Disclaimer: In regards to the suspected cult activity by a group called the Twelve Tribes at Electric Forest 2019, I have not personally confirmed the presence of any of said groups. A lot of this article is going to rely on speculation and unconfirmed accounts so this will be more of an investigation of rave/festival culture as opposed to a deep dive into this particular situation.
The foundation of our rave/festival culture is built on openness and acceptance but what if those ideals may be putting vulnerable members of our community at risk? What if the ideals that make rave/festival culture what it is today open the doors for groups looking to take advantage of the people who exemplify these ideals?
It’s been widely suspected that a religious organization called the Twelve Tribes, also referred to as a cult on many occasions, had a presence at Electric Forest this year. It’s well known that this organization attends festivals and concerts trying to recruit new members but how they go about doing that is unclear, but they’ve been accused of manipulating vulnerable individuals in a number of ways to get them to join. The alleged activities of the Twelve Tribes present a wider issue than one suspected cult showing up a one festival.
What can actually be done about groups like the Twelve Tribes preying on people in the rave/festival scene? Unfortunately on the surface it would appear that nothing can be done because although there’s plenty of suspected predatory behavior there’s nothing concrete to back it up. So unless something happens which forces festival organizers to step in it’s unlikely that anything will happen on that front. Asking festival organizers to identify and stop groups like this from buying passes is unrealistic especially when attendance at some festivals hits 100 thousand people or more. So if the festival organizers can’t do anything to protect people what can the community do to protect itself?
It may not seem like there’s much festival goers can really do outside of making sure people within their group are aware of the possible presence of these groups. But we can look to Forest this year as an example for what to do in future cases.
You may have seen this picture popping up on social media around the beginning of Forest this year.
This post originated on Facebook and appears to be what sparked the rumors and speculation about the Twelve Tribes presence at Forest. Although the information in the post wasn’t verifiable in any meaningful way it was shared over nine thousand times and accumulated over a thousand comments, so it definitely started a conversation on this issue.
Conversation is the only real way the community can protect itself people taking the initiative to discuss things like this before they become a problem. The good thing is that there’s a long track record in rave/festival culture for conversations like this spreading awareness in an attempt to protect people from groups like the Twelve Tribes but they mostly center around particularly dangerous batches of illicit substances commonly enjoyed by ravers. Regardless of what the awareness is about, if people can take that framework and apply it to other problems that need to be brought to the community’s attention, more people will be aware of these issues and will be able to act accordingly.
Festivals are designed to be uplifting, life changing experiences and it’s easy to forget that not everyone you interact with has your best interests at heart. Keeping that thought in the back of your mind at a festival might be a bit of a buzzkill, but if it helps keep you or one of your friends from being preyed upon by the Twelve Tribes with less than pure intentions it’s important to do it.