Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 21, 2016
Discuss this article at the Doom Psychology Table inside the Diner
Further examining the Cult issue, another question which popped up is whether Blogs are cults and the Bloggers Cult Leaders? For this, we need to return to the definitions from our friends at Merriam-Webster.
Definition of cult
: formal religious veneration : worship
: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator <health cults>
a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
cultic play \ˈkəl-tik\ adjective
cultish play \-tish\ adjective
cultishly play \-lē\ adverb
cultishness play \-nəs\ noun
cultism play \ˈkəl-ˌti-zəm\ noun
cultist play \ˈkəl-tist\ noun
cultlike play \-ˌlīk\ adjective
Officially, you need to be some type of Religion to fit the cult definitions, but I did mention Capitalism as a form of religion even though it is not officially recognized as such, and so fits many of the cult definitions. I also mentioned cults that form up around Rock bands and celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
If the blog is espousing a particular belief system, like say belief in Peak Oil or belief in Near Term Human Extinction or belief in Techno-Conucopianism, then this can take on a Religious Fervor to it. People who believe in NTHE are VERY firm in that belief; people who believe in Renewable Energy also very firm. So I think it is fair to apply the definitions from the dictionary to blogs and bloggers.
To become Cultish though, you need more than just the general spin of the blog to define it as a cult. The main thing additionally necessary is that there must be Uniformity of Belief among the readers of the blog, and fealty to the Blogger who serves as the Cult Leader. Beyond that, no DISSENT can be permitted in the blog commentariat if it is going to be a Cult. So if ONLY posts which support the dogma espoused by the Blogger are approved, you're starting to get quite cultish.
Now, virtually no blog has any kind of formal worship ongoing and no rituals, so you have to go NO CHECK on #1 & #2, although you do find some slavishly syncophantic posting on some blogs as the readers kiss the ass of the blogger and tell him how great he is. That is a form of Worship. If other posters are allowed to tell the blogger he's wrong though, then you no longer have a cult because dissention is being allowed.
If you do accept the idea that belief in stuff like Near Term Human Extinction or Techno-Cornucopianism takes on a Religious quality to it, then it is CHECK #3. Both beliefs are unorthodox, and it just depends who you talk to as to whether they are viewed as spurious or not. The Body of Adherents tends to gravitate toward the Blog and Blogger that come closest to their own viewpoint, so uniformity of opinion and Group Think tends to develop from that organically.
Enforcement of Group Think on a given blog commentariat comes in two ways mainly. First is if the Blogger only approves comments which are in agreement with his POV. That's a very EZ way to maintain uniformity within the blog-cult. The second way is to have ENFORCERS of the group think who drop in and ATTACK anyone who is not sticking to the party line. Ulfulgi on Nature Bats Last and Fast Eddy on Our Finite World are typical examples of Enforcers in a blog commentariat.
Far as the Doomstead Diner goes, it doesn't fit Cult Definitions from Merriam-Webster at all. Nobody agrees on EVERYTHING we discuss daily Inside the Diner, in fact it's one very long, non-stop ARGUMENT on numerous topics. There is no Central Ideology to the Diner, other than we all agree to argue the issues, hopefully politely with respect for other Diners. As the main Blogger on the site, my ideas are attacked all the time, and I get personally attacked Ad Hom all the time too! I have a very thick skin from years of moderating forums, going back to the Wild West days on AOL. It's all Water Off a Duck's Back for me most of the time. For the most part I let all the posting go up, although you can go too far in attacking me personally, as one of our more insulting members found out recently. While I like Free Speech, if somebody refuses to be respectful and polite to myself and other Diners, I WILL drop down the Ban Hammer. It just gets too disruptive after a while when Trolls do this. When you cannot get a troll to grasp this simple fact of life, it becomes a FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE.
Even if a given Blog and Blogger do fit Definition #3 of Cults from Merriam-Webster though, I don't consider them to likely end up in a Jonestown or Waco or Haley-Bopp Mass Death endgame. Because these cults are in Virtual Space and all the cult members are not gathered together in one compound, getting them all to Drink the Kool Aid at the same time would be a highly unlikely scenario. The FBI would also have a hard time hitting everyone at the same time, other than shutting down their internet access, which would be quite EZ. That would be the Virtual Death of the Cult, but the Meat Packages would still be walking around for a while.
Some folks like to be together only with people who believe EXACTLY as they do, and are not comfortable with the daily dissention you get when you all do NOT subscribe to precisely the same belief structure. I personally am not that way, in fact I am exactly opposite to that, I love to argue, I love the interplay of ideas between people with different belief structures. Much new knowledge can be elucidated this way. The main thing I do NOT like is when people cannot argue to topic and start insulting each other as dim or imbeciles etc, and I WILL also retaliate for that kind of behavior in kind, before I send you to the Cooler or Ban your ass permanently. It's the CHICAGO WAY.
I can pitch out insults as well as anyone on the net, I spent over a year trading them with one of the best Net Insulters ever to grace the Internet, Smokey from The Burning Platform. But ya know, this gets old, even if it is done with someone as creatively scatological as Smokey was. Calling people names elucidates NOTHING. Argue to topic.
OK, I think I beat to death the topic of Cults here over the last 3 days, so now we will get back to our regularly scheduled Diner Arguments. 🙂