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From the answers on my previous post, What reasons would motivate even low level personnel of vast secret organizations to keep the secret going, other than fear?, it seems that low level personnel defecting are not a big threat to a sufficiently large conspiracy.

Yet the answers themselves pose an interesting question, since the leadership hold the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, and are mostly immune to the reasons that keep the lower levels harmless by virtue of their position, what keeps them in check?

Excluding:

  1. Fear for themselves, family, etc., since to have attained that position we can assume they likely are capable of commensurate or greater retaliation.
  2. Greed for money, influence, status, etc., since those motivations are common enough for a competent conspiracy to have been carefully designed to moderate its effects, at least within the leadership.
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    $\begingroup$ What do they have to gain by defecting? The presumption would be that they lead the conspiracy because they founded it, in order to achieve something which they want to achieve. They would need a reason to stop wanting that in order to defect, so the default assumption would be that they don't defect because they still want to achieve what the conspiracy was set up to achieve, surely? $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    May 2 '21 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ Sexual pleasure, hope, fun, a pension plan, the camaraderie of their fellow believers, free ice-cream, god's eternal love, a good laugh. If this is not to be opinion-based then we need criterion or a few for a "best answer". $\endgroup$ May 2 '21 at 5:18
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    $\begingroup$ This seems to be a question like "What's to keep me from repainting my beloved orange car to a different color?" Nothing, of course. You don't change it because you wanted it this way in the first place. Judging by the known cults and cabals that have imploded, nothing holds the leaders in check beyond the limit of abuse of their peers and immediate subordinates will tolerate. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    May 2 '21 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ @kaya3 There’s a couple of reasons, probably the most powerful lure would be a rival conspiracy offering even greater rewards then whatever motivated them to join the original conspiracy in the first place. It could be due to them having a smaller and more focused leadership, greater acces to resources, etc., $\endgroup$
    – M. Y. Zuo
    May 2 '21 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ For those who VTC'ed as opinion-based: There is sufficient research into the group and organisational psychology to answer this question without opting for pure speculation. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    May 2 '21 at 18:28
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Depends on the Time Scale

Are we talking secrecy over the course of years or decades, or are we talking a multi-generational conspiracy? On the scale of decades, fear for themselves and their loved ones is sufficient. Even if this conspiracy is powerful, unless it could stop the nation-states in which it is operating from squashing it once found out, there's always the risk that they could be hauled off to jail (or executed for treason, depending on what your secret society is up to) along with their friends and family. If there is no such risk, what is the point of all the secrecy? Nefarious organizations that operate with the blessing of the nations states in which they operate tend to do so openly, no matter what the general populace thinks of them (lobbying firms in the US, for instance).

In the short term greed can be effective as well, but it can also be a liability if the rewards gained or losses avoided by selling out their conspirators exceed the benefits of cooperating. Conspiracies built purely around greed (such as the LCD price fixing scheme that ran from 1999 to 2006) tend not to survive for long, as once found out, those involved tend to turn on each other pretty quickly.

On a multi-generational scale, the probability of a large monolithic conspiracy remaining hidden drops precipitously. On long time-scales your conspiracy's inner circle will need to recruit new members over and over again (with the perpetual risk of betrayal), and unless your conspirators are immortal, eventually they're going grow old and die. If what they're doing is unethical enough that it needs to be kept secret, there's always the risk of a last minute attack of conscience. At that point they have nothing left to gain or lose personally. Unless there's someone else involved in the conspiracy that they care about and want to protect, there's little that anyone could hold over their heads (and even then, they could try to strike a plea deal on their behalf). This also means that eventually the founders will be completely replaced, and the new guard may not be as committed or competent as their predecessors (their goals may also drift over time).

That's in addition to members who decide they want out for personal reasons, members who get caught doing something unrelated (tax fraud as the most typical example) that draws attention to their other activities, or just a janitor or night watchman stumbling on something incriminating (that's how Operation Snow White and Watergate were revealed). The risk of any individual breach may be small, but over time the risks add up.

On the other hand, the secret organization may survive by devolving into a glorified country club, with all the secrecy and subterfuge intact (for fun), but with nothing of value to hide. Even if discovered, such an organization would probably not disband, though it would cease to be a true "secret organization".

Cellular Structure

One way to sidestep the scale issue would be to divide your large secret organization into several smaller secret organizations that each know almost nothing about one another besides their points of contact. This is how some terrorist organizations and organized crime syndicates work. When a portion of the conspiracy is revealed, everyone in that cell may be hauled off to jail, but the remainder of the conspirators rebuild and keep going. The downside is that this won't really be a "secret" organization for long, any more than Al-Qaeda or MS-13 are. The precise inner workings may be a secret, but even ordinary people would be well aware of their existence and goals.

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  1. Ideology they truly believe in the organization goals and plans for the world

  2. Loyalty, he feels indebted to organization because of what they have done for him in the past.

  3. Friendship all his friends and or family are in the organization and he doesn't want to betray them.

  4. Familarity, being in the organization is just what they have always done and they see no need to change.

  5. Pride

They are addicted to the feeling of excitment that comes from knowing that they know things that others do not, that they are not like the rest of these sheep they have seen behind the curtain they are one of few enlightened.

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Why do they have a conspiracy? To further some goal.

They are not going to defect if that is in reach.

In one word: Success.

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Progressive efficiency

If the organization is capable of consistently achieving results while also providing the proper reward for those who contributed and delivering punishment upon those who did the opposite, its members are far less likely to even consider betraying the organization, let alone switching to another.

Another factor that seriously affects loyalty is progression, or lack there of to be more specific. Any organization that doesn't have the capabilities to evolve and improve over time inevitably falls victim to stagnation and, since people are always hungry for more, the most ambitious are ones most likely the first to jump ship.

In short, if an entity wishes to sustain itself, no matter its size, it has to strive for efficiency and progression.

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They rely on the idea of mutual blackmail, Kompromat

The elite are too powerful for any single person to take down, sure, but as they progress up the ranks, more and more blackmail material is acquired by their allies. Affairs, homosexuality, drug use, pedophilia, lies they told, people they killed, financial issues. All of these things add up. The conspiracy may even encourage you to do flagrantly wrong things, so you are in deep and no polite society will accept you.

So long as you stay in the conspiracy you can count on a certain amount of support. Your secrets won't be released, the photos won't go public, and your allies will try to keep you in power so you don't release their photos and secrets. If you get in trouble with the law then they'll cover for you. Go public? All that blackmail material goes public, and you no longer benefit from all that protection.

There is the fear benefit, but beyond that, you get to do all sorts of fun depraved stuff, and you're invested in the conspiracy. Even if you manage to stop your rivals with blackmail material, if you no longer believe in the conspiracy then why did you rape those people in a ritual, or kill that child and drink their blood? Are you a bad person? It's emotionally quite hard to give up on a belief system when you have done such depraved things for it, because then that is admitting that you are a bad person.

And it might not even work. You get out, blab, and before you've done that people see you as a crazy evil person who isn't to be believed because of all the blackmail.

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Here's how: the leader and elites of the secret organization(let's call the organization Team Camerupt) brainwash the lower members to make them believe they are doing what's right. If that does not work, Team Camerupt could blackmail the lower members of Team Camerupt to keep Team Camerupt secret or else the lower members will get arrested along with the higher-ups because the lower members helped Team Camerupt do bad stuff. If you do not want the above options,, Team Camerupt could creates lots of smaller secret organizations with super strong ties to the main organization(the main organization is Team Camerupt) to distract the police from Team Camerupt, so even if the police arrest all the members of one of the smaller organizations, Team Camerupt will still be operating, pretending the smaller organizations are behind every single thing Team Camerupt does. If you do not want the third option, Team Camerupt could recruit people in need and people that hate having to follow the law as the poor people will like the home and shelter Team Camerupt gives them and the people who hate the law will find more freedom. If you want to mix everything above together, dew it.(Dew is a corruption of do.)

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