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 continued 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.

In Part Three, we began to consider evidence of conversion. This is the darkest aspect of FDR. Have some members been persuaded into a personality change by convincing them to change their beliefs about their parents and childhood memories? In that article, I produced two possible examples, Tom (subject of the Guardian’s exposé of FDR) and Molyneux’s wife, Christina.

Part Four continues with an identification and analysis of the tools and techniques of conversion in constant use at FreeDomain Radio. In addition, it considers some difficult questions. If personality changes are occurring, what role does Stefan Molyneux (and his wife) play?




Part 4: The tools of conversion

Let’s reground ourselves a bit here. The idea of “personality conversion” can seem dark and frightening—the stuff of secret military operations and mysterious cabals. When people immediately reject the notion that FDR is a destructive cult (if it is), or any similar group, it’s almost always because they can’t accept the possibility that personality conversion is going on right in front of them.

Why? Because most people seem to believe it requires a level of hypnosis or Rasputin-like influence that is simply hard to imagine.

But if you read my overview article on cults, you realize that personality conversion occurs all the time. Further, it’s usually benign, often a good thing, and fairly easy to accomplish (under the right circumstances).

Detecting personality conversion itself is almost the least of our worries. The question is whether it is done in a way that fits all my other criteria for destructive cults.

The question is whether the group is using Undue Influence.

And there’s something else to keep in mind. Although I think I can demonstrate the tools of personality conversion that are in constant use at FDR, it doesn’t mean that Molyneux is consciously employing them. I’ve never seen any evidence that he has any dishonorable intentions. Instead, what I call “tools” are perhaps simply powerful by-products of his own personality or, simply, who he is.

I mention that because the second reason people immediately reject the notion that a suspected group is a destructive cult is because they can’t imagine or see evidence of evil intent. However, in cults—as elsewhere in life—laudable intentions do not always have positive results. I see no evidence of bad intent with Mr. Molyneux—in fact, quite the contrary.

With that in mind, let’s charge forward. In our previous article we took a close look at the conversions of Tom and Christina. Soon, we’ll see more.

For all of them, what were the underlying tools that changed their beliefs about their childhood memories?

It’s time for you to learn the last three “P” words.

After Persuasion comes…Polarizing, Planting, and Pluralizing!

At FDR, the three tools of conversion are the continued application of polarizing, planting, and pluralizing. And just like persuasion, once you notice them, you see them everywhere at FDR.

Once you notice them, you can barely see anything else.

Polarizing—Notice that when evaluating parents, there are almost no “grey areas” at FDR. Until recently, I didn’t have to use the qualifier “almost” but you will now occasionally find during discussions what appears to be vague support for parents.

That’s all a smokescreen.

Molyneux has made his position quite clear—nearly all parents are horribly bad and your childhood was a prison. These are stated beliefs he has never retracted. In fact, the main reason for the “But my parents were nice” podcasts is to convince you your parents were evil, in case you don’t “get it.”

This attitude is the “atmosphere” of FDR. You begin breathing it from the second you begin participating. It is either the main point or subtext in podcast after podcast. And should you have the opportunity to converse with Molyneux himself, he will use all of his rhetorical skills as a debater and would-be novelist to craft the most extreme, toxic, emotional image possible to convince you your parents are evil in the extreme.

I have already captured Tom’s “polarization” in Molyneux, the BBC, and the Truth and in the previous article in this series. Is it trivializing for me to say that Tom grew up in a home where his father sometimes threw tantrums in his office and yelled at the family cats?

Perhaps (although it fits the facts as Tom revealed them).

In fact, if the outcome weren’t so tragic, Molyneux’s histrionics are so extreme they come dangerously close to a hilarious outburst one might hear in a Monty Python sketch.

But was it overdramatizing for Molyneux to use those same facts as the basis for his claim that Tom grew up in a “fucking gulag” with “people who might as well be spewing sulfuric acid into the air“? Or any of the other horrific declarations I noted in article?

In my opinion, without question. This is classic polarizing, so prevalent at FDR that members barely even notice it anymore, any more than fish notice water.

In fact, if the outcome weren’t so tragic, Molyneux’s histrionics are so extreme they come dangerously close to a hilarious outburst one might hear in a Monty Python sketch.

It is impossible to completely understand Molyneux without understanding his tendency toward absolutism, particularly when it comes to parents. In his world, it is impossible for you to have had loving parents unless they share Molyneux’s ideas of morality. Therefore, they were prison guards. They were not able to treat you with curiosity, kindness, or take joy in your happiness. Nope—in his words they were simply engaged in “guilt, shame, withdrawal, criticism, bribery, bullying, manipulation—the usual crap that has passed for parenting throughout history.”

In those words—even though Molyneux has never met you—he believes that he has described your childhood.

Molyneux personally sees and has now trained his followers to see nothing but the most sinister attempts at guilt and manipulation behind every letter a parent sends to their defooed child. All actions, and all intents, are polarized.

Planting—In my naive early days of studying the FreeDomain Radio “community,” I searched podcasts hoping to find one where Molyneux tells a caller point-blank to defoo, as if it were some kind of holy grail. Ultimately, I did come across one instance but it was long after I had stopped actively looking.

By that time, I had realized that what I was looking for had been right in front of me the whole time.

Consider this. I suspect that on one level it must be very difficult for Molyneux—who fervently believes in the “positive” aspects of defooing—to hold back from specifically insisting on it when he is talking to his members. He “knows” they would benefit from it.

But, practically speaking, I’m certain he and Christina both realized at some point that literally encouraging individual members to discard their families and friends could have unfortunate legal implications, not to mention costing Christina her license.

But there’s a Plan B. If you can’t tell, you suggest. You steer. You plant “theories” and “observations” over and over until your subject begins to embrace them, almost as if the ideas had originated with him or her.

For someone as persuasive as Molyneux, Plan B is just as good, if not better. A good salesman can’t/doesn’t order you to buy the car, either. He makes you want it. As Molyneux has inadvertently revealed, that is his goal whenever he conducts his listener “convos.”

All Molyneux needs to do is continue to pepper his callers with his “theories” until he leads them right where he wants them to go. I detailed a very unsettling example of how Molyneux applied that technique to Tom’s call, covered in the previous article.

Molyneux actually admitted his use of suggestive planting while interviewing radical fringe psychologist Daniel Mackler. During the conversation, Molyneux offered his view of the therapist’s role, which also happens to be the definition of the Worst. Therapist. Ever:

12:04 The therapist is assumed to be an expert, has training, and has a goal in mind which is sort of revealed over time, which he’s leading the person toward, the patient towards, on a long-term basis. It’s a series of questions which, in a sense, the therapist is asking because he believes he already knows the answer.



This is stunningly irresponsible and dangerous. Legitimate therapists are strongly trained against such a practice during their education. It can lead to treatment disasters.

Yet this is the role Molyneux plays in his convos. It cannot be overstated how damaging an untrained therapist can be when he or she employs such a practice. Incompetent therapists—using popularized texts such as “Courage to Heal” or works by John Bradshaw—have destroyed families, shattered their patients’ lives, and faced significant lawsuits through inadvertent planting and suggestion.

But that is Molyneux’s practice. He already “knows” you were crippled in some way by your parents—he only needs to lead you to it. So instead of truly listening to a caller as a trained therapist might, he offers his “theories” about the “monsters” who raised you. In his mind, he’s guiding you—as he revealed to Mackler—because he already knows the answer. NOTE—when listening to a Molyneux convo for instances of planting, listen for any variation of the phrase, “You’ve known it all along.” It’s a dead give-away.

Members who are led to a defoo in this way typically believe they came to the decision on their own, even when it appears to be the last thing on their minds prior to joining FDR. The power of suggestion is so strong, they often believe Molyneux played no role whatsoever. Or if he did, he simply opened their eyes to the truth that, internally, “they knew all along.”

Chilling.

Pluralizing—If a caller has a problem or conflicted relationship with one parent, it is a stated goal of Molyneux’s to ensure that the caller realizes that both parents are evil.

If people would recognize ‘defooing’ for what it truly is, they would see the unmistakable similarity between defooing and the act of discarding one’s prior life that occurs in destructive cults.

This is a significant hurdle in the cascade of separation. By the time the member has defooed, he or she has discarded not only parents, but almost always siblings, the extended family, and long-time friends. Christina defooed the entire Greek community along with her family. It’s unfortunate that people often associate the word defoo with parents only. If they would recognize it for what it truly is—discarding your entire world as you know it, one would see the unmistakable similarity between defooing and the act of discarding one’s prior life that occurs in destructive cults.

But before you can be convinced to do any of that, the bond must first be broken between you and both parents. Molyneux’s reasoning is simple. There’s simply no such thing as one good parent and one bad parent—and he’ll prove it to you.

As he points out in Podcast 913 (Youth, History, and the Future)

1:03:53 We have this habit when we look at—and this is Family Mythology 101, right? But we have this habit when we look at our families or when people talk to us about our families of—psychologically it’s called “splitting.” And splitting is, “I have a good dad and I have a bad dad.” We see this in fairy tales all the time. “My good mother died and I’m raised by this wicked stepmother”—it’s just splitting, right?

And we do this to our parents. We say “I have a mean dad and a nice mom,” right? Or “I have a nice dad and a mean mom.” Or “my dad was abusive but my mom did the best she could,” right? So we identify the negative traits of one partner in the marriage and then we make excuses for the other spouses behavior or lack of intervention and so on.

But I totally guarantee you that there is no “good” person in a marriage, right? There is no “bad” person in a marriage, right? They are equals. It is a system. One could not do it without the other. Your dad would not have anyone to abuse if your mom didn’t have children with him. So he couldn’t have done it without her. She created the situation. And she couldn’t have done whatever nefarious psychological stuff she was up to without him. So we have this desire to say “well, there’s this bad person and then there’s this better person.” This is your mom’s story, right? Which is why she takes glee or takes pleasure in the fact that you don’t love your dad that much or whatever, right?”

But there is no “good” person in a marriage. There is no “bad” person. It’s equal, right? You can’t slice and dice it up that way. It is a system.


When the polarizing, planting, and pluralizing is done, we have a brand-new FDR recruit, ready to go.

The power of this dangerous theme, often used by Molyneux as an absolute truth (in at least one podcast he literally said, “we all know there is no such thing as one bad parent and one good parent, right?”) cannot be overstated.

It is at this point that Molyneux is able to throw a monkey wrench into the entire family, which, again, has been his stated goal all along and his stated reason for creating FreeDomain Radio in the first place.

When the polarizing, planting, and pluralizing is done, we have a brand-new FDR recruit, ready to go.

Until next time…

Stefan Molyneux said something in that above passage that was so amazing, it totally derailed this article and I spun off into a tangent! That diversion has now been deleted from this post and turned into its own article, which you can read right here. So, let’s just pause here for now.




In my next article, we will revisit the above podcast and the member being converted (along with a few others). We’ll see how polarizing, planting, and pluralizing are in constant use within the FDR “community.” See you then!

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

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