DCSIMG

Leamington mother blames internet for son's disappearance

Christmas will be a bitter time for a Leamington mother whose son left home, persuaded by an "internet cult" to sever all ties with his family.

Barbara Weed's son Tom left after spending time on a website called Freedomain Radio, hosted by Toronto-based philosopher Stefan Molyneux.

Mr Molyneux, who describes himself as "one of the shinier philosophers out there", claims to explore moral theory and issues of personal freedom, one of which involves 'deFOOing' - separating from the 'family of origin'.

The North Leamington School sixth former, 18, left his family during his A levels in May, but had withdrawn from his family over the preceding months, preferring to spend time online in discussions with other members of the website's forum.

Tom was studying philosophy, and Barbara believes he first came across Mr Molyneux's work while researching on the video site YouTube.

He began posting on Freedomain Radio's forums, where she feels other members made him feel welcome and valued - to the point where he was persuaded to leave his family.

Barbara, of Leam Terrace, is a Labour councillor on Warwick District Council. The 55-year-old described her son as a "bright, intelligent young man" and cannot understand how he has been "duped".

This Christmas will be the first since Tom left home, but it will not be the first his mother and brothers have spent without him.

Barbara said: "It's not going to be an easy time, but in a way we had a trial run last year because he had already disengaged from us. He didn't celebrate Christmas with us. He had gone to his girlfriend's house and he was online with Molyneux on Christmas Day."

It was still some months before Tom left. The day he did, his mother found a note written on a page of school exercise book, as if it had been dropped through the letterbox after he left.

Its wording was similar to that found on the website. "Dear Family," it read. "I need to take an indefinite amount of time away from the family, so I've moved in with a friend. Please do not contact me. Tom."

When Barbara found the note she at first thought it was something to do with his girlfriend, but later learned he had split up from her some weeks previously. At first she feared he had left school, but when Barbara rang to check, she was told he was there.

Distraught, the mother went to a cafe where Tom worked to try to talk to him, but he refused to speak to her.

Tom is now studying at university. Barbara describes her son as "stubborn" - a quality she shares, and knows he is organised and able to look after himself.

He has not contacted any members of his family since he left.

The site teaches people to free themselves from 'non-voluntary' relationships, and many who post on its forums describe growing up with physical or sexual abuse, but Barbara says her children's upbringing was far from this.

Barbara does not appear to blame her son, holding Mr Molyneux responsible for his leaving.

She said: "I despise the man. I can't think how else to put it. He finds something that will put a hook into people's minds that makes them believe they are victims of abuse."

She added: "Families are important as a support structure for people. OK, you don't choose your family and not everybody gets the family they might have wished for, but they are what we have and they care. They are non-judgemental, despite appearances, and they are always there to help."

It is now seven months since Tom left. His mother still keeps track of her son through his activities on the internet, but admits she will have to move on at some point. She does not expect him to come back.

She said: "At the moment it's like a bereavement. It's very raw. Perhaps what I'm doing in talking to people and the press is taking my mind off missing him."

But Barbara is also determined to expose Freedomain Radio and Stefan Molyneux to publicity and scrutiny, and discourage others from following Tom's example.

Mr Molyneux declined to be interviewed on the subject, but wrote to the Courier in an email: "I certainly do not tell listeners to cut off communication with their families, but rather to be honest and open with those around them, and to seek professional therapeutic help with significant issues.

"I do staunchly maintain that child abuse is immoral, and that adult relationships are voluntary."

His father was prone to mood swings and sometimes shouted at the cat, actions she feels Tom was encouraged to believe were abusive.

Despite this, Barbara does not appear to blame her son, holding Mr Molyneux responsible for his leaving.

She said: “I despise the man. I can’t think how else to put it. He finds something that will put a hook into people’s minds that makes them believe they are victims of abuse.

“He is absolutely ruthless and he is totally self-obsessed. He has these bizarre personal issues with parents and families and he is destroying other people’s lives in revenge for his hatred of his own parents.”

She added: “Families are important as a support structure for people. OK, you don’t choose your family and not everybody gets the family they might have wished for, but they are what we have and they care. They are non-judgemental, despite appearances, and they are always there to help.”

It is now seven months since Tom left. His mother still keeps track of her son through his activities on the internet, but admits she will have to move on at some point. She does not expect him to come back.

She said: “At the moment it’s like a bereavement. It’s very raw. Perhaps what I’m doing in talking to people and the press is taking my mind off missing him.”

But Barbara is also determined to expose Freedomain Radio and Stefan Molyneux to publicity and scrutiny, and discourage others from following Tom’s example.

She added: “But I am also trying to publicise the issue that the FDR is a cult and Molyneux is a cult leader. It means I get to keep abreast of Molyneux and what he’s doing next.”

Mr Molyneux declined to be interviewed on the subject, but wrote to the Courier in an email: “I certainly do not tell listeners to cut off communication with their families, but rather to be honest and open with those around them, and to

seek professional therapeutic help with significant issues.

“I do staunchly maintain that child abuse is immoral, and that adult relationships are voluntary.”

 
 
 

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