Journalist Hillary Kelly wrote an excellent article for Vulture.com recapping the most recent episode of The Vow.
COS Public Relations spokeswoman and STAND Director Bari Berger saw the article and attacked her for it.
Kelly opened her piece reminiscing about her time in Washington D.C., encountering Scientologists at the local Whole Foods. As she watched them go about the everyday action of grocery shopping she could not help wonder what so many ask themselves; how can these people have fallen for such insanity?
The opening paragraph is Kelly’s only mention of Scientology although her choice of cult was not arbitrary. Keith Raniere studied Scientology’s methodology, using it as a template as he founded his own twisted cult.
L. Ron Hubbard may have been a failure at most everything he did during his life, but when it came to conning people into embracing a life of abuse, lies and bondage he was a master.
Raniere wanted the same power and control.
Likening NXIVM to an invasive weed, Kelly writes, “innocuous at first, similar in appearance to other self-help groups, and then suddenly everywhere, strangling whatever they were growing on.”
An apt description for any cult, Scientology included.
Hillary Kelly gets to the heart of the matter by pointing out that it was Keith Raniere’s narcissistic misogyny that drove his cult from a “self help” group into the nightmare it became. Her brilliant take on Raniere, “Underneath the piano sonatas and the David Foster Wallace imitation Keith is just another lame man saddled with insecurity, narcissistic to the bone because to doubt a single part of himself would send the whole facade crashing down” could just as easily apply to Warren Jeffs, Paul Kingston or David Miscavige.
Kelly’s article delves into the complex charade that enables the insanity and evil to hide in plain sight until it becomes too late for those involved. She addresses the misogyny that drove Raniere to turn his followers into sexual slaves.
Bari Berger apparently never got past the first paragraph. If she read the entire article one can only guess the discomfort and threat she must have desperately, studiously buried. It would certainly explain her defensive anger.
The Vow article speaks to manipulation, abuse and ultimately self doubt, regret and shame but Berger neither addressed nor condemned the damage Raniere inflicted. It would have hit way too close to home for her.
Instead Berger chose the safer more comfortable route and settled on shallow, misplaced righteous indignation and offense.
Unimportant that people’s lives were destroyed. Bari Berger, as a STAND League Director missed a golden opportunity to speak out against such human rights abuses as sexual slavery and trafficking. At least this would have been a nicer hypocrisy.
Scientology’s front group STAND League was created ostensibly to, as they put it, “…put a stop to incitement of bigotry and hate crime, and to secure Religious Freedom for man. STAND exists to expose bias and to maintain basic human rights for Scientologists and everyone.”
Few crimes are more driven by hate than rape.
Entrapping people for use as tools whether for sexual fulfillment or financial gain both dehumanizes and destroy the victim’s basic human rights at their very core. Yet this STAND Director said nothing about NXIVM’s evil.
Bari Berger focused instead upon personally attacking a journalist who stepped up to call out the very issues Berger is supposed to be fighting.
For someone who claims to be a Public Relations expert, Berger shows very little skill in the subject as she labels Kelly an intolerant bigot.
She also displays an acute lack of comprehension which makes one wonder about her intimation that she addended an Ivy League school.
Berger’s interpretation of Kelly’s first paragraph completely misses the point.
“You state you found it ‘always alarming’ that individuals who subscribe to a different set of beliefs than you stand in front of you in line at the grocery store.”
Actually that is not at all what the journalist said. Her musing was at how a group of people who were part of something that embraced such insanity could appear so completely unaware of the truth of their lives. The statement had nothing to do with a “different set of beliefs” and everything to do with not knowing one is trapped and being taken advantage of.
“That intermixing of the surreal (a member of what we can almost certainly call a cult) and the mundane (buying more eggs at the grocery) was always alarming.”
Kelly’s phrasing shows that she possesses something Berger doesn’t; compassion for others. Concern and curiosity at how these oblivious people came to be in the situation they were in, wonder that they could just participate in a normalcy so out of sync with what they represented lies at the heart of her lede. These are ideas Berger is unable to fathom.
This complex dichotomy is summed up perfectly in a quote from Mark, “We didn’t join a cult. Nobody joins a cult. Nobody. They join a good thing and then they realize they were fucked.”
Prior to that realization however, the blindness is real.
In the end, Bari Berger makes Hillary Kelly’s point for her.