The Weekend section of the Guardian on Saturday had an article on the new German film Die Welle which is based on the infamous "Third Wave" experiment in California in 1967.
The article had some interesting comments on why young people are attracted to these sorts of movements which I thought was relevant to why some people become JWs (bold mine):
"Articulating a common disillusionment, Marco one of the students complains that there is nothing to rebel against. "Nothing means anything any more," he says. "We all just want to have fun. What our generation lacks is a common goal to unite us."
"That's based on me when I was 17," says Gansel. "I really wanted to be part of something that made a change. My father was always telling me, 'We changed society in Berlin '68.' And I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, fantastic but I want my moment.' This is something I saw a lot of in the teenagers we interviewed. Everybody's looking for something and it's as if there's nothing left for them. The film is exactly that: the danger of what happens when there is nothing to fulfil that desire."
The Wave mirrors what happened in California where the group swelled to huge numbers before becoming violent and out of control. Ron Jones's solution was a radical one. He told his disciples that there were organisations like theirs simultaneously springing up throughout America and that they were to gather around a TV in the dining hall where they would see a live broadcast announcing their own presidential candidate. Instead, Jones jarred them to their senses by projecting a film of Nazi atrocities. The Wave's climax is different but similarly extreme, especially for a film that despite its far-fetched premise succeeds in getting natural and believable performances from its cast.
"We had to do it," says Gansel. "A large part of The Wave seems very appealing - the togetherness and community. That was the reason for this very hard and harsh ending because we knew it would be very seductive for a young audience. But my point is that if you want to make a movie about seduction, and how dangerous it is, then you have to be seductive as a film-maker." "
I think the film also demonstrates how easily normal people can be led to extreme behaviour. Nazi Germany is comfortable to consider because the ruling power was defeated, a few people were punished, and it was another time and place. It is not so comfortable to consider how easily it could happen again given an economic downturn and a convenient immigrant population.