One of our readers – under the moniker “Hoping it all ends soon” writes authoritatively:
Keith Raniere used to play the long con, and play it well. After being burned in the Consumer Buy-Line pyramid scheme, where the ask was only a few hundred dollars a year, and he was supposed to deliver actual discount buying opportunities (to be provided by another business, which couldn’t keep up with his pyramid growth), he concocted Executive Success Program,.
ESP didn’t have to deliver anything material, just training. The ask was many thousand dollars, which was brilliant. If you get $100 from a mark and don’t deliver the goods, the mark feels ripped off. If you get $5000 from a mark for “training”, the mark will be too embarrassed to admit he was conned. Add the standard “blame the students for not properly following the training if they don’t make progress” and no one will complain. Make them sign a non-disclosure agreement. And the “training” is mostly about how to recruit more students, which you are obliged to do because you promise at each training session to keep your word to save the world by enrolling more students.
The fact that ESP delivered to Raniere naive young women who had been indoctrinated to view him as the genius demigod who is humanity’s only hope was almost certainly also part of the plan.
The original 21 day Intensive was pretty clearly designed so marks who completed it were fully trained as assistant trainers. And marks were expected to recruit at least 3 more marks for the next intensive. The growth rate possibilities were exponential.
The problem with such high exponential growth rates is that you rapidly saturate the ecosystem. Consumer Buy-Line over-grew what it could deliver. So marks complained to consumer protection groups and government, and CBL Inc got shut down.
I think what saved ESP from going the same path was the serendipity of recruiting the Bronfman girl heirs. That brought in so much money that exponential growth was irrelevant. They could lower the recruitment pressure on new marks, and tell them to be selective. Only recruit people who would be receptive: young, naive, at a psychological low point. The training was reduced to 16 days, then 5 day blocks, then once a week for a year (although it was always OK to repeat classes, for years, as long as you paid…)
Raniere could never resist inventing feeder-streams into his universe. Followers of the history will remember A Cappella Innovations, which was intended to turn college a capella singing groups into recruiting tools. (There is an amazing blog thread about this that’s not hard to find. Raniere himself was posting!). More recently, there is Exo/Eso the fitness-based cult reminescent of Falung Gong and run by our Dr. Roberts. Also The Source acting school run by Allison Mack and/or Mark Vicente (although he may have had an epiphany and exited the Raniere universe). Also The Knife of Aristotle, the entry into journalism/criticism. And the men’s group Society of Protectors, which claims to be a fraternal society somewhere between the Freemasons and college fraternities.
Then there is the women’s equivalent of JNESS. It sells itself as a sorority-like organization for women of all ages. You pay to go to a 3-day weekend of sisterhood and social pressure, then for a yearly membership of sisterhood and social pressure to recruit for JNE$$, and also take the next step of $igning up for E$P.
But since Allison Mack has taken over after Pam Caftriz’s death, the Dominus-Servus “higher teachings” of JNE$$ seem to have taken over.
If it’s really true that each DS inducta (from lower-level JNE$$) is expected to recruit 6 more DS inductae (as her slaves) and quickly (or she will be punished), the results are predictable. The first DS inducta will recruit 6 “friends” from the JNE$$ chapter as her slaves. If there are 1+6+36 members, those 6 will recruit the rest (or be punished).
Now the JNE$$ chapter has been totally taken over by DS. They all have to recruit new members to JNE$$ and then quickly recruit those into DS.
Under that much recruitment pressure, they can’t be selective any more. Some of the recruitments will fail. The failed recruitments will talk.
And I think we are seeing the results of that on Frank Report.
Raniere is smart. And he learned from his first burning with Consumer Buy-Line. And he lucked into the Bronfman money. So he kept ESP below the radar, and satisfied his sociopathy and libido for nearly 20 years.
Allison Mack does not seem to be as smart.
I would have expected Raniere to have explained to her that a 6 to 1 pyramid with rapid growth or corporal punishment would explode.
Maybe he is just too disconnected from the world at this point to care.