The basis of this article was copied from MLM Law Blawg
This is a question so
often asked that the IBOAI
(the governing distributors board) saw the need to address it on their website.
To answer this question, I offer the "BITE" model for determining whether a group is a destructive cult, as developed by cult expert Steve Hassan. You can read all about Mr. Hassan and his work at his website "Freedom of Mind."
What follows are my own opinions based on my experiences of the "system" and the reports of the hundreds of people I've spoken to over the last ten years about what they observed and experienced while a part of an Amway/Quixtar Motivational Organization or "AQMO." AQMOs are parasitic organizations that make their money selling tapes, books, videos, CDs, and "training" seminars and functions to Quixtar distributors. These AQMOs generally have their own names, such as:
TEAM5000, Network 21, World Wide Dream Builders or WWDB, Britt World Wide or BWW, InterNET, InterBIZ
BIZNET, Dream Chasers International, and so on . . .
It is important to note that not every IBO's experience will be the same. It is also important to note that not all of the AQMOs will use or officially promote all of these methods described below. If I list it as a practice, it is because I have either personally observed it or because I have read or heard numerous reports of such activity in the AQMOs.
The BITE model consists of analyzing the
destructive tendencies of a group under four control factors:
BITE APPLIED TO AQMOS
First, a reminder from Steve Hassan: "It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently."
I. BEHAVIOR CONTROL
.....1. Regulation of individual's physical reality
..........a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
YES. IBOs are often repeatedly taught not to associate with "negative" people (i.e. non-Quixtar people). This teaching includes "negative" family members and friends. There is also a prohibition against associating with those not involved in the IBO's own "line of sponsorship." This prohibited behavior goes by the Quixtar buzzword: "crosslining." It is not uncommon for the leaders of these organizations to eventually move together in same neighborhoods, attend the same churches and to buy vacation homes in the same neighborhoods.
Dexter Yager comments on how you lose your friends if they don't join the business.
..........b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
YES. IBOs are taught not to wear beards, an they must dress in business clothes. Male IBOs are expected to dress in a dark suit with white shirt and (usually) a red tie. All of this should be ordered out of the catalog or off the website. There used to be very little selection, with the almost comical result that everybody in a room of IBOs would be wearing the same suit and one of maybe 5 or 6 red ties. There's a little more variation for women, but they don't matter as much in "the Business" anyway.
..........c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
YES. The food is expected to be from "the business." XS drinks, protein bars, meal replacement bars, "shelf-stable" TV dinners and vitamin supplements - enough supplements to choke an elephant. These are called "your products." Anything purchased from a source other than through the Quixtar website or catalogs is known as a "negative product."
..........d. How much sleep the person is able to have
YES, BUT ONLY SOMETIMES. There is an exception. At weekend functions, participants are expected to sleep no more than 3 hours a night. Functions will last until 1 am with a "nightowl" session that will keep the IBOs up until 3 am (if they are serious about "the business"). Events often begin anew at 6 or 7 am the next morning. IBOs are told that they can finally sleep when they achieve Diamond.
..........e. Financial dependence
YES. This is a cornerstone of the AQMO behavioral control methodology. Since this is ostensibly a "business," this is a pretty prevalent aspect of the method.
..........f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations
YES. No TV, movies, pleasure reading or other distractions should divert the IBO's attention from "the business." Vacations, if IBOs can afford them, should coincide with the time and place of major functions (and thus, consist of travelling to attend functions in a sleep-deprived state rather than actually vacationing). Time with friends and family outside "the business" is minimized as the IBO is expected to show the plan or listen to the system tapes and attend seminars in the evenings and on weekends.
.....2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
YES. Absolutely. IBOs are expected to attend weekly open meetings even if they do not have any new prospects to bring. After the meeting there is a "night owl" that can last past midnight. After that they might go as a group to a diner to eat. Then there are the monthly seminars, PV parties, tool and product pickups, leadership meetings, Nuts and Bolts meetings, power player meetings, all weekend major functions and numerous special weekends such as Go Diamond Weekend.
Dexter Yager comments on how busy Emeralds and Diamonds really are
.....3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
YES. Though experiences vary as to the intrusiveness of the upline into the IBO's personal life, there are common reports of IBOs being pressured to seek counsel regarding purchases, whether to have children, investment decisions and even on occasion training to withhold sex from one's spouse to motivate him or her to be more serious about the business. This practice is so prevalent it has it's own name in Quixtar-speak: an IBO is expected to "counsel upline."
Dexter Yager comments on the time commitment for "counseling".
.....4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors
YES. This too varies quite a bit. However, since the IBO is expected to disconnected himself from his ordinary social support system (unless he can get them into "the business" as well), the source for intimate communication out of necessity often becomes his upline "friends." AQMOs supply their own pastors and in many situations an IBO with a personal problem is expected to "counsel upline." It is taught that the major upline are superior to the IBO in most regards and should be followed as to any advice if the upline is presented as "successful" in "the business." This too has it's own Quixtar buzzword: "edification."
.....5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).
YES. An IBO's access to his new social support system (upline IBOs) will depend on his willingness to follow "the system" and be "teachable." Those who do not follow the system will be denied access and denigrated. Those who do, will be given glowing affirmations of their self-worth.
.....6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails
YES. This too has it's own buzzword in Quixtar - "Duplication." Everyone is expected to behave exactly as "the system" teaches. The manner of their association with others (both inside and outside "the business"), how they spend their time and money, the books they read, their philosophical worldview and even their political and religious beliefs. Everyone is expected to follow the system. The system is said to be perfect and needs no refining.
.....7. Rigid rules and regulations
YES. Though they are not always written down, there is a large collection of rigid rules governing the behavior of IBOs. Many, of course, are written down - in the 100 page Quixtar Business Compendium. There are also many unwritten rules such as "don't pass negative downline".
.....8. Need for obedience and dependency
YES. The "system" is based on creating a dependency to achieve obedience. When an Amway executive studied the "system" in the early 1980s, he described it as follows:
It is also customary for this line of sponsorship to consistently teach that the relationships in a line of sponsorship are sacred. Distributors are taught that they will not be able to build the business without the presence of an upline Diamond or an upline support structure. Inevitably, if Direct Distributors break off from this structure, their business begins to sag. In many cases, because they feel that they have violated the love and trust of the line of sponsorship, their businesses will ultimately disappear. We have had this occur at least three times in the Northwest in the last three years. So, while friendships are being developed, a dependency is also being created. It is this aspect of their methodology, that has allowed for charges of "mind control."
In all situations, within the line of sponsorship,
distributors are taught that they are to do all that has been requested of them by their
line of sponsorship. There is no room for individuality or creativity. They are taught
consistently that there is no need for creativity, since the line of sponsorship has the
answers for them. Decisions are made for distributors based on personality and the size of
the business. However, as time goes on, a distributor finds himself more and more reliant
upon the advice of the upline Direct, Emerald, or Diamond. In fact, after a Direct becomes
a Diamond, he is still not free to act on his wishes. In the area of finances, a new
Diamond in the Puryear organization recently confided that in order for him to buy a
house, it was necessary for him to receive the approval of Ron Puryear and Bill Britt.
Absolutely nothing is left to chance or creativity. There is always the chance of failure if someone is creative, and in order for their business to be credible, no failure is to be allowed.
II. INFORMATION CONTROL
.....1. Use of deception
..........a. Deliberately holding back information
YES. IBOs who ask questions about the real money flow in "the business" will be told that they will learn more about that when they reach a high enough "pin" level. Data about the real income, success level and source of income for the supposed "successful" upline are also deliberately withheld. IBOs are taught that "you don't feed a baby steak" and in the same light there is no need to tell people much about the business until there is a need to know.
Yager comments on not needing to tell the whole story.
Dexter Yager comments on not giving out the details.
Ron Puryear - What is successful? Someone who has been
in the business one day longer than you!
..........b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
YES. This is another cornerstone of the AQMO and Quixtar method. The miserable income and success rates are explained because so many people just refused to follow the system and do what they were supposed to do. IBOs are taught to think of the rebate or "bonus" they get on their own purchases as business income. They teach that Microsoft and IBM are business "partners" of Quixtar when these companies are nothing more than vendors selling computer hardware and software. IBOs claim the Quixtar computers "melted" due to the volume on their first day to explain away other failures in their systems. IBOs quote excerpts from 80+ year old financial information on retirement as if it were valid today. There is almost too much of this type of information control to list. This is a standard method that permeates the entire system.
Dexter Yager says teach them to get six because that sounds easier than what an IBO really needs.
..........c. Outright lying
YES. Upline will lie about the "pin" level they are at in Quixtar. An upline may have only "qualified" once as a "diamond," for example, but from that point onward will always be referred to as a diamond regardless of their actual "pin" level. The "system" repeats false statements and urban legends that will reinforce the desired worldview in the minds of IBOs, including such things as the "Satanism" rumor about Procter & Gamble and the "Crest" myth, the myth about small business failures, the myth about Donald Trump saying MLM is how he would get rich again if he lost everything, etc.
Dexter Yager repeats on the Procter & Gamble Satanism rumor
Ron Puryear claims Quixtar will be a $100 billion dollar
business by 2005 (in 2004 Quixtar did just 1% of that)
Gred Duncan claims Quixtar will do $100 billion
Ron Puryear claims that Quixtar pays IBOs 65% of sales
(in 2004 Quixtar paid IBOs just 32% of sales)
Earn 6 figures by investing just $200
Our group is the fastest growing
.....2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
..........a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
YES. An IBO is expected to disconnect from watching TV, listening to music, going to movies, reading non-system books, etc. All of these, he is taught, are a waste of time and money because they do not help him to "build the business." If IBOs cannot afford to by the books, tapes and seminar tickets they are encourage to even sell their TV to raise money.
..........b. Critical information
YES. Even though Quixtar is supposedly a "web-based" business, the Internet is categorized as "the bathroom walls of society." The reason: Quixtar and the AQMOs cannot control information in the Internet - they can only control their downline's behavior. Since "the business" requires IBOs to be on the Internet, there must be a constantly reinforced teaching that any "negative" information found on the Internet is to be disregarded. Those who have such "negative" information are to be known as "broke losers" who couldn't make it in the business. Likewise, an IBO is expected to disassociated from anyone (including family members) who holds a "negative" view of "the business."
Greg Duncan comments on the "bathroom walls of society"
..........c. Former members
YES. Former members are "broke losers" who couldn't make it in the business or didn't follow "the system" as it was taught. They are to be avoided and disregarded. After one leaves the business many of their one time friends will not speak to them anymore or even return their phone calls.
Rich DeVos comments on IBOs calling others "losers".
........d. Keep members so busy they don't have time to think
YES. This is especially true at weekend functions. But an IBO is expected to be showing the plan, listening to tapes or attending meetings each weeknight and on weekends - in fact, any time they are not at their job earning money to pay for their "training."
.....3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
YES. Also a cornerstone technique, "the system" teaches that there are those who "get" the business and those who don't. The "system" upline are regarded as keepers of secret information that the ordinary rabble doesn't have or doesn't understand and if the IBO will just hang in long enough and immerse himself in the doctrines and teachings of the "system" the truth will eventually sink in and he'll achieve what his upline heroes have achieved. If he isn't there yet, it's because he isn't following the "system" as taught or hasn't been in it long enough. Those people in the business with a goal are part of the 5%'ers, and everyone else is part of the 95%'ers who will die broke.
..........a. Information is not freely accessible
YES. Information positive to "the business" is freely available but contrary information is suppressed, often with the assistance of the Amway/Quixtar corporation, which has a history of using lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and legal discovery tools to harass its critics into silence. Many Internet critics have been even sued by important individual distributors in order to remove criticism from the Internet.
..........b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
YES. See above.
..........c. Leadership decides who "needs to know" what
.....4. Spying on other members is encouraged
..........a. Pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control
SORT OF. There is a system in place for each IBO to keep an eye on his own downline and "counsel upline" if there appears to be a problem. If someone appears to be getting "negative" about the business, it is customary to notify a higher upline IBO to counsel directly with the faltering IBO.
..........b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
YES. See above.
.....5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
..........a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
YES. Books, tapes, videos, monthly magazine, "system" newsletters and website. IBOs are encouraged to have contests among themselves to see who can listen to the most tapes in a certain time period. IBOs are told they need to listen to tapes at least 16 times each to get all the information from the tape. IBOs are encourage to listen to their tapes while they are driving instead of listening to the radio.
..........b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources
YES. Too many to list. Retirement example.
.....6. Unethical use of confession
YES. Not in the traditional sense of "confession" though. An IBO is taught to discover his downline IBOs' "dreams" or "fears." These are used to motivate the downline IBO to stay in the business and make decisions that are acceptable within the "system." For example, a downline IBO might tell his upline that he can't go to a meeting because his son has a softball game that night. The upline will say "Bob, when you told me that you wanted your wife to stop having to work for another man and come home and raise your son, were you lying to me or do you really want your son to raise himself? Believe me, your son will thank you a thousand times over for missing that game when you go diamond and can send him to professional baseball camp to learn personally from Alex Rodriguez."
III. THOUGHT CONTROL
.....1. Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth"
..........a. Map = Reality
..........b. Black and White thinking
..........c. Good vs. evil
..........d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)
YES. There is Quixtar and the system and those who don't know or understand. The IBO is taught that he will only have success in life if he persists until he truly understands the teachings and truth of the Quixtar "system."
.....2. Adopt "loaded" language (characterized by "thought-terminating clichés"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words".
YES. Absolutely. See the many buzzwords noted above. These are only the tip of the iceberg in Quixtar.
.....3. Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.
YES. See above. "Stinking thinking" is a common term in the business for those that have not adopted the proper attitudes and thought patterns.
.....4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.
YES. The upline is to be "edified" and not questioned. An IBO who has questions will either be told that they'll learn about that when the get further along or that while something about the system doesn't make sense, it's only because the IBO doesn't truly understand "the system" and its doctrines yet.
..........a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
YES. See above.
YES. As detailed recently in a "Dateline" segment, and twenty years ago by "60 Minutes," chanting and group singing are a significant aspect of major "functions."
NOT REALLY. Though an IBO is expected to spend several hours a week immersed in Quixtar positive "system" tapes and books.
YES. There is a religious undertone to "the business." Traditional religious practices are integrated in with more Quixtar specific practices.
..........e. Speaking in "tongues"
NO. Not that I'm aware of.
..........f. Singing or humming
SINGING, YES. HUMMING, NO. At least, not that I'm aware of.
I heard it from my
Upline .mp3 400 K
"Recruit, Train, and Motivate" - .song .mp3 372k by the Sanborn singers
"What is this thing called Amway" - song .mp3 275k by the Sanborn singers
Pat Boone "Are there any more squares out there?" - song .mp3 440k
Pat Boone "We were Amway" - song .mp3 457k
.....5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or
policy seen as legitimate
YES. IBOs are not allowed to "pass negative" and must always speak glowingly of their upline.
.....6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
YES. IBOs are taught that college is waste of time and money that will only end with the IBO getting downsized from his "J.O.B." - another buzzword for "Just Over Broke" to discourage IBOs from thinking that their future lies in building an ordinary career. Ordinary news and education, IBOs are told, are designed to foster the "job mentality" on people. This is why business analysts, journalists and judges write "negative" things about "the business," because they don't want the riff-raff to break free from their "job mentality" and discover the freedom they can achieve from owning their own "Quixtar powered" business.
the fear of getting downsized in a job
IV. EMOTIONAL CONTROL
.....1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings.
YES. All emotional expenditures are re-directed toward "achieving" in the business.
.....2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the leader's or the group's.
YES. Absolutely. The IBO will be taught that nobody who followed the system has ever failed. EVERYONE who ever failed to achieve their dreams did so because they didn't follow the system or didn't follow it long enough.
Dexter Yager - If you lose money in the business it is because you did not follow the system
.....3. Excessive use of guilt
YES. The IBOs fears are turned against them and used to create a self-hatred for not achieving. They'll be told they are less of a man than their upline, that their wife works for another man, that they work for another man and can be downsized any day, that the lack of time they have with their children is a result of their "job mentality" and lack of effort. The list goes on and on.
..........a. Identity guilt
...............1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
...............2. Your family
YES. IBOs are encouraged to think of their upline as their new family. Their own family, if not "negative" becomes a tool through with the "system" can manipulate the IBO's thoughts and behavior as noted above.
...............3. Your past
YES. As one common Quixtar mantra goes: "Keep doing what you've been doing, and you'll get what you've been getting."
...............4. Your affiliations
YES. See above.
...............5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
YES. See above.
..........b. Social guilt
YES. Failure in the following the system means that the IBO has failed his upline family, who loves him and wants him to succeed.
..........c. Historical guilt
YES. See above.
.....4. Excessive use of fear
..........a. Fear of thinking independently
YES. See the Postma Memo. Independent thinking is the worst thing an IBO can do. He should follow those who have succeeded and do what they did - obey "the system."
..........b. Fear of the "outside" world
YES. The IBO is told that the business world and government are out to use him and keep him broke and in servitude. He has no hope of escaping this enslavement except by owning his own business "powered by Quixtar."
..........c. Fear of enemies
YES. "Negative" people, those who don't respect "the business" are not only misguided, he'll be taught, but they are "dreamstealers" (another buzzword) out to keep him enslaved in his "job mentality" and away from the "Quixtar powered" freedom he so desperately now desires.
..........d. Fear of losing one's "salvation"
YES. Absolutely. Although "salvation" in this context means achieving "freedom" by reaching the fabled "diamond" pin level, at which point, the IBO is taught, he will finally be his own master.
..........e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
YES. Part and parcel of teaching that those who quit are "broke losers" with "job mentality" is that if the IBO quits, he'll just be another "broke loser" enslaved to a "J.O.B." while his wife works for another man and his children are left to raise themselves.
..........f. Fear of disapproval
YES. See above - "edification" and "counseling upline."
.....5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
YES. IBOs will get a crowd-induced state of euphoria from attending functions and, eventually, this euphoria will transfer to listening to tapes. In between are the lows of going to the job he has been taught to hate, and the inevitable failure of trying to actually "build the business."
.....6. Ritual and often public confession of "sins".
Sometimes. Distributors will sometimes tell their stories of how their lives were in shambles with how Amway helped them with drug or alcohol issues or marital problems.
.....7. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
..........a. No happiness or fulfillment "outside"of the group
YES. See above. The "system" is the only way to achieve the IBO's dreams.
..........b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: "hell"; "demon possession"; "incurable diseases"; "accidents"; "suicide"; "insanity"; "10,000 reincarnations"; etc.
YES. The IBO is told he will be forever a slave to his "J.O.B. mentality," doomed to be downsized and watch his children grow up without him or his wife while she works for another man to stay "just over broke."
..........c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
SORT OF. The IBO will be taught to disassociate from such "negative" people.
..........d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group's perspective, people who leave are: "weak;" "undisciplined;" "unspiritual;" "worldly;" "brainwashed by family, counselors;" seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.
YES. Absolutely. See above.
Ultimately, the question is one for you to answer for yourself. Go through the system's practices as you know them to be and apply the BITE factors. There is a more detailed application of the BITE model to AQMOs at Hassan's site.
What do you think?