An important commenter on the Frank Report, Erasend, had something to say on the topic of NXIVM and gender. Since Erasend is anonymous, I do not know his or her gender. However, it seems that whenever we come to an end of an era, there are those who seem to know it, while others are unclear about change that is occurring.
Guest View by Erasend
Not really sure of the point of the article It Was Women Who Ran NXIVM — Don’t Blame Patriarchy or ‘Grooming’ for What Cult Did
I guess the author, Aristotle’s Sausage, takes offense to the attempt to make the NXIVM story gender politics when the reality is it’s simply human nature and the negative effects of hero-worshipping.
One writer opined, “The primary difference between a cult and, say, religion is: you can leave a religion without penalty. You cannot leave a cult (without penalty).”
In theory, this is true.
NXIVM (using the Scientology model) collected dirt on the followers, making it clear that dirt could be used against them if they left or spoke out of turn. That is a penalty. But the counterargument is religions make it clear your immortal soul (or variations of) is doomed if you leave.
Which penalty is worse depends on your level of belief. Both have the penalty of estrangement from friends and family still within the cult/religion but a cult usually makes it a requirement, a religion does not.
A religion also has people hero-worship a dead… let’s call “non-corporeal being”… while a cult encourages worshiping a central, alive, usually male person that is among them.
Interestingly, Scientology rides the middle in a lot of ways because, after all, most followers don’t have the finances to even reach the point to find out they are worshipping a being called Xenu. A very real argument could be made that cults and religions are more alike than different and the only difference is one of degrees and how some policies are implemented.
In any case, central to both is hero worship. Hero worship can lead to great things but the reality is it usually just leads to damaging and stupid things. A good example, that happened Friday, is two people got arrested for engaging in a plan to commit terrorism for their hero Donald Trump.
They had no interaction with Trump; they were not groomed by him. He sure didn’t tell them to attempt this plan. He probably still doesn’t know they exist despite the headlines. Yet, because of their hero worship, they were willing to kill for him. This is a critical part of how a religion/cult can function. In most cases, that hero-worshipping is used for monetary purposes (super churches should own their own private planes after all) but it’s also used to accumulate power (see all of history), or sex (see Keith).
It doesn’t require actual active participation of those that benefit most to work. However, in a religion invoking the being is usually enough.
In a cult though, it requires finding trusted lieutenants, the right believers, to do most of the dirty work on their behalf such as
- Allison Mack
- Nancy Salzman
- Lauren Salzman
- Clare Bronfman
- Sara Bronfman
Keith somehow sought them out as only predators know how to do.
A key aspect of hero worship is asking the question “How do they benefit?”
If you really look at it, they don’t.
That is a key way to know their actions are hero-worship-based and not based on something as simple as greed. They get the “satisfaction” of doing what they think is “the lord’s work” (or hero’s work) and knowing that is reward enough.
This person said “Women can be blindly ambitious just like men.”
Well no shit.
Except no clue what ambition the writer is referring to. The money aspect is nonsense too.
Its an excuse to desperately try to fill in the gaps of understanding, otherwise we might have to analyze what would they do if their religious leaders called on them to take some questionable actions (if I recall, many religions, including Christian religions, made use of branding among other things at one time or another).
None of the women of NXIVM gained any financial windfall that anyone has discovered. Two of them were very rich and whatever income NXIVM added to their wealth was a pittance compared to the fortune they already controlled.
The NXIVM inner-circle had “power” within their little community and I am sure they enjoyed that thrill but if that is blind ambition, it sure was wasted.
Helping Keith groom a child didn’t help themselves, going on extreme diets didn’t help themselves, so on and so forth. No matter how I look at it, the inner-circle of NXIVM did not benefit in a tangible way except for knowing they were doing the good work of their hero and for them, that was reward enough (aka “the lord’s work”).
It’s possible to be both the victim and perpetrator at the same time, despite your India Oxenbergs of the NXIVM cult trying to pretend otherwise. The inner circle and those they ordered around are both.
Keith isn’t both.
The only “pure” victims of the cult were the low-level followers that never rose high enough to get Keith or the inner circle’s attention, and simply paid out for useless courses and did little else for the cult, for which I am sure they hate being tricked but glad to have avoided all the other drama.
The inner-circle members are both for worshipping Keith’s pathetic ass to the point they ceased to see any moral lines they were crossing for they were for him and thus must be good. Those that followed the inner circle are also both, but to a lesser degree, but they still played their parts. There were plenty of times they knew what they were doing was not right and ignored that inner voice until it got too close to home.
Never forget it was male outrage at the branding that started the ball rolling, not the branding event itself that caused Keith’s end.
So to the post’s primary conclusion: “Women were the brains, the financier, and the entrepreneurs of Nxivm/DOS. Raniere was the sponge” is not wrong, but it also just encourages the gender politics of it all.
The sex of those involved really has nothing to do with it other than for Keith; he knew he was more successful at manipulating women. It’s really just simple human nature and the negative impact of what happens when people place someone on a pedestal and decide they are “more” than others, eventually concluding that if they do/want a thing, by default, it must be good.
We see it every day in politics, in social media, in sports, celebrity BS, and so on. The way people make excuses for bad behavior or wave it away as ok because their hero did it when otherwise they would be angry if anyone else did anything like it. We don’t call it a cult or religion, but it’s there nonetheless.
If NXIVM is a lesson in anything, it’s the danger in hero-worshipping.