In a recent post, Raniere studied a host of programming methods and created NXIVM, I wrote: “There was, I noted, an inability to focus that usually led to a disconnect at crucial times, almost as if the NXIVM student was programmed to be a good ‘worker bee’ but before they could gain the independence needed to accomplish tasks which required strength, they had a tendency to disconnect. Following through on any tenuous project seemed difficult or impossible.”
A reader responding to this post commented, ‘This is fascinating, but I’m not sure what you mean by “focus” and by “disconnect”.
‘The Rational Inquiry patent application you linked to indicates that students are supposed to learn to persist until they achieve their goals. Do you mean that NXIVM fails to teach this, even to the highly-ranked members in the inner circle that you were dealing with?
‘Do you mean that nxians did have that kind of focus, on tasks they were assigned, but lacked the critical thinking skills to recognize that their assignment was ill-defined or even inconsistent?
‘Or perhaps you mean that they lacked creative thinking skills, and could not improvise if circumstances changed, or were just different than they had been told?’
To answer the questions: NXIVM students were programmed to be good ‘worker bees’ but at times seemed to “zone out.”
There was a lack of ability to concentrate and sometimes their speech was halting (and they would look lost) as if they were searching for the right words they were programmed to say. When they finally spit it out it was Raniere-speak and their faces exuded relief and sometimes pride and at times smug satisfaction because out of their mouths came the words they learned from their teacher, the wisest human on earth.
On certain things they could be loquacious – say for example volleyball.
On serious topics that they sensed might lead to the inescapable conclusion that Raniere may have made a mistake, they had emotional reactions that ranged from intellectually shutting down, to tears, to anger followed by tears.
I had to bring some of them kicking and screaming to certain necessary business actions because it led to revelations about consultants and partners which Raniere had endorsed that showed his lack of good judgment or lack of honesty or both.
The issue of NXIVM members’ resistance was not because it was too complicated or even untrue but the fact that they might hear something that suggested that their master, Keith Raniere, was fallible and it put them in a panic.
I got this reaction up and down the NXIXM line, even from Nancy Salzman. To her credit, once confronted with a Raniere error, after being angry (or making a show of anger) she would become upset, then fearful, then surrender to its validity as if she knew Raniere blundered again and now another group would find out.
How hard it was for her to keep Raniere’s secrets and use her warm and nurturing personality to cover for his lies and his viciousness.