Tuur Demeester is a Bitcoin investor and economist. In this interview, we discuss how he was drawn into a toxic online cult, his awakening and leaving, Twitter enabling cultist behaviours within Bitcoin and why it’s key to give air to all voices within Bitcoin.
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Wisdom is developed through experience: an individual’s interaction with other people and events, and their personal reflections on the outcomes, enhance understanding of both the self and the world. Knowledge isn’t endowed genetically, and education provides limited direction. Perspective on exposure to our environment is what drives tangible learning and growth.
People can easily find themselves developing beliefs, and engaging in actions, with the benefit of hindsight they later deem antithetical to an evolved worldview. Submission to a cult, that is adherence to common belief systems and behaviours advocated by a charismatic leader, is an extreme example of this.
People will largely dismiss the idea that they could be susceptible to becoming a cultist. And yet, even the most infamous cults are full of highly educated, principled, and engaging people. People who have then made life decisions that are hard to objectively comprehend. The truth is that we’re all susceptible.
Commonly cults are cast as people in white robes; collectives holed up in fortified buildings; empty-eyed automatons following a messianic figure. But cults are less obvious and more pervasive than we’d imagine. Today, with easy access to powerful and toxic social media tools, building and energising and channelling an audience is available to anyone with a voice.
It’s never been easier to develop a cult.
So, where are the dividing lines? What’s the difference between impassioned rhetoric and dangerous invective? Should we try and conduct reasoned debate using tools that are structurally deficient for such tasks? How open can we be to divergent opinions in a world full of noise and pressure? Could we sleepwalk into a cult, or worse, become a corrupted cult leader?