Even before the branding started to be a DOS ritual, there was much interference with personal decisions and freedom.
How to make the intolerable tolerable and even to represent it as wonderful, special and magnetically attractive to join, to support?
If Keith Raniere didn’t have a core group of women and even some men who were following along with his demands, he would have had no “movement” for more people to join.
The inner circle’s contribution of peer pressure, their overall and devout representation of Raniere as being their “everything” certainly helped create the entire atmosphere. (Yet many opine that they were essentially victims.) The group itself provided Raniere with his stage setting.
No one seems to have joined via a gun to the head; it was never do or die.
Maybe Nancy Salzman presented a kind of “do or die” to her daughters, though. She was/is hardcore, in my observation. I think there were quite a few who became hardcore and no longer needed to be fooled about what the real motives were, as opposed this being about self-help or inner/outer “growth.”
Yet the entire setting was really more or less “do or die.” Raniere’s rules or else. His group is responsible for being a part of it; they were not animatronic objects, controlled by electronics switches or buttons.
These were volunteers who had free will and who allowed their free will to become subverted, squelched, dominated and commanded to cooperate with Raniere’s AND the group’s incentives and requirements. Step by step, each shut down common sense. Or perhaps some had little common sense in the first place. Each kept deciding to support the slaughterhouse as Utopian.
So, just how much does one feel sorry for them, either individually or as a group? This kind of evaluation is going to be pretty subjective, according to the thoughts and experiences of the observer, the one or ones doing the evaluating. People seem to have a lot of different responses regarding what combo of compassion, pity, scorn, anger, disgust, willingness to excuse or not to excuse a myriad of individual participants, as well as the group as a whole.
Do you see, for example, Allison Mack strutting around like a martinet who loved all of the ego food that being one of Raniere’s chosen ones provided her? Or do you view her as a poor lost lamb? Or as various combinations of both of these manifestations of her own behavior, her own words and her own decisions to partake in criminality and enslavement, etc.?
These deeply entrenched Nxivm members and later, the DOS individuals, had agreed to semi-starve, to limit their sleep, to view outsiders as targets. The outsiders were either to become culties or, at the other end of the spectrum, enemies.
Raniere set up that “us and them” and “us vs. them” structure to isolate and to control his subjects. This is necessary to exert control. The women agreed to an extremely eccentric version of sexual exclusivity with their Creepboy guru, too.
He could be the superhero manwhore, whereas the women accepted that they were only to have sex with him unless he said otherwise. They were willing to not only tolerate, but to fully support, Raniere’s set-up and to be recruiters for more specimens as chattel for Raniere’s conjobs and sexual dictatorship. He was the one who was given power to control their social dimension, their way of thinking, their emotional conduct, their definitions of their concepts, ideas. But still, his acolytes had to say “yes, yes, yes” and to believe in him, to believe that all of his insane shit was very, very good, beneficial, enlightening!
Without their willing cooperation, what would Raniere have even had to offer as a drawing card?
I doubt that he could have pulled much weight with his scamming and conditioning techniques WITHOUT the existence of his little communal troupe of devotees recommending him and themselves as being a positive organization for “human growth potential.” He couldn’t accomplish much alone. He had to have whatever he could get from the inner circle, money, a setting of busywork, tasks and a whole path being embraced by ardent supporters.
Yet it is obvious what Raniere and his group really wanted. They wanted more. They wanted more suckers to dominate, to make into sexual treats for their leader, (and for themselves) and they wanted more fresh meat to blackmail and to traffic. This can be seen as the opposite of spirituality, of kindness, of growth. In fact thinking Raniere was an example of good behavior, that Raniere held any divine intentions, is group insanity.
Peer pressure would have been hugely influential, appearing to make the group look successful, reasonable, desirable, magnetic. But I am not sure to whom it would have appealed. There had to be identifiable ” types” who were people who would not bother to think for themselves much, if at all. They had to want to join. They had to be willing to believe Raniere’s sexual persona was worth supporting.
Some of us would not have ever been receptive, in the first place, to ANY of Raniere’s personal interference and demands.
Tell me what I should eat or not eat, tell me that I must obey Raniere, tell me to limit my sleep and to do whatever I was told. Tell me that I must think with, solely identify with, a group agenda. Tell me that I must not think things over for myself.
I don’t know if I could even express a refusal cloaked politely, about any involvement within such a system of living. The entire group dynamic, not to mention its leader and the entire atmosphere of hidden motives is repellent. It angers me even to imagine surrendering to such a prison.
It got worse and worse among the group, progressively, too. Yet most stuck to it, devolving into branding others for more enslaved exclusivity, to performing more and more questionable or criminal acts, in the name of their leader and THEIR group, even as they fought among themselves, in effect representing no growth, no peace, nothing to gain, everything to lose. This was an individual choice, to support such a movement. That is how it started for each participant, who arrived at Nxivm’s door as individuals.