Call For Media and Government Investigation

of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

Contra Cult Crusaders Need to Communicate and Coordinate

Posted by Barry Pittard on September 30, 2007

In the exposure of morally or criminally aberrant gurus and their cults, it is important to keep focus on one’s own exposure campaigns. This alone takes enormous time and energy. 

However, there is often no communication between contra cult activists across the board, each group of whom is exposing the specific cult which it has left.

One would wish to advocate that, to some degree, activists across the board, engage in organized, civil exchange exchange of views, experiences, and, at times, resources.

One of the difficulties in the way of purposeful cross-exchange of views and resources is that the cultic mindset that brought individuals into a belief system can remain, even when exit from a cult has been made. Rigid, illiberal, locked in, and still fear-fraught. On the other hand, experience of a cult can be the very trigger that was needed for rigorous and productive self-introspection and questioning of belief systems.

Another constraint is, at the same time, one of the great strengths of dissenters from a teacher or an organization accused. This is that the organized ex-followers have, often enough, known or known about each other for years. There has already been formed both a trust basis and an intimate knowledge base of the nature, structure and personnel of the specific fold. Naturally, this distinctive advantage needs to be preserved – yet we need to raise our sights, and not get buried in smaller holes. These confines do not reflect the great latitude of what is a society-wide problem, where a society tends to be very shy of recognizing the harms, even though it is cripplingly hurt by them – both directly and indirectly.

There are, of course, some fora for this exchange of perspectives, such as those provided by conferences conducted by ICSA (International Cult Studies Association, formerly AFF), FAIR (Family Action Information and Resource, UK), and so on. At least face-to-face contact at the personal and professional or academic, levels can help sort out what emails and other readings never will. Here, one is heartened by cyberconferencing (both video and voice) developments such as Skype. 

Some cooperation is essential, given especially that there exist dangerous charismatic leaders who have come under widespread accusation of gravely immoral or criminal conduct.  

Just a few of the topics for discussion are:

  • Internet defamation and stalking (and sometimes real-time stalking) of those who have spoken out
  • Misuse of Wikipedia, and the exploitation of its present weaknesses
  • Prevention of unsrupulous and malicious methods of manipulating search engine results. For example, fanatical proponents of the guru accused multiplying – dubious – blog references by adding country prefixes to items. Using country prefixes as smokescreens. ‘Stacking’ Google ratings with multiple negative – and unfounded – references from a labyrinth of websites and blogs
  • Getting onto the political agenda the dangers posed to public well-being of cultic mindsets
  • Encouraging education systems to find effective means of teaching critical thinking
  • Accessing far greater film documentary, DVD, CD and other information resources that can incorporate the testimony of a range of dissenters but satisfy best independent, professional criteria for objective frameworks of presentation. The passion should not dissappear but certainly discountenanced altogether needs to be the vitriol, the libel, the character assassination, the internet flaming, computer hacking, etc., – although these can be portrayed within the ambit of proper and objective rapportage
  • Breaking down academic resistance to the study of cults
  •  Legal reform and better access to existing resources to ensure that human rights and other abuses by cults and institutions are successfully countered
  • Ways need to be found to ensure that those making allegations against gurus, etc., know about rights and processes, such as the careful making of an affidavit, pursuing remedies via media, governments and police agencies whether local federal or Interpol, and lawfirms. Far greater clarity needs to emerge about lawfirm access to de bono representations, class action provisions, and so forth.
  • Access to professional case-taking where individuals are ready to share their experiences of abuse
  • Greater access to trained, qualified counseling professionals. (Although here there are questions  about whether cult-specific professionals are those best-suited to dealing with cult exist presentations. However could there be enough e.g., Sai Baba-specific, Scientology-specific, SYDA-specific mental health professions to go around?)
  • Ensuring effective interactions between government, civic authorities, media etc., and those reporting serious infractions of law and ethics within institutions, and safeguarding the human rights of whistleblowers
  • Protection or relocation of those in danger because of their testifying against abuses
  • Portraying the widespread, non-specific, nature of teacher or institutional abuse within followings. There need to be comparative studies, and enough of these need to be in language accessible to the reasonably competent layperson
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