Sometimes, Justice Happens

Keith Raniere, Leader of Nxivm Sex Cult, Is Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison
Of course, like a typical, entitled, cult-leader, narcissist …

“When the authorities finally arrested Mr. Raniere in 2018, he was at a luxury villa near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, hiding in a closet. He was living with several women from Nxivm.”

He has complained that the judge overseeing the case is “crazy.” In a prison phone call in April, Mr. Raniere told one of his supporters that the judge “needs to know he’s being watched,” according to prosecutors.”

“Still, Mr. Raniere carries no remorse and will not be seeking forgiveness, his lawyers said. He has accused the judge of corruption and demanded a new trial.

“In recent months, Mr. Raniere has spearheaded a campaign to overturn his conviction, directing his supporters to create a podcast about his case and set up a contest to find errors in his prosecution in exchange for a $25,000 cash prize.”

Speaking of Cults, learn about this QAnon Escapee …

Hi Everyone,
I hope that you’re managing to stay sane, healthy and safe. I feel lucky that I can say two of those three items are true for me … my sanity, I’m not so sure about.

I just read this CNN article and thought it worth pointing out: He went down the QAnon rabbit hole for two years. Here’s how he got out.

I boiled down what I feel all ex-members can relate to:

* Jadeja said he was in the midst of a 15 year struggle to finish his degree. He’d pulled away from friends and become socially isolated. “I just felt completely overwhelmed… I was probably in a deep depression I think when I found Q,” he says.

*Jadeja perused websites that aggregated posts supposedly from Q, … then he’d read the interpretations of from other believers. These interpretations are popular among the QAnon community because posts from “Q” are often so vague that they can be read in any number of ways. The tactic tends to lure in supporters the way fraudulent psychics can — there’s little solid information given, so almost anything can be taken as confirmation of a pronouncement by “Q.”

*QAnon was all he wanted to talk about. That made life offline increasingly difficult for him, and he pulled away from friends.

*”I think superficially it did seem like [QAnon] gave me comfort,” Jadeja said. “I didn’t realize the nefarious kind of impact it was having on me because it was very insidious how it slowly disconnected me from reality.”

*Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, said QAnon preys on vulnerable people.”I think it’s a mistake to say that QAnon is a conspiracy theory, because this kind of makes it sound like Area 51 or Big Foot,” he said. “It’s a community of people that radicalizes them into a world view, that just essentially detaches them from reality.”

*After two years in the world of QAnon, Jadeja said, cracks began to form in his conviction. He said, he was noticing more logical inconsistencies in QAnon’s theories.

*As his doubts mounted, he decided to research and saw that that information he’d once seen as irrefutable, was simply coincidence. That was a turning point for him.“It was the worst feeling I had in my life,” Jadeja said. 

*Looking back, Jadeja said, he doesn’t think there is a single relationship in his life that wasn’t affected by his time believing in QAnon. “It’s destroyed some of them to this day. It’s strained a lot of them to this day.” But there’s one thing in particular that he regrets the most: sharing QAnon with his father. CNN reached out to Jadeja’s father multiple times for a comment but he did not respond.

The takeaway – if you’re reading this post, you probably know how this happens. So don’t let friends fall down the batshit crazy QAnon rabbit hole.

The Vow – the HBO DocuSeries about Nxivm

At times, I have referred to “School” as Cult Lite. This docu-series depicts Cult Heavy, i.e. NXIVM, a group that pulled out all the stops when it comes to the worst abuses. But what makes this show worth watching is that the filmmakers wanted to get beyond the salacious details.

You see, Cult Heavy and Cult Lite used exactly the same emotional and social manipulation. And the most important thing to understand about cults is how these parasitic groups leverage our natural social and emotional wiring for selfish gain.

Cult Heavy generated a lot of attention when the New York Times broke the NXIVM story — a cult leader that touted women’s empowerment while simultaneously trafficking some of the members and, in the most sensational cases, branding some of them. Last June a court convicted Keith Raniere of multiple crimes and his sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27th.

Yet The Vow’s producers recognized that, while salacious details garner attention, they obscure the most important message: how impressionable and vulnerable we are.

Humans are hardwired to seek acceptance and community. Con-artist over the centuries, those with well-honed radars for vulnerabilities, have used this wiring for selfish gain. We need to both understand those vulnerabilities and recognize when to say no, or run away, or tell a manipulator to fuck off.

So, for what it’s worth, if you want to understand how cults work, if you want to protect yourself and those that you love from selfish and abusive people, I recommend watching The Vow.

More Cohen on the tRump cult

Cults dress up in various bells and whistles, customized to attract a target audience. But when boiled down to fundamental social dynamics, they are all the same: group manifestations of the top malignant narcissist’s delusions, irony, hypocrisy, & gaslighting.

The difference between “sChool” & the tRump cult is:
* sChool pretended to offer benevolence, promoting better-ness through ideas.
*In contrast, although when his lips are flapping donny is lying, what you see is what you get: a sociopathic, 2-bit conman & scumbag, as the world witnessed at this week’s “debate”.

If you admire him for conning his way to the top, and are living for the moment’s that daddy is “sticking it to the ‘libtards’ “, remember that Mr. Cohen wound up in prison, taking one for the team & the team didn’t care. With daddy denying Covid19, you could end up dead & daddy wouldn’t care. So, as a cautionary tale, I present more Cohen quotes about the tRump cult:

P.153-4: ” … think about it like being under the spell of a cult leader … How did Jim Jones get his followers in Guyana to drink the poisoned Kool-Aid … Jones took control of the minds of those drawn to him, not all at once but gradually, over time, by luring them into his mind. ‘Stop drinking the Kool Aid,’ we would say to each other at the tRump Organization all the time.”

” …tRump would say so many things that were illogical or just plain bullshit, as we consciously would know, but we would stay on his message, even though we knew it was nonsense. We would repeat what he said, as if it were true, and then we’d repeat the message to one another so often that we would actually begin to believe the distortion ourselves.”

“This mind meld is what I see every day as I sit in prison watching the nightly news from the White House. … Think of all the responsible and conservative and moral, even devoutly religious tRump supporters not just rationalizing or explaining away his transparent dishonesty, but actually turning it upside down and saying it’s perfectly normal.

“There was also a fever-pitched desire to please that made me sycophantic.

“…tRump is a master at getting otherwise seemingly sensible people to enter into his fantasy land because of the fear that failure to do so means banishment. This explains the behavior of so many members of Congress and the Cabinet… Once the small lies and delusions pass, then it became easier and easier to swallow bigger and bigger lies.

Yep. That’s how it works. Looks and quacks like a cult.

Michael Cohen on the Trump Cult

Hi Folks,
Obviously, I haven’t been blogging lately, but I started listening to Disloyal on Audibles and feel compelled to share quotes from it. Cohen’s description of his intoxication with the tRump cult sounds familiar.

He describes “obsession” and “worship,” saying the pull was “…physical, emotional, not quite spiritual but a deep longing that only tRump filled for me … around tRump I felt excited, alive, like he possessed the only urgent truth, the chance for my salvation and success in life.”

… tRump’s antic, he wrote, “seemed mystical,” calling himself, “… a junkie who needed a fix.” 

At one point he described when daddy donny trotted him through a throng of adoring Apprentice fans, saying, “…the entire spectacle had been staged for my benefit… it was part of a performance meant to draw me into Trump’s centrifuge … precisely the way a con man draws a mule… into his world….”

Cohen says tRump “tRump seems to inhabit a different reality…” and was offering that reality to him, “…all I had to do was do what I was told with out question. I lept at it. “

He characterizes himself as an “acolyte … a willing participant in a fantasy that heightened my senses and my sense of self.” 

Eventually … describes himself, “falling under Trump’s spell…” to the point that ” … I had not only bullied a perfect stranger … but I did it with gusto and utter lack of conscience. Filled with pride, I didn’t wonder what lay ahead or what other moral and ethical and ultimately other criminal boundaries I would cross. Nor did I consider that Trump was testing my fealty and submissiveness the way a gang leader assesses a new recruit, giving the wannabe small crimes to commit to see if he will act without question or concern for his own well being. Trump was like a mafia don. … I wanted to be his solider in the worst way and I was ready to pass any test in my path.”

When it came to birth-erism, tRump’s obsessive & racists attacks on Barack Obama, Cohen says, ” … I didn’t just passively NOT protest tRump’s transparently false accusations against Obama, I actively, rabidly, incessantly, insistently repeated the lies and innuendo, knowing in my heart that it was wrong, but unable to stop myself … THAT IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LOSE CONTROL OF YOUR MIND. YOU ACTUALLY GIVE UP YOUR COMMON SENSE, SENSE of DECENCY, SENSITIVITY, even your GRIP ON REALITY. It was like HAVING a MENTAL ILLNESS …the fact that I DEPARTED REALITY in my desire to PLEASE the BOSS meant that I really and truly had TAKEN LEAVE OF MY SENSES…. I had convinced myself that I was in on the joke with the boss, in truth, the real joke was on me.”

Ouch. He also says that his wife and children begged him to stop working for tRump. “But I wouldn’t listen. I gradually gave up control of my life to tRump.” 

We see that every sycophant in the tRump orbit acting the same way. If it looks like a cult and quacks like a cult, it’s a cult.


A Nod to school, and other “4th Way” cults from Cultic Studies hero, Margaret Singer

In the spirit of self-empowerment through education, and to veer briefly away from our globally shared trauma, called coronavirus made worse by incompetence and corruption from the White House, and connected propaganda outlets, Faux News and the Trump cult (RIP Republican Party) , today I wanted to share a little tidbit from Margaret Singer’s book, Cults in Our Midsts.

On page 43, in a chapter on the history of cults, she outlined a brand of cult that developed in the 70s, spiritual cults ” … cults to expand awareness”.

School definitely falls in this category: “Personal spiritual experiences were uprooted, aided by talismans and seers. Potions, oils, crystals …. became the tools of the breed of pied pier that led these groups. As is not the case in other categories, many female leaders flourished here … the California-based Fellowship of Friends and certain other “Fourth-Way” groups whose teachings are based on the works of G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. 

Sound familiar, Sharon, Robert?

Ms. Singer was a hero. You can learn more about her in this New York Times tribute:

Brilliant Article …

Hey all – just needed to share this article: None of This Is Normal

Here’s a quote from it: “It wasn’t normal in 2016 when Trump was elected.
And we are a thousand — a hundred thousand — miles from normal now.

And yet, we’re expected to carry on, like we can respond to this with increased normalcy as a counterbalance. Writers will write more. We can cook more. We can clean and organize more. We have a lot of free time now and so we will use it, like industrious ants, like worker bees. But that’s bullshit. It’s not easy to just “carry on.” It’s like sitting at your desk at work and seeing a co-worker suddenly hike down his pants and shit in his little trash can. You can’t simply shrug that off and be like, “That Gary always finds his own path!” and then keep filling in the fucking spreadsheet on the screen in front you. A man just shat in a trashcan in the next goddamn cubicle. You have to acknowledge that. You have to stop and deal with that.”

It goes on from there. Enjoy!

Tips for Sanity and Safety

“You don’t have to be scared and you can protect your family,”
Dr. David Price.

Hi Everyone, 

I hope that you are home, healthy and safe. I wanted to share some helpful information. First, if you’re tired of hearing bad news, and need a calming voice to help you manage stress right now, try this podcast out: Unlocking Us with Brené BrownConversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with more courage and heart.

I really like Brene Brown. She’s smart, grounded and centered. Her work is rooted in social science research. She’s worth a try. 

Secondly, speaking of calming voices, recently I listened to ICU doctor, David Price, from New York City, offer simple, sane and helpful advice about how to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.  He wants empower us with facts and tamp down the panic. He says that if you understand the basics of this disease, you will also understand why the following steps can keep you healthy and flatten the curve of this pandemic. 

Basically, if you wash your hands and avoid touching your face, you mitigate risk significantly. 

Here’s why. After months of dealing with coronavirus the medical world understands the disease much better. First … 

About the Illness, Itself: 

  1. First, what is Covid19:  it is a virus that comes from the common cold family but is new to humans. Our bodies don’t know how to protect us from it, yet. Common symptoms include fever, cough & sore throat. Some have reported loss of taste. The virus works its way through the body and the lungs are most adversely effected – that’s why people with asthma need to be especially careful. About 80% of people who get the Coronavirus, just don’t feel good for roughly a week, and then recover. 
  2. Duration: typically, it lasts 5 days to 14 days. Most people start feeling better around day 5. People who aren’t recovering typically get short of breath in days 3 to 5 but do start to feel better around the 7-day mark. But shortness of breath does signal – call your doctor.
  3. How it spreads: according to this doctor, the most common spread of Covid19 comes from sustained contact with someone who has been infected, in other words, either people with fever or aches, or people who are about to get sick within one to two days. Sustained contact means 15 to 30 minutes in a contained space. Additionally, the transmission most commonly occurs from hands to face contact. The overwhelming majority of transmission occurs from one person touching someone else who has either has the virus or is about to develop it in the next one to two days and then touches his/her face. 

    It’s unclear whether this disease can be transmitted through the air, but medical professionals currently believe that this aerosol transmission would require 15-30 minutes of contact with the sick person in a closed room, without a mask. 

Practical Protective Measures: Small Acts that make a Big Difference: 

1) Clean hands equal healthy person. Know where your hands are and keep them clean at all times. Just keep washing your hands. Additionally if you need to go out keep sanitizer with you. Purell after you touch doorknobs, elevator buttons, grocery carts, etc. Typically, coronavirus does not get transmitted simply from touching something that an infected person touched before, but, as Dr. Price advises, “out of an abundance of caution we also make sure that everything we touch, we’re cleaning our hands.”  

2) REPEAT, AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE: this is much easier said than done. We all need to grow awareness of and change that habit. Some professionals have recommended wearing masks, just to break us of the face-touching habit. You don’t need a medical-grade mask to change your behavior. Please leave those to the medical professionals who are busting their butts to save the rest of us.  

3) Repeat: Since Covid19 definitely spreads from sustained contact with someone who has been infected or is about to get sick, the social distancing is critical – so, stay home as much as possible and limit face to face contact to those in your immediate vicinity. 

When you grocery shop bring Purell with you, keep 3-6 feet of distance between you & other shoppers, use the Clorox wipes provided to clean off carts and Purell your hands like crazy after you open doors, push carts, touch the ATM pad, etc.

4) Shrink your social circle: every person that you come across has two or three other contacts. Find your isolation group, i.e. family, or housemates and set boundaries. Large social circles pose the most risk. If you need to maintain contacts outside of that circle, for your mental health, use the phone, use Facetime, or other online meeting applications. 

What to do if you, or a family member, gets sick: most cases transmit through home & family contact. So, here are three simple guidelines from this video: 

1) If you, or a loved one, develops a fever, but are otherwise fine, isolate the patient in a separate room, away from the rest of the family. Ideally, the affected person should use a separate bathroom and set of dishes. If the person has to be in a room with others Dr. Price suggests that he or she wears a mask. And, again, wash your hands, don’t touch your face. 

2) If you have a cold, and aren’t sure if it’s Covid 19, take the precautions for one to two days. Isolate. If you’re feeling better within that timeframe, you don’t have Covid 19. 

3) Important exceptions: vulnerable populations – people over 60, people recently treated with chemotherapy, people with underlying conditions like asthma or compromised immune systems. 

4) When do I go the hospital? If you have shortness of breath – if you can’t get up and go to the bathroom without getting winded, go to hospital. 

“When you understand this disease and know exactly what to do to prevent getting it, it allows us for the next couple of weeks to months to sustain the system that we have … if you can protect yourself and you know that your family is safe, I think that is incredibly empowering,” Dr. David Price.

Here’s Dr. Price if you want to watch it yourself.

Podcast Recommendation …

Here’s another interview with Steve Hassan that offers lots of great info. It’s his second with the podcast, Trumpcast. I really like this journalist, Virginia Heffernan! She’s smart and funny.

Mr. Hassan’s recent book, The Cult of Trump, is getting a lot of attention, both praise and criticism, as you can imagine. I haven’t read it yet. But I’ve listened to Ms. Heffernan interview him twice. Both interviews were well worth it! Educational, fascinating and at moments, hopeful! So, without further ado …