An enterprising tipster passed on this e-mail invitation, which broke records in all sorts of ways for the lamest e-mail from the cult in a while. It even surpasses the single-question e-mail I highlighted a while ago that promised oodles of miracles in two short sentences, but this one does fall woefully short in the area of grandiose promises.
As short as the e-mail is, the analytical conclusion at the end suggests that something so brief can actually be quite revealing about how things are going inside the cult at the moment.
The Smoking Gun
Here is the e-mail received by my tipster, in its entirety.
From: "Stan Booth" <email@example.com> Date: Dec 7, 2013 11:43 AM Subject: Hi from Stan ASHO To: <An enterprising tipster> HI <Enterprising Tipster>, Do you come by the Columbus org much? I am setting up a Christmas banquet that you are invited to. L, Stan ASHO
It turns out that there are no non-stop flights from the city where my tipster lives to Columbus. Of course, there aren’t a lot of direct flights from anywhere to Columbus other than a couple of major airline hub cities like Atlanta and Dallas. Hell, there are only a couple of nonstops from New York City to Columbus on any given day. It appears that the only reason for anyone to go to Columbus is because they have to go there, not because they want to. So for my tipster to answer quite truthfully that no, he doesn’t come by the Columbus org much, is kind of obvious.
Given the airline situation with no non-stop flights, my tipster figures that he would have to spend the better part of an entire day traveling to get to this mind-blowing gala holiday event and then most of another day getting back. Never mind about the regging that’s sure to be a big part of this festive event; spending top dollar to get last-minute airfare to spend two days attending an event where he’ll be served mediocre catered food and regged for everything he’s got just somehow doesn’t seem like a great idea at any time of year, much less so close to the holidays that the airways will be jammed with snot-nosed kids flying to see the grandparents, kicking the seat back constantly, whining about whether we’re there yet, and all the other stuff that makes me glad that we in Global Capitalism HQ don’t have to fly commercial any more.
The other really interesting thing about this is that the e-mail comes from a fairly senior official at ASHO (American Saint Hill Organization), an “elite” org that is supposed to be all about higher-level training. But having an upper level org sending out fund-raisers to get people to come to cities far outside their usual orbit for a Christmas banquet, rather than having the local org staff themselves send out the invitations, just smacks of desperation.
I talked to a source who’s familiar with life in the Columbus org, and he pointed out that Columbus is struggling even more than the average Scientology org these days. The population of the Columbus combined metro statistical area is 2.35 million. Assuming 15,000 Scientologists in a total US population of 310 million, you’d expect to see a grand total of 113 Scientologists in the greater Columbus area. And if you assume 25 of those are staff, you get a grand total of 85 card-carrying public. According to my local expert, the only reason that Cincinnati (just 100 miles down the road) is doing better, with its own recently opened Ideal Org, is that the husband-and-wife team running the Cincinnati org had much better fundraising success due to their personal efforts. With a weaker management bench, the slightly larger Columbus area just isn’t moving the needle.
There is a point to all this that goes well beyond the quest for a couple mildly funny chuckles to be had at the cult’s expense.
The fact that higher-level orgs are working to produce events for local orgs and to get people from ludicrously inappropriate locations to come to them is a further leg down in the decay of the Class V org system. As various commenters have noted before, it appears that, once again, Miscavige is sacrificing the periphery of the empire to protect what have previously been the more profitable parts of the business, most particularly, the courses and auditing offered at Flag, the “Mecca of technical perfection.”
But if Miscavige is willing to sacrifice the “outer” orgs to protect the “senior” orgs, why is he having senior staff at the “senior” orgs put on events (note that the e-mail said that author Stan Booth is “setting up” a banquet, not just inviting people to a banquet). In other words, it sounds like Stan at ASHO is in charge of the event, not just using his mailing list to get people to come. Somebody who ordered him to do this must think producing an undistinguished local event in a second-tier market is the most profitable use of Stan’s time. So that means that ASHO is hurting for business as well, probably because their business has been cannibalized by Flag.
The other relevant point is that if there’s no one in the Columbus org who can be trusted with responsibility to plan and execute a fairly simple event, then it is possible that the cult is hemorrhaging trained staff at a sufficiently rapid rate that they simply don’t have anyone locally who can put on an event.
And that, in turn, is a hint that at least some parts of the cult are coming close to the brink. In my (as yet unpublished) “cult collapse scenario,” I note that the cult can (and it certainly has) continue operating for quite a long time without new recruits, and they can continue to operate for a long time with a diminishing pool of existing members. But one thing they cannot operate without is enough staff to keep the doors open.
One of the way the cult has been trying to keep the doors open after massive native staff defections is to hire people from outside the US and bring them in on a “religious worker” visa. That works well enough for jobs at Flag, say, where they don’t need to have great English skills to wash dishes in the restaurant, etc. But when you’re in a local org, at least some percentage of the staff needs to have enough English language skills to negotiate with vendors, to handle such things as setting up catering services, which could involve fairly complex menu choices. That’s not the sort of thing you can expect someone fresh off the boat to master all that quickly. So if the Columbus org is running out of native English speakers on staff, that suggests that the usefulness of the foreign staff project may be reaching its end.
But keep in mind: this is a single data point, and the analytical conclusions based on a single data point could very well be wrong. So I’m treating this discussion as a hypothesis of what might be happening, rather than as definite assertion that this is happening. It would be really helpful if we all keep our eyes out for data points that either confirm or reject any of the potential conclusions here.