What is Frank Report’s fascination with brainwashing?
There is no charge in the Keith Raniere case related to “brainwashing.”
I doubt very much that it appears in the Government’s sentencing recommendation, or any submission related to sentencing, or the judge’s order sentencing Allison Mack.
Authors seem to like it because “brainwashing” can be given whatever definition they like, and then “debunked,” thus showing how smart they are.
It’s fun to demolish a straw man.
What are these modern-day inquisitors trying to say, other than “I’m much smarter and wiser than Judge Garaufis”?
I think their point is that the social pressures, coercive methods and traumas built into the NXIVM system should not count in mitigation. If they just said that, we could have “a sensible discussion of these things and draw meaningful contrasts and comparisons.”
Or we could talk about the Unabomber and how this mentally ill person’s conspiracy theory was not accepted by courts or psychologists.
Take that, Alison Mack. Case closed.
Of course, social pressures, coercive methods and traumas are routinely considered by judges in our system of justice. They typically don’t present to this degree, and when they do, the facts are tremendously complicated, so apples-to-apples comparisons are tricky. Courts sentence a person based on the totality of the circumstances and principles of justice, of which comparisons are only one piece of the puzzle. There is much, much more to this than asking “brainwashed or not?”
It certainly seems like the inquisitors are misunderstanding the importance of knowledge and intent in sentencing. One of the core considerations in crafting a sentence is the intent to harm. This is why a drunk driver can get 10 years for hitting a pedestrian, but someone who intentionally runs a guy over will get 50 years.
Specific intent to harm is critical in sentencing.
The evidence of NXIVM teachings, pressures, and coercions are incredibly relevant here because they go directly to that point. The defendants believed (or, at least, say that they believed) that what they were doing was good. And not just good for Keith or themselves, but for the other members and recruits. They believed their teachings were helpful, not harmful. This renders the argument about “brainwashing” pretty immaterial. What matters for sentencing is their genuine, good faith belief about the harm they were causing. And beyond doubt, beliefs are shaped by things like societal pressures, selective teachings, and the like. Considering these things is necessary to evaluate the genuineness of their beliefs.
There is a ton of evidence on these points, but here is the best evidence in my opinion. Alison, Lauren, and the rest wanted, at bottom, to recruit people into the same life that they had.
They didn’t ask anyone to give what they weren’t giving, or to assume any burden that they hadn’t already assumed. Money on demand, sex on demand, slavish devotion to authority – Alison Mack thought this was a GREAT life because, if she didn’t, she wouldn’t want it for herself. Of course, she didn’t want her recruits to rise higher than she did, but she certainly wanted them to be just like her – a slave to the higher power.
We might compare this to other criminal organizations, like a street gang. The gang sells drugs. Members don’t think that customers will be improved by taking drugs.
Or maybe the gang hijacks trucks. They don’t think it helps the truckers. And so we don’t care, particularly, why they are a member of the gang. Many gang members will tell judges that they are in gangs because they need money, or because they grew up in the gang and were taught that gangs are good. These things don’t matter much unless they negate knowledge or intent to harm. But if someone was taught that heroin was medicine, and could prove that to a judge’s satisfaction, this would be evidence in mitigation.
So the whole idea of “brainwashing” is a red herring. It relieves the person of the tiring task of considering all the evidence in light of the statutory and constitutional factors, like the judge had to, and enables an easy judgment purportedly justified by science.