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.