Strong City, Weak Documentary
A look at the NY Times review of ‘Inside a Cult’
Neil Genzlinger of the NY Times reviews ‘Inside a Cult’, a National Geographic documentary on the Lord Our Righteousness Church, referred to as Strong City by it’s members, based out of New Mexico in his article titled ‘New Mexico Compound’s Enraptured Believers’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/07/arts/television/07cult.html?_r=0). The documentary’s purpose is to take the audience deep into world of the Strong City sect and help them gain insight as to why they follow Michael Travesser, formerly Wayne Bent. In 2000 Bent claimed that God revealed to him that he was in fact the Messiah and he changed his name.
The review itself is helpful to a potential viewer of the documentary as it clearly describes that the film focuses on the eccentric behavior of Travesser, and more specifically the shocking and disturbing ways he interacts with the wives of his followers and the minors that live on the compound. One of the first questions he asks is why the film even exists. The group comes off so poorly in the documentary that he cannot understand why they would have agreed to do it in the first place. Genzlinger also points out that Strong City followers have publicly stated that the film crew edited the documentary to distort their beliefs and that they were completely misrepresented. It is interesting that instead of investigating this statement further, Genzlinger writes that “even if the film is, say, only 10 percent accurate, it’s an alarm bell’. The timing of this article could be a reason for this opinion. Around the same time that the article and film came out, the New Mexico authorities arrested Travesser on three charges of criminal sexual contact and removed three minors from the compound.
Never in a million years would I condone the mistreatment of children in any way, shape or form, but I do think that it is up to journalists to ensure that they portray the facts of the situation they are reporting on and not allow what other events happening at the same time, even in other parts of a country, influence how they tell the news story. Both Genzlinger and the CNN article mention the much larger incident in Texas regarding a Mormon polygamist group where 400 children were removed and placed in the care of the state as the reason why the 3 children removed from the Strong City compound gained so much attention.
Link to More Arrest Info on Travesser: