McBurners -- Burning Man as Cult and/or Franchise

All things outside of Burning Man.
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TestesInSac
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Post by TestesInSac » Mon Oct 27, 2003 12:54 pm

I find it questionable, the notion that all those criteria must be met for cult-hood to be satisfied.
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Booker
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Post by Booker » Mon Oct 27, 2003 1:48 pm

The original article went further than most to rationalize the author's lack of organization or desire or whatever to get to the playa. You could apply the cult label to just about any group of people at least minimally organized to achieve some goal, according to those criteria. I sorta wonder why you'd spend your day that way, but you could.

When I greeted, I said "Welcome to Black Rock City! How the hell are ya?" and similar things. I don't believe I ever called it home. People responded positively. I heard others say "welcome home." People responded positively. It all seemed to work out OK. BTW, during the training/orientation, no one suggested saying that as far as I remember.

That said, I avoided (and will avoid) borrowing the Rainbows' verbiage for a reason. I don't like the dichotomy the phrase draws between BRC and home, as though I'm escaping some nasty place and entering some paradise when I pass through the gate inbound, as though that external environment was responsible for my problems and the perfection of BRC will relieve them all. All of that seems implied in the phrase to me, and it all seems dishonest to me. YMMV, of course.

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stuart
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Post by stuart » Mon Oct 27, 2003 2:05 pm

it seems like the definition of cult implied is 'a group of folks with some heirarchy, attempting to educate followers in some message that you, the definer, find aesthetically displeasing'

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TestesInSac
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Post by TestesInSac » Mon Oct 27, 2003 2:31 pm

stuart wrote:it seems like the definition of cult implied is 'a group of folks with some heirarchy, attempting to educate followers in some message that you, the definer, find aesthetically displeasing'
If you're Microsoft, you think that about the Linux community (loosely used), and vice versa.
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Post by ramen » Mon Oct 27, 2003 4:48 pm

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Kinetic II

Post by Kinetic II » Mon Oct 27, 2003 4:57 pm

That sounds like the P.O. Box for the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, home to the notorious Fred Phelps, Sr., another bad export from Topeka.

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Post by ramen » Mon Oct 27, 2003 5:20 pm

Kinetic II wrote:That sounds like the P.O. Box for the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, home to the notorious Fred Phelps, Sr., another bad export from Topeka.
Fred's on our board of directors.
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Bob
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Post by Bob » Mon Oct 27, 2003 9:44 pm

I wouldn't play the Heaven's Gate card. The core of the group (including a friend of mine) had been Applewhite's roommates for over twenty years. Yeesh.

Burning Man is probably closer to Trekkies on a relative scale of cultishness.

Must be why they keep giving me the red shirt.
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Das Bus
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Post by Das Bus » Mon Oct 27, 2003 11:17 pm

If Burning Man is a cult, well Hot Damn! Sign me up! It's one hell of a fucking party! WhooHoo! And if that statement offends anyone, too bad; "Show us yer tits"!
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Das Bus
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Post by Das Bus » Mon Oct 27, 2003 11:20 pm

And Testes: I just love your little smiley man in the microwave. I can sit and watch that thing blow up over and over again! ; ) (oops! thread drift)
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rogue agent
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Post by rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 8:20 am

"Cult" is an imprecise word, it has a number of meanings depending on your worldview. To evangelical Christians, the Mormons are a cult because of what they believe. To some, the military is a cult because of how they break soldiers down & build them back up to make them follow orders better.

Some say there's no such thing as a cult and we should respect them all as "new religious movements". This poses a couple problems. First, not all cults are religious, ie political cults like the followers of Lyndon LaRouche or Joseph Stalin. And second, some groups are demonstrably destructive & deserve a negative label, ie Solar Temple & Aum Shinrikyo.

So how can we arrive at a meaningful definition? The best definition to me is one that both defines a group by its actions not its beliefs and allows for a continuum of "cultishness" rather than a simple binary "cult/not-cult". The more of the 8 points matches a group's actions, the more like a cult it is.

Fair enough?

RA

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Post by rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 8:29 am

stuart wrote:it seems like the definition of cult implied is 'a group of folks with some heirarchy, attempting to educate followers in some message that you, the definer, find aesthetically displeasing'
Some messages are more than "aesthetically displeasing". Aum Shinrikyo conducted extensive research into bioweapons, chemical warfare & even attempted to acquire a nuclear weapon from Russia. They succeeded in manufacturing & deploying the neurotoxin Sarin in the Tokyo subway. To me a cult is defined by its actions, how it controls its members through deception & coercion.

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Post by rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 8:39 am

Booker wrote:When I greeted, I said "Welcome to Black Rock City! How the hell are ya?" and similar things. I don't believe I ever called it home. People responded positively. I heard others say "welcome home." People responded positively. It all seemed to work out OK. BTW, during the training/orientation, no one suggested saying that as far as I remember.

That said, I avoided (and will avoid) borrowing the Rainbows' verbiage for a reason. I don't like the dichotomy the phrase draws between BRC and home, as though I'm escaping some nasty place and entering some paradise when I pass through the gate inbound, as though that external environment was responsible for my problems and the perfection of BRC will relieve them all. All of that seems implied in the phrase to me, and it all seems dishonest to me. YMMV, of course.
It seems to me that the people who get pissed off about "welcome home" are the ones who have a negative history with Rainbow. I have no history with them, so when someone said it to me at my first Burn I thought it was a BRC tradition & started passing it on. Now that I know that it's not, that many frown on it & why they do, I've stopped saying it. Kind of a shame, cause I liked it until they spoiled it for me.

RA

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Post by rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 9:19 am

Alpha wrote:It appears from the intro to the article that rogue defines a cult as "an organization [that] engages in 'thought reform' or 'mind control'"

I see it but I think it's missing something -- "thought reform" is pretty broad. The correctional system, for instance, is (in theory) designed to reform criminal behavior. Does this mean that system is a cult?
How many of the 8 points does the correctional system meet?

RA

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stuart
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Post by stuart » Tue Oct 28, 2003 11:18 am

rogue, I am just trying to establish a workable definition. Without it this worthwile discussion will be somewhat fruitless. And clearly some folks find the Aum message pleasing or the group would not be around. Wanton destruction is a good trip for some. I realize this is overly academic, but I just want to be sure we are on the same page when tossing around a loaded word like 'cult'. Especially when one of the webster defs I quoted earlier is clearly applicable.

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Post by rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 12:43 pm

stuart wrote:rogue, I am just trying to establish a workable definition.
Without it this worthwile discussion will be somewhat fruitless. And clearly some folks find the Aum message pleasing or the group would not be around.
Wanton destruction is a good trip for some. I realize this is overly academic, but I just want to be sure we are on the same page when tossing around a loaded word like 'cult'. Especially when one of the webster defs I quoted earlier is clearly applicable.
"Cult" is an extremely loaded and imprecise word, but it's the one everybody knows & uses so we're stuck with it. The best I can do is offer what I think is the best workable definition, "a group that meets all or most of Lifton's 8 points". Aesthetics & beliefs have nothing to do with it. It's all about deception & coercion leading to control.

Aum's members didn't do those terrible things just because a message of destruction appealed to them, any more than 900 people drank Koolade in the jungle because they felt it would be a good trip. Their worldviews & thought patterns were radically changed, through deception & coercion, in order to make them more susceptable to control by the leadership, to make their decisions & judgements no longer something under their own control.

Is there something deficient in Lifton's 8 points?

RA

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stuart
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Post by stuart » Tue Oct 28, 2003 3:00 pm

deficient is not the word I would use, it just does not align with webster. It also does not let me slap the lable on fundamentalist christianity like I would like to.

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TestesInSac
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Post by TestesInSac » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:10 pm

stuart wrote:It also does not let me slap the lable on fundamentalist christianity like I would like to.
Don't see why you'd need to. "Fundamentalist" is already almost as pejorative, IMO, as cat-rapist or troll.
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rogue agent
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Post by rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:16 pm

stuart wrote:deficient is not the word I would use, it just does not align with webster. It also does not let me slap the lable on fundamentalist christianity like I would like to.
Webster's definitions fit the historical meanings better than they match the real world, IMO. Your wish to label Christianity a cult highlights the problem. People see a group whose beliefs they don't like or disagree with, and they want to call it a bad name.

There are groups that we can prove are harmful by an objective standard; Aum Shinrikyo, Solar Temple, Church Universal & Triumphant, Stalinism, North Korea, Al Qaeda, the Manson Family. I want to distinguish these from groups that some people don't like. Lifton's 8 points is the tool that lets me do that. It gives me an objective yardstick by which a group can be judged, and saves me from endless arguments over whose beliefs are better or worse than someone else's.

RA

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Bob
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Post by Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 10:13 pm

So in the end, "cult" is just a four-letter word? No thanks.

The beauty of the English language is its broadness.

"Cult" has long been in standard usage in anthropology in a non-pejorative sense.

Maybe the word by itself has come to mean something darker in popular American usage. And it has such a nasty, gutteral sound in American pronunciation -- it almost sounds like Klingon for "breakfast grubs".

Anyhow, the article is titled Lifton's Eight Criteria of Mind Control. Neither existence as a cult, nor cult membership, are by themselves actionable in our legal system -- whereas "mind control" can be argued to be a form of coercion. Lifton teaches in a criminal justice school, btw.
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Post by rogue agent » Wed Oct 29, 2003 8:12 am

Bob wrote:So in the end, "cult" is just a four-letter word? No thanks.

The beauty of the English language is its broadness.

"Cult" has long been in standard usage in anthropology in a non-pejorative sense.

Maybe the word by itself has come to mean something darker in popular American usage. And it has such a nasty, gutteral sound in American pronunciation -- it almost sounds like Klingon for "breakfast grubs".
It's clear to me that nobody is thinking of the anthropological sense, which is better served by the word "sect" anyway (except if you're in Europe, then reverse the two; don't ask me why but it's true).

Everybody, especially the original author, is thinking of the pejorative sense. Given that, it's best to define the word in a way that has meaning such that everybody can agree on which groups belong & which ones don't. Something better than "a group that believes things I don't like", because different people dislike different beliefs.

Lifton's 8 points are wisely recognized within the cult counselling/recovery/activism community as a way to define what it is about any cult that leads to its members being controlled and manipulated into doing such terrible things, without engaging in endless debates over whose interpretation of the Bible is correct.

Nobody would care or disagree that Burners have a set of common beliefs & ritual. The whole point is, is it a controlling thing that can lead to people being abused or manipulated into doing bad things? My answer is no, and I can explain exactly why without ever saying anything about the rituals of Burning Man & the beliefs of its atendees.

RA

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Post by blyslv » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:07 am

The early xtians were considered a cult by the ruling elite of the time. Reading throught this discussion makes me wonder if "cult" needs, at least partially, to be defined in a way that accounts for the current power structure and how the group in question threatens that structure.

But I also said recently that there is no political solution, so never mind.
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Post by Bob » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:33 am

rogue agent --

Try as you might to cut the balls off the English language, it just grows a new one.

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Post by rogue agent » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:56 am

Bob wrote:rogue agent --

Try as you might to cut the balls off the English language, it just grows a new one.
OK, you win. Your definition of "cult" is better than mine. What was yours again?

RA

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stuart
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Post by stuart » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:16 am

Lifton's 8 points are wisely recognized within the cult counselling/recovery/activism community as a way to define what it is about any cult that leads to its members being controlled and manipulated into doing such terrible things, without engaging in endless debates over whose interpretation of the Bible is correct.
you are applying your definition of choice in order to make your claim that BM does not fit the definition. This is kind of a tautology no?

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Post by rogue agent » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:32 am

stuart wrote:you are applying your definition of choice in order to make your claim that BM does not fit the definition. This is kind of a tautology no?
I'm saying that the people who study this stuff use my definition, and I explain why they use it instead of any of the popular ones. People use words they don't understand all the time; just because more people use one definition than another, doesn't make it better.

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Post by Isotopia » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:40 am

just because more people use one definition than another, doesn't make it better.
Oh I wholly agree. Just look at the words 'pussy' and 'clapper.' Clapper is certainly a underutilized word these days compared to the ubiquitous pussy.

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Post by rogue agent » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:53 am

What do these groups have in common?

Aum Shinrikyo
People's Temple (Jonestown)
Solar Temple
Heaven's Gate
Unification Church (Moonies)
Church of Scientology

RA

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Post by Blenderhead » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:19 pm

rogue agent wrote:What do these groups have in common?

Aum Shinrikyo
People's Temple (Jonestown)
Solar Temple
Heaven's Gate
Unification Church (Moonies)
Church of Scientology

RA
At first glance, I can say 3 of them are in desperate need of new members.

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Post by rogue agent » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:22 pm

Blenderhead wrote:At first glance, I can say 3 of them are in desperate need of new members.
3 out of 6. Does that make you half right or a half-wit?

;)

RA

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