Earlier today, Tony Ortega posted an article about Scientology’s plans to air advertising in the Tampa market during the 2018 Winter Olympics. We do a quick back-of-the-envelope estimate of the amount that Scientology will spend and the size of the Scientologist audience that cult leader David Miscavige hopes to impress. Spoiler: unsurprisingly, it’s a costly boondoggle.
The city government of Clearwater, Florida, home of Scientology’s main global campus, voted in April 2016 to buy land from the Clearwater Aquarium, thwarting Scientology’s offer to acquire the property for substantially more than the city paid. More recently, Pastor Willie Rice of Calvary Baptist Church, the city’s oldest church, has gone into attack mode, rallying his congregation and trying to rally other pastors to oppose Scientology openly. Why is the power structure in Clearwater now opposing Scientology so openly?
We believe the city council and others now understand that Scientology is a paper tiger that can’t affect the outcome of elections, the political currency that matters most. They can only lobby ineffectually and skulk around and attempt to harass after the fact, a modus operandi that is increasingly often exposed, and which thus backfires on the cult.
Summary: We look at the role of anecdotes in researching the cult. They can be powerful tools to either validate or challenge your existing thinking. Anecdotes don’t prove trends or general conclusions, but they are a great tool for alerting you to possible trends, changes in direction, or conclusions you’ve missed. This article talks about how we use anecdotes on Wall Street. But the best part is a case study, with one of our commenters reporting on a great chance encounter who interviewed a Scientologist at length in an airport bar, as well as my quick take on what to do next with an anecdote that challenges some of my beliefs about the cult.
Anecdotes are powerful tools: Today, I want to look at the power of anecdotal evidence in analyzing Scientology. Stories from current and former members can be a powerful tool to check your assumptions and your thoughts about what is going on inside the cult. These are particularly important to help you make sure that reality has not changed without your noticing. In other words, anecdotes that don’t fit into your current hypothesis of what is going on are one of the most powerful tools in improving your analytical work.
In order to make anecdotes work, one has to have a foundation of intellectual honesty. In other words, you have to be open to the possibility that some new piece of anecdotal data will unravel a theory, potentially even one that you are inordinately fond of. You can’t rush to defend a theory without thinking dispassionately about what the new data point means. Pride in doing good analysis comes not in being right about a particular theory, but in being able to adapt your thinking and to continue to hone in on useful and actionable conclusions, even if they are heading in a different direction in your prior work.
While anecdotes are powerful, “the plural of anecdotes is not data.” What I’m saying here is not at all conflict with what I have said in multiple comments on Tony’s blog and elsewhere about anecdotes as inherently insufficient to prove general conclusions. As you may recall, I have said on numerous occasions that clear and convincing anecdotal evidence that Scientology auditing has produced big “wins” for some people in some circumstances is not sufficient to “prove” that auditing works in a general case across a broad population of people. As scientists say, “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data.'” That’s because anecdotes, no matter how credible the teller, aren’t structured rigorously the way that statistically valid data points in a clinical drug trial would be. So you can’t get from “a big bag of positive auditing success stories” to the assertion that “auditing works and is an effective form of therapy.”
In other words, anecdotes are great ways to get you to continually challenge your existing views and to guide your work by digging deeper into inconsistencies in your scenario of what is happening and your predictions about what will happen. For that, one or two anecdotes can be sufficient to open up a whole new area of research. However, those same anecdotes are not proof of your new theory or model.
Incidentally, I am working on a longer piece that looks at the apparent contradiction of how anecdotes can be valid individually, but any number of them cannot be combined together to establish a true statement. It should be out in a week or two.
How anecdotes make you rich and famous on Wall Street: In the late 1990s, Oxford Health was an HMO growing explosively, and the stock was on a rocket ride. But one analyst, who checked in with doctors who were Oxford providers, started to hear that they were having trouble getting paid, though she knew that Oxford had always been very timely in physician payments to date. She talked to more doctors, did some more research, and eventually made a gutsy call: Oxford would miss their profit forecast for the quarter for the first time ever, and by an immense margin. Her research helped get her clients out of the stock while it was still high and avoid catastrophic losses when the company reported several weeks later that they were hemorrhaging money and the stock collapsed. An article from the New York Times talks about the Oxford case (I can’t remember the name of the brave analyst who went against the grain and was roundly criticized until she was proven magnificently right). And this article from the Wall Street Journal at about the same time gives more depth on the thought process of using anecdotes in a very powerful way.
Case study: Let’s consider a case of a really interesting anecdote which was sent in by “B. B. Broeker,” a longtime commenter on Tony’s blog. He ran into a Scientologist at the airport in Tampa and had a long chat with a longtime supporter of the cult, which he relayed to me. He said:
I was in Tampa for business not long ago. When my business meetings went more smoothly than I’d predicted, I saw my chance. I drove across the bay to Clearwater, parked near the Super Power building, and took a leisurely walk around the Scientology complex. It was a pretty unremarkable visit, but I was glad to have seen up close the buildings that have occupied so much of my mental real estate since becoming a Scientology watcher.
On my way home, I stopped at the airport bar, and sat next to a chatty woman in late middle age. She was, based on her interaction with the bartender, on what I figure was her fourth or fifth glass of chardonnay, and was engaging the guy on the other side of her in a trite conversation about the deleterious effect electronic gadgets are having on communication. Needless to say, I stayed buried in my phone.
While I avoided a conversation for a while, I eventually gave in after she directly asked me how my (crappy) food was. As it happens, I was reading Mike Rinder ‘s blog when I finally surrendered. It turned out she lived in the greater Clearwater area, and I mentioned that I’d just been there. She named a couple restaurants and asked if I’d gone to them, and I said no, I’d just visited on a pilgrimage of sorts to the Scientology complex.
Her jaw sort of dropped, and I figured, “oh, shit, she thinks I’m a clam, and doesn’t know what to say.” So I hurried to add, “yeah, I find them fascinating.” She fumbled a bit, and eventually said, “you have no idea what’s about to happen there. I’m a Scientologist.”
Now it was my turn to be taken aback, but I quickly recovered. “Yeah! Super Power is finally opening! The IAS gala! Golden Age of Tech Phase II is debuting! And … you’re leaving town?”
She seemed suspicious, but answered. “Yeah, I’m headed out of town for a while. I’ve got lots of friends [at my destination], and I need to get away for a bit.”
“How do you know all that, about all the events?”
“Oh, I read a lot. Like I said, I find your religion fascinating.”
Well, after telling her what I do for a living (I was soooo tempted to say I was a psych, but I made a conscious decision to not antagonize her, both because I didn’t want to be mean and to see if I could get this tipsy woman to open up), she seemed to decide that I was good people, and she told me her life story.
She grew up in one of the richer suburbs of a large city, but her family wasn’t really wealthy, and she didn’t really fit in with the other kids. Consequently, she had a hard time of it in school. “I didn’t need Scientology to teach me how to stop being effect and start becoming cause. I had to learn that in high school.”
She got into Scientology in her 20’s. Her boyfriend introduced her to the church. They got married, and her new husband started a company which he ran on LRH “admin tech.” It succeeded, and was later sold, and they moved to Clearwater.
It was at this point that she confessed that he wanted a divorce, and that she felt like she needed some time apart to figure things out. That’s why she was headed out of town. He wanted to stay for the events, and she decided to let him have them, while she got her head straight.
“I’m really sorry to be missing what’s happening – especially the developments in the tech and processing – but I can watch them all on DVD when I’m [at my destination].” I guess she was planning to be gone quite a while.
We talked about the tech, and how much it helped her and her husband relate better (I courteously ignored their impending divorce), and how study tech is probably the greatest advance in human development in the past thousand years. She even talked about the amazing efficacy of Narconon – she had referred family members to the center and tried it for her own drinking problem. She felt the tech and the counselors had saved their lives. (I chose not to comment on how she was throwing back the vino – probably on glass five or six – at that very moment.) She volunteered that her husband was on a fairly high Bridge level, and had been for a number of years, but I didn’t know if it was a faux pas to ask about her own case, so I didn’t.
Anyway, I continued to demonstrate I was knowledgeable about the subject, so I wasn’t that surprised when she said, “you know so much about Scientology. Have you ever taken any courses?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, I’ve read a lot of LRH, and … well, I guess it’s just not for everyone.”
She sort of accepted that, but after a while eventually returned to the topic – not in a proselytizing way, but as if she were genuinely curious why someone who had familiarized himself with the Founder’s work wouldn’t want to rehabilitate his spirit.
“Is it it the press? You know you can’t trust the papers.”
“Oh, I know. But I agree with LRH – ‘look, don’t listen.'” (She smiled wide at that.) “I just don’t feel like I need Scientology. “
Again, she seemed to accept my position, but then she asked me a question I never would have expected:
“Everyone thinks we’re crazy, or we’re weird. I mean, people seem to hate us. You don’t – don’t get me wrong. But why do you think people hate Scientology?”
It was touching, and not a little bit sad. She really wanted to know, and really had absolutely no idea, why the vast majority of people outside her little bubble believe that something at the core of her life is ridiculous and/or contemptible. In keeping with my approach of not antagonizing her, and because I thought it would lead to a more illuminating discussion, I played it soft:
“Well, there’s the money aspect–“
which prompted her to talk about how much training the auditors all had, especially with the GAT II release and with Super Power, and about how that costs lots of money, and there’s all sorts of self-study courses besides.
“Right, but I wasn’t talking about donations for coursework or auditing. I mean, the fundraising. The Ideal Orgs. The IAS. You’ve been in for eons – do you get the sense that they’re regging you harder?”
“Well, maybe. But they really don’t pressure you to give what you can’t afford. I’ve never felt pushed to give more than makes sense. Sure, really wealthy people – and there are a lot of quietly wealthy people in the Church – give a lot, but it’s nothing to them. Normal people aren’t forced to give that much. It’s just not expected”
“Are you guys IAS patrons, or anything like that? Did you get pushed to prepay for Super Power?”
“No, we’ve got two bridges to pay for, and college for the kids. We give what we feel we can, but our bridges come first. And no one makes us feel bad about that.”
I don’t know about you, but I found that fascinating. Sure, it could be a PR line, but it was delivered pretty genuinely, by a woman who had heretofore demonstrated no ability to effectively shade the absurd disconnect between her idealized vision of the tech and the reality of her experience in the Church. (See: her impending divorce, her Narconon “success” story.) Now, whether she actually isn’t being coerced into donating, or whether she no longer can discern coercion – whether she actually isn’t giving a lot to the IAS, or whether she no longer has a sense of what “a lot of money” actually represents – I don’t know. But I believe that *she* believes that there truly isn’t a regging problem. And that’s interesting in and of itself.
Anyway, we chatted for a little while longer, but I soon had to head to the gate. As we parted, I caught her name off her boarding pass. I checked her on Kristi Wachter’s completions list, and she had indeed been in the Church for quite a long time. And I suspect she’ll never leave.
Thanks to BBB for a well-written narrative, and for doing a great job helping the lady he was talking to to open up. Great job on sucking up the snark and wit to ask bland questions to help her feel comfortable.
How to analyze this data point: There are a couple areas where the lady’s statements fall outside my beliefs about how the cult operates. Here are what I noticed and how I’d react to them (not to refute her statements, but to dig deeper to see what’s really going on):
- Regging is at tolerable levels: The lady says that she doesn’t feel overly hounded for money, even though she is reasonably well off in semi-retirement, which I would assume makes her a prime target for enthusiastic FSM’s. Given the horrific stories that have emerged from so many quarters, I’m surprised to see someone who is relatively sanguine about the amount of fund-raising in the cult. It’s not likely that all those stories of obscene fund-raising techniques are wrong, but this lady apparently spoke truthfully (“in vino, veritas”?) about how she doesn’t feel overly pressured to donate all the time. There are several possible explanations, and we would need further follow up to determine which might be applicable: a) her husband might be the target of all the regging, since he controls the money in the family; b) they’ve reached the status of a “sideliner,” having made clear to the cult that they’re not giving more money ever; c) the cult is toothless to follow up on e-mails sent out in order to get people to attend events; d) the cult is more sophisticated in fundraising approaches, spending less time on members who are assessed as less likely to give, or e) something else entirely. A detailed follow-up interview, if it were possible, with suitably gentle and wide-ranging questions might be able to give some perspective.
- Focus on the “Bridge” instead of events and donation: the picture in publicly available testimony is that the cult is making it difficult for people to move up the Bridge because it’s forcing them to redo long-ago levels and courses. The fact that so many recent escapees say that having to redo “Objectives” caused them to blow may be a function of a self-selected audience; we’re not interviewing people still in the cult (which is why this conversation is so interesting). I am intrigued that this person’s story challenges what many of us take on faith about lack of progress on the “Bridge.” I would want to ask a whole bunch of follow-up questions including understanding how much Bridge progress they’re making, and whether they have had the setbacks (kicked back to “Objectives”) that others complain about. In other words, are they just engaging in a little cognitive dissonance, like touting the benefits of Narconon while belting back the drinks? Or is there some sophistication in how the cult is targeting its members to maximize the total revenue per customer (like a casino who knows which customers prefer blackjack to poker, so they don’t shoehorn a craps player into a roulette game that they don’t really want to play). Or, again, is something else in play?
- Narconon: the fact that this lady was quickly getting bombed while talking about drug and alcohol “tech” is amusing. But beyond this, it’s reasonable to guess that a possible reason she’d be doing something that most addiction and rehab experts would say belies any actual rehabilitation, is that the cult’s definition of “recovered alcoholic” differs from the one used in the rest of the world by a fair margin. In other words, the cult may rely on definitions to get people to think Narconon works. She may think that because she has completed Narconon that that is what determines whether she’s an alcoholic or not. On Tony’s blog the other day, a commenter quoted a story of one cult member saying of a nearby OT VIII who smoked madly, “he could quit at any time, he just chooses not to.” It would take a follow-up interview to see if the lady believes Narconon works because it teaches you that you have the power to stop drinking any time you want, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stop today. If that is indeed the definition culties use for “success” at Narconon, it’s no wonder it’s easy for them to repeat claims of an 85% success rate for the program with a straight face.
The more data points one collects on a regular basis, the better prepared you are to detect changes in the environment that would allow you to update your scenario. The faster that you detect and respond to change, the more effective you’ll be… in capitalism, if you figure out that a company’s business is deteriorating, you can sell the stock before others think there might be a shortfall, and can often avoid huge losses.
I think data hounds should pay close attention to the story on Mike Rinder’s blog about the Haifa org, which broke away from the cult en masse last year. There are abundant stats on how well the org is doing. I show below how these credible stats can be used to bracket estimates for the size of the cult worldwide, so this is a pretty significant discovery.
Tony’s blog post today featured a story about a relatively bizarre filing in the Luis Garcia case. Apparently, the cult is trying to get one of the plaintiff’s declarations thrown out because it is alleging facts that are inconsistent with the complaint. What makes this absolutely surreal is that the facts mentioned in the declaration are the ones that Scientology has alleged. So in other words, essentially, the cult of saying that Luis Garcia’s declaration is invalid because it repeats the church’s statements, which are true when the church says them but lies when Garcia repeats them.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
One of the most personally relevant comments on Tony’s blog came from Bury_The_Nuts, who remembered something I wrote a long time ago and applied it in a confrontation with cult goons at Flag one night… Her story about using “Capitalist Tech” to mess with the heads of the guards and get them to understand that “the tech” doesn’t work made my day.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
The cult filed a rather odd motion in the Luis Garcia case, attempting to strike a declaration by Luis Garcia himself, claiming that the facts in the declaration did not match the facts in the original complaint. Of course, the cult is rather conveniently forgetting that the declaration is repeating what the cult alleged were the facts. In other words, it is getting a little surreal in here. I would have to believe that Ted Babbitt, the Garcia’s attorney, could not believe his eyes when he read the motion.
Scott Pilutik cleverly and vividly explains the absurdity of this filing in his comment.
Marc Headley wrote an eloquent letter to Mayor of Clearwater giving a great summary of how David Miscavage treats everyone, including the city. He is advising the mayor to toughen up and deal with this hemorrhoid on the body politic. I am not sure if this will have much effect, but it is certainly a great read.
In the interest of brevity, click here to see my detailed comment taking apart the craziness in the Sunday Funnies.
My take: as I frequently point out, I am not a lawyer, so I do not see this legal battle through a lens that looks anything like the way a lawyer would see. I tend to see these things, surprisingly enough, as plays that explore good versus evil. Some of my thinking is informed by literary criticism and literary theory, and some by my skills in handicapping political campaigns and strategies.
That said, it sure feels to me like the tenor of this case has changed, and the momentum is back The motion to dismiss filed by the cult on grounds of “diversity jurisdiction” certainly had the feel of an elegantly laid trap that, if successful, would make it significantly harder for the Garcia’s to prevail (even if it did not make it any more difficult, it certainly would make it more expensive). While Ted Babbitt prepared what felt like a competent enough response, it was a bit less confident in tone and some of the prior paperwork filed in the case.
But now, it appears that the cult is back to its usual program of bizarre legal machinations that swing for the fences but they come nowhere near actually hitting the ball. This latest tactic sounds even more ill-advised than the motion to disqualify counsel, which the cult soundly lost. It seems to me that if David Miscavage had a little more restraint, he would probably have a better chance on prevailing with the diversity jurisdiction motion. But the fact that he is driving his attorneys to file these obviously dilatory motions has a great chance of waving a big red flag in front of the judge. The judge will smell bogus legal tactics, and it would seem reasonable to guess that he will be very sympathetic to the Garcia’s attempts to conduct extensive discovery on the reality of the trusts that are at the heart of the motion to dismiss on diversity jurisdiction grounds.
In other words, by trying to win every battle, and by trying to start other battles in relevant locations, it is entirely possible that Miscavage will turn a potential victory into a far more likely defeat.
- Anonymous points out that the whole Sunday Service thing, which Artie Maren’s trip to “preach” in Georgia, may be a renewed emphasis on “religious cloaking” to try and deflect some heat. I would ask that people be aware of this possibility, and look for any notices of similar events at other orgs to try and determine whether this is a trend. That enables us to try to figure out what “flap” caused Miscavige to stir this pot, which has been relatively quiet for a long time.
- Miss Tia tweeted director Ron Howard and other relevant players to make them aware of the copyright violation for the movie “Rush” with all the footage incorporated in the Silicon Valley org promo video. Apparently, though they were pretty good about copyright violations for a month or two, they’re back to stealing stuff left and right. It appears they just can’t help themselves.
- “Jo” discovered a cartoon that implies that the use of free stress tests to recruit new members may be alive and well outside of Scientology.
- Beloved witty commenter “The Next Mrs. Tom Cruise” resurfaced after some months under the name “Sciloonfairy” after fixing long-time Disqus security problems.
- TheCommodeDoor makes a nice catch of a 1980 paper published in the journal “Sociological Analysis” on the “superhuman” aspects of Clear. It makes the point that Clear is a social status marker in the cult rather than something people believe gives them actual super powers.
- Observer discovers a picture that hasn’t been shooped, and is disgusted by what she sees in the background behind Hubbard. This is why.
- Michael Leonard Tilse points out that vacillation on the part of the City of Clearwater may be a function of covert Scientologists still on the City payroll, long after many of us may have thought that the cult would have lost interest in such things.
- Cat Daddy goes off-topic with a major find, a gloating video from a Volunteer Minister who took a bunch of water bottles stacked against the wall outside a makeshift X-ray clinic and handed them out. Too bad the bottles were there as improvised radiation shielding to protect personnel and people waiting to get treated. Oh, wait, who was it that said radiation was an engram or something ludicrous?
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Mike’s blog post for today does a nice follow-up of the Haifa mission in Israel, which broke off as a group (staff and customers) a year ago, in a move that is unprecedented in the recent decades of Scientology. There are some interesting data points that come out: Haifa, a metro area of 700,000, and the educational capital of Israel, has about 50 active Scientologists. That’s probably due to extraordinary hustle on the part of the Lembergers, the mission holder couple. That gives us a likely number of church adherent Scientologists in the country as a whole of perhaps 200, given likely lack of hustle from the Tel Aviv org.
It also gives a lower bound of staff per member, since the article shows the 5 staffers serving the 50 customers or a ratio of 1:10. I have estimated previously that there are about 5,000 staff worldwide out of 25,000 members, a very inefficient organization indeed. A software company typically does about $1.5 billion in revenue with 5,000 employees, almost an order of magnitude more than the cult… Thus, this article suggests I’m reasonably correct on the relative ratio of staff to public in the cult. That means we can focus on trying to model overall cult membership, and estimate the staff top-down from the overall member total, then we can cross-check that with built-up estimates of the staff of various key headquarters organizations.
Marty Rathbun’s Blog
Marty’s back after a long-ish absence, with a post about his plans to publish more books next year. He plans to help people move beyond Scientology, with the first part focusing on how to get some critical thinking skills back so one is no longer a blind adherent to the cult. He’ll then think about what’s wrong with the OT levels from the standpoint of someone who’s done them. He decries the “shallow debunking of Hubbard and his theories.” While that may well be a nod to never-in’s trying to point out the absurdity of the OT process, the insult doesn’t matter. What is interesting here is that he may be trying to use Scientology to cause Scientology to implode. We shall see what happens as these books come to fruition.
WWP, ESMB, OCMB
Thanks again to Aeger Primo for keeping an eagle eye on the forums today! Vistaril also made a great catch revealing a particularly pernicious trick for dealing with protesters.
- Here’s a link to ESMB’s thread discussing the South Africa situation after the recent “massacre” of 50-year members that were at the top of the heap in that country.
- Here’s an important discussion on both WWP and ESMB of security for people posting videos to YouTube and posting content to other Google properties. The fact that Google is trying to get you to use Google+ (their sort-of Facebook clone) can result in some security leakage potentially including revealing one’s name used in sending e-mails. When some of us created the “Rodeo” on Google Groups as a temporary home for the commenter community when Tony left the Village Voice but before he launched his own site, we discovered this. I emphasize that I don’t think one needs to panic, but just to be aware of the situation and take steps if you post content to the properties referenced. This does not create security risk on non-Google sites, such as Tony’s blog, mine, or anything else that uses Disqus, for example.
- From the “Maggots gotta mag” department: the Philippines were devastated recently by the strongest typhoon ever recorded, and desperately needs help. ESMB anticipates that the American Red Cross may soon be joined by the “Cockroach Brigade” as Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers fly in to get in the way for a major fundraising photo op, and to waste time with fingers ready to do touch assists and hand out “International Disaster Response” booklets. I continue to find it amazing that they are handing out booklets to people languishing in the rubble of their former homes that contain the precept “Live a prosperous life.” See the video Cat Daddy uncovered to amp up your outrage quotient over Volunteer Ministers if you just think they’re hapless dupes. Their stupidity kills.
- WWP discusses the project to flag Co$ ads on Craigslist as spam. They’re working to coordinate efforts even more effectively.
- Vistaril caught an interesting story about how a cultie got arrested for throwing water on two protesters. The discussion on WWP raised the interesting point that this may have been done so the cult could get the identity of the Anons that would have to be revealed as part of making a police complaint, implying that the stunt was essentially arranged entirely for the purpose. Apparently, one of the Anons was comfortable doing this, and that was sufficient to make the arrest. The good news: they’re desperate enough to unmask Anons that someone would risk an arrest that will show up on a background check if they ever leave the cult. The bad news: this may actually work. The worse news, if you’re in the cult: David Miscavige treats your future employment prospects with about the same care and concern as the average Al Qaeda lieutenant recruiting suicide bombers.
Editor’s Note: More hassles today; the longer article I had hoped to get out today will appear tomorrow.
Thanks to “AegerPrimo” for our first tour through ESMB and WWP threads.
As I’ve said before, this is a work in progress; I welcome suggestions on how to make it better. And if you’re willing to help out by taking on compiling parts of this (particularly ESMB, WWP and other forum sites) on a regular basis (perhaps signing up for one day a week), please be ready to jump in.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Today’s post covered three topics:
- Various Michigan Narconon facilities under the banner of Per Wickstrom, in a development that should surprise exactly nobody familiar with the hijinks at Narconon Georgia, may be involved in insurance fraud, from a patient whose insurance was billed $200,000 without his knowledge.
- Angry Gay Pope got arrested for protesting at Pac Base and is charged with stalking of a Sea Org member who had a now-expired restraining order against AGP. Apparently, AGP will be spending the night as a guest of the authorities, until an arraignment to fight the $150,000 bail and felony charge, which sounds like it may well be over-charging, given that Tony reports the LAPD decided not to charge him with a crime after viewing his camera footage of the event.
- A picture from the Million Mask March in London last night shows comedian Russell Brand standing next to well-known ex Samantha Domingo. No word on who got whose autograph.
Key comments for the day:
- Former Narconon Arrowhead President Lucas Cattona commented that insurance fraud could blow the whole Narconon thing up; I and several others had previously thought so, but it’s nice that an insider confirms it.
- “Once_Born” suggested that a massive wave of lawsuits from Narconon could be impossible for the cult to handle. I expanded on this to say that Miscavige can’t scale — the Anon 2008 protest was a “scale” attack, with perhaps 10,000 protestors appearing outside a substantial percentage of cult facilities; Miscavige remains traumatized by that. “Anonymous” observes correctly that this was the cult’s strategy against the IRS that drove the 1993 exemption agreement: so many lawsuits in different jurisdictions that the IRS could eat up their entire litigation budget fighting them all. The thread is visible by clicking here and scrolling up.
- Luke Catton also points out that the cult is trying to re-brand some of these facilities to escape from under the Narconon cloud, but he believes it’s not likely to succeed.
- Also, Catton’s financial data on Narconon contribution to the cult jives nicely with estimates we’d been carring in our spreadsheet but not yet published; nice to have validation from an expert without having to slice up all those boring IRS Form 990s.
- Still_On_Your_Side poetically compares David Miscavige to Norma Desmond, the aging diva from Sunset Boulevard.
- OTVIIIisGrrr8! explains how everyone has some serious M/Us when it comes to the idea that Narconon would engage in something as distasteful-sounding as insurance fraud.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
- Mike’s first post highlighted the crazy coming from David Wilson, a Kool-Aid drinking whale who sent out a “regging” letter with some extremely bad reimagining of a bit of dialog from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. To make it even worse, the “Clear California” logo from the top of the document features the figure of a knight who looks more than a little like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, not the sort of knight you want on a life-or-death quest for glory.
- Mike’s second post relays a story about the management of the Johannesburg Ideal Org getting replaced after being recalled to Clearwater. Click through to the underlying articles on a blog for SA-based Indie Scientologists. The article says that a number of people with decades in the cult have recently been declared, and a new management team from the Sea Org has been sent in; more declarations are expected. I would estimate based on a quick cut of the numbers that there are perhaps 400 Scientologists in SA, so this may be an example of implosions to come in other countries, and perhaps even in US cities. Suddenly, the formerly sleepy cult scene in SA seems a lot more interesting, and the recently-launched backincomm blog appears to be a great source for what’s going with those still in the cult down there.
Marty Rathbun’s Blog
- Radio silence now of seven days. There has only been one other period in the last four months where Marty has been off the radar for this long.
ESMB & WWP
- “Suspicious Scientology Deaths….MURDER?” is the name of a a TruTV segment published today that looks into the deaths of Lisa McPherson, Susan Meister, Flo Barnett (DM’s mother-in-law) and Quentin Hubbard. It also references Kyle Brennan and several other deaths at cult-related entities. This ESMB thread has extensive commentary including several lengthy posts by Arnie Lerma.
- There will be a 5-day “Flag Down” conference in Clearwater, FL, in May 2014. Activists are requesting funds to host a conference to expose abuses of the Co$. Scheduled speakers include; John Duignan, Nancy Many, Victoria Britton, Hana Eltringham Whitfield, Mark Plummer, Patty Moher, John McGhee, Jamie de Wolf, John Sweeney, Arnie Lerma, Karen Pressley. This thread is running at ESMB and WWP.
- WWP highlights (perhaps “lowlights” would be a better word) an interesting thread that showed one of the hazards of the “clay demo” part of Study Tech. NSFW unless you are one of the pigs who work on the trading desk in Global Capitalism HQ.
- Some discussion on ESMB on whether Marty is completely dissociating himself from Scientology as a result of his “slavery” article a week ago.
- Apparently, the city of Clearwater just approved construction of a new aquarium on a site next to Flag, which the cult opposes. Guess there will be a whole new range of freaky alien life forms from the world’s oceans on display in downtown Clearwater.
“Scientology” on Google News
- The Tampa Bay Times is back with an update on the plans for the big events in Clearwater. Sounds like the city is toughening up on the cult. According to the TBT, “City Manager Bill Horne said the city won’t begin reviewing the new IAS permit request until the church complies with conditions the city is placing on arrangements for another celebration: the grand opening of Scientology’s new Flag Building and related events, scheduled to begin Nov. 15.”
Editor’s note: This is the first post of what I hope will be daily summaries of news from around the Scientology universe. Initially, I’ll focus on the three key blogs: Tony Ortega, Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun. Over time, particularly if some people can help me, I’d like to include a roundup of key Scientology-related posts on WWP, ESMB and other forum boards. I’ll typically try, schedule permitting to get this out around 10pm US Eastern Time, though I can’t guarantee this.
I need feedback to determine what would make this document maximally useful to you; this is an evolving document and I’m very flexible on what to do with it, or even whether it’s necessary.
Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker
Tony’s lone article today continued Claire Headley’s series of actually “doing” Scientology. Today, she described what it was like to do the OT 1 level, the first stage past clear.
My take: As always, getting even a taste of what it is like to do Scientology training is interesting for a never-in like me. The OT 1 level itself sounds pretty lame, hanging around out in public and looking at people and trying to figure out what they might be thinking.
Though the article didn’t go into it in any great detail, I recall reading from other sources that the cult pulls on people is to make it difficult for them to start doing the OT levels at all. That’s the “OT Eligibility” process that Claire references in the article. Interestingly, it costs $9,800 while the OT 1 level itself “only” costs $3,300. I’ve heard that the OT Eligibility is where they like to throw lots of curves at you, magically discovering that there was some screw-up way back when and you now need to redo a whole bunch of lower-level stuff before you are going to be permitted to join the big time.
- Chuck Beatty gave a nice firsthand description of watching people walk around the neighborhood of the Big Blue building in Hollywood doing their OT 1 observations.
- Longtime member Patty Moher weighed in with her recollections of how the cult dragged out the OT Eligibility process for her, even though she was a loyal and successful OSA operative at the time.
- J. Swift dredged up a copy of a legal threat from Scientology to WikiLeaks in 2008 for posting the OT materials on line. Yeah, that obviously got Julian Assange whimpering in the corner.
- “Guest” presented one of the nicer parodies of a missive from ham-fisted cult spokeswoman Karin Pouw to emerge in a while.
- Bruce Hines mentioned that the OT 1 level went through a few radical revisions over the years. I’m not sure I understand the details, but this is a source that may be worth noting. Anyone know Bruce’s history? Apparently he was there.
- Observer dredged up a link to a story from The Skeptic’s Dictionary where Hubbard allegedly subjected bacteria to jets of steam and tobacco smoke to determine whether they inherited instincts. This is in a beautifully snarky review of Hubbard’s Rediscovery of the Human Soul, a book which I hadn’t previously seen. It appears to be almost as pathetic as A History of Man, which Tony had leading evolutionary biologist P. Z. Myers review back in August. The scientific method demonstrated in Hubbard’s experiment looks positively medieval.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Mike reports that the cult has now filed permits for street closures, well after the normal 30-day deadline. He references a Tampa Bay Times article filed this evening that the cult is going to request that busy Ft. Harrison avenue be closed during the entire weekend of November 17th, a prime beach weekend. While the article quotes local officials as attempting to be flexible, one wonders whether the economic firepower of the tourism industry will overpower the fear-driven clout of the cult. There are a couple interesting details:
- The cult has asked for several traffic signals to be removed to support filming, which the city has refused to consider. This little detail, if granted, would apparently cost in excess of $100,000 per signal.
- The cult plans on putting Jumbotron style video screens in the area so you can get a video feed of the festivities anywhere in the neighborhood. Of course, this means they have to get the streets blocked so protestors can’t film the video on these screens with their phones.