Cults: The West’s Forgotten Foe

by Daniel L. Ragonese

When I say cult, what is the first organization or figure that comes to mind? For many Americans such as myself, it would most likely be none other than Jim Jones, responsible for what was the greatest loss of civilian life in America until September 11th (as well as the creation of the phrase “don’t drink the koolaid”). That single event led to the term cult becoming one that holds about as much weight as the term communist during the height of the Red Scare.

Yet despite this, it seems like we’ve turned a blind eye to them for various reasons (many of which I admit are mere speculation).

Before I get too deep in this article, I would like to give my personal definition of a cult so that you can understand what I do and do not consider a cult and why.

A cult is a religious organization which meets all criteria of Steven Hassan’s B.I.T.E. Model. Whilst I’m not against calling pyramid schemes cults as some on the internet have done, I don’t think they’re capable of anything cults like Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate have done.

So then, why do I think cults are “the west’s forgotten foe?”

To put it simply, while I hate cults with a passion (to the point it’s becoming a morbid curiosity), this is not a critique of cults, or really anything for that matter. This is a critique of the absence of something.

In early 2018, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were in the middle of a controversy called #PillowGate wherein a video meant for insiders of the organization titled “Welcome to Bethel” was leaked to the public. In the video, the presenter talked about things that were considered sexually inappropriate by the watchtower society (the upper echelons of Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Things like “wearing tight pants” is something the organization is well known for railing against, but the reason this became particularly of note was because it unknowingly, in a Freudian manner, revealed to many critics how deep the sexual repression goes.

In the video at the timestamp 6:25 the presenter states: “suppose a brother rubs his genitals against a pillow, he gets an erection before achieving an orgasm.” This statement subtly implies that this has been something of a growing problem inside Bethel (the main compound of Jehovah’s Witnesses). While I would love to continue going on and on ad nauseum about how twisted and unnatural this is, that’s a whole different article.

Here’s a fun little experiment. At roughly the same time, a similar, more massive controversy revolving around President Trump called #goldenshowergate blew up. When I put both of these terms into Google, the News Tab did not appear for #pillowgate but did for #goldenshowergate. #pillowgate produced 1,880 results, while #goldenshowergate produced 30,200,000 results.

The first result for #pillowgate was a YouTube video satirizing the original, whereas with #goldenshowergate the it was this Mashable article. While it’s no Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, I would argue it’s a step up from just a couple minute long YouTube video.

I do not profess to be a journalist, but I fail to see how the #pillowgate story is that much less newsworthy than #goldenshowergate. Which in turn begs the question. Why? Here’s a list of possibilities in no particular order with my thoughts on the likelihood of each.

  • Google is somehow suppressing this story. I would rate this about 5% likely. If this is the case, why would the first result be negative?
  • The major news outlets are paid shills. Once again, I would rate this about 5% likely. While cults tend to have tremendous amounts of money, it hasn’t stopped these outlets before.
  • The major news outlets are afraid of committing libel. On this, I’m going to say 0% likely. While it’s not unheard of for, say, the Church of Scientology to send cease and desist letters, I think we all know the hoops that can be jumped through by mainstream media to avoid such a thing.
  • It just didn’t gain enough traction. This I would say is 50% to 70% likely.
  • It just wouldn’t have been inflammatory enough to garner clicks. This is my personal choice as the most likely possibility. It seems that in a world wherein these sites hunger for clicks just to stay alive, one must make article with titles that will either elicit large amounts of anger or validation. An article on #pillowgate wouldn’t make enough people angry (or shocked) as the public perception of Jehovah’s Witnesses is already about as negative as it gets.

Now why is this a bad thing? While I have no qualms about criticizing the president, if you do not also criticize cults and spend a large amount of time doing so, I fear many will fall prey to their techniques. Cults are intellectual predators who will use any disingenuous argument to recruit you. Whenever they see ignorance they pounce upon it like a sabertooth tiger, and like a cobra they will inject you with their poison until you die, and then devour what little is left of you. If people are not made aware of the dangers of cults, then they will be nothing more than a deer in the headlights.

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