Jan 31, 2023


Around the Web, Around the World

A Little Bit Culty

Revisiting ‘The Vow’: Season 2 Recap with Ayla Fitzpatrick

Do you have a million questions about season 2 of HBO’s The Vow? Do you want to be part of a super exclusive club full of people that are rock and roll as fuck? Do you get a buzz out of supporting culty content creators and storytellers?

Then you should totally join our Patreon, where we unleash a whole slew of bonus content for our nearest and dearest listeners. But while we’ve traditionally reserved our coverage of The Vow for said exclusive cult—sorry, I mean club—we’re making an exception today and sharing some of it with all of our listeners. If you like what you hear, just know there’s plenty more of it available for an extremely agreeable price. If you’re not interested, don’t worry, we still love you! Just less. (Kidding)

On today’s episode, we’re recapping our feelings about the entire second season with special guest Ayla Fitzpatrick, who previously worked in Albany, New York at News10ABC covering NXIVM, focusing on Keith Raniere’s arrest and the ensuing trial. Even though she’s no longer a journalist, she loves to keep up to date with all things cultiverse—just like you guys!

So what did we think about being featured less heavily in this season? Did NXIVM actually cure Tourette’s syndrome (hint: no!), and was the whole documentation and conversation around this triggering or retraumatizing for us? Well, you’ll just have to tune in to find out.

Episode available since January 30, 2023

Jan 29, 2023


Humans can understand apes’ sign language, new study finds

From pointing to animated arm movements and nodding, people regularly employ gestures to accompany and create language.

Now, it’s been suggested that humans can also understand sign language used by apes, meaning humans may retain an understanding of ape communication from their ancestors.

Great apes deploy more than 80 signals to communicate everyday goals, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology.

. . .

Chimpanzees and bonobos, which share more than 90% of their gestures, are humans’ closest living relatives, the study said. Their gestures have been suggested to be an important framework in the evolution of human language, according to study authors Kirsty E. Graham, a research fellow at the University of St. Andrews’ School of Psychology and Neuroscience in Scotland, and primatologist Catherine Hobaiter, a principal investigator at the university’s Wild Minds Lab.

Infants ages 1 to 2 have been found to use more than 50 gestures from the ape repertoire, researchers said. It was therefore thought that humans may have retained their understanding of core features of ape gestures.

Jan 24, 2023


Around the Web, Around the World

A Little Bit Culty

The Community: Jamiyla Chisholm’s Memoir of a Brooklyn Islamic Commune

Hold onto your seatbelt, cuz we’re blasting back to the ‘70s for this one. Here’s the scene: we’re in Brooklyn, New York, at a time when all five boroughs were spiraling into ungovernable anarchy, with crime, violence, and widespread racism leaving the deteriorating metropolis totally ungovernable. If you were Black, you were particularly ostracized and lived in constant danger as a second class citizen (if only this weren’t still true today). And so it’s no real surprise that when people like Jamiyla Chisholm’s father heard about a religious community that would, as Jamiyla put it, protect them from the hellish world and teach them how “they should live as Black people,” they were drawn like moths to a flame.

While we’ve seen time and time again that cults prey on the vulnerable, this often takes advantage of an individual’s current mental, financial, or even physical state. In this particular case, one leader took advantage of nation-wide racial tensions in order to seduce hundreds of people into his community, which merged practices from Islam, Judaism, and various political ideologies.

Who was this leader? Well, we don’t want to give it all away…but here’s a hint: the supreme douchebag is serving 135 years in prison for what’s been reported as the largest prosecution of child molestation ever directed at an individual in the history of the USA.

To find out who we’re talking about, tune in to hear author, journalist, storyteller and educator Jamiyla Chisholm discuss her own experience as a member of this cult, as detailed in her memoir, The Community.

Episode available since January 23, 2023

Jan 18, 2023


The Scientology Joke That Sucked the Air Out of the Room at the Golden Globes

If, like me, you spent much of Tuesday’s 80th Golden Globes scanning Twitter, you probably noted that its host, Jerrod Carmichael, received some mixed reactions. During the ceremony, the comedian told the audience to shut up (he was justified), made a new joke about The Slap™, and spent much of his monologue reminding viewers why he was hired for the not-not-racist Hollywood Foreign Press Association-helmed show in the first place: “I’m here ‘cause I’m Black.”

In this girl’s book, though? Carmichael scored even more points when he dared to mention the wife of a certain terrifying institution leader. In case you stopped watching after the first award, midway though the ceremony, the host returned from a commercial break, toting three statues in his hands. “Backstage, I found these three Golden Globe Awards that Tom Cruise returned,” Carmichael began. “Look, I’m just the host briefly, whatever, but I have a pitch: I think maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige?”

Invoking Scientology’s She-Who-Must-Not-Be-named elicited “shocked gasps,” per reports. I know! How dare this man mention a woman who hasn’t been seen in public since 2007!

Now, in the if you’ve never heard her name (unlikely), Shelly is (was?) the wife of the Church of Scientology leader, David Miscavige. For nearly two decades, questions have swirled surrounding Shelly’s whereabouts. In 2013, former Scientologist and friend of the Miscaviges, actress Leah Remini, filed a missing person’s report with the Los Angeles Police Department after she left the institution. She’s since dedicated entire episodes of her A&E series to her investigation, mentioned it innumerable times in the press, and wrote viral Twitter threads about Shelley’s disappearance from public life.

Jan 17, 2023


Around the Web, Around the World

A Little Bit Culty

One Billion Years: Mike Rinder on How Scientology Could End

Scientology: You know it, you hate it. To be fair, unless you’re a Scientologist, they hate you too! So it’s all even-stevens. But one person they really hate is Mike Rinder. How could anyone hate someone who’s last name sounds like reindeer, especially just a few weeks after Santa made his international rounds on that reindeer-driven slay? Well, having spent his youth doing things like, for example, swabbing the decks of L. Ron Hubbard’s yacht, Rinder eventually made it into the elite sect of Scientology known as the Sea Organization, eventually becoming Scientology’s International Spokesperson and the head of its Office of Special Affairs. Then, he escaped and became a fearless and outspoken ex-member. If you didn’t listen to the first interview we did with Mike, we’re officially mad at you! But we can forgive and forget—just check it out here.

So why did we have him back on the show? Because he’s so fucking lovely. Also, because he just released his new memoir: A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology. It’s a batshit crazy and exclusive, first-hand look into the inner workings of Scientology and the harm this organization does to its brainwashed members. And in today's episode, we specifically get into how Scientology could potentially come to an end (hint: it involves the IRS no longer putting up with the “church’s” bullshit).

So say a little prayer to Xenu and strap on in, cuz this one’s a wild ride!

Episode available since January 16, 2023

Jan 10, 2023


Around the Web, Around the World

A Little Bit Culty

The Kids Are Alright: Sarah & Nippy on Zen Parenting

Here’s a scary thought: fully-grown adults are susceptible to cults, or cult-adjacent behavior (there is truly cultish influence all around us in politics, wellness communities, and so on). So imagine how dangerous this whole world is for children, who are far less likely to have the wherewithal to identify and refute coercive persuasion. If you’re one of our regular listeners, you already know how ubiquitous this shit is (unfortunately); so what can we do to protect our youth?

Well, that’s exactly what we got into with our friends over at Zen Parenting Radio, where Cathy Cassani Adams (a self proclaimed “spiritual and emotional mom”) and Todd Adams (“a logical and practical dad'') get into all things parenting. On their show, we not only recount our own story with NXIVM (perhaps you’ve heard about, read about, or seen it by now?), but also the importance of talking to kids about how relationships that might initially feel exciting or just “good” in some way—friends, coaches, teachers, bosses, etc.—can quickly pivot into something abusive. How can we teach kids to identify culty behavior and help them feel safe enough to ask for help?

This one’s for anyone who believes we need to keep our kids safe from evil, shitty shitheads.

Episode available since January 09, 2023

Jan 3, 2023

Around the Web, Around the World

A Little Bit Culty

Cult to Comedy: Shannon Payton on Turning Trauma into Humor

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Shannon Payton, perhaps better known online as “Shanny Pants,” is a hilarious mother of three whose Tiktoks (etc.) have turned her into a viral queen, with her videos even appearing on TVs across the nation via The Kelly Clarkson show. It’s crazy to think that, for the first 31 years of her life, Payton was actually living something more similar to The Culty Clarkson show (we’re so sorry, we had to try), having grown up in Northern California within a community that her grandparents originally joined as a non-denominational bible study club before it turned into a fear and shame-based cult, ruled by a wacky shithead who loved “marking” (ex-communicating) anyone who questioned him, and who also forbid women from wearing pants or basically being like, humans with any rights or autonomy whatsoever. Fun!

Episode available since January 02, 2023

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