Saturday, 29 August 2009

18 The Maestro, the Scholar – and the Psychiatrist

A succession of defence witnesses lined up to defend Scientology: an internationally recognised concert pianist, a distinguished academic – and a psychiatrist.

During the third week of the trial, a string of witnesses stepped forward to speak up for Scientology as a philosophy and a religion – and for individual defendants.

As well as the Dr. David Root, the doctor who had defended the Purification Rundown’s medical credentials, a French academic was on hand to put it in its religious context.

And Scientology had even invited a psychiatrist over from the United States to testify to the abuses committed by his own profession.

Earlier however, one of their own celebrity members appeared to speak up for the defendant Alain Rosenberg.

Cyprien Katsaris is an internationally recognised concert pianist whose career honours include numerous acclaimed recordings and France’s Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

He was clearly devoted to Scientology: and about Rosenberg, he could hardly have been more enthusiastic.

“I have known M. Rosenberg since 1976,” he said. “I was struck by the honesty in this man, and what attracted and moved me was his commitment to helping people.

“He is a person of faith,” said Katsaris. “And I was convinced that what he does could only help people.”

Over the more than 30 years he had known Rosenberg, he had been struck by how he had worked to apply the principles of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, to his own life.

Katsaris compared Rosenberg’s pastoral work, presiding over baptisms, marriages and other religious ceremonies, to his own work as a musician.

In the course of a couple of hours during a performance, a musician like himself could help an audience forget their problems, said Katsaris.

“If we can make them forget their everyday worries then we have made a contribution,” he said – like a doctor relieving pain.

Rosenberg, by offering the spiritual knowledge of Scientology to anyone who wanted it, was doing something similar, he argued.

“He helps people get access to this religious knowledge – and in the West it is not easy to spread the word of Scientology,” he said.

In the East, with spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, these ideas were accepted more easily: “I know it is a bit difficult for Western minds to understand,” he added.

But Hubbard’s work was in spiritual development – not just the body and the mind, he said.

Turning to Rosenberg, seated just to his right, Katsaris said: “I would like to thank him for everything he has done up to now.”

When Judge Sophie-Hélène Château asked him about his studies in Scientology, Katsaris said he did not devote as much time to it as he liked.

He was too busy with his career, he said – a career that had included an invitation to give two concerts during the 2008 Beijing Olympics; and a Chopin recital at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1999, the 150th anniversary of the composer’s death.

He had only rarely taken the personality test. “I find it completely anodyne, futile, superficial,” he said. “I understand that it helps the ministers but I have never understood its use.”

Asked how much he had paid over the years for Scientology services, he calculated briefly: converting from francs to euros, he came up with the sum of 85,000 euros (120,000 dollars) since 1976 – a little over 2,500 euros a year.

Dr. Colin Ross: the psychiatrist

Later the same day, the court heard from Dr. Colin Ross, one of a handful of psychiatrists with whom Scientology has made common cause on certain issues.

I was unable to attend this part of the trial, but Scientology’s own websites and literature indicate which part of his work interests the movement.[1]

A February 2007 item reports that Dr. Ross was honoured at a special awards ceremony by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a group set up in 1969 by Scientology to expose psychiatric abuse.[2]

“Dr. Colin Ross… exposed the role of psychiatry in secret CIA mind control experiments,” says the report.

“His investigation amassed 15,000 pages of documents through the Freedom of Information Act and resulted in his acclaimed book, The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations by American Psychiatrists, which has sold more than 6,000 copies.

“He has delivered more than 340 workshops, and appeared as an expert in two documentaries – "Mind Control" on the History Channel, and "Conspiracy Files: CIA Mind Control," on the Discover [sic] Channel.”[3]

In “North America’s Crime of the Century?” the Canadian edition of Scientology’s Freedom magazine quotes Dr. Ross as an authority on mind control in a discussion of the Canadian psychiatrist Ewen Cameron.

According to most accounts, Cameron’s devastating psychic experiments in the 1950s and '60s destroyed the lives of many of his patients.[4]

“Ross told Freedom that psychiatrists carried out a deliberate campaign of deception in Cameron’s wake to limit the damage to psychiatry’s reputation,” the magazine writes.[5]

“The disinformation, he said, conveyed that Ewen Cameron and his brutal work had been ‘just an isolated incident, that it happened a long time ago back in the ’50s, and that there were different ethical standards back then.’

“But Ross noted that while Cameron’s research ‘completely violated the ethical standards of the time,’ his experiments were far from isolated from his fellow psychiatrists,” the magazine writes.

The Terror Doctors”, another report from Freedom magazine examines what it says is the role of psychiatric mind control in the training of al-Qaeda extremists, quoting Dr. Ross as “an authority on coercive psychiatric methods.”

It goes on: “The presence of doctors is vital, according to Colin Ross, as is their knowledge of mind-altering substances.”[6]

In “Behind the Terror”, Freedom magazine investigated the use of mind control by government agencies and terrorist groups to create “Manchurian Candidates” assassins.

This is a reference to Richard Condon's Cold War thriller in which a soldier is brainwashed, implanted with an alternate identity of which his normal self is completely oblivious, so he can be used as programmed assassin without even knowing it.

Freedom magazine cites Dr. Ross, “an authority in coercive psychiatric methods”, in support of its claim that terrorists today were creating such programmed killers in secret training camps, “using drugs, hypnosis and other coercive means.

“‘Terrorist organizations and governments around the world are using these techniques, right up to the present,’ he [Ross] said.”[7]

Finally a pamphlet produced by the CCHR, “Chaos and Terror Manufactured by Psychiatry”, cites Ross' argument that “a variety of techniques could be exploited by a skilled psychiatric technician to program an individual to commit violent acts.

“Hypnosis exerts a more powerful influence when combined with drugs and pain. Ross suspects the amount of suicide bombers programmed with drugs is ‘close to 100 percent.’”

Dr. Ross’s position then, is that the techniques developed by the CIA on one side, and the communists on the other during the Cold War were not abandoned as unworkable, as some researchers have concluded. He believes they are still being used today.

He and Scientology believe that these abusive psychiatric techniques have played a role in decades of extremist violence – from the Cold War era up to the modern-day fanaticism of groups such as Al-Qaeda.

Their position then is that the Manchurian Candidate is fact, not fiction.[8]

Professor Philippe Laburthe-Tolra: the anthropologist

Philippe Laburthe-Tolra, anthropologist, ethnologist, formerly an emeritus professor at the Sorbonne, also testified for Scientology.[9]

Again, I was not able to attend this part of the trial. But his position, insofar as it interests Scientology, can be gleaned from his previous testimony for the movement.[10]

Laburthe-Tolra, a specialist in African religious beliefs, was among a number of academics who testified for Scientology at the 1996 trial in Lyon.

In that trial one senior member Scientologist was tried – and eventually convicted – for manslaughter (homicide involontaire) over the suicide of a member there. Others defendants were convicted on fraud-related charges.

Laburthe-Tolra’s testimony at Lyon was that while he did not share Scientology’s beliefs, he was shocked at their treatment in the media.

Cults were accused of preying on the vulnerable, of manipulating the weak-minded: but one could just as easily accuse the media of doing the same thing, he told the court.

While describing himself as a Catholic, Laburthe-Tolra also declared his attachment to France’s secular values. But he added: “The secular values to which I am attached are in my view, founded on tolerance.

“I don’t like militancy. I respect all beliefs and people. I don’t question their good faith. We need to try for a position of neutrality.”

The new religions gave their followers a sense of security and a social network, which in the modern world was often lacking, he argued.

He rejected the criticism that Scientologists sometimes broke from their former lives: had not Christ required his followers to do the same, he asked?

He also dismissed the argument that Scientology might have a negative influence on children: did not Catholics, by teaching the catechism, inculcate their children with their own values?

He used a similar comparison to counter claims that Scientology was anti-social: had not Francis of Assisi suffered the same criticism in his time, he asked?

Critics had also alleged that Scientology was trying to infiltrate France’s economy: but one could say exactly the same of the Freemasons, he argued.

“I don’t share these beliefs, but I confess that as a Catholic I believe in eternal life and the resurrection.

“The main problem with Scientology is its greed for money… I did five years of psychoanalysis and it cost me more than 200,000 francs (30,490 euros). Was there personal enrichment?

“Either you have to condemn en bloc every form of religion or you have to be tolerant,” he concluded. But mysticism sometimes brought its own joys, its own rewards.”[11]

The December 1996 edition of Ethique et Liberté, the French edition of Freedom magazine, gave this account of his testimony in Lyon.

“The real mental manipulation is that which is exercised by the media, and that is extremely serious. That’s how Nazism and Stalinism were possible. Entire populations were manipulated by propaganda…

“Intolerance is the worst enemy of freedom,” he told the court. “To be tolerant and to respect others requires that one constantly calls oneself into question, because we always have a tendency to reject new ideas and new beliefs.”

Thirteen years later in Paris, I understand his testimony was geared more towards explaining the Purification Rundown function as a legitimate religious ritual.[12]

At the Lyon trial, Ethique et Liberté reported, Laburthe-Tolra argued that “purity, impurity and purification are basic concepts in every religion.”

Hubbard’s purification procedure was far milder, far less demanding than some from other religious traditions, including Catholic orders, he said.

What was important for the believers, he said, was that it brought spiritual advancement. “It bears its fruits in terms of the joy and happiness that springs from a sense of purification,” he said.[13]

Judge Château, colleagues have confirmed, intervened on at least one occasion during his testimony to point out that Scientology as a religion was not on trial.[14]

Quite what she made of Dr. Ross’ testimony I’m afraid I cannot say.

[1] Dr. Ross, a Canadian psychiatrist now based in Texas, gave his evidence in English through an interpreter. Despite repeated requests, I was unable to obtain a summary of Dr. Ross’ testimony to the court from Scientology’s lawyers.
[2] The CCHR was co-founded with the psychiatrist Dr Thomas Szasz, a prominent critic of institutional psychiatry.
[3] The CIA’s mind control experiments, now a matter of record, were first documented by former State Department official John Marks in his book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control: The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences (1979).
[4] See for example, I swear by Apollo: Dr. Ewen Cameron and the CIA-brainwashing experiments, by Don Gillmor. (1987, Eden Press); and In the Sleep Room: The Story of CIA Brainwashing Experiments in Canada, by Anne Collins, Lester & Orpen Dennys (Toronto), 1988.
[5] “North America’s Crime of the Century?” Freedom magazine, Canadian edition.
[6] Freedom magazine, US edition, Vol. 36, Issue 2: “The Terror Doctors”, p6 . The sub-title for the section is “Hypnosis, Drugs and pain” a clear echo of one of Hubbard’s key phrases, “pain, drug, hypnosis” which sums up his remarkably similar views on the ability – and willingness – of unscrupulous psychiatrists to brainwash and otherwise exploit their patients.
[7] Freedom magazine, Vol 34, Issue 1: “Behind the Terror”, p4.
[8] For a précis of his position see this summary of Dr. Ross’ book, The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations By American Psychiatrists, at his own website.
[9] For an idea of Professor Laburthe-Tolra's academic career, see this French-language summary at the website of his publishers, PUF (Presses Universitaires de France).
[10] Again, despite repeated requests I was unable to obtain a summary of Professor Laburthe-Tolra’s testimony from Scientology’s lawyers.
[11] Testimony recorded in Le Procès de l’Eglises de Scientologie (Albin Michel, 1997), pp117-119.
[12] My thanks to colleagues present in court for this pointer.
[13] Scientology’s Ethique et Liberté magazine, December 1996.
[14] A point confirmed by two colleagues.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

17 A Doctor backs the Rundown

A US doctor mounted a vigorous defence of Scientology’s Purification Rundown, the controversial treatment at the centre of the Paris trial.

The morning had been devoted to fairly damning testimony against Scientology by two witnesses for the plaintiffs in the case: Jean-Pierre Brard, a deputy in France’s Assemblée Nationale; and former member turned critic Roger Gonnet.

That afternoon, a key witness for the defendants got his say: a doctor from California who had been called to defend the Purification Rundown from a medical perspective.

At the start of his testimony, Dr. David Root, speaking through an interpreter, ran through his qualifications: a Batchelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina (1958); a Masters in Public Health from John Hopkins, Baltimore (1962); board certified in occupational and aerospace medicine.

He was also a fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine; a member of the Aerospace Medical Association; a fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine; and a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society (UK).

Dr. Root said he had spent 20 years in the US Air Force as a flight surgeon and pilot before retiring in 1980 and opening his practice in 1981, specialising in occupational health. He had used the Hubbard system of detoxification since 1982, he said.

“I first became aware of Hubbard’s programme in 1982/83 when I had two patients who were exposed to toxic fumes when painting a large water tank without protection.” he said.

“I did a little research to try and find some way to help by possibly removing the toxic materials they had inhaled. I found nothing in the literature until I came across L. Ron Hubbard’s programme.

“Before trying it on anyone else, my wife and I both went to the programme to test it and see if it had any negative effects. Although neither of us had had toxic before the programme, we felt better afterwards,” he added.

Dr. Root, speaking slowly and deliberately for the benefit of the interpreter, went on to describe the elements of the Purification Rundown – or detoxification programme, as he preferred to call it.

“First of all, I would like to say that I am not a Scientologist. I am an elder in the Presbyterian Church and have no ties to the Church of Scientology.

“The programme I use in my office is exactly the same as the Scientology church uses in their purification programme, and it is exactly as it was put forth in Hubbard’s book, Clear Body, Clear Mind.

“The person coming into the programme first has a full physical exam to rule out occult medical problems. The person then comes into the clinic and the first thing is he or she starts off with a relatively low dose of Niacin, Vitamin B3.

“The dose starts at 50 to 100 milligrams and is step-wise increased, depending on the person’s tolerance, up to 2,500 to 3,000 milligrams.

“Occasionally I would take a patient up higher, depending on the tolerance, going no higher than 5,000. I will describe a case a little bit later that demonstrates the use of Niacin.”

The reason the niacin was used in increasing doses in this was to do with the fat cells, said Dr. Root. “Niacin will break off fatty acids, release them into the bloodstream,” he said.

And with the release of the fatty acids into the bloodstream, fat products stored in those blood cells were also released, he added.

“Niacin causes an intense red flushing of the skin. In the general population, this flushing is felt to be a negative aspect of the use of niacin,” Dr. Root continued.

“But the programme uses that effect because the flushing produces sweating, which is the main mechanism by which the body eliminates toxins.”

The next stage of the programme was aerobic exercise of up to 30 minutes, which at his clinic was normally achieved on cycling machines, he continued.

“About the time the exercise is coming to an end, the niacin flush will occur. At that point we put the person in the sauna so they can start to sweat.”

“…she began excreting from her skin black matter”

The subject would be in the sauna for ten, 20 or 30 minutes and would then come out and take something to drink and then the minerals and vitamins as set out in Hubbard’s programme, he said.

The sauna would be set at the relatively low level of 60 to 80 degrees (140 to 176 Fahrenheit), and the process would continue for between two and a half and five hours a day.

“Over that period of time the individual will be in the sauna five to seven times, sweating profusely. An adult male will sweat as much as four or five litres a day,” said Dr. Root. This was important because sweating was the best way of ridding the body of toxins.

But as well as toxins, the body was also sweating out vitamins and minerals it needed, “and they absolutely must be replenished.” Hence the doses of vitamins and minerals set out by Hubbard.

The programme as he ran it at his clinic generally took about 30 days to complete.

Dr. Root singled out one difference between his programme and the people who took the Purification Rundown at a Scientology centre. His subjects were generally patients: they came to him sick, he said.

“My patients were generally sick – that is to say they had had exposure to toxic chemicals at work, or in the environment, or some of them were abusing drugs.

“Because I am a physician and was doing the detoxification programme in my office, I could monitor these people much more closely than the Church of Scientology could do.”

Besides the minerals and vitamins and fluids the individual would also be given graduated doses – two to eight tablespoons – of oil, he added: a combination of walnut, soy, peanut and sunflower oil.

Dr. Root went on to describe a case he said illustrated several points about the programme that he wanted to make.

This involved a 23-year-old woman who had come to his clinic having been exposed at her work to toxins from an oil-fired electricity generator. Her job had been to clean the filters by spraying them with a hose and would get splashed with the resulting grimy residue, he said.

Over a period of months she had become very ill with extreme fatigue, malaises and could not sleep. “Eventually she had to be taken off work because the symptoms were too severe to continue.”

So Dr. Root put her Hubbard’s detoxification programme.

“After two or three days on the programme she began excreting from her skin black matter,” he said. She would shower before starting the programme each day and as the programme went on, he said, “…she would have these large globs of black material on her skin and bathing suit.”[1]

As he gave her the niacin, he said, “…over two or three days the matter became lighter and lighter and then stopped coming out.

“We then upped the programme, which is a standard part of the treatment, and out would come the black matter again.” This happened about five separate times, as they increased the level of niacin, he added.

“Eventually, when we got to the end of the programme, it tapered off and finally stopped.” The treatment had lasted 45 days. The case was written up and published in a journal, he said, and a copy of the case report was available for the court.[2]

The case was also worth noting because when the insurance company handling the woman’s medical cover refused to pay for the treatment, the case went to court and the company was finally obliged to cover the bill, he said.

Dr. Root also described his work at the New York clinic running the detoxification programme, set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

The programme helped those members of the emergency service who had worked on the clean-up process after the attacks, said Dr. Root.

Because most of the people at the disaster site were exposed to heavy doses of particles at least 30 of them had developed problems.

“…the improvement… was very remarkable”

Here again, some of the people who did the programme sweated substances out of their skin, staining their tee-shirts and towels. They sent a piece of one towel to a lab for tests and the results showed traces of the metal manganese.

Dr. Root’s work on detoxification had also taken him to Ljubljana in Slovenia in 1987, where he treated people for the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a capacitor factory. (PCBs were widely used in a range of products, including capacitors, until their toxicity was discovered and they were banned.) [3]

“Most of the people were heavily exposed to this toxic material.” Those treated “had an excellent improvement of their symptoms,” he said.

In 1995 he was part of a team that went to Moscow to try to help children exposed to fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Russian physicians trained in this programme treated a number of teenagers, looking at the decay of radioactive caesium and monitoring the change of other symptoms the children displayed, such as fatigue, troubles with brain function,

Although the decay of the caesium was accelerated under the programme, Dr. Root conceded that their work did not produce conclusive results to show therapeutic results so far as radiation was concerned. “But the improvement that they had overall in their general well-being was very remarkable,” he said.[4]

Returning to their work in New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Dr. Root said that his office had received a call in October, the month following the attacks, from fire-fighters in New York City asking us for help.

The treatment centre they set up in the city as a result had treated approximately a thousand fire-fighters, police officers and other patients, said Dr. Root, “and the improvement is very astounding, when you see some of these people, who could hardly walk up a flight of stairs – and these are very well-trained people in good physical form – and they get back to just about the level of health they have before exposure.”

Dr. Root had also been an advisor to the Salt Lake City programme known as the Utah Meth Cops Detox Program. “These are police officers who were exposed when they were busting these meth (methamphetamine) labs and the programme had been sponsored by the state’s attorney general,” said Dr. Root.

“In summary, I have treated somewhere in the number of 4,000 cases in my own office. I have had absolutely no problems of overdoses of vitamins or any of the substances used in the programmes – and I must stress again that the important thing for the court to understand is we are flushing huge amounts of… minerals, water and vitamins and it is absolutely imperative that the individual have those vitamins and minerals replaced regularly.”

Judge Château asked if he followed the programme as set out by Hubbard exactly, regardless of what happened.

“The programme has not been altered one bit as put forth by Mr. Ron Hubbard in my office or any of the other programmes I have mentioned,” said Dr. Root. “I may have mentioned that I do use the book Clear Body, Clear Mind, in my practice because it is the best explanation of the programme that I have seen.”

And were the vitamins given the same way to every patient, the judge asked?

“The niacin generally is stated a different levels, depending on the size of the individual,” said Dr. Root. But people of a similar size would start at about the same dose.

But he added: “Each patient has a different response to the niacin and the sauna exposure.” So while people of about the same size might start on the same minimum dose the degree to which the doses were increased depended on that individual reaction.

“And in my practice, because I was treating sick people, I was also monitoring on a daily basis,” he said.

The difference with the Rundown at Scientology centres was they were not treating people who were sick and their technicians were very well trained, he added. “I would not trust a highly trained nutritionist to do what these technicians do because it is a very specialised training, and without that training… even a well-trained nutritionist would have difficulties.”

“…you are flushing fat-soluble vitamins out of the body”

And what was that training, asked Judge Château?

“The training is designed pretty much by Mr. Hubbard – or was designed by Mr. Hubbard. As he was putting this programme together he realised he would have to have people well-trained to follow each step.”

But they were well-trained in what area, asked the judge?

“In the use of vitamin and minerals as they apply to the different steps of the programmes, as they progress,” said the doctor.

So they needed to interpret each person’s reactions, asked the judge?

“Yes, absolutely.”

Judge Château asked if all the vitamins involved were all freely available in the United States, and Dr. Root said they were.

Including Vitamin A, at whatever dose, asked the judge? Yes, said Dr. Root.

In France, it was not on sale to anyone, but only on prescription at certain doses, said Judge Château. If I was put on the programme, could I use it, she asked?

“I’m a little bit confused: I don’t know,” said the doctor. “It would be very difficult.

“Vitamin A interacts with Vitamin D and both are flushed out. You are simply replacing, replenishing the stores of these vitamins that are being flushed out,” he said.

And could the doctor confirm what previous experts had said about the sauna causing fatigue, asked the judge?

“No,” said Dr. Root. “Actually, most of the patients, though they might be a little fatigued from the exercise, tended to lose their fatige as the toxic materials came out of the body.”

And could people work normally at the same time as they were doing the programme, she asked?

“Absolutely,” said the doctor: that was possible. “Most of my people, who were sick, continued working. We would not take them off work,” he said. It was an out-patients programme.

“Even the fire-fighters we treated would not be taken off work. They could only give us about two and a half hours a day, which is the minimum. And they are doing a lot of work – they have a lot of fires they go to – and they were able to continue to follow the programme without a problem.”

And what about allegations that some combinations of the ingredients on the rundown, such as the Calmag, could be harmful, asked the judge?[5]

“We use the Calmag also,” said Dr. Root. “It is a very good relaxant and also tends to help with bowel movement. We had no problem with it.”

But the court had heard from experts who had said that there was a problem with the combination of Vitamin D and Calmag, said the judge.

“I’m not sure how to answer, but I would ask the expert to look at the programme and actually monitor it and see there have not been any problems that I am aware of.”

And what about the dangers of large doses of Vitamin A, asked Judge Château?

“The dose of Vitamin A, if that were given at those doses to someone not going through the programme – then yes, they would have problems. But because you are flushing fat-soluble vitamins out of the body, they have to be replenished also.”

But wasn’t a balanced diet enough for that, asked the judge?

“A balanced diet is strongly encouraged through the programme,” said Dr. Root – though many people had no idea what that was, he noted.

“But again, keep in mind: four or five hours a day for 30 days is a large amount of material going through the body and it is flushing these materials out, including the minerals.”

So did the programme not require medical supervision, Judge Château asked?

“In my practice, treating heavily exposed people, yes. But in the Purification Rundown in the Church – they do a good medical examination and in my view that is all they need.”

Problems with niacin “very unusual”

Now it was the turn of Maître Olivier Saumon, the lawyer for the Order of Pharmacists, a plaintiff in the case precisely because of the large doses of vitamins and minerals in the programme.

How had Dr. Root got to know about Mr. Hubbard’s programme, he asked?

“I had two patients and I was looking for a programme and I happened to come across a programme. I went to the clinic (and) I was able to get a large wad of documents and read through them.”

And were these scientific studies, asked Saumon?

There had been a very large binder full of documents about saunas and the minimum and maximum exposure. But he could not, he said, tell exactly what those materials had been.

But this file came from Scientology, said Saumon.

“Well the binder did, but the material was not Scientology generated,” said Dr. Root.

We don’t know that, said Saumon and he moved on, asking him about the pharmacological properties of Niacin.

Niacin was a very important vitamin in terms of energy production, said the doctor, though most Americans did not suffer from a deficiency.

And what about the contra-indications, asked Saumon?

“Certainly, but that is very unusual in my experience and it is important for the court to understand that there are two forms: crystal form rapid-acting is the one we use.

“The other form is slow-release niacin and that is the form that has been shown to be occasionally toxic to the liver.

“There are no more than one or two cases in the world literature that show this problem in fast-acting niacin…”

The flushing and the itching sensation were uncomfortable, but there was no medical problem, said the doctor.

And did it not provoke dermatological problems, asked Saumon?

“I believe there is some indication in the literature, but I have not seen any myself,” said Dr. Root. And the flushing effect that he had witnessed was only temporary, he added.

Saumon asked about the pharmacological properties of Vitamin A, but this time Dr. Root pointed out that he was a clinician, not a researcher: he did not carry that kind of information around with him.

What about the contra-indications of Vitamin A over 500 milligrams, asked Saumon?

“I’m sorry, not off-hand,” said the doctor.

“You don’t have an answer to that?” said Saumon?


Saumon went back to the detoxification programme as Dr. Root ran it, for occupational illnesses. What were his patients complaining of?

Interestingly enough, said the doctor, many people had presented a similar range of symptoms: skin problems, headaches, sleep problems, extreme fatigue, sexual dysfunction, muscular aches and pains.

And in his view, did the detoxification prevent or cure these occupational diseases, Saumon asked? To indicate where he was going with his question, he quoted from a paper that appeared to suggest that the detoxification programme helped eliminate tumours.

“First of all,” said Dr. Root, “I have never used the treatment programme to treat any type of tumour,” though he was interested that this appeared to have been done.

“I know that many conditions improve with exposure to heat, but I am not familiar with this case. I have seen strange things happen and this may be a case of that,” he added.

“I don’t claim to cure any one of them”

Saumon asked him about the specialist technicians he had mentioned when answering the judge’s questions.

And now Dr. Root explained that his technicians, the ones he used at his clinic, were Scientologists who had been trained at one of Scientology’s training centres.

“The reason for that is that it was easier… to have someone who had the knowledge and the training rather than taking someone off the street and training them.”

And of the 4,000 people he said he had treated, asked Saumon, how many had he cured?

“I don’t claim to cure any one of them. What I did was to improve their conditions. But I would say that 98 to 99 percent had significantly improvement in their conditions when they came to see me.”

And how had the scientific community received his papers on this treatment, asked Saumon?

“I don’t know how to answer that,” said the doctor. “I’m not sure.”

“Are all your colleagues in agreement with your conclusions,” asked Saumon. He mentioned one colleague in particular by name: Stephen Pittel.[6]

“No,” said Dr. Root. But it was not clear if he was conceding that some colleagues did not agree with him – or saying he had not heard of Pittel.

Asked if he knew how the Rundown worked here in Paris, Dr Root said he assumed that it worked exactly the same as in California.

Olivier Morice, for the plaintiffs, picked up the questioning. Which catastrophe was Dr. Root working on now, he asked facetiously?

He occasionally got called back to New York to help if they had a case, and he had been to Salt Lake City on at least two occasions when they were first setting up the Utah Meth Cops Detox Program, said Dr. Root. “I have no other disasters on my agenda.”

9/11, Chernobyl, the Gulf War, said Morice: one of the criticisms made of Scientology was they reacted by proselytising; spreading the word to people who were particularly vulnerable. What did Dr. Root think of that?

“I think that is a totally fallacious statement,” he replied. “In New York City I know for a fact that a least 800 Scientology members did react.”

They had turned out to the disaster site, handing out refreshments, doing whatever they could could, he said. “I think it is terrible to criticise them for trying to help,” he added.

“I have been associated with the Hubbard detoxification programme since 1982 and I have never, ever been approached by anyone from the Church of Scientology to try to get me to join.”

Morice tried asking about how Dr. Root reconciled his own beliefs as a Presbyterian with those of Scientology, but he did not get very far with that line of questioning.

When the defence took over, they re-established that Dr. Root had indeed done the programme with his wife when he was first investigating it.

And they got him to repeat that while his patients got regular medical supervision he did not think that people in perfect health needed such supervision when following the Purification Rundown at a Scientology centre.
[1] The interpreter had a few problems with “large globs” and in the end settled for something like “des gros machins”.
[2] The woman’s case is written up in Excretion of a Lipophilic Toxicant Through the Sebaceous Glands: A Case Report Journal of Toxicology 1987; 6(l): 13-17 (abstract)
[3] This work was written up in Xenobiotic reduction and clinical improvements in capacitor workers: A feasible method: Z. Tretjak, D.E. Root, A. Tretjak, R. Slivnik, E. Edmondson, R. Graves, and S.L. Beckmann
[4] Colleagues of Dr. Root produced a paper, Treatment of Children with the Detoxification Method Developed by Hubbard, by R. Michael Wisner, G. Megan Shields, M.D., Shelley L. Beckmann, Ph.D. The paper, presented at the Proceedings of the American Public Health Association: National Conference; San Diego, 1995.
Their presentation cited two of Dr. Root’s papers and the abstract for this paper says: “Children uniformly eliminated Cs-137 more rapidly than expected, with the exception of two cases in which children were eating contaminated treats from home. (Rapid elimination of Cs-137 resumed when these items were eliminated from their diets.)”
[5] The Cal-Mag formula set out by Hubbard for the Purification Rundown is: a level tablespoon of calcium gluconate (15 ml) in a normal-sized drinking glass; a half-level teaspoon (2.5 ml) of magnesium carbonate; a tablespoon (15 ml)of cider vinegar (at least five-percent acidity) – all stirred well before half a glass (120 ml)of boiling water is added and stirred in until all the powder is dissolved and the liquid is clear. The glass is then topped up with lukewarm or cold water and covered. Clear Body, Clear Mind, New Era Publications 2002, pp64-6. Dr. Root is co-author of an introduction to recent editions of the book.
[6] Pittel told John DeSio of the New York Press that the detoxification theory behind Hubbard’s programme was a myth: “It takes place all by itself. You don't have to do anything for the body to detoxify itself. There's nothing that does anything to hasten the detoxification process.” Hubbard’s claims that toxins could be stored indefinitely in human fat tissue – and that the Rundown forced these toxic out – were also false, he said. “The Rundown on Scientology’s Purification Rundown”, June 6, 2007. New York Press.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

16 The Apostate, Gonnet II

Scientology’s Purification Rundown is so dangerous it almost killed one of his clients, former Scientologist Roger Gonnet told the Paris court.

So far Roger Gonnet had been answering questions from President of the Court, Judge Sophie-Hélène Château. Now Maître Olivier Morice took up the questioning of the former Scientologist, who he had called as a witness for the plaintiffs in the case.

Morice recalled that the defendant Alain Rosenberg, while confirming that he was executive director of the Paris Celebrity Centre, had said his role had been a spiritual one rather than involving any financial responsibilities. Was that Gonnet’s understanding of the post? It was not.

“It goes without saying that if he is the executive director then he has a clear knowledge of what happens at the level of the weekly telexes I spoke of.” According to Scientology’s own literature, these telexes (were sent to the head office in the United States with the branch’s productivity statistics), formed part of his duties.

When he had run the Lyon office he had kept a close eye on financial matters, said Gonnet. “I didn’t read everything, but I knew practically everything that was important. I don’t see how the boss could not know about essential matters.”

“If someone is not happy and says so – is the executive director informed?” asked Morice. Yes, said Gonnet. “There is every chance that yes – if it’s about money, that concerns them a lot.” And another rule in Scientology was that if an org wanted to refund someone then staff at the org concerned would be penalised by having their pay cut, he added.[1]

And when Gonnet himself had been executive director at Lyon, had there been many such requests, asked Morice? Perhaps one percent of his clients had requested refunds, he said – and his policy had been to give it back quickly because he did not have time to lose with long drawn-out disputes.

“But I made them sign a document to the effect that they would no longer have the right to Scientology courses,” he added. It was a means of applying pressure to make them change their mind, he said.

Morice turned now to the high doses of vitamins used during the Scientology’s Purification Rundown, the detox programme developed by L. Ron Hubbard that also involves exercise and long hours in the sauna. When Gonnet was running his Scientology centre, had he known that such high doses were illegal?

“Yes, absolutely, I knew that.” Scientology’s internal documents had even discussed the problem at the time. “I was absolutely aware that there was a legal problem.” And there were medical problems too, he said. “I nearly had deaths.”

He recalled one woman who had done the Rundown after having had an operation. But he got a shock when he went to see how she was doing in the sauna. “When I arrived, her skin was covered with blisters. I said, ‘What is that?’ and she said ‘I don’t know.’”

Gonnet knew that Hubbard’s account of the Rundown claimed that people could sweat out cancers during the process, that all there could be all kinds of reactions. So initially he did nothing, he said.

“When I came back she had finished her four hours and she had much more of these blisters.” At point, he said, he took her off the programme. “I took her to see the doctor, a homeopath. He gave her medicines and said, ‘Bring her back if the medicine doesn’t help.’” The next day she was back to see the doctor.

It turned out the woman concerned had had an allergic reaction to the products she was taking for the Rundown, the effects of which had been accelerated by the sauna. If she had continued on the programme, she might very well have died, he said. “She was saved in extremis,” he said.

Gonnet also made it clear that by taking this woman off the Rundown he had broken with the normal Scientology protocol, which dictated that participants should see it through to the end.

He also recalled Hubbard’s claim in his writings on the Purification Rundown that high doses of Niacin helped people sweat radiation out of the body – “which is nonsense,” Gonnet added.

Scientologists also believed that when people doing the Rundown came out in rashes during the sauna phase of the Rundown, they were simply sweating out past cases of sunburn: in fact, said Gonnet, it was the effect of vascular dilation caused by the high doses of Niacin.

“They had beer glasses of Niacin to take daily,” he said, recalling the quantities taken by Rundown participants.[2]

“Anyone who attacks Scientology is an enemy of humanity”

Morice asked Gonnet to explain what he called the paranoia of Scientologists about former members and the meaning of the Scientology expression Suppressive Person (SP).

“An SP is an enemy of humanity,” said Gonnet. “Anyone who attacks Scientology is an enemy of humanity.”

Any former Scientologist who spoke about the movement would be considered suppressive and risked being subject to a smear campaign to discredit them – and he returned to the attacks on him by the Scientologist Eric Roux.

“We are taken for apostates, incapable of telling the truth. Why would an apostate tell the truth? We are liars, we are ‘archetypes of the paranoid and criminal insanity of anti-religion,’” he said.[3]

And were Scientologists coached on what emotions to display during trials, asked Morice. Certainly, said Gonnet.

“You are not just trained on displaying emotions, you are trained to imitate anger and other emotions to raise and lower the emotional level.” Scientologists received similar training in dealing with journalists, he added. “The idea is to pass a certain message.”

Maud Morel-Coujard, for the prosecution, took over the questioning. She asked first about specific questions in the personality test:

197 Do you have spells of being sad and depressed for no apparent reason?
22 Do you find yourself being extra-active for periods lasting several days?

What was the point of these questions, she asked? Gonnet did not remember, but so far as the suicide in Nice was concerned, the results had clearly been catastrophic.[4]

Morel-Coujard also wanted to know more about the Communications Course that the plaintiffs had taken. What was this about staring into each others’ eyes, she asked?

“You are meant to learn how to confront,” said Gonnet. “You have to learn how to deal with someone without being embarrassed.” The exercise was done seated opposite your training partner, or “twin”, which at first could be disconcerting.

Once the early staring exercise had been mastered, you moved on to more demanding training routines.

“You have to suffer harassment and insults that can last for days, until the person can resist the harassment.”

And throughout all of this, if you flinched in any way you would be failed and told to start again, said Gonnet.

“Flunk! You blinked. Flunk! You laughed.”

Morel-Coujard asked Gonnet why eventually he had left the movement.

“We had a series of problems,” he said. First, he and his wife had had to sign a document handed down from the organisation’s top management bodies, the Religious Technology Center (RTC) and the Church of Scientology International (CSI).

“It was 16 pages, a contract forcing us to declare that neither we nor any other staffers or public members in the past or present or in the future would take Hubbard or Scientology to court. So we had to take responsibility for something in the future.

“I refused for weeks to sign this document. From that point on , they started to keep an eye on me,” he added, with staff from head office being sent on missions down to Lyon to check up on him. “Then they practically forced me to go for a disciplinary hearing in Copenhagen and I was declared a Suppressive Person.”

When he and his wife got back from Copenhagen, he said, he found that the Scientologists had cleared out his office.[5]

“Once we had time to think our doubts began,” he said. “And we realised that the real problem was LRH [Hubbard].”

But he also noted that the changes he had seen in Scientology, changes for the worse, had been imposed from the top down – from the United States. “It is the US who runs things.”

“There is a course in hard-sell”

Judge Château asked about the personal files of Scientologists, with all their personal information and the intimate details of their auditing sessions. Could they be used to put pressure on a recalcitrant member?

“Without any doubt,” said Gonnet. “I have heard of cases of people where Scientology knew their ruin and they used it to get people to go further in Scientology.”

He also confirmed the claims of the plaintiffs that they were obliged to write the “success stories” praising the results of a course they had just finished: the defendants had insisted these were purely voluntary.

For the defence, Maître Virginie Benmayor, defending Jean-François, wanted to know where he had got the information he had cited regarding the defendants Valli and Michaux.

“I read it in the newspapers,” said Gonnet, presumably referring to the trial coverage. “But I know that Michaux and Valli were known as particularly hard sellers by former members – and by hard sell he meant a salesman who did not give up, he added.

He knew of one person who had been stuck with a salesman for 13 hours until he signed a cheque. That had happened over in the United States, he said. But, he added: “Hard-sell is practised everywhere. There is a course in hard-sell.”

To illustrate how far this could go he related an anecdote about a young man, who he said had not been in full possessions of his mental faculties. He had poured 70,000 francs (10,600 euros) into Scientology until his father intervened, getting a judge to put him under temporary guardianship.

In a series of questions, Maître Patrick Maisonneuve, the chief defence lawyer, tried to undermine Gonnet’s expertise in the personality test, which he had after all spent a lot of his testimony attacking.

Had he had any special in such tests, asked Maisonneuve?

No, said Gonnet. “I’m not a specialist in tests.”

Had he compared the test results with other tests, he asked?

No, said Gonnet: what for? He did not see the need.

Did he perhaps have any qualifications in applied psychology, asked the lawyer?

No, said Gonnet. But then it was not so much the test he was analysing as the figures produced in the results.

And had he not admitted to having made mistakes as a Scientologist, said Maisonneuve? “‘I nearly had deaths,’” said Maisonneuve, quoting Gonnet’s own words back at him.

Gonnet acknowledged the point. “Scientologists are to a degree dumbed down [crétinisé] – so far as Scientology is concerned,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean they are stupid,” he added: “Only where Scientology is concerned.”

Maisonneuve quoted comments that Gonnet had made to Libération newspaper: “I’ve got a grudge against them and they’ve got a grudge against me too.” (“Je leur en veux, et eux aussi m’en veulent.”)[6]

Gonnet rejected any suggestion that he hated Scientologists. He proved it every time he helped a member who was trying to leave, he said.

“What I don’t love is the system,” he added. “The fundamental aim is to obtain money and to have power.”

And what about the harassment, asked Maisonneuve? He referred to photos of Gonnet in front of the Church of Scientology premises in Paris.

“That is a demonstration,” said Gonnet. “We went to protest, that’s all.”

Another of the defence lawyers suggested to Gonnet that when he had been the head of the Lyon branch, he had acted in good faith.

“Yes, in part,” said Gonnet. “You can’t do Scientology without having some good faith. But you know you are lying,” he added.

But when he was a true believer he thought he had lived previous lives, as Scientology had taught him; when he had done the upper, Operating Thetan levels, he thought he was inhabited by “body thetans”, he said.

“Even when you have doubts, you usually overlook them.”

Another disincentive, he said, was the threat of disconnection: that your loved ones might be obliged to cut off contact from you if you were declared an enemy.

“But you only found this out afterwards,” said the lawyer for the defence. “When you were in, you were of good faith.”

Further questioning established that during his time running the Lyon branch he had had to occupy several posts at the same time: president, executive directory, case supervisor.

The point seemed to be that in a larger organisation, such as the one in Paris, the posts were distributed among more people – so what Gonnet had known when he ran the Lyon branch more than two decades ago was unlikely to correspond with what Rosenberg knew as head of the Paris Celebrity Centre.

Gonnet had had his say. Now it was the turn of the defence once more.
[1] "STAFF PAY DEPENDS ON YOUR ORG DELIVERY: Your pay, no matter what your post, drifts down in direct ratio to the degree you don't deliver." L.Ron Hubbard Executive Directive,
November 30, 1974. My thanks again to Caroline Letkeman for chasing this one down.
[2] Finally on the Rundown: the name of G&G, a company that sold the vitamins used during the process, had come up several times during the trial. Investigators had been under the impression that it was a Netherlands-based company: in fact, said Gonnet, G&G was run run by Scientologists out of East Grinstead, England – just down the road from Saint Hill, the former home of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and still a major Scientology centre.
[3] Gonnet here is paraphrasing criticism of his website at the website referred to in the previous section:
[4] This was another reference to the 2008 suicide of Norwegian Kaja Gunnar Ballo, 20, in Nice, southern France. See Note 5 of the previous section.
[5] Gonnet’s troubles with Scientology management – he was kicked out in 1983 – would appear to tally with the rise of the new generation of leaders, led by David Miscavige.
[6]Liberation, May 27, 2009: try here or here.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

15 The Apostate, Gonnet I

Day six, June 8: Scientology’s personality test is fixed to exaggerate people’s weaknesses and Scientologists themselves are trained to lie to the court, former member Roger Gonnet told the Paris trial.

Politician Jean-Pierre Brard's testimony against Scientology, however damning, had been that of an outsider. Roger Gonnet, the next witness for the plaintiffs, spoke as a former insider.

Gonnet became an active member of Scientology in 1975, setting up the Lyon branch of Scientology’s operations and running it until he was declared a Suppressive Person, an enemy of the movement, in 1983. Since then he has been one its leading critics, writing a book about his experiences and setting up a network of websites on the subject.1

Now in his late 60s, Gonnet appeared in court laden with documents and charts for his presentation – it was he who had supplied investigators with much of internal Scientology literature already in the dossier.

Confronted with one of these documents earlier in the trial, the defendant Alain Rosenberg had blamed “the apostate” Gonnet for feeding the court Scientology policy letters which he insisted were no longer valid.2

Judge Château, concerned that Gonnet might introduce documents that were not already in the dossier, made it clear then that she preferred an oral presentation. For the most part then, Gonnet left his documents alone.

He started with two general points. “Systematically, Scientology tries to divert from the debate everything that could be analysed scientifically or medically to escape a real examination of the facts,” he said.

Secondly, rather than deal with the facts, Scientologists preferred to launch personal attacks on their accusers, he added.

Gonnet accused Eric Roux of being behind a website that had defamed him, denouncing him for his “paranoid and criminal insanity.”3 Roux was down to appear later in the trial as the representative of the Celebrity Centre – one of the Scientology organisations on trial here.

The movement could also be just as tough on its own members, said Gonnet. Scientology had an internal disciplinary system that involved members denouncing each other for offences, real or imagined, against the movement.

Rosenberg himself had at one point nearly been declared a Suppressive Person – an enemy of Scientology – and thrown out of the movement for the way he had treated some of the clients in Paris.

“That is to give you an idea of the system,” said Gonnet. “Even people of great value can be [declared] Suppressive Persons.”

And there was another thing the judges should bear in mind. “In Scientology, you are trained to lie in front of a court.”

At a trial in 2002 he had seen one Scientologist say he had spent no more than 250,000 francs (38,000 euros) on the movement: Gonnet said he knew for a fact that this same person had spent considerably more.

Why had the witness lied? Because Scientology had trained him to do so, said Gonnet. They were trained to lie to the courts just as they were trained to lie to outsiders, offering them what was known as a “shore story”. In Scientology, he said, one is trained to tell “an acceptable truth to the people to whom one is speaking.”4

Turning to the personality test, the focus of much of the debate during the trial, Gonnet insisted it had only one aim. “It is a scam, the sole aim of which is to get people in,” he said.

When new people came through the door, staffers would do anything to get them to stay, said Gonnet. “They can influence them by showing them a test, the results of which are fixed, are falsified.”

'Find the ruin'

Gonnet had examined different versions of the test in detail and seemed ready to give a detailed exposition on how the fix worked. But his conclusion boiled down to this: “They give you a worse result than you should have.”

And that, he said, enabled the Scientologist handling the newcomer to say: “You see – you are in trouble.”

The term Scientology used in this respect was “find the ruin”. They had to find the newcomer’s weakest point. This was part of a process Hubbard had developed, which he called the Dissemination Drill.

The first step was to contact people; the next was to handle any initial disagreement they might have with Scientology; and the third was to find their ruin – the thing that counted most to people, that they wanted to fix or improve. The final stage of course, was to convince them that Scientology had the solution to their particular problem.5

“The ruin can be something that is real for the person: it can be something that you make real to someone.” It was enough just to convince someone that they had such a “ruin” – and that Scientology could fix it, he said.

During his time as a Scientologist he had used this process on thousands of people, said Gonnet. “It is not difficult to say to someone, looking them in the eyes: ‘From the test, I see you have problems.’ People enter into the game because the rules are fixed.

“Ron Hubbard had the nerve to call this saving people,” Gonnet added. “But saving people in Scientology costs a lot.” And so far as the Scientologist was concerned, if a newcomer did not buy something in Scientology, then they had effectively ruined their own life.

In fact, he argued, it could easily be the reverse. Gonnet recalled the recent case of a 20-year-old woman who had thrown herself out of a window just a few hours after having received the devastating results of her personality test.6

When he was still a Scientologist, he had never considered that the test might do serious harm to a vulnerable person, someone who was perhaps already suicidal. But that kind of thinking was part of what he called the process of “crétinisation” – dumbing-down – while inside the movement.

“They continue to distribute this fixed [personality] test to bring in the money,” he said. And those recruited who turned out to have little or no money were put to work for the organisation and paid a pittance, he said.

But not everyone lost money in Scientology, said Gonnet. The salesmen had made a lot, he said, referring to two of the defendants, Jean-François Valli and Didier Michaux.

“That is proof of the commercial nature of the system, because these people are paid by the percentage,” he said, a reference to the commission paid to the salesmen already discussed during the trial.

“I don’t know many religious workers who are paid on a percentage basis,” he added. Nor did he know of a church that used statistics to track the productivity of its staff.

Already, some of the defendants were making it clear from smiles or incredulous looks exchanged among themselves just what they thought of this witness. But Gonnet pressed on.

He launched in to what was a fairly technical exposition on just how he thought the personality test was fixed, referring to his papers to illustrate his points. Here again however, Judge Château kept a tight rein on his use of the documents.7

The nub of it was this: “Even if you have a very good test, you are still ‘bad’. You are still criticised,” said Gonnet. “So when you do a test you have absolutely no chance of not being criticised – there is always something that isn’t right.”

Asked exactly how the test was fixed, when it happened, Gonnet said that it could be done by the computer or even by hand – but the fix was in even before the newcomer sat down with a Scientologist to have the results analysed, he said.

During his time as President of the Scientology centre in Lyon, eastern France, he had run the test in just this way, he said. At that time he had had premises of 1,000 square metres, 12 full-time staff and about a hundred active members doing courses there.

As a franchise-holder – Scientology preferred to call them missions, as it sounded more religious – he had to pay 10 percent of his income to the organisation’s US headquarters: he would either pay it in instalments, or would find some way of smuggling the money into the US – a typical Scientology practice, he said.

Gonnet was even one of the few people translating the Scientology texts from English into French – it was Rosenberg who had checked his translations, said Gonnet. “He [Rosenberg] was the only person technically competent to authorise them,” he said.

Gonnet had also done some courses at Scientology’s base in East Grinstead, in England.

It's about control

Judge Château asked him just how important the test was for recruitment, as some of the Scientologists on trial had played down its significance.

It was true that some people were drawn into the movement by others means, said Gonnet: by attending conferences, for example. But the personality test was handed out on the street, at the exit of metro stations… “It is a key element,” he concluded.

Judge Château asked about writings by Hubbard that suggested the need to take control of when they were taking the test.

“In Scientology, there is a certain number of basic elements,” said Gonnet – and one of those was something called the KRC triangle, which stood for Knowledge-Responsibility-Control.

The idea was that Scientologists should exercise knowledge, responsibility and control over society. But it also applied at a more basic level, he said. “Scientologists exercise control over individuals.”

And the personality test was part of that process – though that did not mean to say that Scientologists were not convinced that it was valid, he added.

“But for you it is a tool to get money out of people?” asked the judge.

“Yes,” he replied. “Directly or indirectly it is used for that.”

And why had he himself stayed so long inside the movement, the judge asked?

“I had doubts all the time,” said Gonnet. The trouble was, he explained, he was working so hard – up to 350 hours in a month – that he didn’t have time to think them through.

On top of that, he said, in Scientology you were always being watched by your colleagues, there was always the risk that you might be denounced by them. The implication appeared to be that it discouraged people from sharing any doubts they might have with colleagues.

Gonnet turned now to the e-meter, the device used in Scientology’s auditing, or counselling sessions, which had been examined in detailed during the previous week of the trial.

Passages from Hubbard’s writings that had been quoted to court had suggested unheard of powers for the device.8 But Gonnet was dismissive.

All Scientologists had at one time or another caught out the machine in a clear error, he said. They had all had the experience of having said something false during auditing that had been passed as true by the e-meter, whether through a mistake of the operator of some other anomaly. So the e-meter was not as precise a machine as it was cracked up to be.

But there was no question of ever saying that while inside Scientology. “I don’t have the right to criticise,” he said. “It is always Mr. Hubbard who is right.”

Scientology’s version of ethics, which involved obligatory confessions of one’s most embarrassing secrets “including things about which you felt guilty”, helped keep members in line, he said.

Nevertheless, according to his calculations, Scientology only managed to hold on to a fraction of those who tried it. He reckoned they lost at least 75 percent of people after the first courses.

“So it doesn’t work really,” said the judge. “It doesn’t really attract people and make them pay.”

No, said Gonnet. But those who stayed paid for the privilege: he calculated that during his eight years in Scientology in the 1970s and 1980s he had spent the equivalent of 30,000 euros.

Judge Château returned to the subject of the productivity statistics he had mentioned earlier. Was it true that the movement had graphs to chart their productivity?

Certainly, said Gonnet: in Scientology, productivity was a measure of how well you were carrying out your post. Each job had what was known as a VFP, a Valuable Final Product: you could find the expression at the bottom of the organisational chart of a Scientology Org, he said.[7]9

But the point of all these statistics and charts was to measure how many new members you were bringing in, he said.

Meeting your targets

But the Scientologists had said they were not under any pressure to meet fixed targets, said Judge Château.

“The targets are absolutely systematic,” said Gonnet. “At Thursday at 2:00 pm, you have to bring in more than the previous week. There is a frenzy to find the figures, to raise the figures that are lacking.

“So if M. Michaux has not sold more products than the previous week I imagine he would have to phone around to sell more,” said Gonnet.

Every Scientology Organisation sent an Org Information Center (OIC) cable with all its weekly statistics to the movement’s headquarters in the United States saying how much gross income was coming in.

“All these things are analysed every week and on Friday morning there is a meeting to discuss how to do better the next week,” he added.

Hubbard’s policy letters made it a formal obligation to do better – another piece of nonsense built into the Scientology system, said Gonnet.

It counted for nothing that you had great numbers one week, if they were not so good the next. “They will still be penalised,” he said. “What matters is whether the figures are changing or not.”10 And it was on those figures that your ethics status – your standing inside Scientology – depended, he added.

Asked about the follow-up letters some former members said they had received, Gonnet said that this was a logical consequence of the pressure to meet the next week’s target. “It is in their interest to raise their figures.”

Judge Château asked about the prices for items such as the e-meters, which appeared to vary considerably.

Gonnet gave much the same explanation that one of the defendants, Jean-François Valli, had given: the price varied depending on the package of courses that were attached.11

But he also said that items such as the e-meter were over-priced (a conclusion that two of Scientology’s own expert witnesses had reached the previous week)12. Gonnet said had been able to pick up an equivalent machine in Australia at a fraction of the price.

In addition to that, Scientologists were obliged to get the device serviced at one of Scientology’s US bases at a cost of 800 dollars.

And how easy was it to get refunds from Scientology, asked the judge?

“It is almost impossible in some countries, but not in France,” said Gonnet – but that was more a question of nursing their image here, he added.

One of the assistant judges asked if Scientology staffers knew how much new arrivals earned (something the defendants had denied interested them).

“Not specifically,” said Gonnet: but recruiters would take an interest in people who were obviously from the professional classes, such as doctors for example. “They are the future of Scientology,” he said.

“It is obvious that you are going to take an interest in someone with a higher social standing, or who has a house,” he added.

But when you were handing out the test in the street that was not something you could know, the judge said. No, said Gonnet: but then you would tend to hand out it out in an up-market neighbourhood.

“Scientology considers that people who have no money are ‘low-tone’ people.” For Scientologists, if you were poor, if you were down-and-out, it was your fault, said Gonnet. “It is a kind of karma,” he added.

Next in the series: The Apostate Gonnet II
1   See here for a brief summary of his book in French, which is now also available online.
2   See Part 9 of the trial coverage: “A Man of the Church I”. On the question of apostates, Scientologists have called on sympathetic academics to testify in court on this questions and cited their position that the testimony of disillusioned former members is not reliable… because they are disillusioned former members.
3   Although Eric Roux does have his own website, the passage in question can be found at in a section attacking Gonnet’s website. The website is written under what appears to be a pseudonym, “Pierre du Barreau”: but it is registered under Roux’s name, as a quick check at the EURid website will confirm.
4   Gonnet’s choice of words here echoes a phrase from Hubbard’s writings: “Handling truth is a touchy business also. You don't have to tell everything you know — that would jam the comm line too. Tell an acceptable truth.” This is from the Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, August 13, 1970, from the PR Series: For more on Hubbard’s views in this area, see “Lying as a Religious Rite” by Ted Mayett and Keshet.
5   The first version of the Dissemination Drill appears to date back to an October 23, 1965 HCO Policy Letter.
6  This is a reference to the 2008 suicide of Kaja Gunnar Ballo, a 20-year-old Norwegian student, who jumped to her death from her apartment in Nice, southern France on March 28, 2008. Beside a note to her parents were the results of her personality test, taken a few hours earlier. The local Scientologists vehemently denied having played any role in her death and the investigation into the movement’s possible responsibility in her death was closed last December for lack of evidence. The case received extensive coverage in the Norwegian media, not least because her father, Olav Gunnar Ballo, is a socialist deputy in Norway’s parliament. In April 2009, he published a book about her death, but so far as I am aware it is only available in Norwegian.
7   One document he had given investigators however, was Scientology’s internal manual on the use of the personality test: the same document that according to the indictment, defendant Alain Rosenberg had refused to provide (something he had confirmed during his testimony).
8   See earlier coverage of the trial, in particular “The E-Meter Experts”.
9  On Scientology's organisational chart, at the bottom of each division, in which the various tasks are listed, is the acronym VPF, which describes what that particular division is expected to do. Underneath the chart itself is written: “Org VFP: Valuable Fine People who produce Valuable Final Products who then make up a Valuable Fine Public.” This comes from the February 8, 1980 HCO Policy Letter, “Production and One’s Standard of Living.”
10   See for example the section on statistics in Chapter 3, of Introduction to Scientology Ethics, where Hubbard writes, “…to discount a fall just because stats are high, high, high is folly… If stat declines for the week are brushed off, the organization or activity will shrink, become less stable, will demand more work by fewer and will be a burden.”(Page 54 of my 1989 edition.)
11   See Part 2 “Defendant #1: the Facilitator
12   See “The E-Meter Experts”.