One of the issues I never quite resolved in my days of doing the Ambassador Watch website and blog was whether writing about the weird and wonderful world of Armstrongism was simply giving some very unpleasant groups and their autocratic leaders unintended publicity. In particular, the really lunatic fringe ministries led by tithe-farming tyrants appeared to derive 'oxygen' from any kind of exposure to the limelight. Any publicity, they say, is good publicity.
Paranoia also seems to enjoy an airing. A negative article sometimes just feeds the delusion, not to mention the martyr complex. Arguing the point, or attempting to fight proof text with proof text, is invariably futile. Thus it ever was. Let's face it, people attach themselves to ministries like these out of more primal needs than reason and good sense.
The robber barons of "cogdom" continue to see their franchises crumble, and realistically there's no hope of coming back from this slow slide into oblivion. Some simply succumb to the effects of self-inflicted foot-in-mouth disease, setting dates, predicting events, and then losing credibility. In fact, these guys just can't seem to help themselves as they relentlessly follow the policy of "if at first you don't succeed..." Amazingly, a downsized core of ageing supporters always seems to remain, putting up the bucks to postpone the inevitable.
Then there's the mathematics of multiplication by division. A small sect is riven by discord and somebody goes stomping off to launch their own mini-me group. In the process some lucky few finally wise up and leave, while those remaining gather under competing flags. Add both memberships together and you still have less than you started out with.
For those members cemented into place the prognosis is not as good. The best strategy has always been to encourage such folk to read, to reflect, and expand their horizons beyond the group's propaganda. Not so easy, especially when the temptation is to follow the path of least resistance and simply move sideways into a kindred camp. At the end of the day though, they have the right to stay put and to have that decision respected.
So is it best to just ignore spiritual buffoons? In some cases I think so, particularly the one-man-band variety, micro-sects which most people, even those with family ties to the Empire, might otherwise never hear of. Larger groups - and again we're talking about those with abusive top-down structures - are acutely vulnerable to satire and humour. Pretentious dictator-types don't like being made fun of; they desperately want to be taken seriously. To play the role of the little kid in The Emperor's New Clothes often does more to deflate these pompous blow-hards than any amount of reasoning.
In 2014 we will - no doubt about it - see the sects of Armstrongism continue to score own-goals, to split, to make ridiculous claims, to play the fear card, to issue edicts to their much put-upon members; but the soap opera long ago was reduced to a farce. By the end of this year the decline will be further advanced, despite arrogant claims, posturing and preening by the various authoritarian leaders and their enablers. The more benign, collaborate groups - and there are a precious few - are unlikely to ultimately escape the demographic dementia, but can perhaps continue to provide some kind of acceptable safe harbour in the short term.