A Cappella Innovations

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Postby kevin47 » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:34 am

I really hope that New York Times writer doesn't find this thread...

Red Bull holds air racing competitions. Why? Because people who like air racing competitions REALLY like air racing competitions. They also profile well as potential Red Bull drinkers. The average Red Bull drinker Spends $30 per month on Red Bull, so if on event delivers just 330 converts, that represents more than $1,000,000 in sales over the next ten years.

So yeah, at the events, you get plenty of free Red Bull, and everything is Red Bull branded. They aren't just providing a free air show for no reason.

Look, this NXIVM (which, by the way, sounds like the name of a ficitonal benevolent robot) wants to grow in influence. We can agree on that, right? They do so by cultivating (no pun intended) membership that is loyal, and has money to burn.

It just so happens that collegiate a cappella is an insular community with members who has expressed an uncommon level of devotion to it. This in spite of the fact that a cappella has limited appeal to the broader community.

Oh, and most of us come from colleges that cost $40,000 per year. What does that tell you?

And so they ask the judges to steer the discussion toward brand compliant themes. They offer vegetarian food in an effort to suck up to vegetarians (an even smaller, more loyal subset). Of course they want you to join the program, spend money, and all that...

What do you do if you don't like their festival? Simply don't buy into their product. Take the free festival and run. Tell your friends that it wasn't a good experience. Tell the NIVXVM people that it wasn't a good experience. Find this Keith Raniere fellow on his Segway and tell him it wasn't a good experience. That's all fine.

Breathe... Calm down and stop pooping everywhere. Everything is cool.
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Postby whataboutrob » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:42 am

Wow, what I truly interesting thread...

As I see it, what we're really discussing here isn't whether or not NXIVM is a "cult", but rather, whether we, as a community, deem a conference like AI to be "legitimate" conferencee/meeting that fits within our goals, objectives, and identity as a community...

Which is another way of saying: how does an event like AI compare to events like SoJam or East Coast Summit? Is AI an event that we want to bring our singers to? Are there real, tangible benefits (musically and otherwise) to be found in attending? Are the motives of the organizers innocuous, or are they somehow sinister (or simply just misguided)?

And I think when it comes to the question of legitimacy, there's definately a peer-review process at work here, right on this very board. You don't get the trust of a community simply by arguing for it, because frankly the logic there is kind of circular ("we're legitimate because we say we are"), and mostly because trust is something that's earned, even when the event won't cost the participants anything other than their time. The reason that folks like Deke, Wes, et al are listened to here (and why we can attend events they put on without a lot of questioning about the motives of said events or seminars) is because they've earned that trust through years of communication with and dedication towards the community. You can't buy that kind of trust with a conference or two; it takes time.

Lauren, I appreciate your post, and your willingness to put your thoughts out for judgement in a forum that's not exactly your home turf, so to speak. I know it seems like we are snarky, suspicious, and perhaps even ungrateful, but trust me when I say that nearly everyone on here is generous, kind, and thoughtful, and we all want what's best not just for a cappella, but also for our singers and our friends.

With that in mind, perhaps what's most desired here is simply more, and better communication between the promoters of a festival like AI, and the community that the conference is trying to reach. The calls for this festival were put out on really short notice, and it wasn't exactly clear what groups and individuals would learn/benefit from attending. And yes, the fact that it's free -- and make no mistake, the generosity required to put on such an event is appreciated and understood on this end of things -- is helpful, but it's by no means a free pass, scrutinty-wise. People would like to know not just the content of such an event; they also want to know who they'll be associating with professionally, and that's no small deal. And yes, that includes being clear on who, exactly, is sponsoring the event, because that sort of thing does matter, even outside of our small community...

Let's say Organization A (why don't we go with the aforementioned Pepsi, for arguement's sake) is putting together an arts festival. Even if I really like the festival's line up, if I think Pepsi were engaging in corporate practices I don't agree with, then I probably won't attend the festival. (Although I'll be clear that Pepsi and I are totally cool -- they actually do help the arts quite a bit here in New York) It's totally OK for people to be uncomfortable with the thought of attending something put on by people they disagree with, the same way it's alright for that organization to put the festival on in the first place...
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Postby Mark Vicente » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:29 am

Good morning. My name is Mark Vicente. I was one of the facilitators (performance advisors) at A Cappella Innovations this weekend. I am a film director who has been in the industry for over 24 years and have in my cumulative career worked on probably 30 feature films, numerous documentaries, commercials and music videos. I've had the priviledge of working and interacting with some amazing people; actors, celebrities, filmmakers, politicians, heads of state, activists, humanitarians etc.

I’ve read through all the posts now and thought I might add some impressions. Some of what I’ve read sounds like refreshing critical thinking, some of it non-sensical conjecture and then some of it emotionally reactive absurd fear mongering. It got me thinking back to my home country, South Africa.

In apartheid era South Africa there were a number of people that felt the governments policy of seeing other human beings (black) as sub-human, was flawed and immoral. The government’s brilliant plan was to frame this complaint in a very specific way so as to guarantee control of people perceptions. What they did is labeled anyone who dissented as a “communist” with nefarious intent. I myself was one of those labeled people. I refused to do mandatory military service in a war that I did not believe in. Consequently I was labeled as a criminal for several years until Nelson Mandela pardoned all ‘criminals' of conscience. The governments framing technique was amazingly effective however as most people believed that anyone who questioned the government was a bad person. So complete was this strategy that most law abiding news-watching citizens couldn’t fathom the possibility that someone who dissented may have good intent.

The government had complete control of the media. I experienced this very deeply during my time as a news cameraman in South Africa in the late 80’s. I would spend a day shooting in unrest-ridden townships seeing all manner of ghastly things and then go home and watch the news, which told an entirely different story…. as though what I had shot, had never happened. It was at this point that I understood there is a vast difference between media (what is reported) and reality.

In some of these posts it seems that a few people think they are the same thing. Anyone who believes everything they read, hear or see is under a self-induced spell of sorts. Which brings me to something that I haven’t seen addressed deeply yet:

What is a Cult?

It’s a word people have used liberally in these posts. Sort of like “Commie Sympathizer”. But what is it? It seems scary, frightening…. like maybe they’ll cart your children off into the night, perform ritual sacrifice, or steal your brains! When I was a kid my Mom told me to never go beyond the fence around our property (we lived in the bush) because the witchdoctors would get me and eat me. Later when I grew up I found out that it may just have been a story used to scare me into never going beyond the fence. And believe me it worked! I was scared!

The word ‘cult’ seems to strike an irrational fear in people. It’s guaranteed to frame whatever is being talked about in a very specific way. But what is this ‘cult’ thing? Some say it has something to do with worshiping a deity or figurehead or concept. Well… there’s lots of that going on in the world. People worship their gameboys, cars, fashion models and celebrities. Others say it has something to do with not thinking for yourself. Once again we have a lot of that going on in the world. In fact it could be the number one ailment of humanity.

‘Cult’ seems to be this vague indefinable word. It’s supposedly bad… but what is it? A few years ago Keith Raniere and I had a conversation about another group that had been called a cult for years. He pointed out that not all cults are destructive groups. And not all destructive groups are cults. What people are scared of are not cults… what they’re scared of are destructive groups. So why speak of a ‘cult’? If there’s a group of people (whether they’re a cult or not) killing puppies across the street, you call them Puppy Killers. If something is destructive why don’t we just call it that? Destructive! Or Anti-Humanitarian!

Now maybe you don’t like a particular group, (maybe you’re xenophobic or something) You can’t call them a destructive group because there’s nothing you could really put your finger on that’s destructive. Maybe they seem a little too happy, too nice, too friendly… or whatever – so you call them a ‘cult’ and you import all of the negative attributes of a destructive group. It seems to be a blanket term people use when they can’t seem to find something bad about something but have some kind of a bad emotional feeling. What matters is if a group is destructive or not, not whether they are this vague indefinable thing called a ‘cult’.

Which brings me to this supposedly evil, bad intentioned, dangerous guy…. Keith Raniere. I’ve noticed that a few people have been searching under every rock to find the TRUE intent behind A Cappella Innovations. It reminds me of reading the National Enquirer in which it is often stated that the federal government is actually run by aliens who arrived in space ships in the 50’s. I’m somewhat skeptical of this. I’ve always been a fan of getting first hand data.

I’ve known Keith Raniere for about three years now. I am very fortunate to call him my friend. George Lucas had Joseph Campbell as a mentor and I am fortunate enough to have Keith as an adviser in my filmmaking endeavors. When I first met Keith I was very careful and skeptical of him. One of the problems for me (which turned out to be an asset) was that he was not authoritative and yet people were saying a number of great things about him. But he just acted like a normal guy.

So how do you know someone’s intent? One way might be to see how they live their life. I have taken time to really watch how he lives his life and how he conducts himself.

This is a guy who lives very simply. He owns very little (sinister?), doesn’t drive a car (some might think that’s sinister) and took a vow of non-violence many years ago (some call it weird, others call it noble) He is extremely conscious of his ecological impact and goes so far as to tear of little pieces of a paper towel to use rather than the whole square. This is a really down-to-earth, warm-hearted guy who really cares about other human beings and is devoted to inspiring people to be the best they possibly can. In addition he constantly strives to figure out what the right thing to do is. Because the right thing (an act that would uphold humanity) sometimes goes against popular opinion he sometimes finds himself in the middle of controversy or social unrest. He never does things just to please people and often states that he is wrong about things and feels that he can learn from everyone else.

For some reason there are those who think that it is not possible to aspire to be noble but instead, there must be some bad intent at work. Why? What is the criteria being used to evaluate his true motives and those of ACI? A scared feeling that someone has because they heard a story (that was designed to scare them)? Questionable data on a website? Yes it’s true he has never responded to the allegations made against him in the media. Is that a sentence of guilt?

There are two ways to gather data. The scientific method and the unscientific method.
The scientific method: Gather data and form a flexible hypothesis.
The unscientific method: Form a hypothesis based not on data but some prejudice or ‘feeling’ and then find the data that matches.

What does all this have to do with this forum? Well it’s this very non-thinking that seems to be at the root of many human travesties. Look at every war or genocide that ever happened. They happened because people were irrational and overemotional. In World War II the Nazi’s told the people that the Jews were responsible for their misery. Most people never questioned that little piece of propaganda. They went along with it for whatever reasons…. a little thinking may have gone a long way.

A Cappella Innovations in my understanding is attempting to promote a more humanity-based experience through expression and voice. That is the reason I am involved. In Africa, many tribes use singing and dancing to express the way they feel about certain things. Injustices, births, deaths, life. I always found it to be an inspiring tool of transformation.

It seems in some of the posts, that the search for nefariousness is a foregone conclusion and now some are just fighting for the ‘proof’ of badness. To be skeptical of others intent is a wise thing. But there is a distinct difference between skepticism and cynicism. Skepticism involves evaluation and study and critical thinking. Cynicism on the other hand is the refusal to critically evaluate and the attempt to make something bad.

It concerns me that some people who are complaining the loudest about the possible nefariousness of ACI, NXIVM etc. are the ones behaving destructively, both in words and actions. Perhaps the reason they assume bad intent of other people is because they themselves have bad intent and consequently assume all others do as well.

Maybe not everyone does....

I met some wonderful people this weekend and hope to be friends with them for a long time. Thank You to all of you who participated in this in the spirit in which it was intended.

All my very best,
Mark Vicente
Mark Vicente
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Re: A Cappella Innovations

Postby dekesharon » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:03 am


Thanks for responding! This is good, and you obviously have lots of information and insight.

Please forgive my trimming your post to respond/ask questions - I'm not intending to take anything out of context, but rather focus on a couple specifics:

LRSalzman wrote:#1 –Same issue as Napster and the reason for Intellectual Property in my opinion, people steal. It’s not secret because we don’t want others to know what we’re doing, it’s ours to distribute as we choose and we choose not to mass distribute it to the world. Most people in the entertainment industry can relate to having their stuff stolen and needing to take measures against this… Joan Osborne gave a concert in the Albany area a few years back in which she made a public request to those present that if they liked her music to please purchase it, and she shared her struggle and the destructive effects she was experiencing from the mass distribution of her music on the internet… I think it’s horrible that a performer should have to pretty please ask you not to steal their stuff because it bankrupts them. Same thing here.

I'm not sure how it's the same, as in the music industry you have millions of people all stealing something that's of small value ($15). As such, it's close to impossible to enforce that copyright. And some people argue (here!) that the value in having it stolen/shared is actually a benefit, as the publicity generated helps the business in other ways.

However, you're talking about corporate training/personal development, and this is much easier to enforce: you have a copyright on the material Keith has developed, and if anyone tries to turn around and sell classes that use your information, you can sue them. These people would number in the tens at best, not the millions, so it's not impossible to sue them. Plus, you'd win. Although it would be a hassle.

Has anyone tried to copy the classes and teach them?

I know that Rich Ross had two people evaluate a/the training manual (?) and post their results. He was sued, and he won. But more to the point, I'd like to know what they read. I'm curious! I like to read.

I would be very happy to purchase one of Keith's books, or the journals with the articles. Where can I get a copy of anything he's written for sale? I believe in paying people for their work.

Also, some of the information that's being requested isn't proprietary, and as such I don't think is even loaded. Example: what classes does NXIVM teach? How much does it cost for each? A list of classes and cost is not something that's loaded or proprietary, is it?

LRSalzman wrote:#2 concern – Anything I say runs the risk of being contorted, read into, used against me… and when you have clearly defined, paid, adversaries looking to disparage and create ill will against you, and set up hate sites to do it, contacting anyone you do business with and threatening disrepute and slander against them if they continue to associate with you, seeking to destroy any new business that you start, any new friendship you make, seeking to inspire fear in your neighbors, community members and in the world at large, you learn to keep to yourself and go about your business.

I'm not trying to disparage you, nor is the a cappella community in general.

This discussion is being hosted indefinitely on the internet, and your words will live on in their entirety. As such, you have a public form to express yourself unedited. And any facts you present will remain here. It's a good thing in a safe, fair place.

To further your claims: who are the clearly defined paid adversaries? And who is paying them?

It's clear Rich Ross is a vocal opponent of your program, but he is one person, and he clearly isn't focusing his efforts only against NXIVM (his web site has hundreds of articles about other organizations).

Are there others? Who? Why?

LRSalzman wrote:This is a pretty straightforward program, but there is a systematic method for helping people overcome their limitations that Keith came up with. It is based on concepts of math and biology and we have gotten good results using this tool to help people overcome fears and become more easily able to “walk their talk” so to speak. It is a simple method for evaluation of each person’s goals and values and very critical approach to breaking through personal road blocks by exploring where each person’s beliefs are not consistent with cause and effect.

This sounds great! I'd love to read it. So would millions of people, I'm guessing. Where can I get a copy?

LRSalzman wrote:Please consider, the Salem Witch Trials were based on a similar type of logic as the cult accusations… If you accuse me of being in a cult, there is no possible way I could ever say I’m not and have you believe me because you can always say that I’m brainwashed.
This puts me in quite a bind…

But I'm not asking you if you're in a cult, nor do I consider my questions to be a witch hunt. We've established already that I can neither ask and you can't answer the "am I in a cult" question. In fact, I'm the one to have pointed out how that's impossible to answer with guaranteed veracity.

Instead, what I'm trying to do is come up with questions that are based in fact, not accusation. Search the internet for articles that can confirm statements.

Example: doing a search for "highest IQ guinness 1989" brings up several web sites that all mention Marlyn Vos Savant, but not Keith:

(and so on - I urge everyone to do the search themselves).

This isn't a witch hunt - its an honest inquiry into a statement of fact posted on NXIVMs web site and often quoted by NXIVM folks. I don't control the internet - no one does - so it's not like the information is predisposed to be against anyone.

I, and others, are looking for something to hang our hat on other than personal testimonials from Keith's friends. Like the "I'm not in a cult" comment, it's certainly nice to hear, but it isn't a proven fact which can be used in building a logical argument of support for NXIVM and/or Keith.

LRSalzman wrote:Over a decade ago Keith ran a large corporation. He was accused of running a pyramid scheme. There were civil, not criminal, charges brought forth, and after extensive investigation, and over 20,000 witnesses to choose from, the case was dismissed because there was no proof that there was any cause for suit.

It doesn't appear the case was dismissed, as Keith was ordered to pay $20,000 over 5 years in Arkansas:


And there was a settlement in Massachusetts:


That's a matter of public record (unless those documents aren't real... are they not?)

It doesn't make Keith a bad person, but it is one piece of information about him that can be found on the internet. A fact. and I'm hoping for more facts, documents. Positive ones.

LRSalzman wrote:Rick Ross is a convicted felon. He believes that holding individuals against their will is a valid method of helping “reform” them from brainwashing. He was found responsible in a court of law of this. What right does he have to deem other’s beliefs bad and forcibly hold them against their will until they change said beliefs? THIS IS CLEARLY AND MEASURABLY AN INFRINGEMENT ON BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS.

Understood, although Rick Ross' web site and other information about him on the internet makes it clear that he doesn't do this anymore and hasn't in a while.

This is not to apologize for what Ross has done, but to be fair: if my kid were in the People's Temple or Heavens Gate's cults, I would pay someone to kidnap and deprogram him. Yup. Before he committed suicide. Murder is worse than holding someone against their will.

Anyway, I don't know that there's much value in continuing to focus on Ross. I'm trying to move past him and his web site in a search for information about Keith and NXIVM.

LRSalzman wrote:NXIVM has lawsuits against Rick Ross and his co-conspirators who stole our property (violating our constitutional property rights) and slandered us all over the internet, tarnishing our reputation in the public eye. We also have lawsuits against others who have stolen money and property from us and violated client confidentialities and privileges that are supposed to be upheld by our government. This does not make us a cult and to say we go after anyone who says anything negative is a huge contortion on the truth. We are willing to stand up for what is right and just. It’s right thing to do in my opinion.

LRSalzman wrote:Lauren Salzman
Director of Education

Thanks again for responding! You obviously have lots of information about the situation, and your opinion very much matters.

Since you're the director of information, I'd love to know: what classes do you teach, and how much does it cost? What materials are available for purchase (books, articles) and where? I would love to have some first-hand information to learn more about NXIVM.

- Deke Sharon • 800.579.9305 • http://www.dekesharon.com

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Postby sahjahpah » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:18 am

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Postby appbigcountry » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:21 am

Cult or not a cult. That is the question.

Well, not really. I don't really care how you classify it. Here's what I've gathered about NXIVM.

Keith Raniere is a man. He invented some scientific and mathmatic formula that helps people with their lives. People get this special (and apparently valuable) information by entering the Executive Success Program. As of this point, I haven't been able to find a price anywhere on their websites. I think I saw somewhere that it was around $7,000? I'm probably wrong on that.

NXIVM is supposed to have made millions of dollars, but Keith doesn't take any of it. Where does it all go?

And, I'm sorry, I don't mean to be demeaning here, but do people really refer to him as "Vanguard?" That's just a little weird. According to other threads around here, maybe "Grand Poo-Bah" would be a little more accepted.

And really, we can stop attacking this Rick Ross guy, Rick Roll, whatever his name is. I could care less about him. The "we're right because he's wrong," approach didn't work in third grade, it's not working now.

Here's what it comes down to for me. I'm a Christian. To some that may take away any credibility I have, to others it may add some. I don't really care. I randomly quote Caddyshack in a serious discussion. How much can I really have anyway?

But back to the point, being a Christian, I just have a difficult time taking something seriously when an organization and its members follow a man and his teachings that he came up with.

So, I don't really care if it's a cult or not. Though it does seem to tie in fairly easily with scientology in that it's a following (and belief system?) that some guy came up with. A guy that, according to one of his friends on here, sometimes doesn't play volleyball very well!

Sorry, for all the joking around, but I'm just having a hard time taking all of this serious now. Everyone is free to do what they want, but as for me, if NXIVM is involved, I'm going to walk to the other side of the street and just keep on going.
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Postby thatwesguy » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:06 am

"But back to the point, being a Christian, I just have a difficult time taking something seriously when an organization and its members follow a man and his teachings that he came up with. "

On the Internet, no one can see the tongue in your cheek. ;-)
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Postby playdeep » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:24 am

Well put Wes. Was thinking the same thing.

Note on the food....Not sure why the food wasnt as good as last time considering it was the same food selection. The food was the same exact food they had last time except for one change....no cheese. This change was made in the bean burritos after college students complained about mucous foods last go 'round. I am sure food quality wont be an issue next time after everyone bringing it up.

On the Vanguard issue....I asked Keith about this and he laughed at it. He doesnt go by it and I almost never heard any reference to it from anyone. The closest I heard was "V" and much more often he was called "Keith".
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Postby AMalkoff » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:25 am


I am appreciative of your kind but persistent probing here. I think it's important. I personally would love to find out, ultimately, that Keith and NXIVM are simply the victims of lots of bad and erroneous press. There's no reason for us a community to WANT to dredge up negative information about an organization that seems genuinely interested in promoting vocal music. What purpose would that serve?

That said, I have to disagree with the people who are of the "c'mon now, every organization is a cult!" mind. That's a smokescreen. Everything is NOT a cult, and even the word "cult", as has been said here several times, doesn't mean or define much. And no organization that operates in a cult-like fashion has EVER called itself such. Doing a deep web search of Keith and NXIVM results in this: NXIVM's own sites and sites for places where they teach or...work their programs, all the Rick Ross stuff, and lots and lots of negative information at various levels of damning, from the silly to the truly nefarious. The positive info on Keith all comes from the self-written press that is found on his own site/s, and very little else positive can be found about him from independent press sources or even testimonials from past clients. And I went in looking for the positive about this organization, truly. And I skipped all the Rick Ross stuff.

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2007/10/al ... ike_o.html

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/12203/n ... sets-claim

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0742,t ... .html/full


http://www.nypost.com/seven/12312007/ne ... 249917.htm

Keith may be a great guy with the best of intentions (this isn't about how "nice" they are in person, because by all accounts they're all perfectly friendly), and I leave that open as a possibility. But the NXIVM people do seem to make a lot of accusations about their detractors that cannot be proven, whereas the opposite is not true. I think it's important to look at this beyond the dismissive "If you're uncomfortable, just LEAVE" or "Don't complain about a free event!" or to get distracted by the Crosbys (admittedly horrendous) behavior at this event. The more knowledge we have, the better off we are. And we still don't have enough info as I see it. Basic questions are still unanswered, and may remain so. At that point, we have to individually decide if we're up to ignoring the record because the organization has considerable funds. I look forward to finding out more.
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Postby mwhitehouse » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:56 am

I've quoted below the entire text on the front page of www.nxivm.com . If we're asking, "What is NXIVM?", I suspect the answer provided on the organization's website is precisely what we need.

www.NXIVM.com wrote:What Is NXIVM?

"Humans can be noble. The question is: will we put forth what is necessary?"
- Keith Raniere

NXIVM and Executive Success Programs

Human evolution has clearly demonstrated tendencies that vacillate between awe-inspiring rises and cataclysmic falls. As time has passed, our capacity to excel in either extreme has increased, even on the smallest of levels. Each rise, each act of human excellence raises mankind to new heights. Each fall, each act of destruction is a mindless regression. While many have sensed a need to break away from the primitive patterning that keeps us from a path of continuous progression, few have thought it possible.

NXIVM is the turning point - a remarkable development in scientific and psychodynamic understanding, education, and technology that can facilitate this transition so the pattern of humanity's rises and falls can actually be broken and transformed. We find ourselves on this Earth with the resources, intellect, and creativity that can generate abundance for everyone - or destroy all that we have created. NXIVM represents the change humanity needs in order to alter the course of history.

NXIVM is a new ethical understanding that allows us to build an internal civilization and have it manifest in the external world. It allows us to explore our most fundamental nature and to begin to redirect our power of creation, a power that we all possess in a very human sense. It is a place where humanity can rise to its noble possibility.

The NXIVM technology is imparted through Executive Success Programs, Inc. - programs that provide the philosophical and practical foundation necessary to acquire and build the skills for success.

Is this sensational advertizing, or does this in any way describe NXIVM's mission?

I find it powerfully odd that NXIVM's adherents are describing the program as a humble motivational seminar on this forum, when the organization's mission statement says "NXIVM represents the change humanity needs in order to alter the course of history."

I promise I don't mean this snidely or cynically: I must be well within the bounds of reasonable skepticism here, right? I mean, as a human, I have a genuine, unhindered self-interest in humanity's avoidance of cataclysm; I mean only to evaluate this exclusive means by which world peace can be achieved. And hey, as I mentioned in my first post in this thread, there are even members of my own family who ascribe to equally ridiculous notions—I am entirely willing to understand all of the members of NXIVM as wacky eccentrics who love a cappella. I simply want some acknowledgment of the true extent of that wackiness.

But please understand that the word "ridiculous" applies absolutely, in a scholarly sense, to the nonsense on the NXIVM homepage. I am simply floored by the irony of NXIVM members urging us cynics to "think critically" or even worse "apply the scientific method" before forming opinions—when your organization seems to be founded on, and to market itself on the belief that your self-help seminars will break the rise-and-fall cycle of human civilization.

Is that a rational belief? Is that an empirically tested belief?

What on earth is that sort of belief, in light of our best first-hand account of Mr. Raniere's "technology"? From what I understand, your organization will change the course of human history by means of a "pretty straightforward" self-help rubric "based on concepts of math and biology" that Mr. Raniere developed as a teenager? (Quotes from LRSalzman's post.)

As I said at the end of my last post, doesn't that make your trademarks and copyrights seem awfully petty, in the scope of the good of mankind?

I am skeptical of NXIVM's motives because the above notions strike me as borderline insane. I mean, if these are nice, well-intentioned people with kooky beliefs and an unfortunate penchant for gross understatement when posting on the internet, I'm entirely willing to think of NXIVM's members as being on the eccentric side of that borderline.

But still, what's going on here? Why are the members of NXIVM spending time hosting a cappella seminars in upstate New York when there are civilizations in decline all over the world?
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Postby livingfiction » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:06 pm

AMalkoff wrote:we have to individually decide if we're up to ignoring the record because the organization has considerable funds. I look forward to finding out more.

I agree that when looking at the merits, or lack thereof of any company or group, their record is exactly what we should be looking at.

ACI has a pretty damn good record! Two events, both short notice, accepting feedback, showing progressive intent toward future events. Bringing in amazing acts, and giving multiple college groups to share the stage with those acts (how many college groups will ever be able to say they opened for Blake Lewis, Fork, Denise Reis, or Groove Society?).

Thus far, between the two festivals there has been little to criticize, and that which is worth criticizing is minor, and easily approached. Those of us who have been to an event can reflect on that experience and decide for ourselves how it went, those who haven't should check it out, and I hope the opportunity presents itself for everyone to do so in the future.

This is ACI's track record, coming from a place of very little a cappella exposure, and having been in business for less than a year. How did those we currently consider to be "players" in the community get that way? They loved the music, and tried to help it grow. What is any different about the organizers of this event? They didn't sing in college? Please. It's not even as though they aren't "paying homage" to the community as it stands. Look at the amount of pro talent that has been invited, and in some cases even flown in to add to the event.

Once again, curiosity if great, accusations aren't, but curiosity is. Honest questions are great too. But to be totally fair, I don't really know if that is completely possible in this thread, simply by virtue of the source and intention of it's creation, which was destructive. I know it put me on my heels and on the defensive.

I can't think of a reason to question or attack ACI that isn't based in prejudice and fear. They have been very forthcoming in everything they've done. You can call them liars if you wish, but then there isn't really anything they can do to convince you otherwise.

Where NXIVM is concerned, I agree there are some things that aren't clear, questions to be asked, and Deke has asked them from what I believe to be a place without guile. But once again, simply because of the framework and environment of this thread, I don't know that it's possible to be focused enough to fell the sincerity.

Frankly I don't expect, neither to I anticipate this thread turning into an even headed NXIVM tell all. There are too many present with questionable intent in their curiosity. But I'll bet these questions could be answered in a more intimate setting. Lauren has made herself available, and there aren't many who'd be better to answer questions, so if anyone has a sincere desire to know I'd recommend contacting her privately. I just might.

And to answer your question Deke, which was a good one and made me think, in regard to if Joseph Smith were alive and questions were being raised...

I believe he would have said simply to judge a man by their fruits, knowing than anyone who cared enough to look into what he taught and who his members were would find a group of joyful people who felt they belong in the world and love their families. I believe he learned early on in his ministry that direct verbal or written confrontation with his attackers is a fruitless endeavor. That, and if he were around he'd be waaaaaaaaay too busy to be posting on our little forum.
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Postby jared allen » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:08 pm

Anybody that felt uncomfortable at AI can come the A Cappellastock in Utah. I Promise we will not have any Mormon Missionaries trying to convert you. I could even hook you up with a great meal at Roosters ;-)

There Wes, I got off the sideline. Even if it was a shameless plug.

BTW how is the Book of Mormon I gave you...lol

On another note...Deke you have shown another great quality about you. You truely want to know and understand people. Something that if most people would do, the world would be a much happer place.

Jared Allen T Minus 5 Entertainment A Cappellastock 801-643-5057 jared@tminus5.com http://www.tminus5.com http://www.acappellastock.com http://www.jaredallenentertainment.com

jared allen
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Postby dingd » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:18 pm

Hey guys, I’d just like to say that this is one of the most entertaining threads I’ve read yet, so much so that I’m compelled to add my two cents. I’m not as well informed as some of the others who’ve been posting, but I did have the chance to attend the first A Cappella Innovations with my group, Brandeis VoiceMale. During the conference, we heard whispers of a so-called cult running the show, and it’s interesting to see how those whispered suspicions have indeed become fully voiced in the A Cappella community.

There’s a lot of discussion whether A Cappella Innovations is a good thing or not. Personally, I think it’s up to the groups invited to attend to discuss this among themselves to decide whether attending is a good idea, and it’s not up to the rest of the A Cappella community to hand down a decision to them. I feel like people here are acting as if they are a high tribune or something, trying to deem A Cappella Innovations good or evil. I feel that it’s up to the groups to decide for themselves, and for themselves alone.

During our time at the first A Cappella Innovations, while it certainly could’ve been improved upon in terms of how it was run, we benefitted quite a bit especially in terms of getting to meet people in the A Cappella community – it was the catalyst for our bringing the House Jacks to Brandeis to perform and give workshops, and we were also able to meet a great group, the UMass Doo-Wop Shop, that we absolutely adore.

Will we attend another A Cappella Innovations? Who knows, it’ll come up if we get invited again. I’m glad that people have brought up their concerns and issues and have brought to light some of the problems that occurred this last conference, but in terms of whether we’re going to attend, I can say that no one can guide our decision for us. We will weigh the pros and cons, just like everyone else should. It’s up for the group to decide, and no one else.

So this Binghamton Crosby affair. Um. Well, as much as I agree with the fact that A Cappella groups change so much from year to year, from what I’ve seen in my one year in the Collegiate A Cappella scene, and perhaps the A Cappella world in general, the name of your group is pretty much your biggest tool in terms of getting gigs and recognition. I mean, just look at Rockapella, and how powerful their name is.

Plus, while I do understand that maybe this year has been unique for the Crosbys, I’ve noticed that A Cappella groups tend to instill their values into the future members quite vigorously, and usually the trend is for groups to get better in terms of attitude, rather than worse. That the Crosby’s have taken a downturn is more disturbing than it would be if it was their past that was spotty. Plus, it’s almost the end of the school year, and if over the course of the year the Crosby’s haven’t made it clear to some of their members that they have a name to uphold, then something is clearly wrong.

Feel free to disregard what I have to say, as I am merely a lowly, naive freshman in an A Cappella group and I in no way am speaking on behalf of my group. My job is instead to sing bass for VoiceMale. I just felt like saying something after having spent a good chunk of time reading through this huge thread.
Dan Ding
Publicity Chair, Brandeis VoiceMale
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Postby livingfiction » Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:32 pm

dingd wrote:There’s a lot of discussion whether A Cappella Innovations is a good thing or not. Personally, I think it’s up to the groups invited to attend to discuss this among themselves to decide whether attending is a good idea, and it’s not up to the rest of the A Cappella community to hand down a decision to them. I feel like people here are acting as if they are a high tribune or something, trying to deem A Cappella Innovations good or evil. I feel that it’s up to the groups to decide for themselves, and for themselves alone.

I agree wholeheartedly.
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Postby colton » Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:38 pm

jaredlallen wrote:Anybody that felt uncomfortable at AI can come the A Cappellastock in Utah. I Promise we will not have any Mormon Missionaries trying to convert you. I could even hook you up with a great meal at Roosters ;-)

You hook me up with a couple of complimentary "VIP tickets", and I'll be there! :-)
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