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This article was downloaded by: [University of Manitoba Libraries] On: 29 July 2014, At: 10:23 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Journal of Popular Film and Television Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vjpf20 Questions of Identity: Cultural Encounters in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham Guido Rings a a Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge Published online: 23 Sep 2011. To cite this article: Guido Rings (2011) Questions of Identity: Cultural Encounters in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham , Journal of Popular Film and Television, 39:3, 114-123, DOI: 10.1080/01956051.2010.541954 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01956051.2010.541954 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions 114114 QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY: By Guido Rings Cultural Encounters in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like BeckhamDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 Questions of Identity 115 Abstract: Probably more than any other European country, contemporary Brit- ain has been deeply marked by mass immigration and diaspora, in particular from India and Pakistan, and British Asian cinema has joined the often rather polemic media debate about the coun- try’s “multiculturalism” as an outstand- ing example of diasporic reflections on the topic. Be it as a potential mirror of popular attitudes, ideas, and preoccupa- tions, or as regards the likely impact on common views and opinions on migra – tion, research cannot afford to ignore the filmic portrayals. In this context, this article explores cultural self-representa – tions by British Indians in one popular example of British Asian cinema: Gur – inder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham. Considering the contextual patterns of European migrant cinema, key ques- tions are as follows: (1) How does the film express cultural differences, and to what extent does this follow traditional concepts of culture? (2) How is the in- terconnectedness of cultures articulated, and how does this relate to current no- tions of interculturality and transcultur – ality? The article shows how contempo – rary films by celebrated directors such as Chadha, Damian O’Donnell, Hark Bohm, and Philippe Faucon fall into the trap of traditional concepts of culture that break with the strong intercultural or transcultural perspectives voiced by the same directors. Keywords: Bend It Like Beckham , Gurinder Chadha, diaspora, identity, transculturality G urInDEr CHADHA, the di- rector and co-scriptwriter of Bend It Like Beckham (with her husband Paul Mayeda Berges and Guljit Bindra), could probably best be described as one of the leading British- Asian film directors. Although born in nairobi (Kenya), her parents moved to Southall, London, when she was only two years of age, and it is her life as a woman with Indian background in Lon- don that marks her first documentary output. not by coincidence do most of her films explore the lives of Indians in the united Kingdom: in 1989, she pro- duced I’m British But . . . , focusing on young British Asians, and—shortly af- terward, with her own production com- pany umbi Films—Nice Arrangement (1990) and Acting Our Age (1991), concentrating on a wedding and on the life of elderly British Asians. She is, however, most famous for full-length fictional movies such as Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), and Bride and Prejudice (2004), which are all centered on “East-West” encounters in Britain and beyond. Her latest film, Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging (2008), is a certain exception to the rule, although it also draws on questions of migration (here, British mi- gration to new Zealand), and the classic coming-of-age story provides links to Bend It Like Beckham . Chadha’s biggest commercial success to date is clearly Bend It like Beckham, a film that at first glance follows the traditional pattern of generational con- flicts within the British Asian diaspora: a young second generation British In- dian woman (Jess, played by Parminder nagra) clashes with family traditions while pursuing her personal ambitions as a footballer. However, the film’s set- ting in Hounslow (Southall, London), near the area where Chadha grew up, and the numerous links to her own auto- biography enable the director to present a very differentiated picture of a diverse community. Chadha herself even goes so far as to link the film’s success to that aspect: “[I]n Britain it’s the most suc- cessful British-financed British movie ever and I think it’s worked so well because it’s very culturally specific to Hounslow, to West London, and it talks about a world which is really mixed without going on about it” (Fischer). Whatever the reasons for its interna – tional popularity, the movie clearly fol- lows the footsteps of Damian O’Don- nell’s East Is East (1999) in the way that it goes into distance to the art-house de- sign of most British Asian films of the 1980s and 1990s. In its combination of light-hearted comedy and “a modern social realist interrogation into identity, belonging and Britishness,” Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham was—just like East Is East—marketed extensively for a British audience that has come to recognize the Asian diaspora as part of a long process of postcolonial Britain. 1 It is for the entertainment and critical reflection of this audience that Chadha wanted to shoot the film “from the point of view of someone who is Indian and English at the same time” (Fischer), meaning here Jess, but her comment ob- viously also applies to the director her – self. Clearly, as an account of a young woman of Indian origin who refuses to cook and serve others in her search for an alternative way of life, Bend It Like Beckham is based on biographical evi- dence, starting with a rebellious charac – ter that Chadha indicates as follows: I refused to wear Indian clothes, and I would always get out of cooking. . . . Whenever guests came, the men would sit at the table, and the women would have to serve them, and I would sit at the table as well. . . . At the same time, I was extremely outspoken, and I used to say, well mum, look, I’m not cooking, you know, it’s oppressive. You don’t even understand. (Fischer ) Jess is similarly skeptical as regards traditional agendas, and she is also very outspoken when it comes to defending her football interests that develop dur – ing the film. At the beginning, the au- Copyright © 2011 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC DOI: 10.1080/01956051.2010.541954 [T]he film’s setting in Hounslow, near the area where Chadha grew up, and the numerous links to her own autobiography enable the director to present a very differentiated picture of a diverse community. Shown on left page: Bend It Like Beckham (2002 uK/Germany) aka Kick It Like Beckham. Directed by Gurinder Chadha. Shown from left: Keira Knightley (as Juliette Paxton), Parminder nagra (as Jesminder Bharma). Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox/Photofest.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 116 JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television dience gets to know the protagonist as somebody occasionally playing football with boys in the park. However, this gets much more serious when Jules, a white, middle-class English girl (played by now-famous Keira Knightly) invites Jess to join the local women’s soccer team, the Hounslow Harriers trained by Joe, an Irish coach who always wanted to play professional football but was held back by a knee injury. Instead, he now tries to help Jess and Jules to fulfill their dream of a professional career in the united States, an idea that Jess’s par – ents are extremely disapproving of when they discover the secret football activi – ties of their daughter. However, when Jess’s father realizes how important the football career has become for his daugh – ter, he appears much more tolerant, and with his new personal attitude comes a change in the behavior of the whole fam – ily, who now allows Jess to join Jules on her journey to the united States. The $5 million film that grossed $350 million worldwide in its first year alone (siliconindia 15)—an astound- ing amount to which one has to add the extensive video and DVD rental and purchases from the last six years—has not only been received as an “amus- ing comedy” and a “feel-good” movie (Elley 32), or in short, “a well-made au- dience-pleaser” (Chaudhury), but also as a critical film that has the “capac – ity to provoke thought and discussion about a large scope of important issues surrounding cultural differences and identity” (raschke 126). Algeo’s claim to use it for the enhancement of critical analysis in cultural geography classes (133) correlates with Sharon Sandhu’s impression that the film very much ad- dresses key aspects in the life of South Asian women in the diaspora, especially when intergenerational and intereth – nic conflicts in sport are at stake. This seems to be the case with Sandhu her – self who, as a second generation Sikh woman living in Canada, recognizes herself and her family in the movie (“I had never seen myself being so accu- rately reflected in popular culture be- fore”; 7), but also—and partially even more—the participants of her study, a tendency that seems to connect with Chadha’s own experiences. Considering the fact that negative reviews tend to criticize a stereotypical mise-en-scène of Indian culture in the film, a perspective well represented by Elley when he summarizes Chadha’s work as a “gallery of broadly played ste- reotypes” (32), this article will explore how far Bend It Like Beckham tends to support popular monocultural con- structs of British–Indian relations and to what degree its transcultural elements are able to break with the othering of traditional hegemonic narrative. Jess: A Model for Transcultural Relations? There is no doubt that Jess combines aspects from both cultures, Indian or— to be more precise—Sikh traditions maintained by her parents and partially her sister Pinky, and English customs and preferences that are associated here with young woman’s independence and a celebration of football for which Jules and her father are given as examples. Consequently, Algeo is right in criti – cizing current research on Bend It Like Beckham for its radical marginalization or complete ignorance of the Bhamra family’s Sikh background, which links up to Chadha’s family tradition. This gap in research is quite surprising tak- ing into consideration that the film in- dicates this dimension very clearly. First, there is a painting of the Golden Temple of Amritsar prominently placed in their living room near Guru nanak’s portrait, and a gold model of that temple sits on the shelf close to the bar area. Also, Mr. Bhamra’s turban can hardly be overlooked, and the fact that—dur – ing his older daughter’s engagement ceremony—he gives her fiancée the tra- ditional gift of a kara bracelet reminds critical viewers of the “five K” practices that are “symbolic of maintaining proper spiritual order” in a Sikh household (Al- geo 135). In addition, cultural bound- aries are drawn by food, for example, when Mrs. Bhamra—the guardian of the family’s cultural heritage—repeatedly forces Jess to help prepare traditional food from the Punjabi region most Brit- ish Sikhs originate from. This attitude is closely linked to her perception of young Indian women as future wives for Indian men, as one of her statements suggests: “What kind of family would want a daughter-in-law who can kick a football around all day but can’t make round chapatis?” A comparable mecha – nism of othering via food is visible when Jules’s mother, Paula Paxton, talks to Jess about the “lovely curry” she made the other night. The overarching inter – est in entertaining a wider audience does not allow elaborating all these aspects in detail, but they are present, and Chadha herself highlights food as a “great codi- fier of culture” (Fischer). Similarly, the average viewer does not have to be familiar with the details of recent English football history to fol- low the film, but a basic knowledge of David Beckham’s ability to “bend the ball,” his “metrosexual” appearance, and the cross-generational and cross- class popularity of football are helpful for an analysis of the “Englishness” portrayed. Certainly, football is the key topic that unites Jules and her father Frank Paxton from the very beginning of the movie, and toward the end even manages to bridge the generational dif- ference between Jules and her mother. Highly symbolic is the scene in which Frank explains offside rules to his wife Paula, so that she can understand Jules’s “football life” a bit better. Interestingly enough, this is done with the help of in- ternational food: FrAnK. The teriyaki sauce is the goalkeeper. PAuLA. Goalkeeper. FrAnK. The posh French mustard is the defender. PAuLA. Defender. FrAnK. The salt is the attacker. PAuLA. Sea salt. FrAnK. The sea salt is the attacker. now, when the ball is played forward, the sea salt has to be level with the mustard. [Jules enters.] Hello darling. right. now watch and concentrate. [Moves salt back and forward.] Off- side, onside. Offside, onside. In short, the English middle-class family is here characterized as a har – monious group thanks to the unifying power of football, and international food seems to reflect her open-minded – ness vis-à-vis other cultures.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 Questions of Identity 117 ish Asianness as follows: “[W]e do not get the sense that any one culture has ‘crossed over’ or been assimilated, but that a new form of cultural identity is emerging. This hybrid identity is ‘Brit- ish-Asianness,’ a fluid evolving identity, which cannot be reduced to any one thing” (“Beyond” 213). A similar hybrid position could be claimed for George’s children in East Is East (1999), the young British Asian women in Chadha’s melodramatic Bhaji on the Beach (1993), and—to cross national boundaries—the Turk- ish Germanness presented by Hark Bohm’s protagonist in Yasemin (1988). In all cases, cultural boundaries are transgressed, and it is usually second- generation migrants who select more or less consciously what aspects of each cultural background are acceptable and preferable for them. In addition, East Is East and Yasemin are—next to Bend It Like Beckham —good examples of the frequently resulting generational con- flict in European migrant cinema, in which the role of the guardian of “ori- ental” traditions tends to be associated with the first generation while most children appear as “rebels.” 3 Although male children also rebel (see Casim in Ken Loach’s Ae fond kiss (2004) and Tariq in East Is East), it is in particular the resistance of young women against the cultural heritage of sexism that seems to be of interest for directors of European migrant cinema, perhaps because its transcultural gender dimension engages more viewers and sells better, but probably also because young women are often in a weaker position to develop their views within the framework of traditional patriarchal norms of societies that their parents can be associated with. Certainly, in Philippe Faucon’s Samia (2000), Yas- emin, and Bend It Like Beckham, both father and mother try to make their daughters follow traditional patterns of coming of age, although with different degrees of stubbornness and direct – ness, which in Bohm’s and Chadha’s work significantly change in the course of the story. In addition, there is in all these films an element of machismo that governs the behavior of many younger males and makes them support the pa- triarchal hierarchies implemented by the first generation. Samia’s eldest brother and Yasemin’s cousin are good exam – ples of that tendency, but the tall Indian male at Pinky’s wedding who wants to “conquer” as many women as possible, including Jess, fits into the same cat – egory. In her focus on Latin American backgrounds, María Elena de Valdés ex- plains this phenomenon as follows: [T]he male is also the victim of ma- chismo because the social system itself is structured so that a few will exploit the many. under machismo the male, like the female, has been dispossessed of his identity as a social being. At an impersonal level, the machismo at- titude, however, provides compensa – tion for the male, for no matter how dominated he is . . . , he has someone over whom he is master: his wom(a/e) n. (17) Like Samia and Yasemin, Jess does not want to fully conform to her par – ents’ cultural expectations but rather wishes to be part of life in the host cul- ture that she has accepted as part of her own. However, the degree of “deter – ritorialization” and “territorialization” of cultural ground varies a lot and—de- pending on family relations, contacts to the host culture, and the message the director wishes to disseminate—the “transcultural” model proposed can be an extremely hybrid one, which tends to blur the cultural boundaries involved or rather a significantly extended but still predominantly monocultural con- struct that shifts traditional boundaries to a different level without dissolving them. Jess is, from the very beginning of the film, situated in-between the two camps. Jess is, from the very beginning of the film, situated in-between the two camps: on one hand, she loves her parents and does not want to disappoint them or ruin her sister’s wedding. To please them she wears traditional dresses and serves guests when required, and—toward the end—she is even prepared to give up on Joe with the remark: “Letting me go is a big step for my mum and dad. I don’t know how they’d survive if I told them about you too.” On the other hand, she cannot accept the future role her parents have reserved for her, which implies studying to become a solicitor but then ultimately marrying an Indian man to fulfill the traditional role of a housewife, for which purpose she has to learn how to cook Punjabi food. On her search for an alternative life, Jess discovers football, and she is deter – mined to develop her skills further, de- spite her parent’s disapproval of female football and her own desire to main – tain good relations with them, which force her to hide everything related to it. Consequently, we see her in numer – ous carnivalesque situations: sometimes carrying platters of samosas and wear – ing a salwar kamiz 2 in traditional parties at home, but then, again, pursuing her football interests in a professional out- fit, which for her mother means running around “half-naked” in front of men. Support for this hybrid lifestyle comes from both cultural backgrounds. While Pinky helps her to cover up most foot- ball activities in front of her parents, Joe repeatedly tries to convince Mr. Bhamra of the need to let go of Jess so that she can develop her talent. That support al- lows her to fully engage in a quest for her own British Asian identity vis-à-vis the homogenous, separatist, and essen- tialist culture concept cultivated by her parents as well as Jules’s mother. In her comments on Bhaji on the Beach, Sarita Malik describes such Brit- Like Samia and Yasemin, Jess does not want to fully conform to her parents’ cultural expectations but rather wishes to be part of life in the host culture that she has accepted as part of her own.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 118 JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television The Limits of Transculturality Without any doubt, football has crossed cultural and gender boundaries, and world championships for both men and women could be given as examples for its global dimension, which Bend It Like Beckham stresses with references to women football in Britain, Germany, and—above all—the uSA as a model to follow. Even more important seems to be the ethnic mix of professional football teams, to which the Hounslow Harriers fully subscribe when they nominate a black girl as team captain, an Irish man as coach, and British Asian Jess as attacker. In this sense, football in the film helps to connect people, but how far does it support transcultural dialogue and individual search for new hybrid identities; what kind of cultural choice does it facilitate; and does that choice imply a major victory of hu- man agency over collective structures, as scholar Graham Huggan would hope for? In parallel, we might want to ask the same questions for cricket, which is the other sport highlighted in the film, as Mr. Bhamra originally wanted to join an English cricket team and his bitterness about being “thrown out” of that team is very significant for his disapproval of Jess joining an English football team. First, it is worth noting that England played a major role in the development of both sports. The Football Association founded in 1863 in London is the first ever national football association, which still hosts all professional football clubs in England and is ultimately responsible for the appointment of managers to na- tional teams (both men’s and women’s). Cricket, on the other hand, is first docu- mented as being played in England, and since the eighteenth century, it has been portrayed as English national sport. Originally, neither cricket nor football was particularly associated with India, but the expansion of the British empire led to a strong assimilation of cricket by Indian elites during colonial rule and could, as such, be considered as part of the “mimicry” mechanisms that Homi Bhabha outlines in his Location of Cul- ture (1994). In the meantime, India has become famous for cricket, too (since the film is aimed at entertaining a Brit- ish mass audience. However, the racism in parts of British society toward South Asian migrants from the former colo- nies is clearly indicated, when another female footballer calls Jess a “Paki” during a match, and when Mr. Bhamra talks about English cricket players who “threw” him “out of the club like a dog.” In both cases, the former colonial sub- ject feels extremely humiliated: Jess as- saults the other player and gets sent off the football pitch for it, and Mr. Bhamra “vows” he will never play cricket again. In this context, it is worth remem – bering that the Bhamra family—like Chadha’s parents—appears as “twice migrants” in the sense that they mi- grated from India to Kenya first, before finally coming to Britain. Chadha was born in nairobi, the capital and also the largest city of Kenya, and Mr. Bhamra mentions to Joe as an explanation of his disapproval of Jess’s football activities that he was “nairobi’s best fast bowler” and still did not get a chance to play in an English club. Once again, there is a clear link to colonial history as it was the British East Africa Company that recruited substantial numbers of Sikhs for the construction of the ugandan railroad, and they tended to form part of a new middle class in colonial East Africa: “Europeans dominated admin – istration, Indians filled positions in white-collar support, construction, and infrastructure development, and black Africans were relegated to manual la- bour” (Algeo 136). It is this loyal position at the side of the colonial master that caused a mass exodus of Indians after Kenyan inde- pendence in 1963, and that makes the exclusion of Mr. Bhamra from an Eng- lish cricket club “back” in the British “fatherland” all the more humiliating. Out of his perspective, it must look as if he and fellow Indians were good enough to help stabilize the British empire and to lose their positions with the Brit- ish when these were deprived of their power during decolonization, but then they were not considered good enough for a life together with the English white man. In this sense, the transcultural identi – ties sought by young Mr. Bhamra and 1926 it is a member of the Imperial and then International Cricket Conference or ICC), and Mr. Bhamra’s strong inter – est in it should be seen in the context of this colonial heritage. His daughter Jess prolongs his tendencies when she aims very much for the same: being admitted by an English sport club to play profes- sionally “for England.” This is stressed right at the beginning of the film in her daydream sequence, in which she plays with Beckham together for Manches- ter united against the Belgian football club Anderlecht, and later on it becomes a reality when she plays for the Houn- slow Harriers against a German team in Hamburg. not by coincidence, her role model is Beckham, the captain of the English national team at the time the movie was shot. In other words, neither young Mr. Bhamra nor Jess can be considered as individuals who are consciously aim – ing at a life that combines British and Indian cultures on equal footing. rather, it would be fair to say that their main ob- jective is to become part of British host culture, and in both cases it has to be un- derstood that the sport they are obsessed with stands for a way of life they want to achieve: cricket can be associated with English upper-class traditions that many British still want to be associated with (in particular if they have never formed part of the upper class), whereas football is the more popular sport that seems to nurture old dreams of individual fame and wealth, never mind one’s humble origins, which links up directly to the success stories of former working-class footballers like Beckham and Wayne rooney. It is not surprising that Mr. Bhamra, who originally worked for the British colonial elite in East Africa, tends to see his way of life embodied in cricket, while his daughter—a second- generation migrant raised in Houn- slow—who is not unfamiliar with her and other South Asians being othered as “Pakis” affiliates more than with Brit- ish working-class heroes. However, in both cases it is obvious that these de- scendants of colonized subjects would like to become respected by members of the former colonial center in which they have decided to stay. This dimen – sion is not elaborated in detail, because Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 Questions of Identity 119 Jess cannot be described as hybrid Brit- ish Asianness, but as different forms of imagined Englishness, be it traditional- aristocratic or contemporary-popular, which both characters regard as lead culture for all ethnicities to follow. Cer- tainly, during major parts of the film, Mr. Bhamra explicitly rejects all forms of Englishness, but this is only because he had been rejected by the English (cricket players). As soon as he under – stands that everybody has to fight for his rights against occasional demonstra – tions of racism, the viewer sees him in the final sequence playing cricket pub- licly in front of the house, while an ice cream van, a nostalgic symbol of tradi – tional English culture, passes by. This interpretation is enhanced by the mise- en-scène of all major English charac – ters who seem to be extremely tolerant, open-minded, and “transcultural” in the best sense of the concept in so far as most do not perceive any cultural or bi- ological differences in their interaction with Jess but, instead, value her talent or character, be it as a good football player (Jules’s perception), Jules’s friend (Mr. Paxton’s perception), or a lovable team mate (the Hounslow Harriers appear as a team without prejudice or envy). In the few occasions in which cultural differ – ences are noted, it is either in a positive way (e.g., when Jules’s mother associ- ates “respect for elders” with Indian cul- ture and wants Jess to teach that to her daughter), or the negative aspect can be revised on the spot. 4 Behind these constructs, the uSA is portrayed as the ultimate paradise for female football and the highly dynamic and emancipated contemporary lifestyle Jess and Jules represent. Clearly, the new world power and, as such, succes- sor of the old European colonial em- Bend It Like Beckham (2002 uK/Germany) aka Kick It Like Beckham. Directed by Gurinder Chadha. Shown in center: Keira Knightley (as Juliette Paxton), to left of actress in sari; Parminder nagra (as Jesminder Bharma), in sari; Shaznay Lewis (as Mel), to right of actress in sari. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox/Photofest.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 120 JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television pires, is presented as the model to follow when it comes to equal opportunities in the competitive life football represents, and—in this respect—the new transcul – tural way of life appears to be ultimately an American one. All this is reminiscent of George ritzer’s strong critique of the McDonaldization of societies that fol- low increasingly more the four key con- cepts disseminated by the well-known fast-food chain: efficiency, predictabil – ity, control, and calculability (ritzer 13–15). no doubt, Jess has fully signed up to these norms, as she wants to be assessed according to her performance on the football pitch; her job is to shoot goals or to help Jules shoot them, and it is the final score that counts. Similarly, she supports the capitalist cult around football heroes like Beckham by pur – chasing his posters and football shirts, and she is also able to set an example in school. At least her father deducts from her A-level results that she can now be- come a “fine top-class solicitor.” In this respect, the English and the American ways of life seem to be fully compat – ible, the only key difference being that northern Americans seem to be leading the way in emancipation from outdated norms, and they also seem to have more resources to support new players in the field. In this regard, the emigration of top talents like Jess and Jules resembles the famous brain drain from Europe to the united States, and Joe knows only too well about the mechanics of money when uttering that he will recruit the two into a yet-to-be established profes- sional English team “if he can afford it.” However, it is not all about money as Joe’s intonation suggests. Just like in Hollywood robinsonades, such as Cast Away (2001) and The Beach (2000), the end of this British movie reflects “a popular mythology of the united States as the metaphoric center of the world, the place to which the rest of the world flees in search for a better life” (Weaver- Hightower 304). If, however, instead of cultural dialogue and negotiations of identity constructs Bend It Like Beck- ham offers predominantly an imagined Anglo-American West as the superior model to follow, then it might not be wrong to return to Edward Said’s criti – cism of the traditional dichotomy be- tween the “West and rest” (20), which Stuart Hall has explained as follows: this “West and the rest” discourse greatly influenced Enlightenment think – ing. . . . In Enlightenment discourse, the West was the model, the prototype and the measure of social progress. It was western progress, civilization, rational – ity and development that were cele – brated. And yet . . . without the rest (or its internal “Others”) the West would not have been able to recognize and represent itself as the summit of hu- man history. The figure of “the Other,” banished to the edge of the conceptual world and constructed as the absolute opposite, the negation, of everything the West stood for, reappeared at the very centre of the discourse of civiliza – tion, refinement, modernity and devel – opment in the West. “The Other” was the “dark” side—forgotten, repressed and denied; the reverse image of En- lightenment and modernity. (312–13) Taking into account that Bend It Like Beckham has been designed in large parts as a comedy for common entertain – ment, it is not surprising that the Indian Other does not always appear as “the absolute opposite” and “the negation of everything the West stands for.” There is, however, no doubt that the traditional Indian alternatives to Jess’s Western- style transculturality are being stressed in their exotic, stagnant, and either gro- tesquely funny or simply oppressive dif- ference to Anglo-American liberalism. An early scene, in which Jess and Jules effortlessly overtake two traditionally dressed, elderly, quite overweight, and ridiculously slow Indian women during their jog in the park, has in all its humor a clear symbolic message to deliver: the winners in contemporary society are those who fully adapt to the new West- ern way of life. If, however, individual choice for traditional British Asians is limited to assimilation and success or “being left behind” if they continue to stick to their absurd traditions, then it is no surprise that ultimately most filmic characters show at least a willingness to sign up to the West: the traditional jog- gers by jogging, Mr. Bhamra by chang- ing his mind, and even Mrs. Bhamra and some of the aunts by happily accepting Jess’s decision to play professional foot- ball in the united States. Conclusion Considering that the retreat of Jess’s family, and in particular her mother and aunts, into monocultural constructs seems incompatible with the collective well-being, the film ultimately recom – mends throwing off the shackles of what has been portrayed as Indian cul- tural heritage in the wider sense and tra- ditional Sikhism, in particular, to fully embrace something that is portrayed as Anglo-American lead culture. When Mr. Bhamra motivates Jess at the very end “to fight” and “to win” he does not make any reference to her Indian background but focuses on the competi – tive football career his daughter seems to have chosen completely out of her own free will. Although benevolent Mr. Bhamra reveals here a significantly dif- ferent attitude to the stubborn and vio- lent George Khan from East Is East and to Yasemin’s father Yusuf in the second half of Bohm’s film, the key message of incompatibility and culture clash is very much the same. Since Chadha supports her messages with the metaphorical use of food as markers of cultural difference, it is no coincidence that eight-year-old Jess burns her upper leg while trying to make herself some beans on toast, possibly the worst invention of English cuisine ever. Clearly, from Mrs. Bham- ra’s perspective, a good Sikh woman from the Punjabi region cooks and eats Punjabi food (not beans on toast) and marries another Sikh (not an Irish guy; never mind a Moslem), and Khan would fully agree with that exclusive binary view. The problem with Chadha’s film [T]he traditional Indian alternatives to Jess’s Western-style transculturality are being stressed in their exotic, stagnant, and either grotesquely funny or simply oppressive difference to Anglo-American liberalism.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 Questions of Identity 121 is that it fights this dichotomy with an- other binary construct by ignoring any valid hybrid construct in-between: you are either fully trapped in traditional In- dian customs and cannot even prepare beans on toast without seriously injur- ing yourself, or you are fully geared up for an Anglo-American way of life marked by the capitalist cult of football heroes and do not want to cook Punjabi food, dress up traditionally, or pray to Guru nanak, because it simply does not fit. There is no hybrid dish in the whole film, and international food seems to be acceptable in a genuinely English fam- ily only, not in a British Asian house- hold. Although some of Khan’s children combine mosque visits with the carrying of a Christian cross during Easter pro- cessions and hamburger eating at home, for Jess it is an either/or, and the cultural spaces are clearly highlighted. The col- lective space at home is traditional In- dian, whereas public spaces (like the football pitch) tend to be free from those traditions. However, the supposedly free spaces seem to be advancing into traditional places, and Jess’s room is a good example of that. In this dynamic conquest, some temporary mixtures are imaginable but they tend to appear as very limited, fragile, and ridiculously funny in their slow adaptation of West- ern norms and customs (e.g., the two Indian women jogging in traditional dresses in the park), which stresses again the incompatibility of South Asian and Anglo-American cultures. unlike Khan or Yusuf, Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra are ultimately depicted as nice examples of first generation British Asian migrants, but they seem so like – able precisely because they manage to throw off the shackles of Indian tradi – tions whenever it gets too critical. In- stead of preserving their cultural heri- tage (or what they perceive as such) at all costs—that is, with the use of violence like Khan and Yusuf—they either openly admit their “mistakes” (Mr. Bhamra) or simply surrender to the collective will (Mrs. Bhamra) and that often in a not-too-credible way. Who can seriously imagine people who have been portrayed throughout a film as extremely traditional suddenly chang- ing their minds in the way the Bhamra family does, including Mrs. Bhamra and the aunts? However, it could be argued that this question of plausibility is not really a major problem for the credibil – ity of the film, because—ultimately—it fits into the grotesquely funny projec – tion of traditional Indians: Jess’s mother is revealed as an absurd character right at the beginning when she confronts the well-known football experts with out- dated clichés of female roles, so why not imagine yet another “weird twist” at the end? After all, absurd attitudes seem to be a characteristic of traditional South Asians in contemporary British cin- ema about migration anyway (consider Khan, who married an English woman but then wants to stop his children from interethnic relationships at all costs). Admittedly, Bend It Like Beckham also makes fun of some English charac – ters, but it should be considered that by far most of the laughs go at the expense of traditional Indians, and furthermore, English faults tend to redirect the view- er’s attention to similar but more pro- nounced weaknesses in the case of sup- posedly Indian customs. Worth noting is the homophobia revealed by Jules’s mother, who gets extremely irritated, if not hysterical, when she is assuming that her daughter is having a love affair with Jess. However, quite in contrast to the Bhamra family, she ultimately knows that homophobia is not acceptable and, after her outburst at Pinky’s wedding, admits her fault—even if this acknowl- edgment is probably more a question of political correctness than of a change in mentality since it comes after the disclo- sure of her misunderstandings—that is, the reestablishment of the heterosexual world order. On the other hand, homo- sexuality appears to be such a taboo in Indian culture that the Bhamra family is unable to understand Mrs. Paxton´s homophobic outburst, and even tolerant Jess expresses a deeply rooted belief of total incompatibility between Indian- ness and homosexual behavior when faced with Tony’s coming out: “But you are Indian!” Precisely the connection between a total lack of understanding and a deep belief in cultural incompat – ibility appears to be the reason for Khan disowning his son nazir as soon as his homosexual tendencies are in the open. Although the presentation of the harass- ing characters in the style of a carica – ture makes these situations appear either comic (in Bend It Like Beckham) or at least tragicomic (in East Is East), there can be no doubt that both films address, in this context, major examples of dis- crimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and, as such, tendencies to human rights violations that appear to be embedded considerably more in traditional Indianness than in British mentalities. nevertheless, Mrs. Paxton’s homophobia remains quite original, as contemporary British cinema tends to portray homosexuality as part of liberal Britain, and consequently, homophobic characteristics of British characters in cinema about migration are a rare ex- ception. Quite the opposite, the claims to British liberality are so strong that por – trayals of homosexuality in the British Indian diaspora usually appear as clear indications of integration into the host culture. In this sense, Chadha’s trans- fer of homophobia to Jules’s mother helps the viewer to recognize British pre-Enlightenment thinking, which is— according to Said and Hall—certainly neither what the contemporary “West” supposedly represents, nor what British colonialism ever wanted to be known for. 5 In any case, the backwardness of traditional migrant culture means that the “saviors” in films like Yasemin and Bend It Like Beckham tend to come from the host culture or its hemisphere. In the case of Yasemin, this is mirrored in the narrative structure of a traditional knight’s tale, in which contemporary German knight Jan has to rescue his beloved Turkish German girl on his modern horse (his motor bike) from the inhuman Turkish kidnappers who want to deport her to Turkey. On the other hand, Jess can rely on English Jules and then also on Joe, who repeatedly con- fronts Mr. Bhamra and facilitates Jess’s and Jules’s trip to the united States with which the film ends. In both contexts, the Western saviors reveal an enormous tolerance and good will in their fight against the “evil” of other cultures. Al- though Jan tries to learn Turkish with the help of a dictionary, although Yas- emin’s cousin Dursun does his very Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 122 JPF&T—Journal of Popular Film and Television best to keep the German at a distance, Joe demonstrates full understanding for Jess’s family, even after Mr. Bhamra’s repeated rejections of their football ac- tivities and his blunt refusal of intercul – tural dialogue. Instead of openly criti – cizing the Other’s self-enclosure, Joe outlines to Jess: “You are lucky to have a family that cares so much about you.” In other words, the monocultural “is- land concept” of first generation British Indian characters is met by seemingly neverending transcultural openness from British characters, which renders obsolete the multicultural option of sep- aratist coexistence proposed by Jess’s parents as well as George Khan. It is here where films like Ken Loach’s Ae fond kiss try to fill a gap in British cinema about migration. In con- trast to most other productions, the film highlights the extremely monocultural vision of conservative Irish Catholi – cism via the mise-en-scène of an Irish priest (Father David) who cannot accept roisin’s affair with Casim, a Pakistani Muslim. Marriage would, in theory, be acceptable, but only if the Muslim con- verts to Catholicism, and the particular problem for the young couple is that roisin’s job as a teacher in a Catho- lic school depends on Father David’s good will to sign a document of good conduct. Confronted with the choice of either excluding the Muslim Other or forcing him to fully embrace Irish Catholicism (rather than accepting him with his different beliefs), roisin dis- obeys Father David’s wishes and loses her job. unfortunately, there are not many British films that dare to present such a monocultural vision from the British side as a significant obstacle for interethnic relations. With its internal – ized Orientalism, Bend It Like Beckham prolongs a more traditional Othering, for which Tevfik Baser’s films could be referenced, but also—in a more humor – ous way—My Big Fat Greek Wedding (dir. Joel Zwick), a film that is in many ways reminiscent of Chadha’s interna – tional breakthrough, as she herself ad- mits (Fischer). Despite extremely promising start- ing points, Jess embarks (comparable to Turkish German Yasemin) on a quest for Western-style transculturality that reduces most of her cultural heritage to a stagnant, outdated, and problematic Other that has to be perceived as an ob- stacle for the coming of age of young British Indian people today. The solu- tion proposed is for the Oriental Other to finally adapt to modern times, for his or her own sake and for everybody’s well-being, which implies that the happy ending depends on the assimila – tion of Anglo-American cultural traits by all the main characters. With this view, the film does not enhance negotia – tions of new identities in-between South Asian cultural heritage and Britishness, which most secondary sources regard as Jess’s key achievement. Instead of the sociocritical potential of hybrid- ity as portrayed in Kureishi and Frears productions like Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Bend It Like Beckham supports individual assimilation into grotesque notions of Anglo-American transcultur – ality that ritzer and Kien nghi Ha have sufficiently criticized for its neocolonial dimension. All this implies some shift- ing of traditional cultural boundaries but little blurring of them. ACKNOWLEDGMENT This article forms part of a larger research project and summarizes key ideas from Guido rings, “The West—A Transcultural Home for the rest? Images of British-Indian Diaspora in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham,” in Anglistik. International Jour – nal of English Studies 22.1 (2010): 167–86. NOTES 1. Malik describes East Is East as “‘some- where between the style of a northern ‘kitchen sink’ 1960s drama, a 1970s slap- stick farce, and a modern social realist inter – rogation into identity, belonging and British- ness” (“Money” 96). 2. This is a traditional dress consisting of trousers and a long tunic with a scarf that can be placed over the shoulder or over the head. See Algeo 136. 3. There are only very few exceptions to that pattern, such as in udayan Prasad’s My Son the Fanatic (1997), in which the genera- tional conflict is reversed. 4. The latter is the case with Joe, who is at first skeptical of Jess’s talent, which seems to correlate with the fact that he has “never seen South Asian women playing football.” However, he is immediately prepared to let her play and, once he recognizes her talent, has no problem in revising his prejudgment. 5. This links up directly to major inco- herencies in British and overall European colonialism: Key enlightenment norms guaranteed in the constitutions of the colo- nial center (in particular, individual rights concerning possessions, such as the right to vote presented as example of “liberté,” and the same rights before the law frequently subsumed as part of “egalité”) were not ex- tended to the vast majority of colonized sub- jects, but nevertheless, the colonizers wanted to be perceived as representatives of Euro- pean Enlightenment. WORKS CITED Algeo, Katie. “Teaching Cultural Geography with Bend It Like Beckham .” The Jour – nal of Geography 106.3 (2007): 133–43. Print. Antor, Heinz. Inter- und Transkulturelle Studien: Theoretische Grundlagen und in- terdisziplinäre Praxis. Anglistische Forsc- hungen 362. Heidelberg: Winter, 2006. Print. Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. new York: routledge, 1994. Print.. Chaudhury, Parama. “Bend It Like Beck- ham.” rev. of Bend It Like Beckham. Film Monthly 2003. Web. 15 July 2009. . Elley, Derek. “Bend It Like Beckham.” rev. of Bend It Like Beckham. Variety 386.7 (2002): 32. Print. Fischer, Paul. “Gurinder Chadha: Success at Last as Beckham Finally Hits uS.” Film Monthly 13 Mar. 2003. Web. 01/07/2009. < http://www.filmmonthly.com/Profiles/ Articles/GChadha/ GChadha.html>. Ha, Kien nghi. Hype um Hybridität. Kul- tureller Differenzkonsum und postmod- erne Verwertungstechniken im Spätkapi – talismus. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2005. Print. Hall, Stuart. “The West and the rest: Dis- course and Power.” Formations of Moder – nity: Understanding the Modern. Ed. Stu- art Hall and B. Gieben. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992. 275–320. Print. Herder, Johann Gottfried. Auch eine Phi- losophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit . 1774. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1967. Print. ———. Outlines of a Philosophy of the His- tory of Man. 1784–91. new York: Berg- man, 1966. Print. With its internalized Orientalism, Bend It Like Beckham prolongs a more traditional Othering . . . Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014 Questions of Identity 123 Hofstede, Geert. Culture’s Consequences. 2nd ed. London: Sage, 2001. Print. Huggan, Graham. “Derailing the ‘Trans’? Postcolonial Studies and the negative Ef- fects of Speed.” Antor 55–61. Malik, Sarita. “Beyond the “Cinema of Duty”? The Pleasures of Hybridity: Black British Film of the 1980s and 1990s.” Dissolving Views: Key Writings on Brit- ish Cinema. Ed. Andrew Higson. London: Cassell, 1996. 202–15. Print. ———. “Money, McPherson and Mindset: The Competing Cultural and Commer – cial Demands on Black and Asian British films in the 1990s.” Journal of Popular British Cinema 5 (2002): 90–103. Print. raschke, Jessica. “Juggling Cultures in Bend It Like Beckham.” Australian Screen Edu- cation 1 Jan. 2004: 123–26. Print. rings, Guido. “The West—A Transcultural Home for the rest? Images of British-In- dian Diaspora in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham. ” Anglistik. International Journal of English Studies 22.1 (2010): 167–86. Print. ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of So- ciety . 5th ed. London: Sage, 2008. Print. Said, Edward. Orientalism: Western Con- ceptions of the Orient. London: Penguin, 1995 . Print. Sandhu, Sharon. Are We Bending It like Beckham? Diasporic Second-Generation South Asian Canadian Women in Sport. MA thesis, York university, Toronto, 2005. Ann Arbor: Proquest. Print. siliconindia. “Bend It Like Beckham.” sili- conindia, May 2003: 15. Print. Valdés, María Elena de. The Shattered Mir- ror: Representations of Women in Mexi- can Literature. Austin: u of Texas P, 1998. Print. Weaver-Hightower, rebecca. “Cast Away and Survivor: The Surviving Castaway and the rebirth of Empire.” The Journal of Popular Culture 39.2 (2006): 294–317. Print. FILMOGRAphy Allen, Stuart, ronnie Baxter, Anthony Parker, Harry Driver, and Vince Powell. Love Thy Neighbour. Thames Television for ITV, 1972–76. uK. Bohm, Hark. Yasemin. Hamburger Kino Kompanie/ZDF, 1988. Germany. Chadha, Gurindher. Acting Our Age. umbi Films, 1991. uK. Chadha, Gurindher. Angus, Thongs and Per – fect Snogging. Goldcrest Pictures, 2008. uSA. Chadha, Gurindher. Bend It Like Beckham . Kin- top Pictures, 2002. uK, Germany, uSA. Chadha, Gurindher. Bhaji on the Beach. Chan- nel Four Films/ umbi Films, 1993. uK. Chadha, Gurindher. Bride and Prejudice. Pathé Pictures International, 2004. uK, uSA. Chadha, Gurindher. I’m British but. . . . Channel Four, 1989. uK. Chadha, Gurindher. Nice Arrangement. umbi Films, 1990. uK. Faucon, Philippe. Samia. Canal+, 2000. France. Jamal, Ahmed A. Majdhar. retake Film, 1983. uK. Loach, Ken. Ae fond kiss. Bianca Film, 2004. Great Britain, Belgium, German, Italy, Spain. O’Donnell, Damien. East Is East. FilmFour, 1999. Great Britain. Prasad, udayan. My Son the Fanatic . Arts Council of England, 1997. uK, France. Smith, Peter K. A Private Enterprise. BFI, 1974. uK. Zwick, Joel. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Gold Circle Films, 2002. uSA, Canada. Guido rings is professor of postcolonial studies and pathway leader for the MA in in- tercultural communication at Anglia ruskin university in Cambridge. He is also direc- tor of the research unit for Intercultural and Transcultural Studies (ruITs), and coedi- tor of German as a Foreign Language, the first Internet journal in Europe for this field. rings has widely published within different areas of postcolonial studies as well as Euro- pean film and cultural studies. This includes the authored books The Conquest Upside Down ‘La Conquista desbaratada’ (2010), Conquered Conquerors ‘Eroberte Eroberer’ (2005), Narrating against the Tide ‘Erzählen gegen den Strich’ (1996), and the BBC-Ger- man Grammar (with r. Tenberg; 2005). He has also edited the dossier “The Other Side of Migration” ‘La otra cara de la migración’ for Iberoamericana (vol. 34, 2009), coed- ited the volumes Neo-colonial Mentalities in Contemporary Europe (with A. Ife; 2008), Worlds of Images, Worlds of Texts, Worlds of Comics ‘Bilderwelten, Textwelten, Com- icwelten ’ (with F. Leinen; 2007), and Euro- pean Cinema: Inside Out (with r. Morgan- Tamosunas; 2003), and he is the author of more than thirty refereed articles.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 10:23 29 July 2014
Explain each question properly with the explanation. Write 6 to 8 lines max. Use proper references if needed. Use any reading in the class provided. Last week we discussed the use of the internet a
This article was downloaded by: [University of Manitoba Libraries] On: 29 July 2014, At: 09:57 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Journal of Contemporary Religion Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjcr20 New religions and the internet: Recruiting in a new public space Lorne L. Dawson a & Jenna Hennebry a a Department of Sociology , University of Waterloo , Waterloo, N2L 3G1, Canada Published online: 25 Jun 2008. To cite this article: Lorne L. Dawson & Jenna Hennebry (1999) New religions and the internet: Recruiting in a new public space , Journal of Contemporary Religion, 14:1, 17-39, DOI: 10.1080/13537909908580850 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537909908580850 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content. This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/ terms-and-conditions Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1999 17 New Religions and the Internet: Recruiting in a New Public Space1 LORNE L. DAWSON & JENNA HENNEBRY ABSTRACT The mass suicide of 39 members of Heaven’s Gate in March of 1997 led to public fears about the presence of ‘spiritual predators’ on the world wide web. This paper describes and examines the nature of these fears, as reported in the media. It then sets these fears against what we know about the use of the Internet by new religions, about who joins new religious movements and why, and the social profile of Internet users. It is argued that the emergence of the Internet has yet to significantly change the nature of religious recruitment in contemporary society. The Internet as a medium of communi- cation, however, may be having other largely unanticipated effects on the form and functioning of religion, both old and new, in the future. Some of the potential perils of the Internet are discussed with reference to the impact of this new medium on questions of religious freedom, community, social pluralism, and social control. Concerns After Heaven’s Gate Twice in the last year (1998) the first author of this paper has been asked to speak to groups in our community about the presence of ‘cults’2 on the world wide web, and the threat they might pose. These talks were prompted, un- doubtedly, by the tragic death of the 39 members of Heaven’s Gate at Rancho Sante Fe, California, on March 26, 1997. To the surprise of many it seems, the media reports of this strange and ceremonious mass suicide revealed a group with its own elaborate web page (see Figure 1). What is more, this new religion designed sophisticated web pages for other organizations. In fact, it received much of its income from a company called Higher Source, operated by its members. Heaven’s Gate had been using the Internet to communicate with some of its followers and to spread its message for several years. This news generated a special measure of curiosity and fear from some elements of the public.3 This reaction stemmed, we suspect, from the coincidental confluence of the misunder- standing and consequent mistrust of both the new technology and of cults. Despite the ballyhoo recently accorded the launch of the ‘information super- highway’ (by the government, the computer industry, and the media), the Internet is still only used, with any regularity, by a relatively small percentage of the population.4 In the absence of personal experience, the web is popularly thought to be the creature of those believed to be its primary users: large corporations on the one hand (from Microsoft to Nike), and isolated ‘computer nerds’ on the other. Most certainly, religious organizations are not commonly associated in the public perception with such leading-edge technologies (despite the omni-presence of televangelists on the America airwaves). For most North Americans in fact, the topic of religion calls to mind churches, and the churches 1353-7903/99/010017-23 © 1999 Carfax Publishing LtdDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 18 L. L. Dazvson & }. Hennebry RED ALERT *** IMPORTANT To NOTICE*** j well >i!c ;:ml the entire Heavens G;id; video oiilccrion h:i heen encoded | and scored on :i CD-ROM These CDs are available from Kiv.hr 10 Knmv for a $2.00 donation. HALE-BOPP Brines Closure to: Figure 1. are associated with traditionalism, if not with an element of hostility to the cultural influence of developments in science and technology. New religious movements, in addition, are still rather crudely seen as havens for the socially marginal, and perhaps even personally deficient individuals—those least likely or capable of mastering the social and technical demands of a new world order. The image, then, of cultists exploiting the web seemed incongruous to many. Combined with the established suspicion of ‘cults’ (e.g. Pfeifer 1992; Bromley & Breschel, 1992) and the almost mystical power often attributed to the Internet itself, the example set by Heaven’s Gate seemed ominous. When compared with the familiar media used to distribute religious views, like books, videos, tapes, radio and television programs, Internet sites are easily accessible and in many respects more economical to produce and operate. With the appropriate knowledge and minimal computer hardware and software, anyone can sample a wide array of alternative religious views, and, if they so choose, just as easily hide their exposure or consumption of such views from the prying eyes of others (e.g. parents, partners, friends, or employers). In fact, theDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 19 net opens surprising new opportunities to even start one’s own religion (as will be discussed below). Have cults found in the Internet, then, a new and more effective means to recruit members? If so, has the world wide web changed the playing field, so to speak, allowing quite small and unusual groups unprecedented access to a new and impressionable audience of potential converts and supporters? Most scholars of new religious movements would be sceptical, we think, that the advent of the world wide web offered any reason for renewed concern about the presumed threat posed by ‘cults’ to mainstream society. Within days of the Heaven’s Gate deaths, however, several media stories appeared in prominent sources (e.g. The New York Times, Time magazine, Newsweek, and CNN), each raising the prospect of “spiritual predators” on the net. In the words of George Johnson in The New York Times: In the public mind—moulded by news reports on the old media, which are still more powerful and pervasive than anything on-line—the Internet is starting to seem like a scary place, a labyrinth of electronic tunnels as disturbing and seedy as anything Thomas Pynchon has dreamed up for the bizarre worlds in such works as Gravity’s Rainbow, V and Vineland. The Heaven’s gate suicides can only amplify fears that, in some quarters, may be already bordering on hysteria. The Internet, it seems, might be used to lure children not only to shopping malls, where some ‘sicko’ waits, but into joining UFO cults (see the version reprinted in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, April 5, 1997: C27). CNN’s online news magazine carried these suspicions further (http:// cnn.com/TECH/9703/27/techno.pagans/index.html) citing comments from presumed experts on the web, like Erik Davis of Wired magazine, and ‘experts’ on cults, like Margaret T. Singer. A story, posted under the heading “The Internet as a God and Propaganda Tool for Cults”, sought to create the impression that ‘computer nerds’, and other compulsive denizens of the net, might be particularly susceptible to cult recruitment (and hence eventually to abuse). In Davis’s view, “identifying more and more of your life with what’s happening on the other side of the [computer] screen…” can have a “very dissociative effect”, increasing the risk of cult conversion. What is more, Singer assures us, the cults are targeting these very people: What the cults want to recruit are average, normal, bright people and especially, in recent years, people with technical skills, like computer skills. And often, they haven’t become street smart. And they’re too gullible. Wisely, the stories in The New York Times and Time magazine (April 7,1997) both seek to cast doubt on such scare mongering. They each seek to do so, however, by defending the integrity of the world wide web and not the cults. Their pointed concern is to disassociate the net as a neutral means of communication from its use by religions (i.e. don’t confuse the medium with the message). No effort is made to even begin to address the realities of cult recruitment in general, let alone their actual use of the net. So what do we know about cult recruitment and the world wide web? Do we have reason to believe that the Internet either has or someday could become aDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 20 L. L. Dawson & J. Hennebry significant source of new converts? Is there something to worry about? A recent survey of adult Canadians reported that 12% claim they use the Internet for “religious purposes”.5 This paper examines and compares what we know about the presence of new religious movements on the Internet and how people come to join these groups. The most reliable results of decades of research into religious conversions cast doubt on the special utility of the world wide web as a mechanism of recruit- ment. Face-to-face social interactions and networks of personal relationships play too large a role in the data about conversions collected by scholars. Further, previous studies suggest that such ‘disembodied appeals’ as religious advertise- ments, radio shows, and televangelism, have little significant effect on rates of religious recruitment (Lofland, 1966; Shupe, 1976; Snow, Zurcher & Ekland- Olson, 1980; Rochford, 1982; Hoover, 1988). But these are broadcast media, and largely under the control of a relatively small elite. Might things be different within the interactive and more democratic, even anarchic, conditions of cyberspace? At present we cannot say, because there is little reliable information and because it is too soon. Discussions of the nature and impact of the new public space opened up by the Internet, however, suggest that the emergence of the world wide web may be changing the conditions of new religious life in our societies in significant ways. There are both promise and peril in the new technologies of cyberspace for the future of religion. Internet Surveys Our analysis of these matters is augmented with insights drawn from two surveys: our own survey of the ‘web meisters’ of several new religious move- ments, and an online profile of Internet users. Some interesting problems with the first survey will be discussed before proceeding with the analysis. In the late spring of 1998, we surveyed the web page creators of thirty groups by e-mail (see Table 1). The brief survey asked 23 questions delving into such matters as the origins of their web pages, whether professional help was used in their design or updating, whether the pages were official or unofficial in status, the primary purposes of the web pages, their level of satisfaction with the web pages and what measures of success they used, the mechanisms used for inviting feedback (if at all), the nature of the feedback received and the responses given, any knowledge of whether people had become affiliated with their groups as a result of contact with the web page, and their views on whether and how the world wide web should be regulated. The groups and individuals approached were selected according to three criteria: (1) they represented relatively well-known new religious movements; (2) they represented a fairly reasonable cross-section of the kinds of groups active in North America; (3) they were already known to be operating fairly sophisti- cated web pages. In administering the survey by e-mail we had hoped to garner a higher rate of return from these ‘computer savvy’ individuals and groups, thinking many might be able to respond almost immediately by return e-mail (as requested). To our surprise, however, the rate of return was very low: seven surveys or 23.3 percent.6 Why the low rate of return? We are not sure, although we have some ideas. Using the Internet to do surveys would seem to be a subject in need of systematic investigation itself.7Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 21 All the same, some information from our seven respondents will be intro- duced here, for strictly illustrative purposes, since this is the only empirical data currently available. Moreover, the seven respondents happen to represent several of the more prominent new religions and an interesting, if highly limited, cross-section of the kinds of new religions available (neo-pagan, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and psychotherapeutic).8 The information derived from the other survey of Internet users, on which we are calling, is more straightforward and based on a large, if perhaps not completely reliable, sample (N = 9,529) collected by the Inter Commerce Cor- poration and made available to all on the net at http://www.survey.net (see Table 2).9 Better data on both counts would assist future investigations of the issues raised by this paper. But a timely, appropriate, and significant response can be made with the data and theoretical insights at hand. Research into the nature, social and religious functions, and consequences of the Internet is only begin- ning and the issues raised in this discussion help to explain why we need to do more. New Religions on the Net To date we do not know much about how surfing the web may have contributed to anyone joining a new religious movement. With the exception of the brief forays undertaken by Cottee, Yateman, and Dawson (1996: 459-468) and Bainbridge (1997:149-155), we know of no specific studies, popular or academic, of this subject. The journalist Jeff Zaleski has written an interesting book about religion and the Internet called The Soul of Cyberspace (Zaleski, 1997). It contains some fascinating interviews with religious figures from many of the world’s religions that have already heavily invested in the Internet as a tool of religious discourse (from the Chabad-Lubavitch Jews of New York, at http:// www.chabad.org, to Zen Buddhists, at http://wwwl.mhv.net/~dharmacom/ lhtmlmro.htm). It also contains some equally intriguing conversations with a few of the founding or influential figures of cyberspace and virtual reality about the possible interface of religion and cyberspace. Zaleski’s attention, however, is directed to discerning if anyone thinks that religious services can be per- formed authentically over the web and how. Can the spiritual essence of religion, the subtle energies of prana, as he calls it, be adequately conveyed by the media of cyberspace? Or will such hyper-real simulations always be inadequate to the task? The question of recruitment arises in his discussions, but it is never explored in any detail. On the contrary, in his comments on Heaven’s Gate and the threat posed by ‘cults’ on the Internet, Zaleski displays a level of prejudice and misunderstanding that is out of keeping with the rest of his book: Those most vulnerable to a cult’s message—the lonely, the shy, misfits, outcasts—are often attracted to the Net, relishing its power to allow communion with others while maintaining anonymity. While the Net offers an unprecedented menu of choice, it also allows budding fanatics to focus on just one choice—to tune into the same Web site, the same newsgroup, again and again, for hours on end, shut off from all otherDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 Table 1. Survey sample—new religious movements on the Internet Group Site name URL site location t-1 Q? 3 3 <3 A.R.E. Aumism BOTA Brahma Kumaris Church Universal & Triumphant Churches of Christ Covenant of the Goddess Eckankar Foundation for Inner Peace (AC1M) International Society for Krishna Consciousness Meher Baba Group MSIA Ordo Templi Orientis Osho Raelians Rosicrucian Order A.R.E. Inc. Aumism—Universal Religion BOTA Home page (Builders Of The Atydum) Brahma Kumaris W.S.O Brahma Kumaris W.S.O Our Church (Church Universal & Triumphant) Boston Church of Christ International Churches of Christ Covenant of the Goddess Eckankar A Course in Miracles—ACIM Miracles web site ISKON.NET A Hare Krishna Network Meher Baba Group MSIA—Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness Hodos Chamelionis Camp of the Ordo Templi Orientis Thelema Meditation: The Science of the Inner International Raelian Movement Rosicrucian Order, (English) AMORC Home Page AMORC International http://www.are-cayce.com/ http://www.aumisme.org/gb/ http://www.atanda.com/bota/default.html http://www.rajayoga.com/ http://www bkwsu.com http://www.tsl.org/intro/church.html http://www.bostoncoc.org/ http://www.intlcc.com/ http://www.canjure.com http://www.eckankar.org http://www.acim.org/ http://www.miraclesmedia.org/ http://iskcon.net http://daveyjsunyerie.edu/mb/html http://www.msia.com/ http://pw2.netcom.com/ ~ bry-guy/hcc-oto.html http://www.crl.com? ~ thelema.home.html http://www.osho.org/homepage html http://www.rael.org/ http: //www.rosicrucian.org/ http://www.amorc.orgDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 School of Wisdom Scientology Shambhala Shirdi Sai Baba Sikh Dharma (3H) Soka Gakkai Subud Quest For Utopia (Koufuku no kagaku) Temple of Set The Family TM Unification Church Urantia Wicca School of Wisdom Home Page Scientology: SCIENTOLOGY HOME PAGE Welcome to Shambhala Shirdi Sai Baba International Directory of Kundalini Yoga Centers (3HO) Soka Gakkai International Public Info Site Soka Gakkai International-USA (SGI-USA) SUBUD: The World Subud Association Website Quest for Utopia Institute Research Human Happiness (Koufuku no Kagaku) Temple of Set Balanone: Temple of Set Information The Family—An International Christian Fellowship Complete Guide to the Transcendental Meditation Unification Church Home Page Urantia Foundation Wiccan Church of Canada Home Page Welcome to Daughters of the Moon (Dianic Wicca) http://ddi.digital.net/ ~ wisdom/school/welcome.html http: //www.scientology.org/ http://www.shambhala.org/ http://www.saiml.com http://www.sikhnet.com http://www.sgi.org http://www.sgi-usa.org/ http://www.subud.org/english.menu.html http: //www.quest-utopia.com http://www.quest-utopia.com/info/irh.html http://www.xeper.org/pub/tos/noframe.htm http://www.geocities.com http://www.thefamiiy.org/ http://www.TM.org/ http: // www.unification.org/ http://www.urantia.org http://www.wcc.on.ca/ http://www.wco.com/ ~ moonwmyn/index.html 3 5a o’ en a. 3 TODownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 24 L. L. Dawson & J. Hennebry Table 2. Internet user statistics (1997-1998) [http://www.wisdom.con/sv/sv- inetl.htm] Age 26-30 yrs. old 22-25 31-35 41-50 19-20 36-40 51-60 13-16 17-18 61-70 under 12 over 71 Occupation Professional Student Blue Collar Retired Occupation associated w/ computers Primary Use of the Internet Research Entertainment Communication Sales/Marketing Education 25.40% 16.50% 13.00% 12.90% 9.10% 9.00% 4.60% 4.00% 4.00% 0.90% 0.30% 0.20% 59.20% 34.30% 4.50% 1.90% 39.40% 44.50% 24.50% 15.90% 9.70% 5.30% Sex Female Male Education College College Graduate Masters Degree Some High School High School Graduate Ph.D. + Ph.D. Student Industry Education/ Student Service Publishing Other/Unemployed Sales Government Manufacturing Arts/Creative 28.40% 71.50% 34.00% 30.10% 18.20% 6.70% 6.60% 4.10% 0.30% 37.10% 23.60% 12.20% 7.10% 6.30% 5.10% 5.10% 3.40% Source: Inter Commerce Corporation, “SURVEY.NET”. stimuli—to isolate themselves from conflicting beliefs. Above all, the headiness of cyberspace, its divorce from the body and the body’s incarnate wisdom, gives easy rise to fantasy, paranoia, delusions of grandeur. (Zaleski, 1997: 249) In echoing the comments of Davis and Singer, Zaleski is rather unreflexive about his own and others’ fascination with religion on the Internet. Reports on the web say that Heaven’s Gate did contact people by e-mail and through conversations tried to involve them in their activities, even encouraged them to leave home and join the main group in California. One particular conversation between a member of the group and an adolescent in Minnesota has been recorded (we are told), and it does not seem unreasonable to presume that there were more. How many? How successful were these contacts? Who knows? Reports in the news of the past lives of some of the 39 people who died indicated that a few of the members first contacted the group through the Internet.10 But we lack details of how and of what happened. Did these people know of the group before or not? Had they been involved in similar groups before? Did the Internet contact play a significant or a merely peripheral role in the decisions they made about joining Heaven’s Gate? There are a lot of important questions that have yet to be answered.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 25 Was the recruiting done over the Internet part of a fully sanctioned and prepared strategy of Heaven’s Gate or something simply done by enthusiastic members—like an evangelist in any tradition, taking advantage of opportunities as they arise? At present we do not know. We briefly describe the presence of new religions on the Internet. Then we place our discussion in context by looking at the scholarly record about who joins new religious movements and how, to see how this data fits with the results of our survey of the creators of web pages for the new religious movements and the survey of the users of the net. Heaven’s Gate did have a relatively flashy website (for its time), making a lot of information available, although it was of variable quality. The site employed many colourful graphics, but in the main it consisted of programmatic state- ments of the group’s beliefs, focused on the role played by aliens from space in the past, present, and future life of humankind. Undergirding all was the warning that a great change was at hand: “The earth’s present ‘civilization’ is about to be recycled—spaded under. Its inhabitants are refusing to evolve. The ‘weeds’ have taken over the garden and disturbed its usefulness beyond repair.” In the days immediately preceding the mass suicide of the group, their web page declared: “Red Alert. HALE-BOPP Brings Closure.” It was time for the loyal followers of their leader Do to abandon their earthy “containers” in preparation for being carried off by a UFO, thought to be accompanying the comet Hale- Bopp, to a new home at “The Evolutionary Level Beyond Human” somewhere else in the galaxy. Few if any people, it now seems clear, were listening or chose to take their warnings seriously—an interesting indicator of the real limits on the vaunted power of the web as a means of religious ‘broadcasting’. Apart from the imminent character of its apocalyptic vision, the Heaven’s Gate web site is fairly representative of the presence of new religious move- ments on the Internet. Most of the better known new religions (e.g. Scientology, Krishna Consciousness, the Unification Church, Soka Gakkai, the Church Universal and Triumphant, Eckankar, Osho, Sri Sai Baba) have had websites of some sopliistication (in graphics, text, and options) for several years (see Table 1). The respondents to our survey said their sites were launched in 1995 or very early in 1996, when the world wide web was still more or less in its infancy. In addition, there are literally hundreds of other sites for more obscure religious or quasi-religious groups. Most of these sites are official, in some sense, although some are privately run by devotees and others. Most of these sites simply replicate, in appearance and content, the kind of material available in other publications by these groups, and the web materials are often meant to be down-loaded as a ready substitute for more conventional publications. Most of these sites offer ways of establishing further contact to obtain more materials (e.g. pamphlets, books, tapes, and videos) and to access courses, lectures, and other programs, either by e-mail, telephone numbers, or mailing addresses. All of our respondents indicated that this was an important feature of their sites, most claiming that they respond to several messages every day, and one award-winning site claiming to receive “about 100 messages per day”. Similar comments can be found in the conversations Zaleski had with other religious web masters. A few of the more elaborate sites (e.g. Scientology, Eckankar) offer virtual tours of the interiors of some of their central facilities and temples. Many offer music and sound bites in real audio (e.g. messages from their founders and other inspirational leaders). None of our respondents claimed that their webDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 26 L. L. Dawson & J. Hennebry sites had been professionally designed or altered. The individuals or groups had done the work themselves. Three of the respondents indicated, however, that they have since become engaged, to some extent, in the professional creation of web pages for other groups within their own organization or tradition, as well as other clients altogether. The primary use of the web is clearly a way to advertise the groups and to deliver information about them cheaply. Most respondents stressed how ideal the medium was for the dissemination of their views (see also Zaleski, 1957: 73, 75, 125). To this end, many of the new religions operate multiple pages with slightly different foci, all ‘hot-linked’ to one another, to maximize the chances of a browser stumbling across one of the pages. Similarly, these pages are often launched with unusually long and diverse lists of ‘key word’ search terms, assuring that their address will appear when requests are made through search engines for all kinds of information that may be only tangentially related to the religious beliefs or mission of the group in question (see also Zaleski, 1997: 105; see Table 3).n In these ways, the web sites act as a new and relatively effective means of outreach to the larger community. They undoubtedly enhance the public profile of each of these religions and add to the revenues obtained by the sale of books, tapes, and other paraphernalia. In fairness most of the literature available through the web is offered free of charge—to spread the word.12 The Internet and Recruitment The popular stereotypes of recruits to NRMs are that they are young, naive and duped or that they are social losers and marginal types seeking a safe haven from the real world. In an inconsistent and opportunistic manner, some mem- bers of the anti-cult movement (e.g. Singer, 1995) have recently claimed that everyone is susceptible to being recruited. The comments of Erik Davis and Margaret Singer in the CNN story on cults and the Internet, and those of Zaleski in The Soul of Cyberspace manage to combine all three points of view. Heavy users of computers and hence often the world wide web are presumed to be ‘social nerds’ and thus more vulnerable to the ‘loving’ outreach of online cult recruiters. Is this the case? The evidence at hand shows that the situation is probably much more complex. In the first place, the data acquired by sociologists over the last 20 or more years about who joins NRMs and how they join tends not to support the popular supposition (see the summaries and references provided in Dawson, 1996,1998). It is true, as studies reveal, that “cult involvement seems to be strongly correlated with having fewer and weaker extra-cult social ties…[as well as] fewer and weaker ideological alignments”. In the terms of reference of Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge (1985), the ‘unchurched’ are more likely to join (Dawson, 1996: 149, or Dawson, 1998: 70-71). If heavy users of the net are indeed social isolates, then in at least one respect they may appear to be at greater risk of being persuaded to join a NRM. But there are three other propositions about who joins NRMs and how, with significantly greater empirical substantiation, that off-set this impression:Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 Table 3. Inventory of new religious movements on the Internet, detailed Group A.R.E. Aumism BOTA Brahma Kumaris Church Universal and Triumphant Churches of Christ (Boston) Covenant of the Goddess Eckankar Foundation for Inner Peace (ACIM) International Society for Krishna Consciousness Meher Baba Group Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness Ordo Templi Orientis Osho Quest for Utopia (Koufuku no Kagaku) Raelians Rosicrucian Order School of Wisdom Scientology Shambhala Sikh Dharma (3HO) Shirdi Sai Baba Soka Gakkai Subud Temple of Set The Family TM Unification Church Urantia Wiccan Church of Canada Keywords 13 •93 •34 7 •49 — 5 •20 — 49 — •19 — — — — 11 •31 •32 •39 — — 15 — •26 •78 4 — Design advanced average advanced advanced average advanced average advanced basic advanced average advanced basic advanced average advanced basic average advanced advanced advanced advanced advanced basic advanced advanced advanced advanced advanced average Site characteristics Interactiveness high med-high high (Java) med low med med-low med low high (Java) low med low high high (Java) low med-low high (Java) high (Java) med high high (Java) med med med med-high med-high med-high med-high low i Special features audio, links, books petition multi-language, regional, free brochure books, regional links regional links, multi-language regional links, directory webring, regional links free books catalogue, mailing list audio, site host, search engine, international products, organization links multi-language links to other Thelemic sites audio talks, on-line shopping audio, languages (Japanese) multi-language, multi-geographical, counter free booklet, counter guestbook free info, film, search engine, multi-language international server chat room, search engine, international multi-links international international mailing list, language audio, free info, music video, links, online books online bookstore, online newsletter, reading list international, on-line catalogue regional links Communications email X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X Phone X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X Mail X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 3 •Keywords were not specific to organization. Summary statistics. 47% used detailed keyword searches, with 10 keywords or more; 30% high interactivity; 40% medium interactivity; 63% advanced websites; 97% provided email addresses; 40% provided email, telephone and mailing addresses. hoDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 28 L. L. Dawson & ]. Hennebry (1) “studies of conversion and case studies of specific groups have found that recruitment to NRMs happens primarily through pre- existing social networks and interpersonal bonds. Friends recruit friends, family members each other, and neighbours recruit neigh- bours” (Dawson, 1996: 147; Dawson, 1998: 68); (2) “in general, case studies of individuals who joined NRMs or of the groups themselves commonly reveal the crucial role of affective bonds with specific members in leading recruits into deeper involvements” (Dawson, 1996: 148; Dawson, 1998: 69-70); (3) “equally strongly, from the same studies it is clear that the intensive interaction of recruits with the rest of the existing membership of the group is pivotal to the successful conversion and maintenance of new members” (Dawson, 1996: 149; Dawson, 1998: 70). First and foremost, the process of converting to an NRM is a social process. If the denizens of cyberspace tend in fact to be socially isolated, then it is unlikely that they will be recruited through the web or otherwise. What is more, there is little reason to think that the Internet, in itself, ever will be a very effective, means of recruitment. As the televangelists learned some time ago (Hoover, 1988), the initial provision of information is unlikely to produce any specific commitments, unless it is followed up by much more personal and complete forms of interaction, by phone and in person. Therefore, most of the successful televangelist run quite extensive ‘para-church’ organizations to which they try to direct all their potential recruits. The religious web masters, as Zaleski’s inter- views reveal (Zaleski, 1997: 63, 73, 75, 125) do the same, pressing interested individuals to visit the nearest center or temple. As the creator of one site, Christian Web, states: Internet ministries are never meant to be a replacement for the real church. It is impossible for anyone to develop a personal relationship with God without being around His people, His church. These Internet works are nothing more than something to draw in people who may otherwise not want to know anything about Jesus or not want to visit a church for fear of the unknown. For some reason, people find it less intimidating if they can sit at home in the privacy of their own room asking questions about the church and the Bible and God that they have always wanted to ask but never quite feel comfortable enough in the real church to do so. (Zaleski, 1997: 125) Approaching the same question from another angle, can we learn anything from a comparison of the social profiles that we have of Internet users and the members of NRMs (see Table 1 and Dawson, 1996:152-157 or 1998: 74-79)? Both groups tend to be drawn disproportionately from the young adult population, to be educated better than the general public, and they seem to be dispro- portionately from the middle to upper classes. In the case of the Internet users, the latter conclusion can only be inferred from their levels of education and occupations. But it is fair to say that the fit between this profile and the stereotypes of cult converts is ambiguous at best. By conventional social inferences, it would seem to be inappropriate to view these people as social losers or marginal. Nor clearly do they constitute ‘everybody’. Are they more naive and prone to being duped or manipulated? That would be difficult toDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 29 determine. But we do not have any reliable evidence to believe such is the case, certainly not for Internet users. On average, they are not as young as most converts to NRMs, even better educated, and overwhelmingly from professional occupations (or so they report). Given the extent of their probable involvement in computer technology, surfing the web, and the real world of their professions, it is more plausible to speculate that they will be more sceptical, questioning, and worldly-wise (in at least a cognitive sense) than other segments of the population. But even if we were to somehow learn that this is not the case, there are other issues to be explored that raise doubts about the soundness of the popular fear of cult recruitment through the net. The common complaint of educators, parents, and spouses is that those drawn to the web for hours on end are simply riding on the surface of things (surfing). They have substituted the vicarious life of the web for real life commitments. In this they call to mind certain individuals whom Eileen Barker (1984: 194-198, 203; see also Dawson, 1998: 108) noted in her comprehensive study of the Moonies. These are people who seem to fit the profile of potential recruits delineated by the anti-cult movement, yet in fact attend a few lectures with some enthusiasm, only to drop-out in pursuit of some other novel interest on the horizon. On the other hand, following the logic of the argument advanced by Stark and Bainbridge (1996: 235-237) for the involvement of social elites in cults, we can speculate that there are special reasons why a certain percentage of heavy Internet users may be interested in cult activities and why NRMs may have a vested interest in recruiting these people. “In a cosmopolitan society which inflicts few if any punishments for experimentation with novel religious alter- natives”, Stark and Bainbridge propose, “cults may recruit with special success among the relatively advantaged members of society” (Stark & Bainbridge, 1996: 235). Even within elites, they point out, there is an inequality in the division of rewards and room for individuals to be preoccupied with certain relative deprivations (Glock, 1964) not adequately compensated for by the power of the elite (e.g. concerns about beauty, health, love, and coping with mortality). In fact, the very material security of this group may well encourage their preoccupation with these other less fundamental concerns. People moved by these relative deprivations are unlikely to be drawn to religious sects to alleviate their needs, because the sects are much more likely to be opposed in principle to “the exact rewards the elite possesses as a class” (Stark & Bainbridge, 1996: 236). Alter- natively, Stark and Bainbridge stipulate: …an innovative cult…can offer a set of compensators outside the political antagonisms which divide the elite from other citizens, and focus instead on providing compensators for particular sets of citizens with a shared set of desires that wish to add something to the power of the elite while preserving it. (Stark & Bainbridge, 1996: 236) In addition, “in a cosmopolitan society…in which the elite accepts and supports cultural pluralism and thus encourages cultural novelty”, certain religious innovations may hold a special appeal because they are emblematic of “progress”. Cults are often associated with the transmission of “new culture” and as such may have a certain appeal in terms of the cultural capital of the elite. More mundanely, of course, there is also the fact that the elite are the ones “withDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 30 L. L. Dawson & ]. Hennebry both the surplus resources to experiment with new explanations and, through such institutions as higher education, the power to obtain potentially valuable new explanations before others do” (Stark & Bainbridge, 1996: 236-237). From the perspective of the NRMs, members of an elite are particularly attractive candidates for recruitment, not just because of the resources they can donate to the cause, but because they are more likely to be involved in the kind of wide-ranging social networks essential for the dissemination of a new cultural phenomenon. “Since networks are composed of interlocking exchange relation- ships”, Stark and Bainbridge reason, “a network will be more extensive, including more kinds of exchanges for more valued rewards, if its members possess the power to obtain the rewards.” (Stark & Bainbridge, 1996: 236) Recruitment from the elites of society can be instrumental in the success of a new religion. Whether any of this is relevant in this context is a matter for empirical investigation. The survey of Internet users does suggest, however, that the web provides a convenient point of access to a seemingly elite segment of our society. Access to computing technology and to the Internet, as well as sufficient time and knowledge to use these resources properly is still largely a luxury afforded the better-off segments of our society. The conclusions we can draw about the threat posed by ‘cults’ on Internet are limited, yet important. First, while the Internet does make it cheaper for NRMs to disseminate their beliefs over a larger area and to a potentially much larger audience, it is unlikely that it has intrinsically changed the capacity of NRMs to recruit new members. In the first place, Web pages, at present at least, differ little in content or function from more traditional forms of religious publication and broadcasting. Secondly, we have no real evidence that Internet users are any more prone to convert to a new religion than other young and well-educated people in our society. All the same, there are other reasons for wondering if the world wide web is changing the environment in which NRMs operate in fundamental and perhaps even dangerous ways. The Perils and Promise of the New Public Space We are starting to be inundated with discussions of the wonders and significance of cyberspace. Much of the dialogue is marked by hyperbole and Utopian rhetoric that leaves scholars cold. A few key insights, however, warrant further investigation. Most fundamentally, it is important to realize that it may be best to think of the Internet as a new environment or context in which things happen rather than just another new tool or service. As David Holmes (1997) observes (citing Mark Poster, 1997): The virtual technologies and agencies…cannot be viewed as instru- ments in the service of pre-given bodies and communities, rather they are themselves contexts which bring about new corporealities and new politics corresponding to space-worlds and time-worlds that have never before existed in human history. (Holmes, 1997: 3) When religion, like anything else, enters these new worlds, there are both anticipated and unanticipated consequences. The new religious ‘web meisters’ we questioned seemed to approach the Internet simply as a tool and showedDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 31 little or no appreciation of the potential downside of their efforts. But in thinking about these matters, two disparate sociological observations by Anthony Giddens and James Beckford came to mind and we began to wonder about a connection. With the advent of the technologies of modernity, Giddens argues (1990), time has become separated from space and space from place, giving rise to ever more “disembedded social systems”. Social relations have been lifted out of local contexts of interaction and restructured across “indefinite spans of time-space” (Giddens, 1990: 21). Writing, money, time-clocks, cars, freeways, television, computers, ATMs, walkmans, electronic treadmills for running, shopping malls, theme parks and so on, have all contributed to the transformation of the human habitat, incrementally creating “successive levels of ‘new nature’ ” for humanity (Holmes, 1997: 6). As sociologists since Marx (1846) have realized, new tech- nologies bring about new forms of social interaction and integration that can change the taken-for-granted conditions of social life. This is especially true of communications technologies. Relative to our ancestors, we have become like gods in our powers of production, reconstruction, and expression. Yet the price may have been high. Even these pre-virtual technologies have changed our environments in ways that detrimentally standardize, routinize, and instru- mentalize our relations with our own bodies and with other people. As we have refashioned our world, we have in turn been remade in the image of techno- science (see e.g. McLuhan, 1964; Ellul, 1964; Marcuse, 1966; Baudrillard, 1970; Foucault, 1979; Postman, 1985). Does the advent of the Internet typify, or even magnify, these and other undesirable social trends? Some keen observers of the sociological implications of the Internet, like Holmes (1997), seem to think it does. If so, what unanticipated consequences might stem from the attempt of religions to take advantage of the disembedded freedom of cyberspace? A clue is provided by an observation by Beckford. Beckford has intriguingly proposed that it might be better to conceptualize religion in the contemporary Western world as “a cultural resource…than as a social institution” (Beckford, 1992: 23; see also Beckford, 1989: 171). The social structural transformations wrought by the emergence of advanced indus- trial societies have undermined the communal, familial and organizational bases of religion. As a consequence, while “religious and spiritual forms of sentiment, belief and action have survived as relatively autonomous resources…retaining] the capacity to symbolize…ultimate meaning, infinite power, supreme indignation and sublime compassion”, they have “come adrift from [their] former points of social anchorage”. Now “they can be deployed in the service of virtually any interest-group or ideal: not just organizations with specifically religious objectives” (Beckford, 1992: 22-23). Is this an apt description for what the Internet may be doing to religion? Like any ‘environ- ment’, the web acts back upon its content, modifying the form of its users or inhabitants. Is the ‘disembedded’ social reality of life in cyberspace contributing to the transformation of religion into a ‘cultural resource’ in a post-modern society? If it is, what would be the consequences for the future form and function of religion? Perhaps developments in religion on the web will provide some initial indications. After examining the pitfalls of life on the web, we will briefly comment on one such development: the creation of truly ‘churchless religions’.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 32 L. L. Dawson & ]. Hennebry With these conjectures in mind, we briefly itemize and counterpoise some of the noted benefits and liabilities of life on the Internet.13 On the positive side, much has been made of the net as an electronic meeting place, a new public space for fashioning new kinds of communities (Shields, 1996; Holmes, 1997; Zaleski, 1997). The defining features of these new communities are the various freedoms allowed by the technology. The Internet allows freedom from “the constraints of the flesh” (Holmes, 1997: 7), from the limitations of interaction within Cartesian space and the natural cycles of time. It allows a greater measure of freedom from traditional forms of social control, both formal and informal. It allows for the “breakdown of hierarchies of race, class, and gender”. It allows for “the construction of oppositional subjectivities hitherto excluded from the public sphere” (Holmes, 1997: 13). It allows people, seemingly, to “bypass or displace institutional politics” (Holmes, 1997: 19). The bottom line, we are told by the hardcore denizens and promoters of the net, is that the Internet consti- tutes a new and freer community of speech, transcending conventional institutional life. All of these presumed freedoms, each as yet a worthy subject of empirical investigation (see e.g. Shields, 1996; Holmes, 1997), rest upon the anonymity and fluidity of identity permitted and sometimes even mandated by life on the Internet. The technology of the net allows, and the emergent culture of the net fosters, the creative enactment of pluralism, at the individual or psychological level as well as the social, cultural, and collective level. This unique foundation of freedom, however, comes at a price that may vitiate the creation of any real communities, of faith or otherwise. As noted, there is a marked tendency for life on the net to be fashioned in the image of the current techno-science, with its new possibilities and clear limitations. This environmental influence on social relations is likely to spill out of the confines of the computer into the stream of everyday life—much like the virtual realities of television that influence the social ontologies of North America, Britain, Japan, and much of Europe. Part of this new standardization, routinization, and instrumentalization of life is the further commodification of human needs and relations. The pitch for the creation of new virtual com- munities bears the hallmarks of the emergence of ‘community’ as a new commodity of advanced capitalism—a product which is marketed in ways that induce the felt need for a convenient substitute for an increasingly problematic reality. But do ‘communities’ shaped by the Internet represent real communities any more than shopping malls? Are the possibilities of interaction and exchange sufficient in kind, number, and quality to replicate and possibly even to replace the social relationships born of more immediate and spatially and temporally uniform kinds of communal involvement? There is good reason to be sceptical, for as Holmes notes: …technologies of extension [like the Internet or freeways]… characteristically attenuate presence by enabling only disembodied and abstract connections between persons, where the number of means of recognizing another person declines. In the ‘use’ of these tech- nologies…the autonomy of the individual is enhanced at the point of use, but the socially ‘programmed’ nature of the technology actuallyDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 33 prohibits forming mutual relations of reciprocity outside the operating design of the technological environment. (Holmes, 1997: 6-7) Sharpening the critique, Holmes further cites the views of Michele Willson (1997: 146): …the presence of the Other in simulated worlds is more and more being emptied out to produce a purely intellectual engagement, and possibilities of commitment to co-operative or collective projects become one-dimensional, or, at best, self-referential. “Community is then produced as an ideal, rather than as a reality, or else it is abandoned altogether.” (Holmes, 1997: 16) In like manner, Willson points out (Willson, 1997), the Internet seemingly allows us to celebrate and extend social pluralism. But appearances can be deceiving. In the first place, the largely ungrounded and potentially infinite multiplicity of the net is often little more than “a play of masks”, which serves more to desensitize us to the real and consequential differences between us. Secondly, the medium simultaneously and paradoxically tends to “compartmentalize populations” and physically isolate individuals, while also “homogenizing” them (Holmes, 1997: 16-17). As in the rest of our consumer culture, the market of the Internet tends to favour standardization with marginal differentiation. Consequently, with Holmes we find that dialogues on the net tend to be “quite transient and directionless, seldom acquiring a substantive enough history to constitute a political [or religious] movement” (Holmes, 1997: 18). To the extent that any of this is true, and speculation far out-strips sound empirical research at this point, it is clear that the side-effects of involvement in the net could be quite deleterious for religions, new and old. The lauded freedom of the net merely compounds the difficulties, since the producers of content have little control over the dissemination and use of their material once launched. Things may be repeated out of context and applied to all manner of ends at odds with the intentions of the original producers. The Internet, as Zaleski says, is organized laterally rather than vertically or radially, with no central authority and no chain of command. (Individual webmasters have power over Web sites, as do… system opera tors… over bulletin board systems, and moderators over Usenet groups, but their influence is local and usually extremely responsive to the populations they serve.) (Zaleski, 1997: 111) There is little real regulation of the Internet and to date, only a few organizations have been able to enforce some of their intellectual property rights (most notably, some software producers and the Church of Scientology—see Frankel, 1996; Grossman, 1998). The sheer speed and scope of the Internet and the complexity of possible connections can frustrate any attempts to control the flow of information. As several of the web masters we surveyed stated, any attempt to regulate the net would likely violate the freedom of speech and religion guaranteed by the United States constitution and in the process render the net itself ineffective. However, this state of affairs can have a number of other unanticipated consequences for religions venturing onto the Internet that our web masters did not seem to realize:Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 34 L. L. Dawson & J. Hennebry Because the medium influences the message, it’s possible that in the long run the Internet will favour those religions and spiritual teachings that tend toward anarchy and that lack a complex hierarchy. Even now, those who log on to cyberspace may tend to gravitate to religious denominations that emphasize centrifugal rather than centripetal force, just as the medium that is carrying them does. Authority loses its trappings and force on the Net…(Zaleski, 1997: 111-112) This reality of the world of the Internet might well pose serious problems for religions that have historically stressed the role of a strong central authority, like the Roman Catholic Church or Scientology. As public information sources multiply through the Internet, it’s likely that the number of sites claiming to belong to any particular religion but in fact disseminating information that the central authority of that religion deems heretical also will multiply. (Zaleski, 1997: 108) When everyone can potentially circumvent the filters of an ecclesial bureaucracy and communicate directly and en masse with the leadership in Rome, Los Angeles or wherever, there will be a shift in power towards the grassroots (Zaleski, 1997: 112). The internet could have a democratizing effect on all religions and work against those religions that resist this consequence. The elaborate theorizing of Stark and Bainbridge (1996) and their colleagues (e.g. Innaccone, 1995) suggests, however, another somewhat contrary unanticipated consequence of the emergence of the world wide web for new religions. As Stark points out in his discussion of the rise of Christianity (1996), the way had been cleared for the phenomenal triumph of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world by the “excessive pluralism” (Stark, 1996: 197) of paganism. The massive influx of new cults into the Roman empire in the first century created “what E.R. Dodds called ‘a bewildering mass of alternatives. There were too many cults, too many mysteries, too many philosophies of life to choose from’.” (Stark, 1996: 197) This abundance of choice had at least two conse- quences with parallel implications for the fate of new religions on the Internet. In the first place, it assured that only a truly different religion, one that was favoured by other circumstances largely beyond its control, was likely to emerge from the crowd. For excessive pluralism, as Stark argues, “inhibits the ability of new religious firms to gain a market share” (Stark, 1996: 195), since the pool of potential converts is simply spread too thin. The competition for this pool, moreover, is likely to drive the competing new religions into ever new radical innovations to secure a market edge. Secondly, as Stark and Bainbridge argue elsewhere (Stark & Bainbridge, 1985, 1996; see also Stark, 1996: chapter 8), if many of the religious choices people have are “nonexclusive”, as was the case in the Roman Empire and seems to be the case on the Internet—there is no way of demanding or assuring that people hold to only one religion at a time—then, given the inherent risks of religious commitment (i.e. choosing the wrong salvific investment), people “will seek to diversify” (Stark, 1996: 204). The most rational strategy in the face of such structurally induced uncertainty will be to maintain a limited involvement in many competitive religions simultaneously—quite possibly to the long-term detriment of all. Stark, Bainbridge, and Innaccone suggest that true religiousDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 35 “movements” are much more likely to emerge from new religions that demand an exclusive commitment. As a medium, however, the Internet carries a reverse bias.14 This bias is reflected most clearly in some new religions to which the Internet itself has given birth—communities of belief that exist only, or at least primarily, on the net. The ones people are most likely to know are intentional jokes, blatant parodies like the Church of the Mighty Gerbil (http:// www.gerbilism.snpedro.com) or the First Presbyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (http://chelsea.ios.com/~hkarlinl/welcome.html). But there are other more problematic instances as well, one of which we have begun to study: Thee Church Ov MOO (http://members.xoom.com/gecko23/moo). This new religion was invented, almost by accident, by a group of gifted students interacting on an Internet bulletin board in Ottawa, Canada, sometime in the early 1990s. Today many of these same people operate a sophisticated web site with over eight hundred pages of fabricated religious documents covering a sweeping range of religious and pseudo-religious subjects. A visit to the web site reveals an elaborate development of alternative sets of scriptures, commandments, chronicles, mythologies, rituals and ceremonies. Much of this material reads like a bizarre religious extension of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is irreverent and playful, alternately verging on the sophomoric and the sophisti- cated. Many of the texts of the Church ov MOO seem to have been devised with a keen awareness of religious history, comparative beliefs and practices, and some real knowledge of the philosophy, anthropology, and sociology of religion. The site records a great many hits every day, we are told, and about ten thousand people have applied for membership. Several of the key figures are currently pursuing training or careers in physics, mathematics, computer science, and the other so-called hard sciences. With MOOism they are attempting to devise a self-consciously postmodern, socially constructed, relativist, and self-referenial system of religious ideas, purposefully and paradoxically infused with humour, irony, and farce, as well as a serious appreciation of the essentially religious or spiritual condition of humanity. In a typically postmodernist manner, the conventions we normally draw between academic reflection and religious thought are flaunted. An unsolicited essay we received from one of the church leaders on “MOOism, Social Constructionism, and thee Origins ov Religious Movements” characteristically begins with the following note: Thee language ov this essay conforms to TOPY standards ov language discipline. Thee purpose ov this is twofold: first, to prevent thee reader from forgetting that E am not attempting to separate this sociological comment from religious text; second, to prevent thee writer from forgetting thee same thing. These ideas should be taken neither too lightly nor too seriously. Similarly, the MOO homepage declares: Among other things, MOOism has been called the Negativland of religion. Not only does it irreverently (and sometimes irrelevantly) sample innumerable other religious traditions, it uses recontextualiza- tion and paradoxical framing techniques to prevent minds from settling into orthodoxy. Paradox and radical self-contradiction are, in the post- modern context, the most reasonable way to approach the Absolute.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 36 L. L. Dawson & J. Hennebry MOOIsm is certainly about having ‘fun’ with religion. But the objective does seem to be to encourage and facilitate the rise of a new conceptual framework and language for religious experience suited to the changed environmental conditions of postmodern society. The ‘religion’ seems to be influenced significantly by neo-paganism and is representative of what is coming to be called Technopaganism. (But it is also influenced by such earlier and quite sophisticated joke religions as Discordianism and The Church of the SubGenius.) In line with many aspects of that movement it is seeking to provide an intellectual and social forum for fostering the kind of human imagination and creativity that empowers people to override the public demise of spiritual life or ‘realities’ in our time (see Luhrmann, 1989). But unlike many other forms of neo-paganism, this ‘religion’ is well suited, in form and function, to life on the net, perhaps because it is in many respects the witting and unwitting mirror reflection of the sensibilities of the Internet culture in which it developed. But, in truth, we do not know as yet whether MOOism is a ‘religious’ movement or just a most elaborate hoax. The Church solicited our attention and its web page currently carries the disclaimer: ‘This page is in the progress of being altered to mislead Lome Dawson. It may therefore seem disjointed and confused.” If it is all a joke, then one must marvel at the time and energy invested in its creation and perpetuation. In conversations, however, we have been lead to believe that the originators of MOOism are beginning to have an ambiguous understanding of their creation and are seeking some assistance in thinking through the significance of MOOism as a social phenomenon. One thing is clear, without the Internet, this phenomenon is unlikely to have developed or exercised the influence it undoubtedly has on some people. But is it reflective of the future of religion in some regard? Joke or not, it may be similar to other current or future religious phenomena on the net that are of a more serious intent. The Church ov MOO does appear to embody elements of both Beckford’s conception of religion as a ‘cultural resource’ and Stark and Bainbridge’s speculations about the special appeal of cult innovations to elites}5 At present, most of the virtual communities of the net are much less intriguing and problematic. Most new religions seem content to use the net in quite limited and conventional ways. But the web masters we surveyed are uniformly intent on constantly improving their web pages in visual, auditory, and interactive technology. So we must be careful not to underestimate what the future may hold. There is merit, we think, in the metaphorical conclusion of Zaleski: Virtual and physical reality exert a gravitational pull on one another. At present, virtuality is the moon to the real world, bound by its greater mass, but just as the moon influences tides, spiritual work in the virtual communities is influencing and will continue to influence that work in real-world communities. (Zaleski, 1997: 254) The new religious uses of the Internet are likely to exercise an increasingly determinant, if subtle, effect on the development of all religious life in the future (Lovheim & Linderman, 1998). Dr Lorne L. Dawson is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Jenna Hennebry is an M.A. Candidate in the same department. Correspondence: Department of Sociology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada N2L 3G1.Downloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 New Religions and the Internet 37 NOTES 1. This paper was first presented to a special seminar on “New and Marginal Religions in the Public Space” held in Montreal on July 25, 1998, organized by Pauline Cote. 2. The term ‘cults’ is so strongly associated with negative images in the popular mind that academics have long preferred to use such terms as ‘new religions’ or ‘new religious move- ments’ (see e.g. Richardson, 1993). The word will be used, nonetheless, at various points in this essay to call to mind the fears giving rise to this discussion in the first place. 3. “Web of Death” was the double entendre used as the headline of a Newsweek cover story on the Heaven’s Gate suicide. 4. In 1997, Statistics Canada reported that of all the homes in Canada with some type of facility to access the Internet, only 13% have made use of the opportunity. Reginald Bibby (1995) reported that 31% of Canadians had some contact with the Internet, ranging from daily to hardly ever. The rate of growth of the net, however, is exponential and quite phenomenal. It is estimated that the world wide web is growing at a rate of close to 10% per month. Zaleski (1997: 136) notes, for example: “In 1993, the year the Web browser Mosaic was released, the Web proliferated at a 341,634% annual growth rate of service traffic.” 5. This finding, from a more general survey by the Barna Research Group in February, 1997, is reported in Maclean’s magazine (May 25, 1998: p.12). 6. Five groups (potentially another 16.6%) informed us that our request had been passed along to higher authorities, but at the time this paper was submitted, a later reminder notice had merely earned us a reiteration of this reply. Another five groups or individuals declined to participate in our survey, for a variety of reasons: several complained that they are simply not religions; one pointed out that they do not wish to be associated with the subject of cults in any way; and two said that they receive too many surveys and now refuse to respond to them. 13 groups or 43.3% of the sample simply did not respond. (None of the messages were returned as undeliverable). 7. The questionnaire and accompanying information letter of our survey were reviewed by two other experienced survey researchers, as well as by the ethics review board for research with human subjects of our university. Nonetheless, some mistakes may have been made with regard to the sensitivity of these groups to outside investigations of any sort. Undoubtedly many new religions are wary about co-operating with any requests for information about their operations. Others are simply ignorant of the real nature of sociological research and mistrust- ful of the unknown in their own right. Further, it has been our experience that some of these groups are by no means as organized and professional in their activities as many exponents of the anti-cult movement would have us believe. It is likely that some of our surveys have simply been overlooked or ‘trashed’. Contrary to our expectations, in each regard, the immediacy and the anonymity of the Internet may actually have worked against us. Our colleague Dr. John Goyder of the University of Waterloo Survey Research Institute told us of two other e-mail surveys in which he participated that resulted in similarly disappointing rates of return (about 33%). These were, however, surveys of university faculty, which were dealing with relatively noncontroversial subjects. In one instance, when the first survey was followed by a mailed questionnaire to all non-respondents, the overall rate of return was doubled. It is possible that the Internet is already a saturated medium and not well suited for survey research. However, research into these matters has just begun (see e.g. Bedell, 1998). 8. Respondents to the survey were offered anonymity and most of the seven groups and individuals who did respond requested that they not be identified or quoted directly without permission. The groups will therefore not be named in this paper. 9. We wish to thank Jeff Miller for calling our attention to this data in his Senior Honours Essay (Sociology, University of Waterloo, 1998) on “Internet Subcultures”. 10. As Zaleski reports (1997: 249) and we recall from the news: “At least one of the suicides, 39-year-old Yvonne McCurdy-Hill of Cincinnati, a post-office employee and mother of five, initially encountered the cult in cyberspace and decided to join in response to its online message.” 11. For example, the web page for Osho actually employs a set of ‘key words’ for each page of its very large site and many of these search terms are very general: meditation, Christianity, brainwashing, deprogramming, relaxation, self-esteem, sadness, depression, tensions, and so on. 12. Of course, the web has offered new opportunities to the opponents of new religions as well. Entering the term ‘cults’ in any search engine will produce a surfeit of sites dedicated toDownloaded by [University of Manitoba Libraries] at 09:57 29 July 2014 38 L. L. Dawson & J. Hennebry so-called watch dog organizations or the home pages of disgruntled ex-members (e.g. American Religion Information Center, http://www.fopc.org/ARIC_home.html; Watcher, http:// www.marsweb.com/~ watcher/cult.html; Operation Clambake—The Fight Against Scientology on the Net, http://www.xenu.net). 13. These reflections are strongly influenced by the ideas discussed by David Holmes in the introduction to his book on identity and community in cyberspace, Virtual Politics (1997). 14. Zaleski points out that the web sites of the Holy See (http://www.vatican.va) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (http://www.lds.org) both characteristically commit what in cyberspace are two ‘cardinal sins’. The sites offer no links to other sites, giving lie to the notion of Internet and World Wide Web, and they seek to misuse the net as a broadcast medium since no e-mail or other facility is provided for interactivity. 15. 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