Johnson cult

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The Johnson cult, formerly misidentified as a cargo cult, was initiated on New Hanover Island in Papua New Guinea in 1964. Although initially labeled a cargo cult, it has since been characterized as "political theater".[1]


What Billings discovered was an elaborate soap opera, a piece of political theatre and a game of high stakes. She found New Hanover to have a rich history of using play-acting and bluffing as a negotiation ploy that could be used in order to embarrass a foe. [...] In 1964, the New Hanoverans were fed up with their Australian administrators. Angry with these unpopular rulers, their real purpose was to embarrass them into giving them more aid, as development of their tiny island had been neglected for years. According to Billings, the Australian authorities responsible for overseeing the island had taken the 'cult' story at face value and were clueless as to what was motivating the islanders' 'strange' fixation on Lyndon Johnson. It was a cultural misunderstanding. [...] Ironically, the political gamesmanship of these so-called primitive, irrational islanders was so complex, subtle and unfamiliar that it went over the heads of both the Australian administrators and the world media.[2]


  1. ^ Billings, Dorothy K. (2005). Cargo cult as theater: political performance in the Pacific. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-5281-2. OCLC 818361948.
  2. ^ Bartholomew, Robert and Billings, Dorothy. 2005, “The Johnson Cult”, Fortean Times 192, (, archived from the original at