It's enraging how mainstream media outlets like Today and People treat the Duggars as though they're just an ordinary family with an extraordinary amount of children — and aren't they so cute! — when in fact, they are not.
Yes, they're bigots and anti-choice and weird and they subscribe to the kind of traditional gender roles that most educated people would consider "sexist." But all of those things, however detestable, are essentially personal opinions. The real problem with the Duggars is that they are a cult.
Instead of recruiting members, Michelle and Bob just created them with their own bodies. And these kids don't stand a chance of escaping and becoming their own people with their own opinions and their own identities. Because their identities have already been established for them — based on the group — from the minute they were conceived and given a J-name.
Think about it. If there are 19 (and counting!) Duggar children, then statistically speaking, two of them are gay. What are the chances that they will be able to live happy, mentally and emotionally healthy lives as out-and-proud homosexuals in a loving relationship with the acceptance of their family members?
Nine of the Duggar children are female. What are the chances that they will get to go away to college and live on a campus and explore careers in finance or architecture or law or anything other than traditional pink-collar work? (So far, Jana, 22, and Jill, 21, are "looking into" midwifery and nursing by "studying under professionals," and Jessa, 19, "has a passion for teaching," which means that she gets to homeschool the younger children.)
Yes, they are a family, but they meet all the criteria of a mind-control group. The following are the eight factors used to identify a destructive cult, outlined by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton identifies in his seminal book on mind control, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.
1.) Milieu Control
Controlling the environment of members is key, and usually involves a form of isolation. Lifton explains: "Recruits can be physically separated from society, or they can be warned under threat of punishment to stay away from the world's educational media, especially when it might provoke critical thinking."
On the show, the Duggar girls have lamented about living "three hours out from civilization." They homeschool the children, using Christian-based texts for subjects that do not involve religion (more on that later). Despite starring in a reality show, they are not allowed to watch TV, they are restricted from reading certain books, none of the children—including the adult kids— are permitted to have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. If the older children want to pursue an education, they must do so through correspondence courses from an online Christian university.
2.) Mystical Manipulation
As Lifton puts it: "In religious cults, God is ever-present in the workings of the organization. If a person leaves for any reason, accidents or ill-will that may befall them are always attributed to God's punishment on them."
On the season six premiere, Jinger, 18, the arty one who wants to be a photographer, said that she desperately wants to get out of her small town and live in the city. Her sister reminded her that that might not be part of God's plan.
"If you didn't get that, the Lord can be working and teaching you something in that area."
Jinger robotically responded, "Yes… I need to work on my contentment!"
3.) Demand for Purity
In a cult, everything is broken down into good and evil, black and white to make the "right" decision seem "obvious." With guilt and shame used as tactics to control members, purity can only be achieved by living according to the cult's ideology.
They are not allowed to date freely. On an episode of 19 Kids and Counting, when asked what it's like to date a Duggar girl, Jill responded, "Talk to my dad. He knows what we're looking for in a guy and future spouse."
Michelle Duggar actually wrote a list of rules for how a woman is to behave as a wife, that includes everything from reassuring his position of authority to styling her hair.
4.) The Cult of Confession
In a cult, sins, or the breaking of rules, must be confessed immediately, because the cult (or God) will discover it anyway. According to the Duggar's guidelines:
Quickly admit when you have done wrong and ask for forgiveness (even if you were only 10% at fault). Don't wait till you're caught. Be sure your sins will find you out. He who covers his sin will not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes it shall find mercy.
5.) The "Sacred Science"
"The cult's ideology is the ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence," Lifton declares. It is too sacred to call into question. This falls in line with the the Duggar's Guidelines, a 22-point list of absolute truths and rules for conduct.
6.) Loading the Language
Cults rely on "thought-terminating cliches," which are words or expressions designed to put an end to conversations that question the ideology. Many examples of this are found in the Duggars' bible speak, but a specific refrain that the family uses is: "J.O.Y.: Put Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.
7.) Doctrine Over Person
In a cult, human experience and commonsense are no match for the cult's doctrine and are regarded as "hostile" to the ideology.
Only ten percent of Africans can read or write, because Christian mission schools have been shut down by communists.
the [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross…In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.
God used the 'Trail of Tears' to bring many Indians to Christ.
[It] cannot be shown scientifically that that man-made pollutants will one day drastically reduce the depth of the atmosphere's ozone layer.
God has provided certain 'checks and balances' in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists.
Unions have always been plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free-enterprise system that hardworking Americans have created."
8.) Dispensing of Existence
Cult leaders decides what exists and what does not. This does not mean the right to live—of which we know the Duggars have a very staunch definition—but rather, what qualifies as being permitted into their lives. For example, TV and secular music does not exist. Bikinis do not exist. Evolution does not exist. If it does not fit into their ideology, it does not exist.