June 26, 2015

#109b: What is a Cult? The Five Things They All Have

Cults: Get in Line or Get Out
What exactly is a cult? I hear that question all the time. There are 5 signs that I'll break down for you in a moment, but the bottom line is - cults are hella scary! 

They are pits of quicksand that operate waaaay more like black holes; they don't just suck you in and suffocate you, filling your lungs, ears, mouth and tears with tiny granules of glass - they pull you inside out too, scattering every molecule of you across space and time... and your family too.

Cults aren't cancer. They are much more deadly than that.

Those who are powerless - or oblivious - make the best prey, so this article is specifically designed to empower you - empower you with the skills to see, smell and feel a cult coming before it envelopes you or one of your loved ones. Here we go:
DEFINING THE WORD 'CULT'

Before I list the five cult-indicators, I want to be very clear about something: no one can agree on the parameters of a cult. I'm serious. The definitions range from the very basic, like the dictionary definition, to the absurd (a ten page paper of detailed specifics, single spaced). 

Here's the definition of "cult" in the dictionary:
"Noun:
  • a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. 
  • a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister. 
  • a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing." 
Quite simplistic sounding, isn't it? 

But if you've watched or read Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, or if you're familiar with other famous cults, you know that cults are much more complicated than the dictionary leads us to believe.

Still, as one judge put it in one of the first hearings on Scientology, "you just know a cult when you see it." And I have to say, I do agree. As much as psychologists and psychiatrists and the CIA and the FBI try to nail down definitions, the fact is - there are A LOT of different types of cults out there. And once one dies, another crops up. And contrary to popular beliefs, cults aren't always religious. They actually run a huge gamut of appearances.

So I'm offering you these five characteristics that a favorite website of mine on cults offered. It really nails down the true qualities most cults share. Most experts agree on these five, so I'm listing them.

I think that once you start to nail down a few of these red flags in your brain, it'll be easier and easier to spot a cult when you see one - and you can even avoid ones that are just growing into cults, or ones that simply skirt the edge of the definition...

Because the fact of the matter is - if a community or organization has even a few of these characteristics, it's a big enough reason to run. And run fast.

So with that disclaimer aside, here are the five features most experts can agree on that define a cult.


THE FIVE-FINGERED STOP SIGN

A cult is a community, organization, movement, church or fellowship that... 
  1. Gathers wealth that does not benefit its members or society. 
  2. Forms an elitist totalitarian society. 
  3. Has a founder leader that has charisma, is self-appointed, not accountable, dogmatic and often messianic. 
  4. Uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members. 
  5. Believes the end justifies the means in order to solicit funds and recruit people. 
Those are big words. Let's translate, with examples from WCS, shall we?


1. Gathers wealth that does not benefit its members.


Okay. This basically means that the cult makes a lot of money, but that money doesn't go back to the people in it, or even out of it, which is exactly what non-profits and organizations like these are supposed to be doing.

Instead the money goes into the pockets of the people in power. Most of the time, records of monies made are hidden - kept from the IRS and from their followers/members.

In WCS, this happens in the World Swing Dance Council. They made you compete in order to be recognized as a good dancer, and they made money on every single competitive entry. Not only that, but in order for an event to even be listed on their website, they had to pay huge fees and fines every single year. They made it mandatory for events to hold huge amounts of competitions, thereby ensuring incredible revenue on their part.

Same with clubs, same with instructors - and it goes on and on.

But the money they made didn't go back into the community. Heck, it didn't even go back into their website, did it? No - the WSDC called itself a non-profit, which helped them avoid taxes, but they didn't fulfill the requirements of a non-profit.

They didn't meet regularly, didn't file taxes, didn't publish minutes or report earnings and expenses - no reports at all - to their members. 

Instead, the money was used to line the pockets of the leaders of the cult and the council members themselves. Payments listed as "Ambassadors of Swing" were made in the form of checks to the charismatic leaders of the cult, while a few small token scholarships were given to young people who had recently joined the ranks of the cult and who had already devoted large resources and monies to it.

Millions were made... fines and fees (for what?) were constantly pushed... but we never saw any of it. Once the WSDC had it, it was hidden, coffered and stored. 

When secrecy surrounds huge amounts of money being made off its members - it's a major warning sign that it's a cult.

2. Forms an elitist totalitarian society.

Oh, where should I begin? This basically means that the community has a distinct taste of... snobbery. They're uppity. Self-righteous. Rude. Know anyone? Right.

Let's break it down:

Elitist: "A person who believes that a system or society should be ruled or dominated by an elite." 

All-Star anyone? Nissy anyone? Abstract anyone? I mean, you can walk into a room and know which side is the Abstract corner and which side is the WCS corner, because the Abstract corner can't get enough of themselves. They are aristocratic - noses high up in the air and damn... do they treat others poorly. Well - others outside of their clique, that is. 

Culties.

Totalitarian? "of or relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state." 

"A system of government that is centralized..."

There was a time that the WCS community was all about the clubs. The local clubs were the lifeblood of all communities. And clubs loved to support other clubs.

But the cult ended all that. It centralized all focus and dictatorship into and around the World Swing Dance Council. To their conventions, their points and their teachers, we were pulled, and clubs were no longer praised or fed - but made fun of instead.

Event directors replaced rotating presidents and board members were cancelled out in favor of The Ten. The power left the people and traveled in one single centralized direction: The Church of Jordan and Tatiana.

Now... requiring "subservience..."

Ever seen how they react when someone disagrees with them? Questions the Ten? Says "Jordan can't dance?" OOOOhhhh!!!! Say that ten times and see what they say!!!! That's what they mean by "requires complete subservience to the state."

In the WCS/Abstract cult, you are either IN or you are OUT, and if you are IN, you must behave, act and dance a certain way. You cannot associate with those who are out. In fact, it is a way of life to bully those who are out... 

... Bully and harass anyone who does not get in line with the "state." This, my friends, is not only the sign of a cult - but a very dangerous cult.

3. Has a founder leader that has charisma, is self-appointed, not accountable, dogmatic and often messianic.

One name. Jordan Frisbee. He wears a scarf. Everyone wears a scarf. He wears a specific pair of shoes. Everyone buys those shoes. He changes the dance. No one questions him. He dances Zouk Lambada instead of swing in the Classic Division when he's recovering from knee surgery. They give him first place anyway. And no one is allowed to say it was Zouk. They are required to call it swing.

He wins. He never loses. He is extremely charismatic. He absolutely drove himself to power. He even wears rosary beads as a necklace. People pay the most for him, and he is paid the most under the table by the WSDC. He is studied and worshipped by all. When a judge places them lower than first, they lose their job, not to mention sleep for the rest of the weekend.

His followers are everywhere online, commenting on every WCS site that Jordan is "the way" to do it, whether the video mentions Jordan or not.

He owns 80+ mirrors in order to study himself at all angles and preen himself into perfection for his followers.

Cult. Period. (Don't believe me? Just ask.)

4. Uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members.

This is pretty straightforward. When it comes to WCS, let's look at two facts: 

A. There is an extreme amount of harassment, bullying and psychological warfare taking place within the WCS/Abstract cult and even without. Almost no one hasn't been touched by it in the last 15 years.

Most who were, don't believe it wasn't really an assault because 1. They believe they deserved it, 2. They believe they were uneducated at the time or 3. They think they just didn't know the right answer.

These common beliefs are proof of the psychological warfare in and of itself. Victims never question those above them in the cult because they believe themselves to be inferior.
No one in the cult believes there is simply a difference in dance levels. They believe that dance levels define more than dance ability - they define their charm, social abilities, self worth, beauty and much much more.
And second:
B. How often have you heard a teacher in The Ten or a teacher that's an All-Star, Nissy or major cult member... teach something CRAZY?
In a cult, no one is supposed to usurp those high in office - no one is to get better than Jordan Frisbee or anyone else in The Ten. And in order for that to happen, no one can be taught things that work.
Instead, they have collectively made up some incredibly ridiculous forms of "teaching" - concepts and terms and manipulations of real dance techniques that simply don't make any sense at all.
And instead of saying, "What?! This makes absolutely no sense," the cult members will say to themselves, instead, "Wow. I don't understand this. I have SUCH a long way to go!!!"
That, my friends, is indoctrination.

Add these two up, along with the fact that NO ONE is allowed to leave the cult and that once you are IN the cult, you cannot associate yourself with anyone outside of it and... bam. Another check in the cult box for WCS.

5. Believes the end justifies the means in order to solicit funds and recruit people.

This means that the organization, company, church or community is willing to break the law, break social standards and/or break moral codes in order to serve the cult's needs.

I have seen so many educated, demure and divine women debase themselves to harassment, sexual perversion and even fraud - all in the name of "The Church" of WCS.

People will do anything to protect the leaders - to protect Jordan, to protect Sarah, to protect Annie Hirsch, Ben Morris and all the others.

What lengths are you willing to go to in order to defend their names??? What lengths have you gone to already? Are you a cult member too?
___

And there you have it. It's shocking and it's true. WCS is and has been for many years now, a cult, and we were just too close to see it. 

Even now, as I learn more about the Mafia and the ways that it works, I realize I'm familiar with a lot of it - I already know things before they say it... and then I realize - I learned all these ways - even lived these ways - because of my days in swing. How did I not see how twisted it all was?

I know this is all hard to hear. It was hard for me to admit as well. My work in Scientology really educated me and freed me to see WCS clearly finally. I'm so glad it did. Because the education I received, and the one you just received too, is going to help you in the future.

I'm sure of it.

Because now you know- Cults aren't just religious societies. The last decade has seen a huge growth in cults that are disguised as "self help" movements, and as society, media outlets and musicians push and teach narcissism as a way of life - cults will grow.

Their inherent "we are better than" attitudes match the trends of today, and so the look of cults is ever-morphing. They can be anywhere in anything - and WCS is no exception.

How a dance turned into something so negative, I'll never understand. No. I do understand. I watched it all. But I'll never stop being in awe of it. 

It was so simple. So easy. It started so small - just a few simple decisions that we didn't say "no" to - and now here we stand. A broken body putting the pieces back together.

But there is joy. Joy comes in the knowing of what you've escaped. And when you feel the pull to rejoin the competitive, All-Star, Abstract ranks... just remind yourself. "It's a cult."

And get the hell out.

Love and blessings to you all.
We are survivors. Let's celebrate.

Katherine

This article was first published as the second part of Weekly Note #109. The first part, Knowing is Everything, was published earlier in the week.