Discover more from Charles Eisenstein
On Mobs, Cults, and Russell Brand
Note to readers: I’m experimenting for the next few weeks or months with a hew format. Benjamin Life, a politically and spiritually astute friend of mine who has been working with me, will conduct a series of interviews/conversations asking me questions about everything from current events to esoteric philosophical issues. Then we will transcribe and lightly edit the results. Here is a short one we did a couple nights ago. Another will follow shortly.
Recently, there were allegations brought forth against Russell Brand around sexual assault. To me, it seems like this is a weaponization of the process of deconstructing patriarchy. The way in which the old story of separation is leveraging the “me too” movement to delegitimize someone who's speaking truth to power seems like a very hollow ritual that is very easy to see through. But it's in the zeitgeist right now. And there are people who are very quickly going to judge him and dismiss him. How would you comment on or provide insight about this?
Personally, I just have barely gotten a whiff of it. I haven't looked into it. I don't have any sense of how credible the women are who are speaking out. It could very well be that it is a deliberately orchestrated attempt to discredit him. It could be that the claims are totally valid, totally true. There are many interpretations you can take. But one thing is for sure, whether they are true or not, they provoke a mob impulse. Nobody wants to be associated with the one that the mob has, rightly or wrongly, designated as the target of the feeding frenzy. And that is an incredibly powerful weapon in social and political culture.
If you want to destroy somebody, you indicate that they are reprehensible, that anyone who associates with them is also therefore reprehensible. That process is not a judicial process; it is completely irrational. And that's why, if you really want to stay sane, we have to distinguish between two things — what is our conformity to the mob, to mob dynamics? And what is actually right and just? It's hard to disentangle those, because it is frightening to be a target of the mob. No one wants to be associated with somebody who's the target of the mob, because then you become a target of the mob as well.
Now, I could say a bit more. If he has victimized women, does that mean that everything he says is illegitimate and should not be listened to? Albert Einstein was apparently horrible to his first wife. Does that mean we should discard the theory of relativity?
We can give many other examples from history.
One of the underlying impulses here is to figure out who the good people are and who the bad people are, and align yourself with the good people, get on the good team, because then you're a good person as well. If it looks like he's one of the bad people… that is a very easy way to control a population. So was this deliberately targeted at him? Or is it simply that somebody who is already unorthodox is especially vulnerable to such allegations whether or not they're true? And if it's somebody who is a fully initiated member of the elite, of the power structure, say Joe Biden. Allegations came out against him too, but they don't have legs. They don't spread because he's not an already marginalized candidate for mob violence. So the ease with which these allegations have landed on Russell Brand bespeaks his already-pariah status. The same happened to Julian Assange. In that case, it was really trumped up charges, but that didn't matter. All that was needed was the signal that this person is a deplorable. Just provide a signal and people will respond: “Oh, I knew it. I don't want to be associated with a rapist or seen as someone who is defending a rapist.”
And it turns out that the rape allegation in Julian Assange’s case came down to he wasn't fully transparent with a sexual partner that he was already in a relationship. Well, that's false pretenses. That's manipulation. That's not consent, etcetera, etcetera.. It’s rape. That’s pretty tenuous. If you're not fully transparent about everything you want from life and everything you want from a partner, and you enter into a sexual encounter on false premises, really is that rape? Can you put that in the same category as violent sexual assault? It cheapens the word, doesn't it?
But these accusations are signals: here’s the target. Pile on! So, whether the accusations are an orchestrated attempt to take him down, or they are gaining traction simply because he's already vulnerable by virtue of being a critic of the regime, I don't have enough information to judge that. Maybe he is a violent sexual predator. We have courts of law to determine that. What is going on in the meantime though is something totally different.
One of the most disturbing and twisted inversions that seems to be a hallmark of the collective projection of shadow occurs when the people who defend him are accused of being in a cult. And the people who levy this criticism are blazingly unaware of their own cult-like behavior.
It's absolutely cult-like behavior to ostracize and condemn those who meet the disfavor of the cult leader. That's how the cults work. The cult leader points to that person over there, they're unmentionable, they are untouchable, they are deplorable, and they get shunned. This happens in religious sects. This happens in charismatic cults. That's exactly how it happens. So it's not only the people who are defending Russell Brand who are in a cult, it's the ones attacking him. And that's true, even if he's guilty as charged, which he very very well may be. And if so, the victims deserve redress. I'm not a believer in punishment, but there should be some form of justice. Does that include that we no longer listen to his political commentary, so as to punish him? No. That's insane. This is not about figuring out who the good guys are.
The last piece around this is more broad than just the mob mentality around Brand’s accusations. It seems to be a common experience of people who are cultivating sanity, who are cultivating islands of sanity, that they are having to withstand the projection that they are in a cult, that their disconnection or disavowal of the default culture makes them insane.
In a way, they are in a cult. It's a group of people holding a different belief system and reinforcing it for each other.
It's almost impossible to hold a different belief system from the dominant one by yourself. You naturally seek out other people who echo it back to you, and who can help you elaborate it and explore it. The formation of a new culture is a group process.
The word cult and the word culture are obviously related. I would say that the dominant culture could be called a cult. And the word cult means a culture that is separate from the dominant culture, therefore, it is called a cult. What makes a cult toxic—and the dominant culture is toxic—is when there's severe punishment for deviance, when you face ostracism and even retribution if you fail to profess the beliefs that the cult mandates. If you don’t exhibit the behaviors and abide by the taboos and rituals of the cult, you get in big trouble.
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