Video!
Stefan Molyneux and defoo, defined

No matter what you've heard, this is what defooing is all about.

See the video here.
Ongoing…
Is FreeDomain Radio a destructive cult?

In which I aggressively and fearlessly sidestep the big question, head on!

Part 1: The journey into FDR

Part 2: The three persuasions of Stefan Molyneux

Part 3: The conversion

Part 4: The tools of conversion


It’s important to note that the following article does not claim or attempt to claim that FreeDomain Radio is a destructive cult. It presents information on destructive cults in general and examines some of the public, documented, and controversial aspects of FreeDomain Radio. It’s up to you to draw your own conclusions.

Disclaimer


Summary: This series of articles explores the question whether it is more accurate to refer to Stefan Molyneux’s FreeDomain Radio as a cult or as a destructive cult. According to my cult-identification flowchart, we are surrounded by cults, technically speaking. Most are harmless and some are even beneficial.

However, a small percentage of cults are actually destructive to the people who join them. Is FDR one of them?

In Part One of this series, I identified the first set of troubling aspects of FDR: (1) It appears to have one set of beliefs on the surface and an entirely different set of beliefs that it actively promotes behind the scenes. (2) A number of destructive cult experts have publicly stated their concerns about FDR. And (3), there is a presence of members who appear to display cult-like behavior.

Part Two continues below with the next set of troubling aspects: (1) Mr. Molyneux appears to counsel his members individually on their family problems while hiding his oft-stated belief that nearly all parents are horribly bad and should be discarded. (2) Mr. Molyneux takes on the role of learned authority on psychology, parenting, and family matters, yet appears to have less practical experience than many of the people he counsels. (3) By his own admission, Molyneux is a “salesman” who promises happiness to those who join FDR. (4) He invents practices such as defooing and RTRing, using his own followers as guinea pigs (sometimes without their knowledge), and pronounces his inventions successful when the member creates a tighter bond with FDR and less of a connection with the outside world.




Part 2:
The three persuasions of Stefan Molyneux

Persuasion.

Yes, that’s the word I teased about in Part One of this series.

In Part One, we talked about some aspects of FreeDomain Radio that might be relevant to The Big Cult Question. We got some insights on FDR from destructive cult experts.

And, of course, I neatly managed to sidestep the entire issue by talking not about FDR itself but the difficult-to-understand behavior changes of some of its members.

But now I’d like to spend a little time with one word. Because everything FDR says it is or appears to think it is seems to come crashing down because of it.

This is kind of a long post, so you might want to get a cup of coffee. However, I’ll try to make it worth your while! By the time you get to the end of this, you’ll probably never be able to listen to Stefan Molyneux in quite the same way you did before.

To start, let’s revisit the “official story” on the FDR practice of discarding one’s family and friends. When people ask critical questions about FDR and defooing, Molyneux and his closest followers respond with something more or less like this:

Members who defoo have been shattered by horrific parenting. Luckily, they found their way to FreeDomain Radio and (through the support and strength shared by Molyneux and other FDR members) gathered their courage to commit the healthiest act of their lives—a total withdrawal from their toxic parents.

Got it? Molyneux assures all outside challengers that he only advocates defooing in the most severe cases of abuse.

But there’s a problem. A big, glaring searchlight of a problem. Once you see it, you can’t ignore it. You can’t explain it. No amount of reason can justify it.

But there’s a problem. A big, glaring searchlight of a problem. Once you see it, you can’t ignore it. You can’t explain it. No amount of reason can justify it.

Why does he need to persuade them?

You see, if the official story is true, a number of annoying questions suddenly begin to tumble out. Questions no one at FDR can easily answer. Chief among them is if defooing is all about horrific parents and shattered lives, then why is so much effort devoted to persuading members that their families are toxic?

Didn’t they already know?

And once you start looking for that kind of persuasion, you suddenly see that FDR brims with it—starting with the very first foundational essay Molyneux wrote. And he has labored mightily on it since then:

  • With a multi-part podcast series entitled “But my parents were nice.”
  • A podcast the proves why you “do not love” your parents.
  • “Convos” with members in which Molyneux personally spends 40 minutes or more painstakingly building a case against the caller’s parents?
  • A nearly 80-page book explaining why your childhood was a prison (On Truth—The Tyranny of Illusion) that all new members are urged to read.

But those are simply random examples. We’ve literally scratched the surface. If you start at Molyneux’s first podcast and rip through them in order, you’ll find podcast after podcast blending into a constant stream of persuasion that your parents are bad. In some podcasts, the message is overt. And in others, Molyneux can’t help himself from slipping in asides such as “And let’s just say that you had a bad family because you, say, have a pulse.” (Podcast #238, Family Fantasies)

And that stream joins at the confluence of books, Skype convos, forum posts, and non-stop chatroom activity to become a river of persuasion.

So, the official story may be that FDR is a group that helps victims of toxic families.

But that one word—persuasion—suddenly reveals them as a group trying to convince people that they were.

It’s the word that transforms FDR from a haven into an organization attempting to recraft memories, change perceptions, and change behavior.

It’s the word that makes you begin to wonder if FDR is a destructive cult.

Unraveling the official story

But let’s let fairness reign. All of that stuff doesn’t necessarily make FDR a destructive cult, does it? (Or does it?) At any rate, perhaps there’s an excellent explanation for the FDR persuasion machine.

While researching this article, I spent a fair amount of time delving into legitimate studies and articles about abuse victims in general and child abuse victims in particular. I discovered that a tragically high percentage of victims develop a coping mechanism in which they minimize the abuse as “not that bad” or find ways to excuse it altogether.

When one realizes how many abuse victims cope by accepting part of the blame for it, well, it’s hard not work up a little Molyneuvian rage of one’s own against their attackers! Perhaps it makes sense that someone might want to persuade these true victims to see the truth.

So, through that research, I began to realize that qualified therapists apparently do spend a significant amount of time helping abuse victims accept and come to terms with the reality of their situation. To see themselves as the innocent victims they are. To understand that it’s not their fault—it’s the abuser’s fault and there is no excuse.

So maybe we can let FDR off the hook, right?

I mean, what is Stefan Molyneux doing that is so different from any other therapist?

Great question. Because this image of legitimate therapists working with true victims is actually another camouflage that FDR hides behind. Molyneux is doing three things that are quite different from anything you’ll find in the practice of any legitimate therapist and each one of them is deeply concerning. At least, they tend to make all manner of sirens and flashing red lights go off in my head.

Identifying the three persuasions

  • Persuasion 1: You’re an abuse victim, no matter who you are. Logically speaking, the only way that Molyneux could begin persuading nearly anyone who listens to him that they are abuse victims—without knowing anything about them—is if he sincerely believes nearly everyone is. If you’re a regular reader of this site, then you know that most of my exploration of FDR psychology relates to Persuasion One and some of the evidence appears in my list above.

    Still, I’m surprised at the number of new visitors to FDR who don’t see it and do not understand that Molyneux’s bizarre belief about families is inseparable from his philosophy. Fortunately, new members who quickly see the “everybody was abused” persuasion for what it is often become “immunized” against the darker parts of FDR psychology. When they recognize it early on and identify it as a preposterous, unsupportable notion, they either take everything else Molyneux says about family psychology with a grain of salt or disregard it altogether. They know better than to speak out about it in the forum, however!

    Therefore, there is actually no similarity between FDR and the qualified therapist/patient relationship I described above. And the FDR “official story” falters here as well. For a number of members, the story is exactly reversed—they find their way to FDR first and then are persuaded to believe their families are toxic. In this persuasion, one’s personal history is superfluous. Molyneux already knows.

    The fascinating twist on this is that by the time FDR True Believers defoo, they all seem to think that Molyneux has been talking to them—just them personally—all along. But I’ve read his books and listened to his podcasts and I hear no qualifiers. He clearly seems to believe nearly all parents are horrible and nearly everyone has been abused. Only a tiny lunatic fringe of psychologists share a similar view.

    How True Believers hear Molyneux’s blanket condemnation of nearly all parents as personal advice to them is one of the mysteries of FDR.

    Although the next two persuasions we’ll discuss are important, Persuasion One is the most sinister. It is a persuasion based on the twin notions that (1) nearly all parents/families (outside of the group) are “horribly bad” and (2) the only solution is separation.

    Unfortunately, it is a notion FDR also shares with many destructive cults.

  • Persuasion 2: Your parents are abusive because of their thoughts, not their actions. This persuasion is more subtle. However, it’s the one that allows Molyneux to cast a net over parents so wide that he can label nearly all of them as abusive. Molyneux’s On Truth—The Tyranny of Illusion is essentially a 72-page argument against parents. On Page 37, under the section What We Know, Molyneux sums up the bizarre logical argument he has spun thus far into the book:

    This is the knowledge that we have, but hate and fear.

    We know that the people who claim to love us know precious little about us, and nothing at all about love.

    We know that the people who claim to love us make this claim in order to create obligations within us.

    We know that the people who claim to love us make this claim in order to control us.

    And they know it too.



    He’s talking about all parents!

    Molyneux’s writings suggest that all parents’ thought processes are the same worldwide, irrespective of religion, culture, or geography. He apparently believes that the act of having children somehow creates some kind of sinister unification of thought, irrespective of whatever disparate backgrounds people may have had prior to parenthood! Again, what is astounding here is how few people find Molyneux’s theory to be astounding!

    On Page 254 of Molyneux’s book Real-Time Relationships (The Logic of Love), he presents a fictional example of “the conversation” you’re supposed to have with your mother about your relationship with her. He writes it convincingly and well. By the end of it, he is actually referring to his fictional example in a way that suggests it is an actual conversation you’ve already had with your own mother!

    In the above conversation, you talked to your mother openly and honestly about your feelings—you recognized that she would be surprised by your “sudden” honesty, and attempted to manage that transition.

    You did not attempt to blame your mother, you did not attempt to “frame” the conversation, you did not inflict any conclusions on her—you merely tried to be honest in the moment about how you felt while talking to her.

    You did not fall into the temptation of attacking her with a “conclusion,” but stayed vulnerable and open about what was happening for you throughout the conversation.



    Molyneux’s real suggestion here is that you can assume all such conversations with any and all mothers would have the same result, whether the language between mother and offspring is English, Spanish, Farsi, or Swahili!

    Molyneux says there are only two outcomes to the conversation—a formerly fictional conversation that he now describes as one that actually happened between you and your mother. The first is this:

    …you will understand in your very core the simple and tragic fact that there is no point fishing in this lake anymore, because there are no fish left in the lake.

    This means that your mother is simply a mythology robot, with no capacity whatsoever to interact with you in an honest and vulnerable manner.

    Fundamentally, she does not exist.



    Molyneux briefly mentions the “other” possible outcome; i.e., you “break through” and begin to really talk, hopefully restoring intimacy to your relationship. However, he hastens to add that such a thing is impossible with a family member who has treated you with consistent cruelty.

    And of course, he has already spent many podcasts, all of On Truth and most of Real-Time Relationships convincing you that they have!

    In the early days of analyzing FreeDomain Radio, I started to keep track of the various parental actions that Molyneux would consider to be abusive. (One of my favorites, which I often cite, is Molyneux’s belief that your parents are worth discarding if you wouldn’t want to hang out with them at a party.)

    Then it finally hit me. His identification of “abusive parents” isn’t based on what they do, but what they think!

    When raising children, parents have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Why should children obey them? Because parents are right? Hell no—ask parents why they hold their beliefs, they don’t have a clue. How could they?….

    Average parents can no more reinvent morality from scratch than they can build a Space Shuttle in their backyards. Still, they have to get their children to obey them—how do they do it?

    Oh, the usual suspects. Guilt, shame, withdrawal, criticism, bribery, bullying, manipulation—the usual crap that has passed for parenting throughout history. Guilt, shame and bullying always rush to fill the void when logical morality loses favour, because children must be taught, and if no carrots are to be found, sticks will always just have to do.

    So face it: your parents were bullies, or weak curriers of favour, or manipulative emotional infants themselves.



    Do you see his point?

    In Molyneux’s binary understanding of human relationships, parents either subscribe to “rational morality” as he defines it or everything they do is abusive. It’s either one or the other. I finally realized it’s simply a waste of time to consider what Molyneux actually says about any parental action. So now we see that Persuasion Two also suggests that the FDR “official story” is nothing more than that. A story.

    The truth is, even if your parents “accidentally” do the right thing, they do not share Molyneux’s beliefs on morality. So it just doesn’t matter.

    Unless you’re an FDR True Believer, procreation is a hate crime.


  • Persuasion 3: Molyneux is somehow qualified to offer family advice. What an amazing, unbelievable, Svengali-like feat this is.

    According to Stefan Molyneux, he was mostly abandoned by his father as an infant. He was neglected by his own mother and threw her out of the house when he was 15. He has never claimed to know parental love of any kind, except his own love for his infant child. He has a Masters Degree in history. He read some psychology books and went to therapy once.

    Molyneux admittedly has not experienced the healthy love of a parent, nor any genuine, personal interactions with parents in the critical adolescence-into-adulthood phase. Therefore, he could not describe either of these things from his own experience any more than a blind man can describe colors.

    Relationships with parents are as foreign to Molyneux as the moons of Jupiter. And the biggest surprise to me is how few people ever point that out.

    Relationships with parents are as foreign to Molyneux as the moons of Jupiter. And the biggest surprise to me is how few people ever point that out.

    Granted, there certainly are some who have grown up under such circumstances and become helpful, legitimate family psychologists. They do so by making psychology their life’s work. They prepare for it through years of study—a single-minded focus on the history of the practice and understanding of the wide range of current psychological research. They augment that study through practical experience with patients (under the guidance of their instructors). And for those who do not choose the university track to accomplish all that, I would expect no less diligence.

    But, by his own admission, Molyneux is not one of them, either. He has spent his adolescence and adult life leapfrogging from one career to another. A dancer one minute; a panner for gold the next. A playwright one day and a computer programmer the day after that. His only true “training” in psychology apparently came well after his other careers and is based upon whichever books happened to catch his interest. And even then it was a part-time diversion secondary to his main goal of becoming a libertarian philosopher.

    True, he also went to therapy but being a patient doesn’t make you a physician!

    Amazingly, based on that background alone, an unknown number of people willingly and completely put their psychological well-being in the hands of this internet authority every day!

    I know I’m going way over the top to make this point. I try very hard to be respectful but I think few things are more amazing than the notion that anyone, let alone hundreds of people, would think that Stefan Molyneux is any more qualified to offer family advice than the loudmouth sitting next to you at a bar, or a taxi driver, or the person who cuts your hair.

    In all likelihood, they may be more qualified.


The third persuasion is this: Molyneux has mastered the technique of delivering his theories with such an air of authority, many people do not question the source of that authority. And that is where seeds for tragedy may be sewn.

Based on Molyneux’s history—family or otherwise—there doesn’t appear to be an apparent source.

Yet, even as I re-read the above, something about it seems unsettling to me. I know that what I say about Molyneux’s background is true—it’s all taken from his own autobiographical statements. And yet even to me it doesn’t sound like the man I’ve come to know through his podcasts. Molyneux is so erudite, so convincing that—even knowing what I know about his background—it’s so easy for me fall into the pattern of assuming everything he says is a product of research and experience.

What is it about that voice? The authority it seems to project?

How to cultivate the voice of authority

We’ll spend the rest of this article on the third persuasion. The first may be the most sinister, but the third is the most important. Certainly, no part of FDR would have ever sprung to life without it.

Consider—who knows how many people are making YouTube videos of themselves offering their thoughts to the world? Probably the least dynamic among them are the philosophy ones—quite often bookish intellectuals, untrained in public speaking, uncomfortably lurching through their prepared essays.

But in the midst of them one finds a happy, supremely confidant man with a mellifluous voice, quick wit, and wide-ranging but incisive intellect. He can be spellbinding. And he is uncommonly assertive. It’s hard not to get drawn in. He sounds as if he has decades of scholarship behind him—as much as any elderly professor—combined with the energy and excitement of a first-year student. He seems to care deeply about so many things.

Perhaps even you.

For many people, the relationship with Stefan Molyneux begins there. It is on YouTube that they begin to collect and learn his theories; they begin to re-piece the universe together as he sees it. It makes sense.

He sounds so very authoritative. And…something else that’s harder to put your finger on.

The evangelist of happiness

What few people initially understand is that the “Stefan Molyneux” they see in the videos and hear in the podcasts is a character created—though perhaps more by accident than design—over a couple of decades.

He began sharpening that quick-on-his-feet wit and rhetoric on the debate team as an undergraduate. He tried to create his own political party. He studied acting and screenwriting. He longed to become a convincing storyteller, either through novels or television. He became a successful salesman, during which time he apparently studied Tony Robbins and perhaps even neurolinguistic programming (NLP). And you can hear all of that now in the authoritative voice that differentiates Molyneux from many of his YouTube peers, one that naturally springs from a different source than theirs. They are simply lecturing about philosophy.

He seems to be selling it.

Or so I thought. But I was wrong.

If you watch Molyneux videos with a critical eye long enough, its hard not to think of the old Marshall McLuhan phrase “The medium is the message.” You see, the message isn’t philosophy at all. The message is Molyneux—he’s selling himself.

Furthermore, he admits that it’s all part of the plan. Consider the following.

In podcast FDR 1019 (formerly FDR Premium 79) We Are Full of Treasure, Molyneux attempts to explain to members of his inner circle that how you talk about FDR is perhaps more important than what you say about it. And in the end, he reveals what he is actually selling.

[Aside: Once again, I run into my old ethical problem of quoting/discussing FDR members even though I work harder to protect their identities than they do! My unresolved question is, if they are victims, am I actually victimizing them further? Still, at some points it is impossible for me to demonstrate how Molyneux persuades unless I show who he is persuading. In the following examples, I identify members only by the first letters of their names.]

In this group conversation, one member is bemoaning how hard it is to find thoughtful, interesting people to discuss philosophy outside of Molyneux’s “community.” Molyneux explains how unlikely such an occurrence is :

5:36 (Molyneux) Well let’s just ask around, right? I mean how many times do you meet people who you can sustain a relatively intelligent conversation—not where everybody agrees or anything like that—but somebody who’s curious and interested and so on. How many times do you meet people like that in your daily life or your activities?….

…So, G.? For you, how many times or how many times a year do you meet people who are worth talking to?

(G.) Oh, well, in my case, I mean outside of FDR, basically never.

(Molyneux) Ok, never. N.?

(N.) Never.

(Molyneux) Never. Other G.?

(Other G.). Uhh…never.

(Molyneux) All right….I’m not very good at pattern recognition but even I can see that there may be a pattern here…Anyone else?..B. says ‘Never.



Through this method, Molyneux demonstrates how unlikely it is for anyone inside FDR to find thoughtful, interesting, philosophically minded people outside FDR. (Yes, I know that raises a lot of destructive cult “red flags,” but just set them aside for now.)

So he asks the next question. If such people are incredibly rare, how can you find them?

16:07 “Let’s just say you really wanted to connect with someone and you knew just how rare it was? How could you maximize your chances of doing that?….

….How could you maximize your potential for reaching that goal?”



For the next few minutes, Molyneux’s members puzzle over that. Then he steps in to remind them that he had a similar problem, although clearly much more difficult than theirs:

20:40 “Clearly, if I had waited with FDR until I met somebody who already accepted what I believed, I would never achieve it, right? Because nobody believed what I believed, right? So I faced an even bigger dilemma in some ways, right? And this is not a competition, right? But I’m just sort of pointing this out, right? I had the challenge of how am I going to get people interested in the shit that I’m putting out, which is anti-political, anti-most people’s families, anti-most people’s relationships. It’s going to blow their minds. I’m going to get a lot of hostility. I’m going to get a lot of problems. It’s going to de-stabilize a lot of people and the payoff doesn’t come for years sometimes.

It’s not an easy sell, right? There are easier things to sell than FDR, like a shit-sicle, right? ….So how did I do it?”



After a long discussion, Molyneux reveals the truth. He’s selling happiness.

1:11:34 Everybody wants to be happy, and when they see somebody who’s happy they’re like—gotta get me some of that! Whether they like it or not. That’s the irresistible gravity well of FDR. I know that the gravity well for human beings is happiness. And so I’ve just been relentlessly fucking happy—and honestly so—from the beginning. And I know that no matter how much people hate what I’m talking about, they are irresistibly drawn back because it’s what they want.

1:18:48 If you believe it, then there’s nothing you need to do—there’s no technique. Techniques mean nothing, right? This is where this Anthony Robbins and I…well, there’s some superficial similarity…




Molyneux knows that all of his podcasts—particularly the videos—must show him not only authoritative and in command, but above all happy. Happy, as if the secret to true happiness has filled him up inside—the very same image any tent-revival evangelist wants to portray. And although he claims the happiness is genuine, it is disingenuous for him to claim that a little showmanship isn’t also going on.

…the first and deepest attachment Molyneux wants you to make with FreeDomain Radio is emotional. Considering the topic we’re discussing right now, does that seem troubling to you?

Funny. In the end—for all the talk of first principles and logic—the very first and deepest attachment Molyneux wants you to make with FreeDomain Radio is an emotional one. And the YouTube character he has created is the “happy ambassador” there to lead you in.

Considering the topic we’re discussing right now, does that seem troubling to you?

The self-made professor

But there is more to the “third persuasion” than emotional manipulation.

Once again, there’s this issue of authority.

As I documented in Part One of The Promise and Failure of UPB–The Inside Story, Stefan Molyneux has been at war with academia almost since adolescence. He believes that his innovative thinking was rejected and discarded by a system corrupted by cronyism.

In How (Not) to Achieve Freedom, Molyneux writes:

If Bob wants to become an academic professor, he knows the degree to which people have to flatter, bow and scrape before Prof.Doug—since without a “mentor,” he will be unable to make his way up through the ranks toward the Holy Grail of tenure. Bob will have to get research assignments, good grades, recommendations, TA positions—all of the goodies that professors can bestow upon “worthwhile” students.

A man who is given an unjust privilege very quickly begins to mistake that privilege for his own virtue. Politicians, kings and bureaucrats are all surrounded by flatterers, toadies and hangers on—all clamoring to grab a wet meal from the bloody buffet of state power.

And what a tasty meal academia is! Six figure salaries, no shortage of time off, a dozen or so hours of classes a week is considered overtime, it is almost impossible to get fired—it is a wonderfully sweet deal for those who can get a hold of it, assuming that they do not mind selling their souls for the privilege of feeding their bodies.

The reason that professors have any power over their students is because those professors hold the key to a golden door—a key that is not given to them voluntarily, based upon the quality of their teaching as judged by their students, but rather because they have weaseled and toadied their own way up the slick rope of unjust privilege.



But while Molyneux was unsuccessful as an academic and clearly carries wounds from his rejection, he did learn one valuable thing. He learned the language of academia. He learned how to carry and present himself with gravitas. How to appear to be the learned professor in a university of his own making:

Well, fortunately, I myself have proven that you can stimulate people’s interest in higher education without holding aloft the false and unjust prizes of marks, reference letters and tenure!

I have gotten tens of thousands of people interested in philosophy, economics, art, religion and psychology—and I cannot offer them any career advancement (or even tax receipts)! I cannot offer them a degree, or tenure, or anything else of that sort! In fact, some of the ideas that I talk about can be actively uncomfortable for people, since I aim to take philosophy out of the ivory tower and put it into action in people’s lives, which can be enormously difficult.



Now, there’s nothing wrong with being an autodidact. And there’s nothing wrong with sharing what you’ve learned. But it just so happens that a few other things happen among university academics (when they’re not busy weaseling and toadying their way up the slick rope of unjust privilege) and even respectable autodidacts.

In the university, you actually have to prove what you’re talking about. You can’t just “borrow” someone else’s idea without saying where you got it, make a few changes, and call it your own. You have to be prepared to have your works scrutinized by your peers to make sure it’s credible.

It’s so much better when you have your very own university! You can do all of the above and more. You can write your philosophical masterpiece (UPB) for your eager students—never bothering to cite a single reference or influence—and declare any outsiders who criticize it “trolls” and “nitpickers.”

You can “borrow” a legitimate idea like True Self/False Self and pretend it’s your own. (Although, as a contributor to Liberating Minds named Argent deftly pointed out, the True Self/False Self idea has undergone some strange and unscientific transformations at FDR.)

Molyneux takes on all the trappings of a learned professor without ever having to worry about issues like proof, peer review, or plagiarism.

Molyneux takes on all the trappings of a learned professor without ever having to worry about issues like proof, peer review, or plagiarism.

He replaces all such concerns with the force of his personality.

And simple persuasion.

OK…so what? So some guy uses a little emotional manipulation to get you to come to his site and acts like a college professor (even when he’s just making stuff up). No reason to call Scotland Yard or Interpol, yet, right?

No, but it certainly is concerning to examine the influence of a 40+ year-old faux professor personally intervening in the family lives of his admiring (and usually much younger) followers. A man who presents completely untested psychological theories, practices, and guidelines as if they were the proven product of years of research, when the truth is he made most of them up off the top of his head.

And this is where things can go from kind of quirky or kind of funny to kind of destructive.

Let’s revisit our old friend FDR 1019 (formerly FDR Premium 79) We Are Full of Treasure (love this podcast!)

Again, Molyneux is talking to his two closest followers. He is recalling with pride that they were the first to “try out” his theories.

1:09:07: (Molyneux) G., I think you were the first defoo, weren’t you?

(N.) No, that was me.

(Molyneux ) That was N.?

(N.) Yep.

(Molyneux ) Oh, OK. Sorry! Well, N.! Well, that’s fantastic, right! Well, you tried and gave it a shot and then we recently had when J.’s mom died [ed. I suspect that Molyneux talked J. out of attending the funeral] and we had conversations about that.

Because like…these are all things where people put a lot of trust—not so much in me—but in philosophy. But in the way that I communicate it. And some of it is trust in me because I’m saying ‘Yeah, you’ll defoo and even if they get hit by a bus you really won’t feel regret, you’ll feel relief.’



Now, these are Molyneux’s earliest followers, yet the empirical evidence in this podcast demonstrates that their lives have apparently remained unchanged since the day they first followed his advice. They still appear to be disconnected from their families, have few (if any) friends outside FDR, etc. By their own admission in this podcast, they still can’t find anyone worthwhile to talk to outside of FDR.

I wonder. Did they think at the time they were following the advice of a leading family psychologist or did they know they were guinea pigs for some internet guru’s untested theories? They should have, because the internet guru isn’t shy about admitting it!

1:06:42 (Molyneux, to G.) You’re like the heat shield on the front of this space shuttle that everyone hopes is gonna hold up, right? Cause you’re the big guinea pig. I can say whatever I want, right? I’m through it all, right? But you’re the big, fucking guinea pig going through all this shit, right?

(G.) That’s true.

(Molyneux) So, you’ve been this total crucifixion dude in this conversation from the very beginning. Everyone’s like ‘hey, let’s give it to G, he’ll eat anything, right?’ (laughter) ‘I don’t know if Stef’s theory’s any good; let’s talk about G. trying it out and see if he survives!’ (more laughter) Right? You’re like the trial for this whole goddamned philosophy, right?

(G.) That’s true. To a certain extent, anyway.

(Molyneux) Yeah, to a certain extent. And then there’s N. right behind. And I’m saying, ‘well, G. can’t do much in the dating world at the moment but let’s see how this philosophy helps N. with his dating life.’ Right? (laughs) It’s just…I shouldn’t laugh because I know parts of it weren’t funny but…I mean the amount that you guys have added to the credibility of this conversation…I don’t just sit here and say, ‘Oh, let’s invest a lot into these guys because, fuck, I don’t know—I work from home and I need people to talk to, right?’



I find that to be amazing. It certainly flies in the face of what I thought I knew about legitimate therapy: That the goal is to reach an end at some point. That you’re guided along that path by a practitioner who in turn would be guided by years of research and understanding.

But there is none of that here. In this case, these two “founding members” of FDR are being encouraged by Molyneux to show pride in the fact that they followed his completely untested theories. It is apparently considered a good thing that they’ve remained in the “community” where they are held up as successes (solely because—when asked—they will say they are happy). Happy declarations aside, they remain at FDR with apparently most of the same complaints they’ve had all along. They are “successes,” despite having made no apparent progress in their family-less and largely friend-less lives.

[Aside: Please, do take my opinion with a huge grain of salt---I'm only telling you what I see and hear them say as I'm looking in from the outside. Still, the entire podcast we've been discussing centers around G's loneliness, his extreme frustration that---despite having moved to a new location---he still can't find one person outside of FDR worthy for him to talk to. If that is simply a side-effect or actually part of being a happy FDR success, then so be it!]

Seriously, however, it must be one of the most awesomely master-criminal tricks of all time that a guy on the internet convinced people that he is qualified to coach people through such extreme actions!

Let’s look at another one. When the now-famous, then-17-year-old Tom tried to RTR with his mother, it didn’t go well. As Tom says in this podcast.

1:48:29 I sort of confronted my mum about my childhood in a…sort of like an RTR conversation, except before I really understood RTR so it didn’t make sense and…it least it wasn’t productive.



However, based on what Tom also said on the FDR forum, he either tried it again or remembers the attempt a little differently. Tom later posted this:

Speaking from very recent experience, namely a RTR conversation with my mother, i tried to feel the attacks she throws at me by being honest and curious, and was truely amazed at the results. If i needed any validation of my strong feelings of rejection from her, it was the pure, mind blowing shock and horror of realising how sardonic, passive agressive and manipulative a person can be when you share your feelings and ideas. Ok, so it was terribly unplanned, i was acting on impulse, recovering from a 24 hour bug, and had steered the conversation from political ideas to our relationship. I ended up tripping all her alarm bells and defences aimed at keeping me a ‘good little robot’ as i blundered clumsily into the elephant in the room. As if it could get worse, half a year before i can possibly escape this prison, i positively emphasised the importance of the way out . . .



Here is Molyneux’s response:

If there was a prize for the first RTR conversation with a parent, I’d wish we didn’t have to give it to you…[Molyneux inserts "hug" icon here.]

Can you tell us more about the actual conversation? What was actually said? Try to write it down while it’s still fresh, before your false self starts rewriting…



So it’s the same story again. Once upon a time, Molyneux made up some philosophical theory of relationships. (Yes, the same one that was later completely destroyed by two of his forum members—too late to help Tom, however.) He wrote an authoritative-sounding book on it that includes a complex “relationship exercise.” He waited until a naïve, trusting 17-year-old came across it and decided to try it out on his own mother. Molyneux gave him no training and as a result the 17-year-old fumbled through the “conversation.” The young man ambushed his mother with the exercise just as the book prescribes—a tactic that can only result in confusion and annoyance. The exercise ended in dismal failure, as everyone is driven further apart. It is only then that the 17-year-old finds out no one has ever tried it before him.

Horrible, right? Are you crazy? It’s super-awesome!

Stunningly, Molyneux actually declares the entire painful misadventure a success and starts handing out hugs! And why not? Molyneux has admitted many times that RTR isn’t really about about improving relationships, but getting closure on them.

But that was just one more thing Tom-the-RTR-guinea-pig didn’t know about Molyneux’s theory.

Still, Molyneux wants to learn more about his “success”—so he breathlessly asks Tom, “Can you tell us more about the conversation? What was said?” It’s so exciting. Someone finally tried out another one of his theories!

One would think that at least one of these members, upon learning they had been guinea pigs, would have reacted with fierce anger: “What?! Are you barking mad? You just made all of that stuff up??? Don’t you realize I completely changed the course of my life and destroyed a few others on your say-so? Now you tell me you were conducting a trial with me? What kind of person are you?!!”

Strangely, none did. Apparently, none ever have. And every outcome, especially those that result in separation from family and friends, is treated as a resounding success.

Is this the fourth persuasion?

You have defooed your family and friends. You may be alone now. You can’t meet anyone outside of FDR worthy to talk to. You spend nights waiting in the FDR chat room for someone who is. You wait for the annual FDR barbecue to see your new friends in person or you scan the site for FDR “meet-ups.” Yet, however bleak that may sound to others, clearly Molyneux’s made-up theories have been a resounding success.

Because this is the zen-like happiness you’ve always dreamed of.



So, what have we learned today?

That QuestEon really loves the lengthy posts?

No, it’s actually drudgery to take on a subject this size! However, here’s what I got out of it:

  • The official FDR story is wrong. FDR is not a haven for the abused. It exists to persuade you that you were.
  • The true FDR belief is that nearly every parent around the world is abusive.
  • Parents are abusive because of the way they think more than their actions.
  • The man running the FDR show does so through a pastiche of ideas he “borrows” from both sages and crackpots along with his own wild, untested, unproven psychological theories—much of which he simply makes up based on the barest of evidence.
  • He persuades his followers to accept them by creating a “character” for them to follow—a happy, genial, learned professor.
  • Based on the above, his closest followers completely disrupt their their own lives as well as those of their family and friends, often painfully so.

Does all of that make FDR a destructive cult?

Well, maybe not.

Does it make it destructive?

(Your answer goes here.)

It turns out we have one more layer of FDR to peel back before we’re finished and—believe it or not—it’s a little bit worse than the previous two.

Now it’s time for us to consider actual evidence of conversion; i.e., actual personality changes of FDR members. Is this the evidence that suggests FDR is a destructive cult? We’ll start our exploration in Part Three of this series.

Click below to e-mail or DIGG, etc., this article! As always, I welcome your comments!

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Also, please consider sharing the link to my article on the FDR member suicide. I'm still wondering why not a single FDR member has acknowledged the tragic passing of a fellow member.

The article may not help anyone decide whether Stefan Molyneux's methods contributed to a member suicide, but it's required reading for anyone who believes Molyneux's methods are helpful.

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