Sunday, March 16, 2008

Operation Party Hard - Anonymous vs Co$ 15.03.08

Anonymous is a loose collective of internet users that took umbrage at the Church of Scientology's removal of the infamous Tom Cruise video from YouTube. The collective's ongoing battles against internet censorship made CoS culture of secrecy an ideal adversary. Following the wisdom of Mark Bunker, they organised a worldwide protest on February 11th to mark the birthday of Lisa McPherson. McPherson had been suffering from either some form of mental illness or a real desire to be free from the organisation. Either way, whilst in the care of the organisation she died in circumstances that remain mysterious. What is certain is that she was restrained against her will, was refusing to eat or drink, and on her collapse was not rushed to the nearest hospital, but to a hospital further away where a Scientologist was on the staff. But I digress.

I was aware of the planned demonstrations, and knew of the two London sites at which I could attend, but chose not to for a variety of reasons. The first and most important reasons comes down to who the demonstration is for. The parallel here, I suppose, is with narcotics. The message you give to people who haven't used narcotics is different to the message you give to addicts. You warn the people who haven't used that they could lose their health, wealth and happiness, but you tell the people who are addicted that they could get that all back again. I was concerned that the demo would be sending the wrong message to the wrong people.

Furthermore it is easy to see a large demonstration as being there for the wrong reasons. One can have the best intentions in the world when trying to engage with Scientologists, but if they decide from the outset that you are a suppressive person then everything you say will be for nothing.

Lastly, the demo was effectively an unknown quantity, personally at least. I didn't know who it was that I'd be siding with. There can be a fine line between a legitimate and peaceful protest and a hate rally.

As it turned out, however, the demos went without serious incident, save for an accident in Ohio, and generally the responses to the day's protests were positive. Comments were made about how well behaved everyone was, that they were polite and for the most part respectful. I wouldn't say I regretted not going, but the reports of the first demo helped inform my opinion for the second set of demonstrations scheduled for March 15th.

Initially I'd hoped to go along unmasked and photograph and write up the demo, and keep an eye out for any of the infiltrations that CoS were rumoured to have planned. But on Friday I had to reconsider my strategy. In part this was due to the way in which Co$ had singled out unrelated individuals in their failed attempts at an injunction ahead of the March demos. Also, I didn't want my presence there to be misconstrued by Anonymous. If I didn't wear a mask, Anon would reasonably assume I was photographing the event on behalf of CoS, and CoS would reasonably assume that, as I was unknown to them, I was with Anonymous, and therefore would be worth (and have a marginally higher than average probability of) identifying. So on Friday I purchased one of the few remaining V masks in London, making it clear on which side of the street I intended to stand.

I masked up a little way from Blackfriars, feeling terribly self-conscious about it, and slightly paranoid about wearing a mask on public transport. I was comforted early on, bumping into someone masking up, and made my way with him along to Queen Victoria Street where Anonymous had commandeered a stretch of pavement and the balcony above, directly opposite the Celebrity Centre. The theme for the March demo was Hubbard's birthday, and to this end there were party hats, blowers, and much cake was provided, along with attendant slogans such as "we have cake, Scientology has lies".

There were a couple of hundred people there already, but this number was added to slowly and continually throughout the day. Part of the Anonymous draw is the "lulz", a corruption of LOL, and there was a large amount of internet meme to be seen interspersed with the more on topic placards on display. There were various chants from the serious "Why is Lisa dead?" to the amusing. The Celebrity Centre suffers for being next door to a church, leading to a choreographed bout of pointing, "This is a church, this is a cult," a chant reminiscent of Scientology's so-called locational processing assist. Such fun kept the energy of the demonstration at a high for the three hours prior to moving off to Tottenham Court Road; a journey consisting of many conversations on exactly how they would fit the protesters into the smaller site opposite the Dianetics Centre, and how to get to Tottenham Court Road.

The TCR protest involved the same chants, more or less, being called out to what appeared to be most of the same org staff. The protest became long and thin, running along the opposite pavement. The foot and road traffic on Tottenham Court Road is much more dense, and Anonymous were able to distribute a great deal of information about the Church to passers by, occasionally cheering as motorists honked their support. It is the dissemination of information about the Fair Game Policy, Operations Freak Out and Snow White, Lisa McPherson, the RPF and key websites (Ex-Scientology Kids,,, Stop Narconon, etc.) that really makes the demonstrations worthwhile. Added to that is the newsworthiness of the Anonymous movement, which has served to place the media spotlight on the policies and crimes of the Church.

The above slogan was perhaps my favourite of the day. Scientology is a closure of thought, where doubt isn't tolerated unless it is extended to anything other than itself. Those who have left, high OTs included, all speak of lengthy periods of doubt, and the difference between waking up or staying in seems to be knowing what to do with that doubt. That is why it is so important to provide the doubtful with information of quality and a support network so that they know that when they walk there are people that are ready and willing to help them.

The next round of demonstrations, scheduled for April will focus on reconnection, of getting folk that are in and have disconnected to get back in touch with their families and friends. I'm not sure how Anonymous will balance the lulz with the heartache of disconnection, but it will hopefully lead to a more tangible result, and the possibility that a family, even just one, will be reunited because of events that were set in motion because Co$ bullied YouTube is a very attractive one indeed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Raw Shark Conjecture

One of the risks of writing about the Church of Scientology is that, due in equal parts to the bizarre beliefs and the level of secrecy in the organisation, it becomes too easy to take yourself off on flights of fanciful supposition. Also, you start taking the things you have learnt about CoS and apply it to other entities. You begin to recognise in many different places similar mechanisms and techniques being used and abused. With all this in mind, The Beacon offers up this extended diversion.

In 2007 Steven Hall had published his novel The Raw Shark Texts, a surreal fantasy thriller in which one Eric Sanderson is being hunted down by a "conceptual shark" that has been slowly eating away at Sanderson's memory. But this creature is the least of his troubles. He is also being pursued by Mycroft Ward, another equally unlikely entity. Here, from the book, is Ward's story.

The old man announced - to family, to friends, and to several newspapers - that he had decided not to die, not from this illness, not from anything, not ever. He claimed he didn't have time for death and would instead "unshackle himself from the multitudinous failings of the corporeal harness and progress forward ad infinitum."


The old man's death the following spring was marked only by a number of small obituaries and a few pithy editorials (one of which compared him to King Canute). Within a fewmonths, interest in Mycroft Ward had grumbled itself away into the aether. The planet smirkd, and moved on.
What the planet didn't hear about, what only a select group of people have ever known, is this: Ward succeeded in his plan. At least, he succeeded after a fashion.


The system he devised was so down-to-earth and logical an accountant might have invented it. First, through the use of thousands of questions and tests, War succeeded in reproducing a very rough copy of his personality on paper. Then, through "the applied arts of mesmerism and suggestion" Ward successfully imprinted this personality onto another person.


"The arrangement" was a greater success than Ward could ever have hoped for. Members of the Ward family initially challenged the validity of this young man twho had appeared from nowhere, claimed to be a distant relative and walked away with everything the old man owned. But on meeting "Mycroft Ward the Younger", even the most stubborn and money-fixated of the cousines conceded that the two men must be erlated - while there was little physical resemblance, their mannerisms , attitudes and opinions were so similar there could be no doubt of a blood connection. Mycroft Ward's self had successfully survived the death of his body. He was young again at the dawn of a new century.


Throughout the early half of the 1920s, Ward modified the original personality recording template significantly. He added new systems and techniques to refine the collected personality data, developed tests which would capture newly acquired knowledge and opinion, and created an all important procedure whereby knowledge could be gathered from two minds, standardised with minimum loss of information, then transferred back, realigning both minds into a single unified self.
Ward also amended his new personality recorder to instil an increased desire for self-preservation. And it was with this one single action, as sensible as it may have seemed to him in the bloody aftermath of World War One, that Ward doomed himself and cast a long, black shadow over all of our futures.

Ward, in his effort to survive death, copies himself amongst an increasing number of beings, becoming somewhat beaten out of shape, of course - a corrupted self-serving entity that has little or nothing to do with the 19th century eccentric.

I can't help but find a parallel between Hall's creation and Hubbard's. Hubbard once wrote "I have high hopes of smashing my name into history so violently that it will take a legendary form." The belief system he created suggests we are all immortal beings, that we have lives past and future. He seems obssessed with immortality.

It is possible, then, to read Scientology in terms of an attempt to create a Ward-like "agreement" with which a person gives up their own personality in order to host another. Even the language lends itself to this. Scientology speaks of clearing someone of their reactive mind, but we are reactive beings - we learn through reaction, we make decisions through reaction, our personalities are founded in reaction, we are products, mainly, of our past. Going clear then, to my mind, is an attempt to relinquish the effect that past events have on our personality, a wiping clean of the slate.

And what gets put on the slate after that? Hubbard's tech, based on Hubbard's "research", every bit of which as Hubbard-engraved as those titanium sheets the Church are presumably in the process of melting down. When you look at the idolatory of Hubbard, the level to which his identity, image and personality is sustained throughout the organisation, it comes worryingly close to Mycroft Ward.

I'm not suggesting that, in any real sense, Hubbard is a fully sentient entity spread out across the High OTs, (though if you fancy pursuing this notion further I'd recommend I Am A Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter) but there is certainly a vague notion of a conscious attempt at posthumous survival to be found in the authoritarian aspects of the Church, in the tech that betrays Hubbard's own paranoias, in the strict instructions, training routines, in mythology that form allegories to support Hubbard's own prejudices. Even the image of body-clusters is sickeningly suggestive of elements of Hubbards own personality, badly copied simulations running on someone else's hardware.

If this seems too outlandish a notion still, think of it merely in terms of Hubbard's intentions. Such an ambition certainly doesn't seem beneath him, and the idolatory of Hubbard by its members would allow for such an ambition to be shared amongst them. If you need further evidence of this, check out these screengrabs a reader has kindly supplied. They're from a leaked 2007 OT summit video and are, as ever, published in lines with Fair Use exemption.

But if we step back from the looking glass world for a moment, and keep our feet firmly on the ground, what we know we do have is an organisation made in the image of a man, an organisation that tells people how to think, an organisation that will always put itself before its individual members. Co$ has a survival dynamic all its own, and it is worth looking at where it places you in relation to that dynamic.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Barbara Schwarz Writes...

Barbara Schwarz is a longtime poster to ARS. A former president of CoS in Germany, she was, she claims, kicked out in 1984. Here's a charming post she made to ARS recently.

'We all know, if Germany would not have gassed and otherwise killed millions of Jews and other minorities, and if other countries would not have been appalled by that, the gassed and killed people would be Scientologists today.

'As gassing became "politically incorrect", the p$ychs behind the German secret service and government has to try to get rid of Scientology through other ways.

'As Germany did so much p$ychiatric Nazi harm before, normal people are rightfully suspicious once Germany screams to outlaw Scientology.

'So, what do the Germans do?

'Any country and nationality has its bad apples. They hire a handful cheap Jews from other countries (and we know all who it is) and tell them for personal gain to secretly attack L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology so that the Germans can say: "Hey, the Jews attack L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology! The Jews would not do it, if us going after Scientology would be the same as Germany did before WW II."

'Yeah right. Unfortunately, a real Scientologist can figure out the facts. And that is why the p$ychs behind the German secret service wants to get rid of Scientology. Real Scientologists are much too smart for their taste and that is behind the attacks of Scientology.'

Keeping the faith? Or a cunning attack on Scientology by posing as one of the craziest parishioners going? You be the judge...

You can find more information about Barbara, including details of her record-breaking FOIA requests, at Wikipedia.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Footnote Bulletpoint

I just wanted to expand on something I probably skimmed over in the footnote in my last post.

"You've also, as a counter-intuitive sweetener, paid an awful lot of money for this information. Everything leads you to believe, despite the fact that nothing is based directly on personal observation."

This is a sort of magic beans scenario. What happens is, if you sell your last cow for some magic beans, you are going to be all the more insistent that the beans are indeed magic than if you'd sold the beans for, say, a chicken. No-one wants to be a sucker, especially to the tune of $30,000, so if you've bought into some information for that kind of money, the last thing you will want to do is turn around and say that you've been suckered. Relate it to police statistics on scam-based fraud; they always have a reported figure and then an unreported estimate based on this same understanding, that if you've bought into a scam, you may prove to proud to admit it.

And if we think of money in terms of something more general, "investment", then we see that this same mechanism is at work elsewhere. If money changes hands for a course of auditing, say, then not only is the individual putting money towards it, but time and effort too. All the more reason to not want to admit that such work has all been for nothing.

Finally, a study that sadly I cannot read on account of it being behind a firewall, explains that the more expensive a placebo is the more effective it becomes (though I assume there is a cut-off point; a million dollar sugar pill won't cure cancer), which surely has a bearing on all this too.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What's True For You...

There's something a little baffling about the Church of Scientology's response to criticism. Happily, Yvette Shank, president of the Toronto Church, wrote an opinion piece for the National Post that happily brings this baffle into sharp relief. Opening the piece, she sets it up as a contrast to an earlier, no doubt critical, item from the paper.

Jonathan Kay's article on Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard ("In fear of Xenu," Jan. 18.) certainly didn't give the picture of the religion I have known for the past 40 years.

But later on in the same article...

In studying Scientology, I have never been required to believe anything, and I appreciate that. Mr. Hubbard states this in his writings on personal integrity: "What is true for you is what you have observed yourself and when you lose that you have lost everything . Nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you unless you have observed it and it is true according to your observation. That is all."

This should, for any free-thinker, prompt the question "What is true for the critics?" Those who oppose the policies and beliefs of the Church do so founded on their own beliefs, so such opposition is valid; it is true for the critics. "But what have they really observed?" a loyal Scientologist might ask, and this certainly must account for the oft used "suck it and see" answer that many an armchair critic encounters. Such suggestions become rather redundant, though, when faced with the former Scientologists who speak out against the Church. They have observed, and at close quarters, the kind of behaviours and beliefs they criticise; they inform those who have not. How ethical is it of Scientologists to question those beliefs?

This sounds like I am just game playing, and although there is a certain pleasure from the sophistry of the argument, I don't believe it to be a false argument. If you sign up to the "If it's true for you..." system of universal validity, that has to encompass the truths that the mask-wearing, plackard-waving protestors at your door believe in. So they conflict with what you believe about your Church? Deal with it! "True for you" will lead to conflicting beliefs. What is important is to look at the ways in which the Church deal with those conflicting beliefs. If they were seekers of truth, then they would engage in a dialogue; an exchange of ideas. As it is, they do not. They view any kind of criticism as something that needs to be "handled". They derail discussions, through the invocation of religious bigotry, the distraction of their anti-psych agenda, or through comparison to other, larger religions (always with the assumption that the critic has no problem with these either). This is not truth-seeking. This is an attempt to cling on to a belief system that may not bear up to scrutiny.

The Church waves the flag for freedom of thought (you don't *have* to believe any of it), suggesting that the individual is empowered enough to pick and choose from the smorgasbord of truths available, but at the same time it sets up mechanisms that actively counter that freedom.

First and foremost, a good Scientologist must surrender their ability to validate truth for themselves, by way of our old friend, the e-meter. I've talked at length about this before, so won't bore long-time readers. Suffice to say, though, that the main function of the e-meter is to externalise the process of establishing certainties about a person's internal state and that person's environment. What's true for the e-meter is true for you.

But the e-meter does not exist in a vacuum. There's an auditor there, and c/o the tightly scripted auditing routines, Hubbard is there too. To that end the sitter is being led down a very specific line of enquiry leading ultimately to a "truth" that the e-meter validates. Writing about the e-meter, I am more and more reminded of the electronic monks from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. These robots were created to believe in things in order to save you having to believe in them yourself. That's virtually what an e-meter does, but with the added inconvenience that you still have to attend to it, and it's not the e-meter's deep, dark secrets that end up in the file.

What's True For You is at total odds with Keep Scientology Working. This too I have discussed before. KSW is the document that lays down the authoritarian nature of the Church. It appears in most of the later courses offered by the church. Here's a quick reminder, published here under Fair Use.

Getting the correct technology applied consists of:
One: Having the correct technology.
Two: Knowing the technology.
Three: Knowing it is correct.
Four: Teaching correctly the correct technology.
Five: Applying the technology.
Six: Seeing that the technology is correctly applied.
Seven: Hammering out of existence incorrect technology.
Eight: Knocking out incorrect applications.
Nine: Closing the door on any possibility of incorrect technology.
Ten: Closing the door on incorrect application.
This is how Scientology, as a set of ideas, protects itself. You can be free to believe what you want, but not if you want to move up the Bridge. If you want to move up the Bridge, then you have to follow these ten commandments, in all their unquestioning, uncritical majesty. There can be no future for a Scientologist who picks and chooses from its ideology what he or she wants to believe.

The final question must be, given that Scientology is all about moving up that Bridge, what does the loyal Scientologist do when he is asked to believe in something that he has not as yet observed to be true? He has two, closely linked, options if he wishes to progress. Firstly, he must go on observing and observing and observing until he observes the truth. This, of course, may never happen for him, especially if the truth simply isn't there1. The second option, always there, is to believe without observation; something that the "if it's true for you" mentality ably accommodates. Something that has absolutely nothing to do with truth.

1A further word here is necessary about what is meant by "observe". How can one, say, "observe" the Xenu myth in order to know that it is true, given that these events are believed to have transpired so long ago? The answer, I think, is in associative truth. More babysteps from rationality to irrationality. It works like this... the e-meter (so you think) validates truth. You recount memories, and the e-meter validates them. You invent memories, the e-meter validates them, you interpret this as "recovered" true memories. You invent past life memories, the e-meter validates them, you interpret this as recovered past life memories. The rest follows through quite easily. Your belief in the validity of the process means that you can read the space opera past lives recounted in Have You Lived Before This Life? and believe them, because they have been recovered using the same process that you used to recover your own past life memories. When Hubbbard pitches up with his tales of galactic overpopulation, bt clusters and more, you have already bought into the notion of a galaxy whose history is teeming with alien life, and the validity of all the tech you have encountered up til now. You've also, as a counter-intuitive sweetener, paid an awful lot of money for this information. Everything leads you to believe, despite the fact that nothing is based directly on personal observation.