Truth and cults in the media today
Culture and cult
Growing up in the sixties and becoming a young adult in the seventies, I watched as we were bombarded by the media with the Vietnam war and with those ‘disruptive, radical university students’ who demonstrated against it; with the music of the Beatles and the conflict between what they represented and the mindset of my parent’s generation; with Baghwan’s ‘orange people’ cult and how evil they were; and with Charles Manson’s even more evil cult of seduction, brainwashing and murder. My inner dictionary was put under pressure to be re-written. ‘University student’ meant someone violent, promiscuous, drug-addled and unbalanced. ‘Modern music’ meant evil influence, breakdown of societal morals and ethics, and corruption of the mind, body and spirit. ‘Cult’ meant a group of dangerous people under the control of a charismatic madman who could steal you away from all you love into a bizarre life of robot-like compliance with evil deeds.
These words are no exaggeration. These are part of the world view that the media was aggressively creating in Australia in the seventies. People say: oh but they are only representing what the people think. Wrong! They were creating what the people think, using a carefully crafted blend of truth, lies, fear and misinformation. The stories of the real bad guys of the day, like Charles Manson, were used as examples of truth in reporting, as rallying flags to convince people that everything else the media was saying was also the truth and they were there to protect us by keeping us informed of what was going on in the world. And we bought it.
As a teenager I felt that something was wrong with all this, that war was fundamentally wrong, that people have a right to believe what they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone, that rock music was similarly a personal choice. And I went to university to study science and found most students to be sober, sensible people who cared about others and the world and whom I could comfortably befriend. My dictionary was not significantly re-written after all, except in the matter of cults.
The real meaning of ‘cult’
My definition of ‘cult’ remained stuck where it had been set in the seventies by the media. Then recently I had cause to look deeply into this issue again with much more discerning eyes and the benefit of another 40 or so years of experience in life. A surprise awaited me when doing the simple exercise of looking up ‘cult’ on Google. According to Wikipedia and other online sources of definition, a cult is actually not what it is portrayed as in the media today.
I had to concede that there’s actually nothing intrinsically bad about cults – in fact Christianity and all the major religions started off as cults! The whole negative connotation is based on media cultivating people’s fears, church playing on people’s fears, and government and public fear-based reactions to the very small percentage of cults that are destructive. And then there’s just fear of fear itself, and those who profit from it. Historically, cults are merely people worshipping the divine in their own ways that the mainstream dogmatic churches can’t control and don’t approve of, not wanting to be ousted by something that they once were themselves!
The Wikipedia page had some great information that balances out the negativity. Herewith my short list of conclusions about what a cult is:
– anyone outside orthodox Christianity
– Christians who disagree with orthodox Christianity
– anyone from any other religion in the world
– anyone in the New Age movement
– anyone that disagrees with the church in favour of some other knowledge
– any family member who does not behave like the rest of the family and chooses a different behavioural model.
Depending on who’s doing the naming, that includes about 5 billion people, or 70% of the world’s population!
Under this definition I have been a private, one-woman ‘cult’ all my life without anyone realizing it. At 14 years of age I rejected the religions when I saw the violence, hypocrisy, fanaticism, lies, coercion, contradictions and failure to live their own beliefs. I formed my own private, inner relationship with God and wisdom about the universe, which has continued to blossom in my heart to this day and will continue so for the rest of my life.
Harming by naming
Although today there are many groups which could be rightly called cults under the original and proper definition, to do so is to bring irreparable harm to those groups and the real people and families in them because of the way the media has re-defined ‘cult’ in the mind of society to be something fearful, dangerous and to be wiped out by any means.
Until the definition can be re-set in the mind of society back to a truly ‘fair and balanced’ definition, it would be wise for reporters and journalists to refrain from referring to any group as a cult. Not only that, when a journalist or a publication or broadcast does use the term ‘cult’ to refer to a group, it clearly indicates that they consciously intend to do harm by branding the group, intend to set up the minds of the audience against the group. Then it is clear that an agenda underlies the work of the media representative or organization. The term much beloved by the media – ‘fair and balanced reporting’ – is an endangered if not extinct species in today’s journalism (along with real original research) particularly when it comes to reporting on religious subjects. Every journalist works not only wearing the coloured glasses of their own religious backgrounds, but the insidious influence and methods of one underlying agenda.
The one agenda
When looking at the way alternate groups are negatively portrayed as cults by the media to do them and their members harm, there is a consistency across all the stories. This cannot be a journalist-by-journalist process on such a broad scale, with individual reporters colouring their stories with their own various religions and biases (although of course that occurs). It must be a plan. There is most definitely a concerted, global, conscious plan or agenda to take down any groups or leaders that could gain popularity and take people away from control by the world’s major established religions and the systems they are part of. Yet the motivation for the plan evidently goes beyond religion. That plan uses religion and religious conflict to generate division and fear as a tool for the control of humanity, like cattle herders using electric prods and biting dogs to cut cattle and move them wherever they wish.
But who is behind it? What is the real agenda behind the media castigation of alternate groups? There are ideas kicking around regarding who is orchestrating that plan and how their influence is disseminated throughout something as large as the global media. They are apparently growing uncomfortable with the state of their power, because they are playing hard-ball with ever-increasing ferocity. The hand that is losing its grip, tightens.
From direct personal experience and with behind-the-scenes knowledge, I can see in today’s media treatment of alternate groups including religious minorities, a parallel with the harassment and denigration by government and corporations of any other minority human activity that works to bring real, fundamental change and re-empower ordinary people with self-responsibility. These are notably: complementary and alternate medicine, alternate family and community structures and alternate agriculture and landcare. Note here that the word ‘alternate’, which has been thoroughly branded onto those human activities and tainted with suspicion by the media, is referring to what were once the normal, conventional ways of healing, worshipping, living, farming and educating in societies and cultures that were based on co-operation and equality, in harmony with each other and the Earth.
So, logically, one would have to conclude that the agenda behind the media is against a return of co-operation, equality and harmony between humans and care of the planet!
Further reinforcing this logical conclusion is that ‘alternate’ activities and products that only appear to bring real change, that only appear to give people an alternative choice, but are not in fact effective in doing so, are allowed to continue. Not only allowed to continue, but surreptitiously supported and promoted by the very organizations that they appear to oppose. The rationale is surely that if it looks alternate, and disgruntled people go for it and don’t get results, they will reject the alternate and come back to the mainstream. Or (and equally ideally from the standpoint of those controlling the process), it gives people the feeling that they have a real alternative, thus defusing their frustrations by engaging them in new activities so that they do not turn against the mainstream en masse. It’s just ‘good cop, bad cop’ by those who wield the same global agenda behind the control of religion, money, economics, politics, science, medicine, agriculture, military, industry, education, and so on. That agenda harms humanity and the planet, using each person as a ‘soldier holding the gun’. And the media is the major tool through which the agenda works, with its persistent influence in every home, public place, computer and mobile device on the planet.
All that said, a global agenda by a few does not remove personal responsibility from the many individual reporters or journalists and the publications or stations they work for. When they brand groups as cults, at best using subtly coloured, equivocal language and innuendo to raise doubts and reservations in the minds of the consuming public, and at worst fabricating horrible smear campaigns that damage lives and reputations, they are unwittingly (and sometimes quite willingly) being used as the puppets or hit men of those who stand behind the one big agenda.
I once had a conversation with a young Australian soldier who had voluntarily joined the military. He had not as yet fought in any conflict, however war was looming and it looked as if he might be sent away in the near future. I asked how he felt about killing people and received the usual, programmed replies: ‘following orders’, ‘serving my country’, ‘regrettable but necessary to save and protect innocent civilians, freedom and our way of life’, etc. I dug deeper. Eventually I pointed out that, when it comes right down to the moment, regardless of commanding officers, orders, who’s ‘right’ or who’s ‘wrong’, it is the young soldier himself who will be making a conscious choice and pulling the trigger that takes another human’s life. Ultimately, the responsibility for killing that human falls upon that young soldier. No-one has him bound and held, physically forcing his hand to squeeze the trigger; he does it himself. He is responsible. The young soldier’s expression changed markedly; I could see that something new was dawning in his awareness. He saw it, and having seen it, could no longer remain in the military.
To me this exactly parallels what is occurring in the media. Each journalist in day to day working life is an employee and/or beholden to someone of superior authority, and has been influenced, trained and rewarded to hold certain views and report in certain ways while believing (usually erroneously) that they have freedom of expression, and even believing (just as erroneously) that they are telling the truth. It is unlikely that many senior editors would openly say to their reporters “go out and destroy that group”, or “fabricate any awful story you want as long as you make them look bad” (although the “go get the dirt on them” is not unknown). However as even the senior people have been ‘programmed’ to bias their language and intention in the negative direction regarding minority religious groups, that bias will be transmitted to the journalist, who may not consciously pick up that his or her own fears have been played upon and that he or she has been set up to see and report things in a particular way. Puppets. Ra-ra’ed up like the young soldier. Fodder for a big agenda. And like the soldier, when it comes right down to the moment, the individual journalist is totally responsible for the harm their stories do to the real human people at the receiving end of their deadly weapon of words.