Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mr. Fire and his new "Twin Flame": burning down the house (and everything else) -- Part 1 of 2

Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale and paramour Lisa Winston
are poised to inflict their message of "love, joy, and inspired action" on the world

Quick take: It appears that Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale has skipped out on the great love of his life, his wife and long-time partner Nerissa Oden, whom he had lauded as being an integral part of his personal and professional world for nearly two decades. The new love of his life is Lisa Winston, a New-Wage dilettante who has branded herself as a lightworker, "intuitive mindset strategist," authenticity coach, TV producer, and "gifted vocalist." B.J. (Before Joe), Lisa was apparently a serial failure who was financially floundering; her turning point came when she interviewed professed billionaire/aspiring trillionaire Joe during an online "summit" she produced in early 2017. According to Lisa, the two of them experienced a great shift and formed an immediate "deep and soulful" connection. Before long, money ops, or "daily miracles" in New-Wagespeak, began falling into Lisa's lap.

Now Joe and Lisa seem to be transmuting their fated union, which Lisa has described as a result of "Divine orchestration," into a world-wide spectacle, notwithstanding the minor detail that Joe is still married to Nerissa at the time of this publication. Their divorce, filed by Joe in Hays County TX in November of last year, is pending, and although it seems that so far Joe has not actually mentioned the "d" word in public, he has brazenly promoted his new relationship in many other ways on other public forums, both online and off. (Lisa has been a bit more open about their union.)

Why should we concern ourselves with the personal lives of two public figures? Don't people have a right to their private lives? Yes, of course they do, but it's a matter of concern in this case because Joe Vitale and Lisa Winston, both individually and as a pair, are clearly exploiting their personal relationship as a public marketing tool, while holding themselves forth as motivational and even spiritual leaders -- and by extension, as examples to be followed. But as we've discussed on these pages numerous times, it's always a smart idea to look beyond the carefully crafted, love-and-lightwashed narratives -- personal or otherwise -- of hucksters who are trying to sell you something.
~ CC, 16 July 2019

Before you begin: This post is very lengthy, even for me, as notoriously long-winded as I am. I've broken it up into sections, interspersed with graphics and even a couple of embedded videos. And to make things even easier, I'm presenting it in two parts. This is Part 1. But the essence is up above in the "quick take," and there's a portal for some marginally more concrete info under the section headed,
It really won't hurt my feelings if you don't read the whole thing. I know very well that blog posts are supposed to be short and sweet, and if I were writing a post for a client, it would be. But this is my Whirled. Welcome to it.


It has been a while since I wrote at length about hustledork and Law of Attraction luminary Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, who was a frequent topic on this Whirled back in the day, mostly due to his involvement in that infamous paean to pseudoscience and New-Wage crapitalism, The Secret. I've mentioned Joe in passing in recent posts, such as this October 2018 piece on Transcendental (Trumpscendental) Meditation... and this September 2017 piece on the death of one of Joe's idols, New-Wage publisher and grande dame Louise Hay... and this August 2017 post that mentioned Joe's attempts to capitalize on Hurricane Harvey... but the last extensive post I'd written about him was this April 2014 offering that shed light on some of the foundational falsehoods in a proprietary version of the Hawaiian "healing" method, Ho'oponopono, that Joe had been pushing for years.

For the most part, though, Joe has been yesterdaze news on this Whirled, and if you're a Scamworld observer yourself, maybe you have found him to be not that interesting anymore. Perhaps, like me, you've still occasionally visited
his Facebook page or some of his other online venues to see if there's anything new, and have found them for the most part to be filled with inspirational pap and nonstop promotional content, with the over-arching theme that Joe is still living the good life. You probably haven't had to strain too hard to grasp the persistent underlying message that you can easily have that good life too if you'll only allow yourself to be sucked into Joe's frauduct-and-flopportunity sales funnels, via freeviews or loss leaders that he hopes will propel you into true money-eaters such as Miracles Coaching, Zero Limits Mentoring, and whatnot.

In other words, your impression for the most part may have been... meh, nothing really new. And if you're like me, it's quite possible that what you did see appeared to be of considerably lesser importance in the larger scheme of things than
the current "reality show" in which Americans are participating, for the most part unwillingly, and which, I am sorry to say, has occupied all too much time and space on this blog for the past several years.

But long before Whirled Musings was a sometimes (too often) political-ish blog, it was a blog about New-Wage/McSpirituality/selfish-help/alt-health scams and scammers, and I still feel duty-bound to report on new developments in those areas when I think I see them. And though I've been, as I now see, slow to notice and even slower to report it, I have recently detected something new in the Mr. Fire scampire. Maybe you have too.

You are cordially invited to a public whine tasting
You might have noticed, for instance,
this June 25, 2019 Facebook post, sandwiched in between all of the jovial inspirational content, in which Joe lamented:
This last year has been my worst since the 1980s. Grief. Trauma. Anguish. Mandy Evans, who has comforted and counseled me since 1985, lovingly told me yesterday, “Honey, your entire life has been gutted and cleaned.” Sigh. She’s right. I’ll be on tonight’s Clearing Call letting Harry B-Happy Bartholomew gong me clear.
Someone named Robert Clancy responded: "You and Lisa are ever present in my heart, thoughts and prayers. Sending all the love on my heart...and you know that’s a lot."

If you saw this thread, you may have asked yourself, "Wait... what... Lisa?!? Who's Lisa?
Isn't Joe's wife, and the love of his life, named Nerissa?" Which is a perfectly reasonable point to raise. And you may have also been curious about Mandy Evans' declaration that Joe's entire life had been "gutted and cleaned." It makes him sound like a big floppy fish that someone caught for dinner. Joe's statement about Mandy's statement raises the question of just what, or who, had been "cleaned" from his life? Apparently the gutting and cleaning wasn't complete, however, because Joe was still whining about... well, something. I suppose it's entirely possible that Harry B-Happy was able to gong it out of him, but if so, I have a feeling that the effects of the gonging were short-lived.

Scrolling down a bit, you might have seen a post from a few days earlier,
June 22, in which Joe wrote:
With the abuse, trauma and grief I’ve been through in the last year, it’s faith and Stoicism that have helped me survive. Besides my closest friends (they know who they are) I also thank an emperor who never imagined he’d ever be remembered: Marcus Aurelius. And if you, unknown friend reading this, are going through anything, remind yourself that it will pass. Stay the course. Stay strong. You got this.
Wow... sounds pretty serious.

Scrolling down some more through the past few months, you might have found this
April 28, 2019 post, which gave credit not to faith and Stoicism but specifically to his old friend Mandy Evans for helping him through his unspecified travails:
I want to publicly thank Mandy Evans - who I call the original Miracles Coach - for being in my corner since 1985. She’s still helping me see light on dark days. Recently it’s been through abuse, betrayal, and grief. She always helps. She has two books on Amazon: “Traveling Free” and “Emotional Options”. I recommend them. Thank you, Mandy! I love you!
At this point, perhaps you were really puzzled. Maybe you reasoned that a mention of grief and anguish would be understandable, since Joe had lost his father earlier that month, after having lost his mom in 2016. Perhaps the loss of his dad was a tad traumatic in its way for Joe, even though his father was quite aged and his death could not have been totally unexpected. I have no trouble believing that Joe felt the loss deeply, as did his wife Nerissa, who, judging by her Facebook posts, clearly loved her father-in-law; she was, after all, part of the Vitale clan for nearly two decades. I still miss my own mom and dad, and it's been nearly twelve years since my mom died and several decades since I lost my dad, whose sudden death under the wheels of a drunk driver was truly traumatic for our entire family. So quite possibly, if you 're like me, you'd be tempted to give Joe a pass on the grief and anguish claims.

But you might have still been curious about the recent "abuse" and "betrayal" that Joe claimed to have suffered. Then again, if you're at all familiar with his history, it's possible you eventually recalled that for years Joe has been almost as quick to
whine about betrayal and abuse at the hands of people he'd thought were friends as he's been to brag about his latest pricey car or other expensive toy, or about his most recent celebrity appearance in some Secret-style moviemercial, or about his latest smash interview that wowed everybody, or about the fact that he has become an international superstar who drives crowds from London to Thailand to Italy to Russia to Australia into a frenzy. In short, over the years he has whined almost as much as he has bragged. So there's that.

Still, in the context of some other content on his social media, you may have had a few questions.

A special friendship
Since Joe frequently poses with or boasts about his association with one woman or another -- generally someone with a Scamworld connection, but occasionally somebody in the performing arts -- it might have slipped under your radar that over the months there were numerous posts on Joe's Facebook timeline in which he praised or promoted a woman named
Lisa Winston, who has variously described herself as a coach, an intuitive mindset strategist, a TV host and producer, a gifted vocalist, and so much more.

And if those posts escaped your notice, you very likely didn't visit
Lisa Winston's Facebook page and see that she in turn has lavishly praised or promoted Joe on more than one occasion, one of the most recent being her joyful celebration of "Joe and Lisa Day": July 10, which is the day in 2017 that she and Joe officially became Facebook buddies. The post garnered several loving, supportive comments about this very special friendship.

Had you failed to notice these posts, you understandably may have totally missed a narrative that had actually been unfolding since early 2017, one that, legend has it, began with
Lisa interviewing Joe on some New-Wage/McSpirituality online "summit," which triggered a "shift" in both of them, leading to numerous "synchronicities" and the development of a deeply soulful, loving connection between the two, which led, among many other things, some of which I don't even want to imagine, to Joe shepherding the self-publication of Lisa's first print book, Your Turning Point. Though the publication date on Amazon is listed as December 4, 2018, the book was officially launched on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, surely a date which will live in infamy and which, for the benefit of those who are keeping track, was a mere three weeks after Joe filed for divorce. Of course the book had been in the works for months before that. Though hailed by some of the usual suspects as an astounding, one-of-a-kind work that will truly change your life (you know, just like every other work in that genre), Your Turning Point is in essence a means for the author to leverage her own dilettantism and dramatically dysfunctional journey in order to make a few bucks by serving up the expected swill of promises regarding "daily miracles, where things just fall into your lap and you're left in disbelief..." Yup. We've heard it all before.

Perusing Joe's Foreword to the book, or Lisa's words about Joe on the Acknowledgments page and in her Introduction (in the latter she describes Joe as her "beautiful soulmate, friend and mentor") -- all of which are viewable via Amazon's "Look inside the book" feature -- you wouldn't even have to do much reading between the lines to speculate that something more than a business partnership might be going on, even though Joe, as I think should be mentioned again, was presumably a happily married man while this lovely friendship was developing; at least that was the picture he was presenting to the public. In the book Lisa tells a dramatic tale of how her relationship with Joe blossomed amidst the chaos that her life had become, and how he was the wind beneath her wings as she dealt with the collapse of her "coaching" businesses, the death of her mother, and the upheaval of relocating from California to Pennsylvania and, finally, to Texas.

But if you can't access all of the material in Amazon's search feature and you don't want to buy the book, no worries: she tells much the same story
on an August 22, 2018 blog post. A snippet:
I stayed in PA through the sale of mom’s house. I continued to process my emotions, write and produce the show. Through the months, my friendship with Joe evolved and we were inspired to collaborate on many new projects. I flew to Austin a few times to work with him, but that was becoming costly and inconvenient. Through conversations with Joe and asking and carefully listening to my inner guidance, I was led to drive back to CA, pick up my stuff and move to Texas to be close to him in order to move forward with our ideas.

So, here I sit, writing from my little townhouse in the Austin area.
But, on the other hand, if you did see all of that, you would have also noticed that despite the unfolding miracle of her friendship with Joe, it wasn't all sunshine and roses for Lisa either. Guilty conscience, maybe? Or just the aggravation of fielding other peoples' disapproval, or the annoyance of knowing that there was a wife at home in Wimberley? Who knows? We can only read between the lines, but like Joe, Lisa has written numerous posts over the past few months indicating that she has been going through hell but has been staying strong and stalwart. You might also have seen that there are several posts where her comments remain but the attached content is, for one reason or another, "no longer available," which raises even more questions.

And perhaps you saw the posts where Lisa boasted about her first magazine cover, the magazine in question being the first 2019 issue of a recently launched, sporadically published mag for the conspicuously enlightened called Global Voice.
Here's a direct link to the spreads that contain the cover story. (You can download the issue if you wish.) An excerpt:
Denise [Interviewer]: When we listen to our heart, our gut and yes, our head, we see a situation more clearly. In this specific journey over the last 18 months, your journey led you to reconnect with someone very special. This person has supported you immensely and through this reconnection, you have shared even more of yourself, your gifts and talents with the world. Discuss how reconnecting with a like-minded Soul, has impacted your life.

Lisa: The Universe had been conspiring all along, I just didn’t know how much. Dr. Joe Vitale and I met when I interviewed him for a summit I produced in early 2017. We had a very deep and immediate energetic connection; we also experienced huge “shifts” during our time together. We both left the interview (at present, our Transform your Money Story interview has gotten over 92 thousand hits on You Tube) knowing something important had happened, but not sure exactly what. We started following each other (you can read about it in the foreword to my book) and through a series of crazy synchronicities, we ended up having dinner together almost one year later.

That meeting has changed my life in ways I can’t even speak into right now. When we physically met for the first time, we had no idea why we both felt led to meet. As a matter of fact, at dinner Joe said, “I’m not even sure why we’re doing this.” But over time and through Divine orchestration, it became clear he was a very important part of my life and journey, and is now my best friend and soulful partner. He mentored and guided me in writing my book, which was a dream come true. He supported me every day through my mother's illness and death.
All righty, then.

Had you done a little more Googling, you might have stumbled upon Lisa Winston's LinkedIn profile, which, among other things, informs us that...
Lisa has co-authored two best-selling books and her own book, "Your Turning Point," went #1 international bestseller in November 2018. She just returned from Italy where she sealed a book deal to have her book published in Italian by the end of 2019. She was recently featured on her first magazine cover for The Global Voice magazine and co-produced her own live event called "Own the Stage" with her life partner, Dr. Joe Vitale. She and Joe are planning a European speaking tour early 2020. Lisa is here to empower lightworkers with a mission, to reach that incredibly important goal.
Lisa is a two-time bestselling co-author and at present, her latest book entitled Your Turning Point (yourturningpointbook.com) recently became a #1 international bestseller. Lisa’s life partner, Dr. Joe Vitale, wrote her wonderful foreword.
Life partner?!? Lisa might want to take note of the fact that for Joe, "life partner" might not literally mean "for life."

But if you dig a little deeper into Lisa's book, Your Turning Point, you might infer that Lisa considers Joe to be more than just a life partner; he is also, if I am reading this correctly, her Twin Flame, and she is his. (Some people opine that
there is a difference between a "life partner" and a "Twin Flame," but apparently in Joe-and-Lisa's world, it's possible to be both at once.) On pages 95-96 of the print version of Your Turning Point Lisa waxes profound about the challenges and rewards of being a lightworker who is called to a "true Twin Flame relationship."
I have one final reminder for you if you are a lightworker, space-holder, energy worker, teacher, or someone called to do the Divine's work. You cannot be a light or your most powerful self if you're stagnant in life or any other situation. You cannot expand to BE the most powerful, effective version of yourself if you don't take risks and go where most won't, if you're called there. We are called to shed the old concepts, beliefs, and ways of being no longer aligned with the New Earth. We are called to be leaders; examples of what souls on the leading edge look like. If we want people to follow us, if we want to make Spirit's greatest impact, we must be out there, doing what's risky, doing the opposite of what the world does in every area of life. If you're called to a true Twin Flame relationship like I am, you must be willing to leave everything the world says is true, behind, to reunite with your soul, move forward in the Divine partnership you were created for, one that has a massive impact on the world and one that's in the highest and best good for all. However, why would you want to show up less than in this miracle space, doing the work you're destined for, with the beloved you're destined to do it with?

What would you do if you were called to a difficult decision like mine?... How would you handle the reprimands and negative demands from others or from your ego/mind? How would you honor yourself while doing your best to honor others?...
How, indeed, would you handle it if -- and we're just speaking in hypotheticals here, of course -- you had sunk your fangs into the shiny pate of a moneyed and very married man (a man whom you absolutely knew the Universe had chosen for you, and vice versa), and yet you were faced with "reprimands and negative chatter" from a world that clearly failed to understand the Divinity of your vampirism? Think about it, lightworkers. It may come up on a pop test someday.

Granted, Lisa does not specifically mention Joe Vitale by name in this passage, nor in the passage on page 38 of the book, where she also uses the term "twin flame," though it is not capitalized there. In the context of everything she has said about Joe in the pages of this book and everywhere else she has mentioned him, however, it doesn't take much effort at dot-connecting to conclude that she is most likely referencing her relationship with Joe. Of course anyone who knows differently is welcome to write to me privately or publicly, and I will certainly be glad to make corrections or additions as necessary.

One of the points I'm driving at here is that if you had seen any or all of the above content from Lisa Winston -- particularly the "life partner" bit, but also the "deep and immediate connection" tales, and the "Twin Flame" references, and so on -- you surely must have wondered, at some point, what Joe's wife Nerissa thought about it. I mean, there's some pretty gushy, mushy stuff that seems to go considerably beyond the usual fame-by-association online blather for which Joe is so well known.

You might get some clues by reading Nerissa's Facebook posts, in which she clearly seems to be documenting her own struggles and attempts to stay strong.

But even after reading this and other posts, you still wouldn't have the whole story, because it appears that Nerissa is being much more discreet than her husband and his new squeeze. If, however, you were inordinately curious, you might have done further research and may have eventually stumbled across another clue to the mystery in the Hays County, Texas public records, in Civil, Family & Probate Case Records, case number 18-2637. There you would find a timeline regarding:
207th District Court
Divorce No Children

Were you to follow the link to the case details -- and more than likely you will actually have to go to the site, choose "Civil, Family & Probate Case Records" and type in the case number to access the information, because that direct link does not seem to function properly -- you would see that Joe is the petitioner, i.e., the party who filed for divorce, and Nerissa is the respondent. Joe filed on November 14, 2018, a mere eight days before Thanksgiving. What a way to kick off the holidays.

As of this writing I have not seen any court documents or transcripts of hearings in the case of Vitale and Oden. I have, however, seen the Register of Actions, which is easily accessible online.
Here is that link again, and as I noted above, you may have to click on "Civil, Family & Probate Case Records," and type in the case number (18-2637) in order to access the info). If you want further information beyond what is easily accessible online, you can call the Hays County Clerk at 1-512-393-7738.

According to social media timelines and other public accounts, very shortly after Joe filed for divorce, and presumably presented Nerissa with the papers,
he was off to Thailand with Lisa Winston.

So what's really happening in the background?
Despite the ongoing story that is visible on social media and other online and print platforms, clearly there is a lot that isn't being said, which is understandable, since I have a feeling that the divorce is far from final. Accordingly at this point Joe and Lisa are still blithely dancing around, but not yet completely indulging in, an unabashed public celebration of their great romance. Joe in particular is being somewhat circumspect, and to my knowledge hasn't yet publicly named Lisa as his "life partner." And
his Wikipedia page, updated on 13 April 2019, still lists Nerissa Oden as his wife, which legally she is.

But he seems to be in the process of wiping Nerissa from his his public slate; some of the more recent "About the Author" blurbs describe him as "living outside of Austin with his pets," instead of with his wife Nerissa and pets. And in
a May 5, 2019 appearance at Unity Church in Wimberley, Joe probably came as close to a public declaration of his new union as he'd yet come without actually mentioning Lisa's name in that specific context. He simply noted in passing that he was in "a new relationship" -- you have to listen carefully or you'll miss it -- and then he proceeded to go on and on about a wonderful trip he'd taken to Italy with his "partner."

Listening to that speech, you might feel that you're in a time warp: that it's 2006 or 2007 again, and the selfish-help world, still high on the fumes of The Secret, is all agog and abuzz about "vision boards," for you will hear Joe go into some detail about how he and his "new relationship" decided they wanted to go to Italy, so they visited bookstores and bought glossy travel mags and expensive books about Italy, cut out the pictures that wowed them, and pasted them on a wall that served as their vision board. And one thing led to another, and then to another, and before long they were gallivanting around Italy on a month-long holiday, at least partially subsidized by others, according to Joe. As with pretty much every story Joe tells, though, I'd take all of that "manifesting" stuff with a grain of salt if I were you.

Manifestation tales aside, it's that whole "new relationship" thing, which begins at about 6:35, that seems so brazen. Towards the end of the speech, Joe tries to temper the bragfest by assuring the audience that despite all of the miracles and magic going on in his life, he is also going through some really tough experiences that would shock his listeners and make them wonder how it is that he hasn't simply collapsed under the weight of it all. But he ends on an upbeat note, advising the folks to expect miracles. If you're interested, here you go, though I warn you it's 19-plus minutes you'll never get back.

Stinko de Mayo: Mr. Fire regales a captive audience
at Unity Church in Wimberley, Texas on May 5, 2019.

Incidentally, that talk, which I notice didn't actually match the description on the Unity blurb accompanying the video, was a freebie, and played to an apparently packed sanctuary. But word is that Joe's not-free workshop that followed had only a half dozen or so attendees.

But we're still talking about public stuff here. As our Twin Flames continue to joyfully develop their narrative as a couple, sometimes brazenly and sometimes more subtly, other stories are surely unfolding as well, and I suspect that they are anything but joyful. As I noted above, I've not yet seen actual court documents, beyond the easily accessible Register of Actions. But just reading between the lines on that register -- and knowing what I know of past histories, and what I know about similar cases -- I can speculate as to what is happening. Any or all of the parties involved are welcome to fill in the details and correct me if I'm wrong.

The Register of Actions simply lists the events and the dates on which the events occurred, beginning with the original petition for divorce on November 14, 2018. Respondent Nerissa's original answer and counter petition were entered on January 3 of this year. There are also several notices of unavailability of Joe's lawyer -- he must be a busy man -- a few miscellaneous motions and amendments, a couple of cancellations of hearings, and so forth.

What interested me the most were the several mentions of confidentiality orders, which could be anything. I initially wondered if perhaps "confidentiality" referred to personal matters that Joe didn't want discussed in public. He's a popular celebrity, after all, as he is fond of reminding us, and he might not want people prying into his personal life and mucking up the story he presents to his public. I speculated that he might be like one of the most famous celebrities of all, Donald Trump,
who had his own wives sign confidentiality/nondisclosure agreements, and has a long history of doing that with his employees, including White House staff. Trump, according to many who know him, is notoriously obsessed with controlling the narrative around himself, and I have a feeling that Joe is similarly obsessed. He doesn't mind talking about himself and his personal life in public, but he wants to control the story.

According to rudimentary research I did online, though, confidentiality in divorce proceedings most often has to do with mundane financial matters, which I suppose is perfectly understandable. But that in itself could be interesting, at least to a forensic accountant. Years ago my husband Ron, not a forensic accountant but very skilled in IT matters, had a side gig performing deep computer searches for a client and friend who was a private investigator specializing in uncovering hidden assets, including those in rich-person divorce cases. Guys -- usually they were guys -- had all sorts of creative ways of disguising their wealth in the service of trying to convince the courts that they were much poorer than they actually were and that they had few assets to award to the wives they were leaving. At the same time, they were tooling around in pricey sports cars, dining in four-star restaurants, jetting all over the world with their new lovers, and not really trying very hard to hide their lifestyle. Ron said it was a very interesting gig.

For that matter, I've seen the same dynamic at work in the Scamworld criminal cases that I've followed and written about over the years. I've seen people like
James Arthur "Death" Ray and Kevin Trudeau boast about their enormous wealth out of one side of their mouths in order to pull more victims into their net, while continuing to live their bon vivant lifestyles, and at the same time they were pleading poverty out of the other side of their mouths in order to convince the prosecution (in Trudeau's case, the US government), that they were practically paupers. Funny how that works.

At any rate, the Register of Actions can only tell us so much. I have a feeling that a perusal of some of the documents produced from the actions might provide a clue as to some of the more dramatic Facebook posts I mentioned above. There seems to have been a lot of activity in June, for example, around the time Joe was throwing his whine-tasting party on Facebook.

Controlling the narrative is easier when the other person(s) can't speak for themselves
I imagine that sooner or later, Joe will start talking publicly about his split with Nerissa, telling the story from his perspective. If he stays true to form, he will try to assume as much control of the narrative as he possibly can, putting a spin on it that makes him look good, and if he can find a way to use his divorce story for marketing, he'll probably do that too. I would advise you to view or listen to his version of the story with a particularly skeptical eye or ear. He has been known, to put it charitably, to stretch the facts.

More to the point here, the story that Joe told publicly about his split with his first wife, Marian, was very much at odds with private accounts from some other folks who were close to Marian. In a couple of his books -- the revised edition of Spiritual Marketing and the expanded version of that book, which was published as The Attractor Factor (originally published in 2005) -- Joe seemed quite breezy about the whole thing, writing:

When I first wrote this book, I was still married to Marian, whom I had been with for more than 20 years. Since then we decided we had grown apart. There was nothing negative about the experience or the decision at all. Marian decided she preferred being alone. I decided to look for another partner. I found one, too, in Nerissa, who I am deeply in love with. I'm still friends with Marian, and both are now in my heart. I'm a lucky man. Major changes in life can truly be easy and effortless.
In the second edition of The Attractor Factor (2008), Joe left that copy mostly as is but did acknowledge Marian's death.

But a couple of friends who were very close to Marian told me a different story. It was not all "easy and effortless" for Marian by any means -- quite the contrary. It's not appropriate for me to go into details here, but it is a profoundly sad story. What makes it particularly sad for me is that I knew Marian too; we were friends, but I never knew her as well as I knew Joe. She would show up at some of his book signings, and we'd talk, and she and I also exchanged emails and talked on the phone on occasion. Marian was a sweet, beautiful, fragile lady with a gorgeous smile, and I liked her very much. Unfortunately by the time Joe and Marian split up, Ron's and my friendship with Joe had dwindled, and in fact we didn't actually find out about the split until after Joe had moved from Houston to the Texas Hill Country. I was concerned about Marian and tried on several occasions to contact her, but my phone calls and emails went unanswered. When I asked Joe if Marian's contact info had changed, he tersely replied that it was the same as it had always been, and that was that. I tried several more times to reach her, but to no avail.

Time passed, and I was shocked when I learned (again, considerably after the fact) of Marian's death. I found out about it when I was reading a newsletter from the Houston pet rescue organization through which Ron and I had adopted one of our dogs. On the donations page there was a list of recent donations made to the organization on behalf of, and in memory of, people and pets. One item under the "people" section caught my eye: a donation that had been made "in memory of Marian Vitale." I went straight to the Internet to see if I could find any details. What I found was
a tribute of sorts, written by Joe shortly after Marian's funeral. I emailed Joe and expressed my very belated sympathy, but never saw a reply.

But an arguably more significant issue with Joe's narrative about Marian involved a lecherous "guru" and "healer" whom Joe called "Jonathan" in Spiritual Marketing and in The Attractor Factor. (He'd used "Jonathan's" real name numerous times in previous books and interviews.) In Spiritual Marketing, Joe had nothing but wonderful things to say about Jonathan, but cryptically noted at the end that Jonathan was "no longer available" to do his magic. But in The Attractor Factor there is a chapter called, "The Shocking True Story of Jonathan." Jonathan was a gifted healer, according to Joe, but his downfall began when he started having sex with female clients/patients. Joe said one of the victims was Marian, though in the first edition of The Attractor Factor, Joe didn't actually mention Marian by name. He just described her as a woman who had been a very close friend of his. Joe recounted how the experience led the un-named woman into a downward spiral, until ultimately she could only find peace in death in October 2004. Joe also managed to frame the story as a betrayal of him; his guru, he lamented, had left him "stabbed and bleeding."

I speculate that Joe was taken to task about the fudging of details -- some folks were able to connect the dots -- and in the second edition of The Attractor Factor Joe mentioned in passing that the woman in question was his wife (although technically, at the time she passed away in October 2004, Marian and Joe had been divorced for more than three years). Still, there was some confusion about the timelines of the "shocking" story. Joe wrote that at one point "Jonathan" was fired from a clinic where he was working because of inappropriate behavior with female clients. That was bad enough, but then Jonathan's dad died. Jonathan became depressed, suicidal, but Joe stuck with him because he was Joe's friend, and eventually "Jonathan" got past that crisis and started to see clients again. "But he was still stuck in his self," Joe wrote. "He again seduced his female clients...The turning point for me came when one day Jonathan manipulated and then molested the friend closest to me in my life at that time..."

That friend, as we finally learn in the second edition of The Attractor Factor, was Marian. Some years ago I received an email from a person who had written a comment on Joe's blog, asking him why he didn't try to prevent Marian from going to Jonathan, since Joe knew that Jonathan had a history as a predator. This person told me that Joe didn't publish the comment but instead replied privately, via email:

I saw your comment on my blog and rather than posting it and embarrassing you, I thought I'd personally reply to you.

First, no one knew the friend/therapist was a sexual predator. Do you really think I and hundreds of others would have gone to him for well over ten years HAD we known? Do you really think I would have let my beloved wife go had I known so? Surely you know better. Everything was discovered AFTER the fact. And you can't imagine how it destroyed me to learn of what happened to my sweet Marian. She never even told me till weeks after the event.

Second, the complete truth about Marian is in the revised second edition of The Attractor Factor. After she passed on, I felt I could tell the whole story, warts and all. I did. You apparently haven't read it.

I have forgiven Marian, the "predator" and all others involved.

You might do the same.

All the best to you and yours.

Dr. Vitale
Wow. Nice of Joe to make an effort to avoid "embarrassing" the person who was asking him tough questions. And that passive-aggressive "Blessings"... My correspondent told me he had read the "truth about Marian," in both editions of the book, and that both were nearly identical, with the exception that in the second edition, Joe made the passing mention that the woman in question "was my wife," and that he expanded a little on the phrase that followed the confession. In the original edition, Joe had written, "Meanwhile, my adventures continue." In the second edition Joe took a moment to make it clear that Marian's death really devastated him. So maybe he was called on the original flippancy too.

More importantly, Joe's timeline in the email to our mutual correspondent seems to be at odds with the timeline of the story that Joe himself told in the very pages of his best-selling book. I guess we'll never know the whole truth about what happened. Joe is an unreliable witness, Marian can't speak for herself, and "Jonathan," if he's even still alive, is in the wind.

Although I have not previously written at length about these matters in a post on this blog, there have been discussions on this forum, including the one following an October 2007 post. The discussion
begins here.

But all of that is water under the bridge, and as Mr. Fire faces yet another divorce, many questions remain unanswered. For example, we still don't know exactly what type of "abuse" and "betrayal" Joe has suffered this past year. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it has something to do with the divorce proceedings, maybe not. Remember, Joe is a serial abuse and betrayal sufferer, according to his own accounts, so it could be anything. But surely the divorce must be weighing heavily on him, if for no other reason than that it might compel him to part with some of his cars or his money. At any rate, from what I can see, reading between the lines and knowing what I do of past history, I'd be willing to bet that if there has been any abuse and betrayal around case number 18-2637 in Hays County, Texas, Joe is not the one who has been abused and betrayed.

To be continued in the next post

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Friday, July 05, 2019

So wrong, Marianne

Step out of the race now, my little darlin'
We've heard your lofty talk before
Your words of love won't cure the loathing
Your thoughts on peace can't win the war

You're so wrong, Marianne
To win, we need a plan, which
You don't have, so just go back to writing books again

~ With apologies to the late, great
Leonard Cohen

When McSpirituality/New-Wage guru Marianne Williamson made her appearance in part 2 of the first Democratic pageant last month -- I can't seem to bring myself to seriously call those two nights of sound bites, posturing and constant interruptions "debates" --
she reportedly won the Google search war for the evening, as herds of the curious and perplexed stampeded to their favorite search engine to find out more about her, or in many cases to find out just who the hell she is. No doubt her ascent to fame in the 1990s predated the birth of many of the searchers, and she hasn't exactly been front-page news in recent years.

But many others -- me, for instance -- have known about her for years and years, and I daresay that many of us knew most if not all of what National Review recently declared to be
"Twenty Things You Probably Didn't Know about Marianne Williamson." Being a former long-time resident of Houston myself, I knew, for instance, that she is a native Houstonian, and furthermore I know very well that she used to make quite a big deal of being a Texan, making her current strange-sounding accent, which some have described as "mid-Atlantic," seem all the more like an affectation.

More importantly, many of us think that her presidential campaign is a colossal waste of our time, though probably not of hers; after all, look at all the renewed attention this once fading star is now getting as a result.

Williamson didn't speak much compared to some of her co-stars on the Democrats' stage, and in fact didn't speak at all for nearly the first half hour.
But what she did communicate drew a lot of attention, particularly her apparent disdain for plans.
I tell you one thing, it’s really nice if we have all these plans, but if you think we beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you’ve got another thing [sic] coming. Because he didn’t win by saying he had a plan. He won by simply saying, “Make America Great Again.”
She did follow that up immediately with a valid if abstract point about America having a "sickness care system" rather than a health care system, and a slightly more concrete point about some of the possible roots of chronic illness. And later on, after the performance, she clarified that she has nothing against plans but believes crafting plans is the province of the president's Cabinet.

But it was Williamson's closing statement that arguably got the most jeers across the Interwebz:

I’m sorry we haven’t talked more tonight about how we’re going to beat Donald Trump. I have an idea about Donald Trump: Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk. He’s not going to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He’s going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea what the man has done. This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes.

So, Mr. President — if you’re listening — I want you to hear me please: You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.
Williamson sounds a tad arrogant when she insinuates that she is the only one who has any idea about the damage that Trump has done, not just to American ideals but, as she says, to the American psyche. In truth plenty of people, inside and outside of politics, have been speaking to those very issues nonstop for years. And as for the "love will win" rallying cry... well, for a brief time during the 2016 campaign, as it was becoming ever more apparent that Trump was emboldening and empowering the hatriarchy in ways that hadn't been seen in decades, the Clinton campaign tried #LoveTrumpsHate. That didn't work out so well.

The past as prologue
Perhaps you know Williamson's back story, but in case you don't, and you don't feel like following all of the links I'm providing, here's a capsule review.

After years of being an adventurous, free-spirited dilettante whose colorfully dysfunctional past is currently being portrayed in the media as wild, crazy, exotic, and even "controversial" -- but really wasn't all that unusual for many who were born during the first half of the postwar American baby boom -- Williamson shot to New-Wage guru stardom in 1992 with the publication of her first book,
A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles." (The Amazon link is for the 1996 reissue/update, but the book was originally published in '92).

The original A Course in Miracles, as you may know, was a ponderous three-volume work by a woman named Helen Schucman (1909-1981), who claimed that Jesus Christ Himself dictated the words to her between 1965 and 1972. Marianne Williamson's book was a much more marketable distillation of ACIM -- and her own attractiveness and charisma certainly didn't hurt -- and her career took off like wildfire. Numerous books and other info-products followed over the years, and Williamson became a McSpirituality minister to the stars -- even officiating at one of the late Liz Taylor's multiple weddings -- and, of course, she became an Oprah pal.

I lampooned Williamson back in the early daze of her stardom, originally
creating this fake ad for "A Correspondence Course in Miracles" in 1992 and including it a few years later in my self-published BLP (book-like product), Cosmic Relief: Honoring and Celebrating the Global Paradigm Shaft, which is apparently a very, very rare book, though I still seem to have a few copies lying around the garage, and if you ask me very nicely, I will sell you a copy for much less than the $1,071.50 or even $425.00 currently listed on Amazon.

As her star rose, Williamson caught a lot of flak about a lot of things, including her temper and her seeming fondness for using colorful language.
In a long-ago essay (posted on my currently inactive Cosmic Relief web site) about Houston being "Spaced City," due to the city being a breeding ground for numerous New-Wage/McSpirituality/selfish-help luminaries, I swatted at Williamson in passing, describing her as having a sweet face but a foul mouth, and making a reference to "A Curse in Miracles." On a more serious note, Williamson was also accused of mis-managing some of her charitable organizations, essentially using them to promote her various shticks. Some of those early-days criticisms are detailed in this 1992 Entertainment Weekly piece. And Mother Jones published a more than slightly mocking profile in 1997.

Like many New-Wage gurus,
some of whom I've also written about on this blog, Williamson had a tendency to throw the criticism right back at the critics, strongly insinuating that they were the ones with the problems, not her. But she was not above invoking her Texas background as a partial explanation for some of the problems people had with her, nor of using her Jewish heritage as a rationale, and indeed on more than one occasion she used her "Jewish Texan" creds to explain why she was such a bad-ass. I don't have any specific links to the latter point; I am just going by long-term memory.

In more recent years Williamson was no longer front-page news -- or maybe I had just grown bored with her so she slipped off of my radar -- but she kept producing whatever it is she produces, and in late 2010 she came out with a weight-loss book that her pal Oprah enthusiastically endorsed in what was clearly a very contrived promotional scheme.
Natch, I had to write about that.

Back to the future
In many ways Williamson was and is a personification of the passive-aggressive reality that so often lies beneath the thin veneer of the SNAG (sensitive new age guy/gal) "love and light" mindset. That sometimes disturbing inconsistency, so often seen in New-Wage "leaders," is another topic I've covered on this blog, and as a matter of fact I'll be writing about it again very soon regarding
a hypocritical and profoundly narcissistic New-Wage guru/scoundrel I've written about many times before.

But back to Marianne. While it's true that women who assert themselves in any way -- in business or in politics or in their personal lives -- have always been more harshly judged than men (a phenomenon that holds true even today), the new-age love-and-light hypocrisy is a separate issue from that. Following Williamson's stage performance as a Democratic presidential candidate, my friend Barbara G, who lives on the West Coast and is about as astute an observer of the cultural milieu as I've seen, wrote about Williamson on a Facebook thread, saying, "She is so phony with her hostile, aggressive 'love'. She drones on & on with her prepackaged pseudo wisdom and spirituality. My skin crawls when I hear and/or see her obnoxious demeanor. YUK!" She added, "Something off about her. She talks love but emanates something opposite." I concur.

That said, I don't see anything bizarre or terribly offensive in Williamson's rhetoric about "leading with love," nor in her implicit and explicit messaging that so many of America's problems are rooted in a deep spiritual malaise. While it may have seemed laughable to many when she preached it from the stage at the Democrats' show, consider the fact that Williamson is, after all, a long-time proponent of a McSpirituality "religion" of sorts. So her message is hardly surprising, and to tell the truth I don't find it nearly as objectionable as the right-wing theocrats' booming declarations that America's problems are mostly rooted in a Jesus deficiency or in Americans forgetting that
the US is a "Christian nation."

In addition to lampooning her in Cosmic Relief, I have, as indicated above, taken a few potshots at Williamson on this blog over the years, as has my friend and blogging colleague Chris Locke at the dormant
but still germane and well-worth-reading Mystic Bourgeoisie blog. I'll say again as I've said before that I met Williamson in person once at a book signing/reading that I attended with a star-struck friend. The event was to promote her recently released work, A Woman's Worth, and if you're interested, I do have a signed first edition of that book, which I will gladly sell you for only a few hundred dollars. Anyway she seemed genuinely nice during our brief exchange, though this doesn't invalidate the points about the faux-love-and-light syndrome I mentioned above. Williamson is also clearly intelligent, writes lovely and poetic, if rambling, prose, and has lofty ideals and a strong sense of social justice.

But she is -- to put it mildly -- not a credible presidential candidate, any more than her g.f. Oprah is. Granted, Williamson actually did manage to make a couple of valid points during her performance at the Democratic gathering in June, even if most of those points were so abstract as to be useless. And she made one highly pertinent comment that, unfortunately, was immediately drowned out: she mentioned the historic role that US foreign policy in Latin America has played in the current immigration crisis. Williamson was spot-on when she said that none of the other candidates had mentioned this core problem during the entire evening's performance. In fairness, it's hard to dig deeply on any issue when you're restricted to 90-second or less sound bites, and when folks are constantly hollering over you, which is why these "debate" formats are such a joke. Even so, someone should have at least mentioned the US' foreign-policy baggage, and Williamson did. I have to give credit where it is due.

But none of the above means that Marianne Williamson is a viable candidate for the presidency. She might have a place in an agency such as Health and Human Services, due to her long history of advocacy and activism, or perhaps in the
Environmental Protection Agency, assuming that any of these agencies survive the Trump disaster. But president? Please, girlfriend.

Joke's on us?
Hilarity aside, Williamson isn't being completely dismissed across the board. Even though she is widely considered a joke candidate, there seem to be two schools of thought regarding even this matter. Some think she's nothing but a joke. Humorists have been having a field day mocking her; Saturday Night Live alum Kate McKinnon
did a fair imitation on Seth Meyers' show, and comedian Trae Crowder took to Twitter to recap Williamson's platform "as I understand it":
Healthcare plan: lol plans are stupid
Biggest issue: Holler at New Zealand
Ultimate takeaway: See y'all in the Love field
#KookyAunt2020 #DemDebate2
The second school of thought is that Williamson may be a joke, but, as Arwa Mahdawi reminded us in a July 2 opinion piece in The Guardian, we might still be wise to take her seriously; after all, Trump's victory in 2016 taught us that a joke can win an election. A writer on The New Republic web site, Alex Pareene, suggests that Williamson is a possible Democratic version of Trump, being "a proper outsider, with a great deal of TV experience giving her both name recognition and some degree of respect among the 'base' despite the 'establishment' not taking her seriously." Yet of course she is also Trump's opposite, Pareene hastens to add, being "not just female but powerfully and unabashedly feminine, aiming her message not at the raging car dealer dad but the anxious Wellness Mom."

Maybe so, but we don't need another TV star in the White House, no matter how opposite she may be to Trump in all of the ways that matter.

Williamson herself seems to have been a good sport about the laughter at her expense, noting, according to the Guardian article I linked to above, that America could use a good laugh. (She did, however, get a bit huffy about being left out of a Vogue profile of female candidates, which perhaps indicates that the "good-sport" facade can only cover up so much.) And notwithstanding Trae Crowder's snarky tweet, Williamson does have some solid progressive ideas that are not mired in abstraction and flowery new-age language, at least as outlined on her campaign web site. Her words on those pages don't sound nearly as flaky as the Marianne we saw on stage in Florida. Again, that ludicrous "debate" format left little opportunity for thoughtful remarks, much less elucidation, on any issue; with such a large pool of candidates, everyone would have been better served had the show been stretched out over four nights instead of two. But it was what it was. Time to move on.

In any event, however much or how little of a joke you may think Marianne Williamson is, the joke may be on all of us. As of now it appears that she has reached the requisite donation and polling thresholds to make it to the second crop of debates at the end of this month, apparently thanks in no small part to donations from Republicans, who reportedly want to keep her in future debates for her entertainment value. This is both funny and scary.

These Republican donors fully understand that Marianne Williamson is in over her head, and no doubt they are chuckling at her wacko pronouncements, and patting themselves on the back for their efforts in the service of sabotaging the Democrats, even as they're clicking the "Donate" buttons or writing out their checks. But I should point out that these are most likely some of the same folks who supported the profoundly stupid-sounding Sarah Palin or even bonkers Jeezus freak Michelle Bachmann back when those women were in the running for national office, and who now wholeheartedly support the ignorant, lying, gaffe-prone poser who currently occupies the Oval Office, and who has said more than his share of just plain stupid things. Clearly these GOP hyper-partisans don't even raise an eyebrow over a candidate or even a president saying unintentionally hilarious or completely wackadoodle things, nor do they object to that person's core unfitness for office, as long as he or she is on their side. But I do mind, and I have no problem with calling out Williamson even if I agree with her on some matters.
Williamson (unlike Palin and Bachmann) is smart, and she seems to have a pretty good idea about what is going on, so I find it hard to believe that she thinks she truly has a chance to win. Call me a pessimist or a cynic, but it seems clear to me that the toxic combination of Trump's cult of personality and GOP dogma and obstructionism have brought American politics far beyond a simple battlefield where love meets hate, and love wins out. Williamson and some of her supporters may truly believe that her metaphorical placing of a flower in the barrel of a rifle will go straight to the core and fix what's wrong with the repubic, and she might even be able to best Trump in the unlikely event that she would participate in a one-on-one debate with him -- assuming, of course, a format where candidates were quizzed intelligently on issues and allowed time to give substantive answers -- but Trump isn't the only problem.

There's his base, too: a firewall of irrational, tenacious MAGA soldiers who stick with their leader through thick and thicker, through dumb and dumber. Included among these supporters are viciously hateful MRAs (men's rights activists) who fancy themselves "alpha males" and spend their social media lives raging against women, feminism, "SJWs" ("social justice warriors"), and all manner of "snowflakes." (I've most recently discussed them on my previous blog post, in the context of the way some of them have been defending motivational stuporstar Tony Robbins against #MeToo allegations; see section under the sub-head, "Alphabitching and other reactions.") Then there are the theocrats who still think new-age spirituality is the work of the devil. And of course there are the random racists, xenophobes, and garden-variety ignoranti who won't even consider anyone but Trump, because they see him as their only hope to save America from a host of real and imaginary (mostly imaginary) threats. The hatriarchy truly has Trump's back. And beyond Trump's base, there is a wide field of powerful Republicans who are bent on remaking America in their own image and that of their wealthy donors. That's a lot for one faux-accented, love-spouting guru to tackle, even if she is a bad-ass Jewish Texan.

However solid some of her ideas may be, Williamson's public persona and general flakiness, not to mention her utter lack of qualifications for the most powerful position in the world, overshadow all of those good ideas. I hope she doesn't let her ego get the better of her, and that she has the good sense to step out of the race soon, perhaps donating all of that Republican money either to another, more credible candidate (like Elizabeth Warren, for instance, who actually does have credible plans as well as a solid understanding of who Trump and the GOP power structure are and the damage they are doing), or to any number of worthwhile causes that Williamson holds so dear. We can't afford another four years of what we have now, and Williamson's candidacy is counter-productive to the urgent mission to #DumpTrump.

Note: I have added links and clarifications to this post since it was first published on July 5.
~ CC, July 6, 2019

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Heat is still on Tony Robbins, but don't cry for him

In my previous post I wrote about the fallout from BuzzFeed News' investigative series on selfish-help giant Tony Robbins, the first installment of which was published on May 17 of this year. The stories, particularly the first one, generated tons of coverage in the news and entertainment media, as well as some heated conversations on social media. But wait, there's more.

BuzzFeed keeps on buzzin'
Since my last post, two more installments in the series have seen the light of day. On
June 18, BuzzFeed News posted an article with the rather sensationalist headline:

Tony Robbins Punishes Followers By Making Them Drink Unidentified Brown Liquid “Designed To Have A Lasting Effect”

And immediately beneath the headline:
At high-pressure seminars, the self-help superstar punishes people who don't measure up by feeding them a "gross shot" of unidentified brown liquid. His lawyers denied the mixture contains laxatives.
Granted, this sounds absolutely horrible. It makes Robbins seem like a sadist and the drinkers like helpless victims. And maybe you would argue that that's it in a nutshell, and I would say you probably have a case -- Robbins is clearly full of himself and at times almost maliciously confident of his "power" over others; and after investing big bucks and being browbeaten for hours or days, people's defenses are almost certainly way down -- but there is context. Apparently the coerced drinking is part of a specific competitive exercise that has taken place at some of Robbins' seminars: participants who "fail" at some contrived challenge are called onstage in front of large crowds and coerced into drinking an unidentified, gross-looking brown mixture that, according to a former staffer, they are led to believe contains a laxative. Internal docs and videos also reveal Robbins placing "L" (for "loser") stickers on their foreheads while the song "Loser" by Beck plays over the speakers.
Presumably this is all in the service of empowering them to live more passionate and fulfilled and purposeful lives and whatnot -- which, I probably don't have to tell you but will mention it anyway, is the rationale that has been used at every selfish-help seminar from
the est of daze gone by, to est imitators such as Lifespring, to the man-camp abuses perpetrated by orgs such as The ManKind Project, to James Arthur Ray's repeatedly hazardous and ultimately deadly faux sweat lodge events. And even Keith Raniere, that loathsome, recently convicted excuse for a man who headed the women-branding sex cult NXIVM, probably convinced his followers that the atrocities he commited against them were for their own good.

But if you look at it in the larger context of the sometimes appalling, sometimes dangerous, and occasionally fatal goings-on at selfish-help/McSpirituality/New-Wage events, drinking some gross brown stuff while being called a "loser" in front of a few thousand other folks, who also paid good money to be deceived and abused by a hulking huckster, is arguably on the less extreme, even if not totally benign, end of the business-as-usual spectrum.

That doesn't make it a good thing, of course, and the aforementioned Robbins ex-staffer told BuzzFeed News, "I always felt that this was highly inappropriate and falls into the category of public shaming, which is common for Robbins." Other observers said that it really seemed that Robbins was bullying the participants into drinking the "gross shots." Yep, bullying is precisely what is so often done at these events. And when the gurus aren't bullying, they are, more often than not, aggressively upselling and coercively "persuading."

Other former insiders told BuzzFeed that they'd also witnessed fans pressured into drinking supplements and juices outside of the "competitive" events. Despite assurances that the drinks would have health benefits, many people got sick. Gary King, Robbins' former director of security, said that people who'd downed the concoctions were "throwing up all over the place, in public restrooms, in hotel rooms."

As for the "gross shots" headlined in the BuzzFeed piece, Robbins' lawyers denied they contained laxatives but were instead a mix of "pickle juice, apple juice, lemon juice, tomato juice and a dash of tabasco." They insisted that no formal reports or complaints had ever been made about the drink.

The day after the gross-shots story was posted,
BuzzFeed followed up with Part 5 of the series, reporting that nine more former followers and staffers had come forward to accuse Robbins of inappropriate behavior that included groping women and mistreating vulnerable followers. Not surprisingly, Robbins "strongly denied" all of the new allegations, and his lawyers inundated BuzzFeed News with nearly two dozen glowing statements about Tony's impeccable character and behavior. Of note, many of those folks are still employed by Robbins and didn't work for him during the period of the alleged sexual misconduct.

But as with the first story in the series, it's not just about sex. The BuzzFeed piece cites several examples of people who claim to have have either witnessed psychological abuse or trauma at Robbins' events, or experienced it themselves. The accounts will sound pretty familiar to anyone who has even casually studied the dark side of the selfish-help industry. For instance, a staffer named Elizabeth told BuzzFeed about reading a 2017 account from a female participant who wrote on Robbins' Facebook page, saying that the event she'd attended was "overwhelming" and "awful" for her. She wrote that she'd been in her hotel room for the past five days, experiencing "extremes" and desperately in need of help.

According to Elizabeth, her team often received these types of messages. "She was clearly in distress and there was no protocol on how to handle it, even though it wasn't uncommon," Elizabeth explained, adding that everyone would "bump these concerns up but then nobody would do anything."

But Robbins' lawyers insisted that participants are always warned in advance of the "commitment and hours involved," and that there is a "robust medical team" onsite to lend support should something go wrong. They added that Robbins' conduct and that of all of his trainers in engaging with participants is "strictly governed by established protocol."

Still, given the fact that
this is the selfish-help industry we're talking about, "established protocol" could mean just about anything, or nothing. And I seriously doubt that Robbins' "robust" medical team was anywhere near that distraught woman who was freaking out in her hotel room after the fact. So maybe take some of that into consideration when making up your mind.

Canceled gigs
Ever since the first BuzzFeed story broke, I've read countless expressions of either fear or of hope that this "exposure" will finally mark the beginning of the end of Tony Robbins. But at this point I still don't think so, and said as much at the conclusion of
my last post. You know... "the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." I may be wrong, but so far there's no indication that the fans are jumping ship en masse.

Even so, the BuzzFeed buzz has not died down, and indeed, Tony Robbins is frequently described these days as "embattled." And there have been some repercussions... well, maybe they're repercussions, and maybe they're just coincidences, depending upon whom you want to believe. F'rinstance, not long after the first stories came out, there were a couple of related-to-each-other developments that most media accounts framed as being a result of the accusations uncovered by BuzzFeed.

First it was announced that registered investment advisor (RIA)
Creative Planning, which caters to the affluent, had severed ties with Robbins, three years after hiring him as a "Chief of Investor Psychology." That's a pretty silly title if you ask me, and even if you don't ask me, but I'm thinking it was code for "expert on manipulating people out of their money." Anyhow, it was assumed by many in and out of the investment industry that this separation was a direct result of the accusations against Robbins, and the company was praised by some for the action they'd taken.

A week later, however,
Creative Planning claimed that the split had actually been in the works for months before the allegations came to light. Peter Mallouk, the company's CEO of Creative Planning (which seems like an equally silly title, especially since the guy actually owns Creative Planning), said that Robbins and Creative Planning had been "negotiating an exit" for six months, and that it was "a mutual decision and amicable." The scandalous accusations, according to Mallouk's version, had absolutely nothing to do with the breakup.

Shortly after the Creative Planning announcement, it was also revealed that
an upcoming book by Robbins was dropped by the publisher. Actually, however, he was only listed as a co-author of the book in question, The Path: Accelerating Your Journey to Financial Freedom. His co-author was none other than the aforementioned Peter Mallouk of Creative Planning. But Mallouk himself, as well as a spokeswoman for Robbins, stated that although the book was in the works, contractual terms had never been reached nor finalized with the publisher. Robbins spokeswoman Jennifer Connelly told NBC News, "It is a false and misleading characterization to state that this was a book authored by Mr. Robbins."

May 30, 2019 piece from the RIABiz site offers a little more insight. Apparently Robbins had authored two chapters of the book, some other person had written one, and Mallouk had penned the rest. But Mallouk and Robbins had teamed up for a previous book, Unshakeable, which is mentioned in this August 2018 fluff piece, also from RIABiz. And here, from the same site, is an April 2016 piece that speculates on the then-new business bromance between Robbins and Mallouk. Just a little history, if you're interested; take all of it for what it's worth. You can believe the media accounts or you can believe the PR statements from the RIA and the book publisher and Robbins' people.

But far as I'm concerned, it's just as well that Tony Robbins lost the financial-advice gig and possible book deal. After all,
as my pal Salty Droid documented years ago, Robbins is, to put it mildly, not the most qualified or credible financial expert.
According to The New York Times :: Tony Robbins is qualified to write a book about financial planning for the masses … because he’s life coach to hedge fund white guy John Tudor Jones. Tony has special access to life’s high achievers … and he passes their highly applicable secrets on to the rest of us {for a small to life ruining fee}.

A couple of years ago Tony Robbins was using the exact same :: “I wanted to help people get their retirements back after the crash” type line he uses here … to sell us on his special access to Frank Kern and
The Syndicate … who Robbins labeled The New Money Masters.
And if you want more, let's turn to RIABiz again, with this November 2014 reprinted review of Robbins' book, Money! Master the Game, the work that reportedly set the ball rolling for Mallouk-Robbins' Unshakeable. The teaser on the site states that the book contains "a few sound nuggets but gimmicks, fallacies and straw men abound."

Please do take the time to read (or re-read, if you wish) that Salty Droid post I linked to above, and listen to the embedded audio of the hard-sell sales call, perpetrated by some of Robbins' then-cohorts. And remember that none of this has anything to do with #MeToo-ish allegations. The #MeToo movement was still a couple of years in the future at the time this post was published. Rather, this is all about financial exploitation of some of the most vulnerable folks -- and no matter how you may personally feel about how Tony Robbins is a force for good in the world and/or about how he has changed your life, his big fingers have also been in the filthy financial-exploitation pie for years.

For many reasons it would be foolish to weep for Tony, or to weep at all, because of his separation from Creative Planning and the collapsed book deal. Regardless of whether or not those events have anything to do with the allegations in the BuzzFeed series, it's probably best for everyone that legitimate financial advice firms steer clear of Robbins.

Alphabitching and other reactions
I have yet to see any indication that Robbins intends to take legal action against BuzzFeed. And apart from that
"open letter" Robbins posted on Medium.com the very day that the first story was published, and the odd video here and there, he hasn't said much publicly about the matter. But that hasn't stopped a lot of his rank-and-file defenders from mouthing off.

The worst of the offensively defensive reactions that I've seen have come from various alt-right-leaning
men's-rights activists (MRAs) who fancy themselves "alpha males" and sneer at "beta males" and at those even lower in their imaginary heirarchy, while consistently rejecting the very notion that some men rape or sexually abuse women. (Here's RationalWiki's take on MRAs.) I want to say right off that I am not for a moment suggesting that all of Robbins' fans, followers, and defenders fall into these categories, nor am I insinuating that Robbins himself embraces or encourages MRA dogma. That said, on various social media discussions I've seen some defenses of Robbins that shamelessly reflect these mindsets. I've been privy to a bit of nattering about alpha males and how they are constantly being hammered by the #MeToo crowd, as well as by those loser betas and by "political correctness" and, of course, by "SJWs" (social justice warriors)... and about how men are being punished just for being men, damn it!... and about how Tony Robbins is just the latest high-profile example of this unconscionable oppression.

It gets worse, though. A cursory Google search led me to
a toxic little essay by American Nazi Andrew Anglin, originally published on his neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site, though that original link appears to be down. The headline blasts, "Tony Robbins' Book Canceled Because He's Too Alpha." (Apparently Anglin didn't get the memo that it wasn't, technically, "Tony Robbins' book.")

The screed leads with a pic of Robbins embellished with one of his famous quotations: "The path to success is to take massive, determined action." To which Anglin responds:

Not anymore, Tony. Not anymore. Today, the path to success is to take massive cocks in every orifice, and to have new orifices surgically added to your body so you can take massive cocks in those too.
He goes on to hurl blame at "sluts" (presumably feminists, as well as the women of the #MeToo movement and every woman who has ever sympathized or empathized with the latter); black people (though of course he doesn't use nearly so polite a term); and trans people (though he employs a far cruder term). And, he adds, "if you cross a slut or a mangina, the entire world will come down on you. Even if you're a diabolical genius who invented modern self-help ideology." Tony Robbins, of course, is precisely that "diabolical genius."

The glory days of alpha male rule, Anglin laments, are gone. No longer do we exist in a world where alpha males can express their alpha maleness by "whip(ping) out their dicks" and "grabbing bitches by the pussy" and telling "rape-hoaxing sluts to shut their filthy lying mouths." Why, alphas can't even use the "N" word with impunity, he rages, a complaint that appears to address the third BuzzFeed story, which reported on an old video of Robbins using the "N" word repeatedly at a seminar exercise whose stated purpose was to rob racial epithets of their power. As disgusting as that may be to most folks when viewed today, Anglin seems to be... well, anglin'... for a world in which those epithets would still have their full power, and alpha white guys could use them without facing any consequences.

Still frothing, Anglin continues:

The disgusting part of this is that Tony Robbins actually was giving people great advice. It was very simple advice, ultimately - he was just saying clichéd stuff about “reach for the stars and always be the best you can be, and you will succeed at whatever endeavor you take on.”

And you can criticize him for saying something that has been said before - but you can’t call him a liar.

The fact of reality is that your only choices are:

  1. Live in fear
  2. Grab life by the pussy
There really aren't any other major choices, and there is very little gray area.
I'm thinking that #NotMyPresident Donald Trump should be extraordinarily proud that he has inspired no lesser a Nazi than Andrew Anglin to turn a 2005 hot-mic boast into a metaphor for how to live one's life. Maybe Trump and Anglin can co-author a ghostwritten book called, Grab Life By The Pussy! Although come to think of it, I don't think Trump would want to share author credits with anyone, so scrap that idea.

For that matter,
Anglin's former lawyer, free-screech advocate Marc Randazza, should also be proud to count Anglin among his stellar former client list. I say "former" lawyer/client because, although Randazza was indeed representing Anglin in November 2018 when I wrote the blog post linked to in the previous sentence, he has since begged off the case. Luke O'Brien had this to say in the HuffPost in April of this year:
This is not the first time Randazza has slunk away from his legal wreckage -- last year, he withdrew from a case after he and a client made numerous misrepresentations in Utah federal court that led to his client being sanctioned. This breakup, though, is different. For a time, Randazza and Anglin were pals subverting the system together. But Anglin was always too far gone, a conspiratorial loon raving about Jewish cabalism, his hatred of America and his desire to see the brains of his enemies splattered on walls.

“He has gotten far more radical,” Randazza told HuffPost in March.
"Gotten" far too radical? Okay, whatever you say, Marc.

But I digress. Anglin, ignoring the fact that the subject of his rant is not in fact down for the count (though Anglin apparently bases his view of Robbins' "downfall" on the fact that Robbins has actually made half-hearted apologies and concessions here and there, which a functional alpha male would never, ever do), concludes in his little essay that Tony Robbins may well be "the last 1990s Alpha Male Extremist to fall to the disgusting hordes" of women and people of color and LGBTQ and so forth. But, he adds, while this is a cause for mourning, all is not lost. Rather it is a sign that "we, the men among the ruins, must rebuild our own new society" from scratch.

"I can promise you this," he assures his readers. "There'll be plenty of chances to whip out your dick on the road to a new civilization."

Well, I say, go ahead and whip it out, MRAs, and keep it out. Just ignore the hearty laughter you encounter on the road to that brave new civilization, and do be on the lookout for women with axes to grind. Or just with axes.

By contrast to Anglin, MRA (and self-described alpha), misogynist, alt-right Trumpian, and conspiranoid
Mike Cernovich almost sounded rational in a post he wrote in response to the initial BuzzFeed revelations. Though as might be expected Cernovich downplayed the actual accusations, he did manage to make a couple of valid points about Robbins' history of engaging in "aggressive litigation posturing" and the use of "bottom-feeding lawyers to silence his critics." He also expressed the opinon that Robbins was being too sensitive about the accusations in the BuzzFeed articles, and that he overreacted to them. Most of all Cernovich touched on a point that I've previously made:
No one who likes Robbins will read the article and think, “That’s it. He’s cancelled.”
Yeah... you know... barking dogs and caravans. Cernovich concluded with another salient observation, which is that like most celebs, Robbins has been coddled by the media for decades, "and any criticism leads to an overreaction."

So even a card-carrying member of the right-wing alphabutt manopshere can occasionally exhibit a thread of rationality.

Where (or if) it stops, nobody knows...
One of the ongoing themes on this blog is that in Scamworld there are no neat and tidy endings. As I've noted more than once in the past couple of posts, I really don't think the BuzzFeed series will mark the end of Tony Robbins' career as a huckster.
A possible, though by no means certain, Achilles heel could be the allegations related to #MeToo matters, which have, after all, led to the downfall of numerous successful and powerful men, and possibly a few women, in various industries and in public office -- Donald John Trump being a notable exception, so far.
But then again, placed in the context of what has been going on with selfish-help gurus and "spiritual" leaders for decades, and given the fact that the selfish-help/McSpirituality industries have weathered many other allegations of physical and emotional abuse, nothing is certain. Yes, women (and men) are finally saying, "Enough!", and as a culture we are becoming less tolerant of bad behavior that was formerly taken for granted. However, absent an extreme situation like Keith Rainier and his sex-slavery cult, or like James Arthur Ray and his lethal sweat lodge, it's unlikely that any of Tony Robbins' misdeeds -- or, for that matter, the misdeeds of most other motivational icons -- will result in any criminal charges or even many successful civil actions. And while Robbins and others may lose some fans and followers for one reason or another, you can't keep a good huckster down, and there will always be new generations of marks.

But please, don't waste any time feeling sorry for Tony Robbins. Just continue to keep your eyes open and your boots on as you continue to negotiate (to quote a certain Cosmic blogger) the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture. It's a mess out there.

Related on (and off) this Whirled

  • September 2018: Enough with the ludicrous "alpha male" myth, says author James Fell, writing on The Good Men Project blog. Not that this will dissuade many if any of those who most need dissuading, but this is for the rest of us.

  • Updated September 2018: Here's Why Tony Robbins Should Definitely Not Be Your Guru
    Some really powerful observations in response to the 2016 Netflix documentary, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru. The author, Mia Doring, describes Tony as "a raging 'self help' narcissist," writing:

    I had hoped there was more to him than this, but the Netflix documentary “I Am Not Your Guru” (weird title considering that’s exactly what he thinks he is) didn’t really convince me, or anyone else I have foisted it upon.
    She describes a scene in which Robbins coerces a woman to break up with her boyfriend on the phone in front of 2,500 people at one of his "Date With Destiny" seminars.
    She wants Robbins’ approval so badly that it hurts to watch. “Pick up your f*ckin’ phone”, he says dismissively, walking away, smirking. As he lectures her about the relationship he knows nothing about, he occasionally shrugs his shoulders in apparent exasperation with her. She fumbles in her bag. Of course nobody is making her do anything. Just her intense desire to please the giant man shouting “f*cking” commands at her, the several TV cameras all pointed at her, and the palpable energy of the giant crowd all around her, all who see this as a “breakthrough”. Oh and the $5K she spent to be there. Her boyfriend hangs up on her. The music blasts. She gets a standing ovation. She looks devastated. Tony gives a little speech about being “authentic”. I want to shoot myself in the face.
  • November 2014: From The Guardian: Infomercial king Tony Robbins wants to tell you what to do with your money. Be very afraid
    Not related to sexual abuse allegations, but about Tony Robbins' unfitness to be a financial guru.

  • September 2010: Salty Droid on Tony Robbins and the Syndicate
    Going back even further than the 2015 Salty Droid post I linked to above, here's more about Tony Robbins teaming up with a group of aggressive second-rate scammers who referred to themselves as "The [Internet Marketing] Syndicate" to suck as many folks as possible into a fraud funnel. Salty explained:
    [Robbins] will “introduce” you to [the members of "The Syndicate"] for $67 per month … but if you want to know about the cartel … and the fraud … and the
    boiler rooms … and all the other seedy fucking bullshit that these wanks have to pull just to make far less than they report … then that’s gonna be extra.
    Again, this has nothing to do with scandalous #MeToo-type allegations that have dominated the headlines about Robbins since BuzzFeed's first story was published. But it is equally as scandalous and should be treated as such.

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