Ask the Consent Factory (Episode 2): So Our Boss Wants to Start Up a Hacktivist Cult

Dear Consent Factory: I handle external communications for a privately-funded international NGO active in the fields of education and alternative lending strategies in developing countries. One of the major benefactors of the private foundation that owns the foreign subsidiary that owns our NGO read your How to Herd your Critics into Fake Communities and Waste Their Time series and is potentially interested in starting up one of these “anti-establishment” platforms you mentioned in Part 3 of your series. This benefactor is especially interested in the anti-surveillance cult concept you touched on at the end there. I realize this is a big ask, but we were hoping you could maybe expand a bit on the advantages of the cult concept, as opposed to the standard disinformation-and-distraction model. The benefactor’s interest in this cult stuff has nothing directly to do with the NGO I work for, by the way. I’m acting strictly as a conduit in this instance. — Just Doing My Job

Dear Just Doing My Job: Funny that you should write in with this request at this exact moment. As it just so happens, we’ve been planning to do one of our multi-part series on the hacktivist cult thing, and anti-authoritarian cults in general. Given the growing popularity of anti-authoritarian hacktivism among the college-educated 18-29 demographic, we figured the timing was probably right. As you mentioned we mentioned in our earlier series, starting your very own hacktivist cult (or better yet, a decentralized “movement” organized around some celebrity figurehead) is not only an extremely effective means of rendering harmless hundreds of thousands of potential critics and other such troublemakers, it’s also a serious source of revenue, once you get into anti-surveillance software, movies, TV shows, masks, and so on.

The working title of our upcoming series is How to Operate an Anti-Authoritarian Hacktivist Cult. We’ll be posting Part 1 of it later this week. You’ll definitely want to have a look, as it will probably answer most of your questions.

In the meantime, you might want to go ahead and investigate cults (and thought reform), generally. There are all kinds of different models out there (i.e. religious, new age, corporate, and so on), but the simple fact of the matter is, no matter how you dress it up, fundamentally, a cult is a cult … they operate according to the same set of principles, which we’ll be exploring in our series, of course.

We recommend you start with the classics, Manson and his “Family,” the People’s Temple, and the Church of … well, we think you know who. If you get through all those, some less well-known but no less interesting examples include … OK, we’re not allowed to mention those either, as they tend to get extremely litigious, and our attorneys are over-taxed as it is.

Please be advised, though, if you start down this road, it gets increasingly weird and paranoid, what with all the front groups, conspiracy theories, religious fanatics, and other bull goose loonies. If you find yourself sitting up at 3AM googling Dr. Michael Aquino, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the Temple of Set, odds are, it’s probably time to stop.

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