Freedomain Radio: Cult or Community?

Recent weeks have seen a spate of articles in the news covering a controversial website known as Freedomain Radio (FDR). The site is based around the teachings of its guru, a Canadian man by the name of Stefan Molyneux. His teachings revolve around personal freedom – in particular, a belief that all human relationships, including those with family, are voluntary and that people should be free to end them.

The Globe and Mail sums up the situation as follows:

Unbeknownst to her, throughout the fall Tom had been writing on the Canadian website, Freedomain Radio, comparing family life to a prison, in posts with titles such as “Confirming the evil of my parents.”

The man running the website is a Toronto-area resident named Stefan Molyneux, who encourages people to cut contact with their parents, even outlining scripts they can follow in the breakup.

Ms. Weed’s was one of several cases in Europe and North America that appear to have followed the script of the pied piper from Canadian suburbia.

“It makes no sense,” Ms. Weed said.

Mr. Molyneux is a one-man Internet hub, churning out hundreds of online messages, essays, books, podcasts and videos of himself staring into a camera and talking intensely about relationships, politics or the economy.

And he isn’t shy about what he does. He says he knows of 20 cases where supporters left their relatives. His website, he says in an interview, is “a Canadian success story,” the most popular philosophy site in the world.

The site particularly attracts users in their late teens and early twenties, times at which many people feel frustration with their parents. Kate Hilpern, writing in the Guardian, reports

One Wednesday afternoon in May, when Barbara Weed’s 18-year-old son, Tom, was right in the middle of his A-levels, he abruptly left home. “Dear Family,” said the note he left on the doormat. “I need to take an indefinite amount of time away from the family, so I’ve moved in with a friend. Please do not contact me. Tom.”

He has not been in touch with any of his relatives since. But Tom is not a missing person. His family know roughly where he is. It’s just that he won’t talk to them and they suspect he never will. “He got hooked in by an online cult,” Barbara says. “The website convinces vulnerable people that they should hate their parents and should leave their family.”

Even the wording of Tom’s letter is from the website. Its founder says, “The letter should buy you six to 12 months before your family come looking for you and that will give you time to get used to living without them.”

Barbara did not wait that long. “I tried to respect Tom’s wishes and leave him alone, but once I discovered that the website was responsible for Tom leaving, I visited him at a cafe where he was working part-time,” she says. She worked out that if she ordered a cup of tea, he would have to listen to her for about a minute. She told him that if he ever wanted to come home, he could. “He just looked at me, shaking his head, as if to say, ‘You fool.'”

Former members of FDR, along with concerned friends and family members, can be found at the Liberating Minds forums. FDR maintains a page on them, describing them as follows:

Liberating Minds is a forum founded and mostly populated by a small number of malcontents who were banned from Freedomain Radio for various dysfunctional and destructive behaviours. It has literally thousands and thousands of posts written by a few people, viciously and personally attacking me and various listeners. (I have posted some examples below — be warned, though — the language is truly foul.)

The rather frantic tone of this post may sound familiar to anyone familiar with groups such as Scientology.

Further reports:
Daily Mail: A fearful mother reveals: The internet cult that stole my son
Jezebel: When an online community becomes your only community

The official FDR site can be found at http://www.freedomainradio.com

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6 comments so far

  1. Johnny Walker Purple on

    Cult led by an idiot and peopled by the weak willed.

  2. Nick on

    Cult is a huge overstatement. I’d say the thing that comes closest is fanboy-ism. I mean it resembles nintendo much more than scientology in this area.

  3. Stefan Molyneux on

    You might be interested in some of the actual facts of the situation, tragically underrepresented by the articles in the media…

    – I had a 50 minute conversation with this young man, and never once told him to separate from his family.
    – This young man was under the care and guidance of a professional therapist before, during and after his decision to take a break.
    – With the support and guidance of his therapist, he tried to work things out with his family for some time after we talked, but his overtures were rejected.
    – His therapist completely supported his decision to take a break from his family.
    – I did not charge this young man a penny for any of my feedback, or books, or podcasts, or anything else.
    – I did not have any contact with this young man after our brief conversation.

    http://freedomainradio.com/media

  4. lisa on

    I have a friend who’s daughter has disowned because of this bizzar cult guru. Her daughter stated that she has divorced the family and is only allowed to communicate with other FREEDOMAINRADIO members. I listened to the freedomainradio radio blog titled economics. The young man who spoke was clearly resentful that his parents, who were paying for his education, weren’t doing it for free. Meaning it came at a cost to him by taking thier calls and tolerating their visits. The guru never once told the boy his parent might love him or that his thinking was selfish and egotistical and life is also about giving. My heart goes out to all parents and families of the lost. when they have children understanding is inevidable.
    Mr. Molyneux you are a bad person and the pain you cause others is going to bite you on the ass one day soon I hope. I think you also could benefit from a few therapy sessions. Try visiting the Museum of Tolerence in Los Angeles, California

  5. Giovanni on

    Do you Mr. Molyneux know that you are mind controlling other people with your views? You’re helping young people make bad choices just like Jim Jones and it’s sad. You must have done a fair share of LSD or cocaine like freud. Be aware of the consiquences other must live with after giving your view or opinions. You can’t suspect the universe is conspioring against us. Why should these kids break ties with the people that love them? Nobody is perfect and you should be telling them that! We as parents try helping and nuturing to help them not harm them! Thankfully my children haven’t the need to listen to you. But I know of one that did and she’s lost in your head, not her own as it should be, in yours! Teach others to think for their own benefit. P.S. have a kid of your own to screw up leave ours alone!!!!!!!

  6. Patience on

    Lisa – sorry to hear your friend’s daughter is also involved with Freedomain Radio. Your friend might like to contact other parents on the Liberating Minds website.


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