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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – History of Oregon

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The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was the spiritual leader of the Rajneeshee religious sect headquartered at Rancho Rajneesh in the Central Oregon desert from 1981 to 1985. He attracted hundreds of thousands of red-clad followers from around the world, known as sannyasins. These followers, mostly educated and affluent, followed Rajneesh's teachings which he argued did not reject but rather built on, other religions. Described by reporter David Sarasohn as a combination of Eastern mysticismand the Western human potential movement, the Rajneesh believed that meditation and sexual exploration were essential to spiritual enlightenment.

Born Rajneesh Chandra Mohan in 1931, Rajneesh grew up in Kuchwada in central India. In 1955 he earned a masters degree in philosophy and taught at two universities until 1966. In 1974 he founded an ashram (commune) in Poona (Pune), India where his success as a spiritual leader began. On July 10, 1981, his assistant Ma Anand Sheela, the president of the Rajneesh Foundation International, purchased the 64,000 acre Big Muddy Ranch straddling Wasco and Jefferson Counties in Central Oregon. The Bhagwan renamed it Rancho Rajneesh and moved there in August 1981.

The Rajneeshee developed the city of Rajneeshpuram, whose population was estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 in 1983 and 1984. They also planned a communal farm on the property. As the population of sannyasins increased, so did local resistance. Reports surfaced that Rajneesh was exercising mind control techniques on his followers. To the suspicion of the residents of the nearby town of Antelope, he owned fleets of Rolls Royce cars and private jets, while sannyasins on the commune labored 12 hours each day without monetary compensation. A lengthy struggle between the Rajneesh and their neighbors erupted, attracting the attention of the international press. On September 13, 1985 Sheela, his assistant, fled the commune for Europe amid criminal charges.

Despite Rajneesh's attempts to distance himself from Sheela, the commune collapsed, and on October 28, 1985, he too fled. Arrested when his jet refueled in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rajneesh was tried in Portland on charges of immigration fraud. Immediately after his trial on November 14, Rajneesh left for India and changed his name to Osho. He spent the rest of his life in several countries including Greece and Uruguay. He died on January 19, 1990 in Poona, India where his followers still operate an ashram.

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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh - History of Oregon

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November 5th, 2020 at 7:58 am

10 Shocking Facts About The Rajneesh Movement – Listverse

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The Rajneesh movement made its way to Oregon in 1981 and was led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The religious cult made national news after engaging in immigration fraud, busing homeless people to their commune, and perpetrating the largest bioterrorism attack in US history in an attempt to overthrow local government leaders.

The group had several disagreements with neighboring cities and the authorities before the community was disbanded in the mid-1980s. More recently, interest in the Rajneesh movement has been reignited by the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. Here are ten shocking facts about the Rajneesh movement.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, born in 1931, was a guru and meditation teacher from India. His success as a spiritual leader began in the city of Pune. He taught his disciples to live in the world fully without becoming too attached to it. He also taught dynamic meditation to help people experience the divine, and he had a progressive approach to sexuality.

In 1981, he moved to the United States, and a year later, he incorporated Rajneeshpuram. This was the new city in Oregon he planned to build for his followers. The spiritual leader attracted thousands of followers from around the world. Many of his devotees were highly educated and wealthy. Several years after opening the large ranch for his followers, Rajneesh was arrested on charges of immigration fraud. After his trial, he immediately left for India and changed his name to Osho. He spent the rest of his life in several countries before his death in 1990.[1]

Many people were attracted to Rajneesh and his teachings largely due to the embrace of materialism and sexual hedonism. Rajneesh was a wealthy man himself, and he didnt mind flaunting it. He often wore expensive watches to show his wealth. Many of his followers were already rich or had a higher education and were attracted to his wealth.

Rajneesh also taught that sex is a path to enlightenment. He believed sex is divine, and the primal energy of sex has the reflection of godliness in it. He said that in the moment of sexual climax, the mind becomes empty of all thought. The empty mind is like a void, and a vacuum is the cause of the shower of divine joy.[2] Its obvious to see why Rajneesh attracted so many followers with teachings centered on wealth and sex.

When Rajneesh moved to the US in 1981, he purchased the Big Muddy Ranch just outside of Antelope, Oregon. The community was named Rajneeshpuram, also known as Rancho Rajneesh, and was briefly incorporated as a city in the early 1980s. People from all over the world escaped here to create a utopia filled with spirituality and a free love atmosphere. The community was self-sufficient and had everything it needed.

Legal issues soon shook Rajneeshpuram as Rajneesh and several others found themselves in legal battles for criminal activities. The Rajneesh movement quickly collapsed, and Rajneeshpuram was evacuated.[3] Montana billionaire Dennis Washington bought the property to be used as a destination resort, but he ran into zoning issues later. The Washington family later donated the land to Young Life in 1996. The land is now home to Young Lifes Washington Family Ranch, which is a 64,000-acre Christian youth camp that features zip lines, an Olympic-sized pool, go-karts, a man-made lake, water slides, and an 8,200-square-meter (88,000 ft2) fitness center.

Rajneeshs right-hand person and secretary was Ma Anand Sheela. She instantly became devoted to Rajneesh after meeting him when she was just 16 years old. She helped convince him to come to America and managed the commune while also being the president of the Rajneesh Foundation International. She was a fearless and ruthless leader in Rajneeshpuram and made many media appearances to troll the neighboring towns and those who hated the Rajneesh people.

She was looked at by many as someone who shouldnt be crossed, but her crimes started catching up with her. In 1984, she attempted to influence a local election by using hundreds of homeless people and registering them to vote. After the plan failed, she arranged for Rajneesh scientists to contaminate food at local restaurants to make people sick before the elections.[4] She was also accused of wiretapping and attempted murder.

In 1986, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder, wiretapping, immigration fraud, and engineering a salmonella outbreak. She was released from prison early for good behavior, and she now lives in Switzerland, where she cares for 29 mentally disabled patients in her two care homes.

The Rajneesh people are responsible for one of the largest recorded marriage fraud cases in the United States. It is said that there were more than 400 sham marriages perpetrated by the Rajneeshees. The immigration fraud was believed to be headed by Ma Anand Sheela when they moved to America. The marriages were between US citizens and visiting foreigners. They were created to give the foreigners permanent residence in the United States and bypass American laws.

Authorities were aware of the possible illegal marriages, though, and the Rajneesh people could feel the pressure. The religious cult stayed in a legal battle with the US over the immigration fraud, but they eventually lost the fight.[5] Several people were arrested for immigration fraud, admitting that the marriages were a sham to allow followers to settle in Oregon with Rajneesh. Rajneesh also pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, was ordered to pay a $400,000 fine, and was not allowed to reenter the country.

Thousands of homeless people were being bused into Rajneeshpuram to live and work in the commune. Followers claimed this was a massive new charity being performed by the group to give homeless people another chance at life. Critics of the group claimed the homeless were being shipped to the area to boost voting for members of the religious group. The leaders of Rajneeshpuram wanted to start getting members elected into government positions to give the group help with certain things, but they would need more people to vote for their members in order to get elected. This was the reason homeless people were being moved to the location and registering to vote.

The cult soon realized that many of the homeless were mentally ill and refused to vote for them or live with their ridiculous rules at Rajneeshpuram. The homeless people were told they would receive a ticket back to where they came from, but instead, they were dropped off at nearby cities, causing an influx of homeless people to these towns. Many of the homeless were even part of a $40 million suit against the Indian guru after learning they were used for voting.[6]

The people of Rajneeshpuram wanted to take over the local government, and another one of their crazy plans to do so would be more harmful than shipping homeless people in and out of their town. Since they didnt have enough people to swing the votes their way, they decided they would take out their competition. After conducting an inspection of the ranch, Wasco County Executive William Hulse and Commissioner Raymond Matthew became ill. They had drunk ice water from the commune that had traces of salmonella in it.

Followers of the group didnt stop there, though; they would also be responsible for the largest bioterrorism attack in the United States. Salsa bars, vegetable and salad bars, table-top creamers, and other foods at a dozen local restaurants and supermarkets were contaminated with salmonella. Nobody died, but more than 750 people were sickened due to the Rajneeshees actions. They had hoped that if enough people were sick during the election, they could throw it to get their leaders in. The plot didnt work, though, because the locals were angry and turned out to vote against the Rajneesh people after suspecting it was them who caused the illness.[7]

The controversial guru was accused of brainwashing his followers. They would always wear certain colors and a portrait of Rajneesh around their necks. Dynamic meditation was performed every day by the Rajneeshees to get them out of their heads and bodies. There were four phases of the mediation that gave the followers the experience that their minds were leaving their bodies. This was believed to be part of the mind control that Rajneesh employed on the Rajneeshees.

Former members of the cult have even spoken out about how they believed they were brainwashed after arriving. Roselyn Smith claimed that she was part of a sophisticated program of mental manipulation. She remembered entering a four-day breath therapy group after arriving at the commune, and she said that by day three, shed entered into a cathartic state that lasted for hours. She then went through a five-day intensive enlightenment group, a sensory deprivation tank, and a 14-day insight group. She said it took her years of expert counseling to regain self-confidence and self-worth after leaving the group.[8]

As stated earlier, Rajneesh embraced materialism and enjoyed the finer things. He owned a massive fleet of expensive cars which he would use for his daily drive-bys, which was a drive along the road of Rajneeshpuram while the followers would line the road clapping. Rajneesh once said, Wealth is a perfect means which can enhance people in every way...So I am a materialistic spiritualist.[9]

His first two Rolls-Royces were a Corniche and Silver Shadow, which were shipped from India to the Oregon ranch. His collection would eventually grow to a fleet of 93 Rolls-Royces. After Rajneesh left the country, the Rolls-Royces were auctioned off. The cars were in mint condition and had very few miles on them because Rajneesh drove a different one each day. The cars were sold for anywhere from $60,000 to $265,000 a piece.

Devotees of the religious leader plotted to assassinate Oregons US attorney and its attorney general in order to prevent criminal probes against Rajneesh. The plan was uncovered by FBI agents investigating the followers.[10] The group decided to murder the US attorney and then assembled weapons and spied on him, but they never carried out the plot.

This was the end of the Rajneeshees in Oregon; Rajneesh had already been deported from the United States. Several of the other top members had fled the country as well. Sheela served time in prison and was eventually deported to Switzerland (where she could not be extradited). Seven cult members had been indicted in the murder conspiracy by 2006.

Im just another bearded guy trying to write my way through life.

10 Shocking Facts About The Rajneesh Movement - Listverse

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A portrait of warped motherhood, Arts News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

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"I would be lying if I said that my mother's misery has never given me pleasure."

This is the first of many barbs of truth unleashed in Avni Doshi's debut, a lacerating look at a toxic mother-daughter relationship.

Antara's mother, Tara, is losing her memory. She forgets to pay the electricity bill, the name of the road she lives on, what century it is.

She claims to have bought razors and threatens to use them if things "deterioriate". She rips up Antara's artworks, douses them in alcohol and sets them on fire.

Antara feels her mother neglected her during the reckless years that included a spiritual interlude at an ashram as the guru's lover, a stint begging on the streets and an affair with a photographer, Reza Pine.

Tara's dementia seems to her a final elusion of responsibility. Antara - of Tara yet un-Tara - has spent years honing her resentment like a blade, but now she cannot make her mother feel guilty about things she claims not to remember.

Doshi holds nothing back in this portrait of warped motherhood, of two women entrenched in despising one another, yet so inextricable that they sometimes slip into, even usurp each other's places.

She excels in her control of the novel's sensory aspects: assailing the reader with a miasma of details, like in Antara's childish memory of the ashram as a spit, sweat and sex-soaked nightmare.

Elsewhere, she draws back with cool economy, loading compact phrases with layers, as in her descriptions of Dilip, Antara's affluent America-bred husband, as a man who "breaks his rotis with two hands" and prizes his wife's odourlessness in pungent Pune.

Tara is a talented cook and food fills the narrative, beginning with the evocative title, something sweet that has been pushed too far.

Doshi picks out tastes and scents that stick in the mind, like the pickled Kashmiri garlic that Tara's mother-in-law eats daily, filling their house with "the particular smell of digested allium".

By Avni Doshi

Hamish Hamilton/ Paperback/ 231 pages/ $32.10/ Available at

Rating: 4 Stars

Both Tara and Antara try constantly to escape: Tara, the farcical strictures of her marriage and society, but also the hurt she has caused others; Antara, her body - first puberty "opening (her) up from the inside" in uncontrollable ways, then motherhood, as she has her own daughter and is dismantled by the ensuing depression.

"Maybe this is the point of a pregnancy, of motherhood itself," she thinks. "A child to undo the woman who bears it, to pull her safely apart."

Above all, they try to escape each other and fail, bringing the novel to its febrile climax. Motherhood means not being able to choose who you love. But it is love, however much it hurts.

If you like this, read: Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (Vintage, 2018, $18.95, available at EverythingUnder_DJ), another Booker-shortlisted debut about a fraught mother-daughter relationship. In this Oedipal retelling, Gretel is confronted with the dementia-stricken mother who abandoned her 16 years ago after raising her on a canal houseboat.

Writing about postpartum depression did not prepare Avni Doshi, 37, for actually experiencing it.

"I didn't know I had postpartum depression," says the mother of a son, two, and a newborn daughter.

"Even though people had spoken to me about it, I wasn't able to recognise the various symptoms in myself. I just thought I was tired or a little stressed out. I couldn't really see the depth of the despair I had fallen into."

Doshi was born in New Jersey to parents from India and previously worked as an art curator in Mumbai. She began her debut novel Burnt Sugar eight years ago, moving in the meantime to Dubai, her husband's home town.

She never thought it would get published, let alone make the Booker shortlist. When her editor called with the news, she was convinced she was hallucinating. She sat there in quiet disbelief until she received an e-mail confirmation.

In Burnt Sugar, set in Pune, India, the narrator Antara experiences postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter.

Antara, an artist, is also struggling to care for her mother Tara, who has dementia. Antara feels her mother neglected her as a child, running away from her marriage to an ashram.

The relationship between mother and daughter in the novel is so toxic that it upset Doshi's mother before she had even read it.

"People must have told her that it's quite intense and difficult," she says over Skype from Dubai. "So she said, 'You've exposed me, you don't have a right to do that, how can you write about things that are private?'

"Then she read the book and realised it was nothing like us, so that calmed her down a little bit."

Doshi has a "relatively good" relationship with her mother, whom she says is "very proper" and not in the least like the rebellious Tara.

Still, much of her novel is drawn from reality. Many relatives from her mother's side belonged to the Osho ashram in Pune, founded by the controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Doshi's grandmother in Pune was diagnosed five years ago with Alzheimer's disease. Doshi became obsessed with researching the condition. She read scientific journals, listened to podcasts and talked to doctors about it.

"I thought, I'm going to cure my grandmother," she says. "I have no background in science, so obviously that wasn't a possibility."

Just as Antara uses her artwork to comprehend her mother's condition, so Doshi used her novel to try to understand what was happening to her grandmother.

Becoming a mother in the process of writing her novel has shifted her perspective on motherhood, she says.

"I think now that I'm a mother, I realise how important it is to be able to decide that you don't want to be a mother. The more I understand about motherhood, the more I realise it's not the best choice for everyone.

"I can understand how having, for generations, that kind of pressure where motherhood is a decision that's made for you automatically, can be extremely difficult and damaging for families."

Olivia Ho

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A portrait of warped motherhood, Arts News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

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November 5th, 2020 at 7:58 am

In search of the real Ma Anand Sheela – Livemint

Posted: October 21, 2020 at 2:54 am

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The 2018 Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country is ostensibly focused on the exploits of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the Indian spiritual guru known as Osho, and his followers, who established a commune in Oregon, US, in 1982. But the most magnetic presence in it is Sheela Ambalal Patel, better known as Ma Anand Sheela, a fervent devotee of Osho since the age of 16, who was elevated to his personal secretary and de facto empress of the community.

With her innate chutzpah and fiery wit, the young Sheela lights up the screen every time she makes an appearance. Her signature remark, at the height of her brash swagger, was Tough titties, much to the delight of headline-hungry journalists. But the older Sheela, who was in her late 60s at the time of shooting the show, projected an air of dignity, a hint of world-weariness that was sporadically dispelled by her simmering eyes.

This two-in-one personality is also palpable in Nothing To Lose, Sheelas new authorized biography, written by journalist Manbeena Sandhu. She is much wiser now, more toned down, Sandhu says on the phone from Toronto, where she lives. Although she was briefly fascinated by the Osho movement in the early 1990s, when she lived in India, Sandhu never joined it. I noticed a fair bit of narcissism, egotism and hedonism among the followers which didnt align with my beliefs, she says. But this distance didnt come in the way of her forging lifelong friendships with many of the sanyasins, living in India or Canada, where Sandhu moved after her marriage in 2000. I collected my stories about the movement through the last 25 years, she adds.

From the beginning of her association with the movement, Sandhu heard one name again and againthat of Ma Anand Sheela, even though Sheela and Osho had fallen out by 1985 and become estranged. After Sheela had left Oregon with a loyal band of followers, Osho sent the law after her, accused her of wire-tapping, immigration fraud and poisoning his personal physician. Later, the charge of bioterrorism was added to the list, pertaining to her role in poisoning 10 salad bars with salmonella in the city of The Dalles. Sheela was extradited from Europe, where she had fled, and eventually served time for 39 months before being given parole for good conduct.

In spite of her chequered past and ostracization by the core Osho group, Sheela held sway over the sanyasins for years. But even those who knew her whereabouts were reluctant to talk, Sandhu says. Wild Wild Country changed it all. Suddenly Sheelas address and details were only an internet search away. So Sandhu picked up the phone, spoke to the reclusive matriarch, and offered to be her biographer.

Sheela was warm but not convinced at first, Sandhu recalls. She asked me to fly down to Switzerland to meet her. So Sandhu, with her husband and children, went to Maisprach, the village where Sheela runs care homes for the elderly and infirm. Sheela went to receive the Sandhus, was hospitable and helpful, generous with her time. Before long, work on the book was on its way, initially with long interviews in person, followed by near-daily trans-Atlantic conversations after Sandhu returned home.

A biography involves intense research and reporting, but in the case of Sheelas story, the challenge is heightened by the moral ambiguities that underlie every significant move of her life. There is much to unpack, multiple versions of the same event to square. But thats life for you, its full of grey areas, Sandhu says. I have kept parts of her story open to the readers interpretation.

Indeed, at several points of this very readable book, we are confronted with Did she or didnt she? moments. As Sheelas life with Osho begins to unspool, Sandhu reveals to us a softer version of the indomitable sanyasin. She comes across as vulnerable and shrewd, calculating and crumbling, by turns. But she refuses to admit to feeling any remorse. All her life, Sheela has maintained that whatever she did was for the love of her guru. She even described her prison sentence as a fee she had to pay to her master, her guru dakshina. With her steely reserve of strength in the face of monumental adversity, Sheela found a second wind as an unlikely feminist iconshe embodies what millennials and Gen Z fondly admire as badass qualities.

At 70, Sheela remains bold, beautiful and brutally honest, Sandhu says. She is the small-town girl who did things that even stars dont manage to do in movies!

Nothing To Lose by Manbeena Sandhu, published by HarperCollins India.

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In search of the real Ma Anand Sheela - Livemint

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October 21st, 2020 at 2:54 am

Rajneesh: The Indian Sex Guru Who Slept with Hundreds of …

Posted: September 1, 2020 at 10:50 am

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by Tom Leonard The Daily Mail

Every day at 2pm on a dusty road through the mountains of Oregon, hundreds of young people dressed head to toe in various sunrise hues of red and orange would gather to wait solemnly for a car to go past.

It was always a Rolls-Royce, although a different one each day, and it would glide slowly past as they bowed and threw roses on the bonnet.

Inside, wearing robes, a tea cosy-style woolly hat, flowing grey beard and beatific smile, was the object of their devotion, the guru and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Once he had passed by, the crowds would return to toiling in the fields or finding their true selves in group sex sessions.

Rajneesh not to be confused with the far tamer Maharishi, who was the Beatles Indian guru presided over a New Age sex cult that was second to none in its embrace of free love, unorthodox meditation techniques and sheer outrageousness.

In India, he was known as the Sex Guru and attracted tens of thousands of followers from all over the world, including celebrities, from the venerable British journalist Bernard Levin to film star Terence Stamp.

In the U.S. he was dubbed the Rolls-Royce Guru. Given that he owned 93 of the luxury cars, the title was more than fair.

His followers were often highly educated professionals ready to reject the strictures of middle-class convention and seek enlightenment first in India and later at communes in Oregon, Cologne and Suffolk.

Some left spouses and children, while others donated everything they had to the cult.

What they received in return were a bead necklace with a locket bearing the gurus picture, a new Rajneeshi name and the great mans thumb imprint on their forehead, giving them their third eye of insight.

However, it was the groups attempt to build a $100 million utopian city in a remote corner of the northwestern state of Oregon that became its downfall in the Eighties, resulting in a jaw-dropping scandal that included attempted murder, election rigging, arms smuggling and a mass poisoning that still ranks as the largest bio-terror attack in U.S. history.

The story of the Rajneesh movements slide from peace-and-love hippiedom into machine gun-toting, homicidal darkness is revealed in a new six-part Netflix documentary entitled Wild Wild Country.

The makers talked to key former Rajneeshis also known as sannyasins including the gurus terrifying second-in-command, Ma Anand Sheela. All of them seem nostalgic for those heady days.

The series uses some of the reams of previously unseen home-video footage shot by the movement, and has been criticised for leaving viewers to decide whether the Rajneeshis were a terrifying, murderous cult or as some of them still insist just a peaceful, persecuted minority religion.

The facts, say former prosecutors and other outsiders who came into contact with the toxic clan, are as indisputable as they are damning.

Rajneesh was a philosophy lecturer who, in 1970, founded a spiritual movement and commune in Pune, near Mumbai (formerly Bombay). His teachings were a bizarre mixture of pop psychology, ancient Indian wisdom, capitalism, sexual permissiveness and dirty jokes that he gleaned from the pages of Playboy magazine.

His dynamic group meditation performed with eyes closed and pop music blaring involved periods of screaming, frenetic dancing, standing still, and jumping up and down shouting Hoo!.

Sex lots of it and with as many partners as possible lay at the core of his philosophy. He insisted that repression of sexual energy was the cause of most psychological problems.

Rajneesh argued that monogamous marriage was unnatural and advocated unrestricted promiscuity, including partner-swapping, from the age of 14.

Blessed with a captivating stare from huge, soft eyes, he was so charismatic that many of his followers who would fill 20,000-seat stadiums to hear him speak believed he could be a second Buddha.

But Rajneesh, born in 1931, was no ascetic mystic in a loincloth. He couldnt get enough material possessions, collecting not only Rolls-Royces but expensive jewellery and diamond-studded Rolex watches.

He concentrated on luring affluent Westerners to his ashram (hermitage) in Pune, where he lectured in front of a 20ft-long banner which proclaimed: Surrender to me, and I will transform you.

The fees he charged for group therapies were so exorbitant that some women disciples worked as prostitutes to raise the money.

The actor Terence Stamp, star of the films Billy Budd and Far from the Madding Crowd, visited in 1976 after his girlfriend, Sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton, left him. He stayed for several years, dropping out of society.

Anneke Wills, a British actress who had played Dr Whos sidekick Polly, joined the ashram in 1975. For the first few nights I cried into my pillow. Id swapped my wonderful home for a mattress in a communal dormitory, she recalled.

But there were some wonderful people there. I was a bit bored by the free love thing. Id had enough of all that. It was the meditation I was interested in.

She remained there for six years before following the Bhagwan when he moved to Oregon, where she became one of thousands of non-U.S. followers who undertook arranged marriages so they could stay there.

The late Bernard Levin, one of Britains best-known newspaper columnists and a former Daily Mail writer, was also taken in. He stayed at the ashram in his late 40s and later wrote a string of drooling articles about the Bhagwan, describing him as the conduit along which the vital force of the universe flows.

Rajneeshs move to Oregon in 1981 was prompted by an investigation by the Indian authorities over immigration fraud, tax evasion and drug smuggling. The group purchased a 64,000-acre ranch near the tiny settlement of Antelope, and the 7,000 disciples who moved in swamped the 50-strong resident Bible-bashing population. The two sides mistrusted each other from the start.

Rifle-toting ranchers started driving around with Bag a Bhagwan car bumper stickers but the Rajneeshis, by force of numbers, soon won control of the town in a local election.

Antelope was renamed Rajneeshpuram. The victors set up a heavily armed peace force, practising daily with Uzi sub-machine guns on their range, and drove a Jeep with a 30-calibre machine gun mounted on it around town.

A local park was reserved for nude sunbathing. One scandalised woman complained that she could hear peoples orgasmic experiences all day and all night.

Construction began on a self-sustaining Rajneesh city intended for 50,000 residents, with scores of houses, shops, restaurants and even an airport built. But local people jointly took legal action against the development, backed by politicians increasingly convinced that the Rajneeshis were a dangerous cult.

Alarming evidence of this included a BBC documentary in which a British journalist, the late Christopher Hitchens, filmed one of the Rajneeshis encounter sexual therapy sessions. Footage showed a crowd of naked men and women packed into a room, screaming and attacking each other.

Hitchens described another disturbing session in which a woman was stripped naked and surrounded by men who bark at her, drawing attention to all her physical and psychic shortcomings, until she is abject with tears and apologies.

He went on: At this point she is hugged and embraced and comforted, and told that she now has a family. Sobbing with masochistic relief, she humbly enters the tribe. Hitchens added darkly: It was not absolutely clear what she had to do in order to be given her clothes back, but I did hear some believable and ugly testimony on this point.

Rajneeshs own sexual needs were largely met by his long-standing British lover and care giver, an attractive long-haired brunette named Christine Wolf Smith (or Vivek, as he renamed her). Amid rumours that he had his own harem, he boasted to the media of having had sexual relationships with hundreds of women.

However, beset by health problems, Rajneesh had already stopped addressing his followers before he arrived in the U.S. He retreated into public silence, living in a heavily guarded compound and rarely venturing out apart from his afternoon spins in the Roller. He left day-to-day running of the movement to Ma Anand Sheela, his secretary, who became his official mouthpiece.

Sheela was a young Indian woman whose small stature and disarming smile hid a ruthless megalomaniac who walked around with a large handgun strapped to her hip. She would do anything to preserve the movements survival and her dominance.

In 1984, the Rajneeshis gathered up 6,000 homeless people from across the U.S. and brought them to live on the ranch as an apparent act of charity.

In fact, they had bused them in so they could register to vote in an election for the local county commission, which the Rajneeshis also wanted to control so they could get their new city approved.

When the ruse was foiled by officials, the homeless were put back on buses and dumped in surrounding cities.

Sheelas dominance was threatened when Hollywood became fascinated by the guru. Francoise Ruddy, the glamorous co-producer of The Godfather, started throwing glitzy fundraisers for him at her Hollywood Hills mansion, where guests indulged his greed for expensive baubles, including a $3 million diamond watch he had requested.

Rajneesh was also spending heavily to feed his serious dependence on drugs, taking large amounts of Valium and inhaling nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to get high. Possibly delusional because of the drugs, he became convinced that a global catastrophe was imminent. He asked his personal doctor, an Englishman named George Meredith, to supply him with drugs to ensure that he passed away painlessly.

By now the paranoid Sheela was bugging key personalities in the group, including the guru. Eavesdropping on Rajneeshs death discussions with Dr Meredith, she convinced her closest allies that the doctor was colluding in their masters death and had to be killed.

Jane Stork, an Australian disciple, jabbed a miniature hypodermic needle containing adrenaline into the doctors left buttock but he survived. I felt like Joan of Arc, who was going into battle, she says in the documentary. It was all about keeping the Bhagwan alive.

But the doctors name was only one of those on a hit-list of cult enemies drawn up by Sheela. It included local journalists, officials and the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Charles Turner.

She knew Mr Turner was planning to charge the group with immigration fraud over the sham marriages it arranged so foreign members could stay in America.

Jane Stork again agreed to be the assassin, waiting all day outside Mr Turners office with a revolver. He didnt appear. Other officials were also staked out but the murder plots were scrapped.

Rajneeshs girlfriend, Vivek, was also targeted. She later told the FBI she believed Sheela once gave her a poisoned cup of tea that sent her heart-rate racing and made her deeply nauseous.

The cult had its own biological warfare laboratory and some targets were sent contaminated boxes of chocolates. A judge almost died after eating one.

A pilot who worked for the groups airline, Air Rajneesh, also claimed that Sheela made him drop a bomb from his plane over a courthouse. The local planning office was set on fire.

As relations within the group deteriorated, one night in September, 1985, Sheela and a small group of allies fled the ranch and went to ground in West Germany.

Furious at her desertion, Rajneesh broke his four-year silence and publicly accused her and her gang of fascists of various serious crimes, including three attempted murders and embezzling $55 million in funds. He suggested she had left out of sexual jealousy because he wouldnt sleep with her.

She didnt prove to be a woman, she proved to be a perfect bitch, he said.

She hit back, branding the movement a gigantic con practised by a man not remotely interested in enlightenment.

However, Rajneeshs allegations allowed the FBI to descend on the ranch, where they found a secret bunker under Sheelas home containing 10,000 tape recordings from her mass bugging operation, plus an arsenal of unregistered guns intended for a Rajneeshi hit squad.

As they questioned disciples, the Feds turned up even more devilish plots. In a bid to incapacitate non-Rajneesh- supporting voters in Antelope, the Rajneeshis had tried to poison the water supply of the nearest large town, The Dalles, by introducing beavers, on grounds that they carried harmful bacteria.

When the beavers proved too big to be slipped through the reservoirs covers, they were shoved into food blenders and their liquidised bodies poured into the reservoir instead. It didnt work but in a trial run for a more extensive effort to incapacitate voters, Rajneeshis contaminated food on display at salad counters in restaurants across the town with salmonella. More than 750 people fell seriously ill and a few, including a newborn baby, almost died.

Sheela and seven others were extradited to the U.S., where they were convicted of conspiracy offences including assault, attempted murder, arson, mass poisoning and illegal wiretapping. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison but served only 29 months before being released and deported. Jane Stork was also jailed. Two British disciples, Susan Hagan and Sally-Anne Croft, were charged with plotting to murder U.S. Attorney Charles Turner and served two years of six-year sentences.

Prosecutors were only able to charge Rajneesh with immigration fraud. They feared a bloody shootout with his heavily armed defence force if they tried to arrest him but Rajneesh obligingly fled in a Lear jet. He was caught when it landed to refuel just before leaving America.

The guru agreed to a plea deal and was deported. He returned to Pune, renamed himself Osho, and died aged 58 of heart failure in 1990.

Today, there are still small numbers of Rajneeshi devotees around the world.

In the years since the cults heyday, former members have exposed ugly truths about the free-love culture: some women were raped, abortions were sometimes enforced and nearly 90 per cent of disciples had a sexually transmitted disease.

Insiders have also admitted that Rajneesh had some very unsavoury views, including being a fan of Hitler and euthanasia.

In a final irony, the Oregon ranch that was once a haven for free sex is now a Christian youth camp where evangelical young Americans are taught the virtues of sexual abstinence.








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Heres what Netflixs Wild Wild Country doesnt explain …

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When Ma Anand Sheela first met the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in his apartment in Mumbai in 1968, she hugged him and cried. My whole head melted, Sheela says in the Netflix docuseries Wild Wild Country, which discusses Rajneesh and his cult. My life was complete. My life was fulfilled.

Rajneesh, who died in 1990, was a powerful spiritual guru who had thousands of followers in India and the West. In 1981, with the help of Sheela, who became his personal assistant, Rajneesh bought a ranch nearby the tiny town of Antelope, Oregon, and moved his cult there, creating a whole new city named Rajneeshpuram. Its no surprise that the situation snowballed, leading to heated confrontations with local residents, attempted murder, and mass poisoning. Wild Wild Country follows the saga in captivating ways, through historical footage as well as sit-down interviews with Sheela, who effectively ran the cult and was Rajneeshs spokesperson, and other members who had prominent roles, like Rajneeshs lawyer Swami Prem Niren.

But as Ronit Feinglass Plank notes in The Atlantic, the series doesnt really explain what the day-to-day life was like in Rajneeshpuram. And it doesnt really address how its possible that thousands of people could just give up their lives, wear only maroon clothes, and blindly follow one man. What are the psychological mechanisms at play?

Rajneesh preached to his followers about the idea of creating awakened people who live in harmony with their surroundings. But his cult also forced members to donate large quantities of money, while creating an isolated community that kept tight control over its members. The Netflix documentary doesnt show this, but Win McCormack, who wrote about the cult in the 1980s, points out in The New Republic that Rajneeshs followers were encouraged to get sterilized or have abortions. (For more on Rajneesh and his cult, read The Oregonians 20-part investigation from the 1980s.)

Rajneesh was just one of many cult leaders who have captivated and horrified people throughout history. In 1978, cult leader Jim Jones urged more than 900 of his followers to kill themselves by drinking poison in Jonestown, Guyana. In 1993, in a standoff with government officials, more than 75 Branch Davidians died in a building fire in Waco, Texas, together with their leader David Koresh. All of these groups, and many more less prominent cult organizations, have some things in common. I talked with Louis Manza, chair and professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College about how cult leaders control their followers, when people are most vulnerable to cults, and the difference between cults and religions.

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

How do cult leaders like Rajneesh exert control over their followers?

They can take a lot of approaches, obviously. On a real simple level, they could take control in a very physical way, restraining someone from leaving a space, but that doesnt seem to happen a whole lot. Its more of a psychological control. If you look historically at different types of cults, theres always an indoctrination period where the cult leader is going to form a bond with people. Once they have that bond, now they can get inside of someones head, because now those people start to trust that person. And now the leader can start to make other suggestions to them: You should move away from your family. You should come live with us, etc. Thats one of the critical things: there has to be that emotional connection thats made by the person whos running everything with the people they want to bring in with them. If you dont have that connection, its going to be really hard to get people to do anything.

What kinds of psychological mechanisms do cults use to keep their members in line?

Once someone forms a bond with a person, you can use that to your advantage, to a certain extent. You can withhold certain types of things. If youre the cult leader, [you can decide] we all get to meet at this point in time, and we all get to talk about our feelings, but you cant come this week because youve been misbehaving, or youve not been pulling your share, or whatever the case might be. Once you have that relationship with that person, punishing [or rewarding] them can get something out of them. Again, its not a physical-restraint type of thing, but it is a form of control.

Theyre also paying attention to what works, the same way that a spouse pays attention to what works with their significant other, the same way a parent pays attention with their kids. [Parents] can punish their children by making them stand in a corner for 10 minutes, and that works because that kid doesnt like to stand in a corner. But for another kid, that doesnt work, so they have to find something else. So they take the tablet away from them, or they dont let them watch television. People who are very good at understanding other people, are very good at paying attention, can get inside someones head and then exploit that. But the person whos exploited has to be exploitable. If someone is in a good place psychologically, then theyre most likely not going to be exploitable.

People who are very good at understanding other people, are very good at paying attention, can get inside someones head and then exploit that.

When are people most vulnerable to a cult?

On a simple level, when theyre in a state of psychological instability if something is not quite right in their life, if theyre missing something, especially on a relationship perspective. We are social creatures. Theres going to be some variability there; some people like much larger social circles than others, some people like to live in a cabin in the woods by themselves. But the majority of us fall in the middle. Its part of what makes us humans. And so if thats missing for individuals, and they dont have a way of meeting that need on their own, theyre going to look for someone else who can maybe provide that need for them. Now, lots of people will join cults as a way of satisfying that. Other people will join other types of groups.

I compete in ultramarathons, so I do a couple races a year. And that kind of satisfies that need for me. Now, is that a cult? I dont think so, not in a way we define a cult, when you think of like the Jonestown massacre and Jim Jones. If youre into certain sports teams, that social need is being met there. Its just that idea that someone needs some type of social connection. I think its one of the primary forces. If they simply cant find a way on their own to fulfill that, and then someone comes along and says, Hey, we have this group. And youre welcome. Join us! it can be a very subtle thing at first. If you want to get someone in, and you know how to manipulate people, its fairly simple to do: you bring them in, you establish the relationship, and then you just start sucking them in more and more, and eventually, someone just crosses a line and theyre in. And then they can have a hard time getting out, because now they have that social need being met. It can be a very subtle process along those lines.

What do cult leaders have in common?

They tend to be charismatic. Historically, if you think of the people we call cult leaders, like David Koresh, James Jones, they all had a certain charisma. That goes back to what I was saying about forming social bonds. If you cant attract people to you, then youre going to be hard-pressed to form a cult. Beyond that, its going to depend. You have to understand people, you gotta know whats going on inside of their heads, you gotta talk to them, you gotta be able to pull information out of them. Those are skills. All of us use them in different ways. Ive been teaching since 1992, so I know if I do this, I will get students to interact in class. Is that a form of manipulation? Sure it is. I wouldnt put it up with the same kind of manipulation that a cult leader is doing, but they are also doing that. Theyre understanding people, theyre studying people. They develop that kind of skill-set, but I think charisma has to be at the top of it, because just knowing people, its a skill people can acquire. Being charismatic and understanding people, thats another thing altogether.

People who are in power also like to keep that power, and they dont want to give that power up. The cult leader wants to control people, to a certain degree. When you look at people who run these organizations, if you look at the more historically famous ones, they had a need to control people, and when that control got pushed up against, they pushed back. When David Koresh and the Branch Davidians went down, Koresh didnt want to give up control of those people. And you had the gun fight and the burning of a building and all that. Jim Jones didnt want to give up control of those hundreds of people in Jonestown, and people died. I think wanting to control is a driving force from the leader, and wanting to belong is the driving force for the member. You put those things together, you create the perfect storm for getting people into a cult.

Whats the difference between a cult and a religion?

Religions are an organized belief system, and cults are organized belief systems. People will engage in lots of behaviors on the part of their religion, that can be very good but it can also be very bad. People have killed other individuals in the name of their religion. Now, will Catholics prevent you from leaving the church? Not to my knowledge. I was raised Catholic. Im an atheist now. No one held me back. So what we usually consider cults tend to exert a bit more control over their members, but thats not to say that that control doesnt happen in more organized, traditional religions. But with cults, you see that real psychological, physical-restraint thing kick in to a much higher degree than you see in Catholics, Lutherans, or whatever. If there is a dividing line, its along those lines, but they definitely share a lot of features, because theyre organized belief systems.

But there are lot of things that are not even religions or cults that are organized belief systems. Again, if youre part of a certain sports team, you have an organized belief system. But mental manipulation, psychological manipulation is something you tend to see more in cults than in organized religion.

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Heres what Netflixs Wild Wild Country doesnt explain ...

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COLUMN: Following in the boots of a legendary hiker – Baker City Herald

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I probably wouldnt have detoured from the trail except that my son, Max, insisted.

Im glad his power to persuade is considerable for a kid whos celebrated just nine birthdays.

Because without Maxs cajoling I likely would have plodded ahead, as though I were on a schedule, and in my stubbornness I would have missed one of those serendipitous and joyful moments that happily interrupt the humdrum passage of our days.

But thats not quite what happened.

We were, it turned out, two days too late for what would have been a memorable encounter for me and for my wife, Lisa.

Max would have remembered it, too, albeit for different reasons.

The person we missed meeting is not a celebrity on the level of, say, Paul McCartney.

But William L. Sullivan is, I daresay, famous among many of us who think one of the better ways to appreciate Oregons beauty and variety of landscapes is to get our boots dusty tramping its trails (or muddy, or snowy, as the season and the situation dictate).

Sullivan is to Oregon hiking guidebooks what Stephen King is to horror novels.

Not that I mean to typecast either of these fine writers.

King, as anyone knows who is more than slightly familiar with his work, has authored many compelling tales which feature no monsters and carry nary a whiff of the supernatural.

Sullivan, though he is best known for his series of 100 Hikes books that divide Oregon into five regions, has also penned many other books. These include Cabin Fever, a memoir about building a log cabin with his wife near the Oregon Coast, a history of the states greatest natural disasters, and six novels, including ones that feature such iconic (and real) Oregon characters as skyjacker D.B. Cooper and guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

But Sullivans first book has always been my favorite, and I suspect it will retain that title no matter what subject he turns his prodigious talent to.

Listening For Coyote is Sullivans story about the 1,361-mile solo backpacking trip he made in 1985 from Oregons westernmost point, at Cape Blanco, to its easterly extremity in Hells Canyon.

As someone who relishes hiking but rarely stays out for more than a couple nights in a row, or covers more than 30 miles in one excursion, I have long been drawn to accounts of truly epic journeys such as Sullivans.

I own several books describing hikes on long-distance routes such as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails, and I can while away hours following in the authors bootsteps while I relax on a sofa or a reclining lounge chair in the backyard.

But none of these accounts has ever endured itself so thoroughly as Listening For Coyote.

I suspect this is due in some small part to my age when I first read it. I was in high school, an era when I think many of us are susceptible to the lure of an adventure story in a way that we never are later, as our own experiences accumulate and our sense of wonder at new things atrophies. Its a sad, but I think also inevitable, transition.

But for me the most powerful attraction of Listening For Coyote is that its simply a cracking good story, and Sullivan tells it with deft and piquant prose. I have probably read the book a dozen times, and never does the scent of Sullivans campfires fail to reach my nose, never do I not shiver when hes trudging through snow after an early blizzard in the Blue Mountains.

That snowbound trail where Sullivan left his tracks is the very one that Max, Lisa and I walked earlier this summer, the path that follows the North Fork John Day River through its wilderness canyon west of Baker City.

The conditions could scarcely have been different on the day of our trip. The mid-July afternoon was that rare sort when the old chestnut about there not being a cloud in the sky happened to be true.

We couldnt, at any rate, see so much as a scrap of cumulus or tendril of cirrus in the somewhat abbreviated scope of sky visible from our vantage point in the depths of the densely forested canyon.

We bought Max his first real backpack a couple of years ago and just lately hes been nudging us, like a frisky horse too long stabled, to get out in the woods. Lisa and I picked the North Fork trail, which we had hiked before, albeit without children in tow. We chose the path largely because, as riverside routes often are, it lacks the lung-straining climbs that can quickly sap a young hikers enthusiasm.

(And, if I must be honest, a somewhat older hikers.)

When Max spied the cabins metal roof glinting among the lodgepole pines he darted onto the spur path leading toward the structure.

Guy Hafer of Cove, who died in 2007, built the cabin on his mining claim. It stands on public land and the cabin is left unlocked. There were a few rodent droppings inside but it appears the people who use the cabin respect it, and Hafers legacy, and try to ensure it remains usable.

I noticed a notebook ensconced in a plastic bag on a table. It looked to be a sort of guest book. I pulled it out and was shocked by the most recent entry. It was signed William L. Sullivan. The date was July 16, just two days earlier. He was doing research for an updated version of his 100 Hikes In Eastern Oregon book.

I hollered at Lisa, who was outside.

We were both thrilled, albeit a trifle disappointed to have come so close to having met Sullivan.

I interviewed him in 2006 when he made a presentation at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

But meeting him on the North Fork trail would be another matter altogether. And the reason is that one of the most memorable chapters in Listening For Coyote is the one in which Sullivan, hiking through a rainstorm that soon turned to snow, was spared from having to pitch his tent in inclement weather when he came across another old mining cabin about a mile or so downriver from Hafers.

This other cabin, nicknamed the Bigfoot Hilton by someone who visited it before Sullivan, has become something of a shrine for hikers due to its inclusion in Listening For Coyote.

Not to belabor my earlier reference to Paul McCartney, but for me, coming across Bill Sullivan in a cabin on the North Fork John Day would be comparable to bumping into the ex-Beatle while taking the requisite photo in the most famous crosswalk on Londons Abbey Road.

It was not to be.

But I was pleased just the same to have shared a trail, in a manner of speaking, with the man who must be Oregons most famous hiker.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.

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COLUMN: Following in the boots of a legendary hiker - Baker City Herald

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September 1st, 2020 at 10:50 am

Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn’t End Well. – Washington Monthly

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A new book shows the troubling consequences of Grafton, New Hampshires anti-government experiment.

From his books very title, its clear that Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling sees his story as one great big joke. As he describes it, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear tells the strange-but-true story of Grafton, NH, a small town that became the nexus of a collision between bears, libertarians, guns, doughnuts, parasites, firecrackers, taxes and one angry llama. The bookhis firstis based on a lively article, published in 2018 in The Atavist Magazine, about an attempted political takeover of the small New Hampshire town by a motley crew of libertarians and survivalists from all across America. Their stated goal was to establish the boldest social experiment in modern American history: the Free Town Project.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling PublicAffairs, 288 pp.

Their effort was inspired by the Free State Project, a libertarian-adjacent organization founded in 2003 with the goal of taking over New Hampshire and transforming it into a tiny-government paradise. After more than a decade of persistence, the project persuaded 20,000 like-minded revolutionaries to sign its pledge to move to New Hampshire and finally force the state to live up to its Live Free or Die motto. (Despite their pledged support, only about 1,300 signers actually made the move. Another 3,000 were New Hampshire residents to begin with.) The projects political successes peaked in 2018, when 17 of the 400 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives identified as Free Statersalthough all but two were registered Republicans.

The affiliated Free Town Project set its sights on Grafton in 2004 because of both its small sizeabout 1,200 residentsand its long history as a haven for tax protesters, eccentrics, and generalized curmudgeons. The Free Town Project leaders figured that they could engineer a libertarian tipping point by bringing in a few dozen new true believers and collaborating with the resident soreheads. Over the next decade or so, Free Towners managed to join forces with some of the towns most tightfisted taxpayers to pass a 30 percent cut in the towns $1 million budget over three years, slashing unnecessary spending on such municipal frills as streetlights, firefighting, road repairs, and bridge reconstruction. But eventually, the Free Town leadership splintered and the haphazard movement fizzled out. The municipal budget has since bounced back, to $1.55 million.

But even though the Free Towners full-scale libertarian takeover of Grafton never fully materialized, they fanned the flames of a community culture that prioritized individual freedom above all elsewhether the individual sought the freedom to smoke marijuana or feed daily boxes of donuts to the increasingly aggressive local bears. The libertarian battle cry of Nobody tells me what to do! drowned out all other political debate, at least temporarily, and the results of their blindly anti-government,anti-authority mind-set were both troubling and predictable.

Hongoltz-Hetling presents the Grafton experience as a rollicking tale of colorful rural characters and oddly clever ursines. The Free Towners wacky political views, like their eccentric clothes, their rusting pickup trucks, and their elaborate facial hair, present him with seemingly limitless opportunities to display his own cleverness.

Certainly, the author is not alone in finding cause for amusement in Graftons funny little basket of deplorables. For years now, reporters and pundits have chosen to focus on the style, rather than the policy substance, of the growing libertarian right. Again and again, we read stories of rural rubes clad head to toe in MAGA swag, hunched over chipped cutlery in dingy diners, wielding biscuits to wipe the last of the sausage gravy from their oversized plates while vociferously proclaiming that taxation is theft and inveighing against the nanny state. In choosing to shoot these red, white, and blue fish in a barrel, Hongoltz-Hetling is in very good company.

But had the author not chosen snark over substance, his book could have served as a peculiarly timely cautionary tale, because the conflicting philosophical principles that drive this story are central to understanding American politics today. The differences between the libertarian stumblebums who moved to Grafton and the staff of the Koch-funded Cato Institute are mostly sartorial. And the sad outcomes of Graftons wacky social experiment are now being repeated in American communities every single day.

If it seems unkind to slam a writer for indulging in a bit of a laugh as he slogs his way through a story that basically boils down to fundamentally divergent views of tax policy, consider the chapter in which Hongoltz- Hetling drags his reader into an ultimately unsatisfactory discursion into the political dynamics of French- occupied Tunisia. In the chapter, he references the work of the Oxford University professor Daniel Butt, a noted scholar of colonialism. In his discussion of Butts academic work, Hongoltz-Hetling brutally torques his sentences to produce the phrases Butt heads, Butt wipe, Butt cracks, and Butt (w)hole. Oh, how devilishly cheeky.

Look. I get it. Snark is to reporters what salmon is to bearsthey thrive on it, and many cant survive without a lot of it. But back in my crime-reporting days, our city editor routinely tossed back any sophomoric attempts to inject witticisms into odd little crime stories by asking, Would this be funny if it happened to you?

Hongoltz-Hetlings chronic prioritization of style over substance brings his reportorial judgment and diligence into question at multiple points throughout the book. He lightly glosses over one characters conviction on 129 counts of child pornography, and later compares Graftons troubling influx of sex offendersfrom eight to 22 in four yearswith an equally disconcerting drop in the tiny towns local recycling rates. Later, he chuckles about a man found in questionable circumstances with a preteen who was [asked to] leave in an impolite manner involving a very visibly wielded baseball bat. I raise this issue not solely because I am a midwestern mom who is absolutely unamused by child sex abuse, but also because Hongoltz-Hetling does not mention that pedophilia and child pornography are profoundly schismatic issues for the American libertarian community. Mary J. Ruwart, a leading candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination in 2008, wrote,

Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if its distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess. When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.

In 2008, the party refused to vote on a resolution asking states to strongly enforce existing child pornography laws.

The author takes a similarly lighthearted approach to his account of the Unification Churchs establishment of a summer retreat in Grafton in the early 1990sa lengthy episode that buttresses his portrayal of Grafton as a weirdo magnet of national proportions. In fact, there are numerous villages across this country where religious leaders have walked into town and proclaimed, This is the place, regardless of whether that place was already occupied by nonbelievers. The resulting conflicts between townspeople and the invading faithful can be deadly serious. When the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh founded a commune of 2,000 followers in Oregons rural Wasco County in the 1980s, for example, the groups resistance to land-use laws fueled a campaign of terror against local residents. Group members poisoned hundreds of people in the county by spraying salmonella bacteria on salad bars, and the communes leaders targeted state and county officials for assassination, sending one county commissioner to the hospital with a potentially deadly case of salmonella poisoning.

Againwould it be funny if it happened to you?

These shortcomings, and many others like it throughout the book, would diminish Hongoltz-Hetlings narrative even in normal times. But today more than ever, there is nothing remotely amusing about a group of wrongheaded extremists plotting to take over a government and impose its own dangerously eccentric views on an unwitting and unprepared majority. And it is this reality that makes A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear such a painful missed opportunity. With the story of Grafton, Hongoltz-Hetling was handed the American character in an ant farm. This New England hamlet twines together the most significant strands in our history: tax aversion, religious fervor, veneration of individual liberty, and a deep vein of cantankerousness, all counterbalanced by our equally powerful belief that we are on a God-given mission to establish on this continent a shining City on the Hill. In Grafton, we find a microcosm of the constant American tension between Dont Tread on Me and E Pluribus Unum.

Certainly, one cannot fault a writer for failing to anticipate the specific details of the present disaster. This time last year, none of us could have foreseen that a new, fast-moving virus would spark a global pandemic, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives, nor that wearing a mask to prevent infection would be viewed as a political statement. But the test of a great writer, or a great editor, is the ability to look deeply into a specific set of circumstances and to extrapolate from them, to assess the present and then take a leap of faith into a prophetic vision of the future. In the Grafton experience, we see clearly the chaos that can be created when a significant chunk of the community rejects the strictures of government, science, and the notion of community itself.

As I write this, more than 159,000 American lives have been sacrificed to failures of government at almost every level, and to the refusal of millions of Americans to curtailtheir sense of personal liberty and submit to relatively brief inconvenience to protect their neighbors and their communities. It is heartbreaking to think of how many more lives will be lost to COVID-19 by the time this magazine goesto print.

This is what happens when massively funded propaganda campaigns lead large numbers of Americans to lose faith in our system of government. This is what happens when that loss of faith leads to blind opposition to taxation. This is what happens when public services and public infrastructure are systematically starved of resources in the name of fiscal responsibility. And this is what happens, shamefully, when those who are best able to recognize the threat and sound the alarm choose instead to treat local politics like some sort of low-stakes sporting event for out-of-shapepeople.

Today, we are all living in Grafton. Armies of rabid bears are wandering through our streets, clawing at our window screens, and gnashing their teeth at our children while the phone rings unanswered at the state department of fish and game. The old village church is erupting in flames, but someone has slashed the tires on our towns lone fire truck, and the fire hydrantsunmaintained for adecadehave all run dry. Terrified, we beg our neighbors for help, only to be told that the Lord will protect us, or that the cataclysm in the streets is just punishment for our moral failures or our political misdeeds.

And all of this is happening because a large, disgruntled minority of Americans dutifully memorized the Declarations listing of our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without perceiving that these rights can exist only within the context of the social contractan Enlightenment concept so deeply familiar to the Founding Fathers that, tragically, they didnt consider it necessary to mention.

Right now, I am sitting in self-imposed quarantine with my husband, in a small Michigan town far from our home. Our beloved daughtersboth adultsare thousands of miles away, in California. We havent seen them now for almost seven months, and in my darkest moments, I wonder whether we will ever be all together again in this lifetime. We are separated today, and likely will be for long weeks and months to come, because millions of my fellow Americans have been unwilling to sacrifice even a shred of their perceived personal liberty to the higher consideration of what we owe to each other.

And its not funny. None of it is funny. It isnt funny at all.

Elizabeth Austin is a writer and political consultant. She lives in Oak Park, Ilinois.

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Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn't End Well. - Washington Monthly

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These 14 writers and bloggers investigate alleged cults and their leaders – Augusta Free Press

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Published Thursday, Jul. 2, 2020, 12:55 pm

Front Page Business These 14 writers and bloggers investigate alleged cults and their leaders

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( Wrangler

Journalists, bloggers, and book authors sometimes one and the same investigate all sorts of people and organizations. Though they often make mistakes that damage their subjects reputations and blow back on their own, their work as a whole is worth celebrating and protecting.

One of the more interesting investigative writing niches involves organizations alleged to be cults (and leaders alleged to be cult leaders). The reading publics appetite for stories about secretive organizations both well-known and not so well-known is all but insatiable, and theres plenty of material for intrepid writers to supply.

If you count yourself among the many readers intrigued by this type of writing, youve come to the right place. What follows is a list of more than one dozen writers and bloggers who currently or have in the past written about organizations and leaders alleged to be involved in cult activity.

Mike Rinders runs an independent blog devoted to exposing the follies and foibles of so-called cult organizations that more mainstream outlets dont or wont cover. He also covers more mainstream organizations that have courted controversy in the past, some of which receive sustained coverage in major daily newspapers, magazines, and TV outlets. His highest-profile target is Scientology; his motto is Something Can Be Done About It.

Writer Be Scofield is a self-proclaimed cult hunter whose investigations have appeared on several niche websites devoted to so-called cults and cult activities. While Be Scofields controversial approach has generated criticism, the writer remains active and continues to pursue new investigations.

Paul Morantz has an unusually high profile for a writer focused mainly on cults and cult leaders. Thats largely because hes also an accomplished attorney with a number of high-profile cases to his credit, several of which involve alleged misconduct by cult leaders. Hes the author of two books: Escape: My Lifelong War Against Cults and From Miracle to Madness: The True Story of Charles Dederich and Synanon.

Steven Hassan is a self-proclaimed former cult member who has spent the better part of 40 years investigating an alleged cult leader named Tony Alamo. He is also an advocate for victims of alleged child sexual abuse by members of various orders clergy, including the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovahs Witnesses.

Mitch Weiss is a reporter whose groundbreaking AP investigation tells the story of a victim of an alleged cult known as the Word of Faith Fellowship. Weisss story pulled back the curtain on the secretive North Carolina group, which claims hundreds of members.

Les Zaitz is a retired reporter for the Portland Oregonian newspaper. In the 1980s, he was part of a group of intrepid Oregon journalists on the trail of the sect led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Ma Anand Sheela years later, the subject of the popular 2018 documentary Wild Wild Country. The Columbia Journalism Review has more on Zaitzs accomplishments.

Emilie Friedlander is an investigative writer who spent months on the trail of Trumple, a social media cult that many observers brushed off as a troll until Friedlander began digging. Her work revealed a new model of rigidly hierarchical organization thats at once attractive and dangerous to young, tech savvy followers.

Dennis Yusko is one of several upstate New York reporters who began tracking the secretive sex cult Nxivm in the early 2000s. Despite his and his colleagues intrepid work, the group operated more or less without restraint until national media outlets picked up the trail in the late 2010s. Still, Yuskos groundwork proved vital in spotlighting the organizations seamy side.

David Thibodeau is a former member of the Seventh Day Adventist offshoot sect led by David Koresh. The sect is best known for the calamitous events at its compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, when a botched raid by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms left dozens of members dead. Thibodeaus book, Waco: A Survivors Story, is required reading for anyone interested in Koreshs organization and the origins of the modern-day right-wing militia movement.

Deborah Layton is a memoirist and former member of the infamous Peoples Temple sect, whose years-long presence in the jungles of Guyana culminated in one of the largest mass suicides in recorded history. Her book, Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivors Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple, is regarded as a classic of the first-person cult survivor genre.

As a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, Tim Reiterman traveled to Guyana with then-Congressman Leo Ryan to investigate the Peoples Temple sect. Years later, he would write Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, a compelling companion to Laytons first-person account. Readers interested in the story of Jones and Peoples Temple, and aspiring writers looking for a model of cult journalism to follow, would do well to read Reiterman.

Jeff Guinn is the author of the definitive biography of Charles Manson (Manson: The Life and Times of Charles), one of the most influential cult leaders of the past 60 years. His work builds on investigations by others but remains a vital resource in its own right.

Sam Brower spent nearly a decade investigating the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist derivative of Mormonism led by Warren Jeffs. His book, Prophets Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation Into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, is at once spellbinding and informative.

Lawrence Wright is one of the foremost investigators of Scientology. His book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, was made into a major Netflix documentary in 2015.

These writers are not the only ones whove made names for themselves investigating organizations and leaders alleged to be involved in cult activity. Many others are active in this niche, and anyone familiar with it knows that theres plenty of uncovered material out there.

Perhaps you think you have what it takes to write about alleged cults and cult leaders. Or perhaps youre just looking for a good read on a lazy day. In either case, your contribution helps keep honest those on both sides of the writer-subject divide and ensures more great stories in the years ahead.

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These 14 writers and bloggers investigate alleged cults and their leaders - Augusta Free Press

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July 5th, 2020 at 11:46 pm

10 Documentaries About Eccentric People To Watch If You Liked Tiger King – Screen Rant

Posted: May 23, 2020 at 2:50 pm

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Tiger King may feel revolutionary, but documentaries about strange people are nothing new. Here are 10 great docs for any Tiger King fan.

Every so often, a television show comes along that, due to a variety of factors, manages to become a true hit, saturating every aspect of the cultural landscape. The Netflix series Tiger King is one such series, elevating what was before a relatively minor (if strange) criminal case into nothing less than a national phenomenon.

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While it is in many ways an utterly unique series, it is also part of a long documentary tradition documenting the lives of strange and eccentric people who occupy the margins of American society.

This is, arguably, the ultimate example of a documentary focusing on strange people. It focuses on two women, Big and Little Edie, who occupy a decaying mansion on Long Island. There is something utterly compelling about these two women (who were cousins of first lady Jackie Kennedy), their dysfunctional relationship, and the ruined grandeur around them.

The Maysles brothers who directed the film wring every bit of pathos out of it, inviting the viewer to sympathize with these women, even as they also remain strange and just a little bit unearthly.

Even the canniest viewer might be forgiven for not realizing that there is such a thing as competitive tickling. However, this subculture, if one can call it that, is exactly what is explored in this strange, subversive, and utterly compelling film.

Needless to say, there was some controversy associated with the subject matter (which, of course, has some rather unfortunate overtones), as well as the film itself. However, the critics absolutely loved it, and a sequel was actually produced.

Wine is one of those things that has a value even beyond its taste and its alcoholic content. Its quality, or lack thereof, says so much about not only ones class status, but about ones taste. Indeed, wine tasting and wine manufacture is a very serious business, which is why the subject of this documentary, wine fraud is so fascinating.

The film documents a scheme whereby Rudy Kurniawan took cheap wine and put more expensive labels on it. In showcasing the scheme, the film reveals both its brilliance and the way that wine is a powerful social signifier.

The Pacific Northwest has something of a reputation for attracting the kinds of people who want to set out on their own path, forging a new life for themselves. One of those people, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, is the subject of this documentary.

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Its an admittedly rather disturbing portrait of the Rajneeshee movement. What started out as a consciousness movement soon became tied up with assassination and bioterror. The film was praised by critics, though some also took it to task for various aspects of its story.

This is one of those true-crime films that is certainly not for the faint of heart. It begins as a manhunt for someone who recorded himself killing two kittens by suffocation, but soon became a larger manhunt after it was revealed that he also responsible for the murder and dismemberment of a Chinese international student.

The film received only a lukewarm reception, both due to the dubious intent of the filmmakers and the unfocused nature of the story.

Timothy Treadwell is one of those people who is unlike almost anyone else. A noted advocate for wild bears, he spent the last years of his troubled life living among them, much to the consternation of wildlife officials and his family and friends.

This films director, Werner Herzog, brings his signature style of existentialist rumination to the career of this troubled man, who was ultimately killed and partially eaten by one of the bears he so loved.

Set in upstate New York, this film focuses on the unusual death of an elderly man who lived with his brothers in a ramshackle home far from any other people. In particular, it focuses on the trial of one of his brothers, who was accused by the police of having committed the crime.

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It is a troubling rumination on the way that the criminal justice system works, and whether it actually works to the advantage of those who occupy the outer reaches of society.

The title of this film says it all. Its subject is the twisted relationship between a lawyer and his younger girlfriend and later wife. The bizarre aspect is that he hired a group of men to throw lye in her face, leaving her blind and scarred. Despite this, she later married him.

Its one of those films that is morbidly horrifying to watch. No matter how dismaying these people might be, and no matter how miserable they seem (and how miserable they make the viewer) it is almost impossible to look away.

West Virginia, and Appalachia more generally, has come to occupy a vexed place in American culture, as a place that has been largely left behind by modernity, occupied by strange and bizarre people.

The Whites are certainly both strange and bizarre, particularly Jesco, who has achieved some measure of fame as a dancer. The film is a startling insight into the lives of many Appalachians, which are scarred by decades of exploitation by various fossil fuel industries and the crushing weight of endemic poverty.

The right to privacy is one of those things that most people take for granted, and there are certain spaces one inhabits that are usually assumed to be off-limits to casual voyeurism. One of those is, certainly, the hotel room.

It is precisely the supposed inviolability of this space that makes this documentary, which focuses on a man allegedly liked to watch his guests, so viscerally disturbing. The film is a potent and troubling reminder of just how little privacy most people ultimately possess.

NEXT:10 Netflix True Crime Documentaries To Watch After Tiger King

Next Which Divergent Faction Are You Based on Your Zodiac?

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10 Documentaries About Eccentric People To Watch If You Liked Tiger King - Screen Rant

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May 23rd, 2020 at 2:50 pm

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