This contribution by Dutch Anon Trevor Horn, who posts in various forums as TrevAnon,reveals a different side of Anonymous, one where a committed team laboriously puts together a database over the course of a decade to help show the degree of abuses that Scientology has committed. They are aiming to compile the definitive list of all former members of the Church of Scientology who have spoken out publicly against the organization’s abuses.
This is a far different side of Anonymous than the one most of us recognize – the protesters outside Scientology facililties with clever signs, a determined but fun attitude, and lots of caek. But the committed activists laboring on these projects are making an ongoing difference, long after most Anons have hung up their masks.
The “Big List” project is important but is underappreciated and understaffed. In this post, Trevor will talk about what it does, why it matters, and how people interested can help, with a one-time perusal of the list to spot any easy additions, to becoming a project member.
Take it away, Trevor!
On June 26th, 2009, one of the best (if not the best in my humble opinion) Chanology projects started. It is the big list of former members of the Church of Scientology speaking out .
Why the Big List Started
On enturbulation dot org, which was the worldwide hub where Anonymous coordinated their efforts against the Church of Scientology, user “RightOn” started a thread with the idea of making a list of ex-cult members speaking out using their real name. No one had done this before, so no one knew how many ex-members had already spoken out. The idea was to give exes who had until then not spoken out the strength to do so as they could see they were not alone, but the list eventually became much more than just a support for that.
Anons had found 1,000 names by April 2010, less than a year after the list was started. Of course, as time went by, the list growth became slower as we captured most of the easy names and the ones who came out several years before. We reached 2,000 names on October 29th, 2012, and Tony Ortega wrote a blog post about it. As of the moment I write this (February 10th 2018), the list holds 2,851 names.
The following chart shows the progress the Anons have been able to reach.
Qualifying a Name for Publication
Nowadays on whyweprotest.net (the successor to enturbulation dot org) Anons are still working on the big list. Anyone willing to do so can post his or her proof for a new name, or an addition to a name already on, or disprove a name. Proof for a new name always consists of two things:
- Proof the person was in, e.g. by completions (which is a great resource) or by a confirmation from someone already on.
- Proof the person speaks out in a public venue (e.g. in a book, on a tv-show, somewhere on the internet).
- There is a catch here: the proof, both for having been in as well as speaking out, must be available for anyone, and that means that you shouldn’t need an account at some site (like e.g. Facebook).
We are careful to try to avoid obvious problems such as duplicate names or use of nicknames. We don’t automatically assume that someone speaking out with a common name like “John Doe” is the same person listed in the “Completions” database. We try to validate that connection through several other means. Still, it is the best available effort to show proof of what’s going on. And again: anyone can help adding proof, or disproving names.
How the List Is Used Today
Ever since its inception the big list has been used in many ways.
First and foremost, the big list, for anyone interested, serves as proof and reference for Scientology fraud and abuse, doing so not by just telling about it, but by giving a wealth of links to quotes, video testimony, court documents and Scientology completions. If only a few people spoke up about abuses in Scientology then it would be easy for the cult to say that it is just a few “bitter defrocked apostates” and some people might believe them. But if nearly 3,000 people have spoken up publicly and taken the risks of harm from Scientology retaliation, it is much harder to deny that this is an organization with a problem. It is just like how various organizations worked to get the testimony from as many Holocaust survivors as possible so that it is impossible to deny what happened in World War II.
Second, the list can show people still in Scientology that there are serious problems with their religion. Of course, it doesn’t work to attack the beliefs of Scientology, since people are allowed to believe anything they want as long as they don’t harm others, but by PROVING that there are lots of people who have been harmed by forced disconnection, forced abortion, fraud, and many other things.
The list is also used by exes to find if anyone they knew while still in may be out.
The big list is also used in quantitative analyses to find out if Scientology still is able to attract new members, and how many members the church had in its total lifespan (link). It was also used to create a list of accounts of the disconnection policy. (Leah Remini tweeted about that one! (link) On that list there are also people who got disconnected from while they were never in.
Coordinating with Other Lists
There are other lists. I’ve already mentioned the truthaboutscientology.org site by Kristi Wachter. This site shows course completions from Scientology magazines, donations made to SuperPower, IAS and other information from church publications.
There is also the “Indy 500”. This list was started by former members who wanted to show they supported the idea of practicing Scientology self-help techniques and beliefs outside of the official church. From my perspective,the list helps us to track how many people leaving the church may at first hold on to their beliefs, and gives us a way to track those who abandon Scientology altogether after a time. After starting up in 2010, the Indy 500 still hasn’t reached 500 – which is actually a recurring joke over on WWP. The page was last updated in March, 2017.
There have been other efforts not based on the big list to show that Scientology is not exactly all roses. An example I worked on myself is the list of OT8’s which is based on work by Patty Moher and Kristi Wachter. Scientologists who have done OT 8 are seen like some kind of gods within the church. The OT 8 list shows that these people aren’t gods. Like all of us they have their successes and problems.
Another example, and a very depressing one, is the list of suicides related to Scientology. And there is a list of publications about Scientology. If you want to read further, be prepared to spend some time… And guess what, there’s even a list of lawyers who acted for Scientology! (It may be outdated though.)
How to Contribute and How to Use the List
The current “team” working on the big list is just me, TrevAnon, and someone who posts there as “Incredulicide”, who maintains the wiki. RightOn, creator of the list, has not been very active during the last year. In the WWP-thread, every now and then other anons hop in to post whatever they have to add.
We could use some help!
Because the current team is a small one, adding new names is going slowly. In 2017 we added about 65 people. This is a function of the size of the small team and of the rate of new people speaking out, so it is important to make sure we capture as many of the new people as we can. Right now we are at 2,851 and I sure hope to see the day that we reach 3,000.
A team of 2 regular researchers also is vulnerable to distractions from the rest of our lives.. Because of the Leah Remini show,many new people are speaking out against the COS these days so we may see even more work to be done. But while more people are speaking out, fewer of those are former Scientologists, so we have to process more articles to find each former member.
Now how can you help?
First: check out the list and use it in your discussions with Scientologists that you might meet! An easy thing to do is talk about it with people to raise awareness. If you have a chance, using the list while talking to someone in may help in raising seeds of doubt. Because if you do it well, you’re not telling them that you think their beliefs are crazy or something. You point out facts. You let them hear audio, you show videos. You show proof!
A second option to do is find proof for new or existing names, or disprove names. That’s harder but it really helps. Remember: all proof must be on some open venue, so anyone can check it. Facebook posts in most cases require a login to see them, so they don’t count. However, a copy of a FB post on some open forum is fine. (Here is an example.) Also the proof must be with full name. Only a first or last name isn’t enough. We want the list to be bulletproof!
The most obvious thing to do if you are an ex is to make sure you’re on the list, if you are ready to join. It will only take a second. And if you wish to be added, you can easily add yourself by following the procedures here.
If you have not spoken out before but you are ready to, post something on an open venue about the cult using your full name! Mike Rinder’s blog is a good place, and you can also post under your full name in the comments section on Tony Ortega’s blog (www.tonyortega.org) and there are others. Provide proof to the list that you were in, e.g. from completions or from anyone already on the list who can confirm you were in. You can also post about it in the big list thread over on WWP. You don’t need an account to post there.
You have found a person’s name and you think there’s enough proof to put him/her on!
If you read an article that mentions an ex-Scientologist that you haven’t heard of before, you can learn the habit of checking the list quickly to see if they are in. It only takes a few seconds to check the list if you put the site on your browser favorites/bookmarks, so while you may not find someone new very often, it doesn’t take much time for each article you read.
If you want to go out digging for names that have not been seen before, I describe some Google tips and tricks below.
Again: first please check if the person isn’t already on. If not, you can post about it in the big list thread over on WWP. Always provide proof the person is speaking out against COS. If you yourself were in, you knew/know the person AND you are on the list yourself you can provide proof the person was in just by saying you knew or saw he or she was in, while using your own full name.
If you yourself are not on the list or you were never in, please provide proof the person was in – again by completions or having someone already on giving a confirmation (example).
2. You have extra proof for someone already on!
There are names on the list for whom we only have one link as proof of speaking out. That may be weak. So if you have extra links for such a person, please post your proof in the big list thread.
Please be aware that we don’t want this list to become some Scientology dictionary or phonebook. We don’t need a hundred links for everyone on. A few is just fine.
3. Regularly helping build the list
Now the BIG way to help is of course doing the things below on a regular basis.
If you can spare a few hours every week looking for new names and post about it in the big list thread on WWP that would be awesome! Incredulicide and I (as well as others) will gladly help you to find your way. You don’t need an account there, but it may be useful to create one as it gives extra functionality such as the ability to use personal messages so you can easily reach us for anything that can’t be shared on an open forum.
Working on the list can be a lot of work. It’s just fine to only work on it every now and then. You will need some perseverance. But the rewards, in a quiet sort of way, can be large. You are helping people to get the courage to speak out and to help build awareness of Scientology’s problems.
Once you post on the WWP site, Anons such as myself will review your proposed additions and update the list. It may take a few days (we do have a life…). Should your addition not be included within a few days or a week, feel free to contact me in the comments below, at the Underground Bunker, ESMB or on WWP.
A note: every now and then people update the wiki-page itself. We wouldn’t want to stop you from doing so, even if we could. However, it is important to make sure the additions have enough proofto meet our standards. Any other updates will be reverted. This follows the rule that is commonly used on Wikipedia to make sure it is as credible as possible: no original research.
The big list is an Anonymous project. You’re not in it for fame, so “leave your ego at the door”, and don’t expect people to thank you for your contributions. It is guaranteed though that people will thank you in their hearts.
Anons by definition can only speak for themselves. However, let me take the liberty to say this on behalf of all exes: thanks in advance!
Details of How to Find Names
As I said, I use Google a lot. It may be a good idea to also use other search engines than just Google.
Putting a name or phrase in quotation marks in your search will look for that exact phrase. If you type Mike Rinder without quotes, search engines will return any page containing the word “Mike” and the word “Rinder” anywhere on the page. You will get a lot of pages talking about Mike Smith taking a fishing trip with Larry Rinder, etc.
You may find commonly used phrases in quotes help. You could run searches for “Speaks Out” Scientology to look for someone new speaking out. But it may be that there are different phrases to use, like “criticizes” or “denounces.” So you may have to try different phrases to maximize the chances you will catch someone speaking out.
To find evidence on a specific site, google lets you use the “site”-option. Example:
“Mike Rinder” site:truthaboutscientology.com
When using the truthaboutscientology site, please be aware that the magazines the completions were taken from have all kinds of spelling problems with names. (I guess “study tech” does not work). Also, Scientologists tend to have multiple marriages, which especially for the women means they can be in completions under different names. Kristi and Patti (as far as I can tell, the ones doing most of the work on the site) have done a tremendous job dealing with the low quality of the data they had.
In the past I have more than once used a brute force approach to finding names with Excel. I harvested the full list of names on Kristi Wachter’s site starting here. I also got a full copy of the list of ex members speaking out, and used Excel to cut off the entry for each person just before the minus sign after the name.
Then I harvested a list of names of people I was interested in researching. Using vertical search (an Excel option) I was able to find people who were in because they were in completions, but had NOT been put on the big list. This helped to direct research.
However this method is no longer useful as there are many people speaking out against the COS because of all the books and documentaries such as Going Clear and Leah’s show.
Should you have any ideas on how to do better searches, please post them in the big list thread. Most anons are always eager to learn. (I know I am.)
John P adds two of his favorite search techniques:
First, to narrow your search, use Google’s “Advanced Search” capability. This will let you search more precisely for phrases, exclude phrases more easily, and will let you search only recent pages or ones changed within a certain range of dates. This can reduce the number of false positives, and the date range can help you to cut down the number of search results you’ve already seen before. To do this, run your Google search. Get results you like. On the results page, go to the “Settings” drop-down menu and select “Advanced Search,” and fill out the prompts.
You can set up a “Google Alert” on the searches that you run frequently. It will continuously monitor the web and send you new results when it discovers anything new. To access the Google Search console, go to http://www.google.com/alerts. Fill in the search terms that you want, and press “Enter.” You can set options that tell the site when to send you new information. You can select different rates such as “as it happens,” “once a day” or “once a week.” If there are a lot of results, Google will use algorithms to find what it thinks are the most valuable ones. I recommend making sure your search is as narrow as possible when you set up a Google alert. You can set up multiple alerts to give you the broadest range of searches. Google will then deliver search results to your e-mail as often as you have selected. You should review the other options and customize them.