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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.

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