Designated Dancers by Alice Rost–A book review


This is another memoir by a former Synanon member. It is not very good in explaining and understanding why people committed atrocities in Synanon. The only good memoir is by a former member was Paradise, Inc. by Dave Gerstel.

The authors of the 1960s books, while lacking understanding, were very good in explaining the processes in Synanon. The book by Yablonsky – The Tunnel Back– was so good that a sociologist wrote in review in the Nation that the author was callous and did not see the horror of what he wrote and predicted a state of fanaticism was Synanon’s future.

Likewise, I say of this author, who proclaims to be a writer but this is written more like a dear diary, she shows a narcissism about her life’s importance and a frightening indifference to violence.

The only real Synanon violence she describes is the Phil Ritter murder attempt, but for unknown reasons she changes his name. Of violence, she says none of it concerns her because cults go through a paranoia stage. That is partly true. Founders of cults are generally failures who now see themselves as successes, and become paranoid against enemies that may take it all away. They are frightened by the prospect of Spies. What happens in cults is that the insanity of the founder is transferred to the followers as reasoned sanity.  But this is no excuse for any follower, because the follower knows the acts of violence are crimes.

The author did apparently no research, not even read From Miracle To Madness, which tells a story of Synanon and answers all questions from Synanon’s own documents. 88 physical attacks and 3 attempted murders are described. This author adds 1 more, making the total 89. These are people beaten and hospitalized. Their lives, the lives of their family, were all altered, but none of this is a concern to the author.

The author will not even acknowledge Charles Dederich’s responsibility for the forced vasectomies, orders to divorce and take strangers for partners and all the violence. If she had read From Miracle To Madnes she would have known that Charles Dederich took responsibility for all of it at deposition, testifying he communicated his orders through think table speeches and by playing the game and that as to the violence, no decision of that magnitude could be made without his approval.

Dederich was a sociopath. But what of this author? She acknowledges she heard about the violence on the wire– the Synanon communication system– and observed it. In fact, every person who stayed after 1974, which the author did, knew of the training of the Imperial Marines to attack enemies, and that the attacks were occurring. Thus, by supporting Synanon  each member contributed to a conspiracy to commit violence. The all violated RICO act by taking part in a criminal conspiracy to commit terrorism and raid the charitable trust (which she also acknowledges). The author was as guilty under the law as any of the actual participants. That she so stayed knowing the violence and theft was being committed is not a subject she approaches and which is probably what should have been the key subject of the book, i.e., “how I became of crusading terrorists and I am not bothered by it.”