Thursday, November 27, 2008

German Ban - Historical Perspective

I personally oppose Scientology because of its cultic framework, in which an otherwise sound and original belief system exists. This framework leads the CoS into cultic behavior, and that behavior is rightly opposed by critics.

The problem, however, is that the critical movement itself currently exists in a cultic framework as well, that leads critics into cultic behavior. These could go as far as help to precipitate mass tragedies like Jonestown and Waco, on top of countless individual drama.

This is the reason I oppose the anti-cult and anti-Scientology movement in its present form, because they in fact represent a greater and more immediate danger to basic human rights than cults themselves.

Trying to scare the public and authorities through anti-Scientology myths may work in the short run but is doomed to fail in the long run because these obviously lack sufficient basis in truth to satisfy legal and academic requirements.

This is what the recent lifting of the German project to ban Scientology shows.

But there is more.

Graham, a moderate Scientologist, places the German ban project lifting in an interesting historical perspective where he shows that basically the same type of events happened in Australia, the UK, Spain and with the American IRS, among others. What is more, he points to the interesting fact that in many cases these investigations not only led to a possible ban lift but also led to a full religious status recognition for the CoS!

Grahame also argues that the burden of proof on the Internet is not the same as for legal situations and that this explains why anti-Scientology myths can have a long life on such a media and fool uncritical masses such as Anonymous.

In the long run, however, I believe that the fact that courts, government, and academics more and more refuse to follow anti-cult fanatics in their crusade, is one of the factors that increases the cognitive dissonance in the public and helps them question what they read on so-called critical web sites.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Easy Anti-Scientology Jabs

The venerable Gregg Roughley of the no less venerable UK newspaper "The Guardian" should check his facts better before launching in easy anti-Scientology jabs.

Indeed, he writes about one Paulie Malignaggi:
"He doesn't possess a 'lights out' punch, but he can move like Travolta (pre-Scientology days of course) and deliver rapid-fire jabs to outscore his opponents."
He no doubts refers to "Saturday Night Fever", that came out in 1977 and maybe also to "Grease" that came out in 1978.

Travolta joined Scientology in January of 1975 as he was working on his first film in Mexico (Durango). He already was a Scientologist when he made all his other films, including of course "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease".

If Travolta moved better before he met Scientology then hardly anybody would know about it, since he was at the time a nobody.

If you are a journalist and especially is you write for a major news media, then check your facts before acting like a mindless fanatical anti-Scientologists. In our Internet days it only takes a few seconds.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Germany: No Scientology Ban

My position on the Scientology issue has always been very clear. I am a Scientology critic, for various reasons, but I am also critical of the exaggerations and abuses of anti-Scientologists. I even go as far as saying that as long as anti-Scientologists don’t police themselves out, they need to be opposed even more than Scientology itself.

One of the abuses I have been the most vocal of was anti-Scientologists encouragement and support of government discrimination towards Scientology. I also pointed out that Anonymous does not live up to its own creed that would lead them to actively protests against German discrimination just as they protest Scientology itself. Instead, they stupidly and actively supported this blatant abuse.

Scientology may be bad, but it is not as bad as anti-Scientologists make it out to be, and the discrepancy between observable facts and the claims made by anti-Scientologist fanatics eventually creates a cognitive dissonance that works against critics.

Now the German government itself supported my position with arguments that could have been lifted right out of my web site as Germany finally dropped its pursuit of a ban on Scientology after having had the CoS under observation for more than a decade (though that observation itself will continue):
Erhart Koerting, Berlin's top security official:

"The appraisal of the government at the moment is that (Scientology) is a lousy organization, but it is not an organization that we have to take a hammer to."

Brandenburg Minister of Interior Schonbohm:

"I consider someone a coward who believes seriously to be at risk because of 5,000 Scientologists". (Source)

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his counterparts from Germany's 16 states:

"There is not enough proof to justify opening proceedings for such a ban"

August Hanning, a Schaeuble deputy:

"Before we open preliminary proceedings (leading to a ban), we need concrete evidence of unconstitutional activity. "The security agencies are predominantly of the opinion that there is not sufficient evidence of this."

Where are all the claims of gross illegal abuses anti-Scientologists endlessly repeat on their web sites and protests? If only 1% of their wildest claims were true, the CoS would have been closed down for good long time ago already. Instead, very antagonist government agencies can find no evidence of such after more than ten years of close observation!

Now how's that for a cognitive dissonance?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Trend of Protests

Statistics about numbers in protests have become difficult to gather in view of the fact that Anonymous does not tally them anymore (I guess they are not as proud as they were in the beginning when the numbers were spectacular and they built up detailed statistic pages). You only get figures mentioned in individual reports, when they are mentioned at all. You can also guess figures from photos. Not surprisingly, the later are considerably lower than the figures announced.

Today I see two posts in ARS with figures. Those for Toronto and Phoenix. In the meantime I also see that the whyweprotest forum, that was down, is now back on line, but for lack of time I will focus on the two ARS posts only.

The trend of these two would reflect the world-wide trend, except that this world-wide trend would be somewhat lower in percentage since many locations have crashed down to zero since quite a while ago.

Here is the graph for Toronto (click on the graph for a larger view):

What this shows is that the big initial numbers have completely crashed and only a few hardcore members are left to protest every month. Part of these are OG who were already protesting before Anonymous.

Note: The source for these stats are the same as the one used for my July computation, plus information culled from,, and ARS. In some cases I had no indication (either because numbers were not reported or because I had no time to chase them up) so had to make an average or had to make an estimate based on photos. For Toronto, I had to do this for the month of October, where the maximum numbers of people I counted on the photos was 9.

By all means, if you happen to read this and have better information, kindly leave me a comment and after checking it will adapt the figures if necessary.

The ARS post where I got my number for November is to be found here. 10-15 was reported, so I took the average of that.

Here is the graph for Phoenix:

As you can see, a similar pattern is reflected: from June onward, the numbers are hovering within the same range, representing the hardcore of members dedicated enough to go on protesting every month.

For Phoenix, I had to take an average for August. I also found unlikely that there were no protesters for July (as reported in Anonymous tally) so I took an average for that month too. The ARS post for November is here, and the first photos are here (showing only one protester out of the supposed ten, most probably OG Jeff Jacobsen).

As noted before, this is only a pattern in those town that maintained regular protests. Many town have crashed down to zero at some stage or another and have remained to the ground since then. The graph of the world-wide crash would therefore be much more pronounced.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fantastic Claims

Anonymous repeatedly affirms that it does not attack Scientology beliefs but the misdeeds of the organization. This is not a new claim, as this was the plea of anti-cultists all along (they tried to medicalize cult adhesion, which they saw as a psychological process (mind-control) rather than something that depended on beliefs).

I personally think, however, that in order to fight against cultism, and the range of fanatical actions it comes with, you do need to tackle the beliefs justifying and underlying the behavior. Of course you need to do this in a reasonably respectful manner rather than in the offensive manner so typical of fanatical critics.

For example, Scientology makes fantastic claims about the results of its practices. The discrepancy between these and the actual results achieved should be a warning sign to members that something is at odd with Scientology.

The way Scientology escapes this contradiction is by constantly finding excuses and justifications, namely and most of the time, that you need to do higher levels, since the root cause of the problem, they say, lays deeper.

Critics are victim of the same phenomenon in their own right. They explain the cognitive dissonance between their fantastic claims about Scientology and what anybody can observe getting a bit deeper in the question, by even more fantastic and paranoid claims, such as Scientology bought the justice system, etc. I have gone into that phenomenon on my page about cognitive dissonance and through the anti-Scientology myths I used as examples on my web page.

There is, however, a reason why Scientology will never achieve the fantastic claims they promise, and this is because it does not tackle with the real root cause of human dysfunction.

Scientology first claims the cause is the reactive mind, then they claim you need to go through the “Wall of Fire” before achieving the promised results, then they claim there are still higher levels but they will only be revealed once more people go clear…

They never tackle with what many enlightened individuals have pointed as the root cause of human dysfunction: the human ego. Quite on the contrary, Scientology tends to strengthen the ego, precisely because it promises all kinds of marvels if, through time, you dutifully follow its path.

Now here is the good news. Tackling with the human ego doesn’t have anything to do with time, nor is it anything that somebody can give you or retain from you. All it takes is to become conscious of it, and it’s absolutely and totally free. No technology, no amount of money, no methodology or some other person, no magical process or magical potion can make you spiritually free, and by virtually promising such is where Scientology fails.

Scientology can do marvels at the psychological levels, and many persons have attested to this. It is the reason why these persons still stick with Scientology in spite of all the nasty criticism and ugly oppression they are the target of.

Their error, however, is to identify the positive results Scientology can bring at the psychological level, with its promises at the spiritual level. They think that because they have achieved such results at the psychological level, they will achieve similar results at the spiritual one. It isn't a conscious association, because they simply are not aware of the difference between the two.

Critics make the opposite error. They sort of recognize that the spiritual promises made by Scientology cannot be attained, but they fail to recognize and acknowledge that positive results can be achieved at the psychological level. They thus trash the whole subject and thereby lose considerable credibility with current Scientology members and with moderate onlookers.

Critics need to acknowledge that positive aspect and dissociate it with their criticism on the spiritual aspect of Scientology, and therefore stop with their debunked claims of brainwashing and mind-control in an attempt to explain it all, as well as stop portraying Scientology belief system as the Xenu story, which it isn’t.

Scientologists, on the other hand, need to realize that although they may have benefited greatly from Scientology otherwise, it is not going to help them reach any of its promises at the spiritual level, because of the very nature of spirituality. They need to realize their spiritual dependency on the subject and the trap Scientology represents at this level.

Which bring us back to the start of this post, the necessity of tackling with the belief system itself.

In this respect, I find the work of a critic (and I believe also anon) of some use. His name is “Chef Xenu” (badly chosen name if he wants Scientologists to listen to him, which in fact he may not). He goes through various L. Ron Hubbard writings, highlighting various aspects. I certainly do not always agree with all of what he says or does, very far from it, but I think this is the sort of things that would be potent in getting members to reflect on the subject, and in promoting a criticism based on understanding rather than (as is the case presently) sheer fear.

Check out his latest analysis, where he highlights various claims made by L. Ron Hubbard about the super-natural intelligence Clears are all of a sudden supposed to be endowed as a result of going through Scientology processes. Anybody who personally knows Clears, even though they may recognize them as likable personalities and otherwise sound, will recognize that there is no truth whatsoever in these tintinnabulations. In this particular case these may not even be typical spiritual claims, but they are fabulous nevertheless, and clearly go out of what Scientology can actually deliver.

Here is my favorite:
“A Clear, for instance, has complete recall of everything which has ever happened to him or anything he has ever studied. He does mental computations, such as those of chess, for example, which a normal would do in a half an hour, in ten or fifteen seconds.” L. Ron Hubbard - Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (page 208).
This is only one of the various topics Chef Xenu highlighted (sometimes unfortunately in a pejorative way) through L. Ron Hubbard's writing. I already mentioned his work in this blog before, and you should be able to find more of these through a Google Group search.

Enjoy – or not – but at least there is something there that goes a bit further than the display of sheer bigotry we sadly have to witness on a daily basis in guise of “criticism”.

Friday, November 7, 2008

RIP Anonymous?

The next protest is scheduled for November 8, 2008.

However, with, the organizing and reporting arm of Anonymous, being down since the end of September, and with, its replacement, being down since November 3, it is unclear how anonymous will organize the November 8 protest, and how it will report its many “Epic Epic Epic Amazing Epic Epic Epic Wins”.

Attendances for the September and October protests have already been dismal, with just a few hardcore OG and anons showing up.

The repeated demises of anon’s organizing and reporting arm, together with their less than significant attendance, the general disinterest of major media, and anon's own internal power struggle, may signify the end of a movement that made headlines at the beginning of the year and quickly went downhill after the initial enthusiasm.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen

The time I can spend following Scientology news is still limited. I do try to keep up with the main news, though, but there is rarely anything I find worth commenting on.

Today, however, I bumped into a piece of news that I found pretty scary.

I just learned that Pekka-Eric Auvinen, responsible for the Jokela school shooting that occurred on 7 November 2007, posted his intent to do it on 4chan, and that he was encouraged in his act by his fellow anons who even cheered him as it happened in direct…

Incredible? Just see for yourself, right on the archived 4chan page.

[Update May 12, 2009: it appears that the initial post is not from Auvinen himself but from "some b/tard (who) saw the news report on TV and pretended to be Pekka-Eric Auvinen". See the comments further down. The time of posting and the time when the shooting started shows this to be right. Furthermore, there were already four casualties six minutes after the initial post was made, which also confirms the assertion that it could not have been posted by Auvinen himself. I leave the post intact otherwise because the questions raised are still food for thought, however, it obviously gives a very different perspective to the circumstances in which that event occurred.]

I am not going to jump on the CoS’ PR line saying Anonymous was behind the shooting. There is not enough evidence showing that anonymous can be held responsible for his act, and nuts come in all shades in various groups.

However, it is quite a shocking revelation, and it does raise several questions.

There may be a humorous factor behind the fact that anonymous derides everything and engages in crazy verbal and net behavior, as they do on their Encyclopedia Dramatica, but at which point can this become an excuse to actually engage in actual crazy physical behavior? What prevents nuts to physically act in the name of anonymous, and what prevents other nuts to cheer him online as it happens, as seems to have been the case in this tragedy? At which point can anons cross the line between referring to black people as “niggers”, as they do in the name of questioning everything that has become accepted, and actually engaging in racist and/or criminal acts?

What would have happened if instead of writing
“hey /b/ i'm going to kill people at jokela high school today in the name of anonymous”
Auvinen would have written
“hey thetans i'm going to kill people at jokela high school today in the name of Scientology”?
In which way popular concepts among anonymous (being anonymous, deriding everything, indulging in various pranks) helped to trigger that crazy act? Which philosophy is the most likely to trigger it? That of Scientology or that of Anonymous?

By all means, as I said, that news came as a quite shocking discovery for me, and really got me thinking further on that issue. As if this tragedy was not devastating on its own, the fact that is has been announced in the chan, encouraged, followed, and cheered by his peers online as it happened in real life adds an absolutely creepy dimension to it. This all certainly makes the above questions legitimate.

PS - The New York Times published an outstanding article about Anonymous last August. It is a first-hand researched article where the author actually lived with the major hackers and channers for days to get into the whole scene.