Mike Hudson was founder and lead singer of the American punk band the Pagans. He worked as editor for the Cleveland Sun, crime reporter at the Corry Evening Journal, literary critic at the Irish Echo, and editor for the Niagara Falls Reporter. His work appeared in Radar, Field & Stream, Rolling Stones, Hustler, the Associated Press, Master Detective and the New York Post. Hudson is also author of six books including a memoir of the American punk rock movement, ‘Diary of a Punk,’ and ‘Mob Boss’, the biography of Mafia chief Stephano Maggadino. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
By Mike Hudson
Self-help guru Keith Raniere’s NXIVM cult made headlines all around the world this week. From New York to Hollywood, London, Warsaw, Poland, Russia, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, China, Nigeria, Switzerland, Canada and more. In People Magazine, on CBS News, Fox News, the Huffington Post and dozens of other lesser media outlets, Keith Raniere has finally found the attention he’s craved for all his life.
But Mr. Raniere, 57, his financiers, Seagram’s Liquor heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman – who have reportedly given upwards of $150 million to the cult – Dr. Danielle Roberts, D.O. a licensed physicians with a little bit of mad scientist thrown in for good measure, and top Raniere aide Lauren Salzman most likely did not bargain for the sort of worldwide attention they received this week.
Because rather than being about the good works of NXIVM, Mr. Raniere’s claims of having the highest IQ of anyone on the planet, the cult’s outreach efforts in helping people reach their true potential or anything else, the reports centered on Mr. Raniere, Dr. Roberts, Ms. Salzman and the Bronfman’s complicity in the practice of branding women like cattle.
With a red hot iron bearing Mr. Raniere’s initials.
On the women’s shaved pubic area.
Women screamed as others held them down while the iron was being applied. Several went to the authorities following the gruesome torture, but law enforcement and public health officials did nothing. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that a full review would be launched to find out why this was the case.
The worldwide media firestorm broke out after a New York Times investigative series, based on original reporting done by Niagara Falls Reporter Publisher Frank Parlato and credited in the Times, brought the sickening, sordid story to the international stage.
To promote his scam, Mr. Raniere resorts to the same time-worn rhetoric used by snake oil salesman since before any of us were born.
“Human evolution has clearly demonstrated tendencies that vacillate between awe-inspiring rises and cataclysmic falls,” he wrote. “As time has passed, our capacity to excel in either extreme has increased, even on the smallest of levels. Each rise, each act of human excellence raises mankind to new heights. Each fall, each act of destruction is a mindless regression. While many have sensed a need to break away from the primitive patterning that keeps us from a path of continuous progression, few have thought it possible.
“NXIVM is the turning point – a remarkable development in scientific and psychodynamic understanding, education, and technology that can facilitate this transition so the pattern of humanity’s rises and falls can actually be broken and transformed.”
How the branding of women fits into this hifalutin’ mumbo jumbo is uncertain. Suffice to say that there are many damaged and lonely people out there, some endowed with considerable wealth, talent or good looks, who are looking for something, anything, to give meaning to their lives.
And, like a shark, Keith Raniere has the ability to spot those victims in waiting from a mile away.
Nearly 50 years ago Charles Manson formed a cult in the desert outside of Los Angeles, telling the women around him they had to kill people in order to prove their dedication to him. It’s a scenario as old as the hills.
In the interest of full disclosure, Reporter Publisher Parlato had a falling out with Mr. Raniere and the Bronfman sisters a few years back. Now the sisters are the star witnesses in the federal case hanging over Mr. Parlato’s head.
Albany sources this week confirmed that Gov. Cuomo’s review of the torture and branding of women in the NXIVM cult, and the lack of responsiveness by local and state officials, will likely result in criminal charges as well.
Mr. Raniere, the Bronfmans, Dr. Roberts and Ms. Salzman have certainly gotten their 15 minutes of fame. It remains to be seen whether any of them can stay out of jail long enough to enjoy it.