Cyber-bullying: The Power of Anonymity

 

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Definition of Cyber-Bully (Troll)

Cyber-bullying (Trolling) involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others. Cyber-bullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mails to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender, but it may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e. hate speech), ganging up on victims by making them the subject of ridicule in forums, and posting false statements as fact aimed at humiliation.

The prospect of cyber-bullying is becoming an ingrained part of the Generation Y online experience. But it is not something confined to children and teenagers, anyone can be targeted – whether it be a high school student, public figure, online blogger, businesses, professionals or any member of a community or society. It can range from a snide comment on a Facebook page, private video footage released online without consent, to hate speak, threats and defamation of character.

However, if you research cyber-bullying online the majority of the information about its implications and effects is aimed at children and schools, and does not address the wider scope of this heinous issue.

The internet allows people to hide behind a veil of anonymity or a false persona which appears to allow them the scope to publish unsubstantiated, false and misleading information and lies.

There are laws in place that supposedly control what can be published on the worldwide web. For example, you can be convicted of ‘trolling’ in the UK – labelled under ‘offensive communications’ – and this can apply to anyone who can then end up in court facing charges of internet slander and libel.

However, these laws are not clear; the victim is left wondering where they turn to for help.  Are we doing enough to limit the damage of cyber-bullying, and to educate people about it, as well as how to cope and deal with it? There needs to be a larger effort made to help ensure no one, no matter their age, gender or race is made to be a victim of a cyber-bully or a cyber-stalker.

The consequences of online abuse can be severe. From knocking a teenager’s self-confidence to professional reputations being damaged, it can have terrible after-effects. It is difficult enough to bring a cyber-bully to justice, but almost impossible when they hide behind fake names and pseudonyms. How do you legally challenge someone when you are unable to prove their identity? On the internet there is no true level of anonymity, unless you delve into systems and circumventors that most of the general public don’t pursue. But because the internet makes it so easy to create a fake profile online and disguise yourself – an exploit used by both children and adults alike, most people feel they are helpless to act.

Lets call cyber-bullying for what it is – it is cowardice! Bullying is bullying whether it is in person or on line: bullying people under the cloak of anonymity is the ultimate form of cowardice. I was raised along the lines of “if you have something to say about me you should have the decency to say it to my face and not behind my back”. There seems to be this complacent attitude that because it is going on in cyberspace that it’s not as significant, harmful or damaging: “after all, it’s only online. I’m not abusing that person to their face”, when actually it is just as poisonous, vitriolic and perhaps more harming as it is out there for many people to see.

Social networking sites do attempt to regulate and stem this tide of abuse, from groups and image captions to wall posts. But it’s not enough. Further legislation needs to be put in place to both protect individuals online, especially when it comes to defamation, and to make it clear that this type of behaviour is reprehensible and will not be tolerated.

When it comes to defamatory comments it is exceedingly challenging to try to have the posts and information removed, for example Blogger Content Policy states: “Here are some examples of content we will not remove unless provided with a court order; personal attacks or alleged defamation”. Allowing this type of policy fuels the power of the cyber-bully. Being able to remain anonymous makes them even more untouchable; how do you get a court order against a pseudonym? The policy makers need to see that this attitude is deeply flawed and it is time to take cyber-bullying seriously. If this behaviour were happening in a school or workplace it simply would not be tolerated… why should it be any different online?

Cyber-bullying and trolling are a growing problem in today’s “connected” world, and does not just happen inside our schools and among our youth. There is an entire new breed of bullies being born every day in the online world, and they are just as harmful as those in our schools; they cause just as much pain and suffering and are just as mean-spirited.

The repercussions of cyber-bullying are far reaching, and the time has come for us to say no to this, it isn’t right. The law needs to change to answer the call of the common man; to protect the innocent, and not the anonymous bullies who think they have the power because no-one knows who they are. But it is up to the common man to speak up and say this will no longer be tolerated in order for policy makers to sit up and take notice. Just because it is not directly happening to you does not mean it is not happening. By saying nothing, could it be that we are being complicit and condoning bullying on a worldwide scale?

 

 

Universal Medicine: Cult or True Religion

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“…if you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps ‘the’ religion; and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect; but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult.” Leo Pfeffer.

A humorous quotation, but one that is uncomfortably close to reality in light of the many recent incorrect media reports about Universal Medicine. Cults are claimed to be deceitful; they are claimed to be harmful to their members; they are claimed to be undermining values. Cults are claimed to be just about every bad thing in the book these days. It is often a label that people apply to a group they don’t like or understand; it is a derogatory and highly emotive term that carries numerous connotations. However, labels are ubiquitous in religious argument: cult, sect, apostate, pagan, heretic, antichrist… and so on. Call someone a name and you don’t have to refute their argument – it makes it easy to toss it aside as the workings of a potentially crazed mind rather than something that may be of value, truth and substance.

Why are there two separate words in the English language – cult and religion – that are understood by most to refer to two separate things? Calling new religions ‘cults’ is a very clever scare tactic used by the older religions in order to protect their market share. Christianity sees other religions that do not follow its version of doctrine as cults… so that makes all Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, followers of Islam plus all other religions, and thus a very large proportion of the population, cult members on those grounds.

The Roman Catholic Church for example has been around ever since Constantine. He was a Roman emperor who used Christianity, which was a small cult at the time, as a means to impose his belief systems on the bishops; so he promulgated the council of Nicaea and thereby gained control of the populus.1Now, over 1500 years later, people in Catholic churches today still recite the creed set down by Constantine.

Many people question the Catholic Church and other religions, seeing them as some of the biggest cults in the World today: they are viewed by many as man-made constructs which have the potential to lead millions of people astray. Religion in its current form has become divisive due to its many man-made and dualistic doctrines which continue to divide, separate and cause wars.

For many, unless you are a believer in a faith, there is often no difference between a religion and a cult. Just because there are two words for something does not mean that they refer to two qualitatively different things. When does a bush become a tree? Does it matter where the cut off point is?… both are green and leafy and essentially the same thing. Could the same then be applied for the words religion and cult? What defines one from the other – is it a matter of lineage, age, numbers and acceptability over something more modern with smaller numbers and more innovative or challenging concepts? Many common religious terms lack a generally accepted, single, current definition; this leads to confusion over the meanings of certain religious terms, such as Christian, cult, hell, heaven, occult, Paganism, salvation, Witch, Witchcraft, Universalist, etc. A reader must often look at the context in which the word is used in order to guess at the intent of the writer.

One of the most confusing and dangerous religious terms is “Cult”. The word is derived from the French word “culte” which came from Latin noun “cultus.” The latter is related to the Latin verb “colere” which means “to worship or give reverence to a deity.”2 Thus, in its original meaning, the term “cult” can be applied to any group of religious believers. However, the term has since been assigned new and very different meanings. The original meaning of “cult” remains positive; more recent definitions are neutral, negative, or extremely negative.

Theological usage: The Oxford English Dictionary defined “cult” as:

“worship; reverential homage rendered to a divine being or beings”

“a particular form or system of religious worship; especially in reference to its external rites and ceremonies”

“devotion or homage to a particular person or thing.”

This is the historical meaning of the word, but is rarely today heard outside of religious circles.

Sociological usage:  A small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the predominant religion. Hinduism might be considered a cult in North America3; Christianity might be considered a cult in India.

General religious usage:  A small, recently created, religious organisation which is often headed by a single charismatic leader and viewed as a spiritually innovative group. A cult in this sense may simply be a new religious movement on its way to becoming a denomination. The Christian religion, as it existed in 30 CE, might be considered a cult involving one leader and 12 or 70 devoted disciples as followers.

Negative meanings: Any religious group which deviates from historical Protestant Christian beliefs is seen as a cult. This definition would include mainline and liberal Christian denominations, Islam, Hinduism and all of the other religions of the world. The vast majority of humanity would belong to cults, by this definition.

Very negative meaning: Popular media usage: A cult is considered a small, evil religious group, often with a single charismatic leader, that engages in brainwashing and other mind control techniques.

There are those who provide lists of what cults do which is criminal, antisocial or just bad; be it heretical beliefs, brainwashing, authoritarianism, involvement in political intrigues, financial skulduggery and/or sexual perversion. The problem here is that there is no behaviour found in the so-called ‘cults’ that cannot also be found in mainstream religions and in society in general.

From the above vastly differing and widely ranging definitions it can be seen that one person’s cult can be another’s true religion.

The label ‘cult’ has been used to disparage and sometimes to justify discrimination. No-one is likely to say that they themselves belong to a cult – what makes it a cult is that other people call it a cult. The Chinese have banned Falun Gong as an evil cult, while in England it is accepted as a variation of a qigong spiritual exercise. In Russia one finds the Catholic church described as a cult4; in Catholic Belgium a government report listed many Christian religions like the Quakers as cults,5 or rather, ‘sectes’ – the concept of a cult being reserved in the French language for more acceptable religions.

It is impossible to generalise about the characteristics of so-called cults – every generalisation can be refuted by at least some of their number. If someone holding a different viewpoint, belief or way of life makes them a cult member, then every person on the planet belongs to their own cult. When we allow and accept groups of people with similar ways and ideologies as being labelled “cult”, instead of for example, a spiritual group or new religious movement, the implications are far reaching and even damaging. The members of that group then have to justify and defend their position, way of life, beliefs and all that they represent. Throughout history new religions have been treated with fear and suspicion – they are, after all, challenging the status quo with their new beliefs and practices. Early Christians were thrown to the lions, Cathars were burned at the stake, and Jehovah’s Witnesses were gassed at Auschwitz. Thus one might argue that unpopular religions can be discriminated against with relative ease throughout the world when they are labelled, and thus made into, “cults”.

The label ‘Universal Medicine cult’ has been incorrectly applied by the media to describe an organisation that teaches of deep self-care, gentleness, equality and love. If love is a cult so be it – as stated above, one person’s cult is another’s true religion. And thus for many who have experienced Universal Medicine there is only one cult that is worth something and that is the cult of Love – an equal love for humanity, for self and for God.

References

  1. http://www.eaec.org/cults/romancatholic.htm
  2. http://www.nvcc.edu/home/lshulman/cults.htm
  3. http://www.religioustolerance.org/amer_intol.htm
  4. http://www.religioustolerance.org/rt_russi.htm
  5. http://www.religioustolerance.org/rt_belgi.htm