By Suneel Chakravorty
Since then, readers of Frank Report have had a wide range of responses, some accusing me of being a brainless apologist, while others found merit in points I made.
In addition to my analysis of Keith’s brilliant ‘Call to Action’ essay, K.R. Claviger has done his own multi-part analysis.
- Claviger: Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated? – Part I: Was He Illegally Kidnapped in Mexico, Was His Arrest in the U.S. Illegal, and /or Was He Illegally Isolated From His Family & Friends?
- Claviger: Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated? – Part II: Did the EDNY Have Proper Jurisdiction – and/or Was the Denial of Bail Improper?
- Claviger: Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated? – Part III: Were Domino Pleas of Co-Defendants, a RICO Charge, and a Hasty Jury Improper?
- Claviger: Pyramids, Abortions, and Kinky Sex Life of Victim — Were Keith’s Legal Rights Violated? – Part IV
This is the first in a series in which I’ll examine Claviger’s analysis.
I start with Claviger’s analysis of the prosecution’s use of the word ‘Pyramid” to describe Raniere’s businesses.
TO SCHEME OR NOT TO SCHEME?
Keith’s argument is that the prosecution’s using the word “pyramid” to describe businesses he created was an example of how “hate” and prejudice was used in his case:
“I supposedly create ‘pyramid organizations’ — different from normal ‘organizations’… The implication is somehow ‘pyramid’ is improper: I am at the ‘top’ or ‘apex’, control everything unchecked, in some ‘sinister’ and unspecified way… This label, ‘pyramid’, is a raw conduit for hate. The prosecution believes they ‘need’ to apply this hate because it increases their chance of ‘winning’. Shouldn’t the application of hate be abhorrent? Should the prosecution even be concerned about ‘winning’? What does the application of the hate-label ‘pyramid’ have to do with the pursuit of truth? Doesn’t hate obscure the truth? Don’t I, as the defendant, deserve an approach free of hate or mockery?”
In an attempt to debunk Keith’s argument, Claviger writes, “I’m not quite sure why Keith believes that there was any ‘hate’ involved in the prosecution’s decision to describe NXIVM/ESP as a pyramid organization.’”
Claviger incredibly claims that “pyramid organization” does not have a negative connotation, and cites a Bizfluent article that suggests the term is neutral.
I can agree that “pyramid” does not always, necessarily, in every single instance, have a negative connotation when people use it to describe someone’s business. But I would say it does have a decidedly negative connotation in nine out of 10 cases — and I would not look too closely into the 10th case either.
I mean it is patently ridiculous for Claviger to suggest that the prosecution saying that Raniere operates a “pyramid organization” was an innocent effort to describe the companies accurately and honestly and not meant to be negative and create prejudice against Raniere.
And we all know the word that typically follows pyramid is “scheme!”
To illustrate this, if I tell you right now about a company that is a pyramid organization how do you feel about it? Would you like to join it? Care to work there? Exactly.
The question is, what did the prosecution mean by “pyramid”? Were they simply explaining in neutral language the geometry of the NXIVM/DOS organizational structure? That the pyramid structure was “natural because there are far fewer leaders than workers, so … it is shaped like a pyramid,“ as the Bizfluent article describes a pyramid?
No, of course not. Raniere was not charged with running a pyramid scheme. Yet look at the prosecution’s public statement about the case, EDNY press release from March 26, 2018
In the press release, there are four uses of “pyramid” and they are all untrue and unfair and not relevant to the charges.
- “[Raniere] allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme.
- “Nxivm maintains features of a pyramid scheme, as its courses cost thousands of dollars each and participants (“Nxians”) are encouraged to pay for additional classes, and to recruit others to take classes, in order to rise within the ranks of Nxivm.”
- Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid.
- “Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid. Other than the [sic] Raniere, all members of DOS were women.”
[Whether the above statements are accurate and valid, I will try to address in a future article.]
In #2, the prosecution uses the word “pyramid” in connection with “pyramid scheme”, which according to Wikipedia, is a type of business model “that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products,” and is often illegal. This connotation is clearly negative.
Furthermore, the “features of a pyramid scheme” the prosecution lists are common to many companies and in themselves not illegal.
In #4, in saying that “Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid,” the prosecution is combining the negative meaning of “pyramid scheme” with the hierarchical structure, and they are using the word “alone” to imply, I assume, abuse of unchecked power.
Do CEOs not stand alone? Why is it necessary for them to even state this?
The next line, stating that all the other members of DOS were women, while true, has nothing to do with hierarchical structure and, in my opinion, doubles down on the implication of abuse.
Some readers may completely miss the point and say, “Well, there was abuse!” The point here is that the prosecution used the word “pyramid” to imbue Keith with sinister, criminal intent before evidence had been presented.
As an aside, the claim of abuse may or may not be true. Clearly a jury of Keith’s peers believed it to be true and proven. However, my current opinion, based on sitting through the trial, is that Keith did not abuse the women of DOS.
Let me also relieve Claviger of his confusion as to why Keith believes the prosecution’s use of “pyramid” was a “raw conduit of hate.”
What Keith means by “hate” is that the prosecution used the word pyramid to inspire hatred or dislike of him by tapping into the common associations people make with the term, e.g. scam artist, fraudster, or Ponzi scheme.
Note that Keith was not charged with running a Ponzi or pyramid scheme.
I do agree with Claviger that the prosecution manipulating perception this way – as dishonest and unjust as it is – is likely not sufficient grounds for appeal. However, it does beg the question, why was it necessary to insinuate anything at all?
If Keith is the criminal they claim, why not simply list, point by point, his criminal conduct and let the facts speak for themselves?