Exploring the Freedomain Radio controversy (Part 0)
As a voluntaryist and someone who has a penchant for free thinking and philosophical discourse and someone who can get quite passionate about the particular ideas that I feel are important to promote or discuss I have been attracted to the material put out by Stefan Molyneux on Freedomain Radio, a web site that contains hundreds of podcasts, a number of books and a rather unique discussion board.
What attracted me is the apparent rigor and brilliance of his presentation of philosophical ideas. After listening or watching his podcasts I would often have epiphany like moments where things just clicked in my head and I feel like I’ve gained deeper understanding on the subject that I care about. It further validated and deepened my evolving understanding of voluntaryism and begun to add further context to it in form of its application to what is real in every day life, from how I personally think and feel to how I relate with other people.
I would attribute a lot of my recent thinking about things like integrity, honesty, the evil of contradictions and my relative fall from relativism to Stefan Molyneux’ influence, albeit I have taken a liberty to think them through myself and sometimes even form slightly different expressions of these ideas or perhaps adopt slight modifications of them. I certainly did not feel compelled to take absolutely every word for it from Molyneux and that seems perfectly fine by him, as this is exactly what he appears to encourage with people. So long as there is consistency in your logic and your theories are empirically verifiable, go for it! And so I did.
But then I begun learning about the controversy. The first negative thing that I heard about Stefan Molyneux was fairly benign. One of my best friends online, with whom I speak with almost daily in our IRC channel sometimes expressed his view of Stefan as a bit “insane” on the basis of his presentation style in certain podcasts where he appeared very angry. I didn’t take this all too seriously since it is merely a small percentage of podcasts and expressions of anger scarcely have much to do with the validity of the ideas presented. Additionally, I largely sympathize with the anger since I myself feel it when it comes to facing the violence of the governments, wars etc. and the ignorant and/or self-contradictory defenses put forth for it.
The worst kind of controversy however had to do with some rather extreme sounding accusations against Freedomain Radio which called it an “online cult”. Initially, I didn’t take these accusations for much and was interested in neither concluding that FDR was or was not what it was accused of being. My position was that it was basically irrelevant to the validity of ideas presented in it. This is a stance I still hold to this day. However, it is hard to stop me from being extremely curious and the more I came to admire what was being done at FDR and what Stefan Molyneux was saying the more I felt the need for some sort of a personal closure to the whole controversy thing.
That’s just the way I am. If somebody makes accusations and questions what I’ve come to admire as a good thing and even a truthful thing, either I am going to completely debunk these accusations to sky high to the point where it will be clear beyond all reasonable doubt that they’re just false or flawed or I’m going to separate the possibly valid from possibly bad and just take it at that or I’m gonna have to determine they’re actually all true and dismiss what I’ve believed previously.
And I realize that one way or another it’s not gonna end and I’m gonna keep returning to the issue, visiting the site of the critics and accusers, read the blogs, watch the videos and never be satisfied until I have my final answer.
That said, I am already, despite my silence about this process on my blog, some ways deep into that process. I have been posting on the critics forum mentioned, Liberated Minds, some months ago in an attempt to express my dissatisfaction with the way they have handled their opposition to Stefan Molyneux and his work. I argued that they have essentially exaggerated their case, used misrepresentation and supported downright disrespectful acts towards a person who made a conscious choice. For those not familiar with the issues in question Molyneux’ summary can be found here, and not to be accused of being one sided a representation of the opposing side can be found on this site.
The founder of the Liberated Minds forum and a number of people on that forum were largely behind these stories. Given that the whole issue centers on the conscious decision of one guy to break up with his mother based on what he expressed were feelings of being at least emotionally abused, I couldn’t and still cannot find the mother’s behavior excusable. It could hardly be seen as anything other than a continued pattern of abuse. Once her son decided to exercise his freedom of association and not associate with her again, she plasters his private information and private story all over the media and by calling Freedomain Radio a “cult” who somehow mind controlled him into doing it, also effectively calls him incapable of thinking for himself and acting on his own volition.
I was disgusted at the fact that this act was and to this day continues to be defended by some in the Liberated Minds community, which still serves as a home and encouragement to people like that man’s mother. I haven’t necessarily been too happy with the way Stefan Molyneux handled the controversy either, as far as accusations of him wishing the hoster of the LM forum to shut it down were true, but I’ve considered LM’s support for the above described strategy far more egregious of an offense.
In my relatively brief time there (a few days) I have been having some relatively long debates on the above sentiment upon which I posted my conclusions here. Just this weekend, tempted by a reply to my few months old response to a critical “analysis” of Stefan’s philosophy of forgiveness, I engaged them for one last time, and then left the board by deleting my account.
The reason for that is an experience of a rather recurring theme with the Liberated Minds forum which only seems to support my earlier linked and described conclusion. Certain people on LM forums seem bent on periodically scanning the Freedomain Radio boards for what could possibly be used against FDR and Stefan Molyneux even further. Even if such people had any valid points and criticism of FDR, this kind of practice dilutes their credibility and brings their honesty in the matter to the question.
For instance, they have turned a mere BBQ planning among the FDR community into predictions of them wanting to build some sort of an FDR compound where I suppose they would permanently live with each other isolated from the rest of their world. Their basis for that incredibly ridiculous conjecture is Stef’s apparent description of the BBQ atmosphere as “perfect” because it would be a meet up of like minds.
Another example is their portrayal of Stef’s debating tips video as the worst podcast ever responding with apparent shock and indignation. I’ve actually seen the thread before I’ve seen the actual video and as usual when I encounter this kind of stuff I wonder what the hell could be this bad to cause such reaction, and as usual I am let down. The debating tips in question were not the general debating tips as I would expect them to be, but tips on debating with him in which he brings out some rather benign and obvious concepts as the necessity of preparation, especially when debating with someone who has much more debating experience. Besides, given that he is effectively advising people on debating with him he is in full right to make whatever terms and conditions he wishes.
But the Liberated Minds forums are full of this kind of stuff. However, in fairness, they do have some interesting people and some probably valid points. It’s just pitifully sad that it is diluted this way and that they insist in lending voice and credence to such extreme and unfounded accusations. It begins to look more of a smear campaign than a mere word of warning to those who may have found something valuable in the Freedomain community.
How and why exactly unfounded their accusations are I will write about in subsequent articles, trying to be as balanced as I can possibly be. I will focus on the weak foundations behind their cult accusations, the failed critique of Stef’s philosophy of forgiveness, accusations of certain acts of hypocrisy (alleged legal threats), certain examples of exaggeration etc. I will however also admit where things are less than stellar as far as FDR is concerned, especially given the current stand off as far as controversy over Stefan Molyneux’ book on Universally Preferable Behavior is concerned.
I will also do direct responses to article series published at “FDRLiberated.com”.
My goal is not necessarily to be a good little defender of everything FDR or everything Stefan Molyneux says and does (as I’m sure some critics would like to portray me). I merely wish to be an independent voice in this controversy because I feel that I have some insights to contribute and for my own sense of closure.
- FDR Controverys Part 1: The (flawed) cult claim.
- FDR Controversy Part 2: A “brief” misrepresentation of FDR
- FDR Controversy Part 3: Response to the “analysis” of Molyneux’ response to the UK Guardian article
- FDR Controversy Part 4: “I would like to ask you to stop posting here”.
- FDR Controversy Part 5: Response to The Promise and Failure of UPB
- Response to “Molyneux’s Philosophy of (un)Forgiveness (by QuestEon)” (7th post from top by Guest, written on April 6th 2009)
- “The Guardian and the Cult of Freedomain” (links to resources)