Re: Owen Benjamin "Bear"Cult
Date: September 07, 2023 04:01AM
Apart from the monetary aspect, the cultural aspect of relations among the "bears" meets most of the criteria of cult-like behavior listed on the culteducation site. These behaviors are still able to apply, even across a geographically distributed, online environment and using anonymizing pseudo-identities. This was surprising to me. A feature of this cult is the periodic waves of disaffection that occur from among its members who abandon the cult. This cult always needs to replenish its numbers with new members. This cult has trouble retaining members. I think the reason is that the land acquisition project (apart from performative live-streaming by Owrn Benjamin) is currently the main "product" that this cult has to offer. It does not yet offer or deliver online courses, for example. This cult recently concluded an expensive, onsite "festival" in Missouri on one of its properties. The footage of this festival becomes a digital "product" for its members to consume. Now for a word about the themes and topics of interest to this cult. It centres on "truther" themes, sometimes with a libertarian bent, sometimes nationalistic, sometimes racially-centred. There is a kind-of artificially crafted, false masculinity that purports to assert traditional family values and ways of life, including the idea of "home-steading" and self-sufficiency that is able to be participated in mystically. For example, city-dwelling members are told that they can participate in 'Beartaria' by growing a tomato on their balcony. Owrn Benjamin handles these themes in ways that are novel and bizarre, trying to present a kind-of comedic treatment thst is often vulgar and often quite frankly obscene. In fact, my opinion is that the transgressive nature of the obscenity is a tool to pierce the normal, psychological barriers of caution and disbelief whenever one is presented with new attitudes and ideas. Other standard themes include metaphysics that are nominally connected to Christian, pseudo-islsmic and new-age ideas. A strong feature is the villification of ex-"bears" and non-members. In my opinion, the psychological capture by Owen Benjamin of his members has a structural weakness in that it relies on his ability to persuade his members to only access his approved, online content. He is quite effective and skilled as a manipulative persuader (his own father was a professor in media studies and communication, apparently,) but he cannot actually control and restrict the communication devices of his members physically, as he would, say, in a physical environment. His own personal, face-to-face engagement with his members is extremely rare, in fact. One ex-member has made the point that the pseudonymous nature of the "bears," whose real identities are ususlly never known, sllows for a dehumanizing aepect that facillitates for their exploitation without facing real-life responsibilities and accountabilities. Wyy did I leave? Apart from a lot of discomfort that I generally always had, but which I was indoctrinated into minimizing and explaining away, there was a spectacular online debste (regardingg the Christian doctrine of the Trinity) in which he demonstrated shockingly bad-faith and appalling behavior thst woke up a lot of his followers, including myself. However, Owen Benjamin was later exposed in the legal publication of what he thought was a subsequent private phone conversation in which he scurrilously attempted to coerce and blackmail his debate-opponent (by leveraging his public humiliating of the latter's wife) so that his debate opponent might agree to arrangements that Owen believed would mitigate the massive loss of members in response to his poor debate performance. The attempted, secretive coercion and blackmail was extremely shocking. Even more shocking to me personally was his subsequent reinterpretation of the debacle. It seemed to me that Owen Benjamin became clinically manic, hyper-euphoric and psychotic in the way that he tried to reframe and recast the disaster of his failure. For me, he seemed to be extremely unwell, psychologically. Thst fsctor, combined with his scurrilous moral behavior when he believed he was opersting "behind the scenes" of his audience, dispelled the brain-hacking, mental formation that I had succumbed to as a member of his cult. I had thought I was careful and wary of being emotionally and psycholigically manipulated and I thought I had good, robust defenses against persuasive techniques. I am very grateful to realize that I am still susceptible to persuasion snd gullibility even now. Please forgive my typing errors in these posts.