SOP Member: Use of Stanford Prison Experiment & DOS Strike at Raniere’s ‘Good Faith’

Harriet Wilson [not her real name] is a woman known to me who took an SOP [Society of Protectors] six-day intensive and has closely followed the case. 

SOP teaches, among other things, that men are honorable and keep their word, and women are feckless, expect to be pampered, and do not keep their word. SOP also teaches that men are naturally polygamous while women are naturally monogamous. 

Harriet recalls that the SOP intensive she attended included extensive discussions on the Stanford Prison Experiment.  For readers who are not familiar with it, the Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted at Stanford University from August 14–20, 1971, by a research group led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students. In the study, volunteers [students] were randomly assigned to be either “guards” or “prisoners” in a mock prison, with Zimbardo as superintendent.  The result of the experiment, it was claimed, was that students embraced their assigned roles, with mock guards actually enforcing authoritarian measures and subjecting some of the mock prisoners to actual psychological torture. Many mock prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, at the mock officers’ requests, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it.

In short, despite their assigned roles being merely for purposes of the experiment [they were not imprisoned- any one could leave at any time], those who were the guards [the masters] enjoyed behaving brutally and those who were the prisoners [slaves] behaved abjectly obedient, and acted often out of fear.

Harriet suggests Raniere’s understanding of the Stanford Prison Experiment may have informed an experiment of his own, called DOS.  Harriet’s take, as an actual student of SOP, is important and, her marshaling of facts is compelling.


By Harriet Wilson

Did DOS Grand Master Keith Raniere act in “good faith” in his unconventional relationships with women?

Or did he deliberately and methodically devise plans to enslave women, understanding full well the psychological impact of what he was doing, in order to gain power and control over them?

Did Raniere intend organized crime, to coerce, enslave and traffic women by locking them into servitude to him for life?  Or did Raniere just screw up?

Perhaps he meant well – as implied by his defense team. Although he may have had unconventional sexual proclivities, which is not a crime, he may have really wanted to help these women.

It could be that the unorthodox methods he used were designed to help women keep their word, follow through, be unwavering with commitments and ultimately be more honorable.

Maybe Raniere did believe in the “truth of the representations he made,” and, even if some of the women were “injured by his conduct” – as is evidenced in witnesses testimony – he had no criminal intent.

So far, the jury has been exposed to evidence presented by the prosecution that includes witness testimony, and emails and WhatsApp exchanges between Raniere and various women. The evidence – specifically much of the language he uses – suggests that Raniere intended to coerce and lock scores of women into a life of servitude.

But it’s up to jurors to decide his intent. If a single juror truly doubts he had criminal intent, the result is a hung jury.  Jurors perhaps can never really know what he intended, and Raniere’s defense will try to rely heavily on that fact.

Given everything exposed in the trial thus far, is there any kind of juror who might doubt there’s criminal intent?  A juror who grew up in an environment in which polyamory and/or heavy control and obedience are a part of a family unit might question whether Raniere actually intended to harm these women, or whether the women were just jealous, emotionally immature, and inflicted harm upon themselves.

Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, claims the women all knew about his unconventional relationships and agreed to willingly participate. At every step of the way, they seemingly gave their consent, didn’t they?

The prosecution has yet to focus upon, and the jury has yet to glimpse, a key fact in the case that suggests Raniere had full criminal intent.

Raniere understood the psychological impact of imprisonment on a person

The Society of Protectors (SOP) curriculum, created in 2013– 2015, seems to leave no doubt that Raniere knew exactly what the psychological effects of coercing women into a Master/Slave roles might be.

The six-day SOP intensives focused largely on understanding the abuse of power.

A documentary on the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment was introduced in the SOP intensive as a topic of discussion. The Stanford Prison Experiment was a simulation study at Stanford University that investigated the psychological effects of imprisonment.

In early 2015, additional question sets relating to abuse of power in the Stanford Experiment was released [by Raniere] to SOP members for continuing discussion.

It’s important to note that, throughout the intensives, while discussing the Stanford Prison Experiment, Raniere seemed to be completely clear on the findings. He seemed to understand precisely what plugging people into guard/prisoner roles would result in: an almost immediate adaptation of each character by anyone assuming the role.

Perhaps the prosecution can present video footage in which Raniere discusses to SOP attendees the psychological effects the six-day imprisonment study had on those involved. The prosecution might also present to the jury the question sets [in SOP] that delved into the Stanford Prison Experiment during the SOP intensive and later in SOP group discussions.

As described by then-researcher and psychology professor Philip G. Zimbardo, “How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to end after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.”

Similarities between Stanford Prison Experiment and DOS. Coincidence?

Zimbardo and his team started by setting up a simulated prison within the university. They called for male applicants to interview and participate in the paid study. Twenty-four candidates, screened to eliminate medical disabilities and psychological, criminal or drug-related problems, signed informed consent agreements upon volunteering. Half were randomly assigned to be prison guards, the others prisoners.

(How does this relate to DOS slaves “consenting” through collateralized vows to play the role of “slave”? How does this relate to Raniere giving Lauren Salzman the role of “guard” in Daniela’s “willing” imprisonment for almost two years? In Cami’s Whatsapp messages, Raniere also referred to her as his slave years before DOS was established.)

At the onset of the Stanford Experiment, the prisoners were humiliated (stripped naked, deloused), issued a uniform with a stamped ID number, given heavy ankle chains to remind prisoners of the oppressiveness of their environment, and allowed a minimally adequate diet.

(What similarities does this have to DOS slaves being humiliated (nudity, vagina photos), stamped with a brand, required to wear a “dog collar” necklace and given a restricted calorie diet?)

Guards were given freedom to make their own rules to keep order in the prison, under the supervision of a “warden.” (How does this relate to DOS Masters making rules under the supervision of a Grand Master? Or Lauren seemingly being given the “freedom” to decide the next steps for Daniela, under Raniere’s supervision and guidance?)

Guards were dressed in uniform with a whistle around the neck and mirrored sunglasses and were given a billy club to carry. (Were all DOS Masters eventually to wield a paddle – or worse?)

Jailers asserted their authority by blasting their whistles and awakening the prisoners from sleep. If captives failed or broke rules, guards imposed physical punishment like push-ups, which became increasingly aggressive, with guards stepping or sitting on prisoners’ backs. (How does this relate to 24/7 Readiness Drills in which women were expected to respond to middle-of-the-night drills within one minute? Or the physical punishments that escalated from planking and cold showers to paddling and torture-like BDSM punishment?)

After the first day of the experiment, violent behavior between guards and captives intensified. Inmates rebelled and guards used more force, harassing and intimidating the prisoners. (How does this relate to slaves like Nicole asking to leave and Allison and Keith threatening to release her collateral? Or to Daniela’s various rebellions – like when she cut her hair – resulting in more time in the room and extensive “feedback” from Lauren and her family about her “breach”?)

In order to avoid a full rebellion, guards created special privileges for those that behaved, creating distrust among the prisoners. (What special privileges did some slaves have over others? For instance, those willing to participate in group sex. What privileges did they have over those that questioned or refused to participate?)

By creating division among inmates, the prison guards deflected aggression away from themselves. (How might this relate to the jealousy and animosity among some of the women in intimate relationships with Raniere, like sisters Mariana and Daniela? Or how, according to Daniela, rather than question the criminality of Keith having sex with Cami at age 15, she felt jealous that Keith had made her, Daniela, wait until she was 18?)

Within 36 hours, one of the prisoners became noticeably more distressed, such as rage and crying uncontrollably. Researchers admit they thought he was trying to “con” them into releasing him. (How does this relate to Raniere’s suggestions that Daniela was “game-playing” or that Nicole was throwing a tantrum or just going back on her word when she cried and wanted to leave DOS?)

Researchers insinuated to the prisoner that he was being weak, and told him things are so much worse in a real prison. (How does this compare to Raniere telling disobedient top-line slaves that a different kind of Master would do things differently?)

Researchers observed that the prisoners believed they couldn’t leave the experiment if they wanted to. They felt they had no choice and that they had to do what they were told and act like a real prisoner would. Likewise, guards continued to resort to cruelty. At one point, when a prisoner got sick and was allowed to leave, guards had his fellow prisoners chanting that he was a “bad prisoner.” This prompted the sick prisoner to sob uncontrollably. When encouraged to leave the study, he refused. (Raniere’s defense claims Daniela chose to stay in the unlocked bedroom for close to two years. Surely Raniere already understood the psychology of imprisonment then and knew she was not likely to leave. Did he hypothesize Lauren could be a good prison guard, leaving him in a seemingly hands-off role?)

By the end of the study, the prisoners resembled mental patients and prisoners of war. They exhibited pathological behaviors and blindly obeyed the guards. By the fifth night, parents told researchers they would contact an attorney to free their sons. Even the parents bought into the belief that they needed to bail their sons out, as opposed to the reality: the volunteers could leave at any time. (It’s not unlike Daniela’s parents, who bought into the roles and were convinced the “loving” thing would be to allow their daughter to remain imprisoned.)

Zimbardo ended the study early, on day six. The prison guards had become abusive in pornographic and degrading ways when they thought no one was watching. Of the roughly 50 outsiders that had visited the prison, only one was outraged and questioned the morality of the experiment, which subsequently prompted Zimbardo to halt the experiment.

After the study, Zimbardo wrote a book in 2007, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. (Might Raniere have owned a copy of this book? How many men and women in Raniere’s inner circle “turned evil”? What we know is five have pled guilty to charges and several others have been referred to as co-conspirators by the prosecution.)

Raniere is now 58. The Stanford study ended days before his eleventh birthday and has been widely publicized since. At what point Raniere became aware of the Stanford Prison Experiment, we don’t know. But we do know that by at least 2013, prior to the creation of DOS, he fully understood the psychological effects of imprisonment on anyone assuming a prisoner/guard role.



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Was Keith Raniere inspired by the Stanford Prison Experiment to create DOS?



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  • I knew nothing about the good faith defense, so I looked it up. Apparently it’s mainly used in fraud cases. In other types of cases, intent is important. For example if I punch you in the nose, it’s only battery if I intended to do it. If I wave my hand around and hit you accidentally, that’s not battery. The prosecution doesn’t have to prove I intended to injure you, they only have to show that my action was deliberate. I’m not sure how this is going to work for Raniere; what’s the argument, that he accidentally had women branded? He can no more argue that he had them branded for his own good than a wife-beater can argue that he hit her for her own good. He might even believe that, but so what?

    This is truly a desperate defense, the argument is absurd, and I’d bet it’s something Raniere cooked up by himself and insisted his lawyers run with it. They’re just following their client’s instructions, content to lose the case, collect their enormous fees and have a laugh over it at the golf club. While he goes off to prison.

    The prosecution does not have to prove Raniere intended to break the law. It does not have to prove he intended to set up a criminal enterprise. The prosecution has shown, repeatedly, that he intended to entrap women for the purpose of satisfying his own lewd excesses. Now, his lawyers can try to argue that he compelled them to not trim their pubic hair for their own good. That he had them send naked pictures of themselves to him for their own good. Any street pimp could argue the same. An armed robber could argue before the judge that he stole for the victim’s own good– hey fella, that wallet looks heavy, let’s say you give it to me to carry. Absurd.

    Absurd defense arguments are nothing new in this bizarre trial. Remember Allison Mack was going to try to argue that if Scientology isn’t illegal, then neither is Nxivm/DOS. Fortunately for her, the prosecution offered her a plea deal.

    As for the racketeering charges, the paper bags and drawers full of cash are evidence of that, as is the credit card fraud, the blackmail material, the threats against perceived enemies, the computer hacking. What, Raniere’s going to argue that all happened accidentally? The doctored videotapes, the branding ritual organized specifically so it “looks consensual”, captured in his own words, recorded for posterity by these idiots?

    Intent, in this case, is as clear as could be. Still, if one single juror had doubts about it, does that mean a hung jury? Not really, no. It’s been made plain to the jury that Raniere is a dirty rotten scoundrel. A coward, a pervert, a sneaky bastard with an appetite for little girls. Even if a juror might have doubts about a legal technicality in this case, who in their right mind would argue in his favor in that jury room? Who would have or dare to show any sympathy for him? The courtroom was actually laughing at his inability to get an erection; that’s something that doesn’t happen every day in federal court. The prosecution has really done a number on him, his goose is cooked. The prosecution evidently concluded their case today with an FBI agent introducing into evidence the kiddie porn found on Raniere’s computer. That’s going to stick in the jury’s craw, I can tell you that. That’ll be their final impression of the testimony in this case.

    There’s no way to really know what a jury will do, of course, but I think a guilty verdict is a slam dunk.

  • The Stanford Prison Experiment has been widely discredited. First, it was never peer reviewed. Replication failed; in fact, according to Stanford University’s own website, a recent replication attempt in Britain came to the exact opposite conclusion than the original The Stanford Prison Experiment is implicated in what has become known as psychology’s replication crisis, where major and long-accepted studies have turned out to have been deeply flawed if not fraudulent.

    The Stanford investigators interfered with their own experiment, fearing that the college kids playing guards and prisoners would just sit around for two weeks “playing guitar”. The student subjects understood the roles they were to play, and “play” them they did; one of the guards was a theatre student who found inspiration for his character from the movie Cool Hand Luke. He even did a fake Southern accent for his part. The prisoner whose psychotic break supposedly forced an early end to the experiment was pretending to freak out because he wanted to go home and study for the GRE exams. Basically, it was about as real as a reality TV show, and no more scientifically valid. UC Davis psychology professor Simine Vazire wrote, “We must stop celebrating this work. It’s anti-scientific. Get it out of textbooks.”

    So much for the study. The “documentary'” cited above, that was part of Raniere’s overpriced course, is a work of fiction, a so-called docudrama. (It’s astounding that Nxivm charged money for this kind of amateur-hour B.S., using Hollywood shockers as reference material).

    • Acteon,

      The “experiment” did not adhere to valid scientific principles.

      The Stanford Prison Experiment failed the most basic of all scientific principles which is reproducibly.

      However sociologists and psychologists will readily agree together that people will behave out of character when involved in a group.

      Group dynamics can cause many different individuals to act in unpredictable ways.

      • Group dynamics can cause people to wig out.

        For example, many months ago you were just another respectable commenter.

        But the moment Heidi called upon you to join her cause, you transformed yourself into a butt-kissing sycophant kissing her butt and seldom straying from her party line.

  • The guest may be right or wrong.

    I think the takeaway is that people in social groups will routinely behave out of character when part of group.

    I think this article by the guest columnist is a good one.

    If Raniere had not formed NXIVM, many of these people may never have broken a law or done something immoral.

    • Anonymous, I heard that one.

      Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luther) said something telling about Allison Mack.

      “I guess you never really know someone”,

      People should go to the link ^^^^ in the above comment. It’s an interesting clip.

  • Well, I question the theory that NXIVM and the Perv’s harem are based on Stanford Prison Experiment — though similarities exist,,,

    First off, I was taking Psyche classes at another college Stanford Prison Study — it was a hot topic at the time — & still is. Prof. Zimbardo’s research methodology & conclusions have serious issues to consider. Stanford Magazine
    “How do the guards, prisoners and researchers in the Stanford Prison Experiment feel about it now?”
    • Dave Eshelman(Guard) “It was planned. I set out with a definite plan in mind, to try to force the action, force something to happen, so that the researchers would have something to write about. After all, what could they possibly learn from guys sitting around like it was a country club? So I consciously created this persona.”
    • John Mark (Guard) “It was ever meant to go the full two weeks — Zimbardo wanted to create a dramatic crescendo, and then end it as quickly as possible — throughout the experiment, he knew what he wanted — to shape the experiment—by how it was constructed, and how it played out—to fit the conclusion that he had already worked out. He wanted to be able to say that college students, people from middle-class backgrounds—people will turn on each other just because they’re given a role and given power…” – John Mark (Guard)
    • THAT, friends, is known in science as “confirmation bias” – designing and executing experiments to produce data supporting a pre-existing conclusion. E.g. NOT SCIENCE AT ALL – In this way I suppose it is very similar to NXIVM. False.
    • ALSO – The trauma suffered by students lasted six days and caused no permanent injury whatsoever – Whereas Vanguard’s abuse inflicted lifelong physical and psychological damage.

    MOREOVER – the continuing question, “How could so many mature, intelligent, moral & successful people (And #metoo era women) possibly be so naïve and warped to destroy their lives for this steaming turd / pedophile? Answer is from CULT EDUCATION INSTITUTE.

    ESP/NXIVM applies every cult mind control practice and procedure known to the letter. . and read”

    • A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP, by Dr. John Hochman, M.D. February, 2003.
    • A Critical Analysis of the Executive Success Programs Inc., by Dr. Paul Martin, Ph.D. Feb 12, 2003.
    • Eight Criteria of Thought Reform as Applied to Executive Success Programs, by Robert Jay Lifton/Paul Martin, Ph.D. February 12, 2003.
    • “Recruitment – Indoctrination Processes In a Mass Marathon Psychology Organization” – By Philip Cushman, Ph.D
    • Court documents claim NXIVM is ‘a cult’ — Albany Times-Union/January 31, 2010
    • Cult of Personality — Forbes Magazine/October 13, 2003

  • The jury doesn’t decide his “intention.” The jury decides on whether crime was committed.

    This appears to be a lot of word salad.

  • A+B does not equal C

    KAR’s methodology and Zimbardo’s experiment might have produced some similar results in some DOS members but I don’t see how knowledge of the prison experiment signifies intent? Many people are knowledgeable about Nazi atrocities during WWII but don’t go out and commit the same crimes. It’s more likely he’s mentally imbalanced, thinks he’s helping others and doesn’t see how he’s a criminal who is using and hurting others.

    Anyway, it may not matter. It is going to be very tough for him to beat the sex trafficking charge as the jury may not care about his intent.

  • After reading this article, I’m convinced Raniere was training an army of women to conduct murders of his enemies.
    They were being conditioned by watching gang rapes, murders and decapitations. This was the work of Dr. Brandon Porter.

    It is Karma that Raniere now sits in the MDC as prisoner/slave to his prison guards. Is Keith feeling joyful?

  • It reminds me of Stanley Milgram’s experience of Obedience to Authority… Milgram was shocked to see how the Germans had followed their “Fuhrer” and obeyed criminal and immoral orders. He wanted to check whether each of us was able to obey absurd and dangerous orders for a third party.

    Milgram, therefore, set up a false memory test experiment in which one subject had to punish another with electric shocks so that the latter could “learn better”. In front of the white coat, a majority of people of all origins obeyed and gave almost deadly electric shocks. Of course, the shocks were not real and the punished third party was an actor.

    Ranière had a large experimental playground, but this time it was for real.

      • The point is this. People tend to obey a person of authority, whether they like it or not. that is a simple fact. Authority is a powerful tool of influence. A person who understands this concept can immediately begin commanding authority and influence simply by putting on a uniform and acting the part. Hell, I can appear as a wealthy, powerful person that commands authority just by scraping the tee shirt and jeans and wearing a well-fitted suit while playing the part.

        All NXVIM was/is a way to exhibit control over others using influence (and of course blackmail) A master of influence understands these concepts and utilizes them to manipulate their target into doing what they want them to do. Having authority is one of several ways to increase your level of influence on others.

  • Regardless of whether Raniere incorporated the Stanford Prison Experiment into DOS, if it’s not introduced as evidence it likely will have no impact on the jury’s decision. Also, if the Stanford experiment ended early, why did the smartest man in the world implement it again? Did he decide the collateral/blackmail would overcome this issue?

  • Very interesting. thank you.
    A big issue in BDSM relationships is of course consent. There is not much point dominating a man or women who is not inherently made to want that and for most people it is not fun or morally acceptable. I suppose if it is possible the women around KR conned him into thinking the women who gave themselves to him wanted him and were genuinely sexually submissive, given how often he asked if they were sure they wanted XYZ as would most dominated women or men in those kinds of relationships. I suspect the prosecution have decided that that kind of person is likely to be so outside the jury’s realm they have not chosen to enter much evidence about it.

    Also to me it looks unlikely.

    • The “Fifty Shades of Gray” defense lol (apologies for all the posts – I’m just totally fascinated with all of the nuances in this case). (Ps. AWESOME ARTICLE – so well thought out and well written)!

  • The parallels drawn here between Zimbardo’s study and Keith Raniere are undeniable. It seems clear as day. Great piece.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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