Beyond the Pain Matrix
nside the Social Media Cult That Convinces Young People to Give Up Everything
The DayLife Army always seemed like a troll. Then it became a nightmare.
Emilie Friedlander and Joy Crane
(Small quotation from longer article)
Matthew moved back home in late 2018 and eventually entered treatment with therapists specialized in recovery from cultic groups. He also began attending a monthly group meeting for cult survivors.
At first, he said, the thing that struck him was “how similar everyone’s stories were.”
“The idea of needing to sacrifice one’s ego, of needing to destroy people in order to bring in a new matrix,” was a common refrain among survivors, he said. He recognized his experiences in the tales of other victims: the minute rules and the punishments for violating them, the incessant cleaning and menial labor, the constant fundraising and recruitment, the charismatic leaders claiming supernatural authority. Matthew believed that Tumple was doing something wholly new, but at the end of the day, he realized Wiz-EL and KoA had just created another cult.
“It hurt — especially because the initial thing that was tapped into was, ‘You’re going to be this legendary artist,’” he says. “You’re being inflated with this importance that you’re saving the world, thinking that you’re in new biblical times and everyone around you is the most pivotal person ever, and you’re creating a new way of life, the greatest artistic statement of your century. If anything, I feel like the real art piece of the thing is just basically that they recreated the exact abusive structure of the quote-unquote Pain Matrix.”
Reached for comment for this story, Kyp Malone, KoA’s brother, said that while he loved and respected his sister, he chose not to know the specifics of the situation. However, he stressed that he understood why an individual like his sister might end up following the path she chose based on their family’s strict religious background. “We grew up in a high-control group,” he said. “Sometimes people find different ways to reproduce situations that were essentially traumatizing to deal with.”
The DayLife Army’s origins in Weird Facebook, and the particularities of its belief system, may be unique, but the organization shares something in common with contemporary conspiracy theory groups and far-right online communities, which tend to embrace a similar mix of memes, irony, and insider-outsider thinking.
“Conspiracy stuff is challenging what we take for granted — the most extreme example being the flat-Earth thing,” says David Robertson, a lecturer in religious studies at the Open University in the U.K. “It’s about [how] what you’ve been told is true isn’t true.” Part of that formula, he says, is using deliberately provocative rhetoric to prod at consensus niceties and norms. “They say they’re doing it: ‘We’re not even using your language.’ Using the word ‘cult’ to describe themselves — it’s all part of that.”
Eventually, Matthew says, he realized that the only thing that really stood out about the DayLife Army was the way it flagrantly advertised itself as a destructive, dictatorial organization. In some ways, this was more transparent than most high-control groups.
But it also offered the group some plausible deniability, especially in the irony-obsessed context of millennial internet culture. In a social media ecosystem where the most shocking claims always seem to travel the farthest, it was also part of the pitch.
Like many cult survivors, Matthew is still coming to terms with some of his own actions during his time with the group:
“Everyone that I walked around to with my enthusiasm and excitement that we could do something new, I was just dragging all these people into an abusive structure that some of them are still in to this day,” he says.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/26/2020 02:32AM by corboy.