KKK to FBI: Why Secret Societies Form and Fail
How many times are we going to shake our heads in disbelief when secret truths are revealed about the few bad apples spoiling the barrel? The most recent example involving the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force causes most to ask how and why.
To understand the powerful draw of a rogue subculture, it’s important to understand this is bigger and much more common than seven detectives in Maryland. In truth, it’s even bigger than the corruption being uncovered at the tip of the FBI’s spear.
Throughout history there have always been secret societies. Some were noble, while others not so much. Jesus drew 12 men together as His disciples, but kept an inner circle of the most endeared. Similar to the other groups, even the disciples were infected by betrayal in Judas Iscariot.
The Knights Templar for example, still conjure up images of faithful, loyal brotherhood to serve a higher calling than self. While the KKK, originally formed as a veteran’s social society, evoke images of only hate and pain.
But why do secret societies form and ultimately fail is the question. Most people who fracture off into a crooked sort don’t start out that way. While they may have the propensity for fringe behavior, they initially “color within the lines,” among peers.
Men have a basic need to connect with other men in a fraternal relationship. Be it sports teams, police, poker nights, military service or social clubs, men desire the brotherhood of bonding with other men.
This bonding requires a phenomenon call cultural assimilation. Any club or group has rules, practices and traditions. New members are expected to comply and go with the flow if they want to be a part of that group. Moving into a secret society means a higher expectation of conformity to a select behavior whether legitimate or not.
Bigger Than Blue
I know it seems like cops get the blame for these corruption kicks, but a quick look around and you’ll see that the dynamic of deviance is more prevalent that you might realize.
The key in this article is to recognize the common factors influencing subcultures that link the lust of a pedophile priest in America’s heartland to a soldier’s Columbian prostitute in Cartagena. Once explained, it becomes easy to identify the negative effects of “fitting in” and deviant subcultural secret societies.
Priests, Police, Penn State and Prostitutes
The dynamic of groupthink and deviance is the same in other mainstream cultures where a set-aside group operating within a much larger organization, of similar people use force, threats, intimidation or power to gain influence over others.
- Priests (ex: Catholic Church sex abuse cases)
- Coaches (ex: Penn State football sex abuse scandal)
- Federal employees and military (ex: U.S. Secret Service/ Army’s Cartagena, Colombia prostitution scandal.)
- Physicians (ex: USA Olympics Gymnastics rape conviction)
- Politics (ex: DOJ/FBI weaponized law enforcement for political gain.)
Most often, only a small percentage of each group’s membership participate in illegal or immoral behavior, but because there is some other type of benefit or privilege realized by each, no one exposes the corrupted behavior of the few.
Once light is shown on those not directly participating in the action, we question why didn’t they do something to stop or report it. There is an expectant code of silence among every secretive subculture. It is imposed as a condition of inclusion, receipt of other gain or selective acceptance into what is assumed as a group with special meaning.
This is maintained so their assembly may enjoy whichever vice they please, no matter how decadent, illegal or damaging to their victims, organizations or the public trust. The desire of the society is valued above the values of the organization.
In the case of the FBI, the cluster of administrative agents’ personal positions of power on the 7th Floor were much more important than the legacy, working field agents and integrity of an entire agency.
To protect their privilege, they created a secret society for political influence. They didn’t all share the same benefit of advantage, but inclusion meant something special, albeit different to each.
In the case of the USA Olympic Committee’s failure to protect the 265 females victims from their predator, the complaints were well documented. Yet, officials at the USOC, Michigan State University and Dr. Nassar’s office realized a benefit of exclusivity as the sole medical provider. Again, those who knew chose to embrace their own privilege by doing and saying nothing to stop it.
Consider the case of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky. An assistant coach, Mike McQueary actually witnessed Sandusky in the locker room shower with a male child and failed to act. Paterno was college football.
Penn State benefited from his legacy both financially and competitively. McQueary, a mediocre college-level coach seeking NFL status, also gained benefit through the association of the football program. Sandusky’s deviance was secondary to the legacy and to those of the inner circle who benefited by not derailing the Nittany Lion train.
Detrimental Homogenetic Entitlement
I coined this term while developing my observations and recommendations as a way to describe a group of similar people who falsely assume they have privilege, when in fact they are causing harm to others and eventually to themselves.
In most cases of secret society formation and failure, the majority of actors are dominated by a select group of males closely associated by racial, organizational or ideological affiliation. The group operates behind a veil of secrecy to protect the cohesive group.
The subculture fosters a homogenous membership because their influence (perceived or actual) allows extending degrees of latitude. Circling back to the Baltimore cops, and our question of how could it have happened again. There’s no doubt their supervisors were fading public and administrative heat from victims, but their high productivity of arrest and contraband seizures allowed them to get away with actions that no other officer would.
Eventually, their assumed entitlement became detrimental to the wrong person or outlet, and the secret society was exposed. While some members suffer consequences after exposure, it really depends on levels of actual influence when the proverbial poop hits the fan.
These cops are catching convictions while priests rotate and remain operational in other parishes, and influencers like FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe gets to enjoy using his vacation time until his hefty pension sets in.
There is actual entitlement, but it doesn’t really surface until after the fall. Secret societies form because of a desire for entitlement within a much larger entity where you may otherwise become anonymous. Secret societies fail because the sins of benefits were mistakenly perceived as entitlements.
If you are lured into a “select” group that uses key phrases like “Just between us,” “They don’t understand,” “Somebody’s got to do it” or “This never happened,” you’re better off sticking to the streams of public accountability and leaving the unofficial black bag jobs to the mythical A-Team.