Many cult groups have extensive physical control mechanisms to keep members in line. Scientology, for example, keeps Sea Org staff from defecting by housing them in apartment buildings where the spikes on top of the fence, the surveillance cameras and the motion detectors all point inwards. But physical control to ensure loyalty is an expensive proposition and not all cultic groups can afford to do it. Scientology has had the cash, the free labor pool, the isolated facilities, and lots of time to perfect control of the physical environment.
Nirvana, from the standpoint of cult management, is to perfect the trick of getting people to imprison themselves in the cult mentally, where they become the most effective policeman to ferret out and shut down dissenting thoughts. Here, we look at a case study of how Nancy Salzman, the #2 in the Nxivm cult, used a story about the 9/11 terrorist attacks to not only keep herself on Nxivm’s path, but to serve as a lesson to push others to do the same.
In a June 12 court hearing, Raniere was denied bail, after offering an elaborate package of $10 million in cash plus offering to provide his own force of armed guards around the clock to keep him from violating any of the bail conditions. In the hearing, the prosecution remarked that a superseding indictment would be issued with additional charges against Raniere and with charges against additional defendants.
The second shoe dropped on Tuesday, June 24, with significant additional charges, and four additional defendants. In addition to Raniere and former actress Allison Mack, the complaint added Nancy Salzman, the #2 in Nxivm and her daughter Lauren, Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman and Kathy Russell, the longtime bookkeeper for Nxivm. Most of the new charges have to do with identity theft to commit other crimes, and the indictment also says that the government is looking to seize ill-gotten gains from the scheme. It appears that the indictment now categorizes Nxivm as an “enterprise,” language usually used to bring in the RICO statute, which enhances penalties for individual crimes when committed by an organized criminal group.
The Nxivm saga is fascinating, because it suggests that small cults can be extremely wealthy, can buy significant influence internationally, and can significantly harm members. What’s unfolding for Nxivm is not a direct foreshadowing of what may happen to Scientology, but it does show that the government is able to unleash significant legal firepower against organizations who flout the law with such impunity once the usual government inertia has been disrupted. The impossible-to-predict issue is just when that threshold is crossed. Continue reading “Nxivm Cult Meltdown Continues: New Charges, New Defendants”
We are writing to start a discussion about treatment of women in cults, including in Scientology. For those of you who are ex’s, we would be interested in understanding what happened to you, for both former staff/Sea Org and for rank-and-file members. And we’re particularly interested in whether high-control groups always end up committing abuse of women (and, probably equally of children). What general inferences can we draw and what can we do about it? Continue reading “Opening an Inquiry: Do Cults Always Abuse Women?”
Earlier this week, Keith Raniere, the leader of Nexium (pronounced “Nexium”), a cultic group headquartered in Albany, New York, was arrested in Mexico after fleeing the US and swiftly extradited back to the US for trial. He’s accused of sex trafficking in conjunction with a secret “sorority” made up of Nxivm members who agreed to function as slaves for him, and who were branded in their pelvic region with his initials. There are other investigations pending that may result in further charges.
Though Nxivm never achieved the success of Scientology in its 20-year history, there are some interesting parallels between Nxivm’s modus operandi and Scientology’s as well as some parallels between Keith Raniere and L. Ron Hubbard’s claims about themselves. We look at some of these parallels and try to determine whether there’s any way to use the accelerating collapse of Nxivm to predict the endgame for Scientology, particularly in seeing how activists can target their efforts to hasten its demise. Continue reading “NXIVM Cult Leader Arrested: Parallels with Scientology?”