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Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism explores what makes “cults” so intriguing, frightening, and powerful. The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .
Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.
Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish,” revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere.
Amanda Montell is a writer, language scholar, and podcast host from Baltimore. She is the author of two critically acclaimed books: Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, an indie bestseller about the language of "cults" from Scientology to SoulCycle and Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language. Amanda's books have earned praise from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Time Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Kirkus Reviews, among others, and Amanda is currently developing Wordslut for television with FX Studios, serving as creator, writer, and executive producer. Amanda is also the creator and co-host of the comedy-cult podcast, Sounds Like A Cult. As a reporter and essayist, Amanda's writing has been featured in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, DAME Magazine, The Rumpus, and Who What Wear, where she formerly served as the Features & Beauty Editor. She holds a degree in linguistics from NYU and lives in Los Angeles with her partner, plants, and pets.