💬 We Choose Our Cults Every Day – Review of Cultish

Replied to Review: 'Cultish' Examines the Language of Fanaticism by Sophie Gilbert (theatlantic.com)

Montell’s conclusion isn’t that everyone should necessarily be wary of cultish language, but that they should be aware of it: identifying language’s powers of coercion, questioning statements that discourage analysis, and being skeptical of loaded language that deliberately engenders a heightened emotional state or stigmatizes outsiders. “The fact is that most modern-day movements leave enough space for us to decide what to believe, what to engage with, and what language to use to express ourselves,” Montell writes. “Tuning in to the rhetoric these communities use, and how its influence works for both good and not so good, can help us participate, however we choose, with clearer eyes.”

I wonder how this compares or relates to Stanley Fish’s notion of ‘interpretive communities’:

Unlike Wolfgang Iser who analyses individual acts of reading, Stanley Fish situates the reading process within a broader institutional perspective. In Is There a Text in the Class? (1980), Fish proposes that competent readers form part of “interpretive communities”, consisting of members who share “interpretive strategies” or “set of community assumptions” of reading a text so as to write meaning into the text. He also proposed that each communal strategy in effect “creates” all the seemingly objective features of the text, as well as “intentions, speakers and authors” that readers may infer from the text. Hence the validity of any text depends on the assumptions and strategies that the readers may share with other members of a particular interpretive community.

2 responses on “💬 We Choose Our Cults Every Day – Review of Cultish”

  1. Aaron Davis references an access-limited article in the Atlantic (again, if you’re using Firefox with Ublock Origin, you won’t have a problem with this), a review of Cultish by Amanda Montell, that proposes that the language and tactics of cults are widespread, citing cases such as Amazon’s leadership principles, the 3HO (Happy, Healthy and Holy) belief system, and the “beloved catchphrases of CrossFit (functional movements, DOMS, EIE).” The point here is that these aren’t all bad, but also, that it’s important to “be aware of it: identifying language’s powers of coercion, questioning statements that discourage analysis, and being skeptical of loaded language that deliberately engenders a heightened emotional state or stigmatizes outsiders.” Davis wonders “how this compares or relates to Stanley Fish’s notion of ‘interpretive communities’”, and he has a point, I think. Image: Kirsten Dunst in the brilliant On Becoming a God in Central Florida.

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