Programming note:Today is the beginning of the US Thanksgiving Day holiday, a celebration of all things truly American: hours of epic gluttony followed by sitting in front of the television watching people in colorful armored uniforms colliding vigorously with each other, playing a slightly different version of “football” than that practiced in most other countries.
The next day is an even bigger holiday, and it is even more uniquely American. Called “Black Friday,” people flock to shopping malls at improbably early hours to run up the balance on their credit cards, spending money they don’t actually have to buy the latest soon-to-be-obsolete consumer electronics gadgets and tons of clothes to overload their already bulging closets.
Thanksgiving is a little different for us in Global Capitalism HQ, however: the supermodels are not so big on the gluttony aspect and have no understanding of American football. But they sure know how to shop for clothes on Black Friday. So they spend Thursday stretching, practicing their martial arts moves, and checking the traction of their running shoes to make sure they can corner nimbly in the aisles at Barneys and all those trendy little boutiques in the Village to beat out all the other supermodels racing for the best deals. When it comes to bone-crunching collisions, American football players have nothing on the supermodels going for a half-off Vera Wang number on the “better dresses” floor at Bergdorf’s. They won’t have me to supervise them; the jet has already jetted off to the ancestral homeland, where I’ll be communing with the waves of coniferous trees at the Capitalist Parents’ waterfront estate and eating healthy.
To each his own. And however you celebrate this holiday, I hope it’s with good friends and family!
Naturally, the last word on Black Friday comes from none other than Steely Dan… I dedicate this to all of you who may be working retail tomorrow, long hours at low pay:
Technical note:I’ve been experimenting with the format of the blog a bit. This may continue for some time to come as time permits. Each new “theme” package comes with some lame picture for the top, so the default photo up on tonight’s post is not at all meaningful and will be replaced by something artistic when I have a chance.
Today’s news seems to be focused on the new Mark VIII e-meter, with some commenters noting that it bears more than a passing resemblance to the recently redesigned Kenner Easy-Bake Oven. Some say that this is because Ideo, the legendary design firm that did tons of iconic products over the years including many for Apple, did both products. In a comment on Mike Rinder’s blog, not yet moderated by press time, I said that the design of the new e-meter isn’t half bad, and could well have been done by Ideo. And I’m actually serious. The good design doesn’t excuse the stupidity of leaving this thing in a warehouse for a decade or a lot of other mistakes in the GAT2 rollout, but it’s not bad design by itself.
Also, life seems to have dealt Mr. Thomas C. Mapother IV a mixed bag today.
I normally don’t like to do something that looks like I might be tooting my own horn, but there were a couple comments on my blog in the last 24 hours that I thought were worth calling your attention to.
Eclipse-girl wondered how I got an estimate of 500 to 700 Scientologists in Germany when the German government’s official count was about 4,000. I went through a detailed discussion in my reply. This might be a useful read as we start to go through and build up an estimate of membership.
Tony’s blog post today contained the regular Tuesday feature with Claire Headley (recently joined by longtime top ranked auditor Bruce Hines) taking us “up the bridge,” going through all the materials for each level. Today’s OT 2 stuff basically sounds like pages and pages of Orwellian “word salad” that sure looks like the goal is to scramble any remaining critical thinking skills.
There’s also a status update on the depositions in the Monique Rathbun case. The next court date is December 11. They’ve gotten depositions from cult execs Warren McShane and Allen Cartwright, plus defendants Monty Drake and Steven Sloat. Tommy Davis is scheduled for December 4 in Austin and Leah Remini is still not scheduled.
My take: Some of these statements, including the first few, which read:
1. To Die is To Live
2. To Live is to Die
3. To Surrender is to Victimize
4. To Victimize is to Surrender
5. To Lose is to Win
… all suggest that somebody was reading a little too much George Orwell when they wrote all this stuff. Perhaps one could envision these chiseled on the wall at the Super Power building, which, given its foreboding footprint on its lot, resembles the immense
Ministry of Truth building in 1984 but with a pseudo-Mediterranean Disney-esque paint job. Even skimming this list without holding the cans, I can see my synapses frying like an egg on a hot griddle.
Regarding the depositions in Monique Rathbun case, it would be delightful fun to read Warren McShane’s deposition, given that I seem to recall a quote from Miscavige to the effect of how he loved it when Warren testified because he is the best liar on the management team. And I would certainly pay money (though I wouldn’t go so far as to hock the Global Capitalism HQ jet) to see the video of Tommy Davis’s deposition, just to watch him get “really angry!”
Some of the comments that riff on other trending topics are the best payload of Tony’s story today.
Mike picked up on the commenter from Tony’s blog who noticed the resemblance between the new Mark VIII Super-De-Duper and the recently restyled Easy-Bake Oven. One commenter claims that these two products were done by the same design firm, the one that has done a lot of work for Apple.
Mike also published an interesting Valley Ideal Org flyer (which a tipster originally sent me a couple of days ago). The first thing you see is the word “Command” at the top. It’s all about how DM is commanding you to get the Valley Org done. Not about how great it will be for those about to throng the doorway to learn about Scientology, nor what it will do for existing public. It’s all about how you can obey him.
Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)
WWP discusses new “rules” for owning an e-meter, including a clause that says you can only own one if you remain in good standing. Not sure how enforceable that is, but nice try… Also, it might be interesting to see if the requirement that you have a current annual or lifetime IAS membership before being allowed to buy a meter constitutes “tying” under anti-trust law.
Some celebrity press are running a story “linking” Tom Cruise to Scientologist actress Laura Prepon. Unfortunately, she’s already 33, the age at which Cruise divorced all three of his wives. Apparently, they have had two or three dates. No word yet on whether the set decorators at Harpo Studios, Oprah’s production company, have reinforced the internal structure of whatever couch her guests are sitting on at the moment.
Some press reports are coming in that Tom Cruise’s lawyers in the Bauer Media libel suit failed in their bid to admit “evidence” that Bauer Media has Nazi connections. Sounds like a fairly clumsy attempt to try to increase the heat on the defendant at home. The judge said this was completely irrelevant to the case, though the order is appealable; no word on whether Cruise’s attorneys will do so.
Shameless plug: An earlier post today highlights a poster listing the most common logical fallacies in persuasive writing. Read this carefully every day for a week or two and you will find yourself making fewer logical mistakes in your own writing, and you will have great fun seeing what gaping errors people make in the arguments they use to sell you stuff, get you to vote for them, etc.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Today’s post reports that Leah Remini was officially declared a Suppressive Person by the cult. While the biggest wave of actual disconnections has already taken place, this move is yet another own goal by Miscavige since it gives the Hollywood gossip press another chance to revisit the disconnection story, just when it was starting to die down a bit.
My take: As Mike Rinder points out in the article, the fact that Tom Cruise didn’t have to disconnect from Suri when Katie Holmes divorced him has probably rankled many ordinary Scientologists who have been forced to disconnect from wives, parents and kids when they blew. So with typical Miscavige ham-handedness, he’s going to “make an example” of Leah by not cutting her any slack.
It seems to me that this is yet another situation where Miscavige has boxed himself in with arbitrary decisions in the past to accomplish whatever short term goal he had in mind at the time, which then limit his flexibility in dealing with the present. His inability to think clearly about potential unintended consequences of his actions is a crippling flaw that would have, if present in a CEO of a real company, caused him to be fired long ago.
OrangySky points out that people now believe what the cult is capable of, versus law enforcement in the Paulette Cooper days simply being unable to fathom that a “religion” would do what they did. So if they start leaking PC folder data from Leah to the press, she figures people will jump to (correct) conclusions as to its source.
Sam Domingo expresses, with typical British wit, one of the myriad ways celebs might leave the cult: “In the game of rescuing culties from themselves there will be those who insist on having their remains scraped up off the floor or leaving it up to the cult to ship them out in body bags.”
George Diaz dredges up a quote I haven’t seen before. Apparently, Miscavige promised to “handle” Anonymous in two weeks. Must be two weeks on some gas giant planet around a distant star that he flew by in one of his whole track incarnations.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Mike’s first post today reprints a letter from a longtime “field auditor,” who remains in the cult due to family connection and fear of disconnection. He complains that the new Golden Age of Dreck 2 is so awful that it’s put him back at square one. He’s wondering what to do next… I am sure some people here can come up with helpful suggestions, though it’s probably tough to formulate a pithy suggestion we haven’t already heard a few times.
Mike’s second post raises an interesting possibility: given that Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez are BFF’s, would Miscavige order J Lo’s father to disconnect from her if she continues to hang out with Leah? Technically, according to Mike, she’s guilty of a “suppressive act” which could get Dad in trouble.
Today’s article estimated “crowds” for the GAT2 launch video event in J’Burg at 300 to 500, down substantially from the 800 they got in 2005 opening the Johannesburg Ideal Org, versus 1,200 confirmations on Facebook. Pretoria supposedly had about 120 as did Durban. Wonder if they had any seat fillers, which according to earlier comments on that blog, were used in the past at some events.
Apparently, the cult’s German membership base has dwindled to the point that the watchdog BFV (Agency for the Protection of the Constitution) has stopped monitoring it, despite protests from some German states. BFV officials base the decisions on what they estimate as 4,000 members in the country, though that seems rather high versus what we think is a more reasonable estimate of 500 to 700. Interestingly, some BFV offices say that the cult is trying to lure new members through “hidden Internet portals.” Craigslist, anyone?
From a few days ago, Huffington Post ran an article about local Clearwater fundamentalist Christian pastors complaining that Scientology “serves a false god.” A fairly lame “my God can beat up your God” article, but nice use of some of the aerial shots that may have come from Rinder & Bennitt. Some fairly amusing comments, though.
Summary: We present a handy chart that an Alert Reader passed along with the most common logical fallacies in building arguments. If you master and apply the material on this one page, you will amaze and impress (and probably also intimidate) your friends with your brilliance. And by being able to spot errors in others’ analysis, you win the right to denounce their work with an air of haughty derision, and you spare yourself the embarrassment of potentially spouting inaccurate twaddle if you believe what they said.
Fair disclosure, though: your new-found command of logic may not make it easier for you to hit on supermodels (whichever flavor is most appealing to you) in trendy Manhattan clubs. Don’t ask me how I know this.
The first place to check: One of the most important things to do in analysis is to spot fallacies in your own reasoning and in that of others. It takes a lot of time to nitpick through all the data, making sure it is accurate and relevant to the argument. But it is often not necessary, because logical flaws can undermine an argument and they’re usually much faster to spot.
To become a more powerful writer, if you look for fallacies when you edit your work before publishing it, you can save yourself tons of embarrassment when one of your Alert Readers catches you at it. And you will discover that you become more persuasive, as well. Even if your readers don’t formally deconstruct your logic, people have enough understanding of logic that they’ll feel uncomfortable about your argument, even if they can’t specifically name the particular fallacy you used.
Honest mistakes: Sometimes, people make honest mistakes in the way they construct an argument. That’s especially true in areas where people have a high degree of personal involvement, emotional or economic, to a particular outcome.
To make sure you don’t do this, it’s wise to learn the art of clearing your mind and pretending that you’ve never seen the document before that you just wrote. If you can pretend that you’re about to edit someone else’s writing, it’s a lot easier to step out of the passion that guided you to write something, which may obscure logical flaws in your argument. Passion is actually welcome in analysis, because it reflects the analyst’s level of conviction in his thesis, but it is only effective when it surfs on top of a logical and well-constructed argument. Passion on top of logical idiocy gives political speech like we have today.
Dishonest mistakes: Other times, people will intentionally use logical fallacies to “sell” a point of view that wouldn’t be supported by evidence. This is particularly common in politics. For example, many news organizations strive to report balance by reporting the political opposition’s view of a circumstance. When Democrats accuse Republicans of something, in many cases, Republicans will reply by talking about how Democrats do the same thing, or something they believe is worse. That’s a logical fallacy, and once you recognize it, it’s possible to keep the attention focused on the matter at hand.
How to Lose the Argument Before it Begins
There are several different categories of logical fallacies, relating to:
The structure of the argument (i.e., whether the reasoning to get from the evidence to the conclusion) is correct;
The evidence used in construction of the argument (too much anecdote, too little, etc.);
Intentional or willful distractions from a flawed argument (attacking the speaker, etc).
People intuitively know that an argument via an ad hominem attack is inherently a confession that the argument probably doesn’t have enough weight to stand on its own. Few people are ever convinced by such argument that weren’t already true believers. That’s why, though I may make legitimate mistakes in logic, I work very hard to avoid any of this deceitful, intentional reasoning error in anything I write.
Programming note:We’re back in the saddle after a couple of days off due to an exhausting trip plus commitments that ran way late on Saturday night. We’ll be putting out Digests for tonight through Wednesday night inclusive and we’ll be off for the US Thanksgiving holiday (our annual date with gluttony, for readers outside the US who are unfamiliar). We’ll resume daily publication on Saturday night.
More details of the Golden Age of Dreck 2 release are emerging, as well as abundant evidence that the cult is going into overdrive to get people to come into their local orgs to see the videos of the events. The prose is more purple, the promises are more extravagant, and the testimonials are more over the top than ever before.
Last night, the cult held a video viewing event in Manhattan. The tipster who e-mailed me the flyer was unable to attend, on account of being a declared SP (a minor impediment in the staff’s eternal quest to be upstat by inviting tons of people). The most notable detail is that the event was held not at the NYC org’s “chapel” but at the Washington Irving High School auditorium. That’s the biggest auditorium of any of the NYC schools. They did this because renting from the school district is dramatically cheaper than renting a hotel ballroom in NYC, but it’s nowhere near as classy and successful. But there are other private event venues that are also extremely competitive versus hotels, but which are a lot nicer than a high school auditorium.
I couldn’t get the exact seating figure, but based on a couple of pictures, it seats at least 1,500, probably a few more. I would be extremely surprised if the NYC org was able to draw more than about 50 people given that the cult has never been that big in NYC in per capita Scientology involvement. 22 million people in the metro area served by the Org and they are unlikely to have gotten more than a few dozen to show.
It would be incredibly difficult to hide the number of empty seats in an auditorium that size. I’m sure the acoustics were pretty interesting, with hard floors to make the empty hall echo all the more. And it’s a good thing there aren’t many “whales” in the NYC area, since the hard plywood seats standard in NYC school auditoriums is not the plush comfort that they presumably expect.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Today’s post had a brief comment by Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige (daughter of his older brother Ronnie, who blew long ago). She says, “I can’t believe people still buy any of this BS about ‘discovery’ of ‘lost tech.’ It’s just such an obvious and blatant money making scheme.” While this is probably obvious to the readership of this blog, it’s nice to see somebody from the gene pool point this out.
Also worth noting is the annual “Christmas Stories” event invite, which features a few of the usual celebs reading Christmas stories. You know, the holiday for that guy Christ, who turned out to be nothing more than a momentary blip in the R6 implant all those years ago. Mostly the C-listers, but Kirstie, Anne Archer and others a bit nearer the top of the list are not there. Not sure about the significance of this particular guest list. People with access to prior years’ lists might be able to shed some light on the changes in the cast from, say, 3 or 4 years ago.
Sam Domingo raises the interesting theory (note I’m not saying rumor here) that Kirstie may be the next defector from the cult, given that she wasn’t at the events in Clearwater and given that she’s not participating in the Christmas Drivel show. Sam also suggests Juliette Lewis may be aiming out the door as well.
The cult is putting out the same form letter over the signature of a prominent local Scientology exec or public to make the invitation to watch the Golden Age of Dreck 2 launch video seem more personalized.
Here’s the e-mail solicitation piece for the new Mark VIII (“Warehouse model”) e-meter that was announced. Apparently, Miscavige is crooked enough to not only aim high for the big donations, but also to grift for small change. The $5,450 price claims to “include tax,” a little odd since “religious artifacts” aren’t taxable, and if they are in fact taxable, he’s charging a 9% sales tax rate even in states that have a 0% sales tax rate, like Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire, etc.
The history of Narconon’s internet marketing is explored and discussed. A ten part series from a blog written by SEOlogy. This particular angle is critical because this is how they manage to get all the “fresh meat,” so pushing the Narconon shill sites down far enough to open room for critical sites is probably the one thing we can do that stands a good chance of actually keeping people from getting killed by the cult.
The cult recently purchased a building in Auckland, New Zealand. The purchase price was NZ$16 million (US$13.1 million). Interestingly the article reports that the building was financed by a loan from CSI to the local group, which will have to be repaid later (terms unknown). There may be less than 250 Scientologists in all of NZ, if they exist at the same rate as in Australia, excluding staff (the 2006 census listed 350, but defections have obviously reduced this number over the course of nearly a decade). Financing the building in advance of fund raising could be an interesting change in strategy, if we start seeing this elsewhere. In fact, it could be a recognition that large donors () are getting tapped out, so Miscavige is going to take more cash over time rather than getting all the proceeds from an Ideal Org purchase up front. The only problem is that if the org continues to spiral downward and is unable to meet payment deadlines a year or two out, the international management may be left holding the bag, which is of course very unattractive to DM.
Due to a relatively sudden trip out of town mandated by my Global Capitalism HQ overlords, I was unable to get the Daily Digest done last night. Tonight is not looking great, either. I expect to be back in the saddle with a Daily Digest on Friday night. I apologize for the lack of notice on this one, and thank you for your understanding.
If time permits on the trip, I’ll try to get something done on a story about the scenario for Independent Scientology, which I would love to publish in the next week or two. I would welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.
Note for the purposes of this analysis that I do not think it necessary to distinguish between various “flavors” of people attempting to practice their own flavor of Scientology apart from the official Church of Scientology. In other words, I’m looking for a scenario that encompasses Ron’s Org, Freezone, Milestone Two, “indies” affiliated with none of these other groups, etc. I believe that one general scenario is possible.
Do you think:
Independent Scientology will become an effective, organized movement that actually helps to drive membership losses at the COS by marketing its positive advantages?
Independent Scientology must inevitably be a way station for people who are leaving the cult but who aren’t ready to walk away from it entirely, and thus it is not able to exist on its own over the long term?
Independent Scientology will be able to attract a significant number of adherents from the world of the never-in’s, by putting together a case for the value of auditing and other Scientology practices?
I would welcome your thoughts. I have my own opinion, which I have shared in many comments on Tony Ortega’s site, but would love to see if there’s some sort of consensus among the cadre of Insightful Readers here.
Not to sound too much like your 9th grade English teacher, but please don’t just repsond with one of the 5 numbers; I need to understand your thought processes more than which answer you think is correct… Analysis is as much about getting the reasoning process right as it is about getting the “answer” right.
Programming note:Again, exhaustion overtook me in trying to get this done last night. That and a desire to maintain some semblance of an actual life. Apologies to Faithful Readers who may depend on this before bedtime.
Perhaps the most unexpected news item today is that Marty and Mosey Rathbun recently became parents, with little William James Rathbun entering the world a few days ago. Ironically, William James is considered “the father of American psychology.” Congratulations! And, of course, this makes Mosey Rathbun a mother lioness; Miscavige would do well to remember that messing with a mother lioness (think Karen De La Carriere after the loss of her son Alexander) is almost always a low-percentage shot.
Something to watchfor: Buffalo (thanks to Ze Moo) and Melbourne report Scientology ad campaigns popping up in the last couple of weeks. It will be important to see if this is the beginning of a major initiative to pollute adorn buses and airwaves in major cities worldwide. Please pass along any data points on new ads in mass media (Craigslist doesn’t count).
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Today’s story featured leaked photos from the Super Power building. Apparently, these photos came from one of the books distributed as souvenirs to the attendees at the weekend’s events. There are some pictures from inside the building being posted on social media, but nothing yet that appears to be actual pix of the oiliness table or anything else on the Super Power floor. Tony also revisited the fact that the speech was 8 minutes long.
I had another thought on the 8-minute speechus interruptus (perhaps better termed quotus interruptus, evocative of another happens-too-fast problem that DM may have to contend with) and why it is such a disaster for Dave. Recall that, based on the articles on Mike Rinder’s site, all the events on Friday and Saturday gave a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo about Golden Age of Dreck 2 issues, filled with nonsensical acronym-slinging. But he didn’t say much about Super Power at that time.
So if he really wanted to “sell” Super Power to his best customers, most of whom were seated in the front row at the event, he really needed to get people whipped up into a lather before they entered the building. When you unveil a major new product, you have to get people emotionally invested before they try it out. You don’t want them making a buying decision on purely rational grounds. It’s like when a manufacturer unveils a new car at a car show — the speeches, music, lights, food, booze, etc. are designed to get people excited before they see the car, and then transfer the excitement from the other stuff to the car itself. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been hyping Super Power for 15 years of fund raising; you still have to do it all over again when people are about to sample the product for the first time.
That’s why I think this is an epic fail, far worse than just the personal embarrassment of being “confronted and shattered” by “chopper tech.” It’s a strategic blunder of the first degree. And it will definitely be felt not only in Super Power enrollment figures, but perhaps even in the IAS event in two weeks.
So what’s the next scam after this one? Ivan Mapother tongue-in-cheekily thinks we’re up for new Super Powers buildings in Europe and Australia. I think we would do well to watch the “Pacific Events Center,” an auditorium complex so sorely needed because the dozens of live event venues within 10 miles of Pac Base, ranging from the 1,300 seat Wilshire Ebell theater to the Forum, the Sports Arena and the Staples Center (each 15,000+ seats) just don’t give them any choices on where to hold an event. They’re also talking about an “L. Ron Hubbard Auditorium” in Clearwater.
But there are also local ad campaigns popping up. It’s going to be important to keep an eye on local ad campaigns (which are cheaper, and thus involve less fundraising) versus big building campaigns (which last longer, and have the potential to raise more money over time but probably a much slower start). That may give us some insight into whether DM believes his donor base is tapped out.
Ruby reports that the outer org trainees that have been stuck at Flag since approximately June are coming home; she knows of some in her area who have returned. This means seat fillers at the tent for the IAS event in 10 days will be a bit harder to come by.
Zeeeeeemu points out that the key legacy of the Super Power building finally opening is that there’s no clear direction for the future. I agree; that’s why it’s important to gather as many data points on small fund-raising intiatiives as possible, to spot the next big scam as it’s emerging from David Miscavige’s greedy little mind.
Kemist snags a photo off Facebook of the statues in the Super Power lobby of several of the “dynamics.” Clearly, Hubbard’s theories of art are in full display, wherein he believes art is only useful if it has a “message” (can’t find the exact quote), kind of like the Soviet or North Korean motivational posters.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
One of Mike’s sources talks about their tour of the Super Power building. Apparently, they’re not allowed up on the sixth floor to see the running track where the Cause Resurgence Rundown will take place. Perhaps that’s because the marketing promise that this rundown can be done at any point and will absolutely positively deliver all sorts of “case gain” won’t reconcile too well to the reality of a running track in the dark in the minds of even the most obedient public.
Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)
Thanks again to Aeger Primo for the eagle-eyed scan of the forums.
Ongoing thread of court dates by JBWriter. VERY valuable thread keeps track of all important court dates of the C0$, front groups, and Scientology events in the USA and around the world.
Who will be going to the RPF, punished, sent to the Hole… some speculation and J&D over who takes the heat for the Super Power ribbon cutting ceremony failure. My take: it’s a little hard to declare the FAA a Suppressive Person and restrict Miscavige’s jet pilots from speaking with them.
Leah Remini was on The View,the ABC gab-fest led by Barbara Walters. Apparently, Baba Wawa asked about disconnection, and Leah pointed out that she didn’t disconnect from her friends, they are the ones not allowed to talk to her.
In Buffalo, the gateway to the quaint rural region of upstate New York called “Canada,” the local paper notes a billboard and bus ad campaign for Scientology and considers the question of whether they’re trying to spruce up their image. Leaving aside the question of whether raising the Titanic would be easier, it’s nice to see local press do a reasonable job grappling with the question. Nice job scoring an interview with two recently departed local ex’s.
Off topic but still relevant, since many in this community are fans: Monty Python is reuniting for a show. They had rarely appeared together in public in the last 20 years (I was at a movie premiere of a documentary in NY in 2009 and actually got to shake Terry Jones’s hand) and now they’re performing together.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Apostate Air Force Edition
I think the follow-on effects of yesterday’s airborne raid on the Super Power ribbon-cutting ceremony will reverberate for some time, and we might even see some significant changes in the way the cult produces the IAS event in two weeks. Given that those changes are likely to be about protecting David Miscavige from imagined threats to his personal security and about protecting his image with his “flock,” it’s possible that he takes his eye off the ball: raising money.
If it is true that Miscavige has postponed the events earlier this year mainly due to his need to micro-manage the legal cases he’s embroiled in, then there’s a non-zero chance that he’ll postpone the IAS event while he revamps the event and the security plan. And if he does that, it is extremely likely that the proceeds from the gala are going to be down substantially.
Rookie poster “roxhum” asked in yesterday’s story, “Although it was fun pissing off the little dictator, what is the objective?” Roxhum also went on to suggest that it might be counterproductive because cult members might actually become more loyal since they perceive their religion as coming under attack.
Certainly, it’s valuable to be skeptical of the game-changing potential of what could be seen as a rather expensive prank. My reply to “roxhum” may provide some illumination on why I think this could end up being as epic as the coordinated Anonymous raid with approximately 10,000 protesters in front of half of the cult’s org buildings. I said:
There’s actually a very real objective in play, which Mike & Mike either intuitively or overtly grasped: keeping your opposition off balance causes them to make mistakes. This idea goes back to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, first published about 2,500 years ago. If you control the time and place of the battle, you’re way more than halfway to victory. He who doesn’t shape the battlefield faces an uphill fight from the opening shot. And demoralizing an opponent by attacking at a moment they might consider a time of triumph has the most leverage of any attack you can make.
What’s the practical effect of this stunt? Miscavige has been increasingly paranoid about outsiders getting a hold of his speeches and mocking him on the Internet. He appears to be obsessed with what outsiders, particularly ex’s say about him, despite his media strategy, which appears to be to ignore them at best, be hostile at worst. To the extent opponents can keep him focused on security and on shoring up his image, he won’t be focused on growing the business, and it will probably end up shrinking.
Last year, a tabloid reporter easily snuck into the IAS event in the UK. In May, at the opening of the Portland Ideal Org, the cult was responding to the London disaster by having unprecedented security and area control for the event, checking ID’s and prohibiting electronic devices. When they discovered that Mark Bunker (“Wise Beard Man”) had cut a deal with the store across the street to put a hidden camera up with a great sight line to the stage, Miscavige lost it, and ultimately ended up turning the sound down so that his speech can’t be recorded, and he also appeared to cut short the event.
Both of those events shaped the current reality: he moved the big tent from the UK to the US, where he probably thinks he has better security for the IAS event than he could get in the UK (it was easy for people to sneak onto the Saint Hill property from adjoining fields). But better security in response to Bunker’s little prank comes at a cost: he has basically killed the European event business, and by doing so, has probably hastened the decay in the European Scientology orgs — the rich donors from Europe who have been propping up the cult over there are not that likely to come all the way to the (tasteless, low-brow) US for an event. The biggest event of the year is probably going to pull in a lot less revenue going forward.
While it is correct that many people still in the cult will be able, through thought stopping and cognitive dissonance, to think that the attacks on the cult and on Miscavige must mean Scientology is important and successful, not everyone will be swayed that way. While I can’t accurately predict that attrition will accelerate specifically as a result of this event, I strongly suspect that bad knee-jerk decisions made as a result of this event (more security, more sec checking of people who posted event details on Facebook, etc.) will ultimately accelerate the exodus, and we should start to see people whose “Aha!” moment was shortly after this and the upcoming IAS event appearing in the next couple of months.
I thus believe that yesterday’s stunt is important in causing Miscavige to withdraw even more from reality, and thus to make even worse decisions. Because the events business is such a money maker, any damage to the event business significantly reduces cult profitability, and when they start eating into reserves, the decision making process is likely to become even more insane — Miscavige can rationalize almost any idiotic decisions, as long as the reserves go up every year. But if reserves start getting depleted, that’s when the death spiral begins.
Is this a prank or a really, really good investment? A Robinson R44 goes for about $500 per hour, plus perhaps a bit more for a pilot, insurance, etc. So for less than $2,000, Mike & Mike had an opportunity to rattle Miscavige significantly. Perhaps even enough to cause him to make a potentially significant mistake that could potentially bury the events business for good as he worries about his personal security and about his image. I don’t think his personal security is at much risk, because most ex’s are having too much fun laughing at him. And his image is none too good except in the presence of the most rabid Kool-Aid drinkers.
So why do this now instead of at the Portland Ideal Org opening? Because Miscavige has another great opportunity to screw up, in just two short weeks, at the biggest-grossing event of the year.
I will bet you that Rinder and Bennitt will look back in a couple years and tell you that this $2,000 was the best two grand they ever spent, both in terms of the fun value and in terms of the gravel it dumps in Miscavige’s gearbox.
The IAS event, this year more than ever, needs to be about revenue growth. But as a result of the first mission of Viper Squadron 1 of the Apostate Air Force, it will be all about trying to plug imagined security leaks. It’s entirely possible that Miscavige will postpone the event entirely while he tries to figure out what other leaks might exist that those evil SP’s might try to exploit. That would be a $20 million mistake at least, a 10,000-to-1 return on their investment…
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Tony’s story today featured an exclusive interview with Jacqueline Olivier, the principal hired to turn Will Smith’s home schooling operation into a “legit” private school, the New Village Leadership Academy, which closed its doors after three years.
Mytake: It sounds like Olivier took the job knowing that “study tech” would be involved, but may have figured that, since the school board was “committed to best practices,” they would be able to move past that odd fixation once she showed them that “study tech” was anything but a best practice. But I suspect she ran up against a small definition problem: in the real world, best practices are “the current consensus of qualified experts as to the best way of accomplishing measurable results, subject to evolution over time as new, scientifically valid research shows improved methods.” Scientologists also believe in best practices, but unfortunately, they use their own definition: “stuff that Hubbard pulled out of his ass 50 years ago.” So when those two visions of best practices collided, it’s no surprise that Olivier’s reality-based version lost out.
There is a lot of commentary about what she should have done, with some thinking she should have left immediately and blown the lid off the cult’s machinations, and many who felt she did the best she could given the circumstances. I don’t think the commenters here were able to settle the issue, but there were some well-articulated points raised on all sides, which makes me proud of the community in these forums.
I think it will be very hard for Will and Jada to deny they’re Scientologists after Olivier alleges full involvement of the Smiths in making Scientology-related decisions in the school. I can hardly wait until some intrepid reporter asks one of them why, if their new religion confers such super powers on anyone, they seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that they’re involved in it.
Apparently, Leah Remini got voted off Dancing with the Stars. I don’t watch the show, but I thought I should pass it along for those in far-off lands who don’t get much American TV.
Mike didn’t have a new post up today, pleading exhaustion (a veritable epidemic among Scientology bloggers the last couple days), but he did put up a post late last night that I didn’t include in yesterday’s Daily Digest with pictures from the event.
Various news outlets picked up the Super Power opening. I glanced at the stories and didn’t see anything remarkable; some of them basically rewrote the Tampa Bay Times piece.
Today, it’s all about the helicopter, though there are a lot of other interesting goings on that took place.
Mike Rinder decided to take advantage of an offer from Mike Bennitt, he of the high-quality videography of the Mosey Rathbun case in Texas, and use a helicopter to fly over the Super Power building during today’s 1:00pm opening ceremony, so they can get an estimate of the crowd size.
While nobody’s talking, it seems almost certain that they coordinated with Tony Ortega, who filed a story about the inbound spy-copter after it lifted off and was headed for downtown Clearwater. Just in time for the OSA monitors covering his blog to read the story and call Miscavige, but not enough time for the cult to do anything about it (it takes 45 days to obtain “temporary flight restrictions” from the FAA, even in a case where they would be inclined to grant one, which is not clear in this case). It seems reasonable to guess that he wouldn’t have cut short the presentation had he assumed that one of the two helicopters was hired by the Church and the other was perhaps a news channel. The only way he would have cut short the presentation was on the basis of a staff report telling him that Rinder was in the second helicopter.
Miscavige cut short the presentation after less than 10 minutes and started trooping everyone inside the building, as if they were going on lockdown back at Int Base. Given his penchant for bloviation, it seems unlikely that he was planning to make the presentation so brief, so it’s a reasonable guess that the news of arch-SP Rinder hovering over the event was enough to send him into panic-and-flee mode.
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Cruise, Travolta, Preston and Alley were in attendance, but oddly, it says that “hundreds” of members were in attendance. Based on a reasonable estimate of no more than 4,000 total bodies and a likelihood that 1,000 are outer org trainees and 1,000 are Clearwater-based Sea Org and staff, it looks like no more than 2,000 (perhaps 2,500 tops) public were in attendance. Attendance certainly fell far short of the 10,000 listed as the upper bound in the parade permits.
Tony Ortega’s “Helicopter Tech” Article
This caper is likely to go down as one of the biggest humiliations of David Miscavige in history. It’s even bigger than the epic fail at the Portland Ideal Org grand opening back in May. In Portland, Miscavige had to turn the volume down in a bold move to “confront and shatter” Mark Bunker and others in attendance. Here, he had to scrap most of the grand opening speech in order to avoid “confronting and shattering” arch-nemesis Mike Rinder who, along with Mike Bennitt, were cruising the friendly skies looking for lulz. It’s interesting to note, by the way, that the two of them were able to “postulate” good weather for their flight, while all those OT-level Scientologists weren’t able to stop the rain on Saturday.
Most people who took a look at the high-resolution photos posted in the article came up with an estimate of about 3,000 to 4,000 total bodies at the event, and the consensus is that perhaps 1,000 of these were “outer org trainees” and a like number were Sea Org and local staff. However, there was also evidence that there were paid extras in the event. It would be interesting to get a paycheck for four hours for what ended up being eight minutes of work.
My take: This is a brilliant collaboration between the two Mike’s (Rinder and Bennitt) and Tony, who proved, once again, that they have DM’s number. It should also prove to us that DM is utterly predictable in his actions, and is driven to an extraordinary degree by his own personal vanity to do anything possible to avoid joking & degrading. That’s a remarkably insecure way to live life for a guy who is sitting on top of a Global Capitalism HQ-sized pile of money, who travels by jet and who has an immense entourage. And it’s a hell of a way to run a company — to let a distraction from a small helicopter buzzing around in the skies cause you to cut short a major event that you’ve been building up the hype for for over a decade.
Jeff Hawkins weighs in. As an Int Base veteran who’s been in the room with DM on many occasions, he says that there’s no way the event was scheduled to last only eight minutes. Sure, it was supposed to be short, but that means “only” an hour of Danny Sherman-penned bloviation. He clearly got no game. Clear evidence that they were planning a longer speech: whales in the front had seats, which you presumably wouldn’t need for a mere 8 minute speech.
My vote for shoop of the day (out of many to choose from) goes to “Walter Mitty,” with the poster for “Top Gun: Mission Double Mike.”
Tony Ortega’s Sunday Funnies Post
There are some pretty lulzy details in today’s regular Sunday Funnies post, which don’t deserve to be lost against the noise of the “helicopter tech” story. First, Tom Cruise’s attorney Bert Fields, he of the countless nasty letters to the press, is shown congratulating TomKat Project producer Brandon Ogburn after Fields attended the show last night. Apparently, Christopher Lloyd, “Doc” in the “Back to the Future” series was also in attendance, as were a number of commenters from Tony’s site.
According to “Elen,” the cult could apparently use a little help when it tries to run Craigslist ads in Spanish in the Brownsville area. They said: “Aqui esta lo que ha estado buscando por muchos anos.” “Anos” = anuses. “Años” = years. So instead of “Here is what you have been looking for for years,” they said, “Here is what you are looking for among many anuses.” One little tilde makes all the difference!
Derek points out the improbability of some of the news out of the cult in the last couple of days: “Bert Fields has a sense of humor. Tampa Bay Times suggesting a truce. Scientology still has 5500 members. David Mayo’s BTBs are being exhumed. Scientology giving out free swagz. Super Power actually opened as promised. I’m pretty sure at least half of these things are in the book of Revelations.”
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Mike has more details of the Super Power events, including an event last night that featured a five-minute standing ovation for DM. As of press time, he had not put up a blog post about his little helicopter ride earlier today. Mike’s post contains a lot of “tech” details that might only be understood by longtime auditors or by Indies; one gets the sense he’s also taking to lurkers who are still in the church to get them to re-examine their beliefs. Importantly, in a point that bears watching, Mike pointed out that some course fees went up while others went down. Given that the cult was promising giant price increases (none of which appear to actually be in effect), this seems like a major blow.
Thanks again to Aeger Primo for keeping an eye on the avalanche of traffic on the forums.
Black Rob has an ongoing thread at ESMB that mirrors the one at WWP. It’s interesting how the two different communities come up with very different flavors of Joking & Degrading off the same Facebook posts by cult members.
Details of the upcoming GAT 2 event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The Shrine seats over 6,000. It will be interesting to see what the cult does to try to fill the seats, given that they got nothing like that at the live version of the event in Clearwater.
Always fun to enjoy a good shoop of the COB. Starting here are some new ones on a WWP thread of nothing but DM shoops, called “Project Mass Shoop.”
A side project from the project to stop the cult from advertising on Craigslist is to gather information on various promoted services, courses, and books the Co$ charges for. New info posted in the past three days.
The Tampa Bay Times seems to be getting a little comfy with the cult in two recent stories. First, the Times says that it may be time to let bygones be bygones on the part of the City. This, especially when it was under the byline of Joe Childs, half of the dynamic duo of writers, sounds like the paper is going soft all of a sudden. It doesn’t seem necessary for the City to go hat in hand to the cult when the last Mayoral election wasn’t that close and the cult comprises approximately 3,000 of the 108,000 population and a disproportionately small share of the City’s economic activity, given the low payroll and the property tax exemptions of the city.
Second, the TBT reports on the afternoon building ceremony with a celebrity-spotting article that didn’t really ask a lot of questions about the Super Power building. Best line of the article, however: “[Miscavige’s] remarks couldn’t be understood outside the church’s perimeter.” That’s probably because Mumbles Miscavige couldn’t be understood inside the perimeter, either, even by those trained in the bogus Method 9 Word Clearing procedure of the useless “Study Tech.”
Programming note: Even just two weeks in to this adventure, I am beginning to discover that the new blog is attracting sources who have interesting perspective to contribute, but whose voice wouldn’t fit in a standard news story. This is the first example of a source with a unique perspective on Scientology that I’m writing up as part of my “useful anecdotes” series. Recall my article last week about the importance of anecdotes in the research process.
Background:I received an e-mail last week from MidwestMom, a much-adored commenter in our little community who has been scarce for a while. She announced that she would be in New York this weekend to see some plays and to hit some of the sales in the “Mecca of Shopping Perfection,” an endless row of trendy boutiques on upper Madison Avenue. Apparently, winter has already set in in her bucolic paradise in the far north of the Midwest (further north, even, than parts of “Canada,” that rural enclave of upstate New York) and “the boys” were out doing their thing on the first days of deer hunting season, so it was time for a getaway.
Naturally, Supermodel #1 is always up for a trip to the stratospherically expensive Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin shoe stores, especially when it involves spending other people’s money. I was stuck in the office on Friday morning, so Supermodel #1 took MidwestMom out to brave the pre-Black Friday sales.
Later, while Supermodel #1 was busy fixing tea in the kitchen, the super-secret Analysis Hotline in the penthouse apartment rang. Again. Since I started the blog not quite two weeks ago, the unlisted phone has been ringing off the hook with people longing to tell their story. MidwestMom, presumably tiring of the incessant ringing, decided to answer out of curiosity.
The oddly muffled British-accented voice at the other end claimed to be very, very close to the festivities taking place in Clearwater and offered a unique perspective on David Miscavige and on the content of the events. Our guest knew a potential scoop when she saw it, grabbed a pen and paper, and decided to conduct a full-scale interview. After a careful review of this source’s bona fides, I realized that we might have a unique perspective on the Most. Important. Events. Ever.
Here, without further ado, is an interview with the tent sheltering the most theta events in history, with questions formulated by and answers transcribed by MidwestMom.
A Por-tent-ious Interview
You’ve now hosted a few rehearsals for the event. What is it like having David Miscavige under your roof? How does he treat the people around him? Is he utterly con-tent-ious?
Picture a Tasmanian devil on PCP. That’s what he’s like. He is indeed con-tent-ious and extremely desperate for at-tent-tion. He’s unbearable. I’d rather be stuck in an elevator with Kanye West, Chris Brown and Alec Baldwin, with all the attendant paparazzi, than hang around Miscavige for another second. He’s whack! He gives me the tee pee gee vees.
He also has a freaky obsession with forks and socks.
“Fork this! Fork that! Fork you!” and “You chuck socks on Hollywood Boulevard, you ser-fac-y sock chucker!”
The dude is a few beans short of a burrito, if you know what I mean.
You were at Saint Hill in England before you moved to the US to start a new phase of your tenting career. What do you think of the stage decoration for this event versus the decorations in the UK? Are they more conservative and humdrum in the UK or do they get as colorful there as they do here?
Yes, I’m originally from the UK and endured previous embarrassing and horrific treatment from the cult. Garish decorations, long, boring speeches, and all around unpleasantness. Everything was way too os-tent-tatious for the classically reserved British style I was brought up in. I forced myself to get through it, somehow. At least I had some friends working at festivals or garden parties nearby and I could hang out with them after the cult gigs and pick up extra money working at the Chelsea Flower Show. I even did some craft service engagements for James Bond movies. That Daniel Craig, by the way, makes a much better super-secret agent than David Miscavige’s BFF.
I want to point out that I am not a Scientologist and have absolutely no desire to ever be one, either. I’m Anglican and belong to the Church of England and one of my uncles is a Vicar in Stoke-on-Tent.
To be honest with you, I always wanted to travel. My older brother, Ger, lived with some yurts in central Asia for a year and my cousin, Bivy, hiked and camped the trails in the Pacific Northwest, and I thought it would be fun to travel abroad, as well.
Let me tell you something. What I was promised and what I have experienced here are completely different experiences. I was duped, and I’m angry. Real angry! I thought I’d be hanging out at the beach every day and working as a cabana. Instead, I’m treated like a circus tent sheltering some second-rate freak show.
How would you feel if someone humiliated you with what appears to be the leftover lights and stage props from the “Flock of Seagulls” ‘84 tour and dressed you up in hideous draping last worn as costumes by John Travolta from “Hairspray” and Kirstie Alley in “Fat Actress”? It’s not flattering.
I’ve seen the photos. I look stupid. I know it, and you know it. The rest of the American people know it. Someone told me the other day that I reminded them of Totie Fields, which I don’t think was a compliment. I’ve also been taunted and bull-baited by all of the cult’s awnings, canopies and tarps.
I’m a shell of what I used to be and I’m flapping angry about it.
What would you be doing now if you hadn’t been tricked into coming here to be Scientology’s Big Top?
There were some Highland Festivals that my friend Scot had set up, which are always fun. I’m always hip for a pipe and drum band. My father used to play the pipes (to the dismay of the neighbours) and I’ve played the drums ever since I was a young pup tent. I have strong Highlander roots — don’t ask me what I wear under my kilt. By the way, I’m pretty competitive in the caber toss event and I’m always up for a good ceilidh!
I regret now that I’m going to miss out on being at the Hard Rock Hell gig in Pwllheli. It would be heaven to be among the doom, stoner and sleaze metal brigade compared to the Scientology culties in Clearwater. I mean, I’m missing Lawnmower Deth perform live! Ooh Crikey!
“Go on a cruise,” my agent said. “All expenses paid! You’ll meet celebrities and big beings, blah, blah, blah…” What a crock! Oh, and the Miscavige dude? Old COBcakes is such a joke. I call him “Pimp Frantic”. I can’t even bring myself to call him “pope” in jest. He’s a pre-tent-ious fool. You can quote me on that, too.
How have you felt about all of the press you attracted?
I feel embarrassed about how ridiculous I look, for one thing. Who wants to look like a flapping circus tent unless they are indeed, a flapping circus tent? Not me, bro.
I realized that in order to try to get the city of Clearwater to force the cult of Scientology to remove me from their land, I had to endure the photos and the media coverage. This was the only way I could get people to complain on my behalf. Sunny Sands, the Supah Powah photogaphah for the Underground Bunker is now a very good friend of mine. She visits every day and gives me encouragement to stand tall and not let the cult’s abusive behavior force me to cave in to their pressure. If I cave, it’ll be on my terms.
Charlie Frago from the Tampa Bay Times is another bud of mine… He’s done a great job of showing how the cult is abusing their power with me and Tony Ortega has been the biggest source of exposure for my plight. Tony traveled all the way to Clearwater to see me. I mean, if that doesn’t exemplify what a dedicated journalist he is, then I don’t know what does. Tony was even kind enough to pose with me for some photos, as did some others from the Underground Bunker Brigade. That was cheeky fun! Good times, my friend. Good times. There’s no fun in store for me during this weekend’s, festivities, though.
I’d like to thank Mike and Marty for their help, too and the folks at WWP, ESMB, OCMB, and all of the peeps who have been trying to help me, and now including John P. for his blog. I hope he’s able to run this interview and show what it’s like for a “wog” tent to have to endure this gig. I appreciate everyone’s help a great deal and hope that there will be a huge turnout of protesters this weekend. I hope Bury_The_Nuts remembers to bring my Guy Fawkes mask. I’m a size 60 foot, extra-wide.
How were you able to get in possession of the cell phone you are using for this interview? Are you safe?
I actually had help from a few friends. I’ll call them “Joe Kerr” and “Dee Grayder” to protect their identities. They were hip to the Katie Holmes story and how she was able to maneuver her escape with her daughter from the cult of Scientology when she left Tom Cruise.
Let’s just say that little Davey Miscavige has no clue that they have been helping me, and they have had full access to the party plans this weekend. Remember, when I said not to ask me what is under my kilt? Davey would have a stroke if he knew what was going on right under his nose.
By the way, Laurisse, if you’re reading this – and I know you are – why don’t you try putting on some makeup for a change? You look like death warmed over and not very theta. Davey wears more makeup than you do, which is pretty creepy, if you ask me.
Where was I? Oh, yes; thanks for your concern. I’m having a difficult time hearing you on my end of the phone. The wind is really whipping around and I was hit pretty hard by airborne bunting. I thought I was going to lose an eye hook. I sure hope this horrible tarp that they put on me blows into the ocean! It’s so tacky. I feel like Rip Taylor, especially since the cult is going to throw around confetti and balloons. It keeps getting worse by the minute.
Gotta go! A whole posse of guys with walkie talkies is coming. I think they’ve found the flap holding the phone, and it’s hard to get the wind to blow the fabric just right to hang the damned thing up. I hope they just think it’s a member’s phone that someone dropped.
Epilogue: At this point, just when Midwest Mom was beginning to come up with more questions, the phone went silent, and after a couple of minutes, a male voice says, “Hey, this phone is actually ON! Better call COB; I think we have a leak.” Then a click. Then ominous silence.
Please join me as I wait in a state of heightened tent-ion with prayers that our interview subject is not repurposed after the event to become the new RPF facility at the cult’s new North Slope Ideal Org, in the northernmost portion of Alaska, where the temperature this time of year drops to 40 degrees below zero.