A Quick Analysis of Recent IAS Donor Activity

Last week, Tony Ortega posted an article from a recent Scientology publication with the donors and their award levels at the “Maiden Voyage” event aboard the church’s Freewinds cruise ship.   In the article, Tony lists 300+ donors and their award levels.  We thought it would be fun to do a preliminary analysis of the numbers to see if we could learn anything.

Continue reading “A Quick Analysis of Recent IAS Donor Activity”

Nxivm Cult Meltdown Continues: New Charges, New Defendants

For some time, we’ve been following the hijinks at Nxivm, the upstate New York cult selling personal success seminars.  We have published a few articles comparing Nxivm to Scientology.  In March 2018, Nxivm cult founder Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico and returned to the US to face charges of sex slavery and human trafficking.

Nxivm cult leader Keith Raniere. Source: TimesUnion.com

In a June 12 court hearing, Raniere was denied bail, after offering an elaborate package of $10 million in cash plus offering to provide his own force of armed guards around the clock to keep him from violating any of the bail conditions. In the hearing, the prosecution remarked that a superseding indictment would be issued with additional charges against Raniere and with charges against additional defendants.

The second shoe dropped on Tuesday, June 24, with significant additional charges, and four additional defendants.  In addition to Raniere and former actress Allison Mack, the complaint added Nancy Salzman, the #2 in Nxivm and her daughter Lauren, Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman and Kathy Russell, the longtime bookkeeper for Nxivm. Most of the new charges have to do with identity theft to commit other crimes, and the indictment also says that the government is looking to seize ill-gotten gains from the scheme.  It appears that the indictment now categorizes Nxivm as an “enterprise,” language usually used to bring in the RICO statute, which enhances penalties for individual crimes when committed by an organized criminal group.

The Nxivm saga is fascinating, because it suggests that small cults can be extremely wealthy, can buy significant influence internationally, and can significantly harm members.  What’s unfolding for Nxivm is not a direct foreshadowing of what may happen to Scientology, but it does show that the government is able to unleash significant legal firepower against organizations who flout the law with such impunity once the usual government inertia has been disrupted. The impossible-to-predict issue is just when that threshold is crossed. Continue reading “Nxivm Cult Meltdown Continues: New Charges, New Defendants”

EU Court Rules Jehovah’s Witnesses Must Follow Data Protection Law: Template for Scientology?

This week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court in the EU, upheld a Finnish court decision requiring the Jehovah’s Witnesses to abide by European data privacy law when going door-to-door to preach to prospective converts.

We view this as a positive sign that the EU will allow member states to use the General Data Protection Regulation, the comprehensive privacy law enacted in May of this year, to restrict Scientology’s activities.  We published an extensive article in May that showed how Hubbard’s sacred “admin tech” mandated actions that could never be in compliance with GDPR, providing an easy way for critics and former members to affect the operations of Scientology inside the EU.

While the JWs may be able to modify their data collection practices to comply with the EU rules, we believe that Scientology will not, because all of its self-help practices depend on collection of large amounts of personal data, and there is no way for a former member to insist on return or destruction of files such as pre-clear folders.

Jehovah’s Witnesses sharing the good news in Finland on a summer day, while complying scrupulously with data protection laws. Source: JW.org.

Continue reading “EU Court Rules Jehovah’s Witnesses Must Follow Data Protection Law: Template for Scientology?”

Debunking Military Lies Part 5: The Not So Great “Battle of Cape Lookout”

Today in part 5 of our ongoing series on Hubbard’s dismal naval career, we examine the “Battle of Cape Lookout”, wherein he claims to have damaged and/or sunk two Japanese subs off the Oregon coast. It builds on the work of Chris Owen  and Jeffrey Augustine and also draws on additional official US Navy records, and refutes some of the arguments of Hubbard’s apologists that attempt to shore up his Navy record. In doing so, we may have uncovered new evidence of Hubbard falsifying events beyond those previously exposed as fiction. The events here cross the line from normal incompetence to a Walter Mitty-like delusional fantasy, where, in the space of 55 hours at the helm of the USS PC-815, Hubbard attacked two Japanese submarines that existed only in his imagination. The narratives that emerge from this event provide a powerful foreshadowing of Hubbard’s pattern of lies, self aggrandizing fantasy and fraudulent conduct that would define so much of his later life, especially in regards to his military service.

In many ways, the events that occur over the roughly 80 days of Hubbard’s command of the USS PC-815, a PC-461 class patrol vessel and his subsequent spin on these events, provides more fodder in perpetuating all the myths, lies, half-truths and fraudulent misrepresentations Hubbard repeats ad nauseum about his previous 3 years in the Pacific.  In our usual fashion, we’ll be providing additional analysis and historical context to the existing record in deconstructing and exposing the fantasy that was his fight off the Oregon coast over the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of May, 1943.  We’ll also expose what we believe is an attempt to cover up specific incidents of Hubbard’s incompetence and his crew’s negligence that could have proved fatal. It makes for a rather interesting wartime tale, a tale rife with incompetence and as his after-action report demonstrates, a level of histrionics that reflects typical Hubbardian shirking and unconscionable scapegoating and badmouthing of his fellow officers. Continue reading “Debunking Military Lies Part 5: The Not So Great “Battle of Cape Lookout””

Hubbard’s “Art Series:” Numbing the Brain; Destroying Creativity to Serve the Cult

This week, we look at L. Ron Hubbard’s laughable attempts to define “art” and to tell his followers how to create it.  Some of what he says makes sense, when considered outside of Scientology, but when it’s taken inside the cult, the definition of art takes on a more sinister meaning.  Today, we look at how Hubbard’s ideas of art are just another form of totalitarian control, sublimating the creative impulses many of us have in service to the cult and its leaders, just as many cults twist normal sexual behavior.

We also look at how Hubbard used the “Art Series” as just another dimension in trying to set himself up as the Smartest Guy Ever, an expert in everything.  Of course, his theories of aesthetics are just as lame as his theories about physics (just how warm it is in the Van Allen belt, among many howlers), evolution (he believed in the Piltdown Man, long after it was widely suspected of being a hoax) and medicine (smoking cures cancer).
Continue reading “Hubbard’s “Art Series:” Numbing the Brain; Destroying Creativity to Serve the Cult”

Debunking Military Lies, Part 4: Hubbard’s Fibs and Follies Afloat

In Part Three, we looked at Hubbard’s return home from Australia and the associated mythology surrounding this journey, as well as uncovering the truth about his alleged use of Pan American’s Philippine Clipper to get from Brisbane to Honolulu and on to San Francisco.

In Part Four, we turn to Hubbard’s brief time as a cable censor, his disastrous first attempt at command and his eventual admission to the Submarine Chaser Training Center (SCTC) in Florida. We’ll look at Hubbard’s record as associated with the converted fishing trawler Mist, eventually recommissioned as the coastal patrol craft USS YP-442, as well as the Church of Scientology’s claims about his combat record in the Battle of the Atlantic. I’d like to once again thank Chris Owen in particular for his previous research, which was invaluable to me in providing much of the historical context for this post.  Continue reading “Debunking Military Lies, Part 4: Hubbard’s Fibs and Follies Afloat”

Will GDPR Really be Scientology’s Achilles Heel?

The European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) suite took effect yesterday, May 25, 2018.  We look at what it might mean to Scientology, and how activists might use it as an avenue to bring about positive change in the organization, or, if Scientology is not serious about complying with the rules, how they might be hamstrung (but not shut down) by the GDPR.

I did extensive work on the potential impact of the GDPR on US-based companies in 2016 and early 2017, and this discussion is based on that work as well as other research about earlier investigations by European regulators into Scientology’s privacy practices.

Scientology’s antiquated paper-based recordkeeping practices, mandated by founder L. Ron Hubbard’s holy writ, cannot ever hope to comply with the GDPR.  The cult’s belief that it’s inherently above “wog” law means that it probably won’t make a meaningful attempt to comply.  That exposes Scientology to the highest level of penalties, a minimum fine of €20 million, reserved for chronic violation of the rules and for not taking them seriously. But while Scientology is exposed, we think regulators will have much larger fish to fry in the early days following GDPR enactment to pay attention to the cult. We discuss the specifics of what will happen when the regulators do turn their eyes onto Scientology’s privacy practices in the future.

Some commenters have suggested that GDPR could be a mortal blow to the Scientology organization, either globally or broadly across the European part of the operation. We strongly disagree. We do believe that the cult can be significantly hobbled in Europe but even the assessment of the maximum penalties and a high degree of oversight by regulators will not cause Scientology to shutter its doors.   We discuss how activists against Scientology can use GDPR to hamstring the organization, even if it will not be driven entirely out of business.

Continue reading “Will GDPR Really be Scientology’s Achilles Heel?”

Debunking Military Lies Part 3: Hubbard Fibs His Way Home

In Part 3, we’ll look at the controversy surrounding Hubbard’s departure and travel back to the United States from Brisbane, Australia, using some of the same previously cited sources from Parts 1 and 2 along with public records, such as those of the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) and the Pan American Airways archive held by the University of Miami. I want to especially thank Jeffrey Augustine for laying much of the groundwork as to possible avenues for Hubbard’s travel home, specifically in response to Margaret Lake’s assertions as to this timeframe on her Scientology Myths blog. Ms. Lake attempts to demonstrate that much of Hubbard’s narrative about his return home from Australia is essentially true, and we’ll be rigorously challenging her claims as to the veracity of Hubbard’s narrative.

In researching her claims, I have come across empirical evidence that negates much of her argument, specifically the timeline of his return, his having called upon Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to facilitate his return and his having used a Pan American Clipper for the entire journey to the United States. A major point of contention is where Hubbard was in the 14 days in between his departure from Brisbane on March 9th, and his arrival in San Francisco on March 23rd. I will provide a detailed examination of this timeframe, as well as show how Hubbard used duplicity, in the form of forged official orders, to steal a seat on a Clipper to fly home from Honolulu.

What emerges from my work is a hybrid narrative that like many of Hubbard’s stories, narratives and anecdotes, reflects some truth among the many lies. This particular series of events is important in Hubbard’s mythology. By debunking the veracity of Hubbard’s tale here, we are also debunking the very foundations of Scientology. Like his fanciful narrative of espionage on Java and saving Australia, his homeward-bound odyssey reflects his hubris and predisposition to constantly exceed his authority. More sinisterly, it shows his selfishness and cowardice, as in falsifying orders to return home from Honolulu via air, he undoubtedly bumped a more deserving fellow serviceman, or worse, a military dependent or other, more worthy passenger, as well as avoiding a potentially hazardous journey by ship.

It’s clear from Part 2 in our series that Hubbard’s brief time in Australia was a disaster, and certainly a far cry from both his and Scientology’s narrative of his single handedly saving our Antipodean allies from the ravages of Imperial Japan. If anything, the record demonstrates that he was considered a self-aggrandizing nuisance incapable of executing the few tasks he was given; his response to charges of incompetence reflects what would be a pattern throughout his life, wherein he would never admit fault or would blame others for his own failings, shirking responsibility wherever possible. Continue reading “Debunking Military Lies Part 3: Hubbard Fibs His Way Home”

What is it With Cults and Punctuation? Nxivm and Scientology Spelling Scams Revealed

I’ve been following with interest the implosion of the Nxivm cult, an Albany, New York-based group that saw its founder arrested for charges of sex slavery and brought back from hiding in Mexico.

There are some parallels between Nxivm and Scientology, in terms of a charismatic founder run amok, harnessing of celebrities to recruit, and an insatiable thirst for more money.  We’ve already covered one set of parallels between the two groups, in an earlier look at childhood education “breakthroughs” to solve common educational problems and instill super powers in the minds of the kids.  But there are also key differences.  The core purpose of Nxivm seemed to be to serve as the “babe farm” to supply sex partners to founder Keith Raniere, and while money was important, it was not the be-all for the group.  Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard appeared to be relatively if not completely faithful to his wife Mary Sue while he was involved in Scientology.  Scientology seems to be more about the cash, as has been extensively documented everywhere; they seem to leave few stones unturned in an attempt to exact every last penny possible from members.  But perhaps most of all, Scientology is about control of the minutiae of the lives of members and, especially, of staff, whose lives are controlled to the utmost degree.

Today, we’ll look at an amusing coincidence: how punctuation forms the basis of major money-raising campaigns in both Nxivm and Scientology.  Why is punctuation so fascinating to cults, especially in an era where punctuation skills seem to be in steep decline in the world at large?  Continue reading “What is it With Cults and Punctuation? Nxivm and Scientology Spelling Scams Revealed”

Debunking Military Lies Part 2: Hubbard’s Australian Idyll

In Part 1 of this series, we were able to demonstrate that any claim of L. Ron Hubbard’s having been a spy in Java were demonstrably false. Like much of the myths around Hubbard’s life, his Java claims were really unnecessary in the grand scheme of things; it’s as though his many legitimate accomplishments were never enough, and when it came to anything remotely connected to the military or intelligence matters, gold plating his exploits was a must. The record shows that he volunteered to serve his country in a time of war, was deployed to combat theatre, and once there, could have made a contribution. Yet this reality wasn’t enough for Hubbard, and he would go on to exaggerate and lie about his Pacific service for many more years. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll be looking at his time in Australia as reflected in the record and then compare the record, historical context and other data points to Hubbard’s recollections. Continue reading “Debunking Military Lies Part 2: Hubbard’s Australian Idyll”