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?