By Eduardo Asunsolo
For a good many years, Nxivm did not reply to the media. This began right after a 2003 story in Forbes, entitled Cult of Personality, was published. The story came out rather differently than Keith Raniere and others from Nxivm who had participated in the story expected.
At that point, Nxivm assumed a general distrust of media that lasted for years. There were two notable exceptions to the “avoid media” policy, which were when Clare and Sara Bronfman retained Frank Parlato to be Nxivm’s publicist in 2007, and he went out and contacted media on Nxivm’s behalf; and again in late 2017 when Keith, Clare, Nancy Salzman, Allison Mack, and others consented to be interviewed by Vanessa Grigoriadis for the New York Times Magazine.
Frank Parlato’s tenure with Nxivm was brief and ultimately turned acrimonious after he was fired. His response was, among other things, to create the Frank Report – which, by an odd turn of events, I am using to present my opinions in 2020.
Vanessa’s story, entitled Inside Nxivm, the ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment, was intended to set the record straight on several issues, some of which, it was hoped, would help clarify and correct erroneous media reports about Keith and others in the group and the sorority named DOS.
The Times Magazine story was not published for months and by the time it finally was, Keith and Allison had already been arrested.
Since that time, there have been literally thousands of stories. written about Nxivm. Frank has a list on this website, but there are many more. Nxivm chose not to respond to any of them.
In fact, it was only recently that supporters of Keith Raniere decided to try a new approach whereby they would respond to correct erroneous statements in published articles.
For me, that approach is that whenever I find a media story about Nxivm that contains errors, I will try to correct the record. Since Frank Report is the go-to location for people interested in the Nxivm story, I think it will be helpful to publish these corrections here.
I will try to limit my opinions in these reports. Most readers know I stand behind Keith Raniere. However, I have made a commitment to examine all the facts – and if I’m wrong about anything, to adjust accordingly.
I ask the same of anyone interested in this issue. I will also ask you to be courteous, even though you may disagree with me. If I am wrong about Keith Raniere and you are right, then, if you care, I welcome you to persuade me. The best way to do that is to use facts and logic, not ad hominem attacks.
If I am brainwashed, as some of you seem to think, the antidote is to get me unwashed. To help me wake up.
The definition of brainwashed is “to make someone believe something by repeatedly telling him or her that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching him or her.”
Well, I am here, ready to listen to any information anyone cares to share. I only ask that it be fact based, not couched in the language of personal attack.
The mistake people make is that they are dogmatic. To persuade is to “successfully urge the acceptance or practice of.” It comes from the Latin persuadere “to bring over by talking.” Not force, not by cancel culture, not declare that you are right because you said so, or through fear or intimidation, but by talking things out.
Now to return to the topic of the media. Much of what people know – or think they know – about Keith and Nxivm is from the media. I will try to demonstrate why accepting the media narrative without scrutiny may lead to extreme errors in perception.
I will use an example, a story in the widely read New York Post. Everyone knows the New York Post is a remarkable publication that has faithfully served its readership for 219 years. It was founded by a man named Alexander Hamilton, who, I suppose, most people have heard of but cannot say much about other than they often carry his picture in their wallet.
The Post is presently owned by another delightful figure, Rupert Murdoch – and it is not unfair to say that the Post is not only informative but it’s wildly entertaining, just like some people think of the Nxivm story.
However, as great as the New York Post is, it often contains some information that is erroneous.
In an article published today, entitled: Allison Mack files for divorce from wife Nicki Clyne. I found several errors.
The Post wrote of, “members being forcibly branded with Raniere’s initials, federal prosecutors charged.”
There were no charges of women being “forcibly branded.” Prosecutors did allege that women were deceptively branded by not being told about the meaning of the brand. However, deception and force are not the same. This is a serious distinction.
The Post reported: “[Nicki Clyne] insisted in the court papers that NXIVM was merely ‘a group of women who sought guidance from a trusted and intelligent man, and created a secret sorority for women that implemented some somewhat unconventional practices in the pursuit of growth and personal freedom.’
Clyne was not referring to Nxivm but to DOS, a women’s group. Nxivm had male and female members.
The Post reported: “Some women in the group were also made to wear fake cow udders on their bare breasts in acts of ritual humiliation, prosecutors said.”
While it’s a salacious image – bare breasted women wearing cow udders to be humiliated in some sort of pagan secret sex slave ritual – it is simply not true.
According to several members of DOS, no women ever wore fake cow udders. The source of the story, Sylvie, testified at the trial of Keith Raniere that at a Society of Protectors class there was “a prize-giving ceremony where they pretended the women were like cows in a county fair because, apparently, they had their boobs on show too much. So they were given like rosettes and prizes. It was prizes for their “utter-type things as cows.”
The Society of Protectors is primarily a men’s group, though women attended some courses, after asking SOP to please develop a curriculum for women as well. I was a member of SOP.
Sylvie did not say they wore cow udders, let alone wore them over bare breasts and it is essential to note that this never took place.
She said there were prizes given. The point of the prizes was to illustrate a concept that women who unbutton and unzip to deliberately flaunt their cleavage with or without the intent to attract male attention may excite lust but they do not necessarily engender respect.
Another point I think they were trying to make is that if men did the same thing it would be ridiculous.
For instance, as writer Cynthia Gorney wrote, “Looking hot is clearly a major part of [Jennifer Lopez or Katherine Heigl’s] job description. This is also true for exotic dancers. You will not see me raising a single eyebrow about an exotic dancer walking around with two-inch cleavage. When you’re in an office, though, the image you’re supposed to convey is ‘I’m here to do my job.'”
In SOP, it was not about women being humiliated. Men and women alike came to SOP to receive feedback that they likely wouldn’t receive elsewhere that would help them to better understand how they are being perceived by others. This feedback was to help them in their lives, their relationships, and their careers.
For instance, men who were typically very punishing were given a little baseball bat to carry around. People who acted like babies were given pacifiers. Both men and women who acted entitled were given little princess crowns.
SOP pushed people and people came to SOP to be pushed. The same way people go to Barry’s Boot Camp class or to a tough football coach to become their best. It was edgy and blatant and people often described it as an experience that helped them more than anything in their lives. You do not have to approve of the teachings. But get the facts straight.
There never was an udder used as a prop. Women were never bare chested in class. On the contrary, they were asked to wear loose clothing to keep sex and sexuality out of the process and for them to have more of a male experience, something the women who requested to be included in SOP had asked for.
But, yes, men and women were often deliberately humbled to show them their foibles.
You got pushed on at SOP, It was about breaking one’s pride. And it was no secret.
In the very first video, Keith asks the women of SOP what level of pushing they want on a scale of 1 to 10. He points out that 10 would be treating them just like they treat the men. Unlike the men in SOP, all the women got to choose how much they wanted to push.
Finally, in the New York Post story is a wonderful picture of Nicki to complete the impression. It is from a scene in her TV series Battlestar Gallactica, where she was captured. She looks sad and beaten as if she was a slave.
Of course, there is no caption to explain that the photo is not Nicki Clyne in Nxivm or DOS, but rather Nicki, the actress, playing a role.
Here is a more recent picture that is more representative of her today.