ESP recruiting is person to person. Your recruiter is family, friend, or has become your “friend” to recruit you. Most of the early “modules” are about establishing rapport, sales-scripting, and being persistent until you close the sale.
Recruiters are told that the program will help people who are at a low point in their life (thus more receptive and less critical). They are also told that not everyone is ready for the message, so don’t bother recruiting those who might question it.
The five or 16=day Intensive is carefully designed to cause emotional lows and highs to make you believe you have made breakthroughs, and leave you euphoric. Yes, there is some hokey stuff about the Vanguard and preemptive defenses against accusations of cult-iness. But mostly you will feel welcomed by a group of nice people trying to improve themselves, and you. There is no hint at the entry level that ESP has always fed young sex partners to Keith Raniere, or of the more recent descent into blackmail, slavery, or branding.
So the vast majority of ESP members who don’t advance past the entry level have done nothing worse than try to get a few friends to join an overpriced life-coaching program that they perceive (probably correctly) has been helpful to them.
Note that students who don’t buy in to the program can and do leave. And trainers are experts at both persuading students to relax and believe, and at chasing out those few they can’t persuade.
Those who advance to the yellow-sash level of “coach” have received hundreds of hours of conditioning that promoting the program should be their highest value. They have also been explicitly tested to check that they are true believers. So they are not shocked when they see some evidence that ESP is a for-profit business. But there is still no hint of Vanguard’s harem, or blackmail, slavery, or branding.
Celebrities and the wealthy get special treatment. They get love-bombed at “information sessions” during recruiting, They are told that they are making exceptional progress in the Intensive. They advance to Coach and beyond quickly.
Keith Raniere has had a harem of multiple sex partners since the Consumers’ Buy Line days. But ESP members who don’t live in Knox Woods or visit regularly would not know about the harem (provided they follow instructions not to believe media reports). While there do seem to be cases of sex with minors, there are no reports of non-consensual sex. So even those who found out about the harem could excuse it.
It is fair to say that the pre-DOS version of ESP is overpriced, deceptively marketed, and designed to induce dependency rather help students achieve true independent success. It may cross the legal line into pyramid-scheme territory (although the commissions aren’t explained or kick in until higher levels). But it’s hard to view any but a small number at the very top as criminal.
DOS, however, is a very different matter. Blackmail, slavery, corporal punishment, starvation, and branding are criminal.
Sarah Edmondson, Anthony Ames, and Mark Vicente, all high-rank members for many years, had “the scales fall from their eyes” and realized that any good coming out of ESP was outweighed by DOS. They closed their centers, and eventually went public. Given Keith Raniere’s record of relentless litigation against perceived enemies, those were remarkable acts of bravery.
One could hope that others, like Kristen Kreuck, Mark Hildreth, and Grace Park, would make similar public statements.
I don’t know what to think about Allison Mack. I’m sure that DOS is the creation of Keith Raniere, and was not invented by Allison Mack. It is possible that her role in DOS has been exaggerated. Certainly Keith likes to have a “designated felon” with the official title to his creations so he can evade blame. But Allison did allow DOS to happen, rather than blowing the whistle, or even just walking quietly away.
But after years of ingeniously subtle brainwashing, and likely starvation dieting, overexercise, and sleep deprivation, there’s likely not much left of the old Allison Mack personality that Chloe Sullivan fans fell in love with.