On October 24, 2007, the Daily Orange, a student newspaper in Syracuse, New York, posted an article entitled: “Drinking the Kool Aid: Cults target college students in recruitment.” This article discussed the presence of cults on the Syracuse University campus, and also gave information from cult expert Carol Giambalvo, a member of the board of directors for the International Cultic Studies Association, and Syracuse University dean of Hendricks Chapel, Thomas Wolfe. Giambalvo stated that cults can masquerade as activist, self-improvement and religious groups.
If you go to the Web page where this article was located, you can no longer read the article on “Drinking the Kool Aid.” Instead a notice is displayed from the editor, stating that the Daily Orange removed the body of the article because it contained “libel,” and they apologized to “the parties involved.” Unfortunately, we do not know specifically what the allegation of libel was regarding, and what group made the allegation of libel, or even what groups were specifically analyzed in the article itself. It is certainly possible that one of the groups mentioned in the article contacted the paper and alleged a cry of “libel,” in order to get critical information quickly taken off of the internet. It is also possible that the Daily Orange editor, with no external provocation, chose to censor their own article without any actual threats or complaints from any outside group. At the moment, that key fact is not publicly known. But the censorship itself did occur.
The comments section below the notice from the editor is still active, and the readers have made eight interesting key comments about the censorship of the article. One commenter posted a quick and funny note one hour after the censorship: “Quick….to the lawyers. Truth be damned.” Others have hazarded guesses about which group may have complained resulting in the censorship of the Daily Orange. We will not make guesses ourselves about that, and instead allow you to read the comments at their site and discuss and rationalize for yourselves what may have provoked this censorship.
Interestingly enough and of direct relation to our site’s title, the eighth and last commenter below the censored article discussed Large Group Awareness Training, and also spoke positively of his experiences with the group Landmark Forum. Was Landmark Forum discussed in the censored Daily Orange article? Well, we do not know for sure, because the article is removed, but it is interesting that others are commenting about it, both positively and negatively, in the comments section below the article. However, Landmark Forum has been referred to by academics as a form of Large Group Awareness Training. One such recent reference would be:
Rubinstein, Gidi. “Characteristics of participants in the Forum, psychotherapy clients, and control participants: A comparative study”, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, (2005) 78, 481-492. The British Psychological Society.
The article is a very interesting read. Whether or not Landmark Education was mentioned in the article aside, it is most intriguing to note that they have acted in the past to attempt to remove critical information on the internet, and have explained this by claiming that such critical information is “libel.” Attorneys Skolnik and Norwick of firm Lowenstein Sandler PC have written an excellent article summarizing some of this history, called: “Introduction to the Landmark Education litigation archive“. They explain that they created this Landmark Education litigation archive so that future attorneys defending clients critical of Landmark Forum and accused of libel do not have to go through and spend as much time researching Landmark Education’s history of litigation as Skolnik and Norwick did. More recently, Landmark Education attempted to get the video known as “Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus” removed from the internet. More about that at: “Landmark Education wants to make French news report a “forbidden video” on the Net.” The Web site Chilling Effects, which documents usage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to remove material from the internet, as well as other forms of censorship on the net, has posted a copy of a letter sent by Landmark Education attorneys to a Web site, asking them to remove the “Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus” video and associated transcript from their site, called the Cult Awareness and Information Centre, which is based in Australia. Oddly enough, Chilling Effects decided to title the page where they host this letter from Landmark Education lawyers very similarly to the currently censored article from the Daily Orange. The page at Chilling Effects is titled: Who is bringing the Kool Aid?
As a caveat to the potential “lawyers” as the first commentator we spoke of above alluded to - we will make this statement here: Please note carefully - It is not our job on this site to characterize any group as a “cult” or to say that any group is not a “cult.” You can find information on “cults” at other Web sites, some of which we have discussed in the past as references, including the respected International Cultic Studies Association mentioned above, that publishes the peer reviewed journal, the Cultic Studies Review. Our interest in these posts is to educate the reader about Large Group Awareness Trainings, and their history, background, methodology and tactics. Therefore, we will not get into trying to parse which groups are widely considered “cults” and which are not, but rather will instead discuss and explain groups that are widely considered to be Large Group Awareness Trainings. We will leave the cult identification and discussion, to the experts.
Discussion about the censored Daily Orange article is going on at the Cult Education Forum, under the topic Large Group Awareness Training, “Human Potential” .