Over the last couple of weeks many in the liberty movement have been discussing the disturbing news about Stefan Molyneux, the popular liberty-oriented internet philosopher.
A few years ago, Molyneux was criticized (in The Guardian and elsewhere) for being a cult leader. Several aspects of Molyneux ring several cult red-flags, like jargon, a charismatic guru, encouraging followers to completely disassociate with family and friends who don’t agree (the jargon for this is “de-fooing”), and also the suppression of dissent within and without the group.
It is the last of those on which I focus here. Recently, Molyneux has admitted to his business manager using Youtube’s copyright claim system to lodge complaints against, and shut down two channels that were critical of Molyneux and his followers. One of them was “TruShibes”. Thankfully, someone had all the videos and have since re-uploaded them to new channel TruMirror. Molyneux has not apologized for his manager’s actions and allegedly excused them by claiming that he was protecting his listeners. The claim is some callers were supposedly being doxed and harassed by one of the offending channels (not TruShibes, another one called FreedomainDamon). Even if that were true, as a talk radio host, it’s not my responsibility to protect my callers. If you become part of my show, you’re becoming a public figure and someone listening to the show might want to know more about you. If that bothers you, don’t call at all, or if you do, be careful about what you reveal.
Former fans of Molyneux have said they’ve been ostracized and banned for dissenting on Molyneux’s forums and former “inner circle” (another cult red-flag) members have spoken out.
Recently, “PaulieDoyle” posted an article to Buzzfeed entitled, “Holy Moly: The Bizarre Online Cult Of Stefan Molyneux”. It was widely shared. Today it mysteriously disappeared from Buzzfeed (and I am reposting it below from its google cache). Perhaps it was supporters of Molyneux (or Stefan himself or his business partner, Michael DeMarco) who got it removed or perhaps it was the article’s author himself to garner more buzz. I don’t know, but I do know this:
Stefan Molyneux is a brilliant guy that I like personally. We’ve met a number of times and he’s been a guest host on my radio show in the past. He’s entertaining and has a good sense of humor. I think that he’s developed a cult of personality by surrounding himself with people who some critics describe as “Stefbots” and has no one around to check his ego. I’m concerned about some of the things I’ve heard and observed, including his “truth about” videos (I don’t believe anyone claiming to know the truth.), misogynistic statements, the use of IP law to suppress dissent (while he allegedly opposes IP – Intellectual Property), and the various outlined cult red-flags. As a result, I have made the choice to remove his video from the “About” page here and also have pulled his podcast, Freedomain Radio, off of LRN.FM.
Here’s the deleted piece from Buzzfeed:
Holy Moly: The Bizarre Online Cult Of Stefan Molyneux
Misogynistic online cult personality Stefan Molyneux continues to grow in popularity. What exactly is he teaching people?
19/08/2014 – UPDATE: Molyneux, a man who claims he does not believe in intellectual property, had two videos linked in this piece removed, claiming copyright infringement. Luckily, I anticipated it, and wrote down what he said! Both removed videos have now been replaced with quotes of what he said. Enjoy!
Like all cult personalities, Stefan Molyneux cuts a superficially charismatic figure. Tall, bald and smiley-faced, the increasingly popular 47 year old Canadian runs FreeDomain Radio, the world’s most popular philosophy podcast. He’s interviewed people like Noam Chomsky; he gives public talks about economics, and he’s even been fortunate enough to have Joe Rogan helplessly nod in agreement with him for 3 hours during a nauseatingly fawning encounter. A self proclaimed libertarian anarchist, those who stumble across Molynuex will more than likely be greeted by videos in which he argues (poorly) for free-market solutions to the worlds woes: that everything, including law, justice and security, can be provided by an unregulated market system.
Fine. It’s just his point of view, and, agree or disagree with him, Molyneux’s online bloviating about a political system that’s never going to become a reality is at first seemingly innocuous. His followers are free to click, watch, agree, and tip their fedora in solidarity.
Behind this Youtube philosopher, however, is a growing cult of personality in which devout followers adhere to alarmingly absolutist (and widely discredited) teachings.
If, for some reason, Molyneux’s videos have spoken to you in a profound sense, and if you’re willing to donate 50 or more dollars a month to FreeDomain Radio, you can become one of its ‘Community’ members. These members are, for the most part, people who have fully committed to Molyneux’s teachings on ethics, philosophy and family. It is to these followers that Molyneux discusses and often endorses the appalling practice of ‘Defooing’.
‘Defooing’ – a term coined by Molyneux – is the practice of cutting any and all ties with ‘corrupting influences’ in one’s life. These corruptions can range from an immoral acquaintance to an abusive parent or spouse. In theory, defooing would be fine if Molyneux were merely advocating leaving abusive or unhealthy relationships; however it seems as far as Molyneux is concerned, virtually all friends and parents are corrupt and worthy of cutting ties with. In a 2005 essay in which he discussed his philosophy, he scathingly wrote
“So face it: your parents were bullies, or weak curriers of favour, or manipulative emotional infants themselves. You have no respect for them, for respect requires courage, and courage requires logical morality. You do not love them, since love demands virtue, and manipulating children into blind obedience is not at all virtuous.”
Numerous people have cut ties with their friends and families as a result of Molyneux’s teachings on relationships and family. Parents have been never spoken to again. Friends have been lost. Jobs have been quit.
‘Defooing’ and practices similar are widely discredited by psychologists. Molyneux’s wife – a psychologist – was even accused of professional misconduct for advocating it to callers to the show. In fact, such is the damage people feel that Molyneux and his wife have done: there are three websites dedicated to warning people about the dangers of joining their online community.
“You’ll watch videos related to the topics that you’re interested in, whether its atheism, or whatever, and gradually he sort of bleeds in stuff about relationships and psychology” says Alex, a young woman who cut ties with her family at the behest of Molyneux. Although she has since reunited with her family, Molyneux’s teachings greatly damaged her life, causing her to drop out of her college major, quit her job, and cut all ties with her loved ones. “I was committed. I was a true believer”
Finding herself increasingly interested in Molyneux’ teachings, Alex became involved with the FDR community, eventually becoming a member of Molyneux’s inner-circle, a select group of ‘Philopher Kings’ who are in direct contact with the libertarian luminary. She and the others in this small group were even at times invited to Molyneux’s house.
“I was listening to the podcasts non-stop…I would listen to 6 or 7 a day. [After she eventually left the FDR community] What I learned about later was this concept of’ information overload’ that happens in cults. Once you’ve absorbed a certain amount of information, you lose your critical faculties…so, you have these podcasts that are like, one, two, three hours long, and once you’ve absorbed all of these different tangents, he hits you with stuff that’s really, really radical. But, by that point, you’ve sort of been depleted of your resources to think about these things critically. That’s where the real shift starts to happen.”
At least consistent in applying their philosophy to themselves, both Molyneux and his wife have cut all ties with their respective families. His wife, who he often references on his show, had a relationship with her family until she met Molyneux and he convinced her that her childhood had not been happy at all. Alex’s experience was almost identical to that of Holy Molys first victim – Molyneux encouraging her to sever ties with her family and friends in the name of his absolutist conception of morality. “I listened to the podcast about confronting your family, and the different ways that you felt that they’d made mistakes when raising you. Very quickly I went towards the podcasts that were like, ‘Well, this is how they’re going to respond, and this is why, and this conversation is actually futile.’ And I went really quickly from that to defooing. I left my home in the middle of the night, moved in with my boyfriend, and just stopped responding to my parents. They were thinking of filing a missing persons report at the time.”
Once a successful young woman with a boyfriend, a job, and a college course, Alex soon found herself poor, alone, and miserable. “I had two conversations with Stef, one was about childhood, and the other was about how frightened I was to defoo. I didn’t really have a contingency plan.”
Two years after defooing, Alex still found herself living her life in search of the approval of the FDR cult. “I broke it off with my boyfriend. I had been getting the feeling that, Stef thought our relationship wasn’t healthy. It’s a very common thing that happens. And so, I broke it off, and was ready to become more deeply involved in the group, but here I was again, no job, no money, nothing. I was kind of in a state of catatonic depression for a while.”
In conjunction with deliberately isolating new members of his community – a practice that is commonly accepted as being a trait of cults – Molyneux also releases videos in which he discusses ‘the facts’ about popular or historical figures. The subjects of his scholarly ‘Truth About’s range from Abe Lincoln to Chelsea Manning.
These videos without fail advocate a free-market approach. In his critique of Lincoln, Molyneux argues that the American civil war – and indeed the problem of slavery – could have been solved if the southern states had been allowed to secede. Apparently, the north could have simply purchased all the captive laborers , and then promptly set them free. It didn’t seem to occur to him that the Confederacy may not have wanted to sell their sources of unlimited free labour, and that slavery remaining legal in the seceded south might still have been potentially problematic.
Unrelenting in his quest for poor taste, on the 28th of May – the day Maya Angelou died – Molyneux posted on his Facebook asking if he could be directed to any source materials regarding the authors life. Two days later, ‘The Truth about Maya Angelou’ was uploaded to YouTube; the only harsh truth revealed being the lack of research that goes into Molyneuxian exposés.
In his critiques, Molyneux almost without fail brings up traumatic events from the individual in questions childhood. He then uses these juvenile misadventures to explain what he regards as his subjects foibles. In making the childhoods of public figures he is criticizing central to their flaws, Molyneux is underhandedly reinforcing his other teachings about parenting and relationships. Everyone is flawed because of a bad childhood, and what is needed for the moral progress of the species is a year zero approach in which followers of Holy Moly cut all ties with past corruptions in their lives and begin anew.
As well as reinforcing his widely discredited views on relationships and family, these videos serve a very important function for the cult of Molyneux: in his demystifying and criticizing heroes of history and lore, he’s also tacitly adducing his own prestige to his followers. The philosopher king is slowly but surely discrediting people commonly accepted as moral heroes, all the while portraying himself as an ethical, economic and relationship guru.
Adding more problems, in his role as a dating guru, the right-wing Renaissance man is an unapologetic misogynist in his attitude toward women. The cognitive dissonance required in order to take Molyneux seriously as a social critic and philosopher became particularly obvious when he turned his sights on woman-hating mass murderer Elliot Rodger.
Unsurprisingly, in revealing ‘the truth’ about Elliot Rodger, Molyneux pointed the finger at two of his usual targets: women and socialists. The latter because they have normalized the notion that it’s okay to redistribute wealth with the use of force, and the former because someone – presumably some gold digging slut – must have gotten the idea into young Elliot’s head that wealth can be traded for beautiful girls. When Rodger realized that this wasn’t so, he snapped.
For a philosopher king, Holy Moly doesn’t seem to realize that the kind of rhetoric he espouses on his channel both validates and encourages people with views similar to Rodger’s. Addressing a caller in a video titled ‘The Matriarchal Lineage of Corruption’, Molyneux went on a particularly vitriolic rant, in which he blamed women for the presence of evil in the world, saying
“Women who choose the arseholes will fucking end this race. They will fucking end this human race if we don’t start holding them a-fucking-countable…They’re the gatekeepers. Look, women who choose aresholes guarantee child abuse. Women who chose arseholes guarantee criminality, sociopathy, politicians; all the cold hearted jerks who run the world came out of the vaginas of women who married arseholes. And, I don’t know how to make the world a better place without holding women accountable for choosing these arseholes. Your Dad was an arsehole because your mother chose him. Because it works on so many women. If ‘arsehole’ wasn’t a great reproductive strategy, it would have been gone long ago. Women keep that black bastard flame alive. They cup their hands around it, they protect it with their bodies. They keep the evil of the species going by continually choosing these guys. If being an arsehole didn’t get women there would be no arseholes left. If women chose nice guys over arseholes we would have a glorious and peaceful world in one generation. Women determine the personality traits of the men because women choose who to have sex with, and who to have children with, and who to expose those children to. I get that you’re angry at your Dad, and you have every reason to be angry at your Dad. Your Dad is who he is fundamentally because your Mother was willing to fuck him and have you; willing and eager to fuck the monster. Stop fucking monsters: we get a great world. Keep fucking monsters: we get catastrophes. We get war. We get nuclear weapons. We get national debts. We get incarcerations and prison guards and all the other florid arseholes who rule the world. Women worship at the feet of the devil and wonder why the world is evil. And then, you know what they say? “We’re victims!..Poor us!”. And some women are absolutely…but dear god in heaven…men will become whatever women want them to become, because women are the gatekeepers…So, I think that if you accept that women are central to the cycle of evil in the world, then you will be able to see how it really reproduces. Evil is of matriarchal lineage – in the present. I’m not talking about Mongol hoards and rapes and blah, blah blah. Evil passes through the Mother. It’s Jewish. It’s a Matriarch.”
Basically, evil is a thing because women have sex with men that Holy Moly doesn’t approve of. The free market apparently does not provide the best results when female consent is concerned.
Although Molyneux’s teachings (and in particular his attitude towards women) are increasingly insane with every podcast, Alex is optimistic that eventually, people will discover the kind of person he really is, “Stef has become demonstrably more unhinged, and I can only see the trend worsening until anyone with a reputation to uphold won’t want to be associated. As far as the new young one’s he’s continually drawing in, hopefully more and more criticism will accumulate that exposes the insanity through this whole thing, so it can’t be buried like it was when I first became involved”
And so followers of Molyneuxian morality must ask themselves: if Elliot Rodger had heard about ‘The Matriarchal Lineage of Corruption’, do you think he would have been encouraged or discouraged to commit his crimes? What’s the difference between the rhetoric above, and the kind Rodger wrote in his manifesto?
“The most meanest and depraved of men come out on top, and women flock to these men. Their evil acts are rewarded by women; while the good, decent men are laughed at,”
This kind misogynistic rhetoric isn’t an isolated incident either, a recent Facebook post of Holy Moly’s saying
Apparently, a young woman’s sexual appeal is designed to ( how he knows definitively what a woman’s sexual appeal is for has never been disclosed) attract a quality man: a nice guy (!?) – like Stefan Molyneux, and presumably, people who follow his philosophy and ethical teachings.
Feral, fedora wearing, fringe-right wing idiots with delusions of grandeur, who think that feigning friendship with a female entitles them access to up their skirt: ‘Nice Guys’ have to a great extent become the laughing stock of cyberspace. This stereotype, though often funny, actually serves to defer attention from the casual violent sexism that is so ubiquitous among followers of Molyneux and those like him. Worryingly, many loyal viewers of the world’s largest and most popular philosophy podcast hold a sincere and deep seated belief that women are at fault for the wrongs of the world because they’ve been granted the right of choosing who they do and do not have sex with.
When Elliot Rodger committed his horrendous crimes, many concluded that misogyny had a major role to play. Even more people dismissed these claims, and said that resentment and hatred of women was not a cultural issue. What’s alarming about the cult of Molyneux, is that very few of his fans – if any at all – seem willing to challenge his psychotic position that evil could be eradicated from the world if women would just get their shit together.
Likewise, when actor Robin Williams passed away, Molyneux was quick to conclude that it was the fault of women, saying
“Womens’ inability to resist free stuff offered to them is equivalent to men’s challenges in resisting the sexual advances of fertile and beautiful women….Don’t expect to get paid if you get fired from your “job” of being a wife….Robin Williams died from an addiction…women’s addiction to free stuff…America must stop its addiction to feeding the wounded vanities of hypergamous women.”
Like most cult personalities – and, in a weird mix of tragedy and irony – Holy Moly also seems to be a pretty severe narcissist. In another podcast, which has since been removed, Holy Moly said
“It’s not up to me whether this show succeeds or fails. I don’t have the option of failing. Because, the kind of communicator who can translate complex philosophical ideas into emotionally actionable to-do lists for people is so rare that they come along every couple of hundred years if humanity is lucky. I don’t have the choice to fail. I don’t have the option to fail. Not because I want to be front and centre in the moral progress of the species, but because the moral progress of the species is absolutely essential, and I have a child. Failure is not an option, which means I have to do whatever it takes to make this show succeed. I have to be as honest and provoke as much discontent and disagreement with people, sometimes as is absolutely necessary. This is not my horse to ride. This is not my career to pursue. This is what is necessary for the world. This is what is necessary so that children don’t get hit, and half of penis skin doesn’t get slashed off from babies. This is what is necessary so that good people achieve their goals and bad people get fucked. This show is really about bad people getting fucked, and good people getting successful, right? In the same way that my cancer treatment was about cancer cells getting fucked, and the good cells not….And the reason I’m telling you this, is not so you understand my show and my motivation, you know? It’s the Bob Marley thing. In one of his songs he says ‘I am playing for mankind’. I am playing for mankind. One love. I am speaking for mankind, I am speaking for the future. I have to be as good at what I’m doing to save lives.”
“He [Molyneux] records absolutely everything. Even when hes just out of the grocery store. One of the other members told me he said he does it because ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if you could hear Socrates having a conversation with his barber’. Sometimes you’re aware you’re being recorded, sometimes you’re not. It adds a whole “walking on eggshells” vibe to everything.”
Usually, when a prophet’s teachings are dedicated to saving lives and minimizing harm, they don’t have families blaming them for the suicide of their child. It’s also usually pretty easy to distinguish their ramblings from those of a psychotic killer.
And so, increasingly, followers of the teachings of Holy Moly are abandoning their friends and family. They’re being taught that their parents were abusive to them. They’re being taught to blame women for the presence of evil in the world.
Aggressive, belittling, and constantly psychologising those who question him, ironically, those who abandon their family at the behest of Molyneux have guaranteed themselves the abusive parental figure he’s so manipulatively convinced them they’re fleeing from.
As a general rule, if you have to keep denying that you’re the leader of a cult, chances are you are in fact the leader of a cult.