Sunday, June 10, 2012

Conspiracy Theorist Groups: The Cults of the 21st Century

In the 20th century, cults often times encouraged their members to believe in conspiracy theories. In fact, some of the core beliefs of many cults that were created in the 20th century are conspiracy theories.

In this century, so far very few cults have emerged. In fact, I really only know of two "major" cults that have emerged in this century so far.

The first is called Desteni, which, besides it's very bizarre beliefs, much of which can be read about on the Desteni Cult blog, is that also that many of their beliefs are also based on UFO conspiracy theories and New World Order conspiracy theories, and that they advocate a pseudo-economic system known as the "equal money system". It also encourages people to alter what they think, but how they think, and encourages members of the cult to be very hostile towards critics of the cult.

Besides Desteni, another cult that has emerged in this century, called the Zeitgeist Movement, is based entirely on conspiracy theories, and also advocating a pseudo-economic system known as the "resourced based economy". Plus, like Desteni, Zeitgeist not only encourages people to alter what they think, but how they actually think as well, and it's leaders encourages members to engage their critics in very hostile and volatile manners.

While Desteni it self might be considered stereotypical mind control cult, and Zeitgeist is also considered to be a cult as well, it seems that many conspiracy theorist groups also are cult like in the way they act. Not only do other members encourage follow members to believe what they advocate, but that they also encourage their follow members to distance and isolate themselves from people who might not believe what they believe, and to believe that those people are members of a group that is out to destroy them, and to engage critics in a hostile manner. Also, they are often encouraged to engage in actions that might cause others to distance themselves from them, such as badgering people to believe in what they believe.

Conspiracy theorist groups often times also encourage their members to engage in faulty, or even dangerous medical practices, or reject certain proven medical practices, because they have been told those practices are dangerous.

Also, many conspiracy theorist groups have a kind of "after the end" kind of belief, in which they believe the world will be allot better after these so called "shadow forces" that allegedly control the world are destroyed, and that their own beliefs on how the world should be run is the way to go.

So, are conspiracy theorist groups, cults? Not in all cases, but most do tend to have some cult-like behaviors and actions, and there is the chance such a group could become a cult.

Remember, the Zeitgeist Movement wasn't always considered a cult...

11 comments:

  1. The Zeitgeist Movement is not a cult. I am a member.

    I am not required to pay any money to be a member. TZM chapters do receive voluntary donations - sometimes not even from people who would consider themselves members, but just members of the general public. If people are willing to donate in order to help spread awareness about TZM, then that's as far as it goes. People decide their own level of financial involvement, there isn't a minimum donation or anything like that.

    I am not required to attend a certain amount of meetings per year/month/week. Once again: it's entirely voluntary how much of your time and how much effort you want to contribute to The Zeitgeist Movement.

    I have never been told how to think, or what to think. On the contrary - the "de-facto" creator of The Zeitgeist Movement (Peter Joseph) has publicly said that he wants every member to be their own leader - to think for themselves and to question everything. Here's a link to him talking about being your own leader on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NernaboToRE

    So I've never been told how to think or what to think. And I've never been told to engage critics in hostile or volatile manners.

    What I have done is started to look at the world in different ways, because when you look at the facts we are supporting a societal model that is in fact killing us. Plain and simple: Capitalism is based on the idea that we will never stop expanding our production and service sectors, but we live on a planet with limited resources. You simply cannot live in a system based on unlimited growth when you have limited resources -- sooner or later you will run out of things to make or services to provide. It's not a matter of what someone has told me or what I've heard - it's a matter of doing the research for yourself and using common sense. If it sounds like "doomsday" rhetoric, I'm sorry but it's not - it's just looking at the facts and looking at the future we will all face based on those facts. Burying your head in the sand will not save you from the troubles ahead. We as intelligent individuals must figure out better ways of living on this planet, before we have poisoned all the water, polluted all the air and left the soil we grow our food in completely useless.

    We show people the technology of the day (http://www.zeitnews.org/) and we try to show people better ways to live by using new technology to make their lives easier and healthier.

    You speak about conspiracy theories. Yes, in the first Zeitgeist movie there is talk about how Jesus Christ was a story based on many other stories that are the same as his -- but this isn't meant as a conspiracy theory. What I believe this was supposed to do was to get people to ask themselves what else they do not understand about the world they live in. In the first movie, they also talk about the "conspiracy" of what happened on 9/11 -- but when you look at the evidence in the first movie you will find it hard to believe that it happened any other way. There have been many false-flag operations throughout history that have been recorded after the fact - and sooner or later 9/11 will be revealed as an inside job used to fool the American people into giving up their rights and freedoms for the sake of "security".

    Maybe you noticed that I said "first movie" -- there are 2 other Zeitgeist movies, did you know that? And in both of them you will not see "conspiracies", but facts about the system and the way it works, and what we can do to live better lives.

    I'd also like to point out that The Zeitgeist Movement was originally the Activist arm of The Venus Project, but now it is its own independent Movement.

    Please back up any of your claims about The Zeitgeist Movement being a cult (with verifiable information), or else I will consider them to be false.

    (@Spazmatik83 on Twitter)

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  2. There are many definitions of cults. What makes a cult is difficult to boil down into a set of "one size fits all" criteria. The characteristics of a cult are particularly fluid where the group's major outlet is the Internet, as is true of the Zeitgeist Movement and Desteni.

    I believe the Zeitgeist Movement is a cult. It may be a cult just barely, or it may not be, but if it is not, it's certainly very close.

    Here's one definition of a cult that I think is instructive. It was developed by Operation Clambake which is a Scientology watchdog organization:

    1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members.
    2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.
    3. Its founder/leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.
    4. It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds and recruit people.
    5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.

    Does the Zeitgeist Movement use psychological coercion to recruit members? Absolutely. The Zeitgeist films are deeply deceptive and Peter Joseph Merola uses deceptive arguments to bait potential members--such as quote-mining economics texts and historical sources, cherry-picking data, and shallow sloganeering against "the money system" or "the banking elite."

    Does the Zeitgeist Movement use psychological coercion to indoctrinate and retain members? Absolutely. The constant reinforcement with "RBE" propaganda, the squelching of dissent within the movement, the reinforcement of conspiratorial mindsets, and the encouragement of isolation from critical influences--all well-documented by Zeitgeist members, such as in Michelle Goldberg's article entitled "Brave New World"--are all clear cult coercion tactics.

    Does the Zeitgeist Movement form an elitist totalitarian society? Absolutely. Peter Joseph Merola is in absolute control of the movement. He alone decides the dogma, the qualifications, and the direction of the movement. Dissenters have been expelled, banned, ridiculed and harassed. Again well documented--look at James Kush's blog (zeitgeistmovements.wordpress.com) and look up the articles entitled "A Former Member Confronts the Zeitgeist Movement," there's about ten or eleven of them.

    Totalitarian? Absolutely. The pro-violent rhetoric, especially of Douglas Mallette, reveals an undercurrent of coercive tendencies in promoting RBE ideology.

    Is the founder of TZM self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, and unaccountable to members? Absolutely. Peter Joseph Merola is the classic cult leader psychological profile, and he behaves in exactly the way that cult leaders often do--rejecting all disagreement as biased or uninformed, lashing out at critics, passive-aggressive behavior, etc.

    Does TZM believe the end justifies the means? Absolutely. The group's continued advancement of demonstrably false conspiracy theories through the movies (yes, notice I said movies plural, because all of them deal with conspiracy theories or conspiratorial premises) shows that they believe that baiting members into the movement through conspiracy theories is an acceptable and morally justifiable means of recruitment. This, for me at least, is the biggest problem with TZM.

    Its wealth does not benefit members or society? Again, obviously true. How much money have you personally seen from sales of Zeitgeist merchandise or DVDs? Douglas Mallette is right now raising $5000 from Zeitgeist members to go to a lecture in Switzerland to which he hasn't even been invited; TZM spokesperson Neil Kiernan (VTV) has solicited and accepted numerous donations from TZM members explicitly for his own personal use, to pay bills.

    Five for five. The Zeitgeist Movement is a cult.

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  3. Wow I'm in a rush but I'll answer the most disputable point you made -- Peter Joseph is *not* in absolute control of the movement. Never during the 2 years I have been involved in the movement have I ever heard of any Chapter member having to ask Peter Joseph for approval of an action or an idea. We work in city-specific Chapters that don't require approval from any "higher-up" people (if you want to call people who were involved in the starting phases that -- I'd just call them people). And for someone who is a leader, why would he want to step back and not be a "front man" if he was such a classic cult leader? Check this YouTube clip -- he actually says he is stepping back.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuLjcIEzNzc

    I'll check any references you made in your comment, and I'll comment further soon.

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    1. Peter Joseph has "stepped back" several times, only to step back in every time. It's an act to make people think they need him.

      Everything about him screams cult leader and everything about Zeitgeist says it's a cult. Just because it has no religious beliefs does not mean that it isn't a cult.

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    2. The chapters and what they do are irrelevant. The main purpose of the Zeitgeist Movement is to promote Peter Joseph Merola's conspiracy films and the ideology that he believes in. He controls the marketing, the presentation, the orthodoxy of the Movement's dogma and official belief system, and its top-level actions. And Locke is correct about him pretending to "step back" and then return to control shortly thereafter. It's happened several times, most notably after the feud and split between the TZM and TVP--which I might add was a power struggle between Merola and Jacque Fresco regarding control over monetary donations. Hmm, that doesn't sound like someone who's not in control, does it?

      These are all heavily documented on James Kush's blog, but also on mine. Check out this article which explains the pathology of the split, and contains numerous admissions by Zeitgeist Movement higher-ups that Peter Merola is, in fact, in charge of the movement:
      http://muertos.blog.com/2011/04/20/civil-war-in-utopia-my-thoughts-on-the-schism-in-the-zeitgeist-movement/

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  4. Hi again.

    Looking at the amount of dissent towards The Zeitgeist Movement, there's no way I can comment on all of it. I will say that it is very common within any "movement" of people that share common ideals to see some people who think it is supposed to work a different way and after being denied doing things "their way" will leave groups and criticize them.

    I'll stand by my belief that The Zeitgeist Movement is not a cult. My particular chapter is very open to any ideas that help humanity and/or help the environment. We are not fatalistic or "doomsday disciples" who count on fear to recruit members - we simply ask people to do research on what is happening in the world around them and to join us if they believe that what we support is the right way to go. The chapter I am involved in has over 100 members and grows a little every month.

    I know it's going to open a can of worms but I have to say it: Christianity is a HUGE cult. Want to talk about facts? For 2,000 years (and probably a few edits or re-writes) they have given out a book that says that a guy walked on water, turned water into wine and arose from the dead. If you're going to call TZM a cult, then most certainly Christianity is one of the most successful cults in recorded history. And with that said: I'd also like to point out that if most people that considered themselves Christian were to really act on their beliefs then the world would be a much better place. Groups like The Zeitgeist Movement would never exist if Christians "walked the walk" as much as they "talk the talk". I'm not trying to deflect and I'll get right back into what else I want to say.

    There are far too many ways to define the word cult (apparently) so I'm not going to dispute the fact that you can define TZM as a cult. And with the fact that Christianity can also be considered a cult, I'm fine with TZm being considered a cult by some.

    Christianity has many false facts, but yet millions of people around the world practice it. Around one million people worldwide support TZM. I understand that much of the first movie can be disproved. And from what you say Muertos, a lot of facts from the other 2 movies can be disproved as well. But if people can believe a guy was born of a virgin, healed the sick just by touching them, turned water into wine and rose from the dead -- if people can believe all of that and still go out into the world and do good things, then why can't TZM members believe what they believe and go out into the world and do good things?

    I personally believe that the people that I associate with in my respective chapter mean to do nothing but good for our community and planet. You never disputed when I said that we are destroying the water we drink, the soil we use to grow food and the air we breathe. You never disputed that we need to change those things if we wish to survive as a species on this planet. Whether The Zeitgeist Movement was founded on falsehoods and fear or not, if we move forward to do positive things, does it really matter?

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    1. You speak the truth when you say "Christianity is a HUGE cult". I'm living in a cesspool of it (the bible belt)

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  5. I'm glad that you agree that the Zeitgeist Movement can be defined as a cult. There's a difference, however, between a cult and a religion, which is what Christianity is. (In the first century A.D., Christianity was definitely a cult. For an example of a cult that is in the transition stage to a full-fledged religion, look at either Sikhism or Mormonism).

    Tearing down Christianity does not make your case for TZM stronger, however. I'm not a Christian and I don't believe in Christianity. Many Zeitgeist supporters automatically assume that anyone who opposes their movement must be offended by the religious implications of the Zeitgeist film. I am not. I'm offended by its egregious misuse of history and Peter Merola's shoddy scholarship as well as his advancement of conspiracy theories, but I'm not offended because TZM criticizes Christianity. I don't see where this line of argumentation gets you anywhere.

    "Whether the Zeitgeist Movement was founded on falsehoods and fear or not, if we move forward to do positive things, does it really matter?"

    Yes, it matters. A lot. TZM is not moving forward to do positive things. It's doing negative things, such as promoting conspiracy theories and advancing the personality and ideology of its founder and leader, Peter Joseph Merola, whose motives are clearly suspect. Arguing that "we are destroying the water we drink" etc. doesn't give TZM a free pass either. There are real and positive ways to fight environmental degradation or economic equality--believing in conspiracy theories and conspiracy-driven cults is not the way to do it.

    Furthermore, the vision of the future that TZM purports to have is unachievable, and would also be highly repressive and negative even if it was capable of being created. Read a book called "Seeing Like A State" by James C. Scott and you'll understand why TZM promotes what's called a "high modernist" ideology, which is inherently authoritarian, repressive and inimical to personal freedom and positive scientific development. Simply put, the world you say you want to build would be a nightmare and would backfire badly. I oppose not only TZM's advancement of false conspiracy theories and the spurious ideology of its leader Peter Joseph Merola, but I also oppose its "resource based economy" ideology on principle.

    There are far better ways to help the world than to believe in conspiracy theories and follow conspiracy cults.

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  6. I wrote a big reply (that just disappeared after I hit the "publish" button) basically saying that wherever The Zeitgeist Movement ends up in the future, I will always be thankful for it because it is what woke me up and turned me into an activist. I have since went on to join other activist groups and I have even started my own project to hopefully one day develop sustainable communities that grow their own food using hydroponics (and/or aquaponics) in year-round indoor settings, generate their own electricity/heat using renewable energy sources, and even develop affordable housing through rent-to-own agreements/contracts that are geographically close (if not directly connected) to the hydroponic/aquaponic "agri-towers" and renewable energy farms. And (like I already said) I never would have thought of getting involved in any of it if it wasn't for the Zeitgeist movies -- so regardless of whether it's misdirected or completely fabricated or not, I'm still thankful for it.

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  7. I used to be a member of the Zeitgeist Movement and the one thing I'll say they encouraged was reading. I read and read and read until I figured out that accelerating the use of technology, adding complexity upon complexity, with no viable energy source as flexible and as energy dense as oil to continue on the high tech industrial economy that would be necessary to maintain and grow a fully automated society, would only hasten the collapse of society.

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  8. There's a lot of out-dated technology that sucks way too much electricity from the grid. We could probably cut our energy consumption in close to half if we just updated our current appliances, televisions, computers etc. to the most efficient energy-using products. Now with that said: I do understand that there is an up-and-coming middle class in India and China (somewhere between 1 billion and 2 billion people) that will probably more than double the Earth's energy consumption in the next 20 to 50 years.

    New technology for producing renewable energy and new tech for storing electricity is being introduced at least every few months. Technology in general outdates itself at least every 6 months. We might not have the proper storage technology for mass amounts of renewable energy yet, but we'll get there soon enough.

    Growing food hydroponically/aquaponically saves a lot of water. That's one thing that we can save energy on -- it takes energy to water plants traditionally and it takes a lot less energy when you have to deal with a lot less water when you grow food using hydroponics/aquaponics. So it's a step in the right direction. But anyways, all of this would be best discussed on another thread!

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