I was scrolling through my twitter feed, as one does, and I saw someone had tweeted something to the effect of “Check in on your MAGA friends. See how they are doing. Do they have any big plans coming up?” I kept scrolling, but that idea stuck with me. So I started checking on my MAGA friends by looking at their facebook feeds.
It’s not pretty, y’all. I saw a lot of denialism. The bubble has not burst. In the past, I have engaged with folks on an argument by argument basis. Like “hey, you know that’s not quite true? Check out this data (citing a source) and this data (citing another source).” Only to be told that my sources aren’t true, and that I’m being lied to. But when I asked them for their sources, I would get nothing whatsoever. Or I’d be told to watch some youtube videos (ha!). Or I’d be told to google something, I’d google it out of due diligence, and find myself in a conspiracy theory and clickbait filled website that clearly has no journalistic integrity whatsoever. Engaging with folks about this stuff became Sisyphean. Yet they are still out there, doing their thing…
Now, I feel like we need to be talking on a different level than individual arguments. I just want to say “Dude, you’re in a cult.”
I don’t expect that simply pointing out to someone on their facebook page that they are in a cult is going to go well. I don’t expect that pointing out to them that their distrust of “mainstream media” has been weaponized to get them to willingly believe lie after lie after lie… will be accepted readily.
But, what is going to make a difference? Back when I was in high school, we’re talking the late 90’s, I would just say the shit I had to say. I would just stir the pot. Some of the desire to do that is still in me. One of my favorite phrases is “the truth shall set you free, but first it shall piss you off.”
I do know from experience, that even if the truth is said in the most caustic way, if it’s repeated and inescapable it will eventually sink in. But how to do that online, during a pandemic, when this sort of communication is effective in person? How do we compete with the lies that are repeated and inescapable to our friends and family who have sipped the kool-aid?
In person, a person can see that when I’m telling them that they’re in a cult that I still love and respect and admire them. Online, I’m just words on a page. A person can think “do you think I’m so stupid that I would join a cult?!?” And I, not seeing that on their face, can’t say “no, being in a cult isn’t about intelligence. It’s about the cult meeting a deep unmet need that you have.” I imagine the person that is being told they are in a cult will think they need to defend themselves, lest they get cancelled, or defend their cult – because cults are bad m’kay. But I don’t want to make their life harder by telling them they are in a cult, I want to make their life easier. I want them to know that the world outside of their cult isn’t filled with scary, lying, evil people. It isn’t filled with communists. It isn’t even filled by deluded sheep that have had their minds numbed by the mainstream media. Really!
I haven’t written something like this before because I have been afraid of the backlash. People in cults don’t like being told they are in cults. Some of those people are my friends. Also, now that the events of the last few weeks have confirmed all of our instincts about Donald Trump as a president, it’s intellectually easier to call a spade a spade. Or a cult, a cult.
I’m not an expert here. I have read quite a bit about cults, and my biggest takeaway has been that no one is really an expert. We might just have to muddle through these conversations.
So, if you think this may apply to you, imagine when I say “Dude, you’re in a cult” that I say it with love. That I’m not attacking you, I’m inviting you to look at life differently. And if you aren’t ready to look at life differently, I’ll be here when you are.