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The RCMP (Part Two): De-programming

Nov 03


Since writing the first part of this article, on the RCMP as a cult, I have been encouraged, primarily by RCMP members, to follow it up with a second part on deprogramming.  Now, while deprogramming and deprogrammers have become a somewhat sticky legal issue, and the necessity (and effectiveness) of the exercise has been questioned, I thought a few hints on “self-deprogramming” might be instructive.

In an effort to de-mystify, it is important to recognize that programming is everywhere; and when it operates within pro-social, healthy parameters some might even refer to the socialization process that parents and society put us through as we develop.  The downside of this process is that we also introject the misinformation, superstitions, misperceptions, and irrational beliefs of our teachers (programmers).

Organizations, like the RCMP, are no different.  When an individual engages there are certain “norms” of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are necessary for survival and progress within the organization; some of these are valid and some are not.  The entire package of “norms” can be referred to as the “corporate culture” of the organization and it is programmed into members from training through to retirement.

The thesis of this part of the article is that some of what has been introjected, by RCMP members, is false and/or illogical and does not serve them well.  What follows are a few hints related to “self-deprogramming” and regaining control of one’s own mind.


  1. Can you be sure?  Always want to know the truth.  This is the key to regaining control of your own mind.  If you don’t want to know the truth, then you likely won’t.  People stay trapped within cult-like organizations, or trapped within illusions, because they really don’t want the truth.  They are afraid of the truth for fear their world will fall apart if they stop believing certain things.  They are afraid they will lose their ticket to “heaven”, their status, or membership within the group.  Some have no identity without the group, and they fear that facing the fantasy will require leaving the group, and result in “self” destruction.  Have you ever checked to see if all is as well with the RCMP as Mr. Paulson and Mr. Toews would like you to believe?
  2. Think with your own mind.  Watch out for others who want to control your mind by making you feel stupid, misinformed, inferior, disloyal or mentally incompetent because you disagree.  Self condemnation and self criticism are major factors in the indoctrination process.  Those who would like to control you would like nothing better than to get you criticizing yourself; powerlessness, fear, guilt and dependency on the organization are critical to indoctrination.  Did you see how Mr. Paulson responded when S/Sgt. Chad dared to disagree?
  3. It is not appearances that will bind you, but your attachment to appearances.  Beware of wanting to believe.  Did you ever watch “the X-Files”?  Did you notice the poster on Mulder’s wall?  It said, “I Want To Believe”.  I suppose such a sentiment is permissible if you are a “sci-fi junkie”, but in real life it can be disastrous.  Rather than wanting to believe, refer back to #1 in this list of hints.  Want to know the truth!  Human beings gravitate toward authority, finality, and conclusiveness; we much prefer belief to doubt.  The desire to believe is thought to be the most powerful dynamic behind our inability to see through the illusion; we become “blinded by the brand”.  Have you ever considered that the RCMP could be more effective in a smaller streamlined version focused on fewer tasks, at which it could excel?
  4. Keep your ego in check.  Cult-like groups often flatter you by telling you how unique and important you and your work are.  Part of the attraction to totalitarian groups is that the group’s culture enhances the member’s own search for importance.  If the organization is maintaining the right and the member blindly follows along, then the member maintains the right, thus making that person very good and very important.  Conversely, if anyone is critical of the organization then it follows that the member is cast in a bad light.  If the member were to accept these criticisms then the member would fall from grace and become nothing more than a dupe in a dysfunctional organization.  Therefore members of totalitarian organizations have vested interests in rejecting any criticism of the group based almost entirely on egotism.  The truth is not sought, the organization’s way wins the day purely for selfish reasons.  Do you think that the RCMP really is qualitatively different than any other police service in the country?
  5. Awareness protects you against the (psychological) principles that are used to indoctrinate you.  One of those “norms” we are taught during the socialization process is the “norm of commitment”.  It instructs us that in our society we must keep our promises, fulfill our obligations, and carry out our commitments. This is such a powerful motivator of human behaviour we will often commit ourselves to something, recognize that it isn’t as good a deal as we originally thought, but still have difficulty withdrawing from it.Why are we humans so consistent?  It has something to do with “cognitive dissonance”.  What it means is, in this case, we don’t like to hold two beliefs in mind, one inconsistent with the other.  If we find ourselves in such a conflict we experience an uncomfortable feeling known as dissonance.  And as we don’t like the discomfort of dissonance we strive to bring the two beliefs into harmony with each other.For example, most people’s self image (belief #1) is positive.  We almost all like to think of ourselves as intelligent, competent, and well meaning.  What do you suppose happens when we are told that the organization we work for is authoritarian, dysfunctional, archaic, and even worse is harmful to our health (belief #2)?  That’s right, cognitive dissonance. “Ouch, how could an intelligent, well meaning person like me work for such a toxic organization?”  Solution:  to get rid of the dissonance we bring one of the beliefs in line with the other.  In other words, we minimize, rationalize; justify, or even ignore the state of the organization to preserve our self-image and make our involvement acceptable.  Have you ever really wondered what keeps an intelligent, well meaning person like you working for such a “horribly broken” organization?
  6. Seek alternate sources of information.  Avoid getting all your information from the organization or those associated with the organization.  Don’t reject an alternate view just because it’s different than yours.  One of the most powerful tools that totalitarian organizations use to indoctrinate members is information control. Just because three different senior executives of the same organization all say the same thing doesn’t mean you’ve heard three different sources of information.  There exists a wide array of demand characteristics influencing aspiring individuals within the same organization, chief among them are “conformity pressures”.  People have a tendency to “go along to get along”.  Do you think that the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada may offer an alternate source of information to RCMP management’s Division Staff Relations Representative Program?

In conclusion, it seems well to recognize that programming is really not as mystical a phenomenon as once believed.  Indoctrination is a common process engaged in by families, societies, and organizations.  The process can be beneficial and it can also be abused.  When it is abused, such as by a totalitarian group, it can endanger the human rights or civil liberties of those who become involved in the totalistic environment.  In an effort to maintain control of our own minds, it would serve us well to constantly ask, “Can I be sure?”

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych


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