Sounds Like A Cult - The Cult of The Peace Corps

Episode Date: July 25, 2023

~Join us~ as Isa and Amanda unpack the "cult" of the Peace Corps—its peculiar rituals of initiation, close-knit camaraderie that borders on religious obsession, unwavering devotion to a higher cause..., and (wait a second) abuse and murder?? Thanks to insightful listener call-ins, we reveal the eerie similarities that make this hallowed American organization an uncanny mirror to cult-like communities.  To support Sounds Like A Cult on Patreon, keep up with our live show dates, see Isa's live comedy, buy a copy of Amanda's book Cultish, or visit our website, click here! Or follow us on IG @soundslikeacultpod @isaamedinaa @amanda_montell Thank you to our sponsors! Head to and you'll get 25% off when you keep everything in your Fix Go to for 15% off your first purchase of $50 or more plus FREE shipping Go to to get 10% off your first month Dipsea is offering our listeners a 30 day free trial when you go to

Discussion (0)
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Starting point is 00:01:14 Like a Cult, are solely host opinions and quoted allegations. The content here should not be taken as indisputable facts. This podcast is for entertainment purposes only. Hello, my name is Hunter and I'm calling from Kansas City. I think the cultiest thing about the Peace Corps is that it was initially created to combat communism at a grassroots level. And now it's just another way that Americans play pretend savior in countries that would be better off without US intervention. Hi, I'm Rebecca. I'm in the Peace Corps in South America and the reason why Peace Corps is so culty is because your leadership as a volunteer is made out out of other previous volunteers
Starting point is 00:01:48 who recruited when they were young and so whenever you need to call them for help. They're just like, well, when I was in the Peace Corps, I was even more isolated in a small village. We didn't even have cell phones to call for medical help or have access to clean water. So that's why you should be fine with your fucked up situation even though they were both terrible and should not have happened.
Starting point is 00:02:07 I'm Kelsey from Denver, RPCV here at Return Peace Corps volunteer and I think the cultiest thing about Peace Corps is that they choose what community you go to within side of your country and then the verbiage is that you're essentially just supposed to suck it up and be grateful for whatever you got and then you end up having to advocate for yourself because they will put people in locations where there is violence happening and then make the Peace Corps volunteer feel
Starting point is 00:02:31 like if they can't handle that situation, then they're just not cut out for Peace Corps. This is Sounds Like a Cult, a show about the modern day cults. We all follow. I'm Amanda Montel, author of the book, Cult is the language of fanaticism. I'm Esa Medina, I'm a stand upup comedian, and you can catch my tour dates on my Instagram. Every week on our show, we analyze a different fanatical group or guru from the zeitgeist
Starting point is 00:02:52 from med school to the real housewives to try and answer the big question. This group sounds like a cult, but is it really? And if so, which cult category does it fall into? Live your life, watch your back, or get the fuck out. For our new listeners, a Live Your Life level cult is like a baby cult. Definitely fanatical, but mostly harmless. A watch your back level cult is borderline dangerous, checks off some of the culty boxes that isn't totally destructive. And then we have a Get the Fuck Out level cult is borderline dangerous, checks off some of the culty boxes but isn't totally destructive. And then we have a get the
Starting point is 00:03:27 fuck out level cults, which is like QAnon level, Manson vibes, aka a realm for your life. After all, what classifies a cult is up to interpretation. Laute is are actually $100 right now in this economy and if I don don't finish a latte because it's like a little drink, I'm not just gonna throw it away. I'm like, I will have it the next day. You're an economic girly. You're just trying to live. Yeah, exactly.
Starting point is 00:03:54 And you know who is also an economic girly and boyly and daily piece core people. Oh, don't say boyly. Actually, theyi-ly. Actually they deserve boi-ly. Yeah they are boiling at the seams with discussing existence. But you know people in the Peace Corps make like almost no money. Of course not because they essentially are like stipend. Yeah course, because they are give a thing of themselves due to peace. And American exceptionalism, because, Oh, the peace court actually is,
Starting point is 00:04:30 is a method that was created during the Cold War to like make the world think that like Americans had the right mindset. Yes, it is savior complex, it is giving profit, it is giving cult leader. And that is not to say that the people who enlist necessarily have that mindset. I think people enlist in the Peace Corps
Starting point is 00:04:51 generally for pretty pure intentions, but those pure intentions, in cults, like the Peace Corps, all the way to the most extreme cults like Heaven's Gate, can be taken advantage of pretty easily, I would say. Of course, people who join it don't necessarily know. That's like with every cult, they don't know what they're getting themselves into.
Starting point is 00:05:07 And in a lot of universities, as was in mind, it's regarded as super prestigious because it's like actually kind of hard to get into. Of course, it's exclusive. I mean, you can just go down the checklist of culty red flags, exclusive, transcendent promises, inside-erite acronyms, invocabulary and rituals. of culty red flags, exclusive, transcendent promises, incitory acronyms, invocabulary, and rituals.
Starting point is 00:05:28 I mean, there's a reason we wanted to cover it. A man I actually want to ask you, I know a lot of people who wanted to join the Peace Corps and did join the Peace Corps. Do you know anyone who joined the Peace Corps? My cousin who also was in the cult of med school did the Peace Corps, and I feel like there's got to be a Venn diagram in there, Kamala Harris. We love a Venn diagram, we love, we stand, the cult of med school. Did the Peace Corps, and I feel like there's gotta be a Venn diagram in there.
Starting point is 00:05:46 Kamala Harris, we love a Venn diagram, we love, we stand, we can't get enough. I love Venn diagrams. I just do, whenever you're dealing with conflict, pull out a Venn diagram, right? But yeah, I think I have certainly been connected to several people over the years who want to make the world a better place. That is one of the things that can make you vulnerable to cult membership. And so my cousin who is now a pediatric cardiologist, he did the Peace Corps in Madagascar, but there was a coup. Oh, there was a coup. A little coup. Just a little one. Ah, but you could. Before we had our January 6th situation, everyone would always talk about coups like they were impossible in America. No, it's like, ampate coup can happen anywhere in
Starting point is 00:06:30 the world. And Marie Mont-Bienseur. Yeah, it sounds fancy though. coup, a silent consonant at the end, it sounds chic. It's not chic. So he had to leave. And he couldn't complete his peace core tenure. And from afar, I could see that there was a certain amount of shame. Like he was really haunted by his inability to complete his mission for all intensive purposes, his commitment. Like there's so much commitment involved with the peace core. And this like self-sacrificing attitude of almost religious, like self-flagulating, like, oh God, oh God,
Starting point is 00:07:12 I didn't get to complete my duty. It's almost like when you're in the army and you get discharged with, which by the way, can we talk about that word for a second? Because it's gonna be a surprise. Yeah, can we talk about that word for a second? Because it's because it's getting used to fiction. Yeah, I can finally use that word. But no, we're not going to talk about it fully, but I'm just saying like, you can clearly tell that that word was used when there were no women in the military.
Starting point is 00:07:39 Because one woman would have been like, that's disgusting. So true. And that also reminds me of it. I don't know if this is just me. But when someone is talking about exiting a parking space and they say, I'm gonna pull out, I'm like, oh, prevent that one. I never thought about it that way.
Starting point is 00:07:55 Yeah, I'm just like, I can't, I'm maybe a dirty little mind, but I'm just like, it's the pull out method. Just back up. Yeah, it's the pull out method, it's discharging, it's disgusting, everyone has a sexual mind. But I feel like that is what the vibe is of like when someone leaves the Peace Corps early or they leave the military early, it's like, you only do it for like super serious reasons,
Starting point is 00:08:18 and it's like a coup or because your leg got shot off or something, it's like, you can't just leave. It was honorable discharge. It's like, you can't just leave. It was honorable discharge. It's like the liquid comes out of your vagina and it is purple, it's purple heart. It's cool. That's cool. It's cool.
Starting point is 00:08:33 It's cool. You are. I mean, tell me, tell me about your friends who were in the Peace Corps, ESA. A lot of my friends who joined the Peace Corps did it because it's a very clear trajectory to try and get into the State Department, which is another actually fucking cult, like, a don't come for me, government.
Starting point is 00:08:52 But the State Department, you have to get like a clearance to work at. And so you do have to like work for years, either for like a government official or a shortcut, which isn't very short because you go for like two years abroad, is the Peace Corps. But everyone goes in with this idea that like they're there to help the world and they're there for human rights and access to water and access to like helping these small communities when in reality, you are ultimately working for the US government
Starting point is 00:09:20 and perpetuating American idealism. And our ideals abroad, like it is an extension of the Cold War, and it's mind-boggling once you get into it, like, how fucking not industrial revolution, but like, it's giving colonialism. No, absolutely. I mean, it reminds me very much of the sort of secular mainstream,
Starting point is 00:09:39 not only accepted, but celebrated version of a Mormon mission, you know, Mormon missionaries go to countries where mostly people of color live to spread quote unquote traditional American values, and this is a sort of performatively progressive version of that. That again, so many people I love and respect have done. My best friend from college did AmeriCorps, which is the domestic version. So you are imbued from the very beginning with this sense of a higher purpose, a higher meaning for your life, which is again something that people join cults in pursuit of, but the way that they build solidarity among the young people, mostly
Starting point is 00:10:27 young people who enlist in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, I just remember being flabbergasted by how culty it was, like getting in a circle and sort of like admitting your greatest traumas and deepest fears and visions and goals for what you wanted to be and having to follow other rules and engage with all of them with their very specialized lexicon. It just felt so in-group culty, but I couldn't tell how destructive it was, not until we started looking into the research for this episode. I'm a current volunteer and the cultist thing is how they indoctrinate us to believe that we are serving 24-7 and whatever we do, even if it's not at work, if it's out in the community, if it's at home, people are watching us and they will report back to Peace Corps,
Starting point is 00:11:20 so it affects our image, it affects Peace Corps's image. It's a very big brother state of surveillance. When I was 18, my father passed away. A few weeks after his funeral, I got a voice-knot on my phone. I was eventually connected to a man who explained to me that he worked for the government. And that after his father died, he had also received a phone call telling him that his father was a member of the CIA. The man said that he couldn't tell me much but that my father was instrumental in ending the Cold War, the catch,
Starting point is 00:11:48 his cover was the Peace Corps. My whole life I thought that my father were for the Peace Corps, my brother was born in Indonesia, my sister was born on Mulkahawaii, yes, the island with the lepers, and I thought that he was working for the Peace Corps. Even his wife at the time who lived with him overseas did. And the thing is that we don't know how deep this goes.
Starting point is 00:12:04 My father was very old. He was born in 1939 and he worked for JFK in the White House out of college. I had to tell my whole family, including his ex-wife, that he worked for the CIA. But that's not Coltie, I don't know what it is. So... That prestige that they build, like no offense to anyone who did the program, but I always
Starting point is 00:12:30 thought it was like hard to get into because of grades and accolades. But like the reality is once I saw the people who were getting into the program, it's like it was kind of a lot of like people who just didn't know what they wanted to do and then they turned to this answer. And that also speaks to a vulnerability that cults often prey on is a sense of disorientation. Who do I want to be? What do I want to do? I want structure. I want someone to tell me how to be a good person. And those years that a lot of people join the Peace Corps, which is immediately after college,
Starting point is 00:13:02 are really vulnerable years and also really important years for the trajectory of your career. So the decision to join Peace Corps and go abroad and not necessarily like build your resume. It can be like either detrimental. Or if you want to go into like the State Department or government work, it could help. So like, it can go either direction. But to just do it nilly-willy seems like kind of a big investment. Absolutely, and yet it's an investment that so many people make, because the fucking word piece is in it! What's there not to like about a little piece? Okay, so Amanda, you are the language professional here.
Starting point is 00:13:39 Why is it spelled corpse, but it's pronounced core? Can you just explain this to me? Absolutely, yeah. Growing up, I totally thought it was spelled C-O-R-E because you can grow up hearing about the Peace Corps. It is definitely a centerpiece in the American cultural dialogue. But yeah, I always thought it was like, you know, the Peace Corps is the, you know, like,
Starting point is 00:13:57 the core of an apple. It is the root that keeps our country moral and tranquil. But no, it is ultimately a French loan word. It's the term for body. It's just pronounced like core. And the term core is derived from the same Latin root as corpus, meaning body, habeas corpus, a corpse, dead body, okay, called a med school.
Starting point is 00:14:20 There are many different kinds of cores, a body of people working together. There is the army core, the diplomatic core, the press core. A law firm has a core of lawyers, a doctor has a core of nurses. So it's not short for a corporate. Corporate drives from the same Latin root. How about that? A body.
Starting point is 00:14:39 A corporation. Okay, so now that we know the history of the linguistics of the Peace Corps, let's get into when the Peace Corps was established, because we trinkled in a little bit just now. Why was it established in a time period of international chaos? Some might say it was a chaotic era. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 as an independent agency and program of the US government. That was the executive order of who, none other than John F. Kennedy, the president, former president, who, J.F.K.
Starting point is 00:15:11 Dot. Hottie, R.A.P. King. And the goal, I mean, you spoke a little bit about this earlier, you said, but the goal for the beginning of the Peace Corps was to assist developing countries by providing skilled workers in fields like education, healthcare, women's empowerment, community development. There is obviously something to be said for wealthier nations, providing assistance to nations in need of support, but there is, again, something very Mormon-mission colonialist about it that we do not stand.
Starting point is 00:15:41 It's just so like up your own ass to like go and help with women's empowerment in another country in 1961 when I mentioned this on the podcast before but women weren't even allowed to go to the University of Virginia until 1970. Maybe work in your own backyard before you start tearing trees down and other people's backyards. So when it's an all year old year, the Peace Corps had only 900 volunteers, but they were surveying already in 16 countries.
Starting point is 00:16:12 The numbers peaked like at their highest in 1966 when they had 15,556 volunteers in 52 countries. That's a lot of countries. Like, I don't necessarily know how many countries there are in the world, but I feel like that's, I feel like that's at least half of them, almost. No, it's a significant portion. I mean, there are 195.
Starting point is 00:16:35 But it is interesting that the Peace Corps had this peak in the 60s because that's the classic cold era. This was like, right before the Manson family was. This was like, when Scientology was being founded. Was that also during the Vietnam War? Yes ma'am. I feel like it was an alternative to going to war, right? Absolutely.
Starting point is 00:16:53 So we were in this cultural period not unlike now when there was just incredible social political unrest. Thean Atmore, Civil Rights Movement, Kennedy Assassinations. People were really mistrusting these mainstream institutions, and they were looking for alternatives like the Peace Corps, which as it turns out, is not really an alternative at all because it was this government-founded thing. But then, you know, by the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps in 2011, there were over
Starting point is 00:17:20 8,500 volunteers serving in 77 countries, And since inception, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 142 countries. And the Peace Corps volunteers are assigned to specific projects in certain countries based on their qualifications. So like, my cousin was interested in medicine. So he was sent somewhere where he would be able to put those skills to use. He spoke French. He was sent to Madagascar, colonialism, colonialism. So we did mention already that it was created by Kennedy and then it was happening during a time
Starting point is 00:17:56 period of political unrest and a lot of like war and people getting drafted. And maybe it was the purpose that was why it was created by Kennedy, but Nixon actually alleged like the complete opposite and that's when it kind of started to bring the whole system down as a little bit like less prestigious. The Peace Corps automatically became like a subject of political polarization because Nixon was like, oh, the Peace Corps is just a way for people to get out of the army. Yeah, and then after Nixon said that, it kind of created this great resentment for some people who joined the Peace Corps because Nixon went on to say that the Peace Corps was destined to become a pull to the scapeism of sorts.
Starting point is 00:18:35 And so I do feel like maybe, and this is just my theory, but I think that's when it kind of became split by something that Democrats do versus Republicans. So it's like a lot of Democrats join the Peace Corps, and then they ultimately wanna join the State Department because it's seen as good, and Republicans are very nationalistic, and they wanna stay at home and make America better, like make America great.
Starting point is 00:18:57 That's kind of when the distinction happened. Yeah, that whole origin story is fascinating, and it's something that I didn't know. I kind of thought like, everybody's on board with the Peace Corps, but it was birthed by this conflict between JFK and Nixon, interesting. And confusing too, because the Peace Corps
Starting point is 00:19:14 was obviously invented to be this positive, peaceful thing, but Republicans initially disliked it for nationalist reasons. Now leftists are critiquing it for decolonization reasons, but basically there are people all across the political spectrum who think it's culty for one reason or another, and I imagine that that outside criticism has only made the organization double down on its ideologies to sort of prove itself. So it also is worth noting speaking to the dichotomy between joining the Army versus going to college and pursuing a more progressive route, there are 147 partner universities nationwide who
Starting point is 00:19:53 provide certificate programs for undergraduates that want to enter the Peace Corps, and some of those partner schools include, bring them young. Again, the Mormon mission energy really tracks with this Purdue to Lane, Virginia Tech, University of Oregon, University of Florida, and the people who join these undergraduate certificate programs are said that they're in the Peace Corps prep, which of course they shorten with the acronym, Unfortunate acronym, PCP, like the drug. acronym, PCP, like the drug. Yeah. And that is I feel like a very culty tactic that we've seen before, like with med school or something like that where like they get you even younger, they get you at 18. And so it's like the military, you make that decision.
Starting point is 00:20:39 And even if you do decide to change your mind at the end of your college years. You just invested four years into education that was geared towards a very specific niche program. And so it's going to be very hard for you to leave or feel like there was a sunk cost there. Absolutely, especially considering that the culture of the Peace Corps is so robust. So I think the cultiest thing about the Peace Corps is all of the unacceptable and just plain bad behaviors and ideas and teachings that they either excuse or in a way support in the
Starting point is 00:21:20 name of being culturally sensitive. For example, they tell us to stay away from certain ideas, ignore research, ignore evidence, and hide certain parts of our identities to conform to cultural ideas. And I think that the cultiest thing is, honestly, pre-service training, it really is just a trauma bond of shared experiences.
Starting point is 00:21:43 You know, we're all learning this language. They really kind of wear you down until it's just so difficult and you're in such a hard position that you just like have to survive with the friendship with other people. This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. Trusting yourself to make decisions that align with your values is like anything else. The more you practice it, the easier it gets.
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Starting point is 00:26:34 this higher wisdom for how to make the world a better place and they have so many rules, rituals and acronyms. They're aimed at drilling that ideology into members' brains. So there is this phrase that is repeated ad nauseam culture matters. And it's supposed to be this sort of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, training mantra, which by the way is ikdea. Yes.
Starting point is 00:27:02 What kind of acronym is that? Intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. They were like, let's shorten that up. Ik Deya. Ik Deya. Yeah, no. Someone needs to bring a brand consultant
Starting point is 00:27:18 into the mix to be like, let's make it a little catchier, a little cuter. Ik Deya, not sure about that one. So there is this 150 page training manual called Culture Matters, which is supposed to teach in listies how to appreciate a foreign culture, but in this very top down, pedantic way, that again, it's condescending.
Starting point is 00:27:43 Like, it is reducing these cultures to a manual and a phrase and a mantra in order to make Americans, I guess, feel like saviors. And that condescending attitude does translate into other aspects of the Peace Corps as well. I mean, you're only supposed to join for two years and then like move on to another government job, but of course they need people who implement the institution and who stay on board to train other people. And so there is that hierarchy and the need to write 150 page training manuals and then the people who decide to stay for years and decades. I think they are like the lords of the Peace Corps and they're obviously going to implement like what they learned in their time. A broad which was probably decades before the new hires
Starting point is 00:28:27 get on board. Very much so. I mean, it just, oh god, it reminds me very much of the Cult of Non-profits. I think that episode that we did on the Cult of Non-profits was the whole inspiration for this one because this is kind of like a some category of that. It's a type of nonprofit,
Starting point is 00:28:41 but I think the reason it's so dangerous is because again, it's like a government institution. And so like, what is HR for a government institution? Like, there is none. No, there's so, there's so much red tape. And I think that sort of old guard or the people who are perpetuating the culture are the people who really bought in the most, you know, they're not like disrupting it, they're perpetuating it.
Starting point is 00:29:03 And that could create problems. And also at a regular job, you don't have a swearing in ceremony. Like you don't get hired at a nonprofit or you don't get hired at a company and swear in. And that is what you do with the Peace Corps. So it has this religious like commitment to it that is really odd and like makes you feel like you are
Starting point is 00:29:27 tied to it for life. Yeah, absolutely. They force you to, or they don't force you. In light, I don't know. Like, the line is really blurry, but they have you say in oath that opens with, I solemnly swear to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. It really does have this secular religious, higher-purpose energy to it that you're absolutely right is worthy of questioning.
Starting point is 00:29:50 I also couldn't help but notice when my best friend from college was in the AmeriCorps, how culty the vocabulary sounds, there are so many abbreviations and acronyms and special buzzwords that create a situation where the people in the Peace Corps can almost like only understand each other For example, and this is just a tiny little smidgen of the vocabulary that's used There's CD cluster
Starting point is 00:30:15 COS counterpart ET HCN hub IST LFC PST RPC V TCF ABC LFC, PST, RPCV, TCF, ABC, D-F-G-E-I-J-K-I-N-L-P. I know, and it's so silly, and when you rattle them off this way as outsiders, it's just like, what are you talking about? But as an insider, I know for a fact,
Starting point is 00:30:37 because this is what cultish is about, you automatically feel this sense of elitism when you know a language that other people don't. And that's like one of the Peace Corps's first tactics in sort of indoctrinating their members. Yeah, we see that in so many cults that we've talked about and also just like in our fun everyday cults, like you feel cool when you sound the way everyone else sounds.
Starting point is 00:31:01 It just, you just can't help it. I mean, it kind of reminds me of when like you're a toddler and you like just are learning to speak. And so you say the same words over and over again and you feel so cool and like little toddlers feel so cool but they say the same word in like different intonations. They're like mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy. Mommy.
Starting point is 00:31:21 Mommy. Yes, yes. Well, when you join a cult, it is like, you're a little baby again. You're like learning a new identity, a new sense of ritual, a new culture. Who doesn't want to be a baby in this economy? I mean, that's why so many people are joining cults these days. We're all just going to be together. Literally.
Starting point is 00:31:40 Just a baby. Yeah, someone take care of me. God damn it. Because the government will. [♪ OUTRO MUSIC PLAYING [♪ Hi, I'm Beth. I'm calling from Maryland. And I think the cultiest thing about Peace Corps is their lack of consideration for preferences when it comes to placement.
Starting point is 00:31:58 I applied as a Spanish speaker with a very strong preference for a Spanish-speaking country. And as a queer tattooed person, I also needed to be placed somewhere that was safe for me. But instead, I was placed in a French speaking, highly traditional Muslim community that would have required me to learn a new language and keep my physical appearance and sexuality very secret. So, I unfortunately had to turn it down. Hi, the most culty thing about Peace Corps is they actively discouraged us from reporting
Starting point is 00:32:23 sexual abuses of children by certain people. So if it was like an expat or another volunteer or a certain community member, then like we would report it if there was like a child being abused. But if it was someone important who we worked closely with and Peace Corps told us we shouldn't. And part of that was because infrastructure really didn't support victims. There wasn't really a great process in place and they told us it was dangerous to report but they also were like, Peace Corps won't be invited back if you report. So most of us were education volunteers, like in really rural communities, like poverty does not really promote an environment for consent. So I would say like 70% and 90% of us were like working every day with geography teachers who we knew were like actively raping students.
Starting point is 00:33:05 And we could know who the teacher was and we could know who the students were. And Peace Corpses like do not do this and will ruin our reputation. So this is the most shocking part of the episode to me, because I thought, okay, sure. The Peace Corps, there are these acronyms, there are these rituals, there's the sense of highfalutin purpose. But I had no idea that all of that work to cover some truly disturbing cult-like horror stories. Yeah, there's a lot of freedom that is almost dangerous that comes with the idea of being
Starting point is 00:33:42 a part of a government institution, but abroad with very little oversight. A lot of things can go wrong and a lot of things have gone wrong and it's about to get a little true crimey. We hate this part, you know, we're not good at this part. We always hate this part. But you might like it. Okay, so we came across a piece in USA Today by Nick Pensenstadler. The piece is called five scandals that have put the Peace Corps in a negative light. We'll link it in our episode description. But there was one story that's considered the greatest scandal in Peace Corps history. It took place in 1976. A Peace Corps volunteer named Deborah Gardner, she was 23, was, and Jesus Christ, we're bad at telling these
Starting point is 00:34:23 stories, but she was stabbed to death in Tonga while serving the Peace Corps. Witnesses said that they saw a fellow volunteer, 24-year-old guy named Dennis Priven, dragging Gardner's body from her house. And what happened next was, again, what this one writer called the Greatest in Peacequery history, appointees at the agency allegedly camouflage the news of this murder and defended, prevent the perpetrator. He was found not guilty by a jury in Tonga by reason of insanity. Jury in Tonga? That's not a jury of his peers. I'll tell you that right now. And he was flown back to the US in early 1977 and that was under a promise from the State Department
Starting point is 00:35:09 to have him committed involuntarily to a mental institution. But once in the US, he was released. So this man murders a fellow Peace Corps member woman. Of course, man murders woman. We've seen it before and we'll see it again, unfortunately. And then he is released by his own US government, the State Department, the Peace Corps, the government of America, all in on it.
Starting point is 00:35:34 All in on it, full cover up, wanting to protect the institution of the Peace Corps. And indeed they did, because I never heard of this shit. I never heard of it, but I did hear, I do remember hearing rumors of things like this happening, because it's not wild to hear a story like this, if I mean it's a wild story, but it's not wild to hear. You know what I mean? And that it like, they're in Tonga. What happens in Tonga stays in Tonga. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, There have been other incidents of murder, whether intentional or unintentional. There was a high ranking Peace Corps employee,
Starting point is 00:36:25 John Peterson, who killed a mother of three and injured two others in the series of crashes in 2019 while he was driving drunk abroad while at his like, Peace Corps job. And within hours of the incident, he was rushed onto a plane by the Peace Corps and the US Embassy staff and was flown out of the country. Neither Tanzanian or US officials have filed charges of the incident.
Starting point is 00:36:48 He killed three people and this was just covered up because it happened to happen in another country. I mean, I think that's just an example of how truly disrespectful the Peace Corps is because they say that they're going to these other countries to enforce like American idealism, which is one of the huge aspects of that is, I don't know, rule of law. And what instead they are doing is they're saying, oh no, this isn't, this isn't a developed country, this isn't a real country, our rules don't apply. And therefore, they can just do whatever they want, which is actually in direct opposition of what they are claiming to do.
Starting point is 00:37:23 Hypocrisy. I mean, it's something that we see in cults. Constantly, America is the spoiled rich kid of the world who will just like always be saved, you know? But before we get into the verdict, another fucked up element of the cult of the Peace Corps that I don't want to report, but that we can't ignore is all of the sexual assault cover-ups and victim blaming. So in 2011, ABC reported that more than a thousand female peace-core volunteers have been sexually
Starting point is 00:37:54 assaulted in the past decade, and that some victims felt that the agency either sought to cover up the incidents or engaged in victim blaming, And because the Peace Corps has since the beginning of the enlistee's experience told them, this is your purpose, this is your duty. Like you have to stick by the Peace Corps, your loyalty and commitment are so important. Their personal safety is something that they themselves then start to question and toss aside, because it's all for the greater good. It's that ends just to find the means philosophy. Yeah, and again, you're like, if this is happening abroad, you're in a very different culture. So only the rules of the Peace Corps kind of start
Starting point is 00:38:34 to apply. So regular things start to get shifted in your mind. And I don't know, the idea that like our own government engaged in victim-laming, not shocking, but disgusting. Here's another extremely fucked up example of the corruption that is going on in the Peace Corps. There was a murder of a volunteer Kate Poozy in Benin, and it seized public attention in 2011, because she was found dead after she reported her suspicions that a Peace Corps contractor was sexually harassing students at the school
Starting point is 00:39:05 where she taught. So there are multiple levels of disgusting in this in that it seems like the Peace Corps knew that there was the harassing of students going on and instead of reporting her suspicions, they murdered her for reporting her suspicions. Allegedly, sorry, sorry. I don't know.
Starting point is 00:39:23 Okay. Bro, when we start to get into murder and shit, I like lose my ability to analyze because it's just too fucked up. It's just simply too fucked up. Our commentary on murder is always like, oh shit. Yeah, I know. Our god, we're like, oh, let's do a really light-hearted episode
Starting point is 00:39:42 of sounds like a call. We can do the Peace Corps, LOL. No, no. No, no. There are just so many, so many more stories like this. We do not have the stomach to move through too many more of them. But I do want to walk through one more example because not only is this deeply disturbing, but it really speaks to the cultishness that the Peace Corps
Starting point is 00:40:05 implants in its members. According to a salon article by Erain Carmen, a Peace Corps volunteer was sexually assaulted twice during her service trip, after which she flew home to have an abortion. She was sexually assaulted again when she got back. And after that, finally, she decided to cut her service short. And this is what she said. She said, my biggest regret is not being able to finish my service. I think that speaks to the organization itself, that it's a great experience. So even though... Oh, my God. Right?
Starting point is 00:40:41 That's brainwashing to a teen. Even though she was literally raped twice, then raped again after she got back, she still said that her biggest regret was not finishing and then speaks greatly of the service. Yeah, that's disgusting. That's the conditioning and coercion. We came across a blog post on Medium called Early Terminating my Peace Corps service two years later, that basically spoke to how emotionally difficult it is for Peace Corps volunteers to leave, even if they go through the unspeakable. The blog post said, I heard some horror stories about the staff's lack of empathy and resources and was scared of being forced into a decision
Starting point is 00:41:21 I didn't want to make or to be punished in some way so I didn't reach out. So she literally had heard the rumors that she might be talked out of leaving the service or made to feel like it was a bad decision and so instead of which is actually the best way to leave a cult and sort of like discussing it with the people inside a cult. You just have to leave cult turkey quietly because they they have methods to really back in and to make you feel like you're making a bad decision. And yet, even through all of that, the blog poster said, I will defend to the death that my cohort includes some of the best people in the
Starting point is 00:41:53 world. So that reminds me so much of some of the testimonies that I would hear from sources who survived heaven's gate or Jones town, some of the Scientology even or for frater Trinity members that had alleged like rape allegations with their frat bros and they're still like, those are so much of the best colleagues I know. Exactly, across the wide cultish spectrum, people are confused about how to process their culty
Starting point is 00:42:20 experience because they were like, yeah, this tragic fucked up thing happened to me and yet so much positive came out of it. So you don't, it's like it's hard to know what to do with that like a double-sided experience. Let's get into the verdict. Amanda, what do you think the cult of Peace Corps is? Do you think it's a live your life?
Starting point is 00:42:46 A watch your back? Or a get the fuck out, not a cult? Oh, you're a fool. Dude, it's gotta be smack dab in between a watch your back and a get the fuck out. It's borderline, get the fuck out, and I didn't think I was gonna say that. I did not think I was gonna say that either,
Starting point is 00:43:02 but I would have to agree. I mean, people have been literally gotten away with murder. I think that's how it's like. I kind of think it has to be a get the fuck out. Like, imagine like a going into the Peace Corps and like making a mistake and then like kind of like the O.K. getting murdered.
Starting point is 00:43:18 And then the thing is getting away with it. I've never, I've never known lower key murders. Then the Peace Corps murders Yikes, bro. I don't know. I don't want to scare anyone But um, I kind of do boom Not that peaceful at the end of the day the Peace Corps, you know, yeah And like you know of anything going on to like make it better Let us know maybe we can do a part two, but right now this is kind of where it stands.
Starting point is 00:43:49 Where are we standing? Because those men are still walking free. Listen, even if they do fix the issue, moving forward, there are multiple people that have gotten away with murders. Yeah, dude. And that is not to say that some beautiful things haven't come from the Peace Corps. I'm sure they have. And that is how to say that some beautiful things haven't come from the Peace Corps. I'm sure they have. Building a little well, building a little well or something, but people had beautiful
Starting point is 00:44:09 experiences in next-em, and that's still like get the fuck out. God damn it. Exactly. And again, you know, shoot this episode off to a former member, we want to know y'all's thoughts. But for now, that is our show. Thanks a lot for listening. We'll be back with a new cult next week. But in the meantime, stay culty.
Starting point is 00:44:26 But not too culty! Sounds like a cult was created, hosted and produced by Issa Medina and Amanda Montel. Our theme music is by Casey Colt. This episode was edited and mixed by Jordan Moore of The Pod Cabin. To join our cult, follow us on Instagram at Sounds Like A Colt Pod. I'm on Instagram at Amanda Under Square Montel and feel free to check out my books, Cultish, the language of fanaticism and word slut, a feminist guide taking back the English language. And I'm on Instagram at Esamadina, I-S-A-A, and D-I-N-A-A, where you can find tickets to
Starting point is 00:45:03 my live stand-up comedy shows or tell me where to perform. We also have a Patreon, and we would appreciate your support there at slash sounds like a cult. And if you'd like our show, feel free to give us a rating on Spotify or Apple podcasts. And if you don't like our show, rate other podcasts the way you'd rate us. Hahaha!

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