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Upon Further Review – Revisiting Vanessa Grigoriadis’ NY Times Magazine Story About NXIVM

 

Vanessa Grigoriadis

 

A few days ago, I ran across a story that Vanessa Grigoriadis had just written for Vanity Fair about the recent court hearings involving Clare Bronfman – and her hiring of Michael Avenatti to negotiate some kind of plea deal on her behalf.

I recognized Vanessa’s name right away.

She was the same journalist who had written what I recalled was a “puff piece” about NXIVM and Keith Raniere that appeared in The New York Times Magazine.

And so, as I started reading Vanessa’s latest story, I was mentally prepared to find it told from a pro-NXIXM standpoint.

*****

It was nothing like that.

Instead, it was a very forthright account of Clare Bronfman getting “reamed out” by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis because she had not told him the truth about how she decided to hire Mark Geragos as her lead attorney (Vanessa was in the courtroom for both days of the Bronfman hearings).

Her description of Clare Bronfman was both kind (“slight and soft-spoken”) and brutal (her “shoulder blades protruded from the back of her sweater like parallel door hinges”).

Her description of DOS was even more poignant: “a freakish cousin of today’s wellness craze that tells women they’ll be magically transformed if they devote enough time and money to becoming mentally healthy and thin”.

*****

When I finished reading the Vanity Fair piece, I smugly thought to myself “Well, I guess Vanessa Grigoriadis had obviously had a change of heart over the past ten months”.

And I thought it would be interesting to go back and read her New York Time Magazine piece – and report on just how much her perspective had changed.

Surprise #2: Vanessa’s original piece was much more balanced than I remembered – and it included some very interesting information and observations.

*****

Entitled “Inside NXIVM: the ‘Sex Cult’ That Empowered Women”, Vanessa began by reporting about what she described as a “therapy session” that Nancy Salzman was about to conduct on a 29-year old woman named Jaqueline.

Within 30-minutes, Jacqueline had reportedly “upgraded her belief system”, overcome her fear of flying, and decided to change the way that she interacted with men.

What I first read as an endorsement of Nancy Salzman’s therapeutic powers – and the power of Raniere’s “tech” – I now see as a very subtle “are-you-fucking-kidding-me?” poke at the absurdities of the various claims made by both of them.

*****

Later in the story, Vanessa noted that she was the first journalist who had been granted access for an article about NXIVM in 14-years.

But in doing so, she also noted that what she was really given was “a tightly stage-managed tour of its leadership and operations” – and that NXIVM “remains highly secretive and exquisitely paranoid”.

*****

Vanessa also noted that her initial contact with NXIVM was Clare Bronfman – and that she had traveled to Mexico where Clare was staying with Raniere.

“They were staying there on the advice of lawyers and consultants,” she wrote – words that would come back to bite Raniere in the ass when he sought to be released on bail.

*****

Vanessa was also especially brutal in describing her first impressions when she met Raniere.

“He spoke in a nasal, New York-accented voice and often tossed his hair, a feminine gesture that he used to punctuate his thoughts. He didn’t seem like a man who could make other people orbit him like moons. He seemed like a high-end real estate broker trying to come off as friendly but anxious about closing a sale.”

She went on to recount some of the claims that Raniere made about himself: “He has said he spoke in full sentences at a year old, read by 2 and taught himself to play concert-level piano at 12, the same year he learned high school math in 19 hours”.

But, once again, I missed the “are-you-fucking-kidding-me?” poke at Raniere’s bullshit.

Raniere, incidentally, also told Vanessa that he walked 14-20 miles per day as “he thought about how to solve humanity’s problems”. Since the average walking speed for humans is 3.1 miles/hour, that means that Raniere spent 4.5 – 6.5 hours per day just walking and thinking (And that doesn’t take into account that he walks much slower than the average human being because of his stubby legs and square feet).

*****

One of the few people that Vanessa interviewed for her New York Times Magazine piece who was not a current member of NXIVM was Barbara Bouchey.

Barbara described Raniere as “a loving boyfriend, affectionate and measured…” who never raised his voice, showed anger or talked condescendingly in her presence.

But Barbara also admitted to Vanessa that she is still haunted by one question: “Did he really love me? I honestly felt it at times. It seemed genuine, especially in the early years.” [Editor’s Note: Barbara claims that she never spoke these words to Vanessa. It is not known if Barbara ever demanded a retraction from The New York Times Magazine].

*****

But the most interesting part of Vanessa’s original story on NXIVM had to do with DOS.

To begin with, almost her entire description of DOS was told from the standpoint of Allison Mack – who claimed to be the one who came up with the idea of branding members.

And according to Vanessa, Mack – and several other members of DOS – told her that they had “improved” because of their participation in what Raniere described as “a sorority”.

Raniere also claimed that he had only been sexually involved with two members of the reported 150 members of DOS. Vanessa made it pretty clear that she did not believe that claim.

But it was Vanessa’s description of her interactions with Mack that, upon rereading it, really got my attention: “To be honest, I was surprised that she was sitting there at all. And Mack told me that she’d been experiencing some anxiety talking to a reporter”.

But Mack went to explain that she had been convinced to do the interview after talking with Keith, Clare, and Lauren.

So, in addition to the various other conspiracies they  were involved in, the three of them conspired to set up Allison to take the fall for DOS.

Who needs enemies when you have friends like this?

About the author

Artvoice

News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.

9 Comments

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Leave a Reply to Villagedianne Cancel reply

  • If the intent of the subtleties was a “are you f*cking kidding me,” it didn’t work on the reread or on pointing it out. It was just too subtle for me to come to that conclusion. But like Rush Limbaugh, I live in Realville.

  • You give this clueless journalist too much credit.
    She’s did not do her due diligence whatsoever.
    I hear she is attending some of the NXIVM hearings. Let’s hope she actually writes something worthy of what journslism once was and should be.
    But…. I doubt it.

  • “He spoke in a nasal, New York-accented voice and often tossed his hair, a feminine gesture that he used to punctuate his thoughts.”

    In the Comments section of a Keith Raniere Youtube video where he is talking to Allison Mack, One person responded that Allison is talking to a “wise old lesbian.”
    Who would have guessed that Keith Raniere is a “wise old lesbian” trapped in the body of a Dirty Old Man?

    Jon Burkhart
    5 months ago
    Keith Raniere has the look and mannerisms of an old, wise lesbian.

    From the comments section manly people note how stupid and loony Allison Mack is.
    And let’s be brutally truthful.
    Stupid, loony people who blindly follow orders can bring much grief to the world.
    Prisons are filled with stupid, loony people.

    “It’s like watching two drunk teenagers have an “intellectual” conversation at 3 o’clock in the morning. Nonsense.”

    ‘The look of adoring adulation on Allison’s face is very much characteristic of someone caught up in a personality cult. Most disturbing.”

    “Did they just take some mushrooms or acid before this segment ”

    “Like the rest of us, she doesn’t have a clue about what the hell he is spewing. She’s just as loony as he is to stare at him like she does with admiration. It’s creepy.”

    • Raniere’s misogyny is a proof that he didn t like woman at all : for him women were just objects for self gratification trought sex. He enjoyed humiliating woman because it was a proof of his own power and dominance. But to say that Raniere is a repressed gay is going to far: other man for him was only competitors. He was just unable to love somebody else except himself. It is sad that so many women, like Bouchey, got into the ilkusion od Raniere’s love, which was only atechnic for him to manipulate people.

  • Here is another excerpt from the NY Times Magazine article, regarding Allison Mack: “Belief is a tricky thing, particularly when it involves taking responsibility for the idea of branding women and being encouraged to talk to a journalist when it may not be in your self-interest to do so.”

    • Thanks, Dianne. I remember I picked up on and loved that snarky quote from Vanessa’s story the instant I read it.

      It does say much about NX and Vanessa’s grasp of what they were up to, what they stand for.

      The whole NX thing is about tricking you into a new belief system — one that generally suits the financial and other perverted leaders’ interests above one’s own.

      Mebbe Vanessa could clear up the stink some and respond as to those questions that lead some of us to suspect that she, too, was played — like so many of us were as well.

      Didn’t you say you chatted with her at the last hearing? That would be a great interview with some cool pics!

      The former gossip columnist in me is so jealous.

      • Heidi, I spoke to Vanessa very briefly, in the spectator area of the courtroom during a lull while a hearing was taking place. It was good to meet her.

  • YES, Allison (along with a few other alleged “criminal minds,” including yours truly — long, now irrelevant story but that’s partly why I strongly agree) was absolutely set-up to take the blame or “the fall” by Keith, Nancy and Clare.

    Some of the facts Vanessa reported in the NYT interviews do reflect and substantiate that conclusion in hindsight.

    I agree there are indications in Vanessa’s story that she was wise to it but also that Vanessa was not fully cognizant at the time that she was being manipulated into, especially, helping set Allison up as the sole scapegoat. (Unless, those bits were edited out.)

    Most obviously, Allison was not pointedly asked if she herself was branded in the final NYT story even while discussing her “tatoo.”

    Allison’s claim she came up with the branding idea contradicts India’s public statement that the girls actually fought over who would take credit for the branding, etc.

    Also, it smells that Vanessa’s story was held for months — not released until after the arrests last Spring 2018 when Vanessa’s NYT interviews were done in December 2017.

    I read that recent Vanity Fair interview, too, and was disappointed Vanessa was not forthcoming about these matters. Very disappointed as well that Allison missed the plea deal bus.

    Sorry, but Allison’s lawyers are also on my list of those who have some explaining to do on that front.

    And, no, Shadow, I am not saying Allison is completely innocent just that she’s less guilty IMHO than the principles of NX who are mightily trying to deflect all the guilt for the sex extortion, etc. crimes onto her, IMO.

  • I read the same article and I don’t know why you thought it was a puff piece at all. It was pretty clear to me she was critical of the whole thing. She even made the statement that she couldn’t believe that Mack would have admitted to a journalist the branding thing because it was so incriminating.

    That said, I don’t think the others were trying to set Mack up. I think they were just that dense to believe they had done nothing, from a legal standpoint, that was wrong. The debacle of Mack’s interview was all on Mack; if she was going to do it, she should have had her attorney present to keep her from making incriminating statements or to keep her from doing the interview at all.

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