Freedomain Radio or FDR is a blog launched by Stefan Molyneux in 2005.
It has attracted its share of praises and criticisms, not the least of which are some calling FDR a cult.
I will examine why Molyneux creates a self-sealing system, one of the hallmarks of problematic cults.
Does Stefan Molyneux and his Freedomain Radio Internet-based blog represent a self-sealing system?
Self-sealing systems sometimes called “cults” come in various disguises. A cult can be any social arrangement of significant enthusiasm directed toward a person, idea, therapy, or object. None of these disguises are necessarily bad or dangerous, but the potential for good or bad things happening increases whenever a group becomes enthusiastic about what draws them together.
This paper is merely an introduction to an argument.
I will be referencing two scholars, one a medically trained psychiatrist who wrote two critically acclaimed books on this topic and the other a PhD in sociology who did her doctorate thesis on this topic.
Arthur Deikman, M.D. (The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, 1994). The book was updated as Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat)
Janja Lalich, Ph.D. (Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults, 2004)
Deikman’s Them and Us model uses four criteria:
Lalich’s Bounded Choice model uses four criteria:
Both models insist on evaluating evidence.
In the Lalich model all four criteria can have positive and negative aspects. Obviously, the more negative the criteria, the more dangerously self-sealing or “bounded” the system. The Lalich dissertation compared two groups: Heaven’s Gate, a quasi-religious, apocalyptic group founded in early 1970s, and the Democratic Workers Party, an atheistic political organization ostensibly formed to champion migrant worker rights in America.
Quoting from the Lalich book:
“Contrary to popular belief, cults have attracted not the lonely and lost, but rather the idealistic and lofty minded, the curious and well educated. Through arriving at an understanding of the pushes and pulls of such a commitment, the reasons can be deconstructed. This chapter presents some of the main features of comparison between Heaven's Gate and the DWP, reiterating the significance of social context and social structure. The comparison illuminates the parallels in the two groups and the extent to which cultic influences operated to transform at least some of the members from devotees to true believers. The DWP and Heaven's Gate evolved out of two quite different social phenomena, yet similar governing principles or themes emerged in both of these broad social movements. Everything in these two groups fitted together like a three-dimensional puzzle. Inside each group, very little happened by chance. Even outside events were interpreted to coincide with the group's worldview, including the reframing, or reinterpretation, of leaders' and members' personal lives to fit the ideology. Conclusions regarding membership, commitment, charisma, leadership, and the nature of cultic, or self-sealing, social systems are drawn.” (Lalich, Bounded Choice)
The Deikman model tends to move toward self-sealing if all four of his criteria are present. Compliance with a group is not necessarily bad; neither is dependence on a leader. Avoiding dissent goes beyond mere loyalty and indicates a form of mind-control or blocking of dissonant information with loaded language or simple formulations. Devaluing outsiders is common to self-sealing groups and may be the definitive sign of one. In the extreme, a group like ISIS today devalues all infidels with death threats and executions. In most cults, devaluing comes without threats but may be a corollary of elitism and grandiosity and how the group labels the critic and the outsider.
Stefan Molyneux founded Freedomain Radio nearly a decade ago as an Internet-based propaganda tool for his ideas more commonly known as a blog. It has since grown to be one of the most listened to and appreciated Libertarian “philosophy” groups on line followed by thousands. He has recorded and posted thousands of podcasts and articles promoting a free society—free of government or “statism” and all manner of irrational authoritarian repression including from religions, schools, parents, and from most any kind of collective interference. A heady mix of Libertarianism and Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy guides Molyneux’s ideas on individual ethics and morality.
Following the atheist Rand, FDRism depends on logic and reason with no regard for the supernatural in formulating notions of what it means to be human. Richard Dawkins, the atheist par excellence, is one of Molyneux’s heroes along with Ayn Rand. Aristotle in a narrow sense informs FDR and the Randians who like to repeat as a slogan Aristotle’s “A =A” as the basis of all reasoning. The Society for Individual Liberty (SIL) that grew out of Rand’s Objectivism compiled the A is A Directory that by 1972 “was fat with Libertarian organizations” (Burns, 257). Molyneux following Rand strives to establish an objectively universal code of ethics and morals without resorting to religion and what his fans call “irrational” thinking. To Rand to be irrational meant to be immoral. In Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged her hero John Galt states, “A rational process is a moral process.” Similarly simplistic, Molyneux attempts to establish “Universally Preferable Behavior” (UPB) with a book by that title.
As in almost every Libertarian cause that touts atheism and science as cornerstones, FDR traces its roots to aspects of Ayn Rand’s idiosyncratic philosophy of Objectivism, something she claimed to hold since she was very young while living as a Jew under a repressive Communist regime in Russia. Rand believed that her philosophy, in one author’s view, “like Athena, fell out of the head of Zeus” (In Rand’s view, she felt akin to what Nietzsche heralded in Thus Spake Zarathustra as the coming Übermensch or next step in human evolution). She saw in herself that “man” that so values individuality as to rise above the herd or collective by sheer force of will and creativity. Indeed, one of her closest disciples called her “my father.” Rand’s heroes in her novels (Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged) were entrepreneurial Capitalists who held to certain values of industrial creativity. These are the men and women who should be ruling the world as long as they uphold the “non-aggression principle” and personal self-worth. A narrowly defined Selfishness coupled with ingenuity and an attitude that government needs to get out of the way of Capitalism—that government should stick to defense and keeping order—frames the basic ideal of Rand’s quasi-Libertarian stance.
Any good biography of Ayn Rand (In this paper I am referring to Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns, 2009) tells us she was a complex character with tragic flaws yet someone that stubbornly held to principles of her own. Those that disagreed with her or her inner circle were summarily dismissed as either irrational, ignorant, or siding with the Collectivists. Imitating the irascible Rand, her inner circle or cult following were hard on family or friends that disagreed. “Just as her fans mimicked Rand’s language and rhetorical structures, so too could they come to imitate her psychology, including the rejection of friends who did not measure up to Objectivist standards” (Burns, 237).
Molyneux’s FDR established the term deFOO (defect from family of origin) that has become almost a catch phrase or mantra for his “fans” that seek the individual freedom from oppression that all true Libertarians crave. Parents have been universally targeted by Molyneux as responsible for abusing his fans in some way as they grew up. Molyneux writes in his definitive tome On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusion (2007):
“The terrifying fact that your elders knew the power of virtue, but used that power to control, corrupt, bully, and exploit you, reveals the genuine sadism that lies at the core of culture—it reveals the awful “cult” in culture.” (Molyneux, 20-21)
Once the “objectivist” FDR standard is absorbed by a fan of FDR, the harsh glare of criticism from above or from that lofty “logical” position is beamed down on past parental behavior. Absorption occurs by way of hundreds of hours of staring at a computer screen alone in a room listening to the leader’s lectures and dialogs. This qualifies as self-hypnosis or a self-inducing trance every time the fan logs on.
Hypnotic trance does not mean you are merely unfocussed and drowsy--it is the opposite. Under hypnosis, we are highly focussed on something or someone while the peripheral awareness is diminished. In pain management, focussing on the task at at hand, or on music or a memory, can reduce awareness of pain. A trance can be extended when someone is guiding us in meditation or while we listen intently to a lecture. As an artist I can be so absorbed in my creative process that I am not aware of someone coming into the room. We will absorb suggestions more readily when under trance without question. Stage hypnotists entertain us with this dimension of human consiousness as compliant volunteers will do and say stupid things at their suggestions. Post trance, these suggestions will remain to guide our wills if we are not made aware of what was going on or do not come to our personal locus of control. A stage hynotist is careful to end the connection with volunteers as their ersatz authority figure. Cult leaders are not interested in ending the connection, but in enhancing it. That absorbed FDR fan will not fail to find specific “causes” for their inner chains that stem from some kind of parental abuse no different than someone that gained false or distorted memories of parental abuse while going to a bogus form of therapy that used suggestion to reach into the past. Molyneux is very skilled at dropping suggestions while he has you on his podcast rides.
Of course, in some cases real abuse like being beaten by a drunken father or embarrassed by a sexually inappropriate mother is recalled. In those cases, a confrontation by the FDR fan with the parent may have value if properly managed. Therapy may be advisable for parents and child to sort things out for reconciliation. One does not need FDR to come to this personal decision to address lingering stresses from past traumas.
However, in my experience with over a dozen sets of parents of FDR fans as well as with former FDR fans, I found something far more troubling taking place. In nearly all those cases, the parents were unduly accused of abuse for things like inadvertent yelling at the kids, for minor spanks, for working too much and not taking enough time, for traditional circumcision of an infant, for not being logical like Molyneux, for making a child go to church or school, and for basically being human. Bullying is a favorite FDR term that covers most of the abuse the FDR fan finds so troubling: Parents are bullies, the government is a bully, churches are bullies, etc.
When I first became aware of FDR over eight years ago, it was due to family members of fans that came to me complaining of cultish behaviors of a fan in the family that had deFOOed everyone that disagreed, especially after not complying with therapy that suited the simplistic Objectivist standard. These basically good people, the parents, did not have a snowball’s chance in hell to be good enough.
I had to ask: Who is bullying who here?
Molyneux's tactic was an obvious bait-and-switch, psychological maneuver used by any number of cult leaders throughout history. In other words, the cult leader defines the “disease” according to his ill-formed and grandiose ideas, then holds up the metaphysical snake oil he sells as the “cure.” This "disease" of feeling hemmed in by authority figures like parents, teacher, and churches is especially attractive to immature adults and adolescents. The cure, of course, is some kind of absolutist anarchic maneuver called deFOOing by FDR.
On pages 33 and 34 of On Truth Molyneux frames the “disease” by self-reference (Ironically, he unveils for us obvious elements of a narcissistic personality even as a child here in his circular thinking that passes for logic in his brain):
Throughout my childhood, whenever I expressed a personal thought, desire, wish, preference or feeling, I was generally met with eye-rolling, incomprehension, avoidance or, all too often outright scorn. These various “rejection tactics” were completely co-joined with expressions of love and devotion. When I started getting into philosophy—through the works of Ayn Rand originally—my growing love of wisdom was dismissed out of hand as some sort of psychological dysfunction.
Since my family knew precious little about my virtues—and what they did know they disliked—then we could not all be virtuous. If they were virtuous, and disliked my values, then my values could not be virtuous. If I was virtuous, and they disliked my values, then they could not be virtuous.
And so I set about trying to create an “ethical map” of my family.
It was the most frightening thing I have ever done. The amount of emotional resistance I felt…was staggering. It literally felt as if I were sprinting directly off a cliff.
Why was it so terrifying?
Well, because I knew that they were lying. I knew that they were lying about loving me, and I knew that, by claiming to be confused about whether they loved me, I was lying as well—and to myself, which is the worst of all falsehoods.
On the back cover of On Truth Molyneux names the “cure”:
This book is radioactive and painful—it is only incidentally the kind of radiation and pain that will cure you.
By comparison, Rand’s early and difficult childhood experience mired her in a position as well, one that she held for life.
In his case, by cleverly imagined examples undergirded by a certain tone during podcasts Molyneux conditions the more naïve fans (most new fans have been apparently of college age) to see the world through the FDR lens, to see the cult in culture, and then he helps them “reason” that deFOOing is the “preferable” way to avoid further abuse by parents. In a telling, early “October 8th” podcast dialog between Molyneux and his wife Christina, the couple discusses the process they went through to defect from parental communication after attempts to come to terms with them. Any sane outsider listening to this podcast can see that Christina’s parents had no chance and that her unkind deFOO letter that she read for the fans is a prime example of immaturity in dealing with the average human flaws of a parent.
So, how does this apply to a self-sealing system?
Most systems of insular thought or cultic social grouping seal themselves off by what Robert J. Lifton called “the dispensing of existence” in his analysis of totalism. Deikman called this the “devaluing of outsiders” or the “us and them” position. Lalich identified it in her “systems of influence” and “systems of control.” Lifton (1961) in his seminal study Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism on Communism in China states that a totalist environment “divides those whose right to existence can be recognized and those who have no such right.” The insight here begins with thought reform as a milieu psychology, and to Lifton this was and is a matter of degree. In other words, totalism does not mean total control, but it does mean that the potential for the self-sealing system exists “ideologically.” Once such a system gains power, that power “will take on a momentum of its own” to protect the enlightened insider from the resistant outsider with force if necessary. This harks back to Jean-Jaques Rousseau, the great libertarian who partially inspired the 1789 French Revolution. Rousseau insisted that individual liberty should be enforced on those who refuse to accept it. Fanatics who extended Rousseau’s libertarian ideals into revolution soon came up with the guillotine to seal the deal. Hannah Arendt noticed this flaw. “Arendt identified the notion of sovereignty with that of the general will. According to her, it was this desire to establish a single, unified will based on the stifling of opinion in favor of public passion that contributed to the excesses of the French Revolution” (On revolution, 1990: 76)
Rand and Molyneux fans will argue, Wait a second here. We believe in the non-aggression principle (aka non-initiation principle). We would never use force to sustain individual liberty!
That is an utterly naïve argument and both Rand and Molyneux have put the lie to it by their behaviors. Rand if anything was a forceful personality—her disciples cowed around her when she was throwing one of her tantrums about people not being logical according to her standards which could often be fickle ones. She slapped her long-time much younger lover Nathaniel Branden when she discovered that he had been having a secret affair. By the same token, Molyneux exhibits the same grandiosity, peppering his passion about his agenda with forceful, colorful and foul language about parents, religion and government to make his points. Molyneux’s circle recently brought down information on the Internet critical of him and his alleged cult.* So much for the free marketplace of ideas. That FDR circle also supported the ad hominem attacks on a female ex-member who spoke out about the cultish and chauvinistic behavior she witnessed personally surrounding Molyneux.**
All studies show that power will enhance the qualities of those in power. Nice people in power tend to be benevolent rulers. Hitler’s anti-Semitism if irritating to Jews and their supporters was perhaps even comical when he was a young disgruntled artist. It may have sounded more problematic to early readers of his autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf. It was not until Hitler gained control over an army that this aspect of his personality emerged as murderous. I personally would not want that kind of power in the hands of anyone with Ayn Rand’s philosophy or personality.
Rand and Molyneux want to fire up a revolution based on atheism and Objectivist principles. They want to eliminate the irrational therefore immoral culture that is raising our children. They want to have a new age of re-educated kids who will carry the logical banner into a utopian world where the entrepreneurial capitalist is a “philosopher-king.” In their young fans, they inadvertently tap a universal theme in the anxious late adolescent stages of adult identity formation:
“Thus an early sense of confusion and dislocation, or an early experience of unusually intense family milieu control, can produce later a complete intolerance for confusion and dislocation, and the longing for the reinstatement of milieu control. But these things are in some measure part of every childhood experience; and therefore the potential for totalism is a continuum from which no none entirely escapes, and in relationships to which no two people are exactly the same.” (Lifton, 436)
As with the Objectivist circles around Ayn Rand, the FDR fans feel drawn to the certainty within the system of influence inherent in the podcasts. This is what I call the transcendent attraction as it transcends what the fan felt and knew before encountering Objectivism or FDR podcasts while drawing the fan into a promised land of ideas or potential utopia if everyone followed the system.
In the Lalich view, there must be some system of control in place to keep the system sealed. Now FDR and Objectivist cult members will argue that they experience no system of control:
There are no guards with guns at my head, there are no threats to take away my food, and I am not being water-boarded into obedience. No guru tells me to shave my head to look like Stef.
In other words, the fan will say: You are crazy, I think for myself, you can’t compare me to Charley Manson followers, and I decide what I take away from Rand or Molyneux.
Ironically, this is precisely what the models I am using predict the fan like a Manson follower will say because the fan like the Manson follower is not without choice or freedom as long as he or she thinks within the system. This is Bounded Choice, the title of the Lalich book or what cult experts will call the illusion of choice.
Molyneux’s systematic criticisms of culture, statism, and parents become a constant focus from which the fan reaches to the intellectual environment and articles on the “Net” for confirmation. Any evidence that conflicts with the FDR focus will instinctively be rejected by fans as “not me” or “not us.” Any parent of a twenty-year old FDR fan in college better not bring harsh criticism of Molyneux, no matter how valid, to the table because that will be grounds for deFOOing.
Remember the equivocation or slogan of John Galt: To be rational is to be moral. Equivocation means equating things that are not equal, to use ambiguous language, to hedge. Of course, one has to absorb and accept Rand’s definitions or the way she loads or “hedges” terms with her subjective biases for Galt’s slogan to make any sense. Outside of Rand’s sealed system, moral means far more than rational—the terms are not equal. Was Socrates irrational or immoral when he chose to take the Hemlock rather than accept exile? He had a choice. Was Aristotle less moral or irrational when he chose exile? Galt’s slogan is an example of an immature philosophy that remains rigid in the face of conflicting evidence.
In the FDR world an irrational parent is an immoral parent. This kind of reasoning is endemic to the cult-think processes with which the FDR fan self-seals the state of his brain function—he or she polices private thoughts based on FDR standards. In other words, the little traffic cop in the FDR fan’s head is now his hero, Stefan Molyneux, who like a wizard of Oz appears on the computer screen to “suggest” logical certainties. He keeps reminding the fan that Universally Preferable Behavior is a one-way street. This is tantamount to an Objectivist turning to the Ayn Rand in his head to ask, “What would Ayn do? Or, a fundamentalist Christian asking what would Jesus do (according to how his preacher preaches)?
In self-contradiction Rand wrote in 1935: “The worst of all crimes is the acceptance of the opinions of others.” (Burns, 285).
I can think of no better definition of a self-sealing system that uses totalist language to exclude the outsider. I can think of nothing more ironic--Rand insisted with her logical browbeatings that her disciples not contradict her.
Rand of course meant acceptance of what she deemed as irrational or illogical, therefore immoral opinions. Now, any average philosopher will agree that we should not accept badly supported opinion. So far, so good. As I read Rand, especially Atlas Shrugged, and as I read Molyneux, especially On Truth, I find tremendous leaps in logic as well as equivocations that defy logic and reason. Here is not the place to review all that mess—I suggest you read them on your own and come to whatever conclusions makes sense. The following are mine. I will suggest a few examples to consider.
Both Rand and Molyneux hold to a premise borrowed from their reading of Aristotle that A =A. This basic premise of logic holds true for anyone studying the English alphabet from first grade onwards. First graders however may not be ready to grasp when A does not equal A, and that has to do with context or what breakthrough discussions in philosophy call emergent realities. A simple way to represent this is that the A in Aristotle does not equal the A in Ayn or the A or a in Aristotle Onassis. The A in gay in America does not sound like the A in gay (which sounds more like guy) in Australia. A shouted is quite different than A whispered. A in the sound of fa in music scales is quite different that the sound of la. A does not always equal A.
Logical positivism has some relation to Objectivism, and I mean only some—Rand’s Objectivism is like logical positivism on steroids. A squared = A squared—say no more say the Objectivists. Objectivism freezes there. Along with set theory in mathematics, Emergentism exposes the deep flaws in logical positivism which used to be the dominant philosophy of the early 20th Century on the heels of Principia Mathematica authored by Russell and Whitehead. Ironically, Whitehead’s more mature “process philosophy” is a foundation for the Emergentists.
Rand and by inheritance Molyneux also reject logical positivism but on entirely different grounds. They are more “objective” than are logical positivists who viewed mathematics, for example, as a “convention” that we use. Rand insisted that mathematics is based on “fundamental ontological facts.” In other words, Rand (and Molyneux by extension) believed she had grasped the fundamental nature of Being itself (ontology is the philosophy of Being) in her grasp of Aristotle’s A=A proposition and the moral universe.
Fundamentally, Rand was logically off the rails. It comes as no surprise that her bottom line argument was, because I said so—it was based on fiat: “Rand’s theory of natural rights were based on fiat, on her stating that it must be so.” (Burns, 128).
Her voice and philosophy were channeled by her Romantic fiction hero John Galt:
“Galt presents the moral code of reason and individualism (The Morality of Life) that the producers embrace. In the second, he explains and attacks the opposite moral code of mysticism, sacrifice, and collectivism (The Morality of Death).” (atlassociety.org)
Rand/Galt errs when she opposes the Morality of Life as the moral “code” of reason and individualism to the Morality of Death as the moral “code” of mysticism, sacrifice, and collectivism. Reason and mysticism are not opposites. In a similar way Molyneux errs on page 22 of his On Truth when he states: “Philosophy is the opposite of mythology. Or, more accurately, truth is the opposite of falsehood.”
True may be the opposite of false as words in a dictionary, but Molyneux makes a bizarre leap by stating that philosophy is the opposite of mythology. We have only to go back to the Greeks, to Plato and Aristotle to discover how myth is the handmaiden of philosophy and not the opposite. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is pure myth but it is seminal to supporting and illustrating his philosophy in The Republic. Aristotle in his Poetics argues that the poet and playwright should use “probable impossibilities” to enhance the dramatic value of their art. In other words, flying monkeys and a talking lion in the Wizard of Oz add to the story’s message which has real value. By extension, religions all use foundation myths to establish otherwise impossible to grasp realities. This is why Rand in creating her Objectivist religion turned to myth in her Romantic novels. Atlas Shrugged serves as a foundation myth for Objectivists no different than the Book of Exodus serves for Jews. Rand was inadvertently mimicking the Torah of her Jewish tradition but could not see it. Nietzsche did the same thing with his Thus Spake Zarathustra creating characters out of whole cloth which is mythology to support his philosophy.
Molyneux would have been correct if he had only stuck to the fact or employed the A=A paradigm: philo sophia means love of wisdom—its opposite would be hatred of wisdom and not myth. Furthermore, the Styx was an underworld river in Greek myth named after the goddess of hate, so Styxsophy would literally be the opposite of Philosophy. Sophia being the goddess of wisdom, the very word philosophy contains the handmaiden of myth within. How could someone as smart as Molyneux be so intellectually blind?
Self-sealing systems of thought make us blind.
The bottom line here is that Galt in Rand’s construction was a mystical Romantic aligned with Nietzsche’s new religious movement of the Übermensch. That next step in human evolution found traction with Spenserian survival of the fittest notions which creep into Rand’s heroic individualists. Rand’s heroes who were chiseled Caucasians and often fair-haired, could easily have been illustrated by Nazi propaganda artists. When we step back and outside these atheistic systems that seek to establish a new order of cooperation based on logical ethics and morals, it is easy to see the religious impulse emerging. One does not need a bearded man in the sky or a rock that fell to earth to start a religion. One only needs a central idea—a transcendent focus of some kind—coupled with an authority figure that can convincingly explain the central idea. If that catches on among a circle of fans, the movement around the central focus begins to shape up. Add a dash of belittling outsiders as unenlightened or ill-informed, and you have the ingredients for a self-sealing system.
One last point: I wish to address the counter argument by an FDR fan who can say there is no evidence that we are acting like a cult. FDR fans overall do not make as much cult noise as Scientology does. There is nothing in the history of FDR that practices the level of rigorous evangelization with brainwashing camps the way the Unification Church did in past decades. We cannot point to any overt drug abuse as with the Manson gang or to violence to others as with many racist militia cults. Doctor Janja Lalich addresses these obvious if superficial counter arguments in her study of two cults, neither of which appeared dangerous, used drugs, or attacked others yet fulfilled conditions of a self-sealing system long before they became notorious.
Lalich was involved with a left-leaning political cult (Democratic Workers Party) for a decade of her young life before the group imploded when she and several members finally confronted the female leader regarding her duplicitous and manipulative behavior. Lalich recovered from this mind and life jarring experience mostly on her own, but it was not easy. I want to concentrate on the other group she used for comparison to establish her thesis. That group came to be known as Heaven’s Gate. That group made big news after thirty nine members committed ritual suicide in California in 1997. Their suicides were based on what they believed were entirely rational ideas.
Now, I am not suggesting in the least that FDR fans will commit mass suicide—mass suicides are quite rare among groups we tend to call cults. Heaven’s Gate formed in the early 1970s around two leaders who taught a bizarre mix of New Age philosophy mixed with Christian apocalyptic values. The group, never very large, changed its name many times: Bo and Peep, He and She, HIM (Human Individual Metamorphosis), the Overcomers, and lastly Heaven’s Gate. I met the group personally in New Mexico as the Overcomers when they were located outside of Albuquerque. As Overcomers they were already acting within a self-sealing system with many of the beliefs they held prior to the suicides. There was no indication that this group would commit suicide, but there was plenty of evidence (if you bothered to investigate) that they remained focused on Marshal Applewhite as their leader. There was plenty of evidence that they avoided internal dissent and devalued outsiders ideologically. Most members cut off contact with family and pre-cult friends.
To meet Overcomers on the street you would have no clue that any one member was in a cult. They appeared in Santa Fe, NM blending in easily like so many others dressed in casual attire of a post-Hippie generation. They were pleasant and friendly, never forceful in their conversation. The only thing that gave them away were brochures that they were distributing and posting on public bulletin boards. These brochures advertised some of their beliefs and invited people to open lectures. Nothing strange there as Santa Fe was brimming with odd groups at the time. Yet, there was cult noise if you knew where to listen. Some members were defecting, complaining of the internal manipulation and after waking up to just how bizarre the belief system was.
We could say the same about FDR at this time: FDR fans are focused on a leader with a belief system that outsiders find quite bizarre and constricting, even damaging to otherwise good relationships. Many former FDR fans have no problem identifying FDR as a kind of ideological cult, if nothing else.
Jennifer Burns (2009) Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
Arthur Deikman, M.D. (1994) The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society
Janja Lalich, Ph.D. (2004) Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults
Robert J. Lifton (1961) Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A study of “brainwashing” in China
Ayn Rand (1957) Atlas Shrugged
Stefan Molyneux (2007) On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusion