What a cult.

While a-strolling through the West End yesterday with a mild hangover, I came across the above folks in Tottenham Court Road, protesting against the Church of Scientology. Actually, you can quite often see smaller flashmobs in the same location, and by the V for Vendetta masks shall ye know them. They’re participants in Project Chanology, which in turn was spawned from the online group known as Anonymous. Essentially, they are a worldwide group working with the common aim of exposing the criminal and bullying activities of the Church of Scientology and, in so doing, enforcing change.  It’s organised over the Internet, across websites and message boards. The exact structure is a little difficult to define. The group has no official leaders and no official policies beyond that primary aim of bringing down the CoS in its current form. Anyone can participate and, what’s important, they can do so anonymously – the CoS has a long and well-documented history of harassing its critics, and so protecting one’s identity short-circuits that. Participants include many ex-Scientologists and even a number of current Scientologists who are dissatisfied with the leadership (it should be noted that Chanology is fine with people practising Scientology the religion, it’s Scientology the organisation that they’re against).

The Internet has really caught the CoS with their pants down. The CoS cannot take criticism of any kind. Take, for instance, the case of the Freewinds, a ship owned by the CoS and used for delivering their most expensive courses. In April 2008, dangerous blue asbestos was found on board during routine maintenance. The Church leapt straight into action, denying everything. Bear in mind that they didn’t build the ship – they could have thrown their hands up and said, “Yeah, sorry, we didn’t know about that, but as you can see we’re having it removed.” But no, because that would mean admitting fault. Of course, thanks to the Internet, the information is all freely available, so now the CoS not only had a contaminated ship, but it’s common knowledge that they tried to lie about it. As a result, Anonymous have nicknamed the vessel Failboat. It’s quite a catchy name.

That somewhat longwinded example shows just how far the CoS will go to deny criticism. Unfortunately, while the technique of just denying everything is great when you’re three years old, in the Internet age it just won’t wash. The information is out there, backed up by citation and, in many cases, the actual sources from which the information comes. For instance, check out the following short videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcGgKtb4O4A&feature=related – A collection of L. Ron Hubbard quotes, with citations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCGP-0545EU&feature=related – A serious film exposing some of the Church’s criminal activities, complete with scanned documents. Contains some disturbing imagery.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZIBzqJpXn0&feature=response_watch – L. Ron Hubbard discussing the story of Xenu. You know, the one the CoS denies.

So, by outright denying everything, the CoS just ends up looking even more shifty and incompetent, because the evidence is right there. While you’re on YouTube, look up anything involving Tommy Davis – he’s a spokesman for the church nicknamed “Footbullet Man” by Anonymous due to his tendency to throw a hissy fit whenever anyone asks him a question he doesn’t like.

Their other favourite technique is the smear campaign – don’t deal with the question, attack the person asking the question. If they consider you a threat, they will delve into your private life. If you’ve got a criminal record, they’ll dig it up. If not, they’ll make it up. Fortunately, Yr. Humble Chronicler’s criminal record is entirely clean aside from one count of breaking and entering the Criminal Records Bureau. Anyway, check this out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPol_m8wm8Y&feature=related – Here’s some footage of Scientologists attempting to deal with Mark Bunker, a prominent critic of the Church known to Anonymous as “Wise Beard Man.” Apparently the CoS thinks that people who don’t want you looking into their past instinctively attack the organisation most likely to look into said past. THIS IS GOOD SENSE.

The CoS, before the Internet, could get away with a whole lot more. Those against the CoS were largely operating alone, or in small groups, or via snail mail. It was easy to isolate and silence people. Now you have a whole load of people who can contact each other instantly – computer-literate folk who know how to make a noise. Now, when the CoS tries to smear or attack someone, it will be put online, made public and held up to mockery. When they make an allegation, Anonymous demands evidence to back it up (the phrase they use is “dox or GTFO”- “documentation or get the fuck out”). Every instance of harassment becomes more ammunition for Project Chanology, and suddenly Scientology and Chanology are on an equal footing.

What’s more, the number of activists and the range of skills on offer mean that while the Church of Scientology can fight dirty, Anonymous can fight just as dirty. For instance, an official in San Jose a few days ago sent out a flier accusing the group of vandalising a church, destroying a school bus and phoning in bomb threats, among other things. It also contained a web address for recipients of the flier to visit. Unfortunately, said address was out-of-date. So a member of Anonymous bought out that domain name and created this website – http://hateistheenemy.org. Brilliant!

This brings me on to the CoS’ third major weapon, which is the lawsuit. Sort of like a school bully who gets hit by one of his victims and then goes running to teacher. L. Ron Hubbard described the functions of a Scientology lawsuit as follows in The Scientologist, a Manual on the Dissemination of Material:

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.

Unfortunately, with Project Chanology they can’t do that. The group is anonymous. You can’t take out a frivolous lawsuit against someone whose identity is unknown to you, and you can’t go at an organisation that doesn’t formally exist.

So their tactic for dealing with Anonymous is to go bleating “Hate crime! Hate crime!” Newsflash, CoS – legitimate criticism is not a hate crime. They’ve set up the hilarious website, http://www.religiousfreedomwatch.org/. This proclaims highfalutin’ ideals of religious freedom for all, but in reality is a front for Scientology to throw faeces at its critics. You’ll notice that the great majority of “hate crimes” they talk about are against the CoS, and you’ll notice that they tend to be quite vague about the allegations they make. The most quoted allegation is:

Documentation received by Religious Freedom Watch shows that [Kristi] Wachter paid an individual to carry out a specific project for her, and also instructed this individual to lie about what he was doing in case he was caught.

Goodness, well, she must have been planning an act of terrorism. That, or a surprise birthday party. The publicly-accessible forums make for entertaining reading. Lots of Scientologists wailing “But why have they chosen us?” and referring to members of Anonymous as “sad individuals.” Might want to learn some synonyms for “sad” if you want your forum not to look like the same person under five or six different names. Plus the usual comparisons to the Nazis, because having your Church criticised is absolutely the same as the Holocaust and Tom Cruise is a latter-day Anne Frank.

Also, if you’re going to accuse other people of being like Nazis, you might want to make sure you don’t have anything that makes you look a little bit Nazi-esque. Like, for instance, prying into people’s private information…

Or, within that post, saying things that could be considered… I don’t know… prejudiced against people of a certain sexual orientation?

The whole thing makes me want to puke blood, frankly. Religious freedom is intended so that people can practise their religion without fear. It is not intended so that multi-billion dollar organisations that spend an estimated $20 million per year on litigation can be immune from protestors. Do you see the Catholic Church pulling that shit? No, you do not. I’d be very surprised if anyone’s fooled. However, if they are, you can be sure Project Chanology will be there to set the record straight.

All in all, the protests by Project Chanology lead us to a simple conclusion. The Church of Scientology simply cannot continue as it does – its ways of dealing with opposition are totally unsuited to the Internet age, and in fact are counter-productive. Let’s be honest here, Project Chanology is going to win. See if you can guess which side I’m on in all of this.

To finish, here’s a picture of Xenu with an unrelated picture of John Travolta inset.

UPDATE 26/02/2010!

Scientology just doesn’t know when to quit, and less than two weeks after writing the above I had another encounter with them…

https://londonparticulars.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/i-didnt-want-to-she-led-me-on/

Moar Dox

http://www.xenu.net/ – Operation Clambake is a major anti-Scientology website. Surprisingly, despite the fact that its owner has revealed his identity, and despite the fact that the CoS claims the information presented on the site is a lie, and despite the CoS’ litigious nature, the site is still there after 13 years.

http://www.xenutv.com/blog/ – Mark Bunker’s blog.

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10 Comments

Filed under 20th Century, Churches, Crime, Current events, Film and TV, History, Literature, London, Occult, Only loosely about London, Politics, Rambling on and on, Randomness, West End

10 responses to “What a cult.

  1. Heather G

    Nicely done.

  2. Chris

    Well-researched, informative article. Absolutely fascinating to read.

    To add a little bit to what you wrote, Scientology was actually warned about the asbestos on the Freewinds in 1987. The architect they brought in to design some renovations, Lawrence Woodcraft, discovered the blue asbestos and informed several cult officials immediately. They eventually told him that L. Ron Hubbard didn’t say anything about asbestos being dangerous.

    Woodcraft’s sworn declaration, as well as the video where he tells this story, are available on XenuTV. Even after all these years, he still seems completely shocked by Scientology’s denial and irresponsibility.

  3. kudos for the great article! If any of your readers are interested in joining Anonymous protests against Scientology, anonstillalive(dot)com is an up to date database of active groups and contact information for people hoping to learn more.

  4. charlie

    It’s was great reading your blog but I would like to add that cos is not recognised as a religion in the UK.

    1999 UK Charity commision report into scientology

    http://infosect.freeshell.org/infocult/Charitycommissionscientology.pdf

    1.That CoS is not charitable as an organisation established for the charitable purpose of the advancement of religion because, having regard to the relevant law and evidence, Scientology is not a religion for the purposes of English charity law.

    2.That CoS was not established for the charitable purpose of promoting the moral or spiritual welfare and improvement of the community.

    3.That CoS was not established for the public benefit.

    The cos got it’s VAT exemption through the back door, the UK has some sort agreement with australia where its classed as a religion also that cos in the UK is ran through a australian front group rather than throught it’s headquarters in the USA.
    Cos also claim’s a rates reduction on one its london building’s as one of it’s front groups got charitable status “CCHR” Citizens Commission on Human Rights even though they have there own office, because one of staff work’s in both building’s.

    • charlie

      http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/10257/response/26340/attach/3/Application.pdf

      Part of City of London responce to FOI inquiry

      This exemption is subject to the public interest test. While there is a public interest in encouraging accountability and transparency by
      increasing public understanding of the CoL’s processes and decisions, this should be weighed against both the detrimental effect that release
      of the information would have in assessing applications for grant relief as future applications would be likely to be expressed less frankly if
      it were known that they were likely to be released into the public domain; together with the inherent public interest in the effective
      working of the process for determining mandatory rate relief in order to
      ensure the efficient use of the public authority’s resources in assessing applications and awarding relief. We would not normally disclose the information requested for these reasons and also to ensure that there can be no suggestion that outside pressures were affecting a fair assessment by the CoL as a public authority. We are mindful that certain members of the public may have an interest in the conduct of the
      Church of Scientology, however this of itself does not constitute a public interest argument supporting disclosure (refer the Information
      Tribunal decision of Hogan v The Information Commissioner, EA/2005/0026,
      EA/2005/0030). It is important that there should be equity in the way all ratepayers are treated.

      © 2010 Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc. A non-profit organization incorporated in South Australia. Registered Office 24-28 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, South Australia. Registered in the UK under company number FC9154.Registered agent in the UK: P D Hodkin,42/44 Copthorne Road, Felbridge, East Grinstead, RH19 2NS.

      All UK scientology front group’s are registered through Hodkin and co.

  5. M. Bell

    Damn good article. With all the focus on Scientology’s egregious human rights abuses (forced abortion, human trafficking, slave wages, and more), it’s about time someone took them on for being contemptible in less splashy ways as well. You’ve given voice to the frustration and disgust of legions. Or should I say, legion.

  6. Well done, sir.
    Just FYI, when you took this photo, another 5 of us were over at their Dianetics/Stress Test table in Shephards Bush, giving them hell.
    We are everywhere.

  7. Well done article/blog, nice to see people putting the pieces together and having some decent writing abilities to express it!
    Kudos!

  8. Pingback: I didn’t want to, she led me on « London Particulars

  9. Very well done article – very good references, and quite well researched

    i have yet to see any news agencies, over the course of the now over two years old chanology campaign, doing research this thorough.

    you sir, have won +1 internets

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