Diane Benscoter, an ex-Moonie, is now invested in finding ways to battle extremist mentalities and their potentially deadly consequences.

Why you should listen

At 17, Diane Benscoter joined The Unification Church -- the religious cult whose members are commonly known as “Moonies.” After five long years, her distressed family arranged to have her deprogrammed. Benscoter then left The Unification Church, and was so affected by her experience that she became a deprogrammer herself. She devoted her time to extracting others from cults, until she was arrested for kidnapping. The shock of her arrest caused her to abandon her efforts for almost 20 years.

Now, after decades of research and study, Diane has begun to speak about her experiences. She recently completed a memoir describing her years as a member of The Unification Church and as a deprogrammer.

Furthermore, she has embarked on a new project to define “extremist viral memetic infections”. She believes that defining extremism as a memetic infection, from a cognitive neurological perspective, might allow us to develop better memes that would inoculate against the memes of extremist thought. These inoculating memes could prevent the spread of extremist viral memetic infections and their inherent dangers.

Diane Benscoter’s TED talk

Diane Benscoter on the TED Blog

Ex-Moonie Diane Benscoter: How cults think

June 17, 2009

Diane Benscoter talks about how she joined the Moonies — and stayed for five long years. She shares an insider’s perspective on cults and extremist movements, and proposes a new way to think about today’s most troubling conflicts. Watch Diane Benscoter’s talk from TED U 2009 on TED.com where you can download this TEDTalk, rate […]

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