Cybercult Formation


How do warlike tribes resembling cults form up in cyberspace?  Pankaj Mishra offers historical, psychological, and sociological answers in Age of Anger (2017).  A short passage from that book provides food for thought and self-reflection:

The current vogue for the zombie apocalypse in films seems to have been anticipated by the multitudes on city pavements around the world, lurching forward while staring blankly at screens. Constantly evolving mobile media technologies such as smartphones, tablets and wearable devices have made every moment pregnant with the possibility of a sign from somewhere. The possibility, renewed each morning, of ‘likes’ and augmented followers on social media have boosted ordinary image consciousness among millions into obsessive self-projection. The obligation to present the most appealing side of oneself is irresistible and infectious. Digital platforms are programmed to map these compulsive attempts at self-presentation (or, self-prettification), and advertisers stand ready to sell things that help people keep counterfeiting their portraits.

Meanwhile, in the new swarm of online communities – bound by Facebook shares and retweets, fast-moving timelines and twitter storms – the spaces between individuals are shrinking. In his prescient critique of the neo-liberal notion of individual freedom, Rousseau had argued that human beings live neither for themselves nor for their country in a commercial society where social value is modelled on monetary value; they live for the satisfaction of their vanity, or amour propre: the desire and need to secure recognition from others, to be esteemed by them as much as one esteems oneself.

But, as Kierkegaard pointed out, the seeker of individual freedom must ‘break out of the prison in which his own reflection holds him’, and then out of the ‘vast penitentiary built by the reflection of his associates’. He absolutely won’t find freedom in the confining fun-house mirrors of Facebook and Twitter. For the vast prison of seductive images does not heal the perennially itchy and compulsively scratched wounds of amour propre. On the contrary: even the most festive spirit of communality disguises the competitiveness and envy provoked by constant exposure to other people’s success and well-being.

As Rousseau warned, amour proper is doomed to be perpetually unsatisfied. Too commonplace and parasitic on fickle opinion, it nourishes in the soul a dislike of one’s own self while stoking impotent hatred of others; and amour propre can quickly degenerate into an aggressive drive, whereby an individual feels acknowledged only by being preferred over others, and by rejoicing in their abjection – in Gore Vidal’s pithy formulation, ‘It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’

21 responses to “Cybercult Formation

  1. I knew Marty had a larger purpose. Can’t get much larger than the root of all evil – ego. Which money just symbolizes.

    But oh, how hard it is to let go of the ego indoctrination we’ve all had. It means letting go of who we ARE – or who we think we are.

  2. I meant the purpose “Can’t get much larger than ROOTING OUT the root of all evil – ego.”

  3. “Q. But it seems to me there are circumstances that simply induce one to have negative emotions!

    A. This is one of the worst illusions we have. We think that negative emotions are produced by circumstances, whereas all negative emotions are in us, inside us. This is a very important point. We always think our negative emotions are produced by the fault of other people or by the fault of circumstances. We always think that. Our negative emotions are in ourselves and are produced by ourselves. There is absolutely not a single unavoidable reason why somebody else’s action or some circumstance should produce a negative emotion in me. It is only my weakness. No negative emotion can be produced by external causes if we do not want it. We have negative emotions because we permit them, justify them, explain them by external causes, and in this way we do not struggle with them.”
    ― P.D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Way

  4. The strangest and most fantastic fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them.
    P.D. Ouspensky

  5. And furthermore … if anyone is interested in a different take …

    None of this is easy. (self-reflection, recognition of ego etc) All of it requires study and practice, more study and more practice.

    And taking off the blinders we might not even know we had/have. All of it in order to reach some higher state …


  6. It must be a long-standing teaching in some parts of the world. Ouspensky was passing it on in the early 1990s in Europe as part of a reputedly “ancient” teaching. And of course Dianetics furthered it.

    “Man is a machine, but a very peculiar machine. He is a machine which, in right circumstances, and with right treatment, can know that he is a machine, and having fully realized this, he may find the ways to cease to be a machine.
    First of all, what man must know is that he is not one; he is many. He has not one permanent and unchangeable “I” or Ego. He is always different. One moment he is one, another moment he is another, the third moment he is a third, and so on, almost without end.”
    ― P.D. Ouspensky

  7. First of all Happy July 4th!

    By the way anybody who doesn’t believe what Pankaj Mishra calls the “Zombie Apocalypse” isn’t upon us hasn’t spent time in the comments section at the “Underground Bunker” or Mike’s Blog.


  8. RJ, I hope you were wearing your waders, venturing into Tony’s comment section. It s a virtual “bonfire of the vanities” over there.

    Which is also a 1990 movie based on Tom Wolfe’s satirical book. I think I’ll watch it tonight.

  9. Vox Clamantis in Derserto

    Practically from day one I could never get past the first few comments on the Ortega blog. It used to amaze me that Marty was able to get through them and later comment on them on his own blog or anyone else, for that matter. So I know exactly what you are talking about.

  10. The Oracle

    Ortega’s role in life is to throw his followers out of present time daily by consistently focusing their attention on “the past”. Some people would rather be anywhere than in present time with themselves.

  11. The Oracle

    The product of the group, It is a form of group hypnotism. Even when they are propped up on television:

    Go back….go back….. Go back five years ago…. Go back ten years ago…. Go back to last week…… Go back thirty years……. Go back to when I was Queen……. Go back to childhood……. Go back…go back… go back…..

  12. The Oracle

    Then, while the readers or viewers are in a hypnotic state, wrong items, wrong who’s, wrong whys, wrong whats, half truths = false reports are heaped upon them.

  13. The Oracle

  14. The Oracle

    The Underground Bunker is an implant station.

  15. The Oracle

    Dear Tony Ortega, I thought you might want to see this film trailer. The girls giving witness testimony in this film were raped and sold on Backpage in 2010, under your command. 14 years old, their photographs were positioned on Backpage, the International Online Sex Trafficking Syndicate. Which the Village Voice was used as a front for. Since you call this freedom of speech, I thought you might want to see what a few of your victims look like. Some of the money spent on advertising them was wrapped into your paycheck. Probably paid for at least one bar tab.

  16. Saw the movie with Melanie Griffith way back 😎👍

  17. Funny how they dwell in their victimhood while supporting victimization of those who are too young to fight back against these malignant predators who have been set loose by Back Page Tony.

    Along with irony and evil. We can include blatant HYPOCRISY!

  18. More of Ortega’s racketeering, sex trafficking and criminal conspiracies coming to light. It was bad enough when the moderators for Backpage got busted coaching people on how to run ads to sell children.

  19. The Oracle

    You said it better than I did.

  20. Turpitude:
    inherent baseness : depravity, : a base act

    Turpitude came to English from Latin turpitudo by way of Middle French. Turpitudo comes from turpis, which means “vile” or “base.” Turpitude is often found in the phrase “moral turpitude,” an expression used in law to designate an act or behavior that gravely violates the moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of the community. A criminal offense that involves moral turpitude is one that is considered wrong or evil by moral standards, in addition to being the violation of a statute.

  21. My answer, Evertbody has to poop, and it is not pretty

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