Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Read this: An exploitative digital cult born from Facebook meme groups is imploding
Photo: fstop123 (Getty Images)

It was nearly four years ago that we raised our eyebrows at Tumple, a self-described “cult” that was born from Facebook shit-posting groups, communicated using a mangled form of English, and charged $2,000 a month to learn about theirmystic sex practices.” Now, after a year-and-a-half of reporting, OneZero’s Emilie Friedlander and Joy Crane have an update that peels away the surface strangeness to reveal patterns of emotional and financial manipulation.

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OneZero spoke with 24 different people, including several former cult members, about life in the group under leaders Wiz-EL and KoA Malone (sister of TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone), as well as its strange transition into what it called the “Daylife Military.”

Led by Malone (who called herself a “Pleiadian Light Form”), the DayLife Military was, per one of the cult’s longest-serving members, “operating on behalf of a benevolent extraterrestrial government called the Galactuc Federation, or GFed.” Malone claimed she could “divine the truth about any situation or individual” using a small pendulum, and also that she was in possession of “all of humanity’s souls”—fear not, however, for souls could be bought back for a price. The DayLife Army’s goal was to spread the “Tumplar pleasure ethic” to combat what it called the “Pain Matrix,” which is comprised of the “racist and exploitative ideologies” fueling modern society.

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All of this, of course, was buried beneath the irony-soaked aesthetic of the cult, as well as the progressive politics and ultra-healthy lifestyle goals it flaunted. And OneZero does an excellent job digging into how otherwise clever people can get swept up in such a community, with some going so far as to sacrifice their savings and belongings to the cult’s leaders, who then forced them into menial labor and hours spent writing “social ads” to people on social media. By couching the cult in influencer tactics and a smirking sense of self-awareness, Wiz-EL and Malone were able to disarm followers and ease them into stranger and stranger types of exploitation.

One former follower has even started an Instagram account, Pain Matrix, that aims to highlight the group’s predatory tactics.

Another has started a GoFundMe page to help her transition back into real life. “I gave up everything I had for the mission that the cult was working towards, including all control over my own life and daily whereabouts,” she writes.

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And this is all just scratching the surface. The full piece, which is well worth your time, can be read here.

Send Great Job, Internet tips to gji@theonion.com

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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