On June 21, the blog Molyneux Revealed published a shocking post—A Suicide Caused by Stefan Molyneux and Christina Papadopoulos and FreeDomainRadio.
The post contained an email that had been written by a grieving parent. In the email, the parent recounted the story of his son (who he refers to as “Sam”).
“Sam” had become enamored of the psychology/philosophy of FDR, abandoned his family and friends, and subsequently—alone and homeless—took his own life.
I have confirmed at least the above facts. They are true. The family prefers to stay anonymous for now and I’ll respect their wishes.
Edmund Burke, the blogger at Molyneux Revealed who is himself a defooed parent, cites the incident as one more proof that “the evil perpetuated by Stephan (sic) Molyneux and his wife Christina Papadopoulos is lethal.” The grieving parent also believes that—as a result of the defoo—his son had “no family and support structure to turn back to” in his most urgent time of need.
However, beyond the verifiable facts of the incident, we are mostly left with conjecture. And as always, people will rely on their own biases to decide which conjecture suits their interpretation of the story best.
Did the story play out as “Sam’s” father claims? Or was the young man actually troubled in other ways?
It is true that “Sam” crossed paths with Stefan Molyneux’s FDR and the psychology that Molyneux claims is based on his wife’s theories. “Sam” was apparently a member when he took his own life. And so the question lingers: Is there any degree of responsibility Stefan Molyneux and Christina share for this tragedy?
The life-preserver argument
I can’t answer that. But I do plan to make the question even harder to answer for some who read this—especially those who suspect that “Sam” was troubled in some other way. Perhaps, they suggest, FDR is without responsibility here.
Perhaps FDR is what its members claim it to be—a life preserver thrown onto troubled waters.
Perhaps—for all we know—FDR was the last positive influence in “Sam’s” life.
To the contrary, I believe that the worse your problems are, the less helpful FDR is likely to be.
Unfortunately for that argument, there are too many other facts about FDR that have been previously uncovered and documented at length by FDR Liberated . They have relevance here and are not so easy to dismiss.
Whenever Molyneux and FDR are criticized for influencing a defoo in what appears to be a relatively normal family, the following “life-preserver” defense is used as a reply (in some form or another): “Maybe so, but some FDR members had genuinely trouble childhoods. They suffered from severe child abuse or other negative events in their lives. Even if FDR has been overreaching at times, has it not been beneficial for these members?”
And so the argument becomes that if “Sam” was truly troubled in other ways, Stefan Molyneux’s FDR community bears no responsibility and may have been beneficial.
After years of FDR observation, I have come to the conclusion that the previous statement seems impossible to support. To the contrary, I believe that the worse your problems are, the less helpful FDR is likely to be.
The FDR “defoo process” is at best inadequate and at worst dangerous. Separating from someone close to you, especially a parent, requires a great deal of personal analysis (often with a therapist) before , knowledgeable guidance during , and a positive, healthy plan after the separation. Molyneux/FDR fails on all three counts, as the exhaustive evidence on this site demonstrates. At FDR, separation from both parents is actually an impersonal solution recommended to all (see this article as well) even if you claim “but my parents were nice,” the separation is often achieved by “fogging” or even lying to the family, and—since defooing appears to be an end in itself—no true aftercare is apparently offered, only the admonition to “stay strong” and refuse all contact.
Molyneux claims that defoos occur under a therapist’s care, but that is only after a combined and constant diet of chats, Skypes, forum conversations, podcasts, and books have convinced the member that he or she is an abuse victim. To the extent that FDR members actually employ therapists, I am confident that the therapists themselves are rarely exposed to the full nature and teachings of FDR.
FDR “family psychology” is at its very worst when families are most dysfunctional. The practice of defooing makes FDR potentially destructive for people from average or slightly dysfunctional families but even more dangerous for those from truly troubled ones. As Tolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” To determine the healthiest course of action for anyone in a troubled family, a trained therapist needs to assess that particular family. Perhaps the father is a toxic personality but there is hope to build a support system with the mother, a sibling, or even a sympathetic aunt. However, as I have demonstrated in my article on Splitting, Molyneux has no patience for any of that. To him, every family problem is essentially the same, as well as the solution. All parents are all bad and must be discarded. Typically, if the siblings cannot or will not follow you, then they are discarded as well. In the end, everyone goes.
Therefore, those with the most troubled childhoods, those who might have the chance to unfold, understand, and maybe contextualize that childhood through a continued, healthy, therapist-guided connection to some family member are denied that path, thanks to the binary, all-or-nothing approach to family relationships offered by Molyneux. Instead, their future will be the same as Molyneux’s, to dwell on discarded families and friends they remember from afar, separated by time and space, inventing one “insight” after another about the hurts they suffered and how they were damaged by them. They drag their past along behind them, but take no actual steps toward happiness.
Molyneux’s one-size-fits-all answer to family dysfunction can be difficult for the average family to weather, as they pull together and wait to reunite with their defooed son or daughter. It can be explosive to the truly troubled family. I sometimes wonder if there have been strained marriages that might have been repairable with time and counseling, which were instead pushed past the breaking point because the stress of the child’s defoo was simply more than they could bear?
Even if an entire family truly is all bad and their behavior toxic, demented, or criminal, FDR still remains a far-from-adequate solution for the reasons to follow.
Most of what FDR apologists tell you about defooing simply isn’t true. Defooing is represented by Molyneux as “taking a break” from a destructive relationship, most often an abusive parent. In actual practice, defooing is typically a permanent discarding of all family members and friends. Many (I suspect most) FDR True Believers have defooed everyone in their former lives or at least pretend they have done so. According to the father’s email on Molyneux Revealed , the young man who took his own life did just that. I can’t entirely verify that part of the email (I don’t know all of his friends) but I have no reason to doubt it. It’s a typical event. I would be more surprised if it had not occurred. It is expected .
FDR members still struggle with the truth about defooing. In fact, many of the less-committed FDR Forum members themselves are unaware of it and would sincerely and vehemently claim that my assertions are false, even though those assertions are largely taken from Molyneux’s own words and they see such defooers every time they log on to the forum.
Sometimes they seek confirmation, as this thread reveals, in which a poster wants to know exactly when one should discard people. One member answers her by incautiously quoting from a Molyneux podcast: “If you are going to have values then you should really act as if they are important otherwise you should not bother having them…………………..you need to act consistently,” before following up with “If you are ‘friend’ (Friend of Virtue) with another person that hold opposite values than yours I don’t think that makes a lot of sense.”
His reply is the essence of the true FDR stance, which is “every virtuous FDR member should defoo, and defoo means discarding everyone.” A more seasoned True Believer simply asks the original poster to discuss the matter off-line with Molyneux or him. They do not want this discussion on the public board.
Molyneux himself has wisely not weighed in on the conversation. He doesn’t need to, since he has already answered the question as shown here. If Molyneux were to chime in with a different answer now, it would reveal that his “ethics” are situational and his views possibly hypocritical. Perhaps that is why he is so much more comfortable offering a “word cloud” non-explanation via Skype that he can later turn into a podcast.
Why is all of this important? Because casting off all friends and family leaves one without a support system. And the more troubled you are, the more you need one.
Pop psychologist and recovery-movement darling John Bradshaw (from whom Molyneux appears to have “borrowed” many of his own psychology theories) advocates creating a “Family of Choice” to fill that need. Molyneux has never seriously counseled his followers on creating such a system. Perhaps that is because Molyneux himself appears to be perfectly content with only a wife, child, and the admiration of his followers. Perhaps it is because he realizes that any overt attempt to evolve the Freedomain Radio “community” into a Family of Choice for its members will tend to confirm the cult accusations that already surround it. Or perhaps Molyneux is like the progenitors of the many single-parent families straining the US welfare system—happy to “father” his new defooers but not willing to take responsibility!
Nevertheless, as I have quoted on this site, Molyneux’s closest followers already state that they cannot find anyone outside of FDR “worth talking to.” (See The Self-Made Professor section in this article.) After following Molyneux’s advice and discarding their families, FDR has truly become their Family of Choice.
The only difference, of course, is that this Family of Choice requires donations, can ban you, and cease all communication with you if you fall out of favor, leaving you without either Family of Origin or Family of Choice.
FDR appears to be the worst possible environment for those truly suffering from depression or other mood disorder. The unavoidable fact is that Molyneux has no apparent expertise in psychology, psychiatry, or neuroscience. He is quite proud of his logic of love and relationships, even though that logic has been shredded by his own forum members.
When Molyneux’s authority in areas related to psychology or relationships is challenged, he often cites his wife, Christina, as his inspiration. She runs a small family counseling clinic and is a Diplomate in Child Studies—a degree that appears to rank academically slightly above a Bachelor’s degree and slightly below a Master’s degree. She once provided free counseling to FDR members, which were recorded and offered as “Ask a Therapist” podcasts at FDR. Without warning or explanation, nearly every podcast in which her voice was heard has been removed from FDR. Any post on FDR asking for an explanation about this removal is quickly deleted from the forum. She is currently being investigated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario for possible ethical violations. [Ed. note: After this article was written, the College found Christina guilty of professional misconduct.]
Despite his wife’s profession, I suspect that the authority on psychology in the Molyneux household is Stefan himself. He is the one who releases wide-ranging podcasts on mental health, relationships, the damages of child abuse, parenting, and the dangers of neuropharmaceuticals.
No FDR members ever question how Molyneux gained the expertise to lecture them on anything related to mental health. You can find a recent “roast” of Molyneux on YouTube in which economist Bob Murphy taunts Molyneux’s sudden acquisition of professorial authority with the quip, “Stef Molyneux is a world-renowned philosopher, etc. His former job was fixing hard drives.”
This is not far from the truth.
What is not at all funny is that Molyneux speaks with great (assumed) authority as he offers a blanket condemnation of psychiatric drugs and the universal misdiagnosis of mental illness. Because of the authoritative tone he strikes during his podcasts, many of his followers believe that his opinions on mental health matter—not only more than their own but also more than actual clinicians who have conducted actual scientific research. And so when he says “There is no such thing as mental illness,” they believe him.
Even though he has many times described his mother as mentally ill.
Even though whatever demons still haunt Molyneux today are quite possibly the result of abuse or neglect he suffered from his mentally ill mother.
Molyneux’s followers believe him in his theories on psychology, mood disorders, and psychiatric drugs because he sounds very scientific and frequently refers to the scientific method. However, as I have shown on this site, his own psychological theories are based on a black-and-white notion of human relations and have been developed without anything even resembling the scientific method. He has used his members as unwitting guinea pigs to put his theories into practice and celebrates their “success” irrespective of the outcome.
The fact is, if you are truly suffering from clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or some other disorder, then FDR is the very last place you want to be.
The questions. And that little voice….
It was into this environment—this community—that “Sam” wandered many months ago.
It was into this community that ‘Sam’ wandered many months ago.
Those who have biases and conjectures about this tragedy will probably continue to circle the questions we can’t answer:
- Was “Sam’s” childhood “idyllic” as his father says?
- Was he the victim of some abuse or problem we’re not being told about?
- Was he suffering from some kind of post traumatic disorder from his military service?
- Did he lose his religion and find the alternative unbearable?
- Was he suffering from clinical depression or some other mental health issue that Stefan Molyneux doesn’t believe in?
- Was he a perfectly normal, average young man who was seduced by a philosophy and cultish community that ultimately left him in utter despair?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. I don’t know if anyone does, although I know the people with biases and conjectures will try. Any of them are reasonable guesses.
Clearly, both the father and the blogger at Molyneux Revealed believe that FDR set “Sam’s” suicide in motion. Without FDR—they appear to claim—there would have been no tragedy. Their position isn’t implausible, but I can’t agree without knowing more. However, it is not my business or place to know more.
I wish only peace and healing for “Sam’s” family.
The only thing I do know is that there is an annoying little voice in the back of my head as I think about their accusation. “Sam” would not be the first person I’ve heard about or known who found his/her involvement in FDR to be profoundly unhealthy. In fact, it was out of concern for such members that I wrote this article months before “Sam’s” tragedy occurred.
The annoying little voice keeps reminding me that all my research and logic suggests that the more troubled you are, the less likely you are to find the answers you seek in the FDR “community.” In short, if “Sam” was wrestling with serious problems, then my concern over his FDR involvement increases.
And so I believe that even if it could be proven that Stefan Molyneux, Christina, and the Freedomain Radio community have no culpability whatsoever, then they at least play the role of one of life’s most cruel and tragic comedies in the story of a young son who committed suicide.
A sad and unforgettable story about the day that life—in the form of FDR—threw a drowning man a brick.
Postscript: After the initial post on Molyneux Revealed , I have been watching the FDR forum for some kind of outpouring of grief or at least acknowledgement that one of their more ardent members took his own life. If such a thread exists, I haven’t found it. Is it possible for someone to become completely enrolled in the philosophy of the community, to absorb its podcasts, defoo everyone, and yet still be so isolated that no one is aware when a tragedy such as this occurs?
Or—my darker thought—is the entire incident being kept off the forum simply because it might be bad for business?
I sincerely hope that isn’t so.
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