Sunday 31 July 2016

'Herbalife (HLF) and the 'MLM / Prosperity Gospel' - Unrecognised Modern Slavery

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Today, no one knows for certain the total number of individuals around the world who have been tricked into wasting their time money in blame-the-victim 'MLM Income Opportunity/Prosperity Gospel' cultic rackets since this pernicious phenomenon first raised its (heavily-disguised) ugly head in the USA in the late 1940s and early 1950s - with a big grin on its clean-cut instigators' faces, the Bible in one hand and Stars and Stripes in the other.

The latest large-scale 'MLM/Prosperity Gospel' cult to attract the attention of US commercial regulators is 'Herbalife,' which has been claiming 3 millions adherents (previously known as 'Distributors,' but now known as 'Members') world-wide. However, 'Herbalife' is known to have been hiding a typical 'MLM' annual churn/loss rate in excess of 90% and a typical 'MLM' overall churn/loss rate of effectively 100%. In other words, around 2.7 millions unpaid persons have been passing through the ranks of 'Herbalife' each year, or 27 millions each decade. Again typically of an 'MLM/Prosperity Gospel' cult, a significant minority of 'Herbalife' adherents have managed to remain as bedazzled de facto slave recruiters for extended periods. Yet 'Herbalife' has been by no means the largest, most-profitable or most-sustainable 'MLM' cult. 

'Herbalife' only became the focus of a US Federal Trade Commission, because it has been a publicly traded company in the USA. This attracted the attention of a major Wall St. short-seller/activist investor, Bill Ackman, who, realising 'Herbalife' was the effectively-valueless corporate-front for a vast and damaging fraud, invested many millions of dollars in his own investigation and gathered victims (eventually more than 1000 filed complaints). In December 2012, Bill Ackman made his findings public, declared a short position in excess of $1 billion and approached various US federal law enforcement agencies (including the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigations). Predictably, Bill Ackman was then made the target of a classic reality-inverting cult black-propaganda campaign, in which he was falsely portrayed by the 'Herbalife' Ministry of Truth as a greedy villain posing as a philanthropist whislt trying to manipulate the stock market with lies. The mainstream media began to report the 'Herbalife' affair as a Wall St. battle and the victims were largely ignored. Mysteriously, up to now, only the FTC has taken action, but (unbelievably) 'Herbalife' is still legally-registered in the USA and traded on Wall St. That said, Bill Ackman is of the opinion that 'Herbalife' has been effectively-closed by the FTC and that it's only a matter of time before the company folds.

After decades of turning a blind eye to the 'MLM' phenomenon, under the second Obama administration and Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the US Federal Trade Commission has finally fined 'Herbalife' $200 millions (to compensate US victims) and drawn up a set of rules for the bosses of 'Herbalife', their employees and followers, to obey. An independent body (to be financed by 'Herbalife') has been created to make sure 'Herbalife' doesn't continue to flout the law. It has also been implied that these FTC rules will be extended to all so-called 'MLM companies' and that the FTC will be offering its new-found expertise in this field to regulatory agencies around the world. As if to prove the contempt in which he (and his criminal associates) hold the FTC, the immediate reaction of 'Herbalife' boss, Michael Johnson, was to broadcast more reality-inverting black-propaganda in which he pretended that the FTC has found his company not to be a pyramid scheme and that nothing will be changed.

Unfortunately, the current occupants of the FTC have so far only managed to identify about 50% of the identifying characteristics of a blame-the-victim 'MLM Income Opportunity/ Prosperity Gospel' cultic racket, and which 'Herbalife' has exhibited since it was first instigated in California back in 1980.

'Herbalife' has been presented externally as a traditional association. This was arbitrarily  defined by its ostensible instigator, Mark Hughes (1956-2000), as a banal 'commercial' group. However, internally, 'Herbalife' has been totalitarian (i.e. it is centrally-controlled and has required of its core-adherents an absolute subservience to the group and its leadership above all other persons). By its very nature, 'Herbalife' has never presented itself in its true colours. Consequently, no one has ever become involved with the organisation as a result of his/her fully-informed consent.

'Herbalife' was instigated, and has been ruled, by psychologically dominant individuals and bodies of psychologically dominant individuals (with impressive, made-up ranks and titles), who have held themselves accountable to no one. These individuals have severe and inflexible Narcissistic Personalities (i.e. they suffer from a chronic psychological disorder, especially when resulting in a grandiose sense of self-importance/ righteousness and the compulsion to take advantage of others and to control others’ views of, and behaviour towards, them).* The leadership of 'Herbalife' has steadfastly pretended moral and intellectual authority whilst pursuing various, hidden, criminal objectives (mainly fraudulent). The admiration of 'Herbalife' adherents has only served to confirm, and magnify, the leaders’ strong sense of self-entitlement and fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beautyetc.

‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ is a psychological term first used in 1971 by Dr. Heinz Kohut (1913-1981). It was recognised as the name for a form of pathological narcissism in ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 1980.’ Narcissistic traits (where a person talks highly of himself/herself to eliminate feelings of worthlessness) are common in, and considered ‘normal’ to, human psychological development. When these traits become accentuated by a failure of the social environment and persist into adulthood, they can intensify to the level of a severe mental disorder. Severe and inflexible NPD is thought to effect less than 1% of the general adult population. It occurs more frequently in men than women. In simple terms, NPD is reality-denying, total self-worship born of its sufferers’ unconscious belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. In order to shield themselves from the intolerable rejection and isolation which they unconsciously believe would follow if others recognised their defective nature, NPD sufferers go to almost any lengths to control others’ view of, and behaviour towards, them. NPD sufferers often choose partners, and raise children, who exhibit ‘co-narcissism’ (a co-dependent personality disorder like co-alcoholism). Co-narcissists organise themselves around the needs of others (to whom they feel responsible), they accept blame easily, are eager to please, defer to others’ opinions and fear being seen as selfish if they act assertively. NPD was observed, and apparently well-understood, in ancient times. Self-evidently, the term, ‘narcissism,’ comes from the allegorical myth of Narcissus, the beautiful Greek youth who falls in love with his own reflection.

Currently, NPD has nine recognised diagnostic criteria (five of which are required for a diagnosis):
  •       has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  •       is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, ideal love, etc.
  •       believes that he/she is special and unique and can only be understood by other special people.
  •       requires excessive admiration.
  •       strong sense of self-entitlement.
  •       takes advantage of others to achieve his/her own ends.
  •       lacks empathy.
  •       is often envious or believes that others are envious of him/her.
  •       arrogant disposition.

The above, Orwellian 'Herbalife' propaganda video features various narcissistic 'MLM' shills acting out a fictitious scenario of control as fact, in which they once were 'dirty' and 'miserable' little rats trapped on a treadmill in a form of Hell (i.e. the world of traditional employment), but after exactly duplicating a 'Proven Step-By-Step Plan' they have achieved redemption as superhumans in the miraculous 'Herbalife' Utopia, where no one works, but everyone is healthy, wealthy, happy and free....

..... and also drives a Ferrari, and/or a Hummer, and/or a Bentley, and/or a Porsche!

'Herbalife' has employed co-ordinated, devious techniques of social and psychological persuasion (variously described as: ‘covert hypnosis’, 'visualisation', 'duplication', ‘mental manipulation’, ‘coercive behaviour modification’, ‘group pressure’, ‘(totalistic) thought reform’, ‘ego destruction’, ‘mind control’, ‘brainwashing’, ‘neuro-linguistic programming’, ‘love bombing’, etc.). These techniques are designed to fulfil the hidden criminal objectives of 'Herbalife's' leaders by provoking in the adherents an infantile total dependence on the group to the detriment of themselves and of their existing family, and/or other, relationships. 'Herbalife' has manipulated its adherents’ existing beliefs and instinctual desires, creating the illusion that they are exercising free will. In this way,'Herbalife' adherents have also been surreptitiously coerced into following potentially harmful, physical procedures (sleep deprivation, protein restriction, repetitive chanting/ moving, etc.) which were similarly designed to facilitate the shutting down of an individual’s critical and evaluative faculties without his/ her fully-informed consent.

'Herbalife' has comprised groups, and sub-groups, of previously diverse individuals bonded by their unconscious acceptance of the self-gratifying, but wholly imaginary, scenario that they alone represent a positive or protective force of purity and absolute righteousness derived from their leadership’s exclusive access to a superior knowledge, and that they alone oppose a negative or adversarial force of impurity and evil. Whilst this two-dimensional, or dualistic, narrative remains the 'Herbalife' adherents’ model of reality, they are, in effect, constrained to modify their individual personalities and behaviour accordingly.

The leaders of 'Herbalife' have sought to overwhelm their adherents emotionally and intellectually by pretending that progressive initiation into their own superior knowledge (coupled with total belief in its authenticity and unconditional deference to the authority of its higher initiates) will defeat a negative, adversarial force of impurity and evil, and automatically lead to future, exclusive redemption in a secure Utopian existenceBy making total belief a prerequisite of redemption,'Herbalife' adherents have been drawn into a closed-logic trap (i.e. failure to achieve redemption is solely the fault of the individual who didn’t believe totally). Cultic pseudo-science is always essentially the same hypnotic hocus-pocus, but it can be peddled in an infinite variety of forms and combinations (‘spiritual’, ‘medical’, ‘philosophical’, cosmological,’extraterrestrial’, ‘political’, ‘racial’, ‘mathematical’, ‘economic’, New-Age’, 'magical', etc.), often with impressive, made-up, technical-sounding names. It is tailored to fit the spirit of the times and to attract a broad range of persons, but especially those open to an exclusive offer of salvation (i.e. the: sick, traumatised, poor, dissatisfied, bereaved, vanquished, disillusioned, oppressed, lonely, insecure, aimless, etc.). However, at a moment of vulnerability, anyone (no matter what their: age, sex, nationality, state of mental/ physical health, level of education, wealth, etc.) can need to believe in a non-rational, cultic pseudo-science. Typically, obedient 'Herbalife' adherents have been granted ego-inflating ranks and titles, whilst non-initiates have been referred to using derogatory, dehumanising terms. 

Although initiation can at first appear to be reasonable and benefits achievable, the 'Herbalife economic / medical  pseudo-science gradually becomes evermore costly and mystifying. Ultimately, it is completely incomprehensible and its claimed benefits are never quantifiable. The self-righteous euphoria and relentless enthusiasm of 'Herbalife' proselytisers can be highly infectious and deeply misleading. They are convinced that their own salvation also depends on saving others.

The leaders of 'Herbalife' have sought to control all information entering not only their adherents’ minds, but also that entering the minds of casual observers. This has been achieved by constantly denigrating all external sources of information whilst constantly repeating the group’s reality-inverting key words and images, and/or by the physical isolation of adherents. 'Herbalife's' leaders have systematically categorised, condemned and excluded as unenlightened, negative, impure, evil, etc. all free-thinking individuals and any quantifiable evidence challenging the authenticity of their imaginary scenario of control. In this way, the minds of 'Herbalife' adherents have become converted to accept only what their leadership arbitrarily sanctions as enlightened, positive, pure, absolutely righteous, etc. Consequently, 'Herbalife' adherents habitually communicate amongst themselves using their group’s thought-stopping ritual 'Multi Level Marketing / Income Opportunity / Science of Nutrition' jargon, and they find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with negative persons outside of their group whom they falsely believe to be not only doomed, but also to be a suppressive threat to redemption.

In 'Herbalife,' a core-group of adherents has been gradually dissociated from external reality and reformed into deployable agents and de facto slaves, furthering the hidden criminal objectives of their leaders, completely dependent on a collective paranoid delusion of absolute moral and intellectual supremacy fundamental to the maintenance of their individual self-esteem/identity and related psychological function. It has become impossible for such unquestioning 'Herbalife' fanatics to see humour in their situation or to feel pity for, or to empathise with, non-adherents. Their minds have been programmed to interpret the manipulation, and/or cheating, and/or dispossession, and/or destruction, of inferior outsiders (particularly, those who challenge their group’s controlling scenario) as perfectly justifiable.

The leaders of 'Herbalife' have continued to infiltrate traditional culture (particularly, by co-opting celebrities, former law enforcement agents and opinion makers) and to organise the creation, and/or dissolution, and/or subversion, of further (apparently independent) corporate structures pursuing lawful, and/or unlawful, activities in order to prevent, and/or divert, investigation and isolate themselves from liability. In this way, the 'Herbalife' racket has survived all ill-informed, isolated low-level challenges and spread like a cancer enslaving the minds, and destroying the lives, of countless individuals in the process. At the same time, its leaders have acquired absolute control over capital sums which place them alongside the most notorious racketeers in history. They have operated behind an ever-expanding, and changing, front of ‘limited-liability, commercial companies,’ and/or ‘non-profit-making associations,’ etc. 

Although they can appear to be euphorically happy, will insist that no one is controlling them and that they are exercising free will, the inflexible long-term core-adherents of 'Herbalife' are demonstrably-psychotic (i.e. suffering from psychosis, a severe mental derangement, especially when resulting in delusions and loss of contact with external reality); for anyone implying that they have generated an overall net-income lawfully by regularly retailing 'Herbalife' products to the general public (based on value and demand), is not telling the truth. 

Tellingly, the accurate terms, 'general public' and 'overall net-income,' have been specifically excluded from thought-stopping 'MLM' jargon. These terms are usually replaced by the impressive-sounding, but essentially meaningless, words, 'income' and 'customers and end users.' When faced with wide-eyed adherents, and/or grinning propagandists, spouting this particular 'MLM' jargon, 'income' can be accurately translated as, 'net-loss income,' and 'customers and end users' as, 'members of the never-ending chain of losing-participants who have been deceived into regularly purchasing effectively-unsaleable commodities, and/or services (based on the false-expectation of future reward).' 

'Herbalife' itself can be accurately described as being only one part of a largely-unrecognised, ongoing, criminogenic / cultic phenomenon of historic significance. The quantifiable evidence demonstrates that, for decades, right under the noses of ill-informed, and/or naive, and /or corrupt, regulators, legislators, journalists, etc., hundreds of copy-cat 'MLM' rackets have been organised so that effectively 100% of all contributing participants were compelled to lose their money, whilst the insignificant percentage of bosses have shared billions of dollars of unlawful revenue which they have laundered as lawful 'sales.'

'Herbalife' adherents who have managed to break with their group and confront the ego-destroying reality that they’ve been systematically deceived, exploited and blamed, have been invariably destitute and dissociated from their previous social contacts.

For many years afterwards, recovering former cult adherents can suffer from  psychological problems (which are also generally indicative of the victims of abuse): depression; overwhelming feelings (guilt, grief, shame, fear, anger, embarrassment, etc.); dependency/ inability to make decisions; retarded psychological/ intellectual development; suicidal thoughts; panic/ anxiety attacks; extreme identity confusion; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; insomnia/ nightmares; eating disorders; psychosomatic illness; fear of forming intimate relationships; inability to trust; etc.

Readers of this in-depth analysis  (particularly, law enforcement agents) are warned that the leaders of the most-destructive cults have ultimately become megalomaniacal psychopaths (i.e. suffering from a chronic mental disorder, especially when resulting in paranoid delusions of grandeur and self-righteousness, and the compulsion to pursue grandiose objectives). The unconditional deference of their deluded adherents only served to confirm, and magnify, the leaders’ own paranoid delusions. This type of cult leader will seek to maintain an absolute monopoly of information whilst perpetrating, and/or directing, evermore heinous crimes. They will sustain their activities by the imposition of arbitrary contracts and codes (secrecydenunciation, confession,justice, punishment, etc.) within their groups, and by the use of humiliation, and/or intimidation, and/or calumny, and/or malicious prosecution (where they pose as victims), and/or sophism, and/or the infiltration of traditional culture, and/or corruption, and/or intelligence gathering and blackmail, and/or extortion, and/or physical isolation, and/or violence, and/or assassination, etc., to repress any internal or external dissent.

David Brear (copyright 2016)


 Questionnaire for Past,
 and Present,
'Herbalife' Adherents.

(short version) 

(Respondents are advised first to read all the questions before making any answer).

1. Was the person who first approached you to participate in 'Herbalife' a friend or relative, i.e. a person with whom you enjoyed a relationship based on love and trust? (if yes, give brief details).

2. Did the 'Herbalife' recruiter(s) present a bleak picture of the world of traditional employment, in which most people are forced to go out to work for 45 years with only retirement and a limited pension to look forward to?

3. Did the recruiter(s) present the 'Herbalife Income Opportunity' as a viable alternative to the world of traditional employment, in which it is possible for anyone to retire and enjoy total financial freedom, after a just a few years of concentrated effort?

4. At the time you were recruited, would you say that you were entirely satisfied with life; particularly, your achievements, education, career/employment status/prospects, home, relationships, social standing, salary, health, weight, physical appearance, etc.?

5. How would you describe your level of satisfaction with your life at the time you were recruited?

6. When, and how, were you first approached to participate in 'MLM' and when was the name 'Herbalife' first mentioned?'
  • Was 'Herbalife' first presented to you individually or as part of a group?
  • Did the presentation comprise drawing circles containing numbers and percentages on a board or sheet of paper? 
  • Did you fully-understand the presentation?
  • Was the presentation given by a man with a woman nodding in agreement next to him?
  • Were you given to believe that anyone could understand 'MLM?'
  • Did the recruiters seem generally happy and excited as though they had wonderful news to share?
7. What prior knowledge did you have of 'Herbalife / MLM?'

8. What was your initial reaction when you were approached?

9. At the time you signed up, what did you believe to be the success-rate of persons participating in'Herbalife' (i.e. about what percentage of participants did you think made an overall net-income out of 'Herbalife')?

10. Were you ever shown any independent quantifiable evidence (e.g. income tax payment receipts) proving that anyone has ever made an overall net-income out of participating in 'Herbalife?'

11. Did you ever ask to see such evidence? 

12. Could you give a brief explanation of what you understand by the term pyramid scheme or scam?

13. What would you say was the essential identifying characteristic of pyramid scams, Ponzi schemes, money circulation games, chain letter scams, etc.?

 14. Were you given to believe that 'MLM' schemes are not pyramid scams, because they  are regulated by the 'Direct Selling Association,' involve the sale of products, and/or services, to customers and end users, and offer money-back guarantees?

15. Were you given to believe that 'Herbalife' cannot possibly be a fraud, because it has existed for decades and has been investigated and approved by governments around the world?

16. Were you given to believe that 'Herbalife' cannot possibly be a fraud, because celebrities (including senior politicians) have endorsed it?

17. Were you given to believe that 'Herbalife' cannot possibly be a fraud, because of its involvement with charity?

18. Were you given to believe that 'Herbalfe' cannot possibly be a fraud, because it has sponsored professional sports stars and teams?

19. What was your main motivation for joining 'Herbalife' :
  •  to earn income?
  •  to buy products and/or services at a discount price?
20. Before you signed up for 'Herbalife,' were your encouraged by the recruiter to seek independent legal/financial advice?

21. Did you ever seek independent legal/financial advice? (if yes, give brief details).

22.  What factor would you say initially convinced you that 'Herbalife' was an authentic opportunity to earn income?

23. At the time you signed up for 'Herbalife,' did you have any knowledge of pernicious groups that employ co-ordinated devious techniques of social, psychological and physical persuasion - designed to shut down the critical and evaluative faculties of ill-informed individuals in order to exploit them and prevent them from complaining?

24. Could you give a brief explanation of what you understand by the terms:
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming?
  • brainwashing?
  • coercive behaviour modification?
  • group pressure?
  • covert hypnosis?
  • ego-destruction?
  • thought reform?
  • mental manipulation?
  • love bombing?
25. Were you given to believe that it is possible for anyone to replace their income by participating in 'Herbalife?'

26. Were you given to believe that after achieving a certain level of income in 'Herbalife' you could cease all activity and receive the same residual income for the rest of your life?

27. Were you given to believe that this residual income could be passed on to your descendants after your death?

28. During your time in 'Herbalife'were you taught that the 'exact duplication of a proven step-by-step plan' could automatically bring anyone 'total financial freedom?'

29. As part of this 'proven plan,' were you taught:
  • to alter you habitual way of speaking? (if yes, give a brief explanation)
  • to alter your habitual way of dressing? (if yes, give a brief explanation)
  • to alter you habitual way of eating? (if yes, give a brief explanation)
  • to alter your habitual sleep pattern? (if yes, give a brief explanation)
  • to alter you habitual social contacts? (if yes, give a brief explanation)
  • that everyone above you in your 'MLM Network' was your 'Upline' and everyone beneath you was your 'Downline?'
  • that your 'Upline' was there to help you and was to be 'admired and respected?'
  • that your 'Upline's success in MLM depended on helping his/her 'Downline' to succeed?'
  • to divide everyone, and everything, in your life into 'negative' vs 'positive?'
  • that 'MLM' products were to be deemed 'positive' and non-'MLM' products deemed 'negative?'
  • that you should buy a regular quota (by value) of 'positive' products?
  • that you should draw up a list of prospective 'MLM' recruits comprising everyone you had ever encountered in your life?
  • that you should progressively contact all these 'prospects' and attempt to recruit them using a precisely-worded 'positive' script?
  • that when trying to recruit 'prospects' you should exhibit excitement and enthusiasm, and recite your own personal 'story' describing how your life had been been transformed for the better by 'Herbalife?'
  • that you should never say anything 'negative' about 'MLM?'
  • that you should never listen to, or look at, anything 'negative' about 'MLM?'
  • that all persons who refused to join you (particularly, those who said 'MLM' is a scam) were to be deemed 'negative' and a threat to your own success?
  • that all 'negative' persons were to be deemed 'losers, whiners, dream stealers,' etc., and should be excluded from your life?
  • that all persons with regular jobs were to be labelled 'Just Over Broke' losers?
  • that you should only have contact with 'positive winners?'
  • that you should regularly buy, and listen to, recordings of 'positive winners?'
  • that you should regularly buy tickets to, and attend, extended meetings conducted by 'positive winners' at which you took part in group, rhythmic chanting and moving?
  • that you should regularly buy, and read, publications, written by 'positive winners?'
  • that you should exactly duplicate the 100% positive mental attitude and behaviour of the 'positive winners' in your 'Upline?'
  • that you should regularly visualise your 'dreams an goals' in life (luxury cars, expensive houses, exotic holiday destinations, etc.)?
  • that you should fix images of your 'dreams and goals' in strategic places in your home? 
  • that all persons who develop a '100% positive mental attitude and never quit, ultimately achieve their dreams and goals in MLM?'
  • that all persons who 'fail to achieve their dreams and goals in MLM, are negative losers, whiners, quitters etc., who always try to blame others, when they only have themselves to blame?'
  • that you should disclose personal information about yourself, and about your friends and family, to your 'Upline?'
  • that you should gather personal information about your 'prospects' (i.e. the persons whom you wanted to recruit) in order to find their 'hot button' (i.e. a specific means of approach tailored to an individual's personal situation and which could get him/her excited about 'Herbalife').
30. As a result of duplicating the 'proven Herbalife plan,' approximately how much money did you lose overall?

31. As a result of duplicating the 'proven Herbalife plan,' approximately how many days per week were you active and approximately how much of your own time did you commit each day?

32. How long did you remain under contract to 'Herbalife?' 

33. Did you ever retail any 'Herbalife' products to members of the general public, i.e. to persons who were not under contract to 'Herbalife?(if yes, give brief details).

34. Did you ever attempt to retail 'Herbalife' products to any persons (excluding members of your own family) who were not under contract to 'Herbalife?'

35. Did you ever personally witness anyone retailing 'Herbalife' products to any persons who were not under contract to 'Herbalife?' (if yes, give brief details).

36. Did you ever manage to recruit anyone into 'Herbalife?' (if yes, give brief details).

37. What level(s), if any, did you rise to in the 'Herbalife' hierarchy? (give brief details).

38. What do you now consider yourself to be, or to have been - a 'Herbalife:'
  • 'Distributor?'
  • 'Customer ?'
  • 'Member?'
  • Adherent?
  • Victim?
  • Other?
39. Exactly how were you described on your 'Herbalife' contract(s)?

40. As a result of your involvement with 'Herbalife,' did you lose contact with any family members, and/or with anyone with whom you had previously been close? (if yes, give brief details).

41. Have you filed, or attempted to file, a complaint about 'Herbalife' with any law enforcement agency? (if yes, give brief details).

David Brear (Copyright 2016)