Part 2 – Paul Morantz
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