Keith Raniere and Allison Mack poetry by Kristin Garth and Marisa Silva Dunbar
by Kristin Garth
divides women and the men, considers
mind control at ten when he learns listen
is not the same as care. Schoolgirl Skippers
are chatty, everywhere, dripping poison
from lonely little tongues. Learns to use it against
them young. Can do it with a dad bod, sweat-
band, night volleyball game with lessons condensed —
marketing, pain. Boss Barbie in hand,
he will walk home tonight. Tomorrow she will
ask him before she takes a bite, now hungry
only for what she deserves. Holes he fills
before the next underhand serve where she
waits on bleachers for it to happen again —
molded obedient female companion.
The Introduction: November 14, 2006
by Marisa Silva Dunbar
We are now witnesses to the origin
—here is where
he ensnares you.
You are mesmerized—girlish—giggly,
and desperate for your worth to be seen
man in a sweatband and kneepads.
We know it’s just a seedy facade. Some
of us have at one point, wanted to be
loved by a mediocre
man he already sees you as prey—
already wants to break you into bite
sized pieces. You crumble so easily,
gulping sobs as
he destroys your joy,
calls it artificial.
he wants you to
become reliant on
him to find true
(by Kristin Garth)
I’m completely addicted to The Vow, the HBO documentary series on NXIVM — well, the addiction isn’t so much to this particular documentary, but the story of the cult formed by Keith Raniere. This cult, like many others, was developed presumably for “self-help” but actually much more about servicing Raniere’s sexual and financial needs in a multi-level marketing fashion — female bodies and cash were the most precious commodities. I s In addition to watching the HBO series, I’ve read Catherine Oxenberg’s book Captive and Toni Natalie’s book The Program.
I was introduced to the story of NXIVM by my friend, the poet Marisa Silva Dunbar . She has been working on a manuscript about Allison Mack before I even one, knew who Allison Mack was or had even heard of NXIVM. She recently told me I should read Sarah Edmondson’s book Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIV, the Cult That Bound My Life and I have it on my list now. Her manuscript is called Wandering Through The A.M. I love the title, and it’s an eerie throwback to the fact that those initials A.M. would end up being branded, nonconsensually and even unknowingly on womens bodies, entwined with KR for her terrible mentor, Keith Raniere.
Nothing about NXIVM is very novel or exceptional in the world of cults. I see Keith Raniere in a similar lens as David Koresh, for example, who at one point divided the men and women in his compound, even husbands and wives, physically and required their celibacy. He, however, had sex, for “procreation” purposes with whatever females he wanted. I also see Raniere in the polygamous sex cult leader Warren Jeffs who created a community in which he traded in fem
Keith Raniere divided the women and men in his cult through dogma and brainwashing. He attempted to speak to maybe a buried misogyny of the men in his group and indulged his very well-honed and established misogony on the women he perceived as beneath him. He indoctrinated the women very methodically to accept a debased treatment that he established as an honest rage men had from early societal wounds.
I watch documentaries about cults because of my own background being raised in a very religious authoritative culture. My parents were Mormons but extreme in their practices. They were adult converts, and I was told many times the desperate search they made for the cause they would join. Inside of my home and the Mormon culture at the church university I attended, I witnessed myself, experienced myself how abuses thrive in closed, didactic societies.
For all these reasons, cults fascinate me in the differences of their details and the sameness of their oppression and many of the techniques used to enforce it. The figure of Allison Mack in the NXIVM story is fascinating because she was an accomplished actress on a popular show when she fell victim to Keith Raniere. She would go on to victimize others herself in terrible ways. But the question is why did she need this aesthetically unappealing man? What was she looking for?
Those are questions that Marisa looks at in her manuscript that focuses on Allison Mack in particular. Marisa’s published a lot of her poems on Mack. They are definitely worth checking out if you are interested in the psyche of indoctrination and cults and what makes humans vulnerable to such things.
Once I started watching The Vow and reading the books about the participants and players in NXIVM, I wrote my first Barbie themed cult poem on the subject. It was called Plasticity and was published this week in Punk Noir Magazine. Today in this column I explored Keith Raniere — but I did so through this Barbie metaphor, maybe to reduce him to the type that he is. Keith Raniere thinks he is very exceptional, the smartest man –boasted about an impossible IQ that was a lie and many other superman qualities. In fact, he is a type — a cult leader who commodified women for their sexual and financial usage. He’s one of many, and sadly there will be more.
As a coincidence, I was asked to read a book and review it from Southern Fried Karma Press called Saint Catastrophe. I’ll be reading that soon, but I said yes I wanted to read it because — it’s about a girl against a cult. And that’s how I feel in my heart. I haven’t read the book yet, but I will always give this subject a place because I feel this in my soul. I have been there.