You are now entering a blog. A blog set in a time, space, and dimension similar to your own. Many would say, exactly your own. But many are not writing this blog. Only I am. Me. Bill. Bill, me. Hey, it’s Bill, again, with another Hashtag Cult Podcast blog!
Episode 05 goes a slightly different route than the previous ones. This episode covers Mike’s own experience with a cult. Paulina interviews Michael using the same journalistic notes he would use interviewing someone else. They keep it as authentic to journalist-subject approach as possible. Michael explains he typically uses a gonzo journalism style, where he immerses himself in the subject’s world. He lives among them and does not try to interfere or break any rhythms. As an example, with MGTOW, he entered the comments sections of videos and would talk people he figured out where cult members. Mike would allow them to express their opinions to him, in a safe space. Because he would not challenge these people they became more comfortable with him and were open to talking. All of his subjects came to him and requested to be labeled anonymous.
Paulina discusses her approach to journalism and how she reaches out to people primarily with polite emails. In order to find a “big name” to interview she would simply send them an email, always keeping in mind that she was asking a favor of them. The power of the email, she mentions around 6:30, goes a long way. It’s an important idea. Too many people, myself included, assume “oh, there’s no way I can ever talk to [insert name here]” but we never even try. The only way to know if you can talk to someone is by talking to someone. You have to at least put in the effort. And sometimes, not all, you get a response. The more polite and well-written the email, or approach is, the better results you will receive. In the end, it’s common sense, but I think it’s something we all need to hear. We all know it is common sense, but we still don’t do it. The way I have teaching myself to approach it is, reach out to someone and if they do not respond then you are exactly in the same place you were before you reached out. You have not dropped further, you are in the exact same spot. Worst case. Best case, they respond, and HEY, you broke through! Happy dance time.
Another important point, I especially identify with, arrives around 7:30. Paulina mentions how, in the past, she has been worried about using her family connections. Paulina is a member of the Pinsky family, and her family has more clout than others, in certain circles. She said she had been weary about using her connections because she didn’t want to exploit her fortune, saying she felt it was “the easy route.” Mike makes a good point that it is really how you use “your connections.” There are good and bad ways to use your connections, and someone who is already mindful of how they might be using them is probably using them in an okay way. He refers to this as the “psychopath test.” I have experienced, the first hand, the concern of using connections. My family has several connections in the film industry, and as my film career grew I found it very important to forage my own connections. I always been careful in how I used my family connections. It really boils to how you use them. My feelings have been: are you using your connections in order to avoid doing work or are you using them to enhance something you’re working on? Are you using them as a crutch, when you can easily walk? Or would the connection be a nice bonus? As long as you’re not dependent on the connection it’s probably on the side of okay. The feeling also gets easier as you move along in your respective career and make your own connections. Which will happen, it’s only natural. And not to go into too much a side tangent, but “connections” are commonly associated with famous people you know. Honestly, a connection is just someone who might be able to help you at some point. I have plenty of connections who are on the exact same level as I am. You help them, they help you. It’s basically just having friends and looking out for one another. Sorry, massive side tangent. Point is, Paulina, you’re alright in my book and you are great!
Returning to Paulina’s interview of Mike, he explains, no matter how smart or level headed the interviewee is, Mike always starts by making fun of himself. He wants to create a lighter air in the room. He never wants to make the subject feel stupid, and he never wants to imply he feels smarter than them. Self-Deprecation is always a way of opening up to someone/connecting with someone. By self-deprecating it shows you are not immune to the comments. You are willing to make fun of yourself just as much as the next person. Mike wants both participants in as equal footing as possible. Paulina mentions how human can be disarming. It can also diffuse tense situations. The power of humor speaks to me.
Around 11:30, Paulina interprets using humor as a way of the interviewer lowering themselves to a more equal playing field with the subject. I, personally, me, myself, and only I, have held a theory on “finding the laugh.” For a long time, I have believed making people laugh is away of uniting people and putting everyone on the same level. For at least the length of the laugh. For those moments it is two people just laughing. You are sharing in this same joke and for those moments you are even. No outside factors matter. Your race, color, creed, or social status have nothing to do with anything because you are sharing in this beautiful expression. Laughter naturally brings people together. It eases tension and resets the brain at times. My goal in life has been to “find the laugh.” Which, to me, means, I am trying to find a way of uniting more and more people with a joke, or with my humor. If each time you are able to make more people laugh, you are uniting more people. Also, this situation I am creating, all parties involved are in full control of their lives and functions. In this scenerio, I am telling a joke that I want to be telling, I am not pandering to anyone or trying to speak about something I am unsure of, and the people listening are fully able to leave if they want to. The more genuine both sides are the better chance you have at finding the laugh. I think laughter and humor are incredibly powerful tools that are often overlooked.
RETURNING TO THE ACTUAL PODCAST/WHY I AM HERE. Yes, I am here. I am literally trapped with in the words you are reading. I have left my body and am living in this blog. [Cue Twilight Zone Theme]. I am making a lot of Twilight Zone references and I really have not watched the show in over a year…
NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING:
Paulina interviews Mike and he discusses his experience with a yoga cult. He stresses he was only ever “cult adjacent.” He was not aware of the existence of this cult at the time, they did try to recruit him, but he never experienced the full-fledged cultism that others have. He was going to the same school, taking some of the remedial classes, but never advanced to AP, is the metaphor my brain conjured. Mike also stresses he did not disengage from this cult due to superior understandings of cults, at the time, he left because they were horribly disorganized.
Mike goes on to detail his year and half long relationship with a Tai Chi/Yoga organization. He quickly learned that what they were teaching was not Tai Chi or Yoga. Every class he would ask when they would start learning Tai Chi techniques and they would avoid the question and change the topic. He explains that an enormous part of these “classes” involved diaphragmatic breathing, breathing in deeply and exhaling deeply. Mike discusses how diaphragmatic breathing is a big part of many cults. This method of breathing helps the body relax, and in a relaxed state one can become more susceptible to influence. Mike explains how the cult did seem to know some things about how the human body works and they used that to try to manipulate people.
The first big takeaway I learned from his experience, with the cult, was their frequent use of the word “encourage.” The class leaders would “encourage” certain behaviors they wanted to see. They would never force. They also would not not force. Thus the magic word “encourage.” Typing it know makes it seem weird. I may not be using that word for a little bit now. THANKS CULTS. You took a great word away from me. Sure, I may not have had some immediate uses for it coming up, but now it feels tainted. I’ll have to use a thesaurus… jerks. ANYWAYS— Technically, the cult-ish cult allowed you to do as you please, but due to the class structure if you followed these “encouraged principals” you would, seemingly, do better in the class. It is a form of manipulation. They create scenarios that make you think you want to do them. At the time you may, genuinely, want to do them, but you have been manipulated into doing so.
Mike said that through this diaphragmatic breathing it became difficult if you had eaten beforehand. And there was a sense of, if you needed to leave to go to the bathroom you would miss out on something important, or you would break the rhythm of the class, thus losing something. And since class members wanted to get the best experience possible, often times they would not eat. Mike explained the teachers did encourage sleeping for only four hours a day. Mike said he opted out of that because it did not work for him. He understood his own body well enough to know he needed more sleep. The suggestion struck him as weird but not DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON level weird.
Mike concluded that when they truly lost him was when they were encouraging him to go on a retreat, but would not give him an itinerary. He pressed them to give him something, just so he could work it into his schedule. He was in classes needed to make sure was booking his time accordingly. But they would not give him the information he required so he opted out of the retreat. This was met with disappointment from his teachers, but they refused to give him any information on what was going on at the retreat. Then, the last straw, was one day they finally taught some tai chi practices, but then asked him to get people to sign a petition defending their practices. The disorganization and general unexplained weirdness is ultimately what lead Mike to say, “buh-bye” to the organization. It’s almost strange to think that if they had given him more information on their own ideas then he would have stayed longer, and thus would have potentially entered the cult. Paulina and Mike discuss how an early warning sign for an organization is not explaining their history or origins. If they cannot explain their own background or ideology then it is a sign fraud is at foot.
Around 19 minutes, Paulina mentions how most clairvoyants, she has encountered, will fully describe how they were taught, who taught them, and how they came about clairvoyance. I am on Mike’s side where my initial warning sign is the word clairvoyance in general. But, I like the way they discuss it. There are people who genuinely believe in it and they are not harming anyone. They are not trying to lure you in to any way of thinking, they are just open to sharing what they believe. It is important to live side by side with people you may not truly understand, but it is okay. That should how be the world works. Not everyone will get everyone. I am sure people do not agree with my “finding the laugh philosophy.” One of my closest friends disagrees with it, or immediately poked holes in it. And, you know, that is okay. I am not forcing it on anyone, it is simply the way I choose to see the world.
Disorganization seems to be a key component to cults. Their internal logic makes no sense yet somehow they function despite it. I appreciate Mike’s take on his experience. He had prior knowledge that thankfully set him up to be a little bit more prepared for the situation presented to him, but he was by no way a cult-buster. He takes no credit for catching whiff of their schemes and playing them at their own game. He just stuck to his own beliefs at the mot crucial moments. He admits he could have left sooner. But, it seemed to be working. There seemed to be a goal he would be able to reach if he stayed, so he did. But, when the cult, I’m going to just go ahead and call them a cult, when against his primary beliefs he stopped. Something as simple as
“Hey, give me a schedule and I am potentially down for this.”
“why do you need a schedule?”
“Just to plan plan out my weekend. I don’t want things to overlap.”
“You don’t need to worry about a schedule.”
“Yeah, but, I do.”
Nothing profound. Just something that did not sit right with him. I think that is incredibly important.
Paulina and Mike end the episode on a discussion of what advice Mike might give to someone who may be in a similar situation. He recommends a martial arts technique of moving closer to the target. Learn more about the situation to better understand it. I understand what he is saying, but I feel that is something you might be able to do once you are in the tractor beam of the cult. If you realize you are being sucked in to their ideology, yes, that is definitely one way of fighting it. But, I do feel, that is easier said than done. Mike is a very well-reasoned, level-headed journalist who appreciates the gonzo style. I feel his personality can much more easily “just go with it.” He can immerse himself in a situation, without losing himself in it. I am not totally sure that is as easy for everyone, but it is good food for thought. What Mike said makes sense and is something that can be followed. But, I my big takeaway is sticking true to yourself. Like Mike, If you are someone who adheres to a schedule and they are against that, stick to your guns. You don’t need to be disruptive or volatile, just stay true to your needing a schedule. If they insist on pulling you away from what you believe, that is when you may have a problem. Basically, believe in yourself, and do what feels most right to you. If it seems out of the ordinary to you then be mindful of it. Secondly, always ask questions. This does play into what Mike was saying, and I think it works with staying true to yourself as well. Ask questions. If you are unsure about something, ask. If they cannot, or refuse to answer you, then that is weird. Ask questions until you feel comfortable about something. Do not do something that you do not fully understand. That is just setting yourself up for trouble, cult or not. Ask questions and stay true to yourself.
In a humorous way, what is most jarring about this episode of Hashtag Cult Podcast, is this is a normal conversation between two people. Mike is open to talking about what he experienced. But, he does not need to have the upper hand at every turn. Yes, the MGTOW members, mentioned prior, have been open to talking about their experiences, but they need to feel the most right. They are playing all of these mind games/mental gymnastics that conversations with them feel exhausting. They cannot just say a sentence, it has to be coded, or peppered in a way to seem smart until it does not seem smart then they must contradict everything that just said because they knew all along it was wrong they were just saying it to impress you. You may interpret that last sentence as a run on sentence, but I refer to it as a MGTOW sentence. Something that could have been simpler, made more difficult became I chose to. Mike is not playing mind games. He’s just explaining what he experienced. He is very well versed in journalistic speak so he is very clear and concise, but that is really just a bonus. So, this episode comes off as strange because no one is trying to win anything. They’re just talking…
… fuck you MGTOW for making normal conversation sound weird.
Bill out [drops his laptop]
Episode 4: https:https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/yoga-cult-close-call/id1525639915?i=1000489290237//podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mgtow-aint-ever-had-a-cult-like-this/id1525639915?i=1000488690764
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bill Moore is a comedian who has never searched “how to find a girlfriend?” or “why did my girl friend break up with me?” instead he makes jokes with people like Chuck Nice and Many other funny comics like Dave’s Friends, his sketch group: