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