How to build an internet cult in 53 easy steps

5 min read

Posted 2 years ago
by Téa Smith

This one is going to hurt, I’m afraid. It most certainly hurt me when I finally realised what was happening, and I know you’re probably going to hate me for it. Like, pretty much everyone. But, hear me out and try to read this with an open mind.

Back in May, after many years of research and trying to diagnose why the world was going so crazy, I wrote a frustrated blog post, called “When will ‘the left’ stand up to the threat of totalitarianism?“. In this, I was pleading with the ‘adults in the room’ to put a stop to what I thought looked to be a new internet cult/religion that was hiding in plain sight.

The hundreds of 501(c)4 corporations that attached themselves to BLM with all these Acronyms and what looked like cutesy auto-generated names and took your money? They’re basically front groups for MLM. Ah, Murica.

I’ve obviously noticed a marked improvement in the savvy of the bigger Not-for-Profits. Having done digital strategy work with some of the major ones here in Australia, I write with some understanding of how terrible most of them are at digital.

Unless they’ve taken a leaf from America, which has made this insane Frankenstein’s Monster of political fundraising, MLM and televangelism it’s second major cultural export behind changing-what-all-the-words-mean-and-telling-us-all-what-to-do.

An influential part of this is the Organizer’s Handbook by Marshall Gantz, or the “Snowflake model”, which, with a critical read of it (and an understanding of how it might be abused by bad guys), turned political organising into what basically looks like Multi-Level Marketing but for online digital campaigns to ‘nudge the needle’ with insanely unethical (but highly profitable, it seems) digital practices. Seriously. They call themselves Another Acronym. For fuck’s sake.

If you understand how these organisations operate, you’ll know that most of the people who show up, or support these scams have no idea what is going on and think they’ve signed up for a ‘business opportunity’ – or in this case, a cause.

They’re raising money for the cause. They care about the cause.

And they’re being cynically exploited to make it look like there is grass roots fundraising as a cover for dark money that is likely going through… digital agencies.

It’s pretty cynical stuff, but explains a lot of what is happening, why you’re confused and why everyone seems to have lost their minds.

It’s because we are being bombarded with everyone’s “personality test” and MLM nudges by dark networks of corporations, not-for-profits, troll farms (sorry social media management firms *cough*), undisclosed influencer campaigns.

Oh I should probably mention that this model is also how people get radicalised into ISIS. Or end up selling Herbalife. Or lie about politics on YouTube and get hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege.

And also do legitimate campaigning and marketing. This is the problem.

We all thought we were building tribes.

But the bad guys have been studying everything we do, and are building cults and sending mass-reporting mobs and using well-intentioned mules in a constant corporate proxy war over your purchases, your vote… and your emotional wellbeing.

I suppose I should say for the hundredth time that I am not talking about the legitimate cause or issue or activism on the ground. I am focused primarily on how people’s goodness is exploited by those without scruples, but a shit-tonne of money and an army of inauthentic social media accounts.

It works walking an activist up a ‘ladder of engagement’ (for marketers think sales funnel or a customer journey), but instead of nudging a user towards a purchase, you are kept in the dark and have to earn access to more information. Yes. Like Scientology.

So when you see all these confused kids who turned up for a cause, looking bewildered around some charismatic ring-leaders? There you go.

This is by design. Using people who are not in the loop (or, online, don’t even exist) to appear like there is a grassroots movement when there isn’t.

They aren’t organic.

They aren’t the ‘left’.

Well, some are, but those emotions and good intentions are manipulated and nudged to get people on the streets, fundraising for organisations that seemingly all have the same digital agencies as clients, who are boasting about ‘nudging needles’ for either the Democrats or the GOP.

As someone who ran an agency for a decade, when I reverse engineered it, I said “you filthy sneaky bastards!”

It looks like a large portion of these groups are front groups for dark money that can look like small donations.

Basically laundering.

Wondered why they’re getting all the cash?

This is likely why.

Not for activism.

Okay some of it. Ugh. You see how tricky/slippery/clever this is?

I believe they’re front groups.

Ironically in the US, they’ve managed to pin this all on those who might have an actual revolution brewing. The spontaneous grief over the death of George Floyd was moving. But, like everything the US touches, it was quickly stripped of its substance, repackaged, and sold back something we already owned back to us at a profit, whilst the military-industrial-academic complex that is the United States seized control and nudged everyone back into their safe spaces, doxxing the other side and arguing over the trans.

BLM as a concept has been hijacked by well-funded, well-designed front groups for higher purposes.

Not a conspiracy. It’s actually quite boring.

Boring old corruption, bad guys, dark money, and a bunch of people who – because there’s no limit to how low they will go, or who they will hurt or exploit – see people’s pain, trauma, poverty and yes, even a man take his last breath on camera and think “how can I make money or get more leads from this”.

And that’s how we defeat it.

With ethics. Or, in my case, at least pointing out how utterly unethical large parts of my industry is.

We need to figure out a way to defeat this Wokewashing and gentrification of the left… from the left. Not from the right. People are confused. They are manipulated and nudged and grew up in a goddamn death cult that tells them that Hollywood, Twitter, the Ivy Leagues and Amazon are ‘the left’.

They’re fighting the right fights, they just don’t just don’t have the right tools… yet.

Take the Antifa Handbook out of their hand. Give them Marx.

That’s how you defeat it.

Give them Marx, then tell them about how the theories they have been taught has been used to keep the United States government unchecked, and their politics letterboxed for 50 years.

And of course, acknowledge that it is analysis, not just a new cult. Meet them where they’re at.

But these confused green-haired kids are gunna change the world. Or become the same corporate Democrats and Blue Check Rich assholes they were destined to be anyway.

But many of the kids who get caught up in this stuff are working class and just need the right tools and some tough love. Much like anyone else who has fallen into a cult.

Just remember “Wokeness” and “Woke Cult” or whatever you want to call it, is not an enemy of the right, but rather a part of it. That’s why there’s that weird feeling in your tummy about it, lefties.

The good news is, the world isn’t ending and the left hasn’t changed, it’s just business as usual, and we were convinced by the insanely powerful Neocon propaganda machine on both ‘sides’ – that these ‘culture wars’ are happening. They are, just not like you think.

The war is on anyone who refuses to be absorbed into the corporate US hegemon.

Unfortunately, because of generally low political and digital literacy, we are up against some powerful propaganda that spans decades. We’ve been gaslit into thinking that this is a right vs left issue, but no.

It’s a fictionalised ‘class’ war between the same ruling class, scooping the middle class up with it and turning it on the only group of people that are capable of challenging their power.

The left.

And this, right here, is where I reassure you that the left has not abandoned anyone. The right has attacked & divided us.

So now, we know what the answer is. Keep going. Stay. Get the squatters out of our house.

It’s quite interesting that I was able to articulate this all along… that I am not politically homeless, there are squatters in my house.

I just bought the lie that they were ‘progressives’.

When you think of “Woke” as “the right”, the jigsaw pieces fit together.

Oh yeah, for further reading:

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