In the future everyone will have two minutes of hate

I reject the “Anonymous” campaign against Scientology, and its widespread acceptance.

Scientology is an unpleasant and sometimes frightening organization. I find nothing to love about them. They are a cult in every negative sense of the word, they use coercive and threatening tactics, they have an alarming amount of money, and they are particularly good at snaring well-known people and using them as propagandists. Let’s assume that I agree with everything the opponents of Scientology say about their bad behavior.

The group is an easy target for bullying. They’re rich and litigious, but there are not many of them, and they are not a mainstream religion. I have seen national surveys that described them as the most hated or feared organization in the country. Attacking Scientology in public can result in litigation and threats, but it’s socially acceptable.

Their evils are not unique, and their reach and power are limited. It’s true that they extract money and service from their followers, use coercion and even force to retain them, present their associated groups dishonestly, and give terrible advice about mental health care, some of which may be deadly. That’s terrible.

Let’s look at the Catholic Church. Their history is two millennia of war, murder, intolerance, hatred of women, racism, slavery, corruption, terrorism, invasion, stealthy control of governments, and absolute autarchic invididual power. To this day they manipulate politics all over the world. They protect their priests from the law, even when nauseating crimes have been committed. And their strictures on women’s health are deadly, cruel, and irrational and have the force of law over millions worldwide. They are even complicit in the Holocaust.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists have a deadly disregard for modern medicine, and their members die for lack of readily available care. They impose this fatal ideology on their children and recruit others, who will then also face life-threatening disease with a crippling religious stricture.

I could move on to the Mormons here, but the point has been made. Scientology is a destructive ideology and the church is a dreadful organization. But on the larger scale of religious wickedness they are a small player.

Scientology looms large in the world of educated Americans with Internet access. Celebrities are our pantheon, and most of us have encountered Scientology in colleges too. We’re their primary recruiting target. And most importantly, we’re permitted to despise them as a group. They are, as they themselves would put it, fair game.

The language used by the Anonymous people is that of communal violence. Their half-funny, half creepy manifesto is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but the language is venomous. Invoking Rosa Parks and the Velvet Revolution in a document that declares war on a smallish religion is just nasty, even if you’re trying to be funny. The half-baked teen speechifying is bad enough, but something like “Social unrest will follow social awareness, social revolt will follow social outcry, and at the end of all of this there will be change” in the context of an attack on a religious group is nastier.

Imagine for a moment that this crusade was pointed at the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Mormons, or the Catholics. Or take a look at the rhetoric of the American war party about Muslims, and compare. And this, too: Imagine an elementary school aged child in a family of Scientologists who reads this, and then walks to school and looks around at the other kids wondering what’s going on?

Scientology isn’t an ethnic group or nation. This is not like an attack on black people or Mexicans or Germans.

But doesn’t anyone find it disturbing that so many are cheerfully supporting a mob attack? It’s impossible to list all the victims of Catholicism or even Christian Science. If you waged a propaganda war and invoked demonstrations against Jehovah’s Witnesses people would call you an intolerant jerk.

We can attack Scientology because they’re already disliked and socially marginal, and because they loom large in our own privileged and celebrity-obsessed world. But they’re a bad target.

There’s a war on. In the U.S. our own government is tossing Iraqis and Afghans into a giant woodchipper, 24 hours a day. Among religions, well-known and respected organizations support the war, successfully oppose the distribution of condoms in AIDS-ridden places, condone the molestation of children, and oppose the HPV vaccine on the grounds that sexual punishment of fornicating women is just.

Why is anyone at all being trolled into this nonsense?

87 thoughts on “In the future everyone will have two minutes of hate

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses Knocking?
    I applaud your blog
    Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
    Dissident Jehovah’s Witness speaks out.
    No tolerance,the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they try to cut you off from others who do not have the same beliefs, including family.
    The Watchtower is an oppressive cult if there ever was one!
    It’s amazing they are still around after 100 years of 100% failed prophecies. Truly amazing,that they can prompt their followers to actually go door to door with a 100% bogus message.
    Their Message is a Watchtower Gospel that,Jesus had his second coming in 1914 and they were the only ones who saw it and consequently the only hope for mankind.
    The Watchtower is a truly Orwellian world.

    Danny Haszard

  2. I have a little bit more time for the direct-action freegan vegan batshit insane anarchist hippie communal types when they actually engage in creative direct-action, which some of this was, and they managed to actually organize people in their communities, like they claim to. Scientology is gaining members faster than any of those you list except the Mormons, IIRC (and I’m very willing to be wrong), at least by their own statements which may be lies. The way they affect people’s lives and mindsets is harmful to the community, and they readily engage in direct human rights violations in our communities, not just far-flung approval and disapprovals that amount to policy decisions if people are stupid enough to listen. So from that perspective, I think it makes sense to start with them.
    That said, the whole thing struck me as pretty childish from the outset. While some folks managed to participate in protests with style (nobody is stylish with cyberterrorism), most of them were just sad and kind of painful to watch. Alas.

    1. I agree with most of what you said.
      I can’t believe that Scientology’s human rights violations are anywhere near the scope of the Boy Scouts, much less Mormons. The manifesto listed one suspicious death.

      1. I was thinking of holding people against their will. I have not read the manifesto. I am, like all good white smart people who spend too much time on the Internet, speaking from memory of Operation Clambake, which has been amusing me for the better part of 10 years. If there were a similar site about Mormons, I suspect we’d see some direct action against them in time, too. It’s not just about visibility, it’s about access to information. Mormons are socially accepted and so people don’t ask questions, and even if they do there’s just some touchy-feely groups for ex-Mormons and some vague badness and whatever, but things being passed off as cold, hard facts are hard to come by. Scientology is socially-acceptable in places, but even there if you start asking yourself some questions about it, Google will point you to OC, which will give you hours and hours of reading material in a single sitting.

      2. I’m familiar with OC, and I agree again that they’re unpleasant people and a coercive cult.
        I maintain that their influence and danger is blown way out of proportion because they’re likely to influence people like us. People who’ve seen how the Catholic Church behaves in Central America or what JW “shunning” looks like might not be too impressed by Scientology.
        There are whole bodies of literature about the dangers of Catholicism, Mormonism, and all the rest. That’s just boring to internet hipsters, I guess.

      3. I wouldn’t disagree with your second paragraph at all; my point was that they’re more likely to impact the communities of the people in question which is the same as your question, except I’m allowing for “people in my community” not being “people like me” and vice versa.
        They’re boring in as much as they’re poorly organized and less sensational, at least by Internet standards. Know your medium.

      4. They’re not. No one ever said they were, but you can’t start with the Boy Scouts. Start small, score the victories you can and use those as stepping stones to larger targets. Today the CoS Celebrity Center, tomorrow the Vatican.

      5. Pfft. You think there’s a flaw in a strategy of scaling by one’s abilities? Now, I’m certainly not saying that Anonymous has any long-term plan. Frankly, I don’t think the lulz crowd expected the response they got and have no idea what to do with their temporary “leadership” position, but if there’s any luck they’ll serve to show others with more dedication the possibilities – those who have a long-term interest in combating religions in general.

      6. “Pranksterism”, as you would have it (I would say public ridicule), is a useful strategy against groups with a notorious lack of a sense of humour or perspective about themselves. Again, Anonymous may have started this campaign, but they won’t be the ones to finish it. They’ll see something sparkly and go follow it, but with any luck the damage is done and those with more interest in an actual battle have been shown how to bring it.

      7. *shrugs* Either way, it’s a waste of energy, electronic wankery. Even if you consider it in the sense of “we’ll take down these little guys, then I’ll take on the boss at the end of the level” it’s -at best- a fart in a firestorm.

      8. it’s sorta what the Bolsheviks did. if a peasant couldn’t understand it, and couldn’t carry it out, then it wasn’t worth talking about.

      9. Idiocy. The bolsheviks weren’t dedicated to destroying the theosophists, now were they?
        And peasants?! You’re equating the proletarian masses with a load of fucking fresh-out-of-college hipsters? What planet are you from?
        The peasants don’t flash-mob, they’re too busy holding down two jobs and trying not to get their asses fired or deported.

      10. *sigh.* I apologize for my failure to self-edit.
        I do, nevertheless, think that the flashmobbing of a boutique religion hardly bears comparison to the October Revolution.

      11. the economies are different. i don’t think the comparason to flashmobbing is quite right. flash mobs have always been positive. these aren’t. what motivates people in 180 cities to act? the message compels them, because it resonates with them. there aren’t any interests surprised and impressed by such an event? even craving to morph it their direction?
        i’m reading Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy at the moment.

      12. I think I’m more with on this, in that the potential for bad things happening with this kind of action is pretty high, with the potential benefit being mighty slim. The technology use is interesting, yes, but it’s being used for a cause right now which is, when put alongside what we’re up against, pretty trivial.

      13. A lot of things go nowhere. I don’t really see how hatin’ on the scientologists is really going to benefit anything but hatin’ on the scientologists.

      14. spontaneous decentralized global mass activity. any precursors? p.s. let’s lynch the landlord tonight. oh wait no connection to bolshies.

      15. The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts
        Just how hard is it to unify a small group of vocal people around a message of “we hate these (other) guys?” Old Kool-aid, new bottle. It’s a neat new nail gun pounding a very old rusty nail into two pieces of wood that don’t need to be held together all that badly.

      16. That’s exactly what worries me. I see in the thread below an argument about the effectiveness of the campaign. I’m more concerned about its tactics and direction.
        I can’t see a good reason to join or even condone a harassment campaign like this. The statements from the “Anonymous” people walk right up to the edge of communal violence, with all the disingenuous disclaimers and vague threats of the genre.
        I sure hope it’s ineffective, because it doesn’t take much to inspire some unstable jerk to start firebombing stuff once you start talking this way.

      17. start firebombing stuff
        I hope it’s very effective. L. Ron Hubbard Way could use the Alfred P. Murrah treatment.

  3. Mr. Cruise raised their profile to the point where they became an easy target. And now they’re reaping what they sowed. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      1. One embarrassing video
        As Smoky The Bear says, “It only takes a single match…”
        Having dealt with CoS personally, I say it could not happen to a more deserving bunch of folks. Course, I’m a blood thirsty Mick. ;D

  4. I have no dog in this fight, but I do want to see what pure internet culture is capable of. This (stupid) happening was started by the frothiest vanity cultures on the Western internet and they actually managed to put feet on streets. I think it’s a barometer of how many true believers 4chan (or whoever the fuck) can muster. Depressingly, I think it’s also the face of future campus/youth activism.

      1. I think that’s more a strategic advantage. The tactical advantage always goes to the rifleman rather than the martyr with the cool cellphone.
        You go first. I’ll bask in your victory for you!

      2. Regrettably, the ability to evade riflemen successfully does not result in heart-and-mind changing demonstrations. Nobody remembers the people at Kent State that split, and nobody remembers the people who heard the tanks coming a Tienanmen and got the hell out of the way.

      3. Hardly anybody remembers the Kent State shootings at all and the folks who sent the tanks into Tienanmen are hosting the Olympics this summer. I’ll take evading the riflemen and living to fight another day.

  5. Yeah. For one thing, it’s uncool to protest a religion, even a creepy cultlike religion. For another, Anonymous is 4chan, isn’t that right? So it’s “protest for the lulz”? I mean, the vibe I get is more “it’s fun to torment Scientologists” than “we’ll keep at this until Scientology mends its wicked ways”.
    I strongly disagree with the commenter who said that Mormonism was socially acceptable in the U.S. It so isn’t. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not socially acceptable either. Anyway I wager that the /b/tards would just as happily set upon on Witnesses, Mormons, or your frail old grandmother.

    1. You’re right that Mormons and JWs aren’t seen as mainstream, but they are Christian heresies rather than new religions. They can “pass” most of the time, since hardly anyone who isn’t either a serious Christian or interested in the subject knows more than a few things about them.
      Scientology goes in the “cult” bucket along with Heaven’s Gate and the Hare Krishnas, I think.
      I’m less worried about the /b/ kids than about the effect of this thing if it gets more popular.

      1. I think this has less of an issue with cults “passing for Christian” than it does the power issues inherent to CoS.
        There are groups with similar theology, such as the Cult of Ramtha, that aren’t problematic; meanwhile, other groups, like WWASPS and the LaRouche Movement, have similar exploitation issues to Scientology, but are secular. (To my understanding, Anonymous plans to target these as well once they have enough presence to fight on two fronts or wind down the CoS campaign.)
        I’m less worried about the /b/ kids than about the effect of this thing if it gets more popular.
        The effect? What, that more people will tell exploitative people with power to stop being so damned exploitative?

  6. I think that it’s pretty comforting, for a certain unreflective mindset, to find a “problem” to beat up on that they have nothing to do with. It lets them forget that there are bigger problems that need tackling that they themselves are complicit in.

  7. As a friend of mine put it so elegantly, “This is 4chan versus Scientology. No matter who loses, the world will be a better place.”
    Of course /b/ will choose an easy, high profile, and inconsequential target for their brief campaign (that will lapse after a month or two when the next big LOLmeme occupies their consequence). They aren’t equipped to handle real political thought.

      1. Yes, you did, but this isn’t the point.
        Anonymous’ actions are communal and militant to be sure, but not violent. Other than common informational warfare tactics, nothing they’ve attempted to do goes outside the purview of the sort of tactics Greenpeace or PETA uses.
        Meanwhile, other, more established cult-awareness groups like the Rick Ross Institute have actually engaged in violence. And yet, they persist and are somehow considered more “legitimate” than Anonymous.
        Why is this? Is it because Anonymous generally consists of people who have been radicalized for the first time in their lives, instead of “established” protest groups?

      2. You’re responding to a series of things I didn’t say.
        I don’t approve of PETA or Greenpeace. And if Rick Ross has been violent I don’t approve of him either.
        I didn’t say Anonymous has been violent, either. My concern is the potential for violence; I made no accusation otherwise.

      3. This is turning into kind of a dumb slapfight.
        I respect and understand your difference of opinion here, and maybe we should leave it at that instead of picking at each others’ comments until we turn into That Flame Guy.

  8. my argument for the war against scientology begins and ends with this statement:
    even tithing to the catholic church is voluntary both this century and last.
    you don’t see a fucking church of amway. either they are a cult and they lose religious status or they are a religion and the tithing becomes voluntary. you can’t have it both ways.

    1. I agree with you and others that Scientology is a horrible organization. But not only does the leadership say they’re a religion, but so do the ordinary members, and they won their case with the government that they’re a religion too, right?
      I just can’t stand harassment campaigns of this kind, at all at all.

      1. They won their case after they paid the IRS tens of millions of dollars to drop it. So I guess, yes, if you have enough money and few enough scruples, you can call anything a religion.
        It’s well beside the point to argue whether the CoS is a legitimate religion; its tenets are no more bizarre than that of any other New Age sect. But its policies remain exploitative, and it’s not unfair to pressure this group to enact some serious reforms.

  9. Why is anyone at all being trolled into this nonsense?
    Convenient target, too much free time, personal vendetta, misplaced anger, a smaller cause they feel they can “win”? In today’s society there are a lot of people (perhaps an entire generation) who feel out-of-control…and there seems to be plenty of room for more Hate. :/
    A well written and thoughtful piece as always, friend.

  10. everyone has their battles i guess.. no one has the energy to fight them all. i suppose these anonymous campaign people feel more affected by scientology than the other a gatrillion injustices in the world

  11. Stress Test- Just say NO!
    The other day I made a remark (in a sense playing devil’s advocate for ol’ father hubbard) and my Mom backlashed, “Well, how would you feel if you lost your cousin and sister to that organization?”. Then I remembered that my Mom’s relaties succombed to the church about 13 years ago and broke off all contact. I can understand her anger- they do have that who cult hoo-ha going for them…
    I am for people and organizations challenging things with a face. For all we know, this anonymous group could be Bree and Crazy Bird Lady :/

      1. Re: Stress Test- Just say NO!
        Scientology uses any information it can possibly collect on its critics and uses every possible legal angle to shut them down. Isn’t it reasonable that people who want to expose their policies of censorship and alienation would not want to provide them this sort of evidence?

  12. The danger as I see it is adopting the mob mentality towards groups or idea’s we don’t like, and then employing methods outside the rule of law to vent that dislike. Who gets to decide who deserves this treatment? I don’t recall empowering anyone to jack with Scientology. The likelihood that they are a pack of jackholes who deserve it is not the issue. It’s a group of self-appointed judges who step outside the rule of law to apply their own justice. If Scientology, or Mormons, or whomever plays by the rules, they should not be harrassed in this manner. If they don’t, they should be litigated, prosecuted, or simply ridiculed out of existence.

      1. To my mind, a better question is: How does it not? That more clearly drives the discussion about what is and is not a legitimate pushback.

      2. Are you familiar with Operation Freakout?
        Not only does the CoS threaten its critics, it is church policy to assail them if they continue to criticize the church, as well as to essentially sue them into bankruptcy, goad them into committing assault, and (in some cases, like Paulette Cooper’s) plant evidence falsely suggesting they committed violent acts against the church or others.
        They’re hardly any different from the Westboro Baptist Church in this regard, and very few people say that pushback against Fred Phelps isn’t legitimate.

      3. Yes, it was a scheme to sue, harrass and ultimately railroad a critic into a mental institution. Several members of Scientology who were involved were ulitmately indicted and sentenced. Are the people in question going after Scientology today over that scheme from the 1970’s? Scientology is a bad actor, no doubt. Nothing these guys are doing will change that, it only serves to heighten their sense of persecution. And if we are going to organize online lynch mobs to administer a beatdown on organizations or churches that we don’t like, Scientology would not be even near the top of my list. It’s reach is limited and it’s membership relatively small. It’s political power is laughable compared to most mainstream faiths. And believe me, Catholicism and other large Christian denominations play just as rough and mean, they are just better at it. They have the option of calling their local Congressman, district attorney or Senator to inflict harm on their enemies.
        My bottom line is, I don’t like lynch mobs or self appointed guardians who operate outside of the law, even if I am sympathetic to their general intention or enjoy the discomfort of their victims, which I certainly do with Scientology. That sort of justice gets out of hand very quickly, and as someone who does not share the popular point of view on religion, justice, economics or tolerance of sexual diversity, I keep a sharp eye, perhaps a paranoid eye, towards any outbreak of vigilante justice, even the non-violent ones like this online crew we are talking about, who seem to me to just into being a general nuisance. I don’t want to to beat on these guys too much, they are certainly not dangerous from what I can see.

  13. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful treatment of difficult subject. Unfortunately it seems that there is a fine line between communal anger and action and communal violence.
    That’s my platitude for the day.

      1. I think that demonstrates how much ground you have to stand on, or water, as your pathetic case may be.
        Have you seen any of the protests?
        Have you kept current with the state of affairs of did you see the initial hoohah and go “oh my god, like, this is terrible, geeks, harassing a religion, wah wah wah”?

      2. I have, indeed, kept current with the state of affairs. If you have something to add to the discussion that’s great. I didn’t see the need to respond seriously to a rhetorical question, and since now we have an ad hominem attack and two more rhetorical questions, this is just flame.

      3. Right, sorry this took a while to reply I’ve been very busy.
        It seems that you’ve missunderstood the cause of Anonymous, they are protesting (very civilised protests) against an organisation, not against a religion. (The protests being against the Church of Scientology and not the Scientology religion, google freezone if you like to find out more about Scientology out of the Church)
        I think it’s also worth noting that it’s easier to stop something bad when it is young and new than when it is old and ingrained within society. Christianity being about 2000 years old and ingrained in every aspect of our lives is very hard to tackle as a whole, though I believe their have probably been and still are protests against aspects of Christianity and many other religions.
        No one is being trolled into this ‘nonsense’ as you so put it, people are being shown that there is a force that can be stopped and that one of the ways of doing that is by protesting against it. If you choose to sit back and not do anything about all the wrong that goes on in the world then that’s your choice, but Anonymous have taken a stand against something they can make a difference in.
        Real good will come of their protests.
        As a final note, it shows you in very bad light if you are putting people down for protesting something reasonable to protest without yourself taking a stand in any of the suggestions you make. Do you yourself protest anything?

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