Sarah Edmondson (@sarahjedmondson) and Anthony “Nippy” Ames (@nippyames) are two former NXIVM cult members turned whistleblowers. Together, they host the podcast A Little Bit Culty, and are featured in HBO’s series The Vow. Sarah’s 12-year ordeal is chronicled in Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life. [This is part two of a two-part conversation. Find part one here!]
What We Discuss with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames:
- How NXIVM began as a community of like-minded individuals who were committed to personal growth and self-improvement and devolved into a cult under the leadership of its narcissistic founder, Keith Raniere.
- How Hollywood celebrities came to be courted and ultimately controlled by Raniere and the NXIVM cult.
- The endless abuses suffered by NXIVM’s victims — from mind games to being branded as property and trafficked as a way to fund Raniere’s lavish lifestyle.
- Where Sarah and Nippy existed within NXIVM’s hierarchy, the parts they played, and what broke the spell that held them enthralled in the cult’s sinister machinations.
- How Sarah and Nippy are coping with the aftermath of their traumatic experiences, and what they’re doing to raise awareness of how cults like NXIVM ruin people’s lives.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
NXIVM (pronounced Nexium) was a self-help group that ultimately became an abusive cult. Its leader, Keith Raniere, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison and five months of probation for his crimes, including sexual abuse and sex trafficking. NXIVM started out as a program to help individuals achieve more in their personal and professional lives, but over time it became something much darker, with Raniere using the organization to fulfill his own narcissistic and sociopathic desires and to manipulate and exploit people for his own gain.
Sarah Edmondson and Anthony “Nippy” Ames were both members of NXIVM, with Sarah serving as a high-level teacher within the organization and both witnessing firsthand the transformation of NXIVM into a malicious cult. They eventually became whistleblowers, helping to expose the illegal activities of the group and contributing to its downfall. Together, they currently host the podcast A Little Bit Culty, The story of NXIVM was featured in the HBO documentary series The Vow, and in Sarah’s memoir, Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life. In this two-part episode, Sarah and Nippy share their ordeal — how they managed to get tangled up in NXIVM’s transformation into a cult, what prompted them to escape from its clutches, and how they’re dealing with the aftermath of the experience. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part two of a two-part conversation. Find part one here!]
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
This Episode Is Sponsored By:
- Peloton: Learn more at onepeloton.com
- SimpliSafe: Learn more at simplisafe.com/jordan
- Athletic Greens: Visit athleticgreens.com/jordan for a free one-year supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase
- The FIRE: Learn more at thefire.org
- Progressive: Get a free online quote at progressive.com
- BetterHelp: Get 10% off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan
- God Pod: Listen here or wherever you find fine podcasts!
- The Jordan Harbinger Show Episode 631: Amanda Catarzi | Overcoming Cult Life and Sex Trafficking
Thanks, Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames!
If you enjoyed this session with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames, let them know by clicking on the link below and sending them a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Sarah and Nippy at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life by Sarah Edmondson and Kristine Gasbarre | Amazon
- The Vow | HBO
- A Little Bit Culty with Sarah and Nippy
- A Little Bit Culty | Twitter
- Sarah Edmondson | Twitter
- Anthony “Nippy” Ames | Twitter
- NXIVM | Wikipedia
- How NXIVM Seduced Hollywood Stars and America’s Most Powerful Elite Into a Barbaric Sex Cult | Esquire
- A Timeline of the NXIVM Sex Cult Case | The New York Times
771: Sarah Edmondson & Nippy Ames | Surviving NXIVM Part Two
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. It's the time of year where we start thinking about what next year will bring. We make New Year's resolutions to exercise more, but let's face it, will you actually stick with it? It's been proven that you're more likely to stick to a routine if it's something you enjoy, which is why so many people stick with Peloton. The instructors are so fun. It's like working out with a friend. There's a very strong Peloton community. Also, I'm all about data, and Peloton tracks your metrics so you can keep tabs on your performance over time. And right now, Peloton's got a gift for you. Get up to 200 bucks off accessories like cycling shoes, heart rate monitors — both of which I have and use regularly — and more when you purchase a Peloton Bike, Bike+, or Tread, and up to a hundred dollars off accessories with the purchase of a Peloton Guide, which will turn your TV into an AI-powered personal trainer. Make this the first step toward achieving your fitness goals in the new year. Choose from Peloton's cycling to scenic runs, boot camps to power walks. A huge variety of classes that work for you, taught by world-class instructors who know exactly how to get the best out of you. So don't wait. Get this offer before it ends on December 25th. Visit onepeloton.com. All-access membership separate, offer ends December 25th, cannot be combined with other offers. See additional terms at onepeloton.com.
[00:01:07] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:01:10] Sarah Edmondson: But I got on that table and I said, "Master, will you brand me? Well, it would be an honor," as I was instructed. And later, we found out in the trial, Keith tells Allison that the women should ask to get it so it appears consensual.
[00:01:24] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional war correspondent, drug trafficker, hostage negotiator, or astronaut. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:49] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, I suggest our episode starter packs. That's a great place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic. It'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like scams and conspiracy debunks, China, North Korea, abnormal psychology, crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:02:14] Today, part two with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy from the NXIVM cult, formally of the NXIVM cult. Go back and check out part one if you haven't yet. Part two is, of course, a continuation of that interview. All right, here we go, once again with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames.
[00:02:32] A lot of people are going, "Okay, yes, self-help cult." There's so much going on with sex with underage women and all these different things that people can see when they watch The Vow and all the different individual abuses. We don't have to catalog all of those, but there's the branding, right, where women who joined this sort of sorority that was inside the group, it was sort of this smaller, much smaller organization. The women were branded with what later turned out to be Keith's initials, but was supposed to be some symbol before. Talk to me about the branding, because this is, I think a lot of people are going, "Wait a minute. How do you sign up for an executive seminar and...you've got someone's initials on your pelvis?" And I'll let people use their imagination for where that ended up. It's just a really big leap, I think, for a lot of people to wrap their head around.
[00:03:19] Sarah Edmondson: It is a big leap. And it's why I am so grateful that The Vow did such a good job of showing what we thought we were building.
[00:03:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:26] Sarah Edmondson: And leading people up to that spot. It's why I wrote a book actually, so I wouldn't have to go to the details too much for the rest of my life.
[00:03:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:03:32] Sarah Edmondson: But I'll give you the cliff notes and truthfully, it's partly also just my own self-protection and when I go in into the nitty gritty and I actually put myself there, it can be still re-traumatizing. So I try to kind of stay surface with it. And you know, the tone of this pod is intelligent, but also lighthearted. Nippy and I laugh all the time and I kind of have to, so that's my caveat, is that many things happened for me to agree for that to happen. And ultimately, there were step-by-step things that I agreed to joining a secret women's group, having Lauren be my master, taking a vow of obedience all like I said earlier, it felt like an exercise. And I agreed to a tattoo and she told me it was going to be very small and it would be this very symbolic thing that I did with my sisters. And I'd never been in a sorority. And there was an element that wa is definitely weird. I mean my internal alarm bells were going off from the moment she told me about all this. But I was told I was doing it right because it had to be that. It was a very serious commitment and I was willing to make that commitment to her because I cared about her and I loved her and I trusted her. But the night of it turned out to be a brand. And I don't even have a concept of branding other than like what's done to animals up until that night.
[00:04:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right. But that's what it is. It shows you own that person's flesh, right? Or that—
[00:04:46] Sarah Edmondson: Right.
[00:04:46] Jordan Harbinger: —cow's flesh as it would be with cattle.
[00:04:49] Sarah Edmondson: Which by the way, when I was telling people about it later when I was trying to tell people about it in the organization, they were like, "What do you mean branding?" "Like just what some farmers do to cattle to say that they owned the cattle," and they said, "Well that's only that if you make it mean that." I said, "No, that's what it is." But anyway, the night of, there's a lot of factors that's hard to explain — and I think you actually did a pretty good job earlier, Jordan, in terms of the frog and the pot of water. By that point, I'd given collateral, I'd made a vow of obedience. Talk about a peer pressure situation to the extreme, I'm with my—
[00:05:21] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:05:21] Sarah Edmondson: —not only my friends, but women who in that situation, I'm one of the highest ranks of, and I have Lauren in my ear. I'm saying to her. "I don't want this. This is not a tattoo, and it's not a dime size." It was two inches, it was like two inches by two inches. It was big and without anesthetic. I didn't go first. I watched two women go ahead of me and it was horrific. And I had a — what's it called? Like a—
[00:05:45] Jordan Harbinger: A gag?
[00:05:46] Sarah Edmondson: No, a mask, it was like—
[00:05:48] Jordan Harbinger: A mask.
[00:05:48] Nippy Ames: A doctor's mask.
[00:05:49] Sarah Edmondson: A doctor's mask — because of the smell of flesh.
[00:05:52] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay.
[00:05:52] Sarah Edmondson: And we also, we didn't want, like anything to go into the wound, like it was filming out of a horror movie. And I quickly realized that, and then Lauren even said to me like, "You need to show these women how it's done." And I was gaslighting myself in my head, and I think that this is pretty clear in my book where — if people want to know what the internal process is, it's like, "I'm going get the f*ck out of here. This is so f*cked up. Like people think we're a cult already—"
[00:06:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:17] Sarah Edmondson: —this is a cult, you know? Then going in my other side of my ear, my brain, Keith's voice saying, all the things we've been indoctrinated to believe about women, "The worst parts of anyone, but specifically we believe it's women. Women always are looking for the back door. We are flaky. We have no character, we have no follow-through. f*ck I got to follow through." And I have this collateral over my head. She's got nude photos, she's got false confessions. I mean, never mind what I've given her. She knows everything about me. She's essentially my therapist. So everything was on the line and I didn't feel like I had a choice, and that was the nature. And now, we don't call it collateral, collateral, we call it blackmail.
[00:06:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right. When this happens outside of a group, it's called blackmail, or when it's used as a threat outside of anything like this, it's called blackmail. And now, of course, it is blackmail inside the group too. We talked about this with Amanda Montell, the way that cults control language is they go, "Ooh, somebody might say, that's blackmail. Let's rename this something else."
[00:07:08] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:07:08] Jordan Harbinger: Let's call it collateral to encourage you to follow through on your promises. Let's not call this something super uber creepy. Let's make a euphemism for it that we then elevate to be something really great. And religions do this too.
[00:07:23] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:07:23] Jordan Harbinger: Right? I don't want to get eight billion emails, but religions do this too. So we're going to leave it there.
[00:07:29] Sarah Edmondson: We'll leave it at that, yes. But I got on that table and I said, "Master, will you brand me? Well, it would be an honor," as I was instructed. And later, we found out in the trial, Keith tells Allison that the women should ask to get it so it appears consensual.
[00:07:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:43] Sarah Edmondson: And I think anyone with a brain could tell — you know, I'm married to Nippy, I would never consent to have another man's initials next to my crotch.
[00:07:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:51] Sarah Edmondson: I didn't find out about the initials until weeks later. That was kept for me. Like even if I had agreed and I wanted that brand or whatever, the fact that that was kept from me was like the biggest betrayal of them all. And to answer your question from about an hour ago—
[00:08:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:05] Sarah Edmondson: —that's when I figured out I was in a cult. It wasn't even the branding, it wasn't because the night of the branding, I was so bought in, I was so indoctrinated. I was proud of myself when I was done. I even said to the other women who went after me like, "It's awful. I'd pushed through it. Like I felt — like we'd been taught that pain is love.
[00:08:21] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds super abusive, but okay.
[00:08:23] Sarah Edmondson: I know.
[00:08:24] Jordan Harbinger: That is f*cking creepy. Holy crap.
[00:08:26] Sarah Edmondson: And then, I had Lauren's face looking at me and we're all crying and like—
[00:08:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:08:29] Sarah Edmondson: —it's emotional. And I went through this thing and I came home and like I couldn't tell Nippy. And I'm like, he doesn't even f*cking know what I went through. And I was so proud of myself and I kept it from him. And I was like, nursing this f*cking wound on my—
[00:08:39] Jordan Harbinger: Oof.
[00:08:39] Sarah Edmondson: And it was like awful. It was awful and also exciting. When I figured out that it was his initials and that's when Mark and I spoke and he told me they had heard about women being invited to join a secret society and that they were, there was sex involved and women were being assigned to go seduce Keith. That's when I put it all together.
[00:08:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:08:57] Sarah Edmondson: Because I didn't know about the sex. He didn't know about the branding and then we're like, holy f*ck, he's a conman.
[00:09:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Wow.
[00:09:03] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:09:03] Jordan Harbinger: How do you cover that up? Like can you get a brand removed? I don't even know what you do with it.
[00:09:07] Sarah Edmondson: I had it removed actually. Yeah. I spent—
[00:09:09] Jordan Harbinger: How'd they do that?
[00:09:10] Sarah Edmondson: I spent years like putting oil on it and like exfoliating it and having treatments to get the keloid down because it was quite raised.
[00:09:16] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:09:16] Sarah Edmondson: And that eventually, two years ago, I had plastic surgery, which was paid for by an anonymous donor. I don't know who it is.
[00:09:23] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:09:23] Sarah Edmondson: Contacted my lawyer and said want to pay for women to have the brands removed. And it was like a $3,000 surgery. They basically cut — if you can imagine the square and you can imagine an oval—
[00:09:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:33] Sarah Edmondson: —being cut around it and then sewed back together.
[00:09:35] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. Okay. So it's like tummy tuck type thing, but like just for the scar?
[00:09:38] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:09:39] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:09:39] Sarah Edmondson: So I just have like a three-inch wide, very thin line. You'd never notice. Smaller than a C-section scar and it's way better than Keith's initial initials on my body.
[00:09:48] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow. Was that a big deal when you had that procedure done? Did you feel like you turned a corner?
[00:09:53] Sarah Edmondson: Yes, it was a big deal. It was, yeah, because I had spoken to the surgeon, she's like, "We can send it down, but you'll probably always see KR in the mirror and I don't think you want that." And I'm like, "I absolutely do not want that." And it was a very emotional, meaningful decision for me to — and also hard, as I had to lie on a table and have surgery in the same spot where I'd been so violated three years before. So it was intense, but it was a big turning point for me in my healing.
[00:10:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: I have to imagine. That was huge because in the book you talk about how the brand isn't just a physical wound, but a moral injury, which Nippy was talking about earlier, this permanent trauma to your conscience as you put it. So getting the procedure, I know it seems sort of cosmetic, but I imagine that that also must have helped to some degree with the emotional/ethical aspect of it.
[00:10:35] Sarah Edmondson: Yes. And yeah, and up until that point, I felt like I needed it because I had the physical proof of his emotional abuse that had been incurring for decades to other women.
[00:10:45] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right, right.
[00:10:45] Sarah Edmondson: And this was, I mean, I think one of his flaws, one of not making it a religion to protect himself like Scientology as we learned from Mike Rinder, but also that he branded his initials in women's bodies. Like, okay, do that to the women you're sleeping with, but you're going to do that to a married woman, married to Nippy. Like, what the f*ck are you thinking? Like, when was that going to, how was that going to play out?
[00:11:04] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Mike Rinder, by the way, high-level Scientologist, who sort of, I guess, you'd call it defected, left the group, and now exposes things that are going on inside Scientology.
[00:11:13] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:11:13] Jordan Harbinger: The whole thing is just absolutely insane. I mean, we're barely scratching the surface of the stuff that's in The Vow, the abuses that happened in this cult, but we only have so much.
[00:11:23] The delusional control that Keith wanted around the group and among the women in the group, he wanted thousands of these women. He talked about swinging the vote for the president of the United States because of the numbers NXIVM would have. And it's like when you see that, you're just like, get a grip, dude. You're a bunch of people in a kitchen somewhere filming a dude in knee pads and a sweatband talking during volleyball. Like you're not—
[00:11:45] Sarah Edmondson: Playing Led Zeppelin, playing Led Zeppelin to the young girls.
[00:11:48] Jordan Harbinger: You're not swinging sh*t. You're trying to seduce a 15-year-old girl right now. Like calm down, Keith. But the brand really is a physical manifestation of the pain that this guy caused willingly and put on a bunch of people.
[00:12:01] There are still some people from NXIVM who are, I guess, true believers and they think, "Oh, it's so sad. Keith's in prison. This is the whole thing. Is a setup." One of them in The Vow of this gal, Nicki, who actually brought you — oh, sorry, you actually brought into the cult. What is it like knowing that somebody that you recruited, not only got hurt, but still has not shaken off the spell?
[00:12:22] Sarah Edmondson: Honestly, it's what keeps me going, talking about this, like I will not stop until she wakes up. And unfortunately, the more that I say that and more, she digs in to believing that I'm wrong and she's right. And that's the hardest thing because she was a friend and she was at our wedding, and I feel — sad isn't even the right word. It's just like so helpless. Like I can't do anything because I'm the enemy, right? In her mind, I'm the abusive one. I'm the liar. I'm the one who ruined everything, not Keith. So I can't help her, right? Like she'll never talk to me or trust me. I have to find other ways to reach her and I haven't stopped. And I do, and I continue to, and I hope that one day it's something I say or something that somebody says, wakes her up in the same way that we were able to wake up. And I believe that's possible. Other people say it probably will never happen given the fact that she was, you know, has seen the trial, she's seen The Vow every episode of season two. I thought, "Oh my god, this is going to wake them up."
[00:13:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:15] Sarah Edmondson: This is going to wake them up. Wait, Keith let Pam sit in her own sh*t while Nancy made breakfast.
[00:13:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah.
[00:13:21] Sarah Edmondson: Like, of course, that's not illegal, but that's awful.
[00:13:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right. This anecdote is about, there's a woman who's really, really sick. She's being taken care of. She had cancer, I believe, right? Is that what it was?
[00:13:31] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:13:31] Jordan Harbinger: There's a scene in The Vow where Keith's like, "Oh, she had an accident." And Nancy goes, "Oh, I'll go help and I'll change it." And he's like, "No, no, no. Make breakfast, sit down, and talk with me." And then they find out that she actually hadn't just sort of like wet her diaper or whatever. I'm not trying to, I want to make this sound dignified. I am doing a terrible job. But she had actually, yeah, she had been in her own feces while they sat and ate breakfast. And he just didn't give a sh*t. He just didn't care. And it's so obvious, even in the footage like he just doesn't, it was like an inconvenience for him that somebody else wanted to take care of a cancer patient while he wanted to have a chat and eat an omelet.
[00:14:07] Sarah Edmondson: Right.
[00:14:07] Jordan Harbinger: It's crazy.
[00:14:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: I mean, it really summarizes the guy in one anecdote.
[00:14:11] Sarah Edmondson: Right.
[00:14:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: But when you see something like that, to your point Sarah, it's like how does somebody see that part of the story and not think, "Wait," at a minimum, "I need to reevaluate what I think about this guy." What is the psychology of somebody who clings to an organization after so much evidence has come out? Is it the inability to like tolerate the cognitive dissonance of hearing different, you know, competing evidence? Are they embarrassed to have to stop and say, "Wow, I might have been wrong for a decade-plus of my life"? Like what keeps people involved?
[00:14:40] Nippy Ames: There's a long answer and there's a short answer. I'd say in short it's pride. I think for the people that are remaining, the fact that they can't get in a conversation where they're not curating and they get their ideas challenged and they get agitated when their ideas are challenged and you're not obedient to their narrative, speaks to, I think they're protecting their self-image and they will cling to anything that will allow them to keep their image of themselves intact, right? And they hide behind altruism as a means to do it. So now they're social justice warriors. They're trying to fix the legal system because that's in line with the self-image that they want to flex and portray. So they're willing to actually destroy the principle that they're pretending to uphold as a means to keep their self-image intact. And then they pretend that they're not doing it, and then they pretend that they're not pretending when you call them out on it.
[00:15:27] So I think the most compassionate thing to do is leave them alone. I think anytime you try to do something to help them, they will make it bad, villainize you, and prove that what they're saying and their narrative is true or being abusive or whatever. And that's sometimes the hard thing. And I try not to talk about it, specific people, but I'll talk about the process that I see in hopes that people can understand what they're looking at. And I think that's a broad kind of generalization of what you're looking at with them.
[00:15:55] Jordan Harbinger: What is somebody like Keith Raniere really want? You know, I watch The Vow. I keep asking myself, what is this guy doing? You know, I understand it's about power, it's about attention, it's about pleasure. He seems to be a pretty textbook narcissist and/or sociopath with kind of a weird 12-year-old boy-level obsession with sex , but I'm scratching my head.
[00:16:13] Nippy Ames: It's true, man. I mean, that's the best bio I've heard in a while.
[00:16:17] Sarah Edmondson: Mike Rinder called NXIVM, Keith Raniere's Wet Dream.
[00:16:20] Nippy Ames: Yeah.
[00:16:20] Sarah Edmondson: So, no, that sums it up.
[00:16:22] Jordan Harbinger: It's just like I'm scratching my head about what the needs are ultimately about because it seems he spends so much time and energy gratifying these impulses that we're ultimately just seemingly really superficial self-serving. Is there something that drives a guy like Keith deep down, or are personalities like Keith, just black vortexes of need and approval-seeking behavior and there's just no deeper principle?
[00:16:43] Sarah Edmondson: Both we've learned from the experts that a lot of these people never get evaluated even when they're in jail. So we don't really know. But—
[00:16:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:50] Sarah Edmondson: —from our not-expert research, all of these guys like Koresh, David Koresh from Waco, Texas, and I think Dahmer as well, and Keith, they all have had these bad experiences with their parents. And I'm sure you've heard about like attachment theory.
[00:17:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yes. Mm-hmm.
[00:17:06] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah. So basically poor attachment.
[00:17:08] Nippy Ames: In conjunction with, I would say too. Yeah.
[00:17:11] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah. So basically like talking about an inner deficiency that exists in the real world, he feels like a tiny little worthless piece of sh*t underneath it all.
[00:17:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:17:20] Sarah Edmondson: And found a way to control through his sexual prowess or whatever. And we actually just interviewed his girlfriend at 18, who's Karen Unterreiner in The Vow, and she shared how — he was a stud. It's hard to believe, it's hard to believe when you watch The Vow, but apparently in the '70s, in the late-70s , he was built and had the feathered hair and he was smart and he was a stud and he like had lots of women going all the time. And I think that just covered up the fact that he felt like a worthless little pudgy nerd on the inside who didn't get enough love from his mother. That's my dime story analysis.
[00:17:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It makes sense. He had a pathological need for whatever that was. And that's one of the reasons he probably was built back then or whatever, had the hair. And then when that became impossible, he became Mr. Knee pad volleyball, sweatband guy. And like just—
[00:18:06] Sarah Edmondson: Different stages.
[00:18:07] Jordan Harbinger: Different phase of life. Yeah.
[00:18:08] Sarah Edmondson: God, help me that he doesn't get out of jail because I will be sued for libel times a million after that statement. But yeah, sorry, Keith.
[00:18:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, I mean, insulting somebody is not, doesn't incur liability.
[00:18:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Also, I think, defamation has to do with the intent. I don't remember the legal definition, but I don't think we can argue that that's exactly—
[00:18:26] Sarah Edmondson: It's just facts.
[00:18:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: —what he was like. Yeah. It's just facts.
[00:18:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, the absolute defense to something slander or liable is proof that the thing you said is true. And I think we can just cut to the footage and go, is that not sweatband, knee pads guy? And also really libel is when you say somebody's a pedophile, which I'm just saying it's in the video.
[00:18:44] Sarah Edmondson: Also been proven.
[00:18:45] Jordan Harbinger: Also proven. So Keith was given 120-year prison sentence. He lost his appeal. What like—?
[00:18:51] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:18:52] Jordan Harbinger: Last week or something like that. So he's not getting out any time soon. Maybe some parole here and there, but he's serving that now. Allison Mack got three years. Nancy Salzman got three and a half years. Claire Bronfman got six years and nine months. Seeing the leaders of the cult get punished, the leaders of NXIVM. Does that help you heal in some way? Or is the criminal part of this more of a sideshow and not having to do with your personal journey?
[00:19:13] Nippy Ames: It's case by case with each person. Yeah.
[00:19:16] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:19:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:17] Sarah Edmondson: Overall, I mean, I think everyone's happy that Keith is behind bars. The world is safer.
[00:19:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:19:21] Sarah Edmondson: The other people, I don't know if the world is safer with them behind bars, but there's also legal precedence that you can't, you know, you have to follow when people commit crimes. I'm really happy that Nancy seems to have woken up. Lauren for sure woke up. Allison apparently woke up. I don't really, haven't had much contact from her. Claire is the only one who hasn't woken up. And she got more time because of that because she refused to disavow him. And I think that that's really key in understanding the whole case. And ultimately people are always like, "Do you think that's enough or does she need more?" I'm like, "I don't know. I'm not a lawyer." All I know—
[00:19:50] Nippy Ames: She scares me the most.
[00:19:51] Jordan Harbinger: Claire Bronfman?
[00:19:52] Nippy Ames: Yeah. If you haven't turned the corner by now or by the time you get out, you don't turn the corner. She's going to come out and she's going to come out for revenge.
[00:20:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:00] Nippy Ames: I just know her and I know how she was pointed in a certain direction and I don't think she knows any other way. I believe that. And I know that she's going to have probation for three years because this is something that's concerning to me and I've asked our lawyers about it. I don't know who she would go after and who she has the most vengeance for. I think it might be Mark Vicente, it might be some of the women, but I don't think she's going to not reengage that somehow. I think it's an itch that she can't scratch. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't, there's no indication that she's eaten her crow on this appropriately like everyone else has and dealt with the shrapnel that went off when Keith Raniere went off. Everyone else seems to have at least done that, except for the people that are loyal and Claire Bronfman. And she's the one with the resources and probably the motivation to do something. I don't know if you feel that way, Sarah, but I kind of feel that way.
[00:20:43] Sarah Edmondson: No, I do look. If Nippy and I disappear in eight years, please come looking for us.
[00:20:51] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames. We'll be right back.
[00:20:58] This episode is sponsored in part by SimpliSafe. Many people travel during the winter months — not me, I'm staying here, don't even think about it, but a lot of other people, they leave their homes empty and vulnerable, fewer daylight hours, more desperate folks. They want us — I don't know, maybe they want to steal gifts for other people. It's kind of a crappy thing to do now that you think about it. The best gift you can give yourself is to keep your home and your family safe with SimpliSafe. We've been customers for a while. Plug it in, uses Wi-Fi, uses cellular, uses battery if the power goes out, pretty handy. Best Home Security system of 2022 by US News and World Report for a third year in a row. They've got HD security cameras. You don't have to worry about these things being slow or hard to set up. They can detect fires, floods, and other threats. Plus 24/7 professional monitoring. Haven't had to put that to the test. Accidentally tested it when Jen set the alarm off and scared the crap out of the entire family, including the kids. We instantly got a call from SimpliSafe's agents to make sure that we were okay. So you at least know that that works. And they use Fast Protect technology exclusively from SimpliSafe. They'll capture evidence and verify that the threat is real. So I don't know what they do with that. Maybe they look at your cameras if the alarm goes off to see if you're being held at gunpoint or something. I actually should ask about that. That's pretty interesting. Anyway, they'll get you priority police response. That's the idea. Customize the perfect system for your home in just a few minutes at simplisafe.com/jordan. Go today. Claim a free indoor security camera plus 20 percent off your order with interactive monitoring. That's simplisafe.com/jordan because there's no safe, like SimpliSafe.
[00:22:29] This episode is also sponsored by Athletic Greens. Jen and I take Athletic Greens pretty much every day. Toss a scoop in water, shake it up, drink it in the morning. Each scoop has 75 vitamins, minerals, whole-food sourced, superfoods, probiotics, and adaptogens that are high quality. Your body will actually absorb. Good luck taking 75 different pills in the morning, or even finding all of those. That would be a nightmare. So it's kind of our all-in-one nutritional insurance. Obviously, it's cheaper than trying to find all those, but I wouldn't even — can you imagine taking all those pills? There's no GMOs, there's no nasty chemicals, no artificial anything. I've tried a few different green powder supplements and usually got to cover the taste up. With Athletic Greens, the flavor is surprisingly decent. It's got a little bit of green flavor, but it's not overpowering. Put one scoop in with water, shake it up, and drink it.
[00:23:14] Jen Harbinger: And right now it's time to reclaim your health and arm your immune system with convenient daily nutrition. It's just one scoop in a cup of water every day. That's it. No need for a million different pills and supplements to look out for your health. To make it easy, Athletic Greens is going to give you a free one-year supply of immune-supporting vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase. All you have to do is visit athleticgreens.com/jordan. Again, that's athleticgreens.com/jordan to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance.
[00:23:47] Jordan Harbinger: If you're wondering how I managed to book all the great authors, thinkers, creators every single week, well, it's because of my network and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The course is all about improving your relationship-building skills and inspiring other people to want to develop a relationship with you. The course does all of that in a super easy, non-cringey, down-to-earth kind of way. No awkward strategies, no cheesy tactics, just practical exercises that'll make you a better connector, a better colleague, a better friend, and a better peer. Six minutes a day, not even that, that's all it takes. And many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company. Course is all free at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:24:30] Now back to Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames. It's scary that somebody with, I don't know, 200 million dollars or whatever she has or is slated to inherit, might also have it out for you and/or other people that you know. Like that's scary. If some guy who comes out of prison and has nothing is after you. It's like, "Okay, I don't want to live in the same city as them, fine." Or, "Eh, they're not violent, they're just going to be pissed off at me." But when somebody's like, "I can harass you with lawyers till the end of time," that sucks. You know, that's scary.
[00:24:59] Nippy Ames: And maybe I'm naive, but I think it's a healthy fear to have and at least, you know, keep in my mind, because this might not be over for us, sadly.
[00:25:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:09] Nippy Ames: But it has that feel right now.
[00:25:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:25:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well, there's season seven, eight, and nine of the podcast.
[00:25:14] Nippy Ames: Yeah.
[00:25:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: Plenty of material, yeah.
[00:25:16] Nippy Ames: The reason Sarah and I do this is because we have some wisdom and we have some content that people can take and make more informed decisions with. And as long as that lane is open to us, I think, we should take it.
[00:25:27] Sarah Edmondson: Which is why we were so excited to come on this show, by the way, Jordan, because I know that's part of your logline is taking wisdom into so people can think better.
[00:25:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:35] Nippy Ames: Jordan, your podcast with Steven Hassan was one of the first I listened to when I got out.
[00:25:39] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:25:39] Nippy Ames: Yeah, and I listened to it again when we're we got approached about a podcast because I heard yours was good. It delivered, Jordan.
[00:25:45] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:25:45] Nippy Ames: Yeah.
[00:25:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I appreciate that.
[00:25:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: I would love to talk about that for a moment, the recovery post-NXIVM. You guys have obviously been through a lot. I know Sarah, in the book you talk about working with a team of therapists and a specialist in cults and a couple's counselor, and you say in the book, and I assume Nippy for you as well doing the podcast, that two things have helped you heal the most. Telling your story and doing the right thing in the face of adversity. I think it might seem obvious, but I think for everybody who goes through a traumatic experience like this probably has a different response to the aftermath and how to work through it. What is it about telling your story, here, on your podcast, in the media that helps heal these wounds? Is it being vulnerable about it? Is it helping other people? How does that process actually work?
[00:26:29] Nippy Ames: It's all those things.
[00:26:30] Sarah Edmondson: Sure. I would just say I think it's little bit different for both of us, but I know for me, because I was such a big recruiter and so such an advocate for him, I have to kind of like clean up my mess on the other side as a part of it. And also I'm the same person as I was before. I bet on the wrong horse with NXIVM, but I've always wanted to help people and now I feel like actually can help people with the lesson that I learned. And, you know, if I had these red flags as knowledge in my tool belt, I would have protected myself. And there's so many people are vulnerable. As you know, you talked about with Amanda Montell and Steven Hassan, these things are everywhere. Everyone's susceptible to it no matter what you think. And it's such a clear, purposeful thing that I feel, and that fixes for me this like mess of 12 years before. So it's just part of my healing journey and that's very cathartic and getting to work with my husband on something that we can do together that's positive and legitimately helping is the best for us.
[00:27:22] Nippy Ames: Yeah. The gist of that, and I think to add a little bit is, you know, we have this lane and it's important that we stay in it, but the principle-based reasons, at least for me, is like the abuses of power that went on at cult aren't proprietary to a cult, they go on in a lot of other places in our society, so if you can really articulate what they look like and sound like in your domain where it happened to you, people can go, "Oh, well, I see that here at work, or I see it at the local YMCA or something like that." So then, they have a language and they have a means to identify abuses of power. That's great.
[00:27:51] I mean, and I also figured at a certain point, because Sarah is more inclined to say yes to things, and I was more inclined to say, no, I recognize someone's going to grab my story and run with it. And I have to tell my story. I wasn't particularly interested in having our personal life become other people's entertainment. And if it was going to happen, it was going to happen under, you know, with my influence and what I had to say and my wisdom. So that was large part of why I decided to get involved and do it. And I also recognize, you know, Sarah has a demographic that she's going to reach, and I have a demographic that I'm going to reach. And while I think there's less men that were involved with this type of organization, it was only because I was targeted differently, not because I wasn't vulnerable to it. And I'm kind of the guy who's in the back row with his arms folded a little bit cocky, "This couldn't happen to me."
[00:28:36] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:28:36] Nippy Ames: I was that guy. I mean, you know, I was that guy. I was like, "This couldn't happen to me." I was, you know, cocky, arrogant. And it did. And because I thought it couldn't happen to me, it created that blind spot for me. . So in a lot of ways, I'm talking to that guy right now, who's out there thinking that, you know, "It can't—"
[00:28:51] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:28:52] Nippy Ames: "—happen to me," and hopefully I'll inform him to, you know, make a better decision in life. Yeah.
[00:28:57] Jordan Harbinger: What advice do you have then to somebody who's involved in an organization, whether it's a self-help group, or a religion, or a spiritual community, or even some online forum or something like that? What would you recommend they do to determine whether they're involved in an unethical organization or whether their involvement or dependency on a group is unhealthy?
[00:29:17] Nippy Ames: For me, ask questions. If you challenge and you get pushback, I would just, I think that's enough.
[00:29:22] Sarah Edmondson: Peace out.
[00:29:23] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:23] Sarah Edmondson: And also research like we never research NXIVM.
[00:29:25] Nippy Ames: Yeah. Obviously, yeah. Obviously, all that.
[00:29:27] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah, like research it and if there's any smoke, there's probably fire. And if they say, "Oh, that person was just a woman's scorn. Oh, she's crazy." You know, like any guru or leader will say that about any defectors that they'll just dismiss. All of it is like lies or smear campaign. And talk to people outside the group, talk to the experts and research it. If there's a cult website and it says this is a cult and this is why. It probably is. And there's so many resources. In fact, I'll give you for your show notes. I have a resource page on my website and there's a link to Steven and Amanda, and there's tons of videos and quick things on YouTube that you can watch and determine. But if you're like being isolated, if you're being gaslighted, if you're being encouraged to ignore your intuition, if you're feeling pressured, if you are being punished, punished publicly — all of those are very obvious red flags that I see now that I think people can look to.
[00:30:16] Jordan Harbinger: How do people stay maybe honest with themselves and with other people about their involvement or their feelings or their commitment? Because I would imagine at some point you're lying to yourself or hiding how deep you are in an organization like this, because you maybe know it's a little bit weird.
[00:30:30] Sarah Edmondson: Well, I think that goes back to the question you asked about the loyalists. I think part of them—
[00:30:33] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:30:33] Sarah Edmondson: —knows that it's bad, but at this point it's like people trying to get their money's worth. You know? I think that's a key thing that keeps people in and they're just unwilling to admit, "Oh, I made a bad decision." They ignore, ignore, ignore. Same thing in a domestic abuse situation, they're like, "Ugh, I can't miss that."
[00:30:50] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:30:51] Sarah Edmondson: It might, I must be wrong. So I think that plays a big part too.
[00:30:54] Jordan Harbinger: So if somebody does ask these questions and then realizes, "Hey, I might be in trouble, I might be part of something bad or something dangerous," what do they do? Who do they turn to? How do they get out safely? Is there anything they should not do?
[00:31:07] Sarah Edmondson: Yes. Do not go to the leadership and tell them they're thinking about leaving.
[00:31:11] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:31:11] Nippy Ames: Try and talk them down.
[00:31:13] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah. Do not do that. Find a reasonable reason to leave. When I left, it was, my grandfather was sick in Toronto, so I didn't attend that training and that was true actually. But you know, you can make something up.
[00:31:22] Nippy Ames: When I left, it was because my wife got branded.
[00:31:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, valid.
[00:31:27] Sarah Edmondson: Fair enough. But, you know, I had to have a story, a cover story for a bit, but most people can get away from the group. Some people are, you know, if you're stuck in a compound, that's a different situation. But anyway to get out of the group and talk to any of the cult experts that I mentioned, or you know, law enforcement. Getting therapy, but definitely don't tell the group that you're leaving and just find an excuse that it would be acceptable within that group to leave.
[00:31:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: I have one other thing I'd love to ask you.
[00:31:54] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:31:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: Even talking to you on this show and certainly in the documentary, you guys seem to have a really good sense of humor, and it comes through on the podcast as well. Even when things got really dark, you were able to laugh at yourself at the whole situation, you know, at Keith or whatever. Do you think that your sense of humor played a role in your ability to see through NXIVM to some degree, and more importantly, your ability to process what happened to you and survive? Because I feel like there's something about humor that is, you know, entails a certain flexibility in a certain distance from what's happening. And I also wonder maybe if it's part of resilience. Do you guys think your sense of humor played a role in all this?
[00:32:32] Nippy Ames: Okay, so here's kind of like my little TED Talk on humor.
[00:32:35] Gabriel Mizrahi: Cool. Let's hear it. Yeah.
[00:32:36] Sarah Edmondson: You have to do it in one minute though. You got one minute.
[00:32:38] Nippy Ames: I can do it in one minute. Good humor has truth in it.
[00:32:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Mmm.
[00:32:41] Nippy Ames: Right? There's no way around it. Like, because a good comedian can be meta about things in society and it's true. And we're all laughing and nodding because it's true. That's what makes it funny. I was never going to subvert that. I think when I was applying it to really any aspect of my own life. Like, you know, I come from a family where my brother's names are Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and my little sister is Daisy.
[00:33:03] Sarah Edmondson: For real.
[00:33:03] Nippy Ames: Right. And that's true.
[00:33:04] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, god, that's true? Oh, wow, man. Why?
[00:33:08] Nippy Ames: And it's a whole nother, like — so like I always will look at things through that lens at some point. Now, how much that allowed me to protect me, I don't know. I think there was a certain kind of like, I was always meta about the sashes. So, which means I think in a lot of sense I'm in, but not like blind allegiance in, and I was somewhat shocked to see how there was a blind allegiance to what I believed 75 percent of. It's staggering to me to see the people that are still, and even like before all the information came out, it was still kind of like, are people not a little meta on this? So I think if my definition of humor holds up, I think that might be one of the things that always, I had that meta lens. And you can even see — I do an imitation of Keith before we were out. I just was pretty good at imitations and ended up doing one at Nancy's party.
[00:33:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:33:58] Nippy Ames: And we had lost it for a while and The Vow wanted us to find it and I couldn't find it for season one and I found it too late and they didn't put it in or whatever. But when we went back and watched it three years out, it was funny, like, you know, to make fun of him. But it was also, we were like, "Oh my god." The stuff I was saying was actually what he was doing.
[00:34:16] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting.
[00:34:17] Nippy Ames: There was something I was sensitive to. I don't know why. Like I'm not going to sit here and say, you know, whatever. But it's a long-winded answer saying things you don't know are going on around here. But I was just imitating what he was doing.
[00:34:29] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow. Your subconscious picked up on his creepy sh*t probably.
[00:34:33] Nippy Ames: Yeah.
[00:34:33] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:34:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Or it was safer. It was safer to explore in a bit—
[00:34:37] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:34:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: —than to do head on. Yeah.
[00:34:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:39] Gabriel Mizrahi: Mm-hmm.
[00:34:40] Jordan Harbinger: It's like a comedian—
[00:34:41] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:34:41] Jordan Harbinger: —can say all kinds of stuff. And he goes, "Just jokes people. Come on, it's a comedy show." And it's like, "No, you're just kind of being a little bit of racist, but okay.
[00:34:47] Nippy Ames: It's the adage.
[00:34:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:48] Nippy Ames: You guys might appreciate this. People tell the truth when they're joking and lie when they're serious, you know?
[00:34:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:34:53] Sarah Edmondson: And answer to your question. Also, Gabe, I don't think Nippy and I would be together if he wasn't funny. And I thank God because having to go through this healing process without him, I mean, I don't know where I'd be like it's—
[00:35:03] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:35:03] Sarah Edmondson: We've had hard times, but we also laugh daily and you have to laugh like—
[00:35:06] Nippy Ames: Our hard times are petty.
[00:35:07] Sarah Edmondson: We were in a sex cult for 12 years.
[00:35:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:10] Sarah Edmondson: And like we missed out on all that.
[00:35:11] Nippy Ames: Duh, I know, right?
[00:35:13] Sarah Edmondson: We found each other though.
[00:35:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: You guys drew this short end of that stick. Yeah, sorry.
[00:35:17] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah. I mean, I say I'm winning. I'm married Nippy. I got two beautiful boys, but we have to laugh.
[00:35:22] Nippy Ames: Yeah. I say the fact that our problems are getting our kids to school on time as opposed to what they could have been is one thing I'm very grateful for right now.
[00:35:29] Jordan Harbinger: So I got to — how old are your kids?
[00:35:31] Sarah Edmondson: Three and eight.
[00:35:32] Jordan Harbinger: Is there any sort of like, "Hey, I'm watching a thing about your mom on HBO where she got her vagina branded."
[00:35:39] Sarah Edmondson: Oh yeah.
[00:35:40] Jordan Harbinger: "Anyway, there's cookies and milk in the—" I mean, that's a little bit like
[00:35:43] Sarah Edmondson: Troy knows.
[00:35:44] Jordan Harbinger: How are you going to handle that?
[00:35:44] Sarah Edmondson: Troy is eight. We just recently told him more and he's like, "If I ever saw Keith, I go knee him in the nuts."
[00:35:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's good.
[00:35:52] Sarah Edmondson: I'll tell him more as he gets older. But he knows we were in a cult. He knows we got out. He knows Keith is bad and he's in jail and he knows his parents did the right thing. And I think that's, you know, a good template for him. I hope—
[00:36:05] Jordan Harbinger: He is.
[00:36:05] Sarah Edmondson: You know, it's all we can do.
[00:36:06] Jordan Harbinger: There's going to be some high school chatter about mom.
[00:36:10] Sarah Edmondson: Ugh.
[00:36:10] Nippy Ames: Yeah.
[00:36:10] Jordan Harbinger: For sure.
[00:36:10] Sarah Edmondson: There will, and maybe that will build some resilience. I don't know.
[00:36:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, he's going to have a strong character. Well, he doesn't have to worry about seeing Keith because he's got 120-year prison sentence and he just lost his appeal.
[00:36:19] Sarah Edmondson: And five years probation.
[00:36:20] Jordan Harbinger: Wait, is he going to be—?
[00:36:21] Sarah Edmondson: 120 years and five years probation.
[00:36:23] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, plus five years probation. Got it, got it.
[00:36:25] Nippy Ames: Yeah, that's my favorite. When they drew out the sentence, I was like, "Oh my god, they gave probation too." I was like, cherry on top.
[00:36:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Just in case you ever get out, you're also going — in case you lived in 125 or 150, 60, whatever it is.
[00:36:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. You know what? It's fine. I mean, he's at cause so—
[00:36:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:36:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's like, you know, you did this to yourself, bro.
[00:36:44] Jordan Harbinger: I wonder how he's rationalizing that. Well, he knows all that stuff as BS anyways, right? Or he thinks a lot of it is BS the way it's applied, so I'm sure it doesn't apply, doesn't apply to Vanguard over there in prison.
[00:36:54] I wonder if he's up to his tricks in prison because that's a good place—
[00:36:57] Sarah Edmondson: Oh, yeah.
[00:36:57] Jordan Harbinger: —to get people wound around your finger and manipulate other people. It's full of manipulators and sociopaths.
[00:37:02] Sarah Edmondson: He's trying all sites, all sorts of sh*t, and getting in trouble and nobody likes him.
[00:37:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Really? What do you, what have you heard?
[00:37:08] Sarah Edmondson: Oh, he's gotten punched and he's just like—
[00:37:10] Nippy Ames: Yeah.
[00:37:11] Sarah Edmondson: —you know, trying to subvert the system. He's just sued the prison, the Bureau of the Prisons or whatever it's called because they stopped letting him talk to the loyalists, which he should never have been able to in the first place because then he's still—
[00:37:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right
[00:37:22] Sarah Edmondson: —pulling the lovers from jail. But yeah, no, he's still just doing his thing.
[00:37:26] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:37:26] Sarah Edmondson: Keith being Keith.
[00:37:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I saw he's like flashing the flashlight out the window and the women are dancing outside and I'm just thinking, "This is such a bad idea. What are you doing?"
[00:37:35] Sarah Edmondson: He's humiliating them. And that's the other reason I forgot to mention, Gabe. You asked earlier, why don't people leave or like what's the psychology? If they really were to admit what happened to them, it's incredibly embarrassing. Incredibly embarrassing, and the humiliation and the shame keeps it all shrouded. Like Nippy and I, we're so embarrassed when we figured out that we were wrong.
[00:37:52] Nippy Ames: It sucked.
[00:37:52] Sarah Edmondson: We ate that sh*t sandwich and it was awful. And it still is awful. But for them, it's like eight sandwiches because they've sat through a whole trial now and so much more evidence.
[00:38:03] Nippy Ames: Well, doubling, tripling down doesn't help it either.
[00:38:05] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah. Now, they're public about it, so now they have to go, wow is really wrong.
[00:38:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: The cost of coming out and changing your mind gets higher and higher the more you invest.
[00:38:14] Sarah Edmondson: Exactly.
[00:38:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: Which is terrifying—
[00:38:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:38:15] Gabriel Mizrahi: —to think about. And that's like the organization wants you to double down and be loyal, but they're also ensuring that your self-image is going to be so much stronger and the cost of coming out so much higher that you probably won't leave the longer it goes on. It's wild.
[00:38:28] Jordan Harbinger: This is what they say about doomsday cults, right, Gabe? You're in the doomsday cults and the world's going to end tomorrow, and then when it doesn't, you think, "Okay, everybody's going to leave and the leader's going to be like, "Oh, oops." And no one's going to listen to you.
[00:38:38] Nippy Ames: Yep.
[00:38:39] Jordan Harbinger: But what happens is people — some people leave, but most people double down and go, "No, we just didn't believe hard enough. That's why the aliens didn't come and pick us up," or like—
[00:38:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:47] Jordan Harbinger: "Oh, we had metal in our clothing." And so they find some rationalization for why it didn't happen, and then, they do it again the next time the comet flies by earth or whatever, that's supposedly hiding the spaceship. And you just think, how did that not break you right away when you sold all your possessions? Because you sold all your possessions and you invested so hard, the price, the cost of being wrong is too high. So you double down on the nonsense and that's what's happening here.
[00:39:13] Nippy Ames: The manipulators know that. They understand that psychology of human beings extremely well.
[00:39:18] Jordan Harbinger: Well, thank you very much for coming on the show. I know this is—
[00:39:20] Sarah Edmondson: Thank you so much.
[00:39:21] Nippy Ames: Thank you, Jordan. Thank you, Gabe.
[00:39:23] Sarah Edmondson: We were so looking forward to this and after knowing you're such a cult aficionado that we could have this conversation with you, it was such a treat.
[00:39:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I really appreciate it. I appreciate the openness as well. I know it's not easy to talk about this stuff, although you've really leaned into it. I mean, a lot of people watching The Vow in HBO, a lot of people listening to your podcast. It really is important to shine a light on this stuff because somebody somewhere is in a group and going, "I don't know, it's a little weird." And then they're going to hear this and go, "Wait a minute, this is what is happening—"
[00:39:51] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:39:51] Jordan Harbinger: "—to my friend or to me or to my mom." And we get those kinds of notes all the time. "I wasn't sure if I was in a cult. And then I realized after listening to your Steven Hassan episode or your Amanda Montell episode, or an episode like this, that this group I'm in is using, maybe it's not a cult, but they're using these influence techniques in a way that is—"
[00:40:08] Sarah Edmondson: Yes.
[00:40:09] Jordan Harbinger: "—coercive and I need to leave."
[00:40:10] Sarah Edmondson: That's such a key point. And we say that all the time in our pod. We don't even have to call it a cult. It might not even be a cult, but if they're doing X, Y, and Z and you don't feel good about it, then go join something else. Or go to like leave it. You don't have to stay.
[00:40:22] Nippy Ames: Or that person shouldn't be in the position of authority that they're in at worst case scenario.
[00:40:26] Sarah Edmondson: Yeah.
[00:40:26] Nippy Ames: Yeah. Thanks for letting us tell our story.
[00:40:29] Sarah Edmondson: We appreciate you. I also really appreciate you reading the book too. That means a lot.
[00:40:36] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames. We'll be right back.
[00:40:42] This episode is sponsored in part by thefire.org. Do you know that only one in three Americans believe we can fully exercise our free speech rights? That's why Fire is stepping up to protect freedom of expression for all Americans, no matter where you're from or what you believe. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression or Fire knows free speech makes free people. Fire will always be a principled, nonpartisan, non-profit defender of your rights. Join the fight for free speech at www.thefire.org.
[00:41:12] This episode is also sponsored by Progressive. Let's face it, sometimes multitasking can be overwhelming. Like when your favorite podcast is playing, the person next to you is talking, your car fan is blasting, all while you are trying to find the perfect parking spot. But then again, sometimes multitasking is easy, like quoting with Progressive insurance. They do the hard work of comparing rates so you can fight a great rate that works for you, even if it's not with them. Give their comparison tool a try, and you might just find getting the rate and coverage you deserve is easy. All you need to do is visit Progressive's website to get a quote with all the coverage you want, like comprehensive and collision coverage or personal injury protection. Then you'll see Progressive's direct rate and their tool will provide options from other companies all lined up and ready to compare. So it's simple to choose the rate and coverages you like. Press play on comparing auto rates, quote at progressive.com to join the over 27 million drivers who trust Progressive.
[00:42:00] Jen Harbinger: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. Comparison rates not available in all states or situations. Prices vary based on how you buy.
[00:42:07] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help online therapy. The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, right? So got a lot of greeting cards that have words like cheer, joy, merry, happy. For a lot of people though the holidays are kind of a downer. There's a little bit of holiday blues. Having someone to talk to about how you're feeling and what you can do about it is really a gift you can give yourself or somebody you know that might be going through some holiday blues. Even if there's nothing specific, you're not going through a crisis, whatever it is, mental health counseling can be a useful tool to improve your communication skills, reduce stress, set healthy boundaries, deal with trauma, deal with old crap that keeps bubbling up. Better Help online therapy really is a great option. You can access mental health care from the comfort of your own home. Don't worry about the office visit, the driving, the parking, and if you got a crazy schedule like I do, online counseling gives you a plethora of options.
[00:42:57] Jen Harbinger: As the world's largest therapy service, Better Help has matched three million people with professionally licensed and vetted therapists, 100 percent online. Plus, it's affordable. Just fill out a brief questionnaire to match with a therapist. And if things aren't clicking, you can easily switch to a new therapist anytime. It couldn't be simpler. No waiting rooms, no traffic, no endless searching for the right therapist. Learn more and save 10 percent off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan. That's better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan.
[00:43:28] Jordan Harbinger: If you like this episode of the show, please do what other smart and considerate listeners do, which is take a moment and support our sponsors. Look, all of these folks support the show. They support us. We'd love it if you'd support them. I know there's a lot of supporting going on, and you can start your support by going to jordanharbinger.com/deals. That's where you can find any sponsor of the show. You can also search for any sponsor using the search box on the website as well. That's at jordanharbinger.com right there on the homepage. Thanks again for making the show possible and supporting those who support us.
[00:43:57] Now for the rest of my conversation with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames.
[00:44:02] Gabe, what a story. I know it's hard to do these kinds of episodes where there's so much stuff, like two seasons of a show and a book. And the cult went for a decade and a half. It's like, okay, what can we do in 90 minutes? It's really hard to encompass everything but—
[00:44:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: So much to talk about. I know. It's wild. Yeah.
[00:44:20] Jordan Harbinger: It's crazy because a lot of cults do start with, "Oh, this is a great program for executive success where I can learn about some of the things that are holding me back ala Dale Carnegie at the learning annex," and then it's like...eight years, 10 years later, "I have cauterized my vagina and the guy is on the run in Mexico and people are being torn away from their parents." It's just the boiling frog really is, it's quite a rolling boil.
[00:44:44] Gabriel Mizrahi: The right metaphor.
[00:44:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:45] Gabriel Mizrahi: Absolutely. And kudos to Sarah and Nippy for being able to talk about it the way they did.
[00:44:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: I feel like they were very open and vulnerable with us and I know for Sarah, especially with the branding is probably an incredibly sensitive topic. It's just so hard to—
[00:44:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: —to relive but I admire both of them for being so open about what they went through, and I know that that informs their mission. You know, like telling their story, saving people who are in similar organizations like it's remarkable the work that they're doing.
[00:45:10] Jordan Harbinger: It really is. Yeah, there's so many different bits of abuse in The Vow, season one and season two, but—
[00:45:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:45:17] Jordan Harbinger: Can we talk about the little gal from Mexico who gets locked in a room?
[00:45:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yes. I mean, please. I need to talk about that. I mean, look, this was one of the, probably the most, one of the most disturbing stories for sure in The Vow season two. So—
[00:45:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: —if you guys haven't seen it, there's this family from Mexico that got drawn into NXIVM and basically Keith ends up grooming and sleeping with all three of their very young daughters.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, underage.
[00:45:40] Gabriel Mizrahi: Underage. I can't remember, I think one of them might have been 18, but then the other one was like 15. I'm not remembering the ages perfectly, but it was definitely illegal and very unethical.
[00:45:49] Jordan Harbinger: And gross, yeah.
[00:45:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: And super gross. And one of them, her name is Daniela, she's involved with Keith, and then she kisses another guy and she tells him, and Keith gets super jealous and possessive again, like a 12-year-old.
[00:46:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right, like a man-child.
[00:46:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: He convinces her to go into isolation in a room in her family's house for two years to, quote-unquote, "repair the ethical breach" that she engaged in. And in the doc it explains that she basically went insane in that room. She had like a total breakdown. Of course, she almost killed herself until she gets to this point where she's like, "I either have to kill myself, or like," and then she snaps out of it and she's like, "No, what am I talking about? This sucks. F Keith, F NXIVM, F this whole situation." And she summons the courage to leave. But what's so crazy about that story, Jordan, is plot twist. She wasn't actually being physically imprisoned, which is what I thought when I was watching it the whole time.
[00:46:40] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:46:40] Gabriel Mizrahi: I thought they locked her in this room. The door was unlocked apparently the whole time.
[00:46:45] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:46:45] Gabriel Mizrahi: She could have left at any time, but she was too afraid. And she was too enmeshed in this organization to leave sooner. And so what I keep wondering is like, what keeps somebody like that locked in a metaphorical room? You know what I mean? And what narrative or what, like mental model keeps you imprisoned in an organization that's doing these terrible things to you when you could leave if you wanted to. I can't really wrap my head around that.
[00:47:09] Jordan Harbinger: It's crazy to me, right? Is it fear? Is it the desire to please the other people? Is it pure brainwashing? Is that part of it?
[00:47:15] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:47:15] Jordan Harbinger: Is it social pressure of other members? Because remember, her family's in NXIVM, she's in her family's home. They're the ones dropping food off at the door.
[00:47:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: I think that probably played a huge role in it. Mm-hmm.
[00:47:24] Jordan Harbinger: I think so. You got to wonder what the family members are thinking. Like, "Oh, this is the room where my sister's been locked in that we haven't seen for two years. This is fine."
[00:47:32] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:47:32] Jordan Harbinger: This is totally fine.
[00:47:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's just what she has to do. Yeah.
[00:47:34] Jordan Harbinger: They're in the country illegally because they're overstayed their visas from Mexico. So one of the reasons — they asked her, "Why didn't you leave?" She's like, "I didn't have a passport".
[00:47:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:47:43] Jordan Harbinger: "I didn't have anywhere to go. I couldn't go to the police because they would've deported me, but my family lives here, so where was I going to, and what was I going to do?" And she was also like, again, 15 or so years old, this is a kid. And it's just absolutely insane to me that somebody would do this to a child and do this to their own family.
[00:48:01] Celebrities also played a role here. I mean, we've seen this with Scientology. Celebrities are a major commodity in cults because they lend an air of legitimacy and prestige to the group. So Allison Mack from the Smallville series, the Superman-related thing was in NXIVM. And you know what's funny about this though, Gabe, she's so famous that when they go on the run in Mexico to escape, the cops are like, "Why is this famous celebrity with blonde hair?" Maybe don't go on the run to Mexico with a blonde celebrity that people recognize all over the world, my dude, you freaking — just one of many bonehead moves that this cult leader makes Keith Raniere, where you're just like, "You're not nearly as smart as you'd like people to think you are, dipsh*t."
[00:48:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well, also, like what a weird look for him as a cult leader to be hiding out in a house in Mexico and then the equivalent of the FBI, I don't remember who it was—
[00:48:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:48:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: —like local law enforcement or FBI or Federales or whatever, they find him at this house. And he's just like hiding in a closet.
[00:48:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, like a weenie. Total weenie.
[00:49:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. It's just such — is this the word ignominious? I don't know if I've ever used that word in real life, but—
[00:49:05] Jordan Harbinger: Or ignoble.
[00:49:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Ignoble or ignominious. Or just like a sad end too.
[00:49:09] Jordan Harbinger: It's pathetic.
[00:49:10] Gabriel Mizrahi: And the whole thing is sad, but it's pathetic. It's like this is what it has come to. But the crazy thing is that in his mind, he's being persecuted, he's being targeted. This is a conspiracy to take down his legacy and this amazing organization he created, like one of the most disturbing parts of The Vow is learning that the narrative Keith has in his mind is so different from the reality. And that speaks to the narcissism and the sociopathy, but it also just speaks to like, this is so much of life is like, I have this story and you have this story, and I'm involved in this organization, and these two narratives are completely incompatible.
[00:49:44] Jordan Harbinger: One of the most interesting episodes, in my opinion of season two focuses on, they sort of cure people with Tourettes, which has no cure. And it's talked about in the book too, how this treatment was so effective with these people who had Tourettes and I didn't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater because I'm thinking, wow, this is something that actually worked. It'd be a shame of something that was so promising, ended up being discarded or lost as a result of this. But then, I do some research and I find out it's just cognitive behavioral therapy that they sort of bastardized and apply and put in and they say, "This is NXIVM, we invented this." And it's like, no, you didn't. You're just grabbing vulnerable people with an uncurable condition and looping them into your cult because then they owe you one because you've cured this thing that dominated their life.
[00:50:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: I wasn't sure what to make of that part in the documentary because they show, you know, they follow two people. There's the guy, the very charismatic coach who apparently was cured of his Tourettes and is like a motivational speaker. And then there's this young woman who also had pretty severe Tourettes. There was a video of her after going through the treatment, quote-unquote, treatment with Nancy and her Tourettes is, it's like mostly, I would say 90 percent at least, is gone. I mean, the symptoms of it.
[00:50:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it was so bad before you felt really just crushed for this woman who's never going to live a normal life or a normal existence. And then you look at her and you're like, "Oh," until she says, I have Tourettes and you're around her for a long time, you wouldn't even frigging notice.
[00:51:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: But what was really strange about it is, Then there's footage of her being miserable in the cult, right? There's like footage of her in a training session and she's just like, almost seems to be, I mean, it sort of seems like she's traumatized or just really disturbed. She's like staring at the table. She's not really engaging. She even might seem to be suppressing some symptoms at that point, and I couldn't figure out if what they were saying is that it, the Tourette's stuff worked on them, but it came at a high cost. Like yes, they got rid of the symptoms, but now she's a cult member and she's indoctrinated and she's struggling and they're doing all the stuff that Sarah and Nippy talked about, or is the process of getting rid of the symptoms suppressive in and of itself? Do you know what I mean? Like—
[00:51:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: Is this not just healthy therapy were they doing something to her to just like stuff it down so it didn't come out? I couldn't really get a read on that, could you?
[00:51:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it was. It was kind of tough. I don't know. I'd have to hear from somebody who treats Tourettes with CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and find out like, okay, are they just co-opting this and this is something that other therapists can use for Tourettes? Or does this have to come with all this bad stuff? And maybe that's the deal you make with the devil. Like, "I'll get rid of your Tourettes, but you're going to be totally screwed up—"
[00:52:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:52:19] Jordan Harbinger: Because we're going to traumatize you and indoctrinate you and make you feel like crap in a billion other different ways that are not visible versus the Tourettes.
[00:52:27] Gabriel Mizrahi: Another thing that I found so interesting about our conversation with Sarah and Nippy is Sarah's big on telling her story and I couldn't help thinking about all the times on Feedback Friday. We've heard from people who have been through some really heavy stuff. At least one person is written into the show saying, "I was falsely accused of a crime. I went to prison, and now I think that everybody thinks I did this terrible thing."
[00:52:48] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: Something like that. And oftentimes, our advice is, "You need to start opening up about this and you need to start telling your story, and you need to make it not a shameful thing as much as possible or just own the shame and be open about that. Because the more it stays a secret, the worse the shame is going to get. The more you're going to isolate and the more this story is going to haunt you." And I really heard that in their take on what to do with this. I mean, what do you do? You spend a decade-plus of your life in a cult. You are culpable for some of the stuff. You brought people into it. It's just fascinating that that healing power of a story is. And it's what they've chosen to do with it, and I thought that was really remarkable.
[00:53:27] Jordan Harbinger: The whole story really is, really is something else. I mean from the humorous stuff where—
[00:53:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:34] Jordan Harbinger: This guy, I mean, he is head of an organization. He calls himself Vanguard. How do you not stop and go, "Okay, this guy's a narcissistic prick and maybe this is a cult." Yeah. Bob Iger, head of Disney, he's probably Mr. Iger or Bob—
[00:53:45] Gabriel Mizrahi: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:46] Jordan Harbinger: Depending on where your level in the organization. Steve Jobs was Steve. But Keith is, this tool is Vanguard and Nancy was prefect. I mean, come on. At some point, you're like, "Come on, folks."
[00:53:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: They said that they already knew that there was — like Sarah didn't love It.
[00:53:59] Jordan Harbinger: It was already weird. Yeah.
[00:54:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: It was already weird the whole time. I mean, Nippy was saying that he didn't really buy into the whole sash concept, right? Which is really funny.
[00:54:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: And Sarah in the book talks about meeting Keith and she's like, "I didn't really like him."
[00:54:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: "And I didn't really think he was that impress." It's amazing that you can have those thoughts and you can still be involved. You can still stay involved.
[00:54:17] Jordan Harbinger: I got to say I love how — talk about hoist with your own batard. Keith's like, "You got to film everything I do because if this blows up, they're going to scrutinize the videos and know we didn't do anything wrong." Meanwhile, here we are scrutinizing the videos in The Vow and we see some narcissistic prick insisting on being filmed and adored while like dressed like a total dip sh*t. Open a frigging cereal box at 3:00 a.m. and playing volleyball and spouting word salad philosophy for hours on end. Like not the effect you were looking for here. Keith Vanguard.
[00:54:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Nope.
[00:54:48] Jordan Harbinger: A narcissist to the point where anybody from the outside is just going, "This guy is pathetic, really." But what he did is so, is so terrifying. He was so effective at it because he was able to sniff out Nancy Salzman needing approval from her mother, getting people in a loop, withholding that approval, knowing women in the organization wanted children, promising to have babies with like a half dozen of them, keeping people on stage for hours and humiliating them, and then being like, "Good job." You know, offering them approval at the end of it. It's just the coercion tactics are everywhere. And I think—
[00:55:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Can I just say it? Not just in the curriculum—
[00:55:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: But even the way they wove it into NXIVM, like operating procedures. In the book, Sarah talked about signing up for her first training.
[00:55:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:55:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: And when she found out how much it was, she balked at it, understandably. And she tried to back out.
[00:55:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Thousands of dollars.
[00:55:35] Gabriel Mizrahi: And the person she spoke with on the phone said, "Wait, you're 28, and you have money problems. How are you going to take charge of your life?" Sarah's like, "Well, I'm an actor and I might be up for a job and I'm hoping I get a job, and when I get a job I can maybe pay for it." And the person said, "Well, do you want to sit around and wait for your agent to call you? Or do you want to take charge of your life?"
[00:55:52] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:55:53] Gabriel Mizrahi: This is the length they went to. I mean, it wasn't just what you learned in the seminars, it was also what they taught the people who worked there to keep people—
[00:55:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:56:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: —on the hook, like from a business standpoint.
[00:56:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The sales process itself also coercive. Really, really, really wild, but not surprising. The self-help cult intro that I went to, people would call me and they'd be really bad salespeople, and I would ask them like, "What do you do? How long have you been in sales?" "Oh, I'm doing the PhD program," they called it, which is funny because of course, they're not accredited for anything, it's just some crap you pay for.
[00:56:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: Pretty hard diatribe.
[00:56:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. When you're in the, supposedly in this PhD program from this group, , you have to make sales calls and sell other people the intro program.
[00:56:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: Of course.
[00:56:33] Jordan Harbinger: Get people to upgrade.
[00:56:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Of course.
[00:56:34] Jordan Harbinger: And you're using like this crappy amateur sales stuff but you're also repeating and rehashing the stuff that they used in the first one. Like, "Well, do you not want to improve your life?" And it's like, "Of course, I want to improve my life, but joining your stupid advanced program is not how I want to do it." "Well, how do you know that you're on the right track?" "Because I'm enjoying success in multiple areas of my life and I don't feel like I need this." And I remember the guy goes, "Oh, well, it sounds like you're really happy. I guess, that's done." And I was just thinking like, this guy failed. Someone behind him is going to be like, "You failed this."
[00:57:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yep. He's going to be in a cage for a few weeks. Yeah.
[00:57:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Now you get to, now you have to eat dog food for a week or whatever.
[00:57:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's so crazy because one of the things, you know, they talked about was this whole concept of being at cause, which means being responsible for your outcomes and for your life.
[00:57:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Or even the concept of exploration of meaning, EM, right? These are noncontroversial ideas and they have value. It's like in any, I mean, it's pretty 101 therapy stuff, right?
[00:57:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: Like you could look at a situation this way, but isn't there another way to look at it? or you're complaining about your life and you're playing the victim, but didn't you play a role in this? Like we have to appreciate that too. These are not crazy concepts, but they were weaponized by the organization to keep people involved and to break them down and then to build them up. And the great irony of that is that Keith had this idea of what he called a shifter.
[00:57:48] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:57:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: Which was an individual, it's basically an individual or a corporation that creates a problem and then uses that problem in order to profit from the solution which the organization also offers. He talked about this. Sarah talks about it in her book. This is literally what NXIVM was doing. And Nancy Salzman talks about this, I believe in the documentary too, where she talks about how they would tear someone down and then show them that NXIVM had the keys on how they could build themselves back up again. The irony of that is so profound, and it's another one of those moments that makes me wonder, like, you know, I, I know it's hard to see through it, but when they're teaching the very concept that they themselves are using and weaponizing, it's hard to imagine your brain not going, "Wait a second, I have to raise my hand and ask." Or, "I have to take a break and ask myself why I'm in this organization."
[00:58:33] Jordan Harbinger: I agree. When they give you the game plan, you got to be like, "Wait a minute. Isn't that exactly what we're doing here?"
[00:58:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: Isn't that what they're doing?
[00:58:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's so, man, but it's easy to say this from the outside and it's a lot harder to internalize the idea that, "You are loved. You are a whole. You're already complete."
[00:58:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:58:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right. This core wound that most human beings share, and the idea that there's something inherently wrong or incomplete or unlovable about us, and that only this organization can help you fix this problem. It just seems like tapping into that core fear is a universal cult tactic.
[00:59:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yes.
[00:59:07] Jordan Harbinger: And frankly, a part of most major religions, but—
[00:59:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: Totally.
[00:59:10] Jordan Harbinger: But again, we'll leave that on the table, but when you get down, this is what dangerous organizations prey on to keep people on the hook.
[00:59:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. And it's available in every single human being.
[00:59:19] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Especially, I would argue, people who are so keen on getting involved in an organization because they want to grow. I think you touched on this in the interview, Jordan, like these people, Sarah and Nippy, and I would even say someone like me if I got involved, it's like, you want to understand what life is about. You want to get better , these are not crazy desires. These are normal impulses. These are needs that make us human. It's crazy to think that those things can also be the wound or the vulnerability that the wrong person can get their hooks into.
[00:59:46] Jordan Harbinger: Absolutely, man. Man, wow, really, really such a fascinating conversation. A little bit scary, although not because Keith is going to get out anytime soon. I mean, he's in prison for sex trafficking for decades and for over a century among other crimes. But just because it's so easy to see how smart people can get sucked into something like this slowly over time, especially. Because somewhere in the United States or anywhere for that matter. And I don't mean even Scientology or other cults we already know exist. There's another NXIVM out there bubbling up slowly right now that we're going to see on HBO in five or 10 years. It's happening right now.
[01:00:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[01:00:23] Jordan Harbinger: There's somebody listening right now who's in a group like this and is going, "Hmm."
[01:00:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: Mmm.
[01:00:26] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe.
[01:00:28] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. I think that's why it's important to talk to people like this. Jordan, I was also so interested by the whole humor thing and how their being funny might have helped them get out. And Nippy had his theory on why humor is important. Sarah obviously is very funny and she talked about why it's important to laugh at yourself. But as they were talking I was also wondering whether being funny and having a sense of humor also makes you take yourself less seriously. Like it's okay to have a laugh at yourself, or it's okay to be a little bit of a clown. Or it's sort of safer for you to look at your foibles or your mistakes and be like, "Oh, whatever, ridiculous thing. I made a huge mistake. Ha-ha-ha." And you can get through that.
[01:01:07] Whereas a lot of the people who are still stuck in NXIVM, you know, Nippy was saying that their self-image is so important, it's so threatening to have to give up that self-image by con admitting to themselves that they were wrong and that they were conned, and that they've been involved in this organization that's been hurting them. But I do wonder if maybe when you're funny, your self-image isn't quite as important. It's not quite as brittle. So you're able to look at yourself and maybe say, "Oh sh*t. Yeah, I need to — yep, I made a mistake." And then, yeah, maybe you don't laugh at it immediately, but at least you have a little sense of irony or a little flexibility to not take yourself quite so seriously. The idea that that could be a superpower that could save you is fascinating to me.
[01:01:46] Jordan Harbinger: Once again, special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show. We really appreciate your support.
[01:01:52] You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Amanda Catarzi, who was raised in a cult and later sex and labor trafficked.
[01:02:00] Amanda Catarzi: The women were trained to be insanely submissive, like you could never say no to any man, and then the men were trained in a very military way. These people are well-armed and well-trained, and it's a whole group that thinks that the world is evil and they need to repopulate the world with their people to bring the kingdom of God.
[01:02:22] When you turn 13 in that culture, you're an adult. So to be 13 years old, being courted by men twice my age, three times my age to see if I would make a good wife, it was just kind of outrageous.
[01:02:36] So I moved to California to go to school, and I start training MMA, and my trafficker was there. He was actually one of my boxing coaches. Then, he's like, "You know, I like you." And so now, we're dating. So this is my first adult relationship. He's twice my age at this point. And then, he would always take me up to his cabin on the mountain, which was really far away from everybody else. No phone service, isolation. And it was on a Native American reservation. So whatever they wanted to do to me, they could. Oops, you accidentally got gang raped. That was very common of going to go train. And then, all of a sudden, now that you've fought 12 rounds, now you're going to be raped.
[01:03:20] A girl ran a red light and T-boned my truck. So I pull out my phone and I text my trafficker and I say, "Hey, I almost just died in a car accident." And he said, "Is your face f*cked up?" And I'm like, "No." And he says, "Well, you're so f*ckable then." Something isn't right here. This isn't who I want to be. This isn't what I want. And it was like I was coming out of water. I had this moment of clarity and I knew something wasn't right and I knew this wasn't what I wanted. And I knew I needed to act fast in order to get out of that situation because I knew it'd get sucked back in.
[01:03:57] Jordan Harbinger: To hear how she escaped her dire situation, check out episode 631 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:04:05] Again, really fascinating conversation. There's probably a lot more there. Big thank you to Nippy and Sarah. All things Nippy and Sarah will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts in the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support the show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:04:28] Gabe, where are you online?
[01:04:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: Ah, you can find me on Instagram at @GabrielMizrahi or on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi.
[01:04:35] Jordan Harbinger: I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, software, and tiny habits, the same stuff I use every single day. It's our Six-Minute Networking course. That course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty, build relationships before you need them. And no cult tactics, promise, pinky swear. Come join us — come join us — you'll be in smart company.
[01:05:00] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting, if you know somebody who's interested in cults, has seen The Vow on HBO and is talking about it nonstop, definitely share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:05:34] This episode is sponsored in part by The God Pod. Oh my god, this promo's going to get me canceled. You ever wish you could ask God what the hell is going on? If you're ready for a chat with the big guy upstairs, check out this comedy podcast called The God Pod. After 6,000 years of running the universe, God realizes that Satan is kicking his butt, and like so many other people in moments of crisis, decided to start a podcast to smite the forces of evil. Oh man, I'm already saying the emails coming in about this. Co-hosted by BFFs God, Jesus, Moses, Mary Magdalene, Psyche, and Santa, The God Pod is a twice-weekly opportunity for God to hang out with his fellow deities and talk about what's going on down below in the human world. So bring your Bibles and your sense of humor, there's an episode with Satan's status updates on what the Queen is up to, oh my god, and God's recent interview with Scott Dikkers, the founder of The Onion — that's more appropriate, probably — you're guaranteed to have an unholy time. Check out The God Pod on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And please don't unsubscribe from my show.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.