May 19, 2019 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Tony Robbins is the world’s most famous self-help guru. This is the story he doesn’t want you to read.

Tony Robbins claims he has helped millions of fans overcome some of life’s darkest difficulties. But leaked records reveal he has used his fame to berate victims of rape and violence, while female former staffers and followers have accused him of inappropriate sexual advances.

An Open Letter to BuzzFeed Editors and Board of Directors from Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins, the king of self-help, finds himself in need of assistance
Previously [2002]
posted by chavenet (33 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
First read that as Tom Robbins, a very different guru.
posted by sammyo at 1:47 PM on May 19 [11 favorites]

Something I noticed, either in Robbins' Medium post or in a statement issued by his company, was that he said he'd been married and absolutely faithful to his second wife, Sage Robbins, since whatever date... evading the point of the Buzzfeed article, which attested that he'd cheated on his first wife and behaved inappropriately towards his employees and his clients *before* the date of his second marriage.

Even his denials are shifty. The guy's a bully and a misogynist pig and I'm only too glad to see him take some criticism in the teeth for once.
posted by orange swan at 1:54 PM on May 19 [29 favorites]

I always thought of him as a grifter, exploiting people who wanted to get rich quick. Now I see he was even worse.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:14 PM on May 19 [20 favorites]

I knew something was up with this goofy ass charlatan when he came out as anti #metoo and mocked survivors on stage. You don't pull stunts like that, getting agitated as if it's personal, if you don't have a shady past involving abuse.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:46 PM on May 19 [50 favorites]

Truly wild to me that there's anyone on this entire planet that could look at that man's face and hear his voice and not immediately run away as fast as possible.

The sweet lure of prejudice....
posted by srboisvert at 2:49 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]

I watched the documentary about him, which I think was created with his help/permission? And even there he seemed like he did incredibly emotionally/psychologically risky work cold-reading various inspired but depressed/stuck-feeling people in his fans, and sort of ego-busting through whatever resistance they had due to normal insecurity and normal psychology.

It was quite... interesting? inspiring? fascinating? But I had some very strong reservations. AFAIK, he isn't trained, and his people are trained to do, basically, aftercare, as if it were an S&M scene, sort of. But I was worried that he played it fast and loose and there weren't sufficient services to support his fans/patients and he's not careful or licensed (or insured?) against doing someone far more harm than good.

Also it seemed like almost all his fans are the same socioeconomic demographic. Which I guess is a rich vein of people who'll pay high ticket prices to attend inspirational self-help speeches by gifted cold readers. But I think he's fooled himself into thinking he does good. I think maybe he does, sort of tangentially? But mostly he makes money.
posted by kalessin at 2:53 PM on May 19 [17 favorites]

No surprises here. I went through the Amway bullshit and his approach is basically identical. Get people crowded, hyped and tired enough and they’ll agree to anything. And busting down those who aren’t good enough is part of the tribalism. You don’t want him to yell at you, you want him to love you.

No one who is willing to use people like that is going to stop at taking their money. It’s a cult, plain and simple, and the cult master always gets his hand-picked personal apostles.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:00 PM on May 19 [25 favorites]

He reminds me of Monstroso from the Venture Bros. But MUCH WORSE.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:16 PM on May 19 [12 favorites]

I watched I Am Not Your Guru and managed to think "okay, sure, I see how this might be what some people need" right up until he did that alpha-dog shit and negging to the abuse survivor in ways that rang all kinds of misogyny bells. These revelations seem unsurprising in light of that.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:38 PM on May 19 [13 favorites]

I was offered a job working as one of his assistants back when I was just out of college in the very late 90s. I had been working as a temp at his office and the whole place was very very strange. Everyone was way too nice. Nice in a creepy way. lol. Their hiring process for the assistant position was an all day event that gave me my first migraine. After reading this I’m mentally giving my younger self a high five for turning down the ridiculous amount of money they had offered me as a salary.
posted by ilovewinter at 3:58 PM on May 19 [68 favorites]

That site that fluttering hellfire linked is harrowing. How did no-one call the cops on this guy during these sessions?
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 4:33 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]

Somehow this is the least surprising news I've read this week.
posted by clawsoon at 4:40 PM on May 19 [15 favorites]

He's always seemed like kind of a dick, so yeah, not surprised here either.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 6:04 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]

My ex-boyfriend was fairly well-to-do, and through him, I got to travel to some places I’d never have seen, otherwise. One trip was to the Nemale Resort, Robbins’ hideaway in Fiji. It’s definitely a beautiful place and I’m grateful for the experience.

During the opening tour of the resort, though, I asked about one particular cabin tucked off to one side, at which the nice lady leading us around seemed a little evasive. After a couple more...er...probing...questions, she said that was the colon hydrotherapy spa, used by attendees of Robbins’ “special retreats”.

Yeah, that face you’re making right now? Same here.
posted by darkstar at 7:14 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]

posted by darkstar at 8:57 PM on May 19

Help I think my surprised face got stuck.
posted by loquacious at 9:15 PM on May 19 [7 favorites]

I hate watched a lot of 80/90s televangelists, financial and nutrition gurus. I remember seeing Jack Black promoting his Shallow Hal movie that featured Robbins and thinking...oh, so this is normal now? I fucking hate that guy more than any of the others.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:36 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]

Ok so I don’t mind Tony Robbins but I’ve read a lot about NLP and the hypnosis steps he’s taking so it’s neat to see in action. I went to an NLP seminar once that turned out to be a Tony Robbins feeder event, and it was too loud and obviously manipulative for my liking - “look at your neighbor and send them love through your eyes” and I’m thinking lady we just met don’t be looking at me like that! It was def shallow and all about emotional anchoring.

Anyways I don’t begrudge him or his shock jock techniques and I don’t think this buzzfeed article is as risqué exposé as it thinks it is. We all know he cold reads people and tries to snap them out of their story by curveball tactics and NLP suggestions and he’s gotten rich doing it. Its not news that he cusses people out and is all about personal responsibility/ personal power no matter what. It’s kind of shallow in the end but there it is. I watched the I am not your guru movie on Netflix and it’s clear how orchestrated the whole event is.

So anyways this one reads flat to me. I kind of expected him to be sleeping with staff and have some inner circle / cult of personality thing going just based on the setup. Water is wet yknow?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:51 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]

That guy is the canonical example of what's good not being original and what's original not being any damn good at all.
posted by flabdablet at 5:53 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

I hate it when my knee-jerk, uninformed opinions about people turn out to be right.
posted by eotvos at 6:45 AM on May 20 [15 favorites]

I forget where it was said, but it was something like "for all of this new world healing shit or other, it always boils down to cult leaders want all the money, power, and pussy."

So yeah, not at all shocked to hear this one is a dick. I presumed he was already.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:24 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]

Another, "Yeah, no surprise here." But this—
At the core of Robbins’ teachings is the message that his followers should not see themselves as victims, and should instead view their pain as something they have the power to “destroy.”
—reminds me of something Flavia Dzodan wrote not long ago. It was a twitter thread—part of more general ruminations on Brett Easton Ellis—but I'll quote it as paragraphs:
I don't know when this happened but at some point in the last maybe 20? 30 years? the word "victim" acquired a negative connotation. I have spoken before about certain feminist discourses that rushed to identify everyone as "survivors" rather than "victims"

the argument was that a victim is "disempowered" whereas a survivor is not. I can see that distinction but right wingers and those ideologically adjacent have exploited this by turning victimhood into something "bad". Whereas the category of victim is a demand for justice

if you turn "being a victim" into something negative and undesirable, you also turn the demand for justice associated with being a victim into something undesirable. If nobody "should" be a victim, then we don't need to seek justice to redress a wrong


by erasing the category of victim or assigning it a negative connotation we also contribute to the erasure of those who have the power to perpetrate these wrongs. If there is no victim of racism, there is no racist. If there's no victim of sexual violence, there's no rapist etc
posted by octobersurprise at 9:11 AM on May 20 [30 favorites]

By the way if anyone’s interested in reading about NLP, this is a really good book.

Back when I was learning it, I went to three different classes and seminars. Each one had a person teaching who was obviously a control freak and used NLP to feel on top. This is really a shame, and I know that influence vs manipulation is a spectrum etc etc, but there are some really good tools there for becoming more mind/body congruent, understanding your subconscious assumptions, visualizations for emotional change, and really communicating well and deeply with others. I don’t get why it spawns the control freaks tho, in such disproportionate numbers.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:26 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

So I'm going to take a moment to don my (historically inaccurate) buckled hat and state my long held point of view that NLP is human hacking, non-consensual, black magic: the manipulation of other people to gratify yourself is evil, and using obscure tactics to do so obscene.
posted by Morvran Avagddu at 10:31 AM on May 20 [8 favorites]

One of the more forgivable things Seth MacFarlane ever did was the Family Guy takedown of Tony Robbins.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:41 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

state my long held point of view that NLP is human hacking, non-consensual, black magic

Really NLP is just bullshit. It's another form of snake-oil put forward by conmen selling false hope to the hopeless. There's just no evidence that NLP has any validity at all or effectivness, but it offers a whole internally coherent framework that can be used by flimflam artists like tony robbins as an integral part of their grift.
posted by dis_integration at 3:39 PM on May 20 [5 favorites]

There are certain words that accurately describe Tony Robbins and his 'philosophy'. None of them nice.

Here's another variation on that rubbish which is currently worming its way into the heart of mainstream medicine in the UK, via supposedly reputable medical journals and other formal review and quality control processes. This example is particularly disturbing as it is being tested on children.

Wikipedia: The Lightning Process

Remember the name Esther Crawley, you will likely be hearing more of it over the coming years, and it is unlikely to be in too flattering a context.

To the extent that the human race had any critical & ethical faculties, we seem to be abandoning them with unseemly haste.
posted by Pouteria at 4:00 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

The best thing I read about Robbins was by Matthew Remski at Decolonizing Yoga a few years back,
Robbins has perfected what many entrepreneurial yoga teachers would love to be able to pull off: conduct powerful and lucrative group-hypnosis sessions through exquisite stagecraft, while using open-ended (content-free) spiritual messaging to project an embodied invincibility that inspires students to reflect it, validate it, advertise it, and affiliate for it. But he goes a giant step further in being able to smash the behavioural taboos that repress most of the yoga profession. He’s unapologetically lewd, sexist, intimidating, strutting, arrogant. He doesn’t have to toe any PC line. He doesn’t care about feminism. He can dress like Mr. Clean and spew like Howard Stern. He’s right on the edge of being disqualified from scoring a glossy yoga magazine cover or a slot on a mega-conference schedule. For this, many supporters on comment threads laud him for being “real”. But in a spectacle like this, what could “being real” possibly mean? It means that through a twist of the language of “authenticity” that permeates yoga marketing, Robbins’ regression to 1950s sexual politics is metabolized as “no-nonsense”, his overreaching grandiosity is transformed into “spontaneity”, and his physical aggression is reframed as empathy. He’s a divine badass, shattering the gentrified constraints of Yogaland, revealing unprocessed patriarchal rage.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:33 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

I used to work at Juicero, back when that was a thing, and the company 'gifted' Tony Robbins multiple juicers, in the hopes he'd be an Influencer and promote it. Multiple juicers came back, covered in pulp and mold, or totally fried, despite built-in consumer safety features. He had creeped me out for years. And I remember thinking, if "the power of now" doesn't include "cleaning your juicer when you spill juice on it," then by extension how flimsy/ragged/full of it was everything else he spouted?
posted by yunhua at 5:58 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]

Four more women have come forward to accuse Robbins of sexual misconduct, and Buzzfeed has now come up with a video of Robbins using racial slurs. And of course he's still doubling down and refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
posted by orange swan at 3:56 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]

I used to work at Juicero, back when that was a thing

From an insider's perspective, how would you judge Juicero's reality distortion field as compared to Robbins's own?
posted by flabdablet at 5:29 PM on May 23

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