Thursday, January 1, 2009

Religious Freedom Watch

I was not prompted to make a blog entry when I observed the reaction of Scientologists to the hideous Anonymous harassment I just posted about, in which they seemed to genuinely believe critics still indulge in the type of forcible deprogramming depicted in the deprogramming manual.

However, I was prompted to do it when I read this blog entry, because the two situations are very similar.

It surprised me to see this entry because the Life Repairman has been blogging for quite a while now... I thought he would be more knowledgeable about criticism. Yet, he only now discovers a site that existed for years already, and he is quite stunned by it. Of course, he does not realize that almost for sure, that web site is created and maintained by the CoS.

What is more, he actually beliefs that critics are really the way they are being depicted in this web site, and of course he is horrified:
These scumbags are the lowest of low. The crimes many of these wackos are accused of include kidnapping, child molestation, theft, extortion, copyright infringement, stalking, drunk driving, frivolous lawsuits, harassment, forgery, embezzlement, to name a few.
Then, he of course falls in precisely what the CoS wants him to believe:
EVERY negative or crazy sounding rumor (all lies) about Scientology or L. Ron Hubbard on the Internet was started and spread by one or more of the criminals exposed on this site.
And now see how reading the kind of ( horror stories critics run against Scientology (in the same spirit and manner the CoS run its horror stories against critics), just confirms him in his belief that the CoS is right regarding critics:
Every one of the usual negative rumors I've ever seen on the Internet about Scientology was either a flat out lie, or was something completely normal that was twisted and slanted to sound crazy and weird.
We are in a situation similar to what I wrote in my Deprogramming Manual blog entry above, in which critics are demonized by the CoS, and in which critics, by their own beligerent attitude, confirm Scientologists in the depiction made of them by the CoS.

Not that what either side say about the other is necessarily false. It may have a basis of truth, and sometimes more than just a basis, but eventually each side end up demonizing the other to the point that it completely distords reality.

This is the tragedy of the Scientology controversy, and why we see so much ugliness on each side.

The Deprogramming Manual

The other day I was looking at this video, which I commented otherwise on Nov. 30. Apart from the sheer harassment factor, something else caught my attention.

In response to Anonymous' attack (frankly distasteful and ugly, it remains to be said nevertheless), the Scientologists accused them, with all apparent seriousness, to be associated with deprogrammers who horribly torture their victim.

And I thought to myself: "What? They still believe that?"

When I was in the CoS (and that's nearly 30 years ago now), I was also given to read horror stories, mostly based on the "Deprogramming manual", supposedly written by Ted Patrick, but in reality almost for sure a forgery by the CoS itself. I found it horrible that this kind of crime would still be allowed to go unpunished in our modern society. It is only when I got to read the actual Ted Patrick book, "Let Our Children Go", that I realized I had been lied by the CoS regarding forcible deprogramming.

Don't get me wrong. I still think forcible deprogramming is a terrible crime that should not go unpunished. But, compared to what the "Deprogramming Manual" depicts, it almost is child play.

And there I see Scientologists, 30 years later, who still believe this is what forcible deprogramming is, and who still think critics are criminals who indulge in it... Incredible...

They can't be more wrong. First, what the deprogramming manual describes is extremely exagerated, to the point it has little to do with it anymore. Second, forcible deprogramming itself has almost entirely dissapeared and is almost not practiced anymore. Third, not all anti-cultists supported it at the time, see Nan McLean, for example. Even less now. Fourth, not all critics are anti-cultists.

But, apparently, this seems to be what at least some Scientologists still believe. And you know what? Anonymous coming up with their frightening masks and gross slogans, harassing Scientologists and taunting them with Xenu, are playng right into the CoS' propaganda. It confirms to them that critics are indeed evil people associated with evil deprogrammers.

Littles Brothers Are Watching You

In a rather interesting article, called "The Orwellian power of anonymity", the Canadian National Post makes a parallel between Anonymous, or rather the phenomenon of anonymity on the Internet, and the Big Brother concept popularized by Georges Orwell's book "1984".

It claims that, in spite of the myth of us living in a Big Brother surveillance society, the Internet makes it increasingly easy to be anonymous, and as anonymous, influence major world events.

He uses the the Anonymous vs. Scientology phenomenon as one of three examples:
What is remarkable is not that the Internet makes it possible to obscure your identity, but that online anonymity is now seeping into the off-line world. [...]

Despite the lack of a leadership structure, membership list or other organizational accoutrements, Anonymous -- which draws its name from the pseudonym used by most 4chan members -- quickly established a Web site and plan of attack.
I agree that this is a most remarkable phenomenon, as exemplified by the thousands of masked protesters suddenly popping up out of nowhere to protest the CoS in Feb. and Mar.

However, the article also points to what is the weakness of the movement, and something I have been hamering down since the start:
"It used to have to be verifiable facts. It seems to me as I read things now that anonymous sourcing is a way to disguise gossip," Mr. Alboim said, adding later, "People seem free in the age of all-news television to go on the air and report whatever it is they heard in the last 15 minutes."
And that's precisely my beef with them.

In spite of them chanting "Dox or STFU" and claiming that they "keep on researching Scientology every day and get more informed about it", they still have not encompassed the wealth of scholarly researches into Scientology, they still go around displaying grotesques "Scientology Kills"signs, they still peddle a typical and outdated anti-cult approach.

As I wrote already, the day I'll see Anonymous protest the ugly German discrimination with the same enthusiasm they protest the CoS abuses, I may start to believe they made some headways from classical OG (mis)representations. To this day, I have not seen that, quite on the contrary.

As for the masses who protested the "free speech abuses" of a copyrighted, leaked, out of context, video being put down the Internet, they are just as misguided and superficial.

In other words, the Anonymous movement is certainly striking. Ideas are original and inventive, the masks, the lulz, the caek... it's great! But, you know what? It also is terribly shalow.

They may be able to spread memes around cyberspace in lighting speed, but it never seems to raise above the LOLCat level.