Of all the Anti-Tulsi narratives, the one that really pisses me off the most is the one that Christine GRALOW started about her belonging to a weird cult. It pisses me off because I once actually believed it, and now feel so thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed that I ever succumbed to such bigotry.
According to GRALOW, Tulsi belongs to a secretive religious cult with nefarious political aims.
Back when I thought Tulsi was an Assadist, to be regarded with nothing but contempt and disdain, I was delighted to hear that she belonged to a weird-ass cult that most would find revolting. I didn’t even bother to consider whether any of it was true. I automatically embraced it because it confirmed my bias.
And I confess: I hadn’t actually read all of GRALOW’s articles before I had made up my mind to believe the story. I’d only read discussions about them.
Self-Admitted “Longform Journalism” … aka, Propaganda
It was not until after GRALOW contacted me on Twitter and sent me links to her blog that I actually did get around to reading her work. When I did, I found it all pretty suspicious. Especially after seeing that she calls what she does, “longform journalism“.
Interesting… Since longform journalism is otherwise known in academia as creative non-fiction… a form of writing that utilizes creative license or rhetorical device to draw conclusions that would not otherwise be drawn from the facts, alone. Ultimately, it is narrative propaganda.
GRALOW actually spends very little time trying to prove that Tulsi belongs to a cult. Most of her effort is put into forming “filthy” associations… an old school propaganda technique that the Nazis used to embed nasty feelings about Jews. Even after I realized that the shady stuff had nothing to do with Tulsi, it took me a while to actually shake those associations off. That’s how conspiracy theories work–they call on the imagination to relate the unrelated, to create lingering associations.
The Honolulu Civil Beat previously investigated allegations posted in the internet forum Gralow admits to using as a source.
[25MAR2019 Note: GRALOW personally confirmed her use of the internet forum, when she wrote to inform me that it was not her only source, and berated me for not contacting her to verify irrelevant documents.]
After exploring all avenues, searching official records, and conducting in-real-life interviews, the Honolulu Civil beat debunked every controversial rumor about the so-called cult, and they found absolutely zero evidence that Tulsi was even a member of the Science of Identity Foundation.
They also conducted investigations offline to see if there was anything else to be concerned about, and discovered nothing nefarious.
I discovered a bit more than the Civil Beat did: How I accidentally discovered the dubious source of the smear campaign that frames Tulsi as a culty homophobe.
Prejudice and Conflation
Hawaii is a magnet for Hippies. Most of the posts in that forum were about childhood experiences that could have happened at any one of the hippie communes that once plagued the islands. But it is highly unlikely that any of them were about SIF, because SIF didn’t even exist until 1979, and it was never a commune.
When I realized that the “cult leader” GRALOW writes about is Chris Butler, I knew that her secretive cult narrative was a total lie. There is no secret Butler Cult. Chris Butler’s organization has always been mainstream, and his weekly lectures (when he gave them) were so public that it aired on local TV.
Chris Butler is not a cult leader. He is a hippie who once ran a small meditation studio and a hippie farm, who later became a local religious celebrity. Today, he is simply an eccentric old man who lives a quiet life, with a small entourage who takes care of him.
Ask any of the locals who live in East Hawaii about the Kailua Cult that Tulsi Gabbard is supposedly mixed up with and you’ll get one of two (or both) reponses:
- “Fricken Bredimus.” In reference to a resident of Kailua who has spent decades trying to convince people that SIF is a cult.
- “That fricken Lanikai Cult.” In reference to an actual cult in Kailua that is often misattributed to SIF and Chris Butler. In fact: A documentary about the Buddhafield is exactly what political opponents have used in smear campaigns against Tulsi.
Gralow’s Dubious Sources
The Rick Ross forum that GRALOW does all her research in is plagued with unreliable and disproven speculations that conflate “Krishna Cults” from around the world and the “Lanikai Cult” with Chris Butler and SIF.
A forum member who Christine GRALOW heavily relies upon for testimony is Rama RANSON. Besides testimony about overall cultiness, RANSON also alleges that SIF is tied to a drug smuggling ring and an unscrupulous land development project in New Zealand.
RANSON and others with similar claims have been successfully sued for slander and defamation. GRALOW is fully aware of the lawsuit lodged against RANSON, yet continues to use him.
GRALOW and RANSON would have people dismiss these lawsuits as a “cult tactic” used to silence dissenters. It is however worth noting that, as well as sharing culty stories and allegations of criminal activity, RANSON often suggests that SIF is a CIA MK-Ultra Op.
RANSON was also a member of the “truth seeking clan” led by Nicholas Bredimus who I write about here. According to RANSON’s own online lamentations, BREDIMUS had arranged the interview he gave for the New Zealand article linked above.
Today, it is Christine GRALOW who arranges his interviews.
Connecting Disconnected Dots
By using charged language, such as “cult leader” and “disciple”, GRALOW forms associations that lead people to imagine that Butler has mystical mind-control powers… as if he has a psychic bond with everyone who has learned his Yoga philosophy… as if everything such a Yoga practitioner does, is done so because of this psychic bond.
She leads one to imagine that there exists a nefarious mind-hive under his supernatural spell, in which Tulsi Gabbard should be held accountable for what another Yoga practitioner does, even if she doesn’t know the person, and even if it happened on the other side of the world, or before she was even born.
As a former professor of journalism, Christine GRALOW should know all about how dishonest these rhetorical devices are… which makes me question her motives and integrity.
[25MAR2019 Note: GRALOW informed me that she spent a year researching the story before she started writing it. This contradicts her previous claims about starting her investigation after she was “stalked” by “Butler devotees” for daring to ask Tulsi about her trip to Syria. If her new claim is true, this would mean she started her investigation no later than the 2016 election cycle, long before Tulsi even went to Syria. In her ‘Open Letter to the ACLU’, she claims an entirely different motive: That she started investigating the group because she found them “interesting”, and barely knew who Tulsi was at the time.]
[30APR2019 Note: Contradicting herself once again, GRALOW claims that she has “years of experience” in dealing with the Gabbard PR Team.]
GRALOW often says that “the cult” is trying to silence her with accusations of fomenting Hinduphobia. These accusations are not without merit. Here’s one example of that xenophobia from comments posted to her blog, from a woman who is now terrified of her Hindu neighbors since reading GRALOW’s hit pieces:
“I often wondered where they got their money. They don’t work, their kids run the lane all day and seem to have no respect for their neighbors. This is a sad day for Kailua. Aloha and welcome is something they do not respect. I know all to well of the problems of these people. They moved in about 15 years ago and now [note from girlyGRRRL: It is only “now” that she starts to feel they are a threat] they are trying to get rid of everyone who is not of their cult in my lane. I had to get a camera to show what is going on around my house. I feel invaded. I feel I have to protect myself. Cars go in and out of the lane more than 30 times a day. They must be wealthy , they all have 2 new cars and are able to pay the high rent without working. I was open and friendly at first, now I am tired of people coming in and trying to make you feel like you don’t belong. I will not move!”
Another reader (Rama RANSON) commented:
“So I have suspicions wether [sic] this cult has any connections to the “deep state”, wether [sic] it was the project of an intelligence agency all along …”
To which, GRALOW replied:
“Several readers – including a former Butler disciple – have emailed regarding MKUltra …”
25MAR2019: Added reader comments from GRALOW’s blog. [1, 2]
25MAR2019: Added paragraph about “long form journalism”.
25MAR2019: Added comments about cult conspiracy forum.
25MAR2019: Corrected errors pointed out by GRALOW related to the age of the Civil Beat article, and removed a poorly worded and confusing statement about how the article fact-checks GRALOW’s work.
26MAR2018: Corrected hippy commune era dates after checking a few things with local historians.
26MAR2019: Added info about the Buddhafields.
16APR2019: Added Twitter thread link with more info about referenced cult conspiracy forums.