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.
My take: 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.
- Speaking of Scientology schools, w0gs7ud3 details life at Greenfields, a Scientology school near Saint Hill in the UK. He was a “wog” whose parents were tricked by the brochures.
- Jon Hunter also shares his experience of being taught in a Scientology school.
- Kevin Tighe says the cult tried to recruit an African-American auditor to service the Smiths in 2006, and he knew of this because his wife was offered the job to replace the guy they found at the DC org.
- Eclipse-girl weighs in from the perspective of an educator on the value of “study tech.”
- Fellow teacher Natalia M. also weighs in with her professional take on Study Dreck.
- Once_Born sums up nicely the end product of a Scientology “religious” education: morons running a cult into the ground.
- Observer posts a picture of Scientologist and full-on sleazebag Grant Cardone with his lovely wife at the festivities. I finally figured out where I have seen that douchey look: on one of my favorite guilty pleasure blogs, hotchickswithdouchebags.com.
- Derek B. points out that if you just skim the description, “study tech” seems to make sense. It’s only when you get down a level that the crazy starts to seep in.
- Bury_The_Nuts points out that many of the Scientologists she saw on her field trip to downtown Clearwater yesterday were geriatric, and some were pretty feeble. The graying of the cult?
- Edy talks about her experience almost being tricked into putting her kids into a Scientology school who denied the connection, despite tons of Hubbard books on the shelves.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
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.