Thursday, October 25, 2007

Drinking the Kool Aid - Press censored by complaint of “libel” ?

On October 24, 2007, the Daily Orange, a student newspaper in Syracuse, New York, posted an article entitled: “Drinking the Kool Aid: Cults target college students in recruitment.” This article discussed the presence of cults on the Syracuse University campus, and also gave information from cult expert Carol Giambalvo, a member of the board of directors for the International Cultic Studies Association, and Syracuse University dean of Hendricks Chapel, Thomas Wolfe. Giambalvo stated that cults can masquerade as activist, self-improvement and religious groups.

If you go to the Web page where this article was located, you can no longer read the article on “Drinking the Kool Aid.” Instead a notice is displayed from the editor, stating that the Daily Orange removed the body of the article because it contained “libel,” and they apologized to “the parties involved.” Unfortunately, we do not know specifically what the allegation of libel was regarding, and what group made the allegation of libel, or even what groups were specifically analyzed in the article itself. It is certainly possible that one of the groups mentioned in the article contacted the paper and alleged a cry of “libel,” in order to get critical information quickly taken off of the internet. It is also possible that the Daily Orange editor, with no external provocation, chose to censor their own article without any actual threats or complaints from any outside group. At the moment, that key fact is not publicly known. But the censorship itself did occur.

The comments section below the notice from the editor is still active, and the readers have made eight interesting key comments about the censorship of the article. One commenter posted a quick and funny note one hour after the censorship: “Quick….to the lawyers. Truth be damned.” Others have hazarded guesses about which group may have complained resulting in the censorship of the Daily Orange. We will not make guesses ourselves about that, and instead allow you to read the comments at their site and discuss and rationalize for yourselves what may have provoked this censorship.

Interestingly enough and of direct relation to our site’s title, the eighth and last commenter below the censored article discussed Large Group Awareness Training, and also spoke positively of his experiences with the group Landmark Forum. Was Landmark Forum discussed in the censored Daily Orange article? Well, we do not know for sure, because the article is removed, but it is interesting that others are commenting about it, both positively and negatively, in the comments section below the article. However, Landmark Forum has been referred to by academics as a form of Large Group Awareness Training. One such recent reference would be:

Rubinstein, Gidi. “Characteristics of participants in the Forum, psychotherapy clients, and control participants: A comparative study”, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, (2005) 78, 481-492. The British Psychological Society.

The article is a very interesting read. Whether or not Landmark Education was mentioned in the article aside, it is most intriguing to note that they have acted in the past to attempt to remove critical information on the internet, and have explained this by claiming that such critical information is “libel.” Attorneys Skolnik and Norwick of firm Lowenstein Sandler PC have written an excellent article summarizing some of this history, called: “Introduction to the Landmark Education litigation archive“. They explain that they created this Landmark Education litigation archive so that future attorneys defending clients critical of Landmark Forum and accused of libel do not have to go through and spend as much time researching Landmark Education’s history of litigation as Skolnik and Norwick did. More recently, Landmark Education attempted to get the video known as “Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus” removed from the internet. More about that at: “Landmark Education wants to make French news report a “forbidden video” on the Net.” The Web site Chilling Effects, which documents usage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to remove material from the internet, as well as other forms of censorship on the net, has posted a copy of a letter sent by Landmark Education attorneys to a Web site, asking them to remove the “Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus” video and associated transcript from their site, called the Cult Awareness and Information Centre, which is based in Australia. Oddly enough, Chilling Effects decided to title the page where they host this letter from Landmark Education lawyers very similarly to the currently censored article from the Daily Orange. The page at Chilling Effects is titled: Who is bringing the Kool Aid?

As a caveat to the potential “lawyers” as the first commentator we spoke of above alluded to - we will make this statement here: Please note carefully - It is not our job on this site to characterize any group as a “cult” or to say that any group is not a “cult.” You can find information on “cults” at other Web sites, some of which we have discussed in the past as references, including the respected International Cultic Studies Association mentioned above, that publishes the peer reviewed journal, the Cultic Studies Review. Our interest in these posts is to educate the reader about Large Group Awareness Trainings, and their history, background, methodology and tactics. Therefore, we will not get into trying to parse which groups are widely considered “cults” and which are not, but rather will instead discuss and explain groups that are widely considered to be Large Group Awareness Trainings. We will leave the cult identification and discussion, to the experts.

Related links:
Discussion about the censored Daily Orange article is going on at the Cult Education Forum, under the topic Large Group Awareness Training, “Human Potential” .

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mankind Project or Dancing Naked With Other Men While Beating Cooked Chickens

The controversial group known as Mankind Project and also known as New Warrior Training Adventure has gotten some interesting online exposure lately.

A little background - Mark Roggeman, an exit-counselor for individuals trapped in cults, writes at the Haven Ministries site : "MKP [Mankind Project] history comes through a long line of Human Potential Movements that began in the 1960’s." Roggeman cites Mind Dynamics, and the book The Pit: A Group Encounter Defiled for some background on the Human Potential Movement. He goes on to cite some controversial groups that influenced this movement as well as Mankind Project, such as Lifespring, Werner Erhard, Erhard Seminars Training (Roggeman puts it that this group has "transformed itself into the Landmark Forum."), Justin Sterling and Sterling Institute of Relationship. More at Roggeman's article, aptly titled The Mankind Project. Also check out Roggeman's article, Oh Man, What Kind of Project Is This?

If you really want to learn a whole lot more about some of the more interesting and somewhat controversial practices of the group, check out this long discussion thread at the Cult Education Forum. As of last check, the message board thread is over 52 pages long !

Oh, and the satirical poke, humorous take for the title of this post? Yeah, that wasn't just something the writer of this post made up - according to the Houston Press, men do really dance naked while beating cooked chickens at some of these Mankind Project events !

But the truth is not funny, and not satirical, unfortunately. For more on this, read the sad, sad story, of Michael Scinto.

Recent articles on Mankind Project :

Ronnie Earle, Travis Co. (TX) DA, Dances Naked With Other Men While Beating Cooked Chickens, Red State

Cover Story: The ManKind Project, Houston Press, October 4, 2007

Naked Men: The ManKind Project and Michael Scinto, Houston Press, October 4, 2007 - "The organization was supposed to make him a better man. Instead, his parents say, it made him a dead one."

For more background and resources :

The Mankind Project, article at Haven Ministries site, written by Mark Roggeman - "Mark Roggeman has been involved in outreach to those affected by cults and other high demand groups for a period of thirty years."

Mankind Project / New Warrior Training Adventure, information and archived articles, at the Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements

Oh Man, What Kind of Project Is This?", by Mark Roggeman, Midwest Outreach 12 (1), Pages 8-10.

Discussion groups and message boards :

Discussion thread on Mankind Project, Cult Education Forum, begun with the emotional plea: "Anyone with any information regarding this group, please I beg you to post it here. It is horrifying what these men and women go through. Any feedback is appreciated."

ex_mkp · ex_mkp-Freedom from ManKind Project cult, Yahoo! Group, mentioned in the Houston Press article, Naked Men: The ManKind Project and Michael Scinto - "This group is for help and support of men and their families who have had problems with the ManKind Project or NWTA New Warrior Training Adventure "

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

NXIVM aka Executive Success Programs ‘cult’ references and controversial Clinton connections

The controversial “training” group known as NXIVM, formerly known as Executive Success Programs (ESP), has been getting a lot of coverage in the press lately related to financial ties to various New York State politicians. Increasingly, headlines in the press and media have referred to the group as a ‘cult’, and cult expert Rick Ross, in a 2003 article, compared the NXIVM teachings to: “an amalgamated version of belief systems like Scientology, EST and Landmark Education.”

Here are some of the more recent media and press articles, from September and October 2007 :

Political connections take to the air, September 14, 2007 - Albany Times Union reports on mysterious flights funded by NXIVM for New York State Republican party members.

HILLARY’S $30000 FANS ARE HER ‘CULT’ FOLLOWING, October 1, 2007 - New York Post - “A purported pyramid-scheme operator who was run out of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor has reinvented himself as the head of an upstate group accused of being a “cult” - and his devotees have pumped thousands into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential run.”

NXIVM’S VEXING EFFECT ON BELIEVERS, October 1, 2007 - New York Post - “Keith Raniere, leader of an Albany-based organization called NXIVM (pronounced nex-e-um), has built a lucrative empire with his Executive Success Programs. NXIVM, run by Raniere, 47, and President Nancy Salzman, a 52-year-old registered nurse, claims to pull in at least $4 million a year. Big-name devotees like Seagram heiresses Clare and Sara Bronfman back Raniere - and “The Family,” as insiders call the group - despite his checkered past."

BILL GOLF PAL’S ‘CULT’ COURSE, October 2, 2007 - New York Post - “A longtime friend and golfing buddy of Bill Clinton’s is a student of the controversial cult-like upstate group whose members recently poured thousands into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign coffers, The Post has learned. Richard Mays - an Arkansas lawyer who was one of Bill Clinton’s biggest presidential campaign fund-raisers - is listed on the class roster of NXIVM, the bizarre Albany-based group.”

Tax Hike to End the War?, October 2, 2007 - FOX News - “Federal records indicate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has received about $30,000 from devotees of a man who was run out of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor after being accused of operating a $30 million pyramid scheme.”

TOP GOPERS ‘CULT’ FAVORITES, October 3, 2007 - New York Post - “Disgraced GOP operative Roger Stone acted as a middleman between a cult-like upstate group and powerful Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, The Post has learned. Stone was hired by Albany-based executive-training group NXIVM in early 2006, according to sources.”

Spitzer’s Loudmouth Rhetoric: Not Loudmouth-y Enough?, October 3, 2007 - Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine - “The governor, who called his detractors “fearmongers” and “demagogues” at Fordham, can now add “evil cultists” to the mix: Today’s Post coughs up a cryptic item about Roger Stone, the GOP operative accused of making threatening phone calls to Spitzer’s family. Stone was allegedly a liaison between Joe Bruno and NXIVM, a secretive, cultlike “executive training group.” Oooh!”

All About NXIVM, the Cultlike Organization With Ties to Albany, October 4, 2007, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine - The headline says it all in this one. Great article, this controversial group is really getting some good exposure from investigative journalists.

More NXIVM / Executive Success Programs updates at Cult News, and also at The Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements.