Not to be callous, but cults were quite commonplace in earlier generations. None of them were entirely benign. It was possible in those days to keep a cult in a remote part of the country, or even in plain sight — and because there was no social media they would thrive.
There still are a few out there. In remote corners of the world it is commonplace to see cults of one sort or another. Do you think it was an accident that Al Qaida was based in Afghanistan and remote parts of Pakistan?
Cults happen because people hunger for community, for like minded people. Before the Internet and social media, it wasn’t so easy to find such people. So, lacking the means to discover groups and communities, Cults had an easy time picking off the disaffected.
Today, it’s more difficult. People can freely find and move among groups about almost anything. They feel more attached to the world because there is usually a group for someone somewhere. Cults have a harder time separating people from their communities.
But that doesn’t mean we’re completely free of them. They still exist, but they have to compete with each other. Welcome to the balkanization of the Internet.