Putting this here for ease of sharing:
1. One of the reasons for the confusion over what our organization is is because we state that we are not a "political movement". But in practice we are a political activist organization in the same context as Green Peace, Veterans for Peace, etc. We advocate an economic model designed for ecological sustainability. Not a religion, superstition, etc. (In fact a lot of our members are atheists.) We suggest people use the scientific method to test ways of fixing the world's problems rather then relying on politics or superstition.
2. Activity as far as membership in TZM consists of signing up for a mailing list. Optionally chatting on forums or using voice chat. (The vast majority of people signed up for the newsletter and mailing list do not do this.). We attend public events to try and engage in dialog about our ideas in the same way other activist groups do. Some groups of people have meetings in person to talk about this stuff but they are not secret cabal meetings in forests or something. In fact most of them are in public places like libraries and such, again like most activist groups. If someone "leaves" the group it would actually probably go completely unnoticed. If someone was friends with a given member they might inquire as to why they didn't see their friend at a meeting but there is no protocol suggested or even implied that we would go track people down and try to guilt trip them into attending meetings again. And removing yourself from our email list is as easy as it is for any other activist organization.
3. Peter Joseph does not paste his personal information and his financial records everywhere. And while I can understand why this is often a concern with a given organization, there are no "membership dues". He gives away all of his films on the internet for free, including files to allow you to make your own DVDs. If people buy DVDs from him it's generally because they don't know how to burn them themselves. He could easily charge $20 for these and he only asks for $5. He sells T-shirts but he is not making a killing on them. And in fact spends a lot more money on this activism then he ever gets out of it. To say nothing for the hours of his time he puts into making activist films. There are hundreds of indy film makers who do the same, but make a hell of a lot more money then he is. Michael Moore comes to mind.
4. There is no "abuse" going on. I have challenged Mr. Wish to produce any sort of evidence of "abuse". He seems really fixated on our internet forums and not much else. He uses a lot of language like insinuating that people could die, get hurt, or their "blood" could be on someone's hands and to be blunt, this is all really silly. The vast majority of the interaction that people have in the Zeitgeist movement goes on in public places or on the internet. Nobody is being molested, sexually harassed, intimidated, or mentally abused. And when he came to our forums and made that broad and vague accusation of "abuse" even users who are critical of our moderation team because they are anarchists philosophically and wish we didn't have moderators still came forward and told him he was being unreasonable.
5. The first Zeitgeist film did contain a lot of stuff about conspiracy theories. But it was put together by Peter when he was in college as a music major. It was part of an artistic presentation he did and never really expected it to be anything special. The most controversial portion about religion was based on a book he read by an author named Acharya S. and was not his own research. But he was an atheist so he liked it and included it. Some people liked it and suggested he put it on the internet. He never expected it to get the following that it did. This said, when he made that film he had no idea what a Resource Based Economy was, or who Jacque Fresco was. He stumbled across the idea when he was looking for solutions to the perceived problems he saw in the world that he talked about in the film. Jacque Fresco and the Venus Project do not endorse the first film. And belief in conspiracy theories is by no means required to support the ideas Fresco presents. You will notice there are no conspiracy theories presented in the orientation guide. And while some members still watch the first Zeitgeist film it is not relevant to anything we spend time talking to people about.
6. With the advent of the internet there are a lot of cultural factors as far as to what the internet is still being ironed out. If you own a given website it is fully within your rights to set rules for how it will be used by other people. Just as you are within your rights to set rules for what topics you don't want talked about in your house. We run into new territory when people do not agree with things being said on a given website. But the analogy I came to realize applied better was this: Imagine you have decided to have a civil rights meeting at your house. A racist comes over and starts to disrupt the meeting and is very clearly not in support of the purpose of the meeting. So the owner of the home asks the person to leave. That is what goes on when we ask someone to leave our forum. It is meant to be a meeting place to talk to other people interested in the same topic. None of us would ever advocate censorship of dissent elsewhere. Just as it is the right of that racist to go to the street corner and protest our civil rights meeting if that is what he wants to do. Some of us have taken action against people who's "dissent" includes what amounts to little more then cyber-bullying and harassment. But that is done on an individual basis and not the organization as a whole.
I would hope that the people who frequent this forum while being concerned about cults would also be concerned about the kind of damage you can do to well meaning organizations by labeling them cults too quickly. I would ask you to think very critically of what it is your reading about the Zeitgeist movement and be skeptical of the other side of the argument as well. Internet harassment of different organizations is becoming more and more common. And words like "cult" are extremely easy to abuse. You may not agree with the political views of the Zeitgeist movement but that does not make it a cult. And I hope you also realize that the internet is full of angry people making unfounded allegations towards one group or another that they feel has done them wrong, or just to amuse themselves. And that is what is going on here. I found out about this conversation because one of the people who does this just to amuse himself (including taking people's personal photos, their personal information and warping them to engage in schoolyard mocking behavior) had the link posted on one of his websites. In other words, they are hoping you will label us a cult not because anyone is being hurt or is in any danger, but because they would get the same sadistic pleasure they do when they photoshop pictures of members of our family to humiliate them out of this. You will notice if you study it further that most of these people are also just as concentrated on people who have moderated them on the forums.
This page is an example of the kind of childish cyber-bullying i am talking about. You will notice the endless mentioning of my weight, and very little in the way of intellectual content. At one point he posted a video of me and my three year old son playing together to insinuate my son was stupid. This is the kind of harassment I might add that is the reason we have anonymous moderators. This person spends a great deal of time in their life doing this. And chases us all around the internet doing things of a similar intellectual value. And it is people like him that is where this "cult" business started.
While I do feel we need to be concerned about people being hijacked into "cults". I would also caution people to be equally concerned that they might also be hijacked in the lynching of innocent organizations that just angered someone who is behaving petty who might use your efforts for their own amusement. I keep thinking of "the crucible" and how in Salem a girl who felt scorned used the Christian religion to get back at her "enemies".