Thursday, November 1, 2007
Amway and the Unification Movement: Hierarchies of Misery
When I started my main blog, it was more media-oriented. I monitored the right's media and devoted a lot of time and energy to exposing deception in the right's media apparatus. Recently, I have devoted a lot less time to media analysis and have been focusing on bizarre cult-like organizations--specifically, Sun Myung Moon's Unification movement and Amway.
Someone recently asked: why the switch? For one thing, when I started this blog in 2002, there wasn't a good web site out there monitoring the right's media. That changed in 2004 with the advent of Media Matters for America (when MMFA's David Brock was first interviewed when MMFA started out, he praised me for doing "a great job of pointing out some of the media’s failings"). I'm glad that Media Matters is out there. Taping and transcribing Rush and Hannity was not much fun.
I decided to have more of a niche blog. I have been concerned with the effect that Sun Myung Moon's media outlets were having on the national discourse (Moon's Washington Times--though rightfully dismissed as a journalistic monstrosity-- is an integral component of the hard right's media apparatus). The more research I did into Moon's organization, the more I discovered that the man is a demented megalomaniac. In addition, more recently, I have done extensive research into Amway, a major funding source for hard right and Christian reconstructionist causes. I discovered that the Unification movement and Amway have a lot in common.
Amway and the Unification Movement: Hierarchies of Misery
Amway and the Unification movement are two of the biggest funding sources of the contemporary American right and both have dominionist goals. However, that isn't where their similarities end. As I researched Amway and the Unification Movement, I discovered that their organizational structures were exploitive, controlling, and deceptive.
Let's discuss some of those similarities in depth:
1) Both organizations are hierarchies in which a tiny few at the top live like kings while the overwhelming majority live modestly (while doing the work to provide the lavish lifestyles of the elites in their organization). In Amway, most of the top distributors make most of their money, not from Amway sales or sponsorship, but from the ancillary tools business--selling the dream to lower level distributors in the form of books, tapes, and rallies. Likewise, in the Unification movement, new recruits are sent out on 15-20-hour days selling flowers and trinkets to support the Moon family's lavish lifestyle and Moon's desire to become a Washington power player.
2) A corollary to the first similarity is the paradoxical situation in which those at the top are jaded and cynical and those at the bottom are the most fervent believers in the cause. Nansook Hong, Moon's illicit daughter-in-law, wrote in her memoirs about how Moon's children were treated like royalty but viewed their father's religion as a money-making scam. On the other hand, former Moonies have said that they would have killed for Moon. The pumped-up Amway distributor who thinks that he/she will become a millionaire is a sad spectacle that most of us have witnessed. The kingpin distributors who provide the motivational services to these new distributors--at a hefty price--certainly know that their promises of wealth to those who work hard are a pipedream. The monthly reports these kingpins receive from Amway about how their downline members are doing contradict what they tell these people at their rallies. I can think of few better examples of cynicism than people who make most of their money telling people that Amway is the best opportunity out there when their own tax returns show that most of their money is made from selling tapes, rallies, and functions, not from Amway sales.
3) Deception in recruiting. Both Amway and the Unification movement have a pattern of deceiving potential recruits about who they are. Moon has hundreds of front groups that do recruiting. Many former Moonies and people approached by UC members have reported that the recruiters were vague about their group and often sidestepped the issue about the name of their organization and that they represented Moon. Many people in Amway don't use the words "Amway" or "Quixtar" during the recruiting process.
4) Blind faith and the taboo against questioning. In Moon's organization, it is taught that Moon is the messiah and that his word is not to be questioned. In many organizational groups within Amway, there is a culture of not questioning one's upline. I have heard of many reports of this culture within Amway.
5) Megalomania. Moon literally thinks he is the messiah who has been blessed by "[t]he founders of five great religions and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin . . . and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin . . ." Similarly, there are self-styled leaders within Amway such as Dexter Yager who have a Messiah complex (former Amway IBO Eric Scheibeler has audio of Yager's various rants that clearly indicate a power-hungry and delusional person.
6) A theocratic agenda under the guise of "American values." Moon views America as "Satan's harvest" and believes in an authoritarian theocracy in which he rules; anyone who dissents against Moon's rule will be "digested." Similarly, Dick DeVos is a member of the Council for National Policy, a secretive dominionist group that seeks to make the United States a Christian theocracy. Despite both groups' undemocratic agendas, both groups wrap themselves in the American flag. Founders DeVos and Van Andel named their company Amway as a contraction of the "American Way." Similarly, the editors of Moon's pseudo-newspaper, The Washington Times refer to it as "America's Newspaper" (which is especially ironic since most of the Times' editors have more allegiance to the Stars and Bars that to the Stars and Stripes).
This list is far from exhaustive. I believe the best way to look at both organizations is through former Moonie Steven Hassan's BITE model. Hassan's BITE analysis of Amway is here, here, here, and here.
One thing is certain: both groups are pathological and are responsible for the misery of many people.
Note: This article is cross-posted on The Real Amway.
Posted by Scoobie Davis at 11:35 PM