Correcting Distortions: Response to Glamour Magazine
December 11, 2009
To: Cynthia Leive, Editor-in-Chief
Cc: Jessica Strul, Editorial Team
Dear Ms. Leive:
On behalf of Dahn Yoga, I am sending this letter in shock and bewilderment at your recent article entitled “The Scary Yoga Obsession.” I am not sure if Glamour Magazine was trying to tell its readers that Dahn Yoga is “scary” or that a new wave of addiction is sweeping the nation’s yoga studios. Either way, it results in a distorted picture of our company, our practices and our relationships with our members and employees. Despite our efforts to provide a broad range of information and people to the reporter and editorial team, and despite their promises of a fair story, this article is one-sided in its reporting on the lawsuit against Dahn Yoga by former employees. It is almost exclusively devoted to the perspective of Lucie Vogel and her supporters. Glamour does a disservice to its readers, especially young women, by minimizing the role of personal choice. The plaintiffs are intelligent adults, they made clear personal choices without any “undue influence” or “fraud” or “mind control”.
Surprisingly, the article generally treats the plaintiffs’ allegations as fact. There is only a brief mention that Dahn Yoga disputed the plaintiffs’ claims and that the judge had dismissed 8 of the plaintiffs’ 10 claims. Glamour did not inform its readers that the Arizona judge had ruled there were insufficient facts to support the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud, undue influence, deceptive trade practices, violation of Fair Labor Standards Act and RICO conspiracy. With this omission the reader lost an opportunity to consider the credibility of the plaintiffs and whether there was more to the story. In fact, this article does not objectively offer the statements, actions or motivations of the plaintiffs, but presents them in a sympathetic light.
We are disappointed that the reporter did not take the opportunities available to get to know Dahn Yoga. She did not visit any of our studios, attend any of our classes or speak with any member, officer or employee in person. Even if the reporter and editors considered the plaintiffs’ stories interesting or compelling, there was still room to share with your readers an objective firsthand account of some element of your subject matter. Also, the story glossed over the unique management and entrepreneurial opportunities Dahn Yoga offers women and instead focused on depicting the plaintiffs as victims. We informed the reporter that the plaintiffs were distorting cultural differences and characterizing therapeutic and meditative exercises as some type of torture. However, the reporter chose to see Dahn Yoga through the eyes of its accusers, who are motivated by the millions of dollars they are seeking. Repeating these distortions is unfair and unethical journalism.
This article focused on Lucie, but did not disclose all of the relevant information the Glamour knew about Lucie. A Motion to Dismiss filed and accompanying Statement of Facts in this lawsuit, recount Lucie’s actions before she left Dahn Yoga and includes her own written admission of financial wrongdoing. Those documents reveal much about Lucie’s character, that she was very competitive and obsessed with winning. It describes some details of her scheme to inflate her studio’s numbers, by borrowing money or causing others to borrow money for fictitious membership contracts, so that she could become the number one manager in the US. She succeeded; at the end of 2006 she was given an “MVP” award. Unfortunately, Lucie’s “Ponzi Scheme” hurt employees, members and the company. The article quotes Lucie as making $75,000 in one day, but did not mention the context of her success; it was part of Lucie’s fraudulent scheme and she later admitted taking advantage of that couple. Nothing and no one outside of her own ego influenced such behavior. Lucie Vogel pressured members and other employees into giving money to her scheme. Lucie’s “frenzy” in this instance is an aspect of her own individual behavior and not something created or encouraged by Dahn Yoga. When Dahn Yoga management discovered Lucie’s scheme, she was reprimanded and removed from her position.
The article makes it seem like Lucie was removed as a manager because of her independent thinking. She was not sent to some camp for “Reeducation” as in some Cold War fiction. Lucie’s “independent” thinking had caused harm to many people. Rather than pressing charges and putting her in jail, the company offered Lucie an opportunity to reflect on her behavior and correct her mistakes in a relaxed environment.
Glamour offers up a contradiction by repeating Lucie’s false compliment that sabumnims are “smart and passionate” but depicts her entry into a Dahn Center as a “mystical” seduction by a man making her feel so good. Did the reporter ever bother to visit a Dahn Center? No, she reported on the components of an introductory session with judgment, not based on her own experience, but on Lucie’s bias. Another contradiction: Lucie made a distorted statement about a workshop, in which she stayed while others walked out unnerved. If this were really a “cult” people would not have been free to walk out of a workshop. Where are the alleged strong arm tactics? Not present because both she and they exercised their personal choice.
Glamour tells a story that Lucie was encouraged to drop out of school, alienated from her family and her former life and likewise with Jade. The truth is these women were encouraged by their superiors to finish school. Lucie chose to take a leave of absence for a semester and then resume her studies. Jade’s interest and performance in her academic life improved with her introduction to Dahn Yoga, before she chose to drop out all together. We were never asked about these details.
We also provided information which points out that Jade lied in her statement to the court, we pointed out that Jade’s stories are not only inconsistent with what witnesses tell us, but also with her own statements. For instance, Jade stated that she was trapped and alone in Korea without money and could not make a claim on her alleged assault until she returned to the US in 2008. We presented Glamour Magazine with the Motion to Reconsider and its Exhibit, which show Jade’s online chatter about herself and her life during that time: including, that she was married and she traveled to China, Japan and the US. Reading that, a different picture of this person emerges. This information was completely ignored by the reporter.
The article reveals that Lucie paid for Jade’s return to the US, but does not question why. There is also no question as to why Jade did not report her alleged assault to any authorities, any hospital in Korea or when she returned to the US. Did she mention her alleged assault to her family or friends before she accepted Lucie’s invitation and returned? The exhibit filed with the court also reveals Jade’s online discussions about other alleged assaults against her, but somehow this one was missing.
The reporter also did not use any of the information about Lucie’s behavior and history which she gained during interviews with our employees. This article depicts Lucie as a reformer, trying to save the organization, and has not input from people who saw her behavior as destructive and irresponsible. The reporter makes it look like Lucie was purely conflicted about leaving Dahn Yoga and only decided to bring the lawsuit after Jade returned to the US. Witnesses report that Lucie had been canvassing former and current masters to join her in the lawsuit almost a year before Jade’s return and that Jade was peaceful and benign in her relationship with Dahn Yoga until she was contacted by Lucie. Lucie needed a story like Jade’s to attract more attention and sympathy for her intended lawsuit.
The-so-called “cult experts” quoted in the article conclude that only people who are “anxious, vulnerable or struggling with personal issues” become Dahn Yoga masters, depicting Lucie and her followers as the smart, confident, idealists who got away. If what they say is true, our business should have failed long ago. Their input is undermined by the fact that many sociologists, psychologists and the US courts have consistently rejected testimonies about mind control and manipulation as lacking scientific basis and using emotionally-charged terminology. For an example, See James T. Richardson, Definitions of Cult. From Sociological-Technical to Popular-Negative, 34 REV. RELIGIOUS RES. 348 (1993).
Glamour has suspended critical thinking and let their publication be used as a tool of a personal vendetta rather than provide instruction to young women about personal choice. We request that you follow up with corrections to the distortions or offer an apology to all the women who have found empowerment through Dahn Yoga.
Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc.
Vice President- Communications