Nxivm is hot at the moment.
Barry Meier called the growing popularity of the two Nxivm docuseries, “The Vow” and “Seduced,” “pandemic”.
People all over the world are coming to Frank Report to learn about the modern-day monster American cult. For most, it is fun. It’s salacious. It’s bizarre.
A big-time TV producer told me yesterday that “Keith Raniere is fascinating. I mean he was evil, but he has almost unlimited interest and appeal in a bizarre and excruciatingly absorbing way. How he did what he did. He is a genius. An evil genius.”
Hundreds of media outlets have written about Nxivm and Raniere, with at least half a dozen yesterday alone, most of them reporting on a story that first appeared in Frank Report.
Still, are Nxivm and Raniere anything more than a passing fad, a titillation for bored people to be forgotten in a year or so, or will it be something studied seriously over time, as it represents something significant to the human story?
Daniela, a beautiful, intelligent woman, who spent almost two years in solitary confinement in an unlocked room in her family’s house, because Raniere wanted her to cure an “ethical breach,” told Raniere during her victim impact statement at his sentencing that he would be soon forgotten.
She told him, “We must teach our children about [evil] people like you. Not about you, about people like you. Because you, Keith Raniere, your words will disappear, your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.”
I am not convinced she is right. He might be remembered, perhaps not as Raniere said he would be remembered, as a noble benefactor of humanity, but perhaps as Rasputin is remembered. Or Charles Manson.
Whether you think him good or evil, and I speak with people on both sides of this debate, he held together a remarkable group. There were some dubious people in the group, especially in leadership, but they were talented too, albeit, in some cases, very morally compromised.
And keep in mind, his reign as Vanguard lasted 20 years. Manson came and went in a couple of years. Raniere held it together for two decades and it would have gone on longer but for his arrest.
While Manson’s followers were largely kooks, the bulk of the Nxivm group, regardless of what they now think of Raniere, were good people. If this is an evil cult, it was comprised of a membership of good people.
Perhaps they had weaknesses that would allow them to be blinded by Raniere, but their intentions were good. I was convinced of this when I was a consultant for Nxivm in 2007-08 and lived and worked in the Nxivm community. These were good people then.
Over the years, when I attacked Nxivm and Raniere relentlessly, I spoke with many people who had broken from him. Victims. I found almost every one of them to be what I would call intelligent and good.
Again, this year, communicating with the remaining followers of Raniere, I am convinced more than ever that they too are good people.
As Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo said, speaking of both those who were once for and now are against Raniere and those who remain loyal to him, “I can say that the people that I’ve met, some of whom testified at the trial… I thought were outstanding people. I thought they were loving, wonderful, sweet, good people, each and every one of them. I haven’t met a bad person yet.”
Could it be that this is Raniere’s true genius, that he could enroll good people into trying to do more good, make them make it their whole life, guiding them, shaping them, encouraging them to believe he was the best guide to their success at being good, truly ethical?
And while he was doing that was he secretly deceiving them and trying to destroy them, as his victims say?
To hear his supporters tell it, he does not have evil intent. He meant all of them good, even those who hate him now, but that his methods were unconventional, unique, edgy. People misunderstood and found themselves blaming him for their lack of understanding or their inability to follow his teachings, they say.
Meantime, there is a new story from the Daily Beast by Nicole Cannon. What caught my attention is how Nxivm was used in the headline: “How My Long Journey to Overcome Sexual Abuse Landed Me in NXIVM.”
Her story focuses on her struggles, leading up to her making what appears to be a low-budget film.
We learn Cannon took what appears to be dozens of different new age, or self-help courses from various groups to try to find contentment. Nxivm was one of many.
Unlike the headline suggests, Cannon did not really quite land in Nxivm. She merely hopped there and left.
Still, I understand the reason it was used in the headline: Nxivm attracts eyeballs and she is, after all, plugging a film.
In the article, Nicole tells readers that she spent 13 years doing or receiving “deep psychological work, analysis, trauma therapy, psychics, gurus, healers and self-improvement courses.”
This, she explains, was in response to childhood sexual trauma. Her mother abandoned her when she was two years old and she was “abused several times by an older cousin at two and subsequently by a male babysitter at the age of four… [M]y father’s colleague … tried to reach inside the leg of my shorts when I was 7, the school janitor… exposed himself to me when I was 10, the modeling agent … intimidated me into taking nude pictures when I was 16, the real estate agent I caught holding up a pair of my dirty panties in the garage of the house we were selling when I was 17, the Hollywood producer I was seated next to at a dinner party in my thirties, who whispered inappropriate things to me unbeknownst to my husband sitting by my side. Why didn’t I say anything? Why didn’t I tell them all to fuck off? Because at two years old, in front of my sleeping grandparents, my abuser whispered, “shhhhhh!” while he hurt me.”
As an adult, Nicole became an actress and married a director. They had two daughters and lived in a “dream home in the Hollywood Hills” but she was unhappy.
“While on the outside I had the perfect life, on the inside I was crawling out of my skin. I didn’t want to abandon my children like my mother did, so I went to India to attend … the Oneness University…
“When I came back to Los Angeles, I had an identity crisis… Over the next 10 years, I continued to seek help in the process of rediscovery, healing, and integration. I found an excellent psychologist. I went to several different energy healers. I learned meditation at Isha Foundation. I even tried plant-medicine therapies like sassafras, psilocybin, and ayahuasca.”
She also took a Nxivm course. And for those who know Nxivm well, it is interesting to hear her tell about her experience.
She writes, “I was Facebook friends with fellow actress Bonnie Piesse, who’s married to Mark Vicente, then one of the senior members at NXIVM. [Bonnie] reached out to me via DM to tell me about the program. I met with Mark for coffee and shared my struggles with feelings of failure in my personal life and career. He told me about the program. Like myself, he had tried several different modalities to achieve a level of self-confidence and success, but said that none of them worked except NXIVM, which he described as being scientific and quantifiable. He explained how EMs (‘Exploration in Meaning’) worked to unravel Pavlovian links that were formed in early childhood. This made sense to me. I understood early programming and brain plasticity. I still had some triggers that were deeply entrenched in the neural pathways of my mind; I just didn’t know how to rewire them. This seemed like the thing that could help…
“The next day I signed up for my first five days of the 16-day program. Very early, I recognized how different this organization was to the other self-help programs I had attended. They had a special handshake, there was a mission statement we all had to stand and say at the beginning of each class, they made us vow not to share any of the curriculum we were learning in the program. I didn’t like the hierarchy of the pyramid scheme and hated having to call Keith Raniere ‘Vanguard.’ Of course, I didn’t state any of this aloud because I didn’t want to be labeled a ‘suppressive’ or a ‘parasite,’ some of the shaming terms that were used for anyone who questioned or disagreed with their philosophies.
“… I found some of the curriculum and tools very effective in helping me integrate the trauma from my past, especially the EMs. I finished out my 16-day course over the next 18 months and left shortly thereafter. During that time, I even held a Jness meeting with Nancy Salzman and Allison Mack at my home in Brentwood. One of the biggest red flags for me was that the organization valued logic above all else and believed anything that came from intuition was founded in your ‘deficiencies’ and should not be trusted. Because of all the deep intuitive work I had already done up to that point in my healing process, I think it was my intuition, the exact thing that they were telling me to mistrust, that stopped me from getting sucked into another abusive relationship.”
After her 16 day intensive, Nicole did not take any more Nxivm courses. She did put her acting on hold, left her marriage, and continued to take self-improvement courses from other groups.
“At Hoffman Process I learned forgiveness,” she writes. “At University of Santa Monica’s Spiritual Psychology Program, I practiced Gestalt Therapy,” and was asked to do a “sacred yes” project.
Finally, her story moves into her decision to make “Transference,” to “tell this story so that my suffering was not in vain. I wrote this movie because there is power in reclaiming your narrative. I wrote it because there is freedom in finding your voice and speaking out against horrible injustice, and I wrote it in hopes it may help other survivors on their path of healing and let them know they are not alone in the journey to recover their lost innocence.”
The reviews are mixed on her film, at Amazon, some calling it about the best film they ever saw, and others panning it severely and claiming the superlative reviews were the product of friends of the filmmaker or the actors. It is surprising to see such disparate reviews, with no middle ground whatsoever.
This is either one of the best or worst films ever made.
Regardless, Nicole’s Daily Beast story is interesting because it describes a woman who spent most of her life with the consciousness of being a victim, and who went to many places to try to find peace.
Nxivm is really not significant in her narrative, certainly nothing that happened there justified it being mentioned in the headline. Hers was an innocuous experience with Nxivm She does not add it to her list of victimizations, nor does she credit it at all to her healing.
Nobody at Nxivm seems to have deceived her or preyed upon her sexually. She got what she paid for – a 16 day intensive – which she apparently took in installments. She evidently did not find it satisfying enough to continue.
She is like probably thousands of others who took the course, got something more or less, then moved along. In her case, moving along meant other self-improvement courses.
Putting Nxivm in the headline is merely, wisely, making use of a trending topic to land a story in a major media outlet and bring attention to her product –her film.
It buttresses the point I made earlier, that Nxivm and Raniere are hot. Whether this is a momentary heat – like say the touch of a cauterizing pen – or whether the scar is permanent, is hard to say.
Perhaps his infamy will continue to grow. Which raises an interesting point: If a Vanguard, or anyone, wanted to be remembered as someone wonderfully great and it turns out he becomes notorious, does he prefer to be forgotten?
If Raniere was given the choice of being forgotten or remembered as evil, what choice would he make? Of course, there are those who believe that time will correct the record – and that their martyr will be known for his noble ideals when humanity evolves.
Meantime, you don’t have to wait to see Nicole Cannon’s film Transference. It is available via Amazon, Google Play, and other providers.
If any readers view it, I would love to hear what you think of the film.
Nicole Cannon’s IMDB page is also worth checking out.