Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid
When you hear the word ‘cult’, what do you think about? Is it the crazy, power-hungry leader? A religious splinter? Mass orgies? Mass murder? Mass suicide? Are all the members blinkered and mad? Do you think about Waco and Jonestown? Have you watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix?
Here are three things that you may not know:
– You are wrong about cults.
– You could be part of a cult and not even realise.
– You are in a cult right now.
Take The Peoples Temple. 909 members migrated to Guyana to set up their own community. They shared similar beliefs. They worked together and worshipped together. They lived together. Until, one day, they all died together.
Men, women and children poisoned themselves – the children’s cyanide was stirred into their juice – allegedly, in the name of their faith and at the behest of their leader, Jim Jones.
This, undoubtedly, plays into the theory of cults being a bunch of crazies but if you wind back to its origins, The Peoples Temple was the plight of one pastor to help integrate a minority into the community; he thought it was right that black people should go to church, too.
If, on day one, Jim Jones had said that, eventually, members would have to move to South America and kill themselves there would have been no Peoples Temple, there would have been no cult.
Because nobody joins a cult.
If David Koresh had told the members of the Branch Davidians that they would set up a commune where he could take on many wives, including the children of these women, that they would have to lay down their lives to the bullets of federal agencies and the fires that were started, nobody would have followed him. There would have been no cult.
Nobody joins a cult.
There’s a reason why scientology keeps all the rhetoric about thetans and our past extra-terrestrial lives quiet. Nobody would join. They wait until they have you to drop this bombshell.
Why is that? Because nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins a group that is going to hurt them or make them hurt somebody else. They join a group because there are like-minded people and they like those people.
This is what I found when I started researching for my book, Nothing Important Happened Today. I was wrong about cults.
Then it struck me, nobody knows they’re in a cult until it gets to the point where something awful or whacky is happening. These groups are not cults until somebody on the outside labels them that way, until there is a rumour about the leader having sex with everything that moves or some literature is ‘leaked’ about them all waiting to travel somewhere on a comet or spaceship.
So, a person could be a part of a cult and have no idea.
This sparked the premise of the novel. Could somebody be part of a suicide cult and have no idea they were a member? If so, how could that possibly be stopped?
I wanted to take it a step further. Could the members be recruited without any knowledge of who the leader was or any of the other members? This would make a police investigation into the causes almost impossible. Because all the information would die with the victim.
The answer was yes.
I was wrong about cults.
And you could be part of one without even realising.
This was a terrifying discovery but I had my idea: One morning, nine strangers would receive a note in the post. That note would contain four words: Nothing Important Happened Today. This message alone was enough to instruct them to meet at a certain time on Chelsea Bridge, tie a rope around their necks and leap to their death at the same time.
They wouldn’t even have to talk to each other.
They would just know.
But that was not the most terrifying discovery.
I was in a cult. And I’d been a member for over a decade.
I had received a message via email back in 2004 asking whether I would like to join. The people were like me, in their twenties, starting out after University maybe, entering full-time employment, wanting to carve their own path in the world. They wanted to connect. They wanted to share their thoughts and ideas.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Harmless, even. Like a local priest who thinks that black people and white people should be allowed to be part of the same congregation…
So, I accepted the invitation and became a member of Facebook.
And the people I went to school with were members. Some of them I had even liked. And there were the kids I’d known when I lived in Germany. They were on there, too. It was cool. We could update each other on the things we were doing and put our pictures on there to be viewed.
It was like we had our own little community. And there was no need to uproot and physically set up a town or commune.
More and more members joined, so it couldn’t be a bad thing. Nobody would join something that wasn’t good for them. Yes, some people were saying things that did not reflect the reality I knew of their life and their pictures looked tampered with. Some people had even decided to quit as members and I hardly spoke to them any more. It didn’t make me leave.
But it wasn’t like a cult. Nobody was asking to have sex with my partner. I hadn’t been violated. Okay, so my information may have been monitored and used in some way but nobody had died. Sure, suicide in men my age was on the rise and mental health was a real thing that people knew about and spoke about openly – like every thought they used to keep in their brains.
It was social media.
What bad could it do?
Now, drink your juice.
(c) Will Carver
About Nothing Important Happened Today:
Nine suicides. One Cult. No leader.
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.
How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?
A shocking, mesmerisingly original and pitch-black thriller, Nothing Important Happened Today confirms Will Carver as one of the most extraordinary, exciting authors in crime fiction.
Order your copy online here.