LYNDA HIRSCH ON TELEVISION -- GOSSIP

By Lynda Hirsch

June 29, 2019 3 min read

If you think the Dawn of Day cult on "General Hospital" is creepy, you are right. What is creepier is that is based on a real-life courtroom cult trial that wrapped up last week. I have always been captivated by cults. It started with Jonestown and continues today with NXIVM. No matter how much I read or watch, I still do not get it. Why would everyday people with everyday lifestyles — not to mention the rich and famous — become involved in these groups? One thing does stand out: All these groups promise to heal the world and give everyone the perfect life. All they have to do is listen to the leader, who usually wants sex in exchange for curing the world of its ills and charlatans. Oh, wait! The leaders are charlatans. Forbes magazine and The New York Times have investigated NXIVM over the years.

Several high-profile people face charges for their involvement in a secretive organization that allegedly recruited and branded women as sex slaves.

On its website, NXIVM claimed to be a multilevel marketing company rooted in "humanitarian principles." It offered classes for people seeking a greater purpose in their lives and careers. But underneath this altruistic guise was something much darker.

It all started with Keith Raniere, a self-proclaimed self-help guru. He founded NXIVM in 1998 as an umbrella for several companies and social movements. One of those initiatives was Executive Success Programs, or ESP, which he founded with former psychiatric nurse Nancy Salzman.

ESPs were professional development seminars targeted at the wealthy. Executives and professors would teach courses on self-improvement priced from $25,000 to $100,000. Raniere asserted himself as a leader of a philosophical movement and required members to call him "Vanguard." Salzman, who became president of ESP, was referred to as "Prefect."

In 2003, Forbes estimated that 3,700 people had participated in ESPs. Many were billionaires, actresses and businessmen. NXIVM even hosted the Dalai Lama at a humanitarian event. Some people cut ties with NXIVM after taking the courses. Others become deeply ingrained into a secret "sisterhood" of Raniere's followers.

Leaders within the movement were called "masters" and recruited other women to be their "slaves." Prosecutors allege that Raniere kept a group of 15 to 20 women as sex slaves, branded with his initials. So, Shiloh wants sex and he wants it bad. Shiloh knows deep dark blackmailable secrets. Shiloh has a hot iron to brand a la Rowdy Yates on "Rawhide." Let's compare: The Dawn of Day leader goes by one name, Shiloh; he blackmails followers with secrets from their past; he uses a branding iron; he swears he is doing it for the greater good of mankind.

To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: niekverlaan at Pixabay

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