Sunday, June 17, 2007

Attacking the Critics - #1 "What are your Crimes?"

"There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime."
HCO Policy Letter, 25th Feb 1966.
The Church of Scientology has always had its critics, and for understandable reasons. It has made all sorts of claims over the years, many of which are falsifiable1, and all sorts of lawbreaking has gone on in its name. The greatest infiltration of US Government buildings remains the Church's Operation Snow White in which papers and documents pertaining to Scientology were stolen from IRS buildings. This led to arrests and the subsequent court case: United States vs. Mary Sue Hubbard et al., 493 F. Supp. 209.

Eventually, 11 Scientologists, including Guardian's Office director Mary Sue Hubbard (wife of the church founder) were sentenced to prison. "The crimes committed by these defendants is of a breadth and scope previously unheard," wrote U.S. Attorney Charles Ruff in a sentencing memorandum. "It is interesting to note that the Founder of their organization, unindicted co-conspirator L. Ron Hubbard, wrote...that 'truth is what is true for you,' and 'illegal' is that which is 'contrary to statistics or policy' and not pursuant to Scientology's 'approved program.' Thus, with the Founder-Commodore's blessings, they could wantonly commit crimes as long as it was in the interest of Scientology....The standards of human conduct embodied in such practices represent no less than the absolute perversion of any known ethical value system."

Besides Hubbard himself, Kendrick Moxon and 21 others were named unindicted co-conspirators and were not charged. (Moxon tells New Times he didn't knowingly supply false handwriting samples and that the stipulation of evidence was something signed by church officials but written by FBI agents. He says the matter was thoroughly investigated by two bar associations -- in D.C. and in California -- before they admitted him as an attorney. Moxon is in good standing with the bar associations in both jurisdictions.)

After the Snow White debacle, church officials insisted that the Guardian's Office had contained "rogue elements" who broke into government offices without the knowledge or permission of the rest of the organization. The church has promised the IRS and said publicly that it has purged itself of the Snow White operatives. In 1993, the IRS granted tax-exempt status to the Church of Scientology after, among other things, it declared that it had changed its ways.

Double Crossed, Tony Ortego, 23/12/99

When someone chooses to criticise the Church of Scientology it is invariably based on behaviour such as the above. Often they have seen friends and families broken up by the Church's disconnection policy. Often they have been motivated by the Church's defensiveness itself. Many critics were once Scientologists themselves, who have become disenchanted either with the Church or with Scientology and Dianetics itself. Most critics have very little to gain in criticising the Church, and have exclusively altruistic motives. But here is how the Church views its critics:

Now get this as a technical fact, not a hopeful idea. Every time we have investigated the background of a critic of Scientology we have found crimes for which that person or group could be imprisoned under existing law. We do not find critics of Scientology who do not have criminal pasts. Over and over we prove this.

Critics of Scientology, "Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter,"
5 November 1967

This belief that all critics of Scientology are criminals is still held true today. One only has to see some of the video footage of the peaceful picketing of the Church by the Lisa McPherson trust to know that. But what is the thinking behind the "criminal critic" belief? There are two associated beliefs:

  1. because the argument against the Church is being made by a criminal, it somehow makes that argument less plausible. This is clearly incorrect, though. The worst criminal in the world could amass with ease a collection of authorised, genuine documentation that would demonstrate, for instance, L Ron Hubbard's drug use, or his request for psychiatric help. This documentation would still stand up whether or not it is being put forward by a criminal.
  2. the "discussion" of Scientology is derailed. This is most effective when the crimes in question appear to be greater than whatever the accusation is being made towards the church by the critic. That is why often, when the Church has dug up something or other on a critic, it is exaggerated or, when nothing suitable is found, it is merely invented. That's quite an accusation to make, but it is one I am comfortable with. The Rundown on Scientology's Purification Rundown, recent article in the New York Press by John DeSio utilised comments from Free Speech activist David S Touretzky and when news of Touretzky's involvement reached Narconon, the knives came out.
    [Jim] Woodworth [director of the Scientology run New York Rescue Workers’ Detoxification Project] specifically pointed to items on [Religious Freedom Watch] that note Touretzky hosts bomb-making instructions on his own website and accusing him of being a racist. 'If you quote this guy as an expert, I want you to put in exactly who this guy is,' said Woodworth.

    Bomb-making instructions do appear on Touretzky’s website, along with an explanation that he has hosted them as a protest of the arrest and conviction of Sherman Austin, the owner and operator of anarchist website, who was arrested for publishing the information on that site several years ago. Touretzky explains that he now hosts the information to “facilitate public scrutiny of the law under which Austin was charged” and to shine a light on First Amendment issues raised by the case. The professor even points to other resources on bomb-making, available through, Wikipedia or even CNN’s website, that have not led to the arrest of their creators as a contrast to the Austin case.

    As for the racism charge, the information hosted at Religious Freedom Watch could not be found at any other credible source. A Google search found only reposts of the information, and a Lexis-Nexis search found even less. Therefore, the racism charge was deemed useless and unfounded. “It’s the same thing since the beginning of the cult,” said Touretzky. “They attack their enemies relentlessly in the hope that people will shut up and go away. But in the age of the Internet, it doesn’t work so well.”
Hubbard claims that whenever he has investigated the background of a critic of Scientology he has found crimes. I shall stick my neck out and say that that doesn't surprise me in the least. If you investigate anyone you will find crimes. If you ask anyone if they have ever broken the law, they will invariably say yes. I understand it's a standard part of police training. So criminality isn't particular to the critics (nor for that matter Scientologists).

For those unfortunate critics who were once Scientologists themselves, the Church need only check out their auditing files to find dirt on them, breaking a fundemental agreement of confidentiality. This is akin to a confessional priest using confessions to press-gang members of his congregation into staying within the church. To make it even worse, the Church would ordinarily use that information to demonstrate that Scientology works! If you're in Scientology your (prior) crimes are "proof" that Scientology reforms people, but when someone leaves the Church, it is as though they have lost their reformed character as well. But as I've said, the accusations of criminality are just a distraction, an attempt to place critics on the backfoot.

To that end it's no defence at all. One cannot prove Narconon works by libelling Touretzky.

In reading for this post I came across the following from the end of an LA Times article by Robert W. Welkos and Joel Sappell entitled Burglaries and Lies Paved a Path to Prison.
Boston attorney Earle C. Cooley, Scientology's national trial counsel, said the present church management does not condone the criminal activities of the old Guardian Office. He said that one of Hubbard's most important dictums was to "maintain friendly relations with the environment and the public."

"The question that I always have in my mind," Cooley said, "is for how long a time is the church going to have to continue to pay the price for what the (Guardian Office) did. ... Unfortunately, the church continues to be confronted with it.

"And the ironic thing is that the people being confronted with it are the people who wiped it out. And to the church, that's a very frustrating thing."
The answer to Cooley's question is to stop libelling people, to pursue Hubbard's dictum of "friendly relations" and see that fair game and dead agent tactics are not a part of it. The lay person knows very little about Scientology beyond its "cooky cult" status. When Scientology attacks its critics all it does is fulfil the ideas people have about it.

1 A falsifiable claim is not a false claim, merely one that can potentially be proved false by experiment. The term falsifiable is used because science sets itself up to disprove theories. A scientist posits A, an experiment is created to prove A false, A is not proved false by the experiment, so A becomes part of orthodox science. A later experiment proves A false. A scientist posits theory Aa, which seeks to explain the results of both experiments. This is the nature of scientific progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep comments on topic, and be respectful of one another.