Today marks the tenth anniversary of Anonymous’ epic protests at Scientology locations worldwide. While headcount is hard to estimate precisely, the number of people who turned out, many in Guy Fawkes masks, was at the very least a significant fraction of cult membership globally, and may have actually exceeded the total membership of the cult, which we now estimate at around 22,000 globally. Numerous sources have covered the reasons for and the history of Anonymous’ protests far better than we could.
More importantly, the scale of Anonymous’ protests put the cult into a defensive posture from which it has never recovered. The idea that a large group could show up on Scientology’s doorstep without the cult’s OSA goon squad anticipating it and preventing it undoubtedly shook leader David Miscavige to the core. And the cult’s playbook for dealing with protestors was forever shattered.
In this post, we look at why Anonymous was such a landmark in the evolution of opposition to the cult, and we put it in the context of the evolution of cult opposition over the last 50 years. We connect the dots and take a stab at predicting the nature of cult opposition that may come next, particularly if existing opponents change strategic focus to make these next generations of opposition happen.
The big news on the day came early in the evening, when Tony Ortega posted a story with a major wave of filings by Monique Rathbun, plaintiff in the harassment suit against the cult. We predict there’s enough detail there that the Court in the Rathbun case will have to order that Miscavige be deposed. In my view, this may lead Miscavige to propose a settlement if the cult loses this motion, but I believe that Monique will insist on a far larger amount than was paid in the Debbie Cook case plus permanent restrictions on the cult’s conduct towards her and towards Marty. However, I predict that the cult will not be able to resist breaking the permanent injunction; it’ll be interesting to see what a Texas court will do to the cult if they don’t follow a negotiated permanent injunction.
Don’t forget that tomorrow is the anniversary of Lisa McPherson’s death. As the Anons say, this is why.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Tony filed two stories today. The morning story features an interview with Mark Headley, who worked at Int Base and was involved in the project to build the new Mark VIII e-meter, which debuted at the Golden Age of Dreck 2 launch, but which was designed and built about a decade ago. Several thousand units have been languishing in a warehouse until now. Headley points out that a professional outside designer was used (I think the product is actually fairly appealing even if it does resemble the recently redesigned Easy-Bake oven) and says that Miscavige claimed to have spent $20 million on the design. That number seems high to me, even given the usual last-minute micromanagement Miscavige is known for, even if they had to re-do the final production molds for the case multiple times.
Tony’s AM story also notes that Eric Tenorio, a former Narconon staffer who is now a key opponent of the quackery-based alcohol treatment facility, relapsed after surgery earlier in the year and almost went back to Narconon, but managed to find a real rehab facility, one based on sound medical techniques and on use of 12-step programs to aid in recovery. Glad to see him back in action.
Early this evening, Tony relayed a major filing by Monique Rathbun in her harassment case against the cult. In that case, Tommy Davis’s deposition was supposedly scheduled for today in Austin. The next hearing is for December 11. In these filings, declarations from numerous former cult executives including Mike Rinder and many others all testify that Miscavige is a hands-on micro-manager. The filings also have significant portions of Debbie Cook’s testimony under oath from her 2012 suit against the cult. Ray Jeffery raises the obvious point in his legal argument that since the Warren McShane deposition and others didn’t answer whether Miscavige is actually in control of things, DM himself should take the stand to explain things.
Mike Rinder’s declaration contained a few interesting and somewhat obscure Hubbard quotes about how to ruin opponents, which Rinder uses to point out that Miscavige is actively directing operations to smear and destroy perceived enemies. This may be a watershed, given Mike’s post on his own blog shortly thereafter, in his version of “independent Scientology,” as he’s making it harder for his readers, many of whom I would term “doctrinaire indies” (Hubbard perfect, Miscavige evil) to continue to believe that Hubbard had clean hands while he ran the cult.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Late this evening, Mike posted a brief story linking to Tony Ortega’s story about the Monique Rathbun case filings. Mike’s commentary is quite important, since it calls attention to some Hubbard quotes in his declaration. The Hubbard quotes are all about how to attack, undermine, disrupt and injure opponents of the cult. Rinder points out that Miscavige is applying the “tech” correctly, which might ruffle the feathers of some of the “Hubbard always good, Miscavige always bad” crowd just a wee bit.
Yet again, Aeger Primo comes through with a detailed scan of the forum sites, including the discussion with Eric Tenorio’s announcement of his meltdown and his (new and improved) path to recovery.
Tracking two former Scientology “whales” today: Helen Chen of the Helen Chen Academy is now a Freezoner in Taiwan and was married to Helmut Flasch who a WISE FSM of dentists and chiropractors. What are these ex-Scientologist whales up to now?
We return to action following a Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Fortunately, the news from the world of Scientology watching was fairly light and fluffy, and easily digestible, unlike the gluttonous feast most of us in the US consumed.
Chez moi, the supermodels behaved themselves, and the fights that broke out at some of the emporia where the rural riff-raff shop (the camouflage fishing tackle department at the local Wal-Mart) were not in evidence at the Vera Wang dress shop at Bergdorf’s or the Christian Louboutin shoe shop on upper Madison Avenue. Whatever the supermodels did, it didn’t involve my credit cards and the drama quotient was low when Supermodel #1 and I returned from our vacation to my parental units’ waterfront estate.
The other major American holiday of “Black Friday,” an ode to materialism the way that Thanksgiving was an ode to gluttony, appeared to be pretty solid. We’ll be interested to see who has a take on how the various retailers fared on the biggest shopping day of the year. Our biggest find: we checked with some sources in the retail electronics business and it appears that Apple may have underestimated demand, since a number of outlets we checked with were out of various iPads. Retailers seemed to have fewer units in stock than they wanted. But it appears that the folks at Samsung were anticipating this, as the stores we talked to had plenty of Samsung tablets in stock, and many frustrated consumers who walked in looking for an Apple product left with a Samsung unit instead. There are no Sony Playstation 4’s to be found anywhere, and lots of begging and whining from parents desperate to get one.
In Scientology news, more photos ratchet around Teh Intertubes from the IAS event, including a bunch posted on Tony’s blog. Mike Rinder captures the incredible gulf between the breathless hype around Golden Age of Dreck 2 launch and the reality of what’s been happening inside the cult, contrasting people saying it’s the biggest thing since Dianetics versus stats giving a peek at the plummeting membership roster.
The best Orwellian disclaimer comes from the bottom of a cult flyer from the land Down Under, where it says “Joining Scientology staff is a religious commitment and all activities are entirely voluntary. Scientology is a religious philosophy and offers total freedom.” The fact that they feel compelled to append this disclaimer actually calls negative attention to their cause, especially since the ad had absolutely nothing to do with being on staff. It reminds me of a Karin Pouw statement about the RPF which stresses its entirely voluntary nature.
Also, don’t miss Mike Rinder & Mike Bennitt’s aerial stunt at the IAS event, having a plane tow a banner asking “Where is Shelly Miscavige?” Fun, but not quite as epic as the helicopter over the Super Power building opening.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Sunday’s story featured the usual Sunday Funnies. As always, there’s something to laugh at. I still can’t quite help feeling that the staff is so stressed that the creativity level has been on a bit of a slide lately. A lot of the Photoshop gurus on Tony’s site are turning out higher quality art in less time than the cult’s marketing department can generate with a lot more effort. In particular, they’re reaching down even deeper to get the Hubbard quotes than they have in the past, and they’re coming up with ever more inane stuff.
A great data point: Mike takes apart some breathless assertions of success in Pasadena, where they have had one Golden Age of Knowledge completion in six years, and walks through the numbers to estimate the Pasadena public at about 300, no more than 500, in the greatest concentration of Scientologists on Earth (Glendale, next door to Pasadena, is home to tons of Scientologist-owned businesses). That’s got to be embarrassing.
Further evidence that grammatical standards inside the cult are plummeting: Mike happened on a fund-raising letter which says that “The next MASSIVE, ULTRA MAJOR BOMBASTIC blow against psychiatry to date is being released at the [IAS] event.” Someone needs to word clear “bombastic.”
An article dredging up an old e-mail about the expansion of the Seattle Ideal Org gives a real insight into Hubbard-style management insanity as practiced by Miscavige. Apparently the reason that the Ideal Org strategy is failing is that the cult is not doing enough of it. If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” what is the word beyond insanity when you do more of something that doesn’t work and expect success?
Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)
Aeger Primo comes through once again with summaries of interesting discussion threads. Thanks!
Two threads about the Ideal Org in Taiwan opening on December 7th at ESMB and WWP. News is that the COB himself will be there for the opening ceremony. If true, that’s pretty remarkable, because DM is rumored to be chartering a Boeing Business Jet these days. Those charter for about $15,000 per hour wet, which means that round trip airfare from Hemet to Taipei is over $400,000. That’s probably more than the total revenue of the Kaohsiung Ideal Org over the next two to three years. Wonder if Dave is billing them back the cost of the jet charter or if he’s paying that out of Int Management’s budget.
Today, some follow-up details on the South Africa nightmare showed up; I continue to think this could be significant as the cult appears to be retreating and retrenching from some geographies to focus on the US operation. I’m hungrily devouring everything I can to attempt to figure out whether this scenario of the cult declaring a sizable number of big donors will have ripple effects potentially including the entire org declaring itself independent of the “mother church.”
Tony’s article today focuses on a filing in the Garcia suit which can be used to cast aspersions on the credibility of the “diversity jurisdiction” memo which is still at issue in the case.
The message boards have a fair amount of clever creativity worth checking out. While some might accuse me of bias, I must say that Supermodel #1’s comments on yesterday’s Scientology Daily Digest are worth noting. She’s tolerant of my interest in the cult but has not had much interest in the spotlight. I invited her to put in a small comment on my first blog post to help “christen” the blog, much as an elegant woman christens a lumbering smoke-belching ship before launch. I may have created a monster, however, as reading her rather witty repartee will show.
Incidentally, now that she’s surfaced publicly, some might wonder if Supermodel #1 is a sock puppet of mine. She has met Tony on a couple of occasions, and has also met a number of other prominent members of our community; all can vouch for her, and since I was lurking nearby, proving that we have both been seen in the same place at the same time. She’s even found a potential self-portrait, shown here, that she feels captures her true essence.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Tony’s story today analyzed the filing by Ted Babbitt, the plaintiff’s attorneys in the Garcia’s Super Power donation fraud case . Scientology was required to submit a five page (restriction to avoid them droning on for hundreds of pages) summary of the arbitration procedure, so that the judge could determine whether the arbitration procedure is fair. That’s needed in order to determine whether the court could intervene, given that the donor agreement requires a “Church” arbitration panel (which the Garcias contend inherently stacks the decks against anyone seeking redress).
The response to the arbitration outline filed by the cult is withering and direct, accusing the cult of “fraud” and “fiction” in the description of arbitration. The underlying legal filings are provided, as is a declaration of Mike Rinder, who points out that he spent 20 years in charge of managing legal affairs for the cult, and who says that he never knew of an actual arbitration proceeding to take place.
My take: I think that the Garcia’s attorney may have been rocked back on their heels by the diversity jurisdiction issue, which appears to leave the Court little room for discretion in determining whether it has to dismiss the case or whether it can continue. To a non-lawyer like me, it feels like this filing is far more confident in tone than the plaintiff’s opposition to the diversity jurisdiction issue. It is unusual for a motion like this to use such extraordinarily strong terms as “fraud” and “fiction.” In other cases I have looked at, attorneys tend to use a reasonable amount of restraint, even in the overview sections where one is expected to use passionate rhetoric to attempt to sway the judge before beginning the legal reasoning process. It is a surprising to see such strong words, one of which has a clear implication that a criminal act upon is being committed upon the court.
I think it is no coincidence that this response was filed very quickly, so that it influences the judge’s perception of the diversity jurisdiction argument and implies that it is likely fraudulent and fictional as well. Since I am not a lawyer, I don’t know how to assess how the judge reacts to this motion, either on its own merits, or in conjunction with the diversity jurisdiction issue. But I do note the more confident tone in this filing.
“Anonymous” gives a nice analytical writeup on how Scientology “ethics” are supposed to work, particularly showing how it traps you into doing the will of the supreme leader, even if that turns out to be unethical in other ways.
Good perspective from Skip Press about the playbook generally used for the CommEv scam. Fortunately, a number of people who have been through CommEv’s speak up about their experience, which is right in line with the theory Skip proposes.
TruthIWant points out that he underwent a CommEv procedure, and how it represented an opportunity to bully him into submission, rather than to try to figure out what happened as the paper documents suggest it is intended to do. Not that we’re surprised it turned out that way, but firsthand accounts are always valuable.
Madora Pennington talks about her own CommEv, and gives a sense of how much monkey business was involved in auditing, especially in getting the person in the chair to report just how wonderful every auditing session was. Madora says memorably, “you aren’t allowed not to get better from auditing no matter what!”
In a related example of how “Scientology ethics” seem to be rather highly flexible, Tory Christman shared an experience she knew about where to Scientologists were cheated out of a lot of commission money by a WISE company. Apparently, the cult step in and reverse the arbitration award because the CEO of the company was a major donor. The cult changed policies that Hubbard put in place the day before they “heard” the complaint to protect the money of the larger donor. Money quote: “it was the first time I realized you could PAY to have ‘tech’ removed.”
Sunny Sands somehow managed to find out that various Flag restaurants have been put on cash only basis with their liquor suppliers by order of the state alcohol regulator. In life, you apparently can stiff just about anybody but the tax man and the booze peddler. One potential explanation for this is that the cult doesn’t regularly sell liquor at its restaurants, but is dusting off its liquor licenses to accommodate the booze-swilling IAS guests. Too bad they didn’t bother to read the fine print before trying to get (illegal) extended payment terms from their vendors. Hope Miscavige doesn’t read this blog and find out about it, or there are going to be some sorry campers in the RPF.
NoseInABk picks up on a cute poll that TMZ is doing about Tom Cruise’s involvement with Suri. Apparently, 96% think Cruise should not have the right to get Suri involved in the cult, though interestingly the readership is far more divided on whether “Abandoned” is a defamatory term.
MonkeyKnickers writes an open letter to the cult, providing some heartfelt advice to management on how to improve the cult’s image. One of her better efforts, one that proves that messing with the pregnant lady carrying twins is generally less than smart.
Chuck Beatty, who designed the routing forms for refunds in the 1980s with the express intent of driving people seeking refunds over the edge, gives some background on what he did.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Mike posted an article mulling over the extent to which Tom Cruise is subject to the disconnection policies that other Scientologists must live by. It’s a well-written piece that doesn’t cover a lot of new ground in the discussion, but is a clear and cogent summary of what most of us already understand, and is worth reading on that basis. http://www.mikerindersblog.org/tom-cruise-and-disconnection/
Mike’s second article relays a story on BackInComm, the South African blog of the wave of ex-Scientologists recently declared by the head office. Mike references the story of Ernest & Gaye Corbett, decades long Scientologists and, according to Mike, the highest-profile members of the cult in SA. More useful details to try to back into what Miscavige thinks he is doing. http://backincomm.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/here-is-their-story-ernest-gaye-corbett/#more-132
WWP, ESMB, OCMB
Aeger Primo helps out in a big way today, again. A serious article to lead off followed by some lulz.
ESMB has some snark and info about the casting call ad for actors “needed” to make the upcoming Co$ events at Flag (Clearwater, FL) look “good.” Apparently, management thinks the average Scientologist is just not attractive enough to populate a brochure. Either that or that, or if they used 15 culties for the brochure photos, at a rate of one blowing a month, they’d have to re-shoot the brochure in just over a year. Now you know why Winston was so overwhelmed at work in his job at the Ministry of Truth: erasing unpersons is a lot of work.
Some pretty good humor and shoops about Tom Cruise’s comment in the Bauer Media deposition about how “My work as an actor is as hard as fighting in Afghanistan.” Some nice imagining how our troops would feel about the comparison. Both ESMB and WWP are weighing in.
Ex-Scientologist Skip Press writes a column on celebrity news site The Morton Report that profiles Jon Atack, the Hubbard biographer who has been sharing pieces of his revised version of “A Piece of Blue Sky” on Tony’s site every week. Apparently, Atack helped Skip escape the cult.
The BackInComm blog for South African Scientologists and ex’s ran an article today advocating that all Scientologists worldwide stop giving money to the “Church.” Well written advice. More importantly, it’s worth reading to feel the gauntlet being flung down. We’ll see what Miscavige does next. I am sure that being one of the recent Sea Org imports sent to town to fix things up will not be a pleasant lot in life (though I’m not feeling sorry for them at all).
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.
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.