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Filmmaker breaks down describing Nxivm’s duplicitous ideas and evil intent

[Mark Vicente]

VillageDianne is out from the courthouse overflow room again with another report from the Nxivm trial. Today, the prosecution is getting testimony from filmmaker Mark Vicente.

But first, we have Dianne’s impressions of yesterday’s cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness, a former DOS ‘slave’ named Sylvie…

During the cross-examination it was hard to hear Keith Raniere’s attorney Marc Agnifilo at times because he would step to the side of the podium where the mike was located. But he started out by observing to Sylvie that in 2005, her opinion about J’ness was very different than it is today. Yes, she said, she had some positive opinions in the past. And that was the main thrust of Agnifilo’s questions, to see if he could get her to express the positive feelings she had about the training and about Keith Raniere and Clare Bronfman.

He went over how they tried to make sure she was eating enough during the anorexia episode, how Clare had paid for much of her NXIVM training and some health costs. Clare had let her stay at the farm in return for taking care of the horses, which Sylvie admitted she had not done a good enough job at. Clare had paid for Sylvie’s first five-day intensive, and a lot of her subsequent NXIVM training as well.


But for the most part, Sylvie was not giving Agnifilo the answers he wanted. No, she did not enjoy herself in J’ness, but she felt she had to go. Agnifilo took the opportunity to point out the the sashes received for attaining different levels was a practice taken from martial arts, as was the use of titles, Vanguard and Prefect.

Agnifilo read passages from the mission statement. He read a passage, and Sylvie’s reply was (a close paraphrase), “I don’t really know what ‘honest knowledge about what I am’ means.” It seemed to show that even someone as involved as Sylvie could not decipher Raniere’s word salad.

Agnifilo asked her to define certain NXIVM concepts. Victimhood: Sylvie said it means you are responsible for everything. Interdependence: Sylvie said it means you raise others, others raise you. Tribute: Sylvie said it was a big concept, giving thanks. Keith got a lot of tribute. Sylvie said in NXIVM, inner honesty and integrity were most important. Parasite: people who don’t pull their weight.

As for the NDA people had to sign, Agnifio said didn’t they also expect confidentiality at Goldman Sachs? Sylvie said she doesn’t specifically remember because she did not work in an area where this was much needed.

There was a technical issue so Agnifilo briefly changed topics. There was discussion about how many women in NXIVM were vegetarians, their cafe/canteen was vegetarian. There was a lot of concern for animals. Agnifilo pointed out that when NXIVM women were taking the Master Cleanse, there had been a book that came out at that time popularizing this cleanse to the public. Sylvie had not known that.

Agnifilo asked her if people helped her when she struggled in the training. Sylvie: some were more caring than others. Agnifilo asked didn’t Clare take care of her? Sylie: It didn’t feel like that. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This was an example of Sylvie not giving Agnifilo the answers he seemed to want. Clare had paid for some of her medical bills, but the abscess happened in the UK, so Clare did not pay for that. When Sylvie worked at Goldman Sachs she started a repayment plan to Clare, but there is still money owed to Clare that she has not repaid, and Clare had not demanded the money back. At least $40-50K. And Keith had offered to coach Sylvie during her elite running years.

Then Agnifilo started showing screen shots of message exchanges between Sylvie and Keith, some along with the nude pictures. I think it was 2016-17, but sorry, not sure of the start point. Basically it was messages expressing positive feelings about Keith, and Agnifilo asking Sylvie if she meant them. Mostly Sylvie answered with some version of “I don’t know.” She encapsulated this by saying at one point that she doesn’t know now how she felt then. It seems to me she was saying she was still working out separating the indoctrination and group-think from her real feelings. There would be texts like, [all not exact quote] “Good morning, I think you were in my dreams, I want to be a kinder and more loving person.” or “Good morning, I didn’t want V-week to end, Vanguard. It was beautiful and challenging.” When Agnifilo asked if she meant those things, she would say things like, “I don’t know” or “I said whatever I thought would be pleasing for Keith.”

Agnifilo pointed out that she sent a lot of texts. Sylvie said it was required of her. Agnifilo said she had sent positive texts to Keith before and during DOS, that she had said many positive things. Sylvie: Yes, we idolized him. Agnifilo: Did you feel that? Sylvie: I honestly don’t know now.

Agnifilo scored a point when he said she could have returned to England. Sylvie admitted he was right. Agnifilo hammered it home by saying, “you chose, you made decisions.” Agnifilo brought up Pam’s kindness to Sylvie. Sylvie said that was mostly true, Sylvie was unkind only a couple of times. Sylvie remembered, because unkindness from Pam was unusual.

Now we came to the texts written during Sylvie’s membership in DOS. These texts begin ‘Good morning, Grand Master.” An example: “Good morning Grand Master, the training allowed me to connect to how much I love people.” Sylvie had said many positive things. Agnifilo asked if she meant them. Sylvie: “I can’t answer, I’m sorry.” At this point Agnifilo was becoming slightly confrontational, as opposed to more matter of fact previously. I felt he had been slowly and skillfully building to the strong ideas he wanted to present, but Sylvie was just not giving him what he wanted. Sylvie said she was always showing appreciation to her master and grand master. She felt “If I was the best slave, things would work out for me.” She was still sometimes answering “I don’t know” when Agnifilo asked her if she meant the things she said.

Regarding Sylvie’s advice to Anna, Sylive did say she advised Anna to do as she was told, but that was because Sylvie did not want Anna’s collateral to be released. Sylvie admitted that when she asked Monica if she could stop sending photos, Monica had said yes.

Agnifilo asked if Keith had ever threatened to release her collateral, and Sylvie said no. Agnifilo bought up the penance that was asked of DOS slaves for transgressions. He said that punishments given were only penance, but Sylvie said “It could have been collateral.”

This brings us to the time when NXIVM garnered national media attention. Monica said there would be no more use of titles, and Sylvie was not her slave.

Agnifilo said as late as November 2017, Sylvie was still in contact with NXIVM people. Sylvie still believed she had to do her daily check-in, she was not told not to. She stopped at some point after there was no response from Keith.

Regarding telling Keith she loved him, Sylvie admitted that, both before and after DOS she said that, but she had said it to others also.

Moira Penza now questioned Sylvie, Penza: Do you know where Keith’s phone is? Have you seen these screen shots (of messages exchanged with Keith) before? Had Sylvie seen these screen shots from the government? Sylvie said no. When asked to compare her marriage before and after NXIVM, Sylvie said they are so much closer now. John knows everything now, and he still stuck with her.

Agnifilo came back and got Sylvie to admit she had deleted text messages even though Keith told her not to. End of Sylvie testimony.

Mark Vicente testimony…

Vicente was asked about his background. Vicente said he was from South Africa. The movie Star Wars had affected him so strongly that he knew that was how he wanted to express himself and his feelings against apartheid, even though he came from a family that was on the side of the government at that time. He did a mix of commercial films and documentaries. His film, What The Bleep Do We Know?, garnered a lot of attention. What the Bleep was a film about science and the brain, and the journey of the characters to awareness. [Editorial comment by Tony Ortega: The film is actually warmed over New Age garbage, but its slickness caught some viewers by surprise.]

Vicente got a letter from Salzman and Bouchey and eventually he met with them. They said they knew how to do the things Vicente talked about in the film. Barbara and Nancy said their mentor is a scientist and mathematician, very intelligent, who had a patented methods to get people to make changes quickly, and in a completely measurable way. They ended up flying Vicente all over the world to meet with scientists. He met Sara Bronfman, when she stepped off her jet. Film projects were discussed with Vicente, and they said their organization had tremendous resources to help Vicente. Vicente flew on the Bronfman sisters’ private jet.

One incident impressed Vicente. Nancy Salzman did an Exploration of Meaning (EM) with Vicente’s then girlfriend, who had allergies. The girlfriend and Nancy had a short conversation, and the next day the girlfriend was not sneezing like she normally would.

Keith was described to Vicente as a unique individual, one of the top three problem-solvers in the world, highest IQ, Judo champ, etc. Keith was described as the founder and philosopher behind the company. Nancy’s role was to take Keith’s ideas and create educational models from them.

What followed was Vicente’s description of all the many educational programs under the NXIVM umbrella, such as J’ness, The Source, Society of Protectors, Rainbow Cultural Gardens. All programs involved tuition. Eg: “Intensives,” [a term stolen from Scientology – T.O.], $7500 for 16 days. Ethicists: 10K for 10 days. Each entity had its own curricula developed by Keith, there were many similarities.

Vicente took his first intensive in 2005. It was 16 days but you could just come for 5 days. There was a pretty in depth NDA.

NXIVM ideas described by Vicente: One of the NXIVM ideas was that everyone has an inner deficiency, fear, emptiness, that makes you feel that you need something from the external world to feel better. Being ‘at cause’ was from NLP and meant that your feelings are not caused by others, but only by yourself. You are responsible for your feelings. It’s not them, it’s you. There was a lot of redefining. For instance, the module called Good and Bad redefined good and bad.

It was important to give tribute to those of higher rank, to Nancy and Vanguard. The Pride and Prejudice module lesson was that if you can’t give tribute, you have too much pride. Breakout groups would discuss a question and the ideas would be all over the place. It was all confusion. Nancy would then give the answers. This was called a Debrief. It could be Nancy in person or on video. Debrief was later renamed Disquisition.

This ended the second day of testimony.

Today, Thursday, direct examination continued with Mark Vicente, and would take up the rest of the day. Cross-examination of him will take place on Monday.

In today’s morning session, there were a couple of highlights. Vicente was aware that before Nxivm there was another company, Consumer Buyline, and Keith claimed that Consumer Buyline was destroyed by political forces because Keith wouldn’t give money to Bill Clinton’s political machine in Arkansas. (Vicente was skeptical.)

The other highlight was about the use of cameras. Vicente was one of the members who got cameras placed that looked at their driveways. And it was hooked up to a modem. He doesn’t to this day know where the images were fed to. But he believes this was to surveil members.

Vicente now realizes the Nxivm curriculum was a trap of sorts. One of the modules taught that if you were unable to speak of honor, you were “suppressive.” [Another term borrowed from Scientology.] But then it morphed into the idea that you could talk badly of others, but not about Vanguard. Also, the use of the word cult was considered suppressive.

You had to check in with your coach every day.

On the module on psychological projection: If you thought someone was mean, it was actually you that were the problem. For instance, Vicente told Nancy early on something nefarious going on here. Nancy said you’re talking about yourself. You don’t want to see the goodness in the world or this organization.

If you had issues, it was pointed back at you. And there were methodologies to cure you. You couldn’t question people of higher rank.

There was a psychological profile that they filled out a lot. Vicente later found the same questionnaire online, and discovered that it was intended to be filled out to determine if someone had narcissistic personality disorder. He filled it out many times over the years.

Vicente gave Nxivm highly confidential information on intake forms. They were all told it was anonymous, but now he’s not sure that was true. They were told it wasn’t shared, but now Vicente says he feels fooled. So much was collected, they knew what made him afraid. “I feel vulnerable, I feel stupid,” he says now.

They were told that holding onto secrets makes you vulnerable, but sharing them makes you invincible. Vicente doesn’t think that’s true anymore.

They went over the Nxivm mission statement. It was something Vicente said he had read aloud 50 or 100 times, as a ritual at the beginning of each session, and bowing, clapping, and saying thank you to Vanguard.

He was asked to read out the mission statement today and explain how it made him feel.

At that point, Vicente paused. He was then asked just to read the statement to himself.

Vicente then put his face in his hands and started crying. “I’m ashamed, he said. “This well-intentioned veneer covers horrible evil.”

He went on to describe the EMs (Exploration of Meaning), which were led by EM Practitioners (EMPs).

At some point they were told that there was something wrong with EMP training, and they had to take it again, even though they had paid previously. [Again, just like Scientology.]

Vicente described how Nxivm would progress. Nancy would get a “download” from Keith. She would transcribe their conversation, and then turn it into an education lesson.

At some point Vicente asked why there were so many different business entities making up Nxivm. Keith told him that it was protection so that if some of the entities went bankrupt, it wouldn’t pull them all down.

Many more minor issues covered, such as the meaning of different sashes. Back to hear the afternoon session.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 9, 2019 at 14:40

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects at The Underground Bunker. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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