Skip to main content

Calling BS On The Vow

 Like a great many others, I recently watched “The Vow”, a documentary series about the NXIVM personal growth cult, with a mix of curiosity and incredulity. As a child in the 70s, I watched the tragedy in Jonestown play out on the nightly news and have been intrigued by cults ever since. Strangely enough, there were two cults operating in my hometown a few years back, so there was always some easy research at hand.

NXIVM appeared to be an executive-level self improvement group on the surface but things got weird. Submission, late night calls from the leader, eventually women branding themselves with a symbol that no one bothered to look closely at and see the founder’s and an associate’s initials incorporated into the design. Like I said, weird.

The members weren’t the downtrodden that Jim Jones preyed upon; NXIVM recruited the wealthy and educated, all the better to give the group image a boost. 

This is where my call of BS radar beeped.

One of the members was a filmmaker named Mark Vicente, of “What The Bleep Do We Know?” fame. In one scene, a discussion with actress and mother to a member Catherine Oxenberg, who recalled learning Vicente’s wife slept on the floor at her husband’s command, given by the cult leader, for her sin of doubting the group. Vicente then angrily exclaims “We didn’t join a cult! Nobody joins a cult!” Ranting further, he then demands a change of subject.

This is where my BS radar screamed.

Vicente wasn’t a regular member. He was brought in to make a film about the group and its leader, Keith Raniere, to counter bad press springing up due to lawsuits and such. To simplify, he was a hired gun propagandist. In time, he became a member and rapidly climbed the executive ladder, all while willfully submitting to Raniere, or “Vanguard” as he was known. It was Keith/Vanguard who instructed Vicente to make his wife sleep on the floor for having doubts about the group, and Vicente followed the order

This is what makes me call BS. Vicente had to know from what he was filming that NXIVM was a cult, and joined anyway. Throwing money, titles, and time with Vanguard probably helped ease the process. 

If anyone wants to debate my theory, meet me at the Yellow Deli for a sandwich. Later we can go handle snakes. Just don’t offer any grape Flavor Aid from a 55 gallon drum.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

In Memorium: Shaun Mullen, A Most Generous Man

Author, editor, blogger, and so much more Shaun Mullen has passed. Noting his blog  Kiko's House  hadn't been updated in a while, I did a search and discovered his  obituary . My friendship with Shaun goes back to 2006. While living in Australia, I'd discovered his blog when searching for informed commentary on US foreign policy in the Middle East. Sadly, much of that policy remains unchanged 14 years later, but that is for another post. Shaun  had noticed that his blog wasn't rendering correctly in Internet Explorer and asked if anyone could suggest a fix. I, being a bit of a tech head at the time, suggested Firefox or similar browser, and the problem was solved. We kept in and out of touch, finding common ground in music (I mentioned my love for the Grateful Dead and Shaun sent a dozen CDs of concert recordings. By International mail. The man was generous to a fault.), worldview, and more. My old site got its greatest number of hits when Shaun linked to a few of m

Finding Adventure In A Google-Mapped World

Technology has made our world a smaller place, a place less mysterious and perilous. Where once one had to travel to see a destination, now we simply look it up and look at pictures. This is both an advantage and a loss, and I'll try to explain in the paragraphs that follow.  Gone are the days of grand adventure, of heading off into the unknown. While it is true one can set off on a small, personal adventure, you're never too far away from information that can remove obstacles and inconveniences from your path, but remember those things are part of the path , and to remove them removes at least some of the adventure.  So, what to do? I suggest doing what technology regularly does: miniaturize.  Get to know your local area. You may think you already know it, but a few minutes of online research will have you raising your eyebrows. For example, I recently learned an old bridge just a short distance from home holds the distinction of being the oldest bridge still in use in the cou

A Black Swan Of My Very Own!

 One week ago, I, along with all employees of the print division of Brown Industries, was summoned to a meeting. Tensions were high and fear was palpable, as work had been slow for several weeks. Layoffs, it seemed, were to be announced.  If only it were so simple. Speaking through a poorly set up PA system, one of the two CEOs announced that funding that had been sought had fallen through and the company could no longer sustain operating costs. Brown Industries, inventor of the carpet sample industry and economic juggernaut for more than 60 years, would permanently suspend operations.  I was suddenly unemployed.  All were stunned. A short Q&A session took place in which we were reassured this wasn't the fault of labor, this was a failure on the management level. Cold comfort, to say the least. My immediate coworkers and I returned to our desks and began filling boxes with photos and other personal effects. I was reminded of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and seeing fo