Marks of a cult [Trollville]
What is a cult? What does one look like and how does it act?
Are all cults religious or is it possible for a cult to be non-religious? Marketing cults, such as Amway, are non-religious and pseudo-religious - they are not necessarily theistic.
It therefore follows that it is possible to be cultic - that is under the influence of mind control, and therefore irrational - without being theistic.
What is a cult? What does one look like and how does it act?
A cult needs formation, it needs a person with an overblown sense of themself and an ability to blag that onto other people, to start it. These people are good enough at rhetoric and self promotion to get enough people to believe that they are what they make themselves out to be: a person of insight, a leader, a thinker. They see themselves as natural leaders and people of insight, and they are successful at conning some people into seeing them as such.
Next there needs to be some ideal: something which sets the group apart, something unassailable and profound. This can be God, or money, or unGod. For a cult this hook must be stressed and packaged as something of value. Most cultic information is only available to insiders: Scientologists charge you a fee, the Moonies practically kidnap and brainwash you, the JWs come and sit in your lounge and some mustachioed ponce for unGod comes over your internetz.
Cults will generally be unaccountable in their finances, keeping an accounting system which involves certain hidden factors and non-disclosures. The Watchtower Society sells its literature to the public by pressuring JWs to pay up front for the literature they distribute, and then to contribute any payment they might receive from the public in "voluntary donations". This way they keep free of sales tax. All cults have questionable accounts and none are fully transparent.
To be in a cult will cost money and time.
A cult will have a defined identity that its followers will be encouraged to adopt.
A cult will not tolerate criticism.
People who criticise a cult from within will be removed: a term Orwell coined is "unperson". They will no longer be considered to be a voice worth listening to.
All cults get involved in quack-science and poor scholarship. The quack science will be advanced by those in the echelons who have sufficient grasp of science to sound knowledgable while getting away with the most egregious non-sequitors undetected; and the fake scholarship will be advanced by those zealous enough to provide vaguely credible scholarly support. Fred Franz was typical of this crowd: they fail miserably at academia but gain enough to think that they are better: the result is that they put themselves up as credible scholars on dubious grounds, but of course the rubes are encouraged not to question this.
Scientific quackery is only what is in line with the cult, this may range from the pseudo-geology of YEC flood apologetics through to the fake-psychology of L.Ron Hubbard inc. In between are a myriad of pseudo-science dogmas masquerading as fact advanced by a wide range of self-proclaimed experts and commentators.
Membership is important to cults, and they pass by no opportunity to remind people - especially their followers - just how successful they are. They will spin whatever numerical markers they can in order to make themselves appear "mainstream", "popular" or "in touch". Stats matter to cults, but only the right stats.
Am I missing anything? Yeah: RRS bears the hallmarks of a wannabe cult.
Quote:No it's ok, you just assert that Rook is a "teacher" now (how many different headings can one guy receive?) and I'll just smile at it.Quote:"Teacher".
Yes. Teacher. There has been plenty of bitching about Rook's lack of degree and credentials. You'll probably have to take a number on that one.
To be a "teacher" requires only that one teach. That doesn't mean what he's teaching is true, false, noble, reprehensible, logical, or complete nonsense. I'll point out here that the quote you're replying to in that is acknowledging that while Rook may endeavor to teach, there is obviously criticism regarding his qualifications to do so. You do remember suggesting that cults don't tolerate criticism, right?
"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons." - The Waco Kid
No it's ok, you just assert that Rook is a "teacher" now (how many different headings can one guy receive?) and I'll just smile at it.
Hold on. From the original context, I thought the reference was to Rook's teacher, not to Rook being a teacher. Not that it matters, really. I just think there's some cross-talk here.
Ok so everyone is aware of where their money goes when they hand it over, or else they don't care. Well since it isn't the former (there are no public accounts) then it can only be the latter, unless that is a false dichotomy.
There's a third option: we can contingently trust Brian and Kelly and Rook not to lie to us, until proven otherwise. Of course, you might construe this as cultish behaviour, but it isn't significantly different from other websites of this size and tenor. Of course, that doesn't address the possibility that those other websites might also be cultish.
Well I was assuming that they would think it went towards tangible things to do with the running of the RRS, rather than just being absorbed into Brian's pocket if he so chooses. But, as you say, everyone knows Brian helps himself, and they don't mind paying him. Fine by me, it's not my money he's getting drunk on.
Even not-for-profit websites pay their admins, and often their contributors. Since this isn't a not-for-profit website, I think one could reasonably assume somebody's getting paid for their time. As you say, there's no open books for us to examine. However, I do believe Kelly is speaking honestly when she said both she and Rook work, and Brian is spending his own money.
Thanks for your responses.
Good luck and best wishes.
And to you. It was an interesting troll, and you presented some potentially valid points in all of it. Your conclusion is illogical, but you wouldn't've gotten the troll reaction if you'd just come in and stated your potentially valid points.
"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers
Wow. So any financially self-sustaining membership-driven organization would appear to be a cult. Cub Scouts, for instance. The Girls Scouts get their members to sell merchandise for profit. Now that's a cult. But their dogma-laced cookies are quite delicious.
I believe there has to be some form of blind acceptance of dogma to go along with "cult" status.
These are views held by some of the founding members. Fine. I don't accept them. Neither do many of the people here. That's in direct contrast to a cult, in which the words of the founders are accepted unquestioningly.
Also, the founding members don't ban people for pointing out that these assertions are not accepted by all. Again, this is in direct contradiction to the characteristics of a cult.
Also in direct contrast to the characteristics of a cult would be to adopt a position of ambivalence where the data is inconclusive: this they do not do but press in with claims of mythicism and diagnoses of mental illness.
Pretty much every website tries to up its membership by increasing visibility. What you're describing isn't a "cult," it's the internet.
So you are saying it is normal behaviour to:
1. work out a way to massage the stats in your favour.
2. encourage people to act in this way (install alexa and other browser plugins) to up the stats count.
3. Claim, once the stats have been so massaged, to be #1.
Since that is what happened, then if that's normal behaviour we'll have to disagree as to "normal", forget trying to ascertain whether such behaviour is rational/pragmatic versus attention whoring.
Wow, you guys sure are good at not reading something when it suits you to not get it.
Okay, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. However, if we're not getting it, perhaps you are not making a clear distinction between shameless self-promotion for the sake of building website membership, and building membership for a cult.
Shameless self promotion is a facet of someone irrationally wedded to their own ego, whatever their ultimate intention. Cults are generally formed by people of such personality traits. Whether the RRS founders display those traits is up to you to decide for yourself. I just wanted you to think about it.
Before you go into the "won't pay your dinner, get a real job" schtick again, let me point out than running a website is a real job. They are providing a service. I have not been a paying member, and I have never been criticized for my leeching. I will have to change that come next payday.
The stop using it as a definition.
I'm not. It is a description: it says what cults look like, not what they are. What they are is not covered by my terms therefore it is not a definition of a cult. Are you all this logically challenged? I find it easier to get theists to see the logical inconsistencies in their pet God-proof than I do getting you guys to actually pay attention to the words and intent and stop slipping off on them.
Hey, thanks for saying I'm logically challenged! I guess I'm too stupid to see that you are attempting to define RRS as a cult, and are using a description as if it were a definition. Yeah, we're all too stupid to see through idiocy like that.
Is the definition of psychosis the same as the diagnostic criteria? No. Psychosis has a definition and a set of associated behaviours that come together to form the diagnosis. The same is true when diagnosing anything: a definition of gravity is not required for there to be a law of gravity: the law says what gravity does (what observables will be found) while the theory of gravity conceptualises the definition of gravity: curvature/warping of space-time or force at a distance. The definition and the physical characteristics are not the same.
It is perfectly legitimate to list behavioural criteria for diagnosis purposes: this is how things progress in the real world.
My saying you are logically challenged is directly related to your ignorance of this fundamental distinction between a thing (how it is defined) and the phenomena it produces (how it is detected).
MANY things fit your description that are not cults, as has been demonstrated. And so, your argument is insufficient to identify RRS as a cult. Now, I see you place "wannabe" is as a qualifier. This does nothing more than weaken your assertion, which I assume you did intentionally, so there could be no logical argument against your insufficiency.
I have presented objective descriptions of certain factors which are observed to be the case in organisations which answer to the definition of the word "cult". I have said off the back of that that I think the RRS is a wannabe cult: in that it is ticking some of the boxes and may go on to tick more.
In the process I have questioned certain matters of financial propriety and accountability, I have questioned certain arguments and positions put forward by the RRS, with which the RRS is recognisably linked.
The point is, we're slipping off them because you're wrong. There are many supportable accusations you could lay at the feet of the RRS founders -- and you have done so. Claiming theism as a mental illness, for instance, is about as accurate as saying belief in UFOs or ghosts is a mental illness. Claiming they are making some profit off the running of the site is a potential goldmine, if anyone here really cared, or we thought they were living in mansions and driving expensive cars, rather than working real jobs and doing this in their free time. Hell, I mean, that guy who started Facebook is a billionaire. What the fuck's up with that? (I'm not being sardonic here. I'm serious.)
But you don't stick to that. You try to push it into illogical territory. This, plus your methods of doing so, indicate intellectual dishonesty, so it's hard to take you as other than a troll.
"These are come characteristics typical of cults", "I think that the RRS exhibits some of these characteristics". Sure you can disagree with me as to whether those characteristics are really exhibited but you've pretty much admitted that you don't really know one way or the other as you haven't really thought about it before. At least now you are thinking about it.
I have cited the banning of Rathpig as an example of unwanted criticism simply being swept aside, and I have also mentioned Brian's irrational fear of anon.
YouAre Right wrote:
No great insight, but you know what: you're nearly there. All social organisations can be seen to exist on a continuum: where one might put wholly altruistic and open organisations at one end and highly controlling and anti-criticism (closed) organisations at the other. How then do we differentiate? By making note of the characteristics which change along the continuum: openness and frankness through to shout-downs and verbal heckling, gentle discussion versus threats and harrassment, etc etc. Yes Brian Sapient has threatened and heckled and shouted down critics.
Now we're getting somewhere.
That's Sapient. There are others here who do that as well. I believe we call that "humanity."
I have also been involved in some excellent discussions here with people of completely different viewpoints about rationality and belief. It can be frustrating sometimes, and I do sometimes behave like a prick, but only when I believe someone is not being honest, or is hiding their motives (perhaps even to themselves). If I cross a line, I apologize.
Here's what makes RRS different from a cult: we don't all behave like Brian Sapient.
Each person here is distinct. We are even willing to disagree with Sapient, or Kelly, or Rook, if we feel they are wrong. They don't insist we don't question them. They defend their positions vigorously, and they are intelligent; and they are also abbrassive at times. (Well, not Rook, near as I can tell.)
Criticism is naturally met with a bit of aggression. Nobody likes to be criticised, especially the way you did it, with innuendo and ridiculous conclusions designed to annoy. C'mon. What was the point of calling it a "wannabe" cult?
If Brian were really trying to build a cult, he sure wouldn't be doing it the way he does. He doesn't have the charisma to build a cult, anyway.
They're building a community, just like everybody else. Theirs is no more and no less cultish than any other community out there. The folks at Slashdot did the same thing with the tech community. People there can be assholes, too (especially in the early days). For /., it helped that CmdrTaco is a good guy; but that's a personality difference, not a difference of intent.
For your scale, I'd say RRS falls right in the middle, just about where most other community-based websites fall.
YouAre Right wrote:
He also tried to sleight Richard Dawkins and a member of his staff for no objective reason at a time which corresponded to the RDFRS distancing itself from the RRS. One might conclude the "Sapient" was getting revenge for the hurt he felt, or one might at least consider that a possibility. Then when we see a history of legal threats and bullying, irrational behaviour that has caused many free-thinkers to see the RRS as little more than a teen angst filled joke created by a thirty-something never-grew-up and his buddies.
Sure. He might have felt upset, and said or done something stupid. He might regularly get upset and say or do stupid things. Sapient might be a petulent brat. I don't know him. I have read his posts enough to know he is intelligent, and he has a lot emotionally invested in this site. Other than that, I really don't know him.
Me, I hardly ever read the journal entries here. I stay in the forums. Why? Because that's where the interesting stuff is. That's where HisWillnes and maglium and jcgadfly and ProzacDeathWish and Eloise and deludedgod all hang out. And I like them. I enjoy interacting with them.
I've tried RDFRS. It's okay. There are some really intelligent folks there. But in the end, I didn't enjoy hanging out there as much. It seemed too dry. Too self-consciously intellectual. Too erudite for my taste.
I know, we're just a bunch of plebians. I don't deny it, when you compare us to RDFRS. We're like Budwieser to your Anchor Steam. (Mmmm. Anchor Steam.)
YouAre Right wrote:Quote:
The key defining factors of a cult are a dogmatic willingness to accept the leaders as divinely-inspired,
Wrong at first point. Nobody defines L.Ron Hubbard as divinely inspired, and the leaders of Jehovah's Witnesses specifically claim not to be divinely inspired. Two counter-example off the top of my head which falsify your point.
But the members accept them as divinely-inspired nonetheless. I know both JWs and Scientologists, and they do believe their leaders are unerringly correct, and recieve their information from supernatural or fantastic sources. However, I'll give up that claim as the next is more relevent.
YouAre Right wrote:Quote:
and the willingness of the members to subjugate themselves to the leaders.
Close, but you're missing the point: they don't realise they're doing it so they don't actually "will" it: they have had their rational cognitive capacities side-lined and bypassed and cognitive dissonance prevents them from acknowledging it easily.
As I said, I have seen people disagree with the founding members. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. As it turns out, we don't generally disagree with each other here, too much. However, if Sapient or Kelly or Rook said something that was patently false, or even poorly-argued, most of us would be willing to point it out, if it fell in the realm of our understanding.
That's part of the reason I don't generally read Kelly or Rook, though. Their areas of expertise are outside my own areas of knowlege and interest.
I see what you mean, though. I don't remember a damned thing from my first speech class in college, save this: "Don't worry about the people you disagree with. It's the people you agree with that are most dangerous." It was a profound point, one which I had not considred before.
For the most part, the OP was general enough to include pretty much every single social organzation founded on common interest in the world. The only specific things identified were:
1) A charismatic leader who can hoodwink followers
2) Quack science
I don't think you've established either of these. The "quack science" is certainly the easiest to prove, but all you've done is establish that not many historians are interested in the Jesus mythos, and that theism isn't classified as a mental disorder.
I don't know enough about history or historians to dispute that claim, nor do I believe that theism is a mental disorder. However, the fact it isn't classified as a mental disorder is not a conclusive rebuttal, as there would be many political and social reasons to refrain from distinguishing it as such.
I don't believe it's a mental disorder, and I don't think there's enough evidence to support that it is.
There are certain aspects that match with the official definition of a mental disorder, but that merely reflects the difficulty of classifying mental illnesses, rather than proof of theism as a mental illness.
Are you always so intellectually dishonest? Thinly disguising your allegations in the form of a hypothetical is merely an attempt to claim the "ha-ha, only serious" defence.
Lol, I shouldn't have to defend my intellectual honesty against your reading comprehension issues: the words were there from the outset, you just failed to account for them in your rebuttal: but now I'm at fault because you had to move to where the argument actually is? Good one.
There's a whole lot of allegation with no evidence. None whatsoever. Present evidence, rather than innuendo; otherwise, you amount to nothing more than a poorly-argued troll.
I can't really do much more: I've spent the best part of my day responding as much as I can, most of that correcting misrepresentations of my point from people who could just have take five minutes longer before hitting submit.
So how about the lack of transparency and the fact the Brian sees the RRS as a business venture for the future: which will pay his keep and lodgings? Is that not evidence that Brian sees this as a business opportiunity? Why indeed it is, because that's what a business does: provides income. And as everyone around here is quick to point out: RRS isn't not for profit.
So it would seem that there is evidence for my the hypothetical after-all it goes like this:
1. I assert that Brian Sapient sees this as a business opportunity.
2. It is shown on this thread by Kelly that Brian uses money from RRS for his own sustenance.
point is already established.
Now, tie this in with other cultic behaviours such as lack of transparency, self-appointed expertism, attention whoring and rejection of all criticism in downright egregious terms often accompanied by threats and one could just as easily be talking about Scientology.
This is where your argument falls apart. Right now, you've established that the founding members may use some contributions to purchase food or lodging. You've established that Brian is an asshole. You've established that some assertions made by the founding members are not established fact. You've established that some of the founding members have an interest in researching things that may or may not be relevant, or even provide hope for rational discovery. You've established that Sapient perhaps wishes this to be a business venture, rather than having a "real" job.
(As an aside: running a website is a real job. And their business model isn't outside the typical models used by other low-volume sites.)
It's a huge leap to "cult."
Not at all, it is a gradual stepwise almost imperceptible evolution.
Cults are not established overnight, nor do they acquire their characteristics in one go - it is a continuum because it can be moved along.
Huge. And the comparison to Scientology is a bit off. If Sapient asked us to do something illegal, I suspect most of us would tell him to fuck off. I know I would.
Scientology makes lots of threats against those who seek to expose it, as spaient has made lots of threats against people who have threatened to expose him: even using a mangled understanding of civil/criminal law in order to send the police round to someone who had made one of Sapient's barmy emails public.
And this is what makes you a troll:
You take possibly defensible points, and use them to jump to a conclusion that is intended to stir up emotional debate, rather than focusing on the validity of your points.
Rather than engaging in productive discussion, you manufactured a controversial position, couched it in the most offensive terms possible, and posted it where it would stir up the strongest response.
You say none of this applies to you and I see no reason to argue that point. Your own opinion is sufficient for you to carry your position there.
As for my bets: I had to have some entertainment while embarking on this marathon.
But never mind, I'll sign off from RRS and from this thread unless there are any new points (please forgive me for not wanting to reconfirm and clarify every syllable for every member here - but I'm not a robot.
Thanks for your time and input.
Best Wishes etc,