Esther Rockett continues to attack with unceasing intensity some of the most beautiful and inspiring people I know.
This also appears to sit within her malicious intent to incite hysteria – public fear – in the pathetic attempt to instigate ‘moral panic’ by stigmatising individuals and the larger group as ‘immoral’ and as ‘a threat to societal values and interests’, as Cohen (1972) wrote.
The innuendos made by Esther Rockett continue to be far-fetched and ludicrous misrepresentations and in themselves should expose to any discerning reader the falsity that lies behind her claims. However, there is a language that Esther Rockett adopts that exposes her moral agenda; she writes:
“[Universal Medicine] is marketed as a health service but reserves its deceptive claims for recruiting patients and novice students. Esoteric healing students are then covertly programmed to propagate the deception and recruit more victims, while devaluing and damaging health to perpetuate Serge Benhayon’s sinister ‘Livingness’ death drive.”
There is no ‘covert programming’; this is a manipulative fiction confected by Esther Rockett to create a disturbing fear of the group, which she then plays upon to suggest this is an organisation that is recruiting what she refers to as ‘victims’ of a ‘death drive’. The opposite is actually the case, there are no ‘victims’, simply thriving healthy people who love life, and there is an organisaton that is promoting vitality and health. However, we need to consider what her objective is with the presentation of these bizarre allegations.
The instigation of moral panic relies on ‘stigmatising’ individuals and/or a group and it dates back from the Imperial Roman times to the dark ages, to more recent times such as, for example, the ‘Red Scare’ which blacklisted artists in California in the mid 1900’s when the political climate was saturated with fears of Communist conspiracy. And there are many more such events that can be listed.
Stigma by association is the conduit through which moral panics are sustained.
Scholars underline that ‘Partisans’ such as Esther Rockett, who select an issue and target a group, often have incomplete or ambiguous information about the selected individuals. However, what they can do is create a stereotype – labels that become connected to negative attributes (Link and Phelan, 2001).
So, how are Esther Rockett, Lance Martin & Co. attempting to create moral panic and give notion to a new ‘Folk Devil’?
They begin by constructing and divulging concerns about the Benhayon family and other individuals affiliated with Universal Medicine, who are wildly described as a threat to society’s safety, values and well-being. Ms Rockett has over an extended period of time published and spread false and misleading assertions with the intent to attract the necessary attention to promote a moral panic within the community and internationally.
Esther Rockett has used many deep-seated fears to incite moral panic; for instance, claims around sexual molestation, molesting ‘sexual abuse survivors’ and ‘inappropriate touching’ will obviously polarize the reader, having an intended effect to unite the readers against the group, since such things are immediately recognisable as heinous. Examples of such comment used to incite this response are:
“[Serge Benhayon has] a proven practice of indecently assaulting sexual abuse victims, and teaching inappropriate touching to a legion of dimwitted ‘healers’.”
Another accusation that will immediately garner a response to polarise the reader against the group, will be allegations that it disturbs structures that society regards as fundamental to its ongoing survival. In this regard, Esther Rockett, Lance Martin and those who have embraced this stigmatisation to serve their various agendas have asserted that Universal Medicine ‘destroys families’. This is untrue, yet Esther Rockett makes such claims with impunity, for example, stating that:
There is no evidence of course for any of what Esther Rockett claims. To the discerning public and particularly anyone who knows Serge Benhayon and his family, the suggestions are ludicrous, vile and unfounded, and when it comes to Lance Martin and Esther Rockett’s claims about ‘devaluing and damaging health’, the Universal Medicine student body itself is testament to the fact that the opposite is true.
However, such statements play on people’s deepest fears of abuse and exploitation and if such assertions are repeated often enough and loudly enough then otherwise well meaning people can become caught up in the agenda of those preying on these fears. This was certainly the case during the ‘Red Scare’ in the mid 1900’s.
Secondly, the Media are key players in this game of amplifying and feeding an over-reaction, often fuelling and driving the false and engineered concerns on the basis of malevolent distortions in the interest of the instigators and who/what they represent, and for the sake of a sensational headline.
Media and access to cyber-space has given Ms. Rockett, Lance Martin & Co. the possibility of another platform and wider audience from which to attempt to instigate moral panic by stirring up public aversion through misleading descriptions and dark tones to compound the negative perception of individuals and a group as a threat to public safety.
To see the power the media wields in feeding moral panic one only has to look at the trial by media of Lindy Chamberlain in Australia in the 1980’s. Lindy was falsely convicted (and later acquitted) of murdering her baby amid a media fed misconception that her religion (the Seventh-day Adventist) was a sinister cult and claims that her reactions to the child’s disappearance were apparently not emotional enough (in the public eye anyway).
Rockett, Lance Martin and his cohorts have been able to find a handful of eager journalists within the media who have been happy to oblige their cause by amplifying, feeding and escalating their distortions – a media that has sadly become renowned for a love of sensationalism over facts.
Byron Kaye of the Medical Observer started the ball rolling in July 2012 when he reported that
“THE Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) of NSW has been asked to investigate an alleged “cult” led by a former tennis coach turned “esoteric” healer amid accusations the group urges followers not to exercise, not to eat most foods and not to see a registered doctor if they are ill.”
Kaye made these allegations in the face of contrary evidence provided to him from several medical professionals prior to the article going to print.
The ‘cult’ allegation in particular serves the agenda to elicit moral panic since the term evokes an image of dangerous groups where a charismatic leader has caused immeasurable harm, sometimes resulting in death, to their followers.
This term was entirely inapplicable to Universal Medicine, however, Esther Rockett, Lance Martin and Co invented false information, such as a ‘death drive’ and a false picture of Serge Benhayon having some powerful sway over the Universal Medicine student body.
The fact that none of the allegations were true mattered not to Byron Kaye, nor did the fact that there was no HCCC investigation, only two complaints lodged with the HCCC only days before publication – with one of the complaints being from Kaye himself. Kaye subsequently failed to report that the HCCC ultimately dismissed the complaints. The other journalists who followed Kaye have mostly followed suit in amplifying and engineering the disproportionate concerns of a few ‘partisans’ intent on creating a ‘moral panic’ in the face of evidence to the contrary.
Lastly, ‘partisans’ – also called ‘moral entrepreneurs’ – like to identify themselves as ‘respectable citizens’ and hold themselves as entitled to comment on, and vilify, the group and the behaviour that they may falsely portray as damaging. The moral entrepreneurs self-elevate themselves to the status of ‘Folk Heroes’, they call in socially accredited experts to provide a diagnosis and suggest a measure to arrest the perceived threat. Their slogan and mission is to ‘crack down’ on the group for the sake of society and in the name of ‘good’, although in truth their motivations and incentives are based on individualised self-interest/gain.
It is clear how the above description fits with the intent of Esther Rockett’s and Lance Martin’s distortions and how they have orchestrated their campaign against Universal Medicine.
They have made up a risk of harm to incite concern where there is, and has been, no harm whatsoever. Making up and inflating stories, comments and/or spinning things out of proportion and omission of the Truth are a means to prey on the public’s emotions – the dissemination of dread – in order to then endow themselves with a sense of moral righteousness, driven in order to pursue a ‘control/moral crusade’ and to stigmatise where there lays no threat at all. The ‘cult’ allegations, with false and unfounded claims of ‘mind control’, are one way of stigmatising where there is no threat at all.
The making of seemingly endless complaints to regulatory bodies and the constant cry for others to join them in making these complaints similarly feeds this false notion of moral righteousness and the respectable citizen seeking to do ‘good’ for society. This can be seen in such emotive pleas from Esther Rockett such as,
‘Please do your bit to help alleviate or prevent the suffering of others. Take it from me, the job may be for the most part thankless, but for what it’s worth, some of us will thank you, and we can at least share the consolation of a clean conscience.’
Moral panics are also referred to as ‘a kind of fever’ characterised by heightened emotions, fear, anxiety and hostility (Hendershott, 2002). The creation of sexual perversion is also present as a common thread to instances of moral panic and it is used within the scope of generating and exaggerating disturbances, disgust and polarization (thriving on separation, the ‘us versus them’).
Esther Rockett’s writings fit this descriptor to the letter, with almost every one of her online posts harking back in some way to her false allegations of inappropriate touching and malicious innuendos that Serge Benhayon has an interest in young girls.
For instance, she writes:
‘My opinion, based on his brazenly extreme behaviour in placing his followers and those closest to him in highly compromising positions – participating in sexual abuse, doctors publicly promoting his death wish, publicly compromising his own children by encouraging them to participate in abuse, compromising his wife by having young girls stay in the family home, and God knows what goes on there, – Benhayon is not to be underestimated.’
Again there is not a skerrick of evidence of any such conduct. A suggestion that someone might be a paedophile, which was the clear intent of Esther Rockett’s and Lance Martin’s references to ‘young girls’ staying at the Benhayon home, is engineered to cause a ‘moral panic’. It evokes a primal response of repulsion and even though the pair have nothing whatsoever to base this claim upon – absolutely nothing, it is a lie plain and simple – the mere suggestion that this could be a possibility in the minds of those who read it is sufficient to create the desired outcome of ‘moral panic’ and public hysteria against the group.
A Modern Day Witch-Hunt
A rhetorical and historical example of how the creation of moral panics can escalate to a ‘kind of fever’ is given by accounts of Witchcraft Hysteria of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where the so called ‘witches’ were said to be engaged in heinous activities such as ‘bewitching’ people in their sleep to become witches (not so different to Esther Rockett’s accusations of fictional ‘covert hypnosis’ and ‘cult recruitment’) to even more atrocious crimes, such as acts of cannibalism with the newly born.
This leaves one to wonder: will Lance Martin, Esther Rockett and Co. be accusing Universal Medicine students of eating children next?
The recurrence of such cycles in recent times prompted Arthur Miller to write The Crucible, ostensibly about the Salem witch trials, but it was actually a biting commentary on McCarthyism in America in the 1950’s and the search for and control of ‘communist agitators’.
Today, accusing a group of being a ‘cult’ and a person of being a member of one, has the same stigma attached as if being accused of being in a ‘coven’ and thus a ‘witch’ in the 16th Century, or of being a ‘Communist’ party member and ‘sympathiser’ in the 1950’s.
History offers a plethora of events creating moral panics via stigma by association. We have seen how in falling for the panic, the scaremongers, the twisted accounts and omission of Truth and plain lies, the public has participated to its own imprisonment and downfall. Hitler appealed to moral panic in a 1938 quote: – ‘If we do not take steps to preserve the purity of blood, the Jew will destroy civilization by poisoning us all’.
Esther Rockett appears to be in interesting company in making similarly concerning allegations about Universal Medicine such as,
‘This smashing of families and relationships, this wearing away of personalities, this atrophy of healthy minds, this erosion of wellbeing, this fleecing of hard earned funds, this enmity to all outside your group, this ruthless infliction on innocent and healthy children – when this is done in the name of healing and called ‘medicine’, powerful people are going to call for it to halt.’
One does wonder when Esther Rockett will be calling for those associated with Universal Medicine to be required to wear black armbands, or be relegated to gulags to protect society from these fabricated harms.
In essence, Esther Rockett’s determination to ‘out’ anyone she believes might be part of Universal Medicine (with her vilification of the group as a ‘cult’) in any way, shape, or form, and to assert that they are evil, sexually molesting, tax avoiding, paedophile approving people, is part of a recognisable pattern of creating hysteria to justify persecution.
Throughout time, moral panics have been sustaining and fed by hidden agendas; creating illusions and delusions by spreading unfounded facts and fabrications so as to perpetuate a sinister intent and latent corruption, and to distract the public from what truly matters.
Hence, (I would like to quote) as Benjamin Franklin said: –
‘they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety’.
Moral panics are always negative and disproportionate and the evidence presented can be fabricated in support of any cause célèbre (Goode & Ben Yehuda, 1994). They emerge as a form of resistance to change; playing by means of increasing fear and anxiety; offering the illusion of safety when the only interest is the attempt to perpetuate the status quo that has lost sight of its own decay. Inevitably the change will occur and the resisted evolution will take place.
Link, B. & Phelan, J. (2001) Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 363-385. CrossRef
Goode, E. & Ben-Yehuda, N. (1994) Moral Panics. The Social Construction of Deviance, Oxford: Blackwell.
Hendershott, A. 2002 The Politics of Deviance – Encounter Books. San Francisco.