The surefire sign of a cult

I am seeing a lot of queries coming into this blog relating the nature of tribalism and cultism. The nature of cults is a topic that is quite close to me, having seen one very closely, and having watched its operations.

I have written in the past about the telltale signs of a cult, which probably warrants another read, if you haven’t been past there. I agree that it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what constitutes a cult, especially when something as benign as a support group can exhibit similar tendencies, however I think there is one big identifier that is worth considering.

Because it was this specific factor that awakened me to the cult that I was in. You’d think this would be a simple criterion, but when you’re inside a cult, it’s amazing how your head would cloud the rational thought. So, here it is:

The group – the cult – never meets the standard that it sets for others. Specifically, cult members (and opponents of the cult) are expected to meet certain standards and requirements, but the moment that the cult is expected to align with the behaviours and attitude, the concerns are dismissed.

With the cult that I had joined, there was a mantra that all members would participate in all club activities. To not participate for any reason (and some particular events were extremely expensive) would be a sign of failure, and a sign that the individual lacked the skills to be a practitioner of the cult’s system (it was a martial arts group). Specifically, it was said that if someone failed to make something happen for them, then they had failed.

Later in my membership with the cult, an event was being organised in a distant land. It would require travel to get there, which was a huge cost to go. Thinking the opportunity would be great, I joined up for the trip. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the event was going to be cancelled because they hadn’t obtained the numbers they required.

I had already purchased plane tickets, which were expensive to cancel.

Querying the matter with the cult’s administration team, they were unsympathetic to the plight. It was here that I threw their doctrine in their faces, outlining that their inability to meet the standard they placed on others (ie that they had failed to “make something happen” and that therefore they had failed). This was immediately dismissed and was guffawed away with the assertion that I didn’t truly understand, and only had superficial knowledge of the art.

Cults place expectations on others that they do not themselves fulfill. And I see it in the world of political discourse and analysis as well – people will denigrate one party for a behaviour, but celebrate it when their party does same.

Look at the controversy surrounding the demonetisation of conservative comedia Stephen Crowder on YouTube. The claim here is that Crowder engaged in harassing behaviour to Carlos Maza of Vox Media. Yet YouTube is more than happy to leave up a violent video from The Late Show in where a depiction of NRA spokeswoman, Dana Loesch is shot.

Not a perfect example of hypocrisy, I know, but I cannot help but feel that had the video depicted a different person being shot, someone more favoured by mainstream media, that the resulting fallout would be vastly different.

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The behaviour you exhibit

There seems to be a terrible climate to be found, not on the planet, but in the cyberspace world of social media and other internet fora. Frankly, it’s a cesspit and it could use some scrubbing. It’s dirty. It’s underhanded. It adheres to no standards and each “event” that occurs often secretes the same boring discussions. It usually plays out as thus:

  1. Person of medium notoriety says something stupid or deliberately inflammatory.
  2. Social media rides in upon their high horse and lambasts said person over their harmful words.
  3. Opponents of social media hysteria bleat openly about “free speech”.
  4. Shit gets flung until nobody can see anything in focus.
  5. Both sides of the argument declare victory at having improved the world and then eagerly await another event #1 to occur again.
  6. The planet descends further into nihilistic oblivion.

As someone who agrees nor disagrees with either side of this divide, I promptly piss off everyone. The internet, binary as it is from the political spectrum to the ones and zeros that make up its DNA, cannot fathom the idea that people can be anything but 100% in favour of one thing over another.

So, naturally when I discovered that an Australian television presenter was being hauled over the coals for saying something inflammatory, imagine my surprise to discover that those who would advocate free speech were, in fact, not all that in favour of it.

In fact, many were calling for her job.

Many of these people, I feel, would have been the same ones who defended former-Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos for the things he had said. These would be the same people who would march on Berkeley University to defend Free Speech. These are the same people, I feel, who would fervently defend someone being fired for their innocuous Facebook posts.

But alas, here we are. Two sides trying to claim scalps of those they oppose instead of any kind of philosophical consistency.

Did Yassmin Abdel-Magied say something inflammatory? Yes. Undoubtedly. Does she deserve to lose her job? No. Do I think she is above criticism for her words? No. No one is. But this desire to attack peoples’ actual livelihoods based upon mere moments on social media need to stop.

“But their side does it too!” is a defense I read in the asshole pen called “Comments sections”, and it can be quickly dismissed with the same absolutism as the ones and zeros on the internet.

You either support free speech, or you do not. You do not make exemptions for those with whom you might agree. If you would have someone lose their job for their words, you are openly endorsing the same happening to yourself. Likewise if you endorse actual violence as an appropriate way to wrangle your opponent, you are accepting that violence in return. 

Violence begets more violence. 

Get some consistency, and maybe you’ll find moderates like myself seeing your way of things. If you champion free speech, acknowledge that the freedom you seek to protect is allowed to your opponents.

And don’t go after peoples’ livelihoods. Because you are only legitimising that tactic being used back on you.