lb_lee: (serious thought)
[personal profile] lb_lee
Hi, Mori here. Okay, so I have a theory as to why you get these trends over and over again in the plural/soulbonder/fandom cults of the Internet.

They all go pretty much the same way: the wannabe leader creates a story, either through fandom (Andy Blake, Neo, the FF7 House) or through some kinda bullshit paganism/chaos/original fiction magic thing (leswamp). They create the story, and then they try to entice the followers into the mold--they too are Lord of the Rings characters, or part of the astral battle against evil! They too can be part of this grand sweeping world-saving epic! (As minor characters, but still, isn't that so much better than being ORDINARY?)

Now, here’s the thing, forcing people into a mold is hard. Which is why fandom is SUCH a great way to entice people--the followers already care about the stories! They already WANT to be a part of the story. All the leader has to do is make the story exciting and pretty enough to do the enticing.

This especially plays on young geeks who've always wanted their letter to Hogwarts, their doctor in a police booth, their wardrobe to Narnia. It plays on existential malaise and desire to make a positive difference in the world. So of course it's attractive. It also creates this irredeemable evil to fight against--even though it's never that easy in real life. I mean come on, even Adolph Hitler gets followers these days. It’s only in stories you get these cut-and-dried irredeemable evils that all good people can agree to fight against without worrying about moral or ethical quandaries.

Story is important. It’s how we teach each other, remember each other, remember our lives. A fandom or story can become an internal mythos, similar to the role religion fulfills for other people. There’s a reason pop culture paganism exists--stories are where you draw your lessons, inspiration, role models, and symbols from. I’m no exception to this; anyone who’s read All In The Family knows we have an internal mythos--a story that we shape and shapes us. Other multiples have described having similar stories--Madison Clell in Cuckoo, for instance.

If you can control someone's story, you can to some extent control their behavior and beliefs. Hubbard knew this--I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was a sci-fi/fantasy writer turned cult leader. If someone adopts a story as their inner mythos, they rely on it for guidance, and may not notice its flaws--hell, Piers Anthony was our favorite author as a child, with gross results. Now imagine if your Piers Anthony had been actively involved in your life and with a vested interest in molding your behavior.

As fandom has become a bigger thing, easily connected by the Internet, wannabe cult leaders don’t even have to write their own story! They can just yoink the work of other people and build from the existing fandom. No wonder it’s become popular; that’s way less work-intensive than writing your cult book, getting it published, and finding an audience!

So that’s my theory as to how fandom cults operate. They use the power of story, which lots of people are susceptible to, and use it in the nastiest ways possible.

--Mori

Date: 2016-04-07 06:06 pm (UTC)
ljlee: (reading)
From: [personal profile] ljlee
I'm also reminded of Ayn Rand, who used her novels not only to propagate her hyper-capitalist ideas but also to groom and control her followers. When she induced a much-younger follower to have an affair with her, she referenced two adulterously involved characters from one of her novels. She also told him he was just like her "hero" from that novel, John Galt, but for a few minor faults. I agree that is really very powerful, to imagine yourself as characters you love, to be told you can be just like them. And to be told all this by the creator of the works you admire... yeah, this guy Nathaniel Branden got seriously fucked in the head. He shows all the signs of a cult survivor after his giant fallout with Rand.

And the Piers Anthony books... ewwwww. I don't even care if he was personally a pedophile or not (though I strongly suspect it), that's just wrong. In fact the downright propaganda-like treatment of pedophilia in that trial scene in particular has the whiff of a Randian screed.

Date: 2016-04-08 07:52 pm (UTC)
ljlee: (depressed)
From: [personal profile] ljlee
I don't like Rand's philosophy or her outsized influence in American political thought at all, but I don't believe mainstream (to the extent there is a mainstream) Objectivism is a cult. There could be Objectivist cults like there could be cults about anything, of course.

But the group of followers Rand gathered around herself in life, the ironically-self-named Collective, was definitely a cult and extremely abusive. I mean, I didn't even look that much into it and I know she induced two of her followers to marry each other even though they weren't in love, and then got the husband of the pair to have a long-term affair with her, during which time he was her heir apparent and was showered with all sorts of praise and favors. When he broke off the relationship she went berserk and cut him off, turning all her followers against him. If that's not cultish behavior I don't know what is. It's also really hypocritical because Objectivism is supposed to be all about the virtue of selfishness and independent thought, and here was its founder getting people to do her bidding.

How gross is it that books that normalized a child sexual abuse victim's experiences were being openly sold and marketed with barely a peep of criticism? "Not wrong if they ask for it" is abuse apologism in a nutshell.

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