Many cult groups have extensive physical control mechanisms to keep members in line. Scientology, for example, keeps Sea Org staff from defecting by housing them in apartment buildings where the spikes on top of the fence, the surveillance cameras and the motion detectors all point inwards. But physical control to ensure loyalty is an expensive proposition and not all cultic groups can afford to do it. Scientology has had the cash, the free labor pool, the isolated facilities, and lots of time to perfect control of the physical environment.
Nirvana, from the standpoint of cult management, is to perfect the trick of getting people to imprison themselves in the cult mentally, where they become the most effective policeman to ferret out and shut down dissenting thoughts. Here, we look at a case study of how Nancy Salzman, the #2 in the Nxivm cult, used a story about the 9/11 terrorist attacks to not only keep herself on Nxivm’s path, but to serve as a lesson to push others to do the same.
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”
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.
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”
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.
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 take a look at how paranoid, far-right fringe political cult leader Lyndon LaRouche attempted to intimidate the musical world into redefining one of the fundamental aspects of musical physics. In some sense, LaRouche’s efforts are similar to what Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard did when attempting to reinvent the sound recording process as part of his own aesthetic theory.
The two stories are good for a few laughs. But ultimately, the moral of the story is quite serious. First, cults behave like totalitarian states in their attempts to control artistic and creative expression. Second, these examples remind us that cults are able to get their followers to believe strange things and to engage in quixotic quests that accomplish little save stroking the egos and lining the wallets of power-mad cult leaders. Scientology is far from alone in this regard, and combining our experience in Scientology’s ability to get members to do bizarre things with what we learn about similarities between cults can help the cult awareness community to help people more generally in the future. Continue reading “Lyndon LaRouche vs. L. Ron Hubbard: Why Two Paranoid Cults Tried to Redefine Music”
In this series, we will finally collect what we have learned about the Ideal Org program and the strategy behind it in one place. Here, we’ll take our best guess about why Scientology is so focused on building lots of expensive new churches that nobody visits. There is a strategy behind it, and there are rational reasons why Scientology leader David Miscavige thinks this is a good use of cash, but the logic behind the strategy may surprise you.
The Data Series is Hubbard’s “special sauce” for how to analyze an organization and either fix what’s broken or improve what’s working. Today’s post features Hana Whitfield, who spent years working directly for L. Ron Hubbard in the 1960s and 1970s. She recalls a story of Hubbard using the Data Series “tech” to fix a problem in the organization.