Fall of Synanon VIII–The Deprograming of Rod Mullen

Fall of Synanon VIII–The Deprograming of Rod Mullen

by Paul Morantz
copyright July 2011

When I was flown through desert winds in l979, wanting to vomit in or jump out of the four seated plane, I thought I was on the way to speak to some officials at Lake Havesu a new city just incorporated in 1978

When I saw all the cars parked on the community college campus on a Saturday I thought there must be a basketball game. It turned out instead that all of the community had turned out to hear me speak on their new neighbor Synanon. Speakers were placed outside of the auditorium for those who could not get in. This was the difference between a big city like Los Angeles that engulfed everything weird and didn’t blink, and a small town where people had come to get away from the craziness of big cities.

During his opening speech, the masters of ceremony, said, “Paul, I think this is for you” and pulled out a rubber rattlesnake from his coat pocket and tossed it on my plate. The crowd roared.

Rather than expressing my displeasure, I spoke about how gracious the city had been to me and how impressive it was– “especially how fast it forwarded my mail.”


Rod Mullen was a veteran teacher who entered Synanon in its Camelot days seeking to be part of a new and better way of education. He was also the person who gave 15-year-old Joe Butler an A plus for writing that Chuck Derderich can’t tell a thousand people what to do, Synanon is becoming an Army that will defeat its enemies, changing partners is good and it is good to knock someone into a ditch who would not do it.

Watching my insurance appointed attorney trying to examine him at deposition was frustrating . “Do you brainwash? No…Ok. Do you do child abuse. No…Ok.”

So I took over the questioning and pinned him with dates, times, places, events and Synanon speak. I grew to like him. I decided to see if I could deprogram him.

As he testified Chuck Dederich’s police seized tape discussing beatings, Imperial Marines and future killing was just polarized “court” spoofing and that Dederich played characters and took opposition positions, I produced a Synanon summary of all his “court” speeches which I had reassembled alphabetically by category and asked him to read through it and find one subject where Dederich did not say the same thing every time he spoke on the subject.

He testified he could not find any, but added, “With all your vast knowledge of Synanon, you must know that when he says we are going to smoke marijuana in Synanon he is making it up because you, more than anyone, knows Synanon is against all drugs.”

I asked him if Dederich spoofs when he speaks to the press or does he speek honestly about what is going on in Synanon. He replied Dederich tells the truth when speaking to jthe media. I then pulled out the transcript of a recent press conference over the Health Department trying to inspect Synanon where Dederich said that they were going to smoke marijuana in Synanon as it was not a bad drug (he already had smoked with Betty when she was dying of cancer) and had him read it aloud.

Two weeks after his deposition, Rod Mullen left Synanon. He ended up giving evidence of crimes to the Department of Justice.