Thursday, October 08, 2015

James Arthur Ray Death Lodge Sixth Anniversary: Never Forget

I always love October. I love the way it presents itself, more often than not, in such bright and perfect blue and gold -- yes, even down here where we don't have the stunning autumn colors that are seen further north. I love the way October always feels, even more than September does, like a beginning rather than the herald of any kind of ending. Granted, at least one group of Apocalyptomaniac "Christians" had been predicting that yesterday, October 7, would be The End. They were unfazed by the world's utter failure to end on September 27 with the lunar eclipse/blood moon/super moon,
as predicted by various idiots. One Chris McCann, head loony at the eBible Fellowship, an online affiliation headquartered in the Philly area, said that on October 7, the world will be "gone forever. Annihilated." According to McCann's interpretation, the world would be obliterated "with fire."

As we all know now, the world did not end. Here we are, well into October 8. And the world goes on, for most of us.

But as much as I love October, there is an undercurrent of sadness in these pristine fall days. Most of the hummingbirds are gone by now, though a scant few stragglers remain, but that's not the core of my sadness. It's more of a general melancholy, rather subtle, perhaps best expressed by Rilke's poem, "Autumn," which is no doubt even more lovely in the original German, though
the version in this blog post is the English translation that touches me the most (yes, despite my agnosticism).

This October day in particular is a sad one, for today is the sixth anniversary of the date that the world did end for
Kirby Brown and James Shore, two participants in New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality guru James Arthur Ray's phony "sweat lodge" in Sedona, Arizona. Nine days later a third participant, Liz Neuman, passed away as well, without ever awakening from a coma.

And after that, the world was never the same for untold numbers of family members and friends of these three lovely people.

I knew none of them, though some of the family members are now my Facebook friends, but I think of them every year at this time. Mostly it is with sadness but also with anger, because the man whose recklnessness was responsible for these three deaths (four, if you count
Colleen Conaway's death at another Ray event in July 2009), served a prison sentence of less than two years for the Sedona deaths. (He served no time at all for Colleen's death, and wasn't even charged, much less tried or convicted, although my understanding is that there was a civil settlement of some kind, eventually.)

And these days, James Ray
is exploiting the Sedona tragedy and his time in prison for his own purposes, still parading as a success guru but with a new hook: he uses the pain and loss of others to portray himself as the hero who has walked through fire.

He may have walked through fire, figuratively speaking, but he did not die by fire, literally, as did James Shore, Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman.

He may have lost a lot, but he is still alive and capable of writing unmitigated crap such as, "In the process of losing everything...I actually found myself."

That theme -- redemption through profound loss -- is the one that Death Ray is flogging these days. And at this time, as previously reported here,
he is preparing to be the keynote speaker at the Global Information Network (GIN) Family Reunion at a Disney World resort in Florida on October 16-18. GIN, as you almost certainly know if you've been following this blog or others with similar subject matter, was the scammy brainchild of now-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau (aka KT, aka Katie). The club is still being run by a group of Trudeau's close buddies and business partners (though if you don't mind my slipping in a little bit of gratuitous gossip, a GINsider recently whispered to me that GIN/AXS CEO Troy McClain actually can't stand Kevin. Shhh! Don't tell anyone.).

People lost hundreds of thousands of dollars through the GIN scam, money they will almost certainly never get back. Yet the con rolls on; even the "affiliate" (MLM) program has been renewed, and various wannabes (
like this joker) are still enthusiastically and aggressively pushing GIN as a "success club" -- and, in the case of the linked post above, they're also promoting James Ray as someone to look up to. And Trudeau? Still languishing in Camp Cupcake (his fake-fond nickname for FPC (Federal Prison Camp) in Montgomery, Alabama), awaiting the outcome of the appeal of his ten-year prison sentence, and pushing his own scams in order to raise money for his legal defense fund.

I should note that some disgruntled Trudeau customers will get their money back: after the U.S. government spent more than twelve years and many millions of dollars to pursue Trudeau for claims made on an infomercial for his diet book,
Judge Robert Gettleman finally approved refunds for buyers of the book. But there's a catch.

Consumers won’t be getting a full refund on the book. The government agency’s lawyers have said the refunds could arrive in multiple checks to readers, and it’s “reasonable” for consumers to expect $11 total from the first two checks they get. Some variables are at play, including the number of consumers the FTC can track down and the percentage who actually cash their checks. The checks will be valid only for 60 days.

The FTC said more than 820,000 people bought Trudeau’s book, which has a list price of $24.95.
But you GIN members who maxed out your credit cards, squandered your life savings or even lost your homes as a result of constantly being bombarded with attractive lies, Scientology-like manipulation, sales pitches, upsells and oversells... pffft. You're on your own. This case was never about y'all anyway. In fact it wasn't even consumer fraud re the diet book that actually landed Katie in prison. Technically it was criminal contempt; essentially, Katie pissed off the courts and the judges. Granted, it was all related to Katie's egregious consumer fraud. And Katie still has to answer for many of his lies (most notably, where he's hiding all of his money) when he gets out of prison. But meanwhile... he's still scamming and still has legions of fans.

Although it may seem that I've digressed a bit from my original topic on this post, I haven't, really, because both Katie and Death Ray are part of Scamworld, and in fact they have publicly endorsed and promoted each other numerous times over the past few years (see
here and here for instance).

One of the constant themes on this blog over the past few years has been that there are no neat and tidy endings in Scamworld. "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." Kevin Trudeau is in prison, but still scamming, and still looked on as a hero by many. James Arthur Ray was in prison, but out now, and still scamming, and still looked upon as a leader of some sort, at least by a few.

Meanwhile, many of the people Katie scammed are still picking up the pieces of their crumbled finances and lives. And as October inevitably gives way to November and December, there will still be empty places at the holiday tables of the families whose loved ones were killed by the arrogant recklessness of James Arthur Ray.

Regarding the latter, there are bright spots of joy with the sadness; in the years since Death Lodge,
beautiful babies have been born to some of the family members of those who were lost. Life goes on, and for some, October is truly a time of beginnings.

And maybe, just maybe, no one is ever truly lost. Rilke:

...And yet there's One whose gently-holding hands
this universal falling can't fall through.

Kirby Brown's family, trying to create something good from the awfulness wrought by James Ray, is still promoting their non-profit, Seek Safely, whose purpose is to educate people about how to safely participate in the self-help industry. I will note once again, as I always do when I mention this organization, that none of the industry giants invited to sign the Seek Safely Promise has signed. Here are the people who have signed -- and as I've also said before, I am sure they are good folks, but they are not the most prominent in the industry. Still, it's a worthy cause, and I applaud Kirby's family for their efforts.

And me? I'll continue to do my part to make sure that people never forget what happened six years ago today, October 8.

For insights into the arrogance that led up to Death Lodge, and the arrogance Ray has displayed since then,
see this post, written on the first anniversary of Sedona. Also read Connie Joy's book, Tragedy in Sedona. There's also a new public Facebook group, James Arthur Ray is a Felon.