“The common issue they all have in running is that our local politics have become so dirty and tainted that they don’t want a nasty public fight. I’ve heard from many about the “not so private” PAC fund that the Chamber uses to fight anyone who runs against “their chosen ones”. I don’t know if this is true, but it is definitely a perception that is widely believed, and if it is true, how sad that we have very capable, intelligent people who fear an untruthful public bashing,” local business leader Brenda Bethune
“We are losing America. Our country is being lost at the city (municipal government) level. We place so much focus and attention on how to change D.C. while only the self interested are paying attention locally,” David Hucks, Journalist MyrtleBeachSC.com
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) C.E.O. Brad Dean has been at the center of attention on social media with several online groups recently, including Freedom Defense Myrtle Beach and our own news team. Issues that include last year’s revelations of Myrtle Beach’s ocean bacteria water quality concerns and 2017’s state probe into Chamber of Commerce political allies’ ethical issues surrounding Rick Quinn, Richard Quinn, and Jim Merrill have put greater spotlight on the MBACC.
During May’s investigations into the psychology of the black biker community as to why bikers would continue to visit a town that treats them so poorly, we were asked by one bike leader to investigate whether the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber and the City of Myrtle Beach operate much like a cult. “A cult?,” I asked. I thought that idea was ridiculous.
However, my own “investigative side” kicked in, which lead me to the ICSA – The Governance Institute website for information. The ICSA is located at Saffron House, 6–10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS, United Kingdom. The ICSA develops and communicates good practice of governance, trains governance professionals, and provides resources and expert guidance. From their own research on their website we found the following information on how to recognize cult behavior.
Key Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its lead system (MBACC?) and regards its belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
- The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.
- The group is preoccupied with making money.
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members.
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
- The leader is not accountable to any authorities.
- The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.
- The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
The above findings felt familiar to my own experiences with the MBACC and the city. The findings certainly got my full attention.
In 2016, when we first ran our water quality reports on the actual Department of Health bacteria readings, we were called “Fake News” by practically every media concern in our city. Once the reports were public, several large advertisers pulled their sponsorship from our news team. The Mayor’s wife, Terri Springs, went on social media stating she would call all of our sponsors and demand they stop supporting our news.
In the lead video posted above, the city silenced business leader, John Pruett, when he spoke at a City Council meeting about merchant concerns of Eminent Domain. Local businessman Shai David had his hotel vandalized by a city employee, Bruce Arnel after David complained about a lack of trash cans and crime in downtown Myrtle Beach. Mr. David was then given a citation for the broken rail. His business was threatened closed until the rail was repaired.
Chris Walker, of the Oceanfront Merchants Association (OMA), was asked to be quiet or be thrown out at a recent city council meeting when he stated that the city should not convert Ocean Boulevard from a four lane to a two lane street. City Council actually blamed OMA merchants for the high crime in the downtown area.
At a public hearing last September, Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat silenced county residents by stating she only wanted to hear from city residents moving forward. This when they asked questions about new paid parking regulations and the discontinuance of county parking in the Golden Mile.
Local investigative journalist, David Wren, and the local Sun News Newspaper were sued after the paper’s reporting exposed how the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce board members and like minded business affiliates worked paying local politicians cashiers checks on non operating businesses in a successful attempt to get a local ad sales tax approved without a public referendum. The case is still on appeal.
In the past few years, my own car tires have been slashed (all four) more than three times in my own driveway. The windows have been shot out of my office multiple times and tacks were thrown in our home and office driveways. Our team is the obsession of several local Chamber of Commerce funded corporate T.V. news outlets. We have been for years.
Studies show those trapped in an abusive cult often find it very hard to leave, even when being mistreated. If the city and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber are operating in a cult-like fashion, key questions about how residents and merchants find a way out of this drama have to be considered.
We found the following video online where one former female cult member best describes why her abused friends refused to leave the cult they were in:
Her story about how the accountant in her cult group chose not to leave because he would lose his customer base stood out the most to us.
Perhaps the original question as to whether the leadership of Myrtle Beach operates with cult-like behavior isn’t as ridiculous as it sounded when first asked. As we did our research, we found ourselves sobered by an association that we have never thought to make. This has raised many questions.
Will city residents and small business owners of Myrtle Beach continue this cycle? Or will groups like Freedom Defense Myrtle Beach, city residents and small business owners begin a transformation of this city allowing each of us to find our way once again.
Recent posts online indicate city residents are doing just that. Perhaps the city has now grasped what Harrison Barnes meant when he said, “All learning is unlearning. Today I’m focusing on unlearning the various assumptions that cause suffering.”