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Production Notes

Production Notes: Episode 6

karengeier June 11, 2019 2


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On Legal Threats

On Belief: A Podcast About Cults Episode 6: Large Group Awareness Training launches today

Since March, I’ve been working on a limited series podcast called On Belief: A Podcast About Cults. It has been uniquely rewarding as a project: I have learned new things every day, I’ve been the recipient of endless generosity, and I’ve been given a unique opportunity to help people tell their stories about either covering or surviving groups which engaged in coercive thought reform.

About a month ago, I received a message in the show’s inbox: One of the groups that make up this week’s topic, Large Group Awareness Training, sent me a Cease and Desist.

Among the claims were that I was participating in Defamation Per Se, and that I was infringing upon the group’s copyright.

The letter also contained 12 pages of their own branding information for some baffling reason.

5 lawyers looked at it. Many scratched their heads. All laughed at it.

The episode in question was a series of interviews, some on the record, and some not, sitting on a hard drive. It hadn’t been edited. It’s fairly hard to participate in defamation if the audio in question hasn’t even been imported to GarageBand.

It didn’t stop this group from spending $5 on my Patreon just so they could monitor every episode.

This same group emailed myself and guest Brock Wilbur regarding 2 throwaway lines in the NXIVM episode, which referenced a popular TV show about Russian spies. Again, they claimed, we had participated in/I had enabled a platform for Defamation Per Se. It was Brock’s choice how to proceed. For his own reasons (mostly that the 2 sentences were not material to the rest of the episode) we complied with the legal request.

However, the original letter was still sitting there like a sword of Damocles. Once I published the episode about █████████, they would proceed with whatever legal plans they had, because that’s how this works: Groups that have deep pockets and a chequered past (to say the least!) will use that money to scare people into silence.

What (if anything) was the move here?

Then, and incredible thing happened: more people from other groups in the LGAT category reached out. It soon became clear that all groups in this category follow a similar method to their progenitor. 

There was also the matter of *how* the lawyers had discovered I had put out a call for sources: They regularly scour the message boards of Cult Education groups and institutions, looking for actionable speech or potentially dangerous speech (to them.) This is an outrageous abuse. 

So the story of █████████ became the larger story of Large Group Awareness Training. Now there are 3 stories from people who have taken seminars from different LGATs. 

I’ve also included an explainer at the top of the episode to highlight some of the lengths █████████ will go to to silence people. It’s not Scientology level, but it’s damned close. (Unlike Scientology, they still want to be seen as a respectable business, after all.)

I began to catalogue the numerous pieces of background evidence people had sent me to back up their claims of their time with LGATs. I had episodes of major news broadcasts (including 60 minutes and Barbara Walters) which had been scrubbed from the internet. I had been sent anonymously a French news report, 1 hour of damning evidence against █████████, also mysteriously scrubbed from the internet.

I don’t like bullies. I also don’t have tens of millions to defend against defamation torts. So what do you do?

There is a defense to Defamation called The Small Penis Rule. The Small Penis Rule is basically this: if you create a character in a piece of literature and make that person instantly recognizable to a reader, but you make one part of their description something the person you’re ultimately referencing include something they wouldn’t want to defend in court, you are invoking the Small Penis Rule. If I write a book with a cotton candy haired, disgusting racist who becomes president, but I also talk about how no woman wants to fuck him, I doubt I’m getting a nastygram from Rudy Giuliani. No one wants to have to be deposed for that.

So I have redacted the direct references to these groups, but the experiences are real, verified by an additional dozen or so accounts and documents indicating that the people I interviewed are telling the truth.

If █████████ wants to send me a nastygram, or proceed with legal remedies, they will first have to meet the bar that a) it’s immediately recognizable which group has been referenced and b) that the sources in question have participated in Defamation Per Se. They would also have to defend against the unorthodox means by which they attempted to silence us.

I would like to thank the counsel of █████████, because without their nastygram in plenty of time to edit this episode, we would not have come up with an elegant solution to help bring you this important story.

I absolutely detest bullies. 

I hope you listen to the episode, because LGATs not only are on the rise, you probably know someone who has participated in one. 

Know anyone who went to a weekend long ‘business seminar’ to become a better leader or communicator? Likely, they were participating in Large Group Awareness Training. 

These groups cost a lot of money, so they often seek out partnerships with major corporations which will pay the full fare for interested employees to take the courses. Often, the employers are taken in by the professional-enough looking branding and the ‘medical’ endorsements in the brochures. They often have no understanding of the cult-like operations of these groups.

You can judge for yourself in the episode today whether you believe LGATs are cults, but whether something is a cult, or merely cult-like is splitting hairs. Any situation where you feel pressured by your job into doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable is wrong.

You should not have to tell a room full of strangers at a Marriott that you were raped just so you can get a promotion at work.

You should not have to participate in meditation exercises which make you mentally break down in order to have better relationships with family.

Large Group Awareness Training uses Attack Therapy and victim blaming language to break people down during their training in order for them to feel catharsis and relief when it’s over. This is discredited as a form of therapy by most bodies which govern mental health care. 

Large Group Awareness Training companies are also going after a very lucrative growing market: the newly non religious. The fastest growing religion in North America is ‘no religion.’ But it doesn’t mean people don’t still want rules, structure, and community in their lives, and it definitely means they’re willing to pay for it. LGATs are stepping in to fill the void and absolutely howling on the way to the bank.

Here is a list from Wikipedia of LGATs. Members from many of these orgs came forward to talk to me. All of them shared objections with the therapeutic methods and of the limitations put on group members, such as NDAs and rules prohibiting going to the bathroom or for cigarette breaks during the (often 12 hour+) days.

Large Group Awareness training might not be ‘a cult’ in a traditional sense, but it doesn’t matter how religious your Catholic church might be, you’re still allowed to go to the bathroom during a service. 

I started this podcast to help people tell their stories of abuse, and I intend to see that through with this episode, even if the names have been redacted and the sources have been given pseudonyms. This story is too important.

If you’d like to listen to the episode, you can do so wherever you get podcasts. The full episodes (Including previous episodes covering What IS a Cult? NXIVM, The Family, Aum Shinrikyo, and Messianic Judaism) are on my Patreon.

I hope you find this episode informative. 

To the legal team and executive at █████████: thank you for your support of the Patreon and the genesis for this amazing swag idea:

Swag available here

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karengeier

Karen is a writer and content strategist from Toronto, Ontario

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