Saturday, February 14, 2009

Other News Redux

My idea to group all the news I did not have time to comment did not work so well.

For one thing, it defeats the purpose I started this blog in the first place: to be able to assign each news to a category. For another thing, it just takes about as much time to write a single paragraph in a post as it does for grouped posts. And a third reason is that sometimes I write about something I don't think is particularly important and it turns out to be something popular (or reversely).

Thus I have now reverted to "spamming" my own blog... I try to stick to the initial purpose of this blog, which was mostly to be able to trace back news for myself, and possibly comments them along the way. That some people have gotten interested in my selection of news and my comments, and that it also has become a way of interacting with others, should not really mean I should depart from that initial purpose. I guess people can just skip whatever title they are not interested in.

Still trying to find my way through this new media...

Touretzky's Strange "Secrets" Sub-Directory

Strange that Dave Touretzky has a sub-directory on his "Secrets" page with pics of of Barbara Schwartz.\

Why would he bother at all? And why put such a sub-directory in such a place?

RoadRunner says that a pic from this directory used against BS has been "fixed twice". By all means, based on other pictures I have seen of BS, she indeed does not look like that at

Stoning Victim 'Begged for Mercy'

A terrible story - all condoned officially under the name of "religion"

Warning - not for the faint of heart...

BBC NEWS | Africa | Stoning victim 'begged for mercy'

Anti-psych ARS Spam Mostly Dead

There's been some message from an ex-bot anti-psychiatry poster recently in ARS to the effect she realized the wrong she was doing. If just the Trudy bot is left to spam ARS, the message may have been a genuine one.

PS - note how the "circle jerks" page referenced below mixes actual spammers with dissenters to the critics cause.

Anti-psych circlejerk mostly dead - alt.religion.scientology | Google Groups:
"After eight years or so, it looks like they've faded away, leaving the
Trudybot talking to itself.

They used to have four or five identities at any one time replying to each
other, now down to one robot poster."

Critical Fora and Free Speech

I don't usually agree with Barbara Schwarz on many things but I think she has a point when it comes to supposedly open critical fora. In my opinion, people like Andreas Heldal-Lund and Emma have failed to abide by their own free speech claims (and of course the WhyWeProtest and the IRC channel jokes).

ARS is currently the only forum that can be said to be truly free-speech abiding, and that's because it simply is impossible for anybody to enforce any rules there apart for mathematically determined spam. It also is the only critical forum where actual discussion is possible, and really the only forum worth reading for that reason alone.

I have to agree with Barbara here - spam and odd behavior is just the price to pay for free speech, and in that ARS is way better than any of the critical fora.

These moderated forums like ESMB, MBCB, XSO or WHYWEPROTEST show the very cultic side of the Scientology haters - alt.religion.scientology | Google Groups

Jason McElway, Autistic Basketball Hero

There's been a lot of talks about autism during the Jett Travolta's tragedy. Jett may have been autistic, and he liked sport too. Just like this guy. Autism is a bit of a mystery to me, and that video below juts kind of deepen that mystery further.

Thanks to Scientologist Stan Dubin for pointing it out.

YouTube - Jason McElway, Autistic Basketball Hero

No Way to Happiness

I do not like this book promoted by Scientologists: "The Way to Happiness". Why? Because it sets out a moral code, and I think this is the anti-thesis of Scientology itself. People are supposed to know for themselves what is "good" and not as they "get back their self-determinism". Why have a book about it that sets such a code? I think the book is nothing more than a form of proselytism, seeking to make Scientology acceptable and respectable by the society at large. It really isn't Scientology as such.

My Scientology Blog: A Human Rights/Educational Program worth supporting

Postulates and Positive Thinking

Links Scientology postulates with positive thinking.

The LIFE Repairman: How to Have Things Go Your Way

Scientology and Freemasonry

Tom Newton has a comparison between anti-Scientology attacks and anti-Freemasons ones.

Some of his claim I agree with, others I don't. Overall, I think it is stretching it a bit.


What I agree with:
The anti-Scientologists and the anti-Freemasons are both quick to tell the public that they are merely "critics" and not "against" the respective organization. These "critics" invariably end up hawking books, audio and video tapes, and CDs, in which they extol the the "truth" that you can get from them.
Actually that's not what they claim. Anonymous claims to be against the organization but not necessarily against the tenets. However, I agree with Tom that such a claim is hypocritical, because that's not what they end up doing.
neither group of critics have anything to do with spreading the truth, but have everything to do with emotion based appeals, fear, paranoia, and the systematic demonization of their targets.
It's a bit black and white as a position, because Scientology critics do in fact present facts and a position from the other side, but it is true that many of them end up just using emotion based appeals, fear and paranoia. It's sad, actually - and they don't even realize what they are doing.
These claims are being made about by Anonymous right now, as they attempt to prove that anti-Scientology books are being "banned" or censored by the "Scientology controlled" publisher. This same illogic is applied to, which is "in the pocket of Scientology" as many anti-Scientologists will readily attest.
It's classic - as independent entities don't align with the debunked claims of critics, the later switch to conspiracy mode, accusing them to be bought by the all-powerful CoS.

It's of course hypocritical as well for critics to protest about banning and censorship when in fact they excel at it in their supposedly "open" fora.

What I disagree with:
Both cases are notoriously impossible to confirm or deny, which makes it easy for the critics to convince their followers that it is the truth [...]

Whether the "Xenu" myth will be exposed for what it is is irrelevant. The hoax which "exposed" the Freemasons was debunked a long time ago, yet the belief still persists thanks to the tireless efforts of "critics" who have agendas beyond telling the "truth".
Tom Newton seems to doubt that story of Xenu is not really what is taught at the OT III level. I am pretty confident that it is. The presentation of critics are correct in that respect. What critics do wrong, of course, is to claim that this represents the core belief of Scientology and then present Scientology as if that was what Scientologists actually believe Scientology is. I would not claim it is irrelevant to reveal these levels, because it has its utility, but critics should put in the correct context.

I don't know anything about the Freemasons claims but doubt it is what they really believe as well and would accept the idea that this claim has been debunked (though I have no time or interest to investigate this further). That critics continue to perpetrate debunked myths, however, is something I can see indeed among Scientology critics as well.

A Novel idea:
The critics insist that one should "investigate both sides" before making up one's mind about joining said organization. That sounds very objective and reasonable. Why shouldn't one investigate "both sides"? Well, for one, because there are not "two sides", except in the minds of the "critics" and their customers. This is one of the primary logical fallacies used by "critics" because it enables them to attach themselves to their target. [...]

They want the general public to believe that their side is somehow comparable, and that they represent "the other side of the story". This is just one aspect of how these parasites mislead the public.
I don't quite get at what Tom is hinting at here. Theat there are no two-sides or that they are not comparable? Critics are indeed parasites. They would not exist if Scientology did not exist, and they have no philosophy of their own to oppose to that of the CoS, but does it mean that alternative presentations they make have no validity and that it does not represent "the other side"? I don't think so. There is quite a bit of truth in what they say. The main problem is the context in which they use the information.

France Slowly Waking Up?

Slowly, anti-cult oriented governments seem to increasingly realize the error of their ways. I pointed out already the surprising comments from German officials rejecting a ban on Scientology, and the subsequent distrust of organizations such as the one led by Ursula Caberta.

Some signs point to France going in the same direction, as they sternly admonish the anti-cult organization Mivuludes for trying to come up with a similar list of cults as the one that brought France in trouble in the past. The Ministry of Interior points to the effect Human Rights violation reports from the US about France have had, but also similar reports from the European OSCE (Organization for the security and Cooperation in Europe).

In French:

Danièle Gounord » Blog Archive » Une nouvelle « liste Noire » en préparation:
"Selon l’article, La Ministre de l’Intérieur fait part, dans ce courrier adressé à François fillon, de son « étonnement » face à ce changement de cap de la part de la Miviludes, « sans concertation interministérielle préalable », et pointe sévèrement du doigt la démarche : atteinte à la liberté de conscience, retour en arrière, fragilisation de la France sur la scène européenne et internationale, pointée du doigt, notamment, à chaque rapport du département d’Etat américain, mais aussi de l’OSCE (Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe) sur son intransigeance en matière de liberté religieuse."

Debunking Hypnosis Myths

Anti-Cult Controversies: Debunking Hypnosis Myths
However, instead of looking at current data, Lerma chooses to refer to an outdated 1956 handbook by a science fiction writer, A E Van Vogt that makes all kinds of arbitrary, unsupported assertions, stating them as if they were facts that Lerma appears to uncritically swallow whole. Sounds like someone needs to come up to present time and look at current research. [...]

In fact, what the much more recent actual research (as opposed to the proclamations of a sci fi writer) have shown is that people respond just as well to suggestions outside of hypnosis as they do under hypnosis. Of course, one trick of the pseudoscientists is to expand the definition of hypnosis so it includes just about everything in life, to it can then be invoked any time they want to show someone was under undue influence of hypnosis.

Although I never brought into some of the more extreme versions Lerma appears to buy into, I once bought into the theory that people are put into a "trance" state during Scientology's TR-0 that makes them more suggestible to whatever else goes on. This was before I became aware of the large body of literature on hypnosis that thankfully, one of the researchers on hypnosis cited in the Scientific American Article, Steven Jay Lynn, made me aware of. I had the opportunity to have a chat with Lynn on this topic and I later read, wrote and published a review of his excellent book on the empirical evidence on hypnosis, entitled Essentials of Clinical Hypnosis: An Evidence-Based Approach. I highly recommend people read this book, along with the Scientific American article to get a more accurate picture of what hypnosis can do and not do.

Virtuoso Reality

Interesting article about John McLaughlin's existential search and its influence through his music:

Virtuoso reality - Music - Entertainment - Home -
"Corea lived near McLaughlin in New York in 1969 and they socialised regularly, discussing Sufism, Hinduism, yoga, Scientology and more. "We have this common heritage where we were both searching existentially," McLaughlin says, "and this breeds a certain kind of complicity. So to play with Chick is a very special kind of pleasure for both of us.""

Operation Chaniversary in Sydney.

Good balanced article on the upcoming Feb. 14 protest in Sydney - dubbed Operation Chaniversary.

Anonymous gears up for anniversary protest:
Internet collective Anonymous will take to Sydney's streets on Saturday in a protest marking the one-year anniversary of its battle with Scientology.

Similar protests will take place in over 100 other cities around the world in what is being dubbed "Operation Chaniversary".
"Sustained" in the paragraph below is the word. Though numbers have dropped, anons did keep at it on a regular basis for a year:
It's the latest stunt in one of the strangest protests in recent history, which has seen a disparate bunch of internet denizens launch a sustained assault on the controversial, celebrity-studded religion.
Anonymous more a meme than a group as such:
Anonymous is difficult to define, being more an internet "meme" than a group as such.
The split personality of Anonymous:
"Unfortunately enthusiasm for the campaign has certainly dulled … a lot of people are saying it's no longer Anonymous at all."

Much of what Anonymous does is "trolling" or "griefing", which involves causing trouble for a target through prank phone calls, hacks and other means, often illegal. [...]

But with the protest against Scientology, some Anons had found "serious business" that was just as important as "lulz", a term that roughly translates to having a laugh at someone else's expense.
Anonymous does take care that no one gets hurt, at least not physically. Psychologically, they do hurt innocent people through stalking, though:
"The way we protest goes back to our roots as trolls, but we make sure keep it legal and make sure no-one gets hurt," the Sydney-based Anon said.
I don't really believe anons get paid for protesting, though I am not quite sure what people like the Gay Pope mean when they say that they are paid to protest Scientology.
"We've found some of the kids who have been involved in the Anonymous protests, we've been told by some of them that they get $20 to come along to the demo," Ms Dunstan.
I believe the following is true. Some people realized that they acted out of ignorance and prejudice, and are sorry for their hurtful actions. Of course, they are afraid to come up publicly with it, lest they be the target of anonymous self-boasted "darker side". As I pointed earlier, the CoS is also trying to capitalize on the curiosity created by the protests to try and get their line across, using "know more about it before you criticize" line.
Ms Dunstan says several former Anonymous members have since approached the church to learn more about its creed and, in some cases, to apologise.
Finally, the article ends on an ironical statement. "There is life outside." Life outside? Coming from people who choose to spend their Valentine day protesting Scientology and who have been busy at it for over a year? Anons really live in the shadow of Scientology, and are about as much entangle with it as members, except that they of course don't benefit from its positive aspects:
"It's a complicated issue, but they're the yin to our yang pretty much. They are great people, but we're just hoping they realise there's a life outside that wants them back," he said.

Pith in the Wind

So the Feb. 7 disastrous low-number protests were not the one-year anniversary one? Ok, we'll see if they can do better this Feb. 14.

Frankly, I can think of so many better things to do on Valentine day than display ignorance and hatred for a minority religion.

Nashville - Nashville Scene - Pith in the Wind - Anti-Scientology Group Anonymous Wants You to Wear a Funny Mask this Valentine's Day:
"This year, forget the flowers and box of chocolates. Since nothing's tackier than a cliched Valentine's Day gift--and because your beloved is a unique little snowflake and wants to be treated as such--why not spend the day dressed up as Natalie Portman's sidekick in 'V for Vendetta' and yelling at Operating Thetans (Bonus points if you spot a Level VIII)?

You know, quality time.

Nashville's version of Anonymous, the one-year-old Rick Rollin' Scientology haters, are planning an 11 AM VDay protest and (of course) they'd like you to join them.

Related blog entries: -NashvilleOrg-

A Trip Down Scientology Lane

Light article about someone taking the opportunity of an open house to visit a Church of Scientology. My notes:

The Daily Texan - A trip down Scientology lane

Again, the CoS capitalizes on the curiosity generated by protests to invite people to know more about Scientology:
When I saw that the Church of Scientology, a religion started by a best-selling science fiction author, was having an open house, I seized the chance to hear their message.

My partner in crime, Katie, and I were greeted by a pair of Scientologists who asked us if we would like to take a free personality or IQ test. My first test of the semester administered by Scientologists? Why not?[...]
The pair had a good test, so the line is not "Scientology can help you with that", the line is "You are top and Scientology can help you make best use of your potential":
The Scientologist tallied up our scores and told us we fell into the “top 10 percent” — whatever that meant. [...]

She went on to say doctors, executives and other high-paid professionals made up the top 10 percent. [...]

Being in the elite bracket meant we had the potential to do anything we wanted in life — we just had to learn how to fulfill that potential.
Introductory courses are fairly cheap, which allows the CoS to get their line accross better, and of course start their indoctrination in parallel too:
Just our luck, Scientology just happened to offer the answers, and they just happened to come in the form of classes the church offers for a nominal fee, starting at $35.
Again, the CoS capitalizes on the curiosity generated by critics: the e-meter! An opportunity to try it out:
She asked if we wanted to try it, and I eagerly volunteered
Strangely the auditor could not get a needle reaction from the two:
“You’ve got a very stress-free life,” she told me, finally giving up.
Of course, the reaction by the CoS was not what was expected by people who would read all kinds of strange allegations on the net and the media:
There was no talk of Xenu, thetans or soul catchers during our visit.
And this open-minded and bright couple eventually came up with the right conclusion:
In the end, the Church of Scientology was a lot like any other church, and Scientologists were just like everyone else — looking for some meaning in life.
Really, that really is all what it is. Yes, Scientology is cultish, but so are many other religions and philosophies. I would not recommend Scientology because of its cultic aspect, but it just isn't the monster critics make it out to be. Critics in fact do a great service to Scientology by making it a monster. When people get the other side of the story and see that it just is not what was depicted to them, they may start listening...

Scientology Counter-Attacks at Cal Poly Campus

The CoS seems to be currently using the wave of interest raised by protests to promote Scientology.

The motto is "what people criticize is not Scientology. People should know more about it in order to criticize. We want to dispel rumors and misconceptions".

I call this Scientology "counter-attack".

An example is below, and a video excerpt, with a good sample of feedback is on Youtube at

Speaker comes ready to explain, defend Scientology - News
Scientology, the religion that has grabbed mainstream attention thanks to its celebrity followers, sparked curiosity on the Cal Poly campus last night as a church leader came to clear up what he calls misconceptions surrounding the religion.

More than 100 students attended the speech, which was sponsored by Cal Poly Theisms. As seats filled up, many attendants stood while others watched a broadcast in an adjacent room. [...]

He also cued up clips from a DVD aimed to help clarify some Scientology concepts. [...]

"I have heard every strange thing and misconception there is about the Church of Scientology, so it's hard to shock me," he said.

Holzinger said he is aware of the rumors and controversy Scientology breeds and he wants to dispel some of the negativity by discussing what Scientologists actually believe and practice.