Deprogramming Myself from Dan Price’s Cult of Personality

Yet another bubble burst.

When I first heard about the Dan Price scandal and started writing this blog post about it, its title was going to be, “No Freakin’ Way!” Then, I started to read up on it, and I decided to change the title to, “Say It Isn’t So, Please”.

And then I read the article in the New York Times.

At first I read it with shock, thinking that the Times isn’t usually up for an all-out vicious attack on someone. They are usually more measured in their reporting. But by the time I finished the article, and read the quotes from something like 75 sources, I realized that there were too many allegations, too many accusations, too many lawsuits, and too many stories for me to continue to deny that they don’t all hold at least a kernel of truth. And given how despicable the stories are, even a kernel of truth is enough to put me off Dan Price for good.

That leaves me wondering how to cope with my sadness and disappointment. I really wanted to believe that the public persona Dan had worked so hard to promote was real. I wanted to believe that there could actually be a rich guy out there who spoke out against corporate greed and corruption. I wanted to think that maybe there was someone in power who actually gave a crap about the little guy. I’d never seen that before, and I wanted it to be true so badly that I fell entirely into Dan Price’s thrall. It’s no comfort at all that so many women have done the same and lived to regret it.

Way back in 2015, I wrote a glowing blog post entitled, Dan Price: Man of my Freakin’ Dreams. And I meant every word of it. Now I read that post and I cringe. But I won’t take it down, because it will forever be a reminder to me to never, ever fall for the branding.

Back then, Dan reduced his million-dollar salary in order to give all his employees a raise to at least $70,000 a year. Every single one, right down to the guy who mops the floors at night. And since then, that figure has increased to somewhere around 80k to 100k, depending on what source you read. I mean, who does that?

Dan Price does. And that’s laudable. I can still stand by that, at least. But that’s not a get out of jail free card for rape, domestic violence, and emotional abuse. And if it turns out that it was just a show to get out of a lawsuit with his brother, as is credibly laid out in this Bloomberg article from 2015, then even that good act came from a bad place.

While doing research for this post, I came across a Facebook post that I wrote nearly a year after my blog post that I mentioned above, in which I gave its link and gushed, “Omigod, a friend went to see this guy at some public speaking event, and I jokingly told her to have him read this blog entry, and she DID! And he DID! He thanked me and said he hoped we’d get to meet some day.”

With hindsight, that Facebook post seems as surreal to me as the current situation. I doubt seriously that the man stood there at that busy event and took the time to read my blog post. Oddly enough, I have no memory of that conversation, or even whom I had it with. But it was obvious that I had stars in my liberal eyes. Now I can see that I was a total fangirl, and I’m nauseated by that realization.

For me back then, Dan was the guy who proved that you can walk the talk and actually prosper while at the same time not grinding your employees down to a mere shadow of their former selves. (You’ll never see Jeff Bezos doing that. Amazon warehouse employees are treated like crap.) But Dan impressed the hell out of me. He led me to conclude that he was a guy who cared about people.

I convinced myself that he had proven that it really is possible to fix capitalism. I’m sure that had a lot of corporate fat cats on edge. They don’t want to be forced to do the right thing. They don’t want to think of anyone but themselves. I was sure that those rich white men would love nothing better than to see Dan Price disappear. (That reminds me of an art installation I saw when I lived in Holland. It was an electronic marquee that said, over and over again, “If you behaved nicely, the Communists wouldn’t exist.”)

I allowed myself to think that Dan was being targeted by someone very rich who was probably paying people off to say these horrible things about my hero. I was still trying to believe that this whole mess was pure fabrication. I comforted myself with that theory for a few days. Because, you know, he really did give those raises. He did.

But in order to write this post, which I thought would be full of righteous indignation, I had to first do my homework. I started off by reading these articles:

They were not particularly credible in my eyes. I refused to allow them to be true. I was still allowing myself to stay in Dan Price’s cult of personality, where I felt safe and where everything was so warm and fuzzy. Without that faith in mankind, where would I go? What would I do?

But as the evidence mounted, I tried to tell myself that maybe this good guy just snapped under all the pressure. (As if that would be a valid excuse.) Being a poster child for anything at the age of 38, after having been sued by your own brother for doing the right thing (as I thought that situation had played out at the time, based, in retrospect, solely on Dan’s version of events), and his not knowing who his friends truly are anymore, must come with a great deal of stress. At the very least, it’s a safe bet that Thanksgiving dinner in the Price household is somewhat tense.

“Poor little rich boy,” My inner voice whispered to me.

But I wasn’t ready to escape the cult just yet. For me, Dan symbolized what is possible if you have integrity and morality and decency. He made me believe that the world could turn around if enough good people did good things. Maybe this big blue greedball on which we all live could alter its trajectory and stop hurtling straight toward the fiery sun. It could happen.

Why would anyone want to give up on that faith in mankind? I clung to it like a drowning man clings to flotsam. I really didn’t want to let go.

Next, I came across a whole series of articles by a guy named Doug Forbes. He had written them over the space of several years. Each one was a damning opinion piece about Dan Price.

But, you know, I tend to take opinion pieces with a grain of salt. I wanted truth, not opinions. This guy was saying he talked to dozens of people, but he did not cite any of them, except, I think, Dan’s ex-wife, who, I told myself, was probably bitter. And this guy Forbes, I told myself, must hate Dan for whatever reason, and he’s given himself this forum to spew his speculations into cyberspace.

I told myself that the accusations against Dan were so disgusting and extreme that the charges had to be trumped up, right? I mean, who resorts to waterboarding a woman? Who drowns a dog in a swimming pool? Who rapes women in their sleep and emotionally abuses employees? (Well, actually, a lot of men do that last bit. But not the good men, right?)

But, just as with so many other cult members who start to wake up, a lot of conflicting thoughts were running through my head.

He’s such a nice guy! This can’t be true! At that point my inner voice was whispering, “But you used to think that about Bill Cosby back in the day, didn’t you?”

There are some sick people in this world, and that’s a fact. I just didn’t want Dan Price to be one of them. Not that guy.

During my research, I kept seeing links to the New York Times article about him. When I’d click on it, I’d get their website, and a few tantalizing sentences, but in order to see more I’d have to subscribe. I have a great deal of respect for the New York Times, but I didn’t want Dan Price to be the reason I got a subscription. Instead, a friend (Hi Tracy!) was kind enough to gift me the article from her subscription. (If you know someone with a subscription, they are allowed to “gift” 10 articles per month to people. It’s perfectly legitimate.)

I read the entire article, and any fantasies that rich white fat cats had created this scandal to destroy Dan Price’s squeaky clean reputation fell by the wayside. In retrospect I can’t even imagine why I entertained such a fantasy to begin with. I don’t believe in conspiracies, because large groups of human beings find it impossible to keep secrets, and those evil rich men would have had to find nearly a hundred people who would be willing to lie about Dan for money.

Impossible.

But the final nail in Dan Price’s coffin, as far as I’m concerned, is that he admitted, before two witnesses who were both willing to speak out, that he used to restrain his wife, but he admitted to them that that was not the right thing to do.

Ya think? And yet you did it, Danny Boy. This was a choice you made, multiple times. That’s seriously twisted.

I began looking back at his interviews with Kelly Clarkson and Oprah Winfrey, etc. through a more cynical lens, and I realized that the people interviewing him were total fangirls, too. Heck, even Trevor Noah compared him to Jesus! They all wanted a feel good segment for their shows, and this guy fit the bill. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking. Why scratch that sexy surface?

Now I realize that Dan Price is his own spin doctor. I discovered that all the memes I had shared about him had originated from… Dan Price. I never allowed myself to think that a humble man doesn’t need to toot his own horn so much unless he either a) knows that he’s not really that popular in real life, and this is his only way to get admiration, or…  b) he has something to hide.

And I was even more disgusted that I fell for all these wonderful liberal memes when I learned that he didn’t even write them himself. He hired someone else to do it. I had always imagined him kicked back on his couch after a long day of decently paying his troops, typing away, speaking from the heart. Instead, he told the guy the image he wanted to have, and the guy provided it. And I inadvertently helped to prop up this image by sharing those memes on Facebook.

Now my inner voice is quoting a dearly departed loved one: “Even if you pour syrup all over something, that doesn’t make it a pancake.”

I need to own the fact that it was highly simplistic of me to think that a member of my flawed species could be pure and good and devoid of tarnish. That’s too much to expect of anyone.

It is possible to do good deeds and be a scumbag at the same time. That annoys me. It would be so much easier if Dan had just picked a side. I really hate shades of gray.

Of course, none of us will ever know the complete truth about Dan Price. If there’s a despicability spectrum, we’ll never be certain where to place him on it. But he’s definitely on the spectrum, and so I’m done with him.

That leaves me in an awkward position. Should I hope the accusations are completely true so that I can at least be comforted by the idea that justice is real, or should I hope they are mostly false, only to watch his carefully honed and oh-so-appealing brand be destroyed by them?

There’s no good answer.

I had always read that breaking free of a cult is hard. I never thought I’d have to struggle through self-deprogramming. I feel like such a fool, and it leaves me wanting to boil myself in bleach.

So, yet another bubble burst. Damn, but it was such a lovely fantasy. I’m going to miss it. And that hurts.

Why I No Longer Watch Tom Cruise Movies

By being coddled by Scientology, he’s complicit in human trafficking.

Let me start off by saying that there are many Tom Cruise movies that I have enjoyed quite a bit in my lifetime. I think the man is a very talented actor (except when he’s not), and he’s not hard to look at (if he’s your type). So, when Dear Husband asked me if I wanted to see Cruise’s latest film, Top Gun: Maverick, which I’ve heard a lot of good things about, and which is also doing obscenely well at the box office, I inwardly cringed.

Because I can’t. I just can’t do it. Yes, the movie would probably be freakin’ fantastic. Yes, my little boycott isn’t going to make the least bit of difference to Tom Cruise. It’s just that morally, with what I know about what this man represents, I can’t give him a penny, let alone a portion of a ticket sale. I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror afterward. So I sent DH off to the movie with his best friends. Here’s why.

I’m not one who is particularly obsessed with celebrity, but I’ve written about Tom Cruise before. I have focused on him quite a bit, but not because he is who (or what) he is. It’s because he does what he does, and I’m forever attempting to understand it.

Tom Cruise is the poster child for Scientology. And Scientology is one of the longest running, most destructive cults in the world. (The only two American cults that have lasted longer are the Ku Klux Klan and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.)

I have to admit that I’m obsessed with cults. No, I don’t want to be in a cult. In fact, when I was in my 20’s, a friend of mine got sucked into a now defunct cult called Lifespring, and tried to pull me in as well. It was a very scary time, and it took me a while before I could trust strangers again, for fear they were recruiters. I wrote about this experience here. If you want to know one of my biggest regrets, if you want to know how it was possible for me to ruin someone’s life even though I had the very best of intentions, then check out that post. My friend disappeared off the face of the earth after I did that. I have been unable to find her to this day, and 35 years have passed. She has left no internet footprint whatsoever. I fear the worst.

I read and watch everything I possibly can about cults now, in an effort to understand how people get trapped within them. I want to know how cults work, and I have noticed that they all use a similar playbook. (Even Trump uses it, which makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.) I also want to know what it takes for someone to leave a cult, and how/if they’re able to rebuild their lives in the aftermath.

I find anything that causes one to alter one’s thinking to be quite fascinating. Since 2016, it has become increasingly clear to me that a lot more Americans are susceptible to these alterations than I had previously thought. And maybe learning all I can about cults is a form of atonement as well, for the debacle with my friend. It’s complicated.

Speaking of having the very best of intentions, let’s circle back to Tom Cruise. My working theory used to be that that he hasn’t intentionally become such a detrimental force in the world. I genuinely believe that he himself is buying what he’s selling when it comes to Scientology. He has become so isolated from the real world, so sheltered and coddled by Scientology and its many lies that it’s easy to think that he has no idea what an evil organization he is propping up. He was a celebrity before he became involved in Scientology, so he has never seen its dark side like its non-celebrity members do (until he did.)

The truth is (and you can find this anywhere on the web if you take just a moment to look), Scientology’s only purpose is to separate you from your money. And they will do anything and everything to reach that goal. As in, they will take every penny you have ever had, and help you to defraud credit card companies to get more money from them, leaving you under a mountain of debt, and even then, they’ll continue to pressure you for money.

You may love your family very much, but if you join this cult and they do not, it’s very likely that you’ll never get to see or talk to them again. Anyone not in Scientology, and anyone who speaks out against them, is considered a Supressive Person, and they must be shunned, although the actual term for shunning in Scientology is “disconnection.” In fact, if you were born into this cult, or managed to talk your family into joining with you, then you will all be taught to spy on one another, and report any deviations from what Scientology deems acceptable.

One thing that Scientologists find to be unacceptable is anyone questioning Scientology. So if your twin sister starts asking questions, you will be expected to report her, and you will then be expected to shun her. She will be put out on the street with no money, no work references, and if she was young enough when she joined, no education to speak of. She will be all alone, and thrown away like garbage.

And heaven forbid you join the Sea Org, which is purported to be comprised of followers so dedicated to Scientology that they sign a billion year contract to become employees slaves. They are then given room and board, and something along the lines of $75 dollars a week as an allowance. And the living conditions have been reported to be as horrible as a prison cell in a third world country. The food you get will be disgusting, unhealthy, and in quantities that keep you on the verge of starvation.

In exchange for these “perks,” you will work about 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and will be beaten and/or punished if you don’t follow the multi-volume, very detailed rules of Scientology. And one of those rules is that you have to obey every whim of those who have a higher rank than you do, which will be pretty much everybody. If someone asks you to scrub a septic tank with a toothbrush, then that is what you will be expected to do, without question.

Women, if you are pretty, you may be told by the higher ups that you have to be someone’s girlfriend, with all that that implies, and you will have no other choice. If you become pregnant while in the Sea Org, you will be forced to have an abortion. If you already have children when you join, you will leave them with total strangers in the organization, and might get to see them for an hour every few months, if you’ve behaved.

If you become problematic in any way, if you have violated any expectations, you will be sent to what is called the Rehabilitation Project Force, which is reported to be no better than a prison camp. You will do hard labor in the hot sun while wearing solid black boiler suits. You will attend a re-indoctrination program. You will be locked up, often in hot trailers, and deprived of food and water for long periods. You and your cellmates will be encouraged to beat each other up. You will be “audited,” which is another word for interrogated, 5 hours a day. You will not be allowed to see or talk to even those family members who are fellow Scientologists.

You will want to leave, but you won’t be able to. You’re locked up when you’re not working. The windows have bars on them. When you’re outside, you’re surrounded by a razor wire fence that points inward as well as outward. If you are even allowed to make a phone call, someone will be listening in. There will be guards everywhere. Most of these facilities prison camps are located in the middle of nowhere, so running is quite a challenge.

It’s safe to say that Cruise was never subjected to that side of Scientology, but by promoting it, he causes others to enjoy those many pleasures. If you’re famous and popular and you promote a movement, for example, Naziism, it doesn’t matter at all if you’ve never seen a concentration camp, never fired a gun, or never invaded another country. You’re still a Nazi.

What caused him to get sucked in? He claims he has been a Scientologist since 1986, and his first wife, Mimi Rogers, encouraged him to join, saying that it would help with his rampant promiscuity. (She denies this, by the way.) But given the matching set of blondes I saw on his arms when he walked right past me in Las Vegas while he was filming Rain Man the same year he married her, I’m guessing he hadn’t been cured yet. Not by a long shot.

But he is the perfect target for a cult. He practically had “Welcome” tattooed on his forehead. Obviously, I don’t know the man personally, but from what I’m reading, he came from a broken home and his father was physically abusive. He attended 15 schools in 14 years. He planned to be a priest but got kicked out of seminary for drinking. He had dyslexia. And he’s 5’7”, which is never fun for a guy. I suspect that all this made for a major cocktail of insecurity and a desperate need for love. Cults feed off of people like that.

He was already famous before Scientology. Risky Business and All the Right Moves had made him a household name. And Scientology loves its celebrities. They give them the royal treatment and they love-bomb them for the rest of their lives, because these people are their best advertisements for new recruits. So you might say that Scientology does work for them, although it sucks as much money as possible from them in the process.

Despite his previous fame, Cruise believes that he’s gotten where he is because of Scientology. He even says that Scientology “cured” his dyslexia. Poor man.

In 1990, the current leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, was laser focused on Cruise. He didn’t like the fact that Cruise was married to Mimi Rogers, because Rogers was not keen on Miscavige. So Miscavige decided the couple needed to be broken up. According to this article, Miscavige moved heaven and earth to throw Nicole Kidman into the mix. Sure enough, Cruise and Kidman had an affair, and he divorced Rogers and married Kidman in the same year, 1990.

Miscavige’s plan worked a little too well, though. He thought Kidman would be a homewrecker, but he wasn’t planning on her turning into a wife. Her father was a Supressive Person, having already left Scientology himself. So this union made him nervous, as well it should have. In 1993, Kidman had finally convinced Cruise to leave Scientology. I’m sure the fact that once you reach one of the higher levels of the cult, you are told about Xenu was a big help, too. It’s quite a story.

According to Wikipedia, “Xenu, also called Xemu, was the dictator of the ‘Galactic Confederacy’ who brought billions of his people to Earth (then known as ‘Teegeeack’) in DC-8-like spacecraft 75 million years ago, stacked them around volcanoes, and killed them with hydrogen bombs. Official Scientology scriptures hold that the thetans (immortal spirits) of these aliens adhere to humans, causing spiritual harm.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Unless you’re L. Ron Hubbard.

Anyway, Tom and Nicole backed way, way, way off the cult from 1993 to 2000, but the leader of Scientology wasn’t about to let go of his cash cow without a fight. By 2000, Cruise was sucked back in, but Kidman wasn’t. They divorced in 2001. Their two children, now adults, are still Scientologists, and therefore most likely have no contact with Kidman. This is the point when I really, really lost respect for Cruise.

By now there’s no possible way Cruise hadn’t heard some of the Scientology horror stories. He wouldn’t have been actively discouraged from looking at the internet during his 8 year “vacation” from the cult. Clearly, conversations must have taken place about it to get him to stay away that long. And yet he continues to promote this harmful belief system.

He also must know how different he is than the young man just starting out in Hollywood, before Scientology got its hooks into him. Check out this interview with Rona Barrett from 1984, when he was 22 years old. In it, he appears humble, family-oriented, intelligent, and quite articulate.

Now, contrast that with his interview with Peter Overton in 2005. That’s the Tom Cruise we know today. Arrogant. Full of himself. Defensive. Utterly sheltered/isolated by an entourage. Completely deluded (again) into thinking that everyone admires Scientology. Positive that he has all the answers and that we do not. Very adept at responding to questions without saying anything of substance.

And then, if you really want to see him out on the lunatic fringe, check out this video, which Scientology is desperate to quash. In it, he’s incoherently sure that the empty words he is spewing are real. He talks about helping the world. He talks about stopping to help when you see a car accident (but if someone that famous does such a thing, it hits the news. I looked. Nothing.) He talks about knowing, but doesn’t explain what he knows. (And I found that particularly sad, given that he seems to be oblivious to the world’s negative perception of his “religion.”) He talks about doing something, and getting it done, but doesn’t tell you what “something” or “it” is. I think he actually believes he can do all the things he does in his action films.

What I find most appalling about Cruise, what makes me not want to financially support him in any way, shape, or form, is that, by allowing himself to be coddled by Scientology, he participates in human trafficking. Check out this article and this one for more details, but suffice it to say that Scientology has used Sea Org members, those starving, 20 hour a day workers with the $75 dollar a week allowances that I mentioned above, to remodel motorcycles, sportscars, and even an airport hangar for Cruise. When Cruise was wooing Kidman, a group of Scientologists were made to till a field from midnight to dawn and plant it with wildflowers. And when it didn’t pass muster, they had to pull all that up and replace it with grass. One Scientologist was made to be his personal chef. And you don’t seriously think he does his own housework, do you? And you don’t seriously think Scientology would allow him to surround himself with a household staff that wasn’t comprised of Scientologists, do you? And if any of those people screw up in the slightest way, you don’t think David Miscavige doesn’t punish them physically and psychologically, do you?

Slavery is what that is. Pure and simple. I refuse to knowingly support slavery.

If you want to learn the truth about Scientology, straight from the mouths of people who have escaped it and are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after this cult reduced them to rubble, I highly recommend the series called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. Even if you think Remini is biased, she interviews 3 seasons worth of devastated people, and it would be impossible to maintain a conspiracy that large. Impossible. Just as with the January 6th hearings, how many people have to step forward before you realize they are telling the truth?

With so many witnesses to the destructive power of Scientology, why is this organization allowed to maintain a tax exempt status, forcing taxpayers to support its antics while David Miscavige and Tom Cruise live luxurious lifestyles by standing on the necks of slavishly devoted cult members?

Because, when the IRS was investigating them, Scientology used its money and its mindless minions to bog the IRS down in 2000 frivolous lawsuits, and targeted individual IRS agents and made their lives a living hell. For years.

Scientology is not a religion. Legitimate religions don’t force you to give up your life savings and ruin you financially for their own gain. Religions don’t destroy families if they philosophically disagree. They don’t isolate you and tell you every single thing you should do and think. True religions don’t exist only to benefit the few at the top. Religions can tolerate questions, and don’t savagely attack those who ask them. Religions don’t jail, interrogate and torture their members. The wives of the leaders of a religion don’t mysteriously disappear for 15 years, like Shelly Miscavige has, probably because she knows too much.

But don’t underestimate Scientology’s power. Many people have taken the free personality tests that they offer, “just for fun,” and 500,000 dollars and many years later, they look up to see that it was all a harmful, life-ruining illusion. Tell everyone who will listen to avoid Scientology like the plague.

Also avoid Tom Cruise, Scientology’s main attraction. He is a slow-motion train wreck that I can’t seem to stop watching. In this internet age, when everyone can find out everything they want to know, social media is causing cults to circle the drain, for the most part. When Scientology finally dies out, and it will, I wonder what will happen to Tom Cruise, a man who has wasted his entire life in its promotion and pursuit.

When faced with all the lives he has ruined by being so visibly complicit, how will he handle that? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, please join me in resisting the temptation to watch Tom Cruise movies.

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My Fruitless Debate with an Anti-Vaxxer

I had to try.

A friend whom I’ve always highly respected nearly died from COVID-19 recently. He lost 75 pounds and was in the hospital for two weeks, part of that time on a ventilator. His wife was in a hospital room nearby, going through the exact same thing. You guessed it: They weren’t vaccinated. Fortunately they survived, much to the shock of their medical teams.

To make matters worse, he has lost his government job because proof of vaccination is now required. He’s under the impression that he has a chance to get it back, but as they are no longer accepting religious exemptions, I know he’s out of luck. And he was great at that job. He loved it.

This is a wonderful man whom I’m happy to call a friend, but we’ve always studiously avoided talking politics or religion, because I think we both instinctively knew that we are polar opposites when it comes to those topics. And because I value his friendship, I did my best to hold my tongue about this. Truly, I did. But the other day my crashing disappointment with his ill-informed and nearly deadly choices bubbled to the surface, and I found myself incapable of keeping my mouth shut.

You already know how this turned out. I did not change his mind one whit. And I’m quite sure I went about everything the wrong way, but I had to try.

In essence, it felt like I was trying to deprogram someone who had been a member of a destructive cult for years. Needless to say, I have no training in this arena. He kept texting me misinformation and I was able to debunk every single thing, point by point, with readily available facts. I read the information on the links he sent me in order to debunk them, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t click on any of my links, because he did not want his mind to be changed.

Oddly enough, I totally get that. Think about it. If he were to come to his senses at this point, he’d be forced to admit to himself that he and his wife nearly died, and he lost his dream job, due to his own foolish choices. He’d also have to conclude that his religious and political leaders do not have his best interests at heart, and he has been duped. His entire worldview would have to fundamentally change. That would be a very hard pill to swallow. I wouldn’t want to be in that position.

He started off by saying that God told him not to get vaccinated. I wasn’t going to get into a religious debate with the man, so I let this point slide, but I’m fairly certain that unless God showed up at his kitchen table, sandals and all, and chatted about the subject over a cup of tea, he didn’t say a word. If the God of my understanding were to encourage me to put my life, and the lives of others, at risk, I’d have a hard time with that. And if that same God encouraged me to reject science, when he theoretically was the one to give us brains for the scientific research in the first place, I’d be done with him. My friend is mistaking the word of his misguided preacher, along with a heaping helping of misinformation from Fox News and a steady diet of confirmation bias, for the word of God.

This makes me really sad, because he’s an intelligent man. I truly believe that. But somewhere along the way he never quite acquired critical thinking skills, and then was taught that blind faith is superior to any thinking at all. Beware of anyone who tries to teach you that.

He kept sending me links from obscure websites, and their articles had no confirmation or validation from any credible source. I kept asking him to provide multiple sources, and he couldn’t. For me that would be a red flag, but he was too busy being blindly faithful to see it.

He also said he had natural immunity now, so he didn’t need the shot. I sent him a report from the CDC that says that “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.”

I’m sure that fell on deaf ears. He has been told not to trust the CDC, and since he’s faithful and unquestioning, he is unable to see why that’s a horrible idea. I’m quite sure he thinks that vaccinations are a part of some huge liberal conspiracy. Never mind that 163,000 unvaccinated Americans have needlessly died since June per the Kaiser Family Foundation, and all the hospitals are overwhelmed. Minor details.

Next, he hit me with a link from a website that is so suspect that I won’t even provide the link here, for fear that you’ll be overwhelmed with spam and malware. In fact, when I did a google search asking if this site was legitimate, I discovered that Scam-detector.com gives it a score of 26.9, based on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being the most reputable.

But the article says that 317 athletes have had cardiac arrest and 170 of them have died after taking the shot. The article comes with a really sketchy video that shows athletes collapsing during games all over the world. I watched this video. It shows different news reporters talking about athletes collapsing, yes, but it doesn’t show when these reports were done, and it cuts them off before they mention what the cause of the collapse was. It’s only the sketchy website that draws the conclusion that this is all recent and COVID related.

I pointed all that out to him, and also mentioned that my whole life, I’ve seen stories of athletes collapsing during games. It’s not particularly unusual. I also pointed out that this article is not only not confirmed by other news sources, but also that it is debunked by this article, which says that “there is no connection between COVID-19 vaccines and sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.” (And, incidentally, that website has a score of 85.6 from Scam-detector.com.)

For some reason I thought I could appeal to my friend’s under-exercised logic, too, so I pressed on. I said, “Even if that were true, it’s a small statistical sample. Let’s do the math. Using that small sample, all of us who were vaccinated would be having cardiac arrest, and 53% of people who get the shot would be dying. So far, 194,747,839 Americans have gotten the shot. If your sample were true, then 103,216,355 of us would be dead by now.”

No response to that. But then he said, “the VAERS websites for America and the UK are pretty informative.”

All right. I’ll bite. I hopped on over to VAERS, which stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and which is, indeed, run by CDC (which shows that he’ll believe CDC if their reports are twisted enough to agree with his beliefs), and I could debunk him pretty quickly. VAERS is a passive reporting system, which means it’s not statistically accurate and the site itself reiterates that on nearly every page, saying that it’s not designed to determine if vaccines cause a health problem. In Addition, even a quick look at it on Wikipedia turns up this information: “As it is based on submissions by the public, VAERS is susceptible to unverified reports, misattribution, underreporting, and inconsistent data quality. Raw, unverified data from VAERS has often been used by the anti-vaccine community to justify misinformation regarding the safety of vaccines; It is generally not possible to find out from VAERS data if a vaccine caused an adverse event, or how common the event might be.

All this information seems rather convincing to me, but his only response was, “I appreciate and respect your opinion. I hope you’ll do the same with mine.”

That made me get tears in my eyes. He’s a decent guy. And while I do appreciate that he shared his beliefs with me, I cannot respect opinions that are so easily debunked, especially when it relates to people’s very lives. I just can’t. All I could say is that his coworkers would really, really miss him.

I suspect that will be the last time I hear from my friend. I am not going to try to force it. I’d still like to be friends, but I wouldn’t want to breathe the same air that he does, and that might make things awkward. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why republicans want to kill off their base. Their misinformation and their desire to make this about the rights of individuals, even though public health impacts us all, is, indeed, killing them. The statistics bear this out. Check out the graph below, and read this article for more details.

Public Health should NEVER have been politicized. It’s too important. And it’s way too easy to prove that vaccines are important. When’s the last time you saw a child die of Polio?

In recent days, even Trump has encouraged people to get vaccinated. Such is the dire state of this pandemic. He admits that he got two vaccines and a booster himself. So did Sean Hannity, the hypocrite. But they can’t unring that disastrous anti-vax bell. People have too much pride to admit they’ve been led astray. It’s heartbreaking that so many people will die needlessly because of it.

People who don’t get vaccinated are not only foolhardy, but they are also selfish. As long as they persist in their inaccurate beliefs, this pandemic will continue to rage on. The virus will continue to morph in those carriers, and people will continue to die, all alone, even as they assert their independence. It’s all so unnecessary.

Sigh. I’m so frustrated and disappointed. I’m so sad. And most of all, I’m tired to the very marrow of my bones.

Incidentally, my blog gets a 75.7 score from Scam-Detector.com, which indicates that it is “Standard. Valid. Common.” And more importantly, safe to use. It says it would have gotten a higher score if the site hadn’t ranked zero in popularity. Well, ouch. You guys need to start sharing my posts with friends!

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Freedom of Movement

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom.

There is an excellent yardstick for measuring liberty and quality of life. Simply consider how much freedom of movement you have. From that basic indicator, you can determine if you live in a police state and/or a cult, you will know how much information and education you have access to, and you will have a good sense of the level of prejudice you are being exposed to.

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom. If you live in a country where the women cannot travel without the permission of their husbands or fathers, you live in a misogynistic police state. If you are in a religion that does not allow you to interact with outsiders or learn about opposing points of view, or worse yet, cuts you off from family, then you are in a cult. If you can’t go anywhere without having your papers constantly checked by authority figures, then you are a slave.

Inhibiting your ability to go where you wish is an effective way of controlling the information that you have access to. If you can’t even move about the internet, then someone else is controlling your narrative, and they have an agenda that is not in your best interest. If someone wants to leave and you don’t let them, then you have just reduced them to a mere object.

Also, preventing women or minorities from having access to education is a self-defeating power play. One should be able to travel in mind as well as body. If your opportunity to learn is hindered, you should wonder what the powers that be don’t want you to discover.

People who put up walls to restrict movement are the worst kind of racists. They are either attempting to keep a group out or keep a group in. Either way, they are restricting the flow of information, and preventing the masses from becoming unified. Divide and conquer.

The only things that should prevent you from being able to travel are your own priorities and your own budgetary constraints. And even that is a can of worms, because income inequality is another great way to keep us all ignorant and close to home.

The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you travel, the less you hate. The more you travel in mind, body, and spirit, the more you know what it is to be free.

Freedom

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Much Better than a Cult

Look for the good in the world. Accept nothing less.

As strange as it may seem, it took me years to figure out that I should only surround myself with kind, loving, and decent people. No one ever told me that. I think deep down, had the concept even occurred to the younger me, I wouldn’t have really believed I deserved it.

So I wasted a lot of time desperately trying to gain approval from people who were way too busy pumping toxic waste into my life to ever grant said approval. What a shame.

But slowly, ever so slowly, the number of amazing humans in my world started to outnumber the bad apples. That made that rotten fruit seem increasingly unpalatable to me. I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to expect quality in all my relationships. What a notion.

It’s so wonderful to know so many outstanding people now. It’s a gift. It’s priceless. Sometimes it brings tears of joy to my eyes.

But recently I’ve come to see what it would have been like if I had kept my emotional garden free of weeds and decay all along. My boyfriend seems to have done an excellent job of doing so, and the results have been profoundly positive. There is so much good in his world. It’s one of the many things I admire about him. He is a lodestone for kindness.

Recently we announced our engagement, and the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. In the best possible way. This is all new to me. I keep telling him I feel like I’m being love bombed. He reassures me that I’m not joining a cult. Receiving this kind of encouragement is just as it should be.

Well, alrighty then! I’ll take it. Please and thank you!

In case no one ever told you, dear reader: Look for the good in the world. Accept nothing less. You’ll be amazed at how much it multiplies. Proof positive that love conquers all.

http _aqwwiki.wdfiles.com_local--files_bad-apple_BAOld.png

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For Real

God, how I hate being misunderstood.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that made you question reality? Sometimes two people can draw such different conclusions from a situation that it makes you wonder if you come from the same planet. I had one of those recently.

A friend said, “You just called me an (xyz).”

I replied, “What are you talking about? That word never came out of my mouth. What I said was (abc).”

My friend repeated his assertion. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Especially since we were communicating via text.

So I said, “Dude, scroll up. Where are you seeing (xyz)? Where? Show me.”

Long pause.

Then he said, “I just talked to (mutual friend E) and she agrees with me. I’m not an (xyz).”

Me: “Wait a minute! Where is this coming from? What are you talking about? I never said you were!”

Him: “It really hurts my feelings that you disrespect me so much that you think I’m an (xyz).”

At this point, my feelings were kind of hurt that he would think I was the type of person to say such a thing. So I said, “On my life, I never said that! I don’t know where this is coming from. If I struck some sort of a nerve somehow, I’m sorry. But I’m not responsible for the nerve being there in the first place. You’re pulling facts out of thin air, so I really think we should leave it at that.”

God, how I hate being misunderstood. Even worse, I hate trying to explain something that seems perfectly obvious to me, only to discover that the other person just doesn’t get it. “But… the sky isn’t lime green with purple polka dots! Look at it! Look!”

I would probably be easily sucked into a cult. Because eventually I’d just give up and I’d really want to believe the sky was purple and green, too. Anything to make the world make sense again. After a while, I might actually see a tinge of green. And maybe a spot or two.

Or not. Who knows?

green and purple

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Corey Feldman Fouls His Message

I’ve written about Corey Feldman’s starvation sex cult before. The fact that it still exists tells you a lot about this man and his perspective on life. Now he’s trying to rebrand himself as a force for good, which is admirable, I suppose, but he’s doing a horrible job of it.

He claims to want to expose a Hollywood child pedophile ring. To do this, he’s got an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign going on. He’d like to raise 10 million dollars so he can make a documentary about this ring. So far, he has actually gotten 230,000 dollars’ worth of stupid people to participate.

Evidence of Corey’s lack of sincerity:

  • His campaign is named after his latest album.

  • If he had any honest-to-God proof of a pedophile ring, and genuinely wanted it stopped, he’d turn this evidence over to the police and to the media immediately. Instead, he’s been hinting at it for years, while, one assumes, more children are being abused. In other words, he’s positioning himself to make as much profit as he can from this tragedy.

  • If he genuinely was anti-abuse, he wouldn’t be teaching women that in order for them to be a success, they must prance about in public in lingerie. He’d instead be teaching them to rely on their own agency: their intelligence, and also that their talents don’t require soft porn to prop them up. (That’s probably difficult to grasp when you’ve grown up in Hollywood, but there you have it.)

Seriously, Corey, how do you expect people to believe you care about children when you have such a low opinion of women? The unequal power dynamic and the demonstrated subservience alone is enough to indicate that you are no white knight. And that’s a shame, because protecting children from sexual abuse is a great cause. If you weren’t pooping all over your message, you might just make a difference.

Do I think pedophilia exists in Hollywood? Most definitely. I doubt it’s so organized that there’s a “ring”, mind you, but scumbags abound, and in an industry where looks matter, they’re no doubt attracted to these child stars like moths to a flame.

So, yes, I think these slime balls need to be outed, but not so that Corey Feldman can bring in the money that allows him to continue to mislead women into eating nothing but fruit while wearing wings and a halo. He really must enjoy watching them wander about his house, scantily-clad, light-headed, and in heels. Because doing so isn’t furthering their careers.

Shame on you, Corey. You are the worst kind of hypocrite, acting like the low-rent lovechild of Hugh Hefner and Michael Jackson. You could so easily do better than this. Prove it to us.

Corey and his angels

Kittens: Not Just for Youtube Anymore

In this world of increasing insanity, I find it strangely comforting that cults aren’t just a phenomenon of the English speaking world. Exhibit A: Turkey’s Adnan Oktar. I find this man fascinating in the same way car accidents cause me to slow down.

His main goal in life appears to be to debunk evolution. He has published dozens of fancy-looking, elaborately illustrated books, using the pen name Harun Yahya, that promote creationism. Based on my perusal of his website, these books contain a lot of rambling pseudo-science that require a great deal of suspension of disbelief to digest. They also seem to feature wildly falsified images of fossils.

In addition, he has a mansion that overlooks the Bosphorus, and it’s so gaudy it puts Donald Trump’s apartment to shame. Apparently the yard is teeming with rabbits and is surrounded by an electrified fence.

He is also as litigious as Trump. I’m fairly certain he will never read this criticism of him, because according to several articles, he apparently managed to get WordPress banned from Turkey after several bloggers wrote less than flattering posts about him. (I find this hard to believe, because I know I’ve had Turkish readers in the past, but given the number of lawsuits he’s brought to the courts, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hadn’t at least tried.)

But by far the most fascinating thing about this man is that he surrounds himself with women whom he calls kittens. These women are young, from rich families, and their hair is quite often bleached that color of blonde that can only come from a bottle. Their lips are pumped up with collagen, and they wear so much make up it looks like it’s been applied by a putty knife. They also wear skin tight clothes, stiletto heels, and emphasize their cleavage. Needless to say, this is quite a departure in the Islamic world.

For a really eye-opening look into  Adnan Oktar’s world, check out this documentary.  (It’s only subtitled for a tiny bit. Mostly it’s in English.)

This is Adnan Oktar’s idea of feminism. He says he believes all women are kittens. (Gag.) And he claims they are superior in every way. If that’s true, then why the need for all those creepy alterations? Shouldn’t they be perfect just as they are? And why are these women expected to regularly gyrate on camera? (Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention he has his own television station.)

In every video I’ve seen of these kittens, they all have a guarded look in their eyes. A vacant look, actually. There are complaints by family members that they are never allowed to see them alone. I found myself feeling sorry for them, and more than a little disturbed. I wonder what will happen to them as their beauty fades.

I’ll never get over humanity’s desperate need to give away its power, to fit in, to feel loved. It’s heartbreaking. And apparently it’s universal.

adnan_oktar_03
Adnan Oktar

 

Hug Vibes

According to an article I just read in Global Post, “Physical touch stimulates certain hormones that are essential for child development… premature infants who are touched regularly display 47 percent more weight gain… Physical touch has a powerful influence on brain function and mental health.”

I really never thought about the importance of touch until I moved to Seattle, where I don’t know a soul, 7 weeks ago. Since I’ve been here I haven’t been touched, even in the most casual of ways. I’m starting to feel as if my skin is going to atrophy, like one day I’m going to wake up and my skeleton will be exposed. Okay, that’s a little extreme, but you get the point. I need a hug.

Thank God for my dogs. I’ve been cuddling with them so much lately that they’re starting to get uncomfortable. “Here she comes again. Brace yourself.” I can’t even imagine how I’d cope without them.

I hesitate to put myself into the dating world in this state. I might very well attach myself like a barnacle to the first serial killer who crosses my path. I now understand how people get sucked into cults. If Charles Manson were to hug me right now I’d fall madly in love.

A long distance friend of mine sent me some hug vibes the other day. That counts for much. But still, I may start stumbling in large crowds so that someone will offer me a hand. Any port in a storm.

hugs_040

[Image credit: db18.com]

When the Punishment for a Good Deed is a Lifetime of Regrets

Everyone probably has a story about trying to help someone and instead unintentionally making things worse. This is one of those stories. But if you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know I don’t ever go half way. I strongly suspect I may have ruined someone’s life, and the worst part about it is that I’ll never know for sure. I’ll always have to live with that.

In college I had a friend whom I will call S. She was a sweet girl. Kind to everyone. Gentle. A talented artist. She was one of those people who kind of seems like they may have grown up in a secret garden, surrounded by butterflies. She even had the faraway look. She was oblivious to the world’s ills. She had no concept of self-protection, and didn’t have a skeptical bone in her body. I honestly don’t know how she had made it through 19 years of her life without something terrible happening to her, but apparently that was the case. If I believed in angels, I’d swear that one had to have been watching over her. We spent a lot of time together in school. We were even roommates for a while, and took a two week trip to Spain together. Lovely girl.

After graduation, we kept in touch for a time, but life has a way of pulling people in different directions, and that was the case with us. A couple years passed with no contact, and then I got a phone call. Probably the strangest call I’ve ever received in my life. It was S, but it wasn’t the S that I knew. This was…how do I explain it? This was S on laughing gas. This was S in the Emerald City, complete with ruby slippers. She was so euphoric I considered recommending hospitalization. It was just…weird. Don’t get me wrong. Happiness is a good thing. But this wasn’t that. It was more like head trauma happy. She said she was in town and she had to, absolutely had to see me. I have to admit I was curious, so I told her to come on over.

When S showed up, I was horrified. She was skinny, had dark circles under her eyes and looked kind of feverish. And ecstatic. I was thinking drugs, but didn’t see any tracks on her arms. Of course, that’s not the only way to take drugs.

Then she told me about Lifespring. This was an organization I’d never heard of, but she said it had changed her life. She had come to convince me to join. Fortunately, I’m not a joiner. (My mother couldn’t even get me into the Girl Scouts. After one torturous school year in the Brownies, I put my foot down.) She told me that Lifespring conducted seminars that changed your life in some way that she just couldn’t articulate. Yes, of course they cost money. She had spent every penny she had on them, but she wasn’t worried. She knew she’d be taken care of. In fact this was the first time she’d been outside of the company of a fellow Lifespringer in, oh, months. She had convinced several of her family members to join as well, and this is a family with money. She was so happy that she barely felt the need for sleep, which was good, because they were always there, and rarely gave her time for it. But that was okay, ‘cause she was happy. Happy, happy, happy. Soooo happy. She told me that she had given my name and address to the organization.

As you can imagine, I was floating in a veritable sea of red flags at this point. After she left, I went straight to the library. (This was before internet.) I started researching Lifespring, but wasn’t finding much, other than that some considered it a cult, and that a few people had left Lifespring and then committed suicide. I also discovered an organization called the Cult Awareness Network, and they had a great reputation back then*. I called them, and they sent me a packet about an inch thick, full of documents about Lifespring.

The more I read, the more horrified I became. This cult uses all the standard tactics such as sleep deprivation, influence and persuasion, and mind control methods to suck you in and then bleed you dry financially. Their main method of recruitment was to have members approach family and friends, or, barring that, befriending strangers under false pretenses and slowly introducing them to the concept. And she had given these people my address! Rest assured I was highly suspicious of new “friends” for about a year after that.

I like to think of myself as a loyal friend. And I hope that if I were in a cult, someone on the outside would care enough about me to intervene if possible. I brooded about this for about a week. If this were someone with a modicum of self-protection or was capable of even a soupçon of critical thinking, I might have let it go. Let her live her own life, make her own mistakes. But this was S. Her secret garden surely didn’t prepare her for Lifespring.

So what to do? I couldn’t call her mother. Her mother was in Lifespring, too. So I decided to send the inch thick packet of information to her very intimidating father, along with a note explaining that S had joined this organization. I would just let him take it from there.

So far, so good, right? And maybe it was a happy ending. It could have been. I hope so. But here’s the twist. I was not exactly a woman of the world back then, either. So it didn’t really consider the ramifications of what I did. You see, her father is Pakistani. The reason I tend to think the results of contacting him were negative are not because I’m Islamophobic. Quite the contrary. It’s just that S seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth immediately thereafter. So there are several possible ends to this story aside from the happy and loving one I hope for:

  • He disowned her, cut her off financially, and she’s out there somewhere, probably still in a cult (although Lifespring, apparently, no longer exists).
  • He dragged her back home and
    • Married her off against her will. (She had said he was pressuring her, but she was resisting.)
    • Locked her away somewhere.
    • Worst case scenario, killed her off for shaming the family and depleting their fortune.

S has not contacted anyone we knew since her calls to me, attempting to get me to join Lifespring, petered out about a month after our last visit, and that was in the mid 1980’s. She hasn’t given a current address to our Alumni office. I never heard back from her father, either. And she has a relatively rare name. I have Googled and Facebooked her about every six months for as long as there has been Google and Facebook. Nothing. Not a trace.

S, if you’re out there, I hope you’re genuinely happy. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll probably never know for sure. But hey, I did the “right” thing. Right? Didn’t I?

*Please note that the Cult Awareness Network is not the organization it once was. In 1996 it had been bombarded by so many bogus lawsuits by the Scientologists that it had to close its doors and the Scientologists bought out its name so that they could spread disinformation about their own cult. Any “help” that this once reputable organization will give you now will surely be warped, twisted, and biased to their way of thinking, so I’d avoid them entirely, but if you do feel the need to contact them, approach with caution.