Friday 14 December 2012

Narconon is "Casualty Contact"

Internal documents make clear that Narconon is a variation on “casualty contact”, a recruitment policy Hubbard developed for Scientology in the 1950s.

See here for full size
In the opening section of this part of the website, “Narconon: an Introduction”, I argued that Scientology's insistence that Narconon was an independent organisation is hard to sustain.

Narconon, while acknowledging that it runs along principles created by L. Ron Hubbard, plays down the Scientology angle on its website.

But the fact is that much of Narconon's programme is derived from Scientology materials; and most, if not all of its senior staff are Scientologists.

To really understand Scientology's relationship with Narconon however, you need to look at the methods L. Ron Hubbard's used to spread the word about his movement.

From the early years of Dianetics and then Scientology, Hubbard was obsessed with what he called dissemination: getting clients in through the door and paying for courses.

His methods were as cynical as they were creative.

Perhaps the most striking example of his approach is a method he called “Casualty Contact”. This is what he advised his followers in a 1956 edition of the Professional Auditors Bulletin:

Every day in the daily papers one discovers people who have been victimised one way or the other by life. It does not much matter that the newspapers have a full parade of oddities in terms of accident, illness and bereavement occuring at a constant parade before the eyes.

The essence of "Casualty Contact" is good filing and good personal appearance1

Go through the daily papers looking for such items, he advised. And if the address is not in the story itself, contact the newspaper presenting yourself as a minister and get it from them.

As speedily as possible he makes a personal call on the bereaved or injured person...

He should represent himself to the person or the person's family as a minister whose compassion [sic] was compelled by the newspaper story concerning the person...

He should avoid any lengthy discussions of Scientology and should talk about the work of ministers and how all too few ministers these days get around to places where they are needed...

Even at this early stage then, Hubbard was careful to cover his tracks. And he also spelled out the need to use “acceptable truths” to get past the gatekeepers.

Using his Minister’s card, an auditor need only barge into any nonsectarian hospital, get permission to visit the wards from the Superintendent, mentioning nothing about processing but only about taking care of people’s souls, to find himself wonderfully welcome... Some hospitals are sticky about this sort of thing, but it’s only necessary to find another.[My emphasis]

“Don’t pick on the very bad off unconscious cases,” he advised, in one particularly callous aside. “Hit the fracture ward and the maternity ward.”

And don't forget to leave your card, he added.

...[Y]our statement, "The modern scientific church can cure things like that. Come around and see," will work. It’s straight recruiting.2

Chasing ambulances

In a 1956 Hubbard Communications Office bulletin, “After the Flood”, Hubbard described a variation on the same theme: he called this one “Illness Researches.3

Hubbard explained how in 1951, the early days of Dianetics, he had successfully worked this routine with his wife Mary Sue Hubbard.

The exact wording of the ad was as follows: “Polio victims. A research foundation, investigating polio desires volunteers suffering from the aftereffects of that illness to call for examination at address.”

When people turned up, usually after a phone interview, they were given three hours of auditing – after which most had already showed some improvement, wrote Hubbard.

The auditing was given free of charge. It was given under the guise of investigation and was in actuality a research project.

Any auditor anywhere can constitute himself as a minister or an auditor, a research worker in the field of any illness. In that he is not offering to treat or cure the illness but is strictly investigating it, the laws concerning medicine do not obtain to him...

It is best that a minister representing himself as a "charitable organization," which is what he is, do the research so that the ad would then read: "Polio victims—a charitable organization investigating polio desires to examine several victims of the aftereffects of this illness. Phone So-and-so"

Perhaps, for once, Hubbard was not telling tall tales about the results he obtained: if the results he described were accurate, it is as shrewd an exploitation of the placebo effect as you could wish for.4

Nevertheless this approach, like its cousin Casualty Contact, is little more than a kind of ambulance chasing.

Having set out the technique, Hubbard added a couple of lines to head off any qualms about the methods used.

The interesting hooker in this ad is that anyone suffering from a lasting illness is suffering from it so as to attract attention and bring about an examination of it. These people will go on being examined endlessly.

This hints at a core part of Hubbard's philosophy: that everybody is responsible for the bad things that happen to them. As a Scientologist might put it: “They pulled it in.”

Not to worry then, if you have to be a little economical with the truth to get the patients in – because really, they are just asking for it.

Teasing out the disturbing implications of this kind of thinking is work for another day.5

The bridge to The Bridge

So what does this have to do with Narconon?

We have seen how, with Casualty Contact and the Illness Research, Hubbard was perfectly ready to stoop to ambulance chasing in the hunt for new recruits.

Narconon should be seen as the logical evolution of this approach.

For with Narconon, Scientologists no longer had to go looking for the sick; now, the sick came to Scientology – or rather its pseudo-medical alter ego.

A sceptical reader might feel that this is stretching the point. Fortunately however, Scientology has provided the documentary equivalent of the smoking gun.

“Woo Hah” at Why We Protest posted a revealing Scientology leaflet, an internal document vaunting Narconon as a way to get people on to Scientology's Bridge to Total Freedom.

"NARCONON helps get people up RON's bridge to freedom...,” it declares.

"NARCONON is freeing people from crime and drug abuse with standard tech, and starting them up RON'S bridge to total freedom.



And just in case we missed the point, there's an illustration to go with it: a bridge leading to another bridge.

At the entrance to the first is written “Narconon enter here.” That bridge leads directly to the second bridge where over the entrance is written: “The Way to Total Freedom” – in other words, Scientology.

That document dates back to a 1974 edition of Narconon News.

But you can find similar material from the time since Hubbard's death and the rise to power of David Miscavige.

Do Not Pass Go

“Woo Hah” directed me to another Scientology document at researcher Dave Touretzky's Stop Narconon site which clearly puts Narconon on the Scientology organigram. This one is from the May 2004 edition of International Scientology News, well after Miscavige's rise to power.

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This document includes a diagram, in which arrows radiate out from a central symbol representing a Scientology Org to other symbols, representing various groups.

Some of the arrows lead to recognised subsidiaries of Scientology, such as its precursor Dianetics, the system Hubbard developed before he had hit on what he once called “the religion angle”.6

But other arrows lead to groups which, according to the official line, are secular organisations with no link to the Church of Scientology – apart from the fact that they are based on Hubbard's writings.

Two lead to the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE), the Trojan horse the movement uses to infiltrate the business sector – and to milk Scientology-run businesses.

One leads to the Way to Happiness Foundation, which promotes Hubbard's book of the same name, a supposedly secular let's-teach-the-world-to-sing collection of platitudes.7

But three of the arrows on the chart lead directly from the Scientology to the Narconon symbol.

Go to Narconon. Go directly to Narconon. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Dave Touretzky sums up what this means, in his inimitable no-bullshit manner.

“Although Narconon explicitly denies that it is part of Scientology, this is clearly a lie intended only for the general public.

“What the Church of Scientology tells its own members is that Narconon is 'the bridge to The Bridge', i.e., another route by which people can be recruited into Scientology.”

And Touretzky provides more such material at the documents archive section of Stop Narconon site.8

I confess, I am a little embarrassed I didn't come across this material before.

Clearly – as they say in the badlands of Why We Protest – I need to lurk moar.

So let's make this page a work in progress.

Let's make this page a clearing house for any Scientology or Narconon documents that give the game away about the true relationship between Scientology and Narconon.

All contributions gratefully received.9
Update #1: Narconon and the GO

Here's a document from a Hubbard internal memo dating back to 1972 (also part of Dave Touretzky's excellent archive).

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It was seized during the 1977 FBI raids that led to the conviction of several senior Scientologists – including Hubbard's wife Mary Sue – and subsequently released under Freedom of Information requests.

Hubbard writes:

The incomparable Guardians Office has been running the Narconon(Drugs-no) Program over the world.

The Program is now fully subsidized - state paid - in one country and one state and contributed to by governments in several other locale...

The GO should not hide its light under a basket [sic] - if it could.

Narconon is the ONLY successful drug rehabilitation program on the planet. It is being recognized as such.

Highly commended.

The Guardians Office (GO) of course was the precursor of the Office of Special Affairs (OSA).

It was responsible for external affairs – and the kind of dirty tricks that got its senior officials jailed following those FBI raids.

What for? For the “...brazen, systematic and persistant burglaries of United States Government offices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, California, over an extended period of at least two years.”

The full story has been told at length elsewhere: but that's Hubbard's “incomparable Guardian's Office” for you.

This document is a clear admission from Hubbard that Scientology's intelligence wing was running Scientology.

Not so much a smoking gun then, as the perp caught red-handed at the scene of the crime with the weapon in his hands.
1From the “Professional Auditors Bulletin” of February 28, 1956, quoted at Chris Owen's excellent page on casualty contact. It was a similar story in “Dissemination Tips”, a policy letter from around the same period.
2From “Dissemination Tips” a Hubbard Communications Office Bulletin, September 15, 1959, posted at Caroline Letkeman's site. She has also scanned in extracts from the original document. Summing up at the end of the bulletin, Hubbard wrote: “Don’t explain. Penetrate. Don’t overwhelm. Penetrate.” In other words, it's all about control.
3After the Flood”, January 24, 1956, HCO Bulletin, which again you can find at Caroline Letkeman's site – and again, she has posted scanned extracts from the original document.
4It would be hardly surprising if a bit of care and attention had helped relieve some symptoms, at least in the short term. And the trance-induced suggestion inherent in basic auditing techniques might also have played their part. But it would a long way from there to the extravagent claims that Hubbard was accustomed to making for his system, particularly in the 1950s.
5The warped thinking behind this philosophy – that somehow you are responsible for all the bad things that happen to you – is Hubbard's half-arsed version of karma (which, with his usual flair for the poetic, he called the overt-motivator sequence). And as crazy as it might sound to the outsider, it helps explain how Scientologists justify some of their more callous behaviour.
For the official version, see this barely coherent account at one of Scientology's websites: you won't know whether to laugh or cry. For a more useful analysis, see this post in the “Scientology Thought Control” series at the Ask the Scientologist blog (which has recently moved over to WordPress). Just Bill's replies to the comments below the post sketch out how he thinks the Buddhist concept of karma differs from Hubbard's more toxic version.
6“I await your reaction on the religion angle. In my opinion, we couldn't get worse public opinion than we have had or have less customers with what we've got to sell... We're treating the present time beingness, psychotherapy treats the past and the brain. And brother, that's religion, not mental science.” From an April 10, 1953 letter to Helen O'Brien, one of his followers, extracts of which are posted at Carole Letkeman's website.
7The injunctions and advice offered in Hubbard's The Way to Happiness are quite breathtakingly asinine. “Do not murder”, one heading advises. “Do not tell harmful lies”, says another. Harmless ones then, are presumably all right. Addressing his Scientology followers, Hubbard once wrote: “Handling truth is a touchy business also... Tell an acceptable truth.” He put it even more bluntly in another internal document: “THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM.” For the documented sources and more along the same lines, see Lying as a Religious Rite by Ted Mayett and Keshet.
It has probably already been done, but setting Hubbard's holier-than-thou injunctions from the Way to Happiness alongside some of his more deranged internal policy Scientology letters would be an instructive exercise.
8I think much of Touretzky's research on Narconon has been incorporated into the joint project he put together with British researcher Chris Owen: Narconon Exposed, another invaluable resource.
9You can contact me by submitting a reply to this post, or at any of the main suppressive message boards (Why We Protest, Clambake, the Tipping Point and others), where I post as Albion.


  1. "Let's make this page a clearing house for any Scientology or Narconon documents that give the game away"

    ITT, JonnyJ catches dox fever. Woohoo! Christmas has come early.

    1. Oh dear: have I created a monster?
      Within the limits of fair use, naturally. :-)

  2. Thanks for pursuing the Narconon story. You are so very skilled at presenting material in an accessible manner. Your contribution complements well the other work by such folks as David Love and Colin Henderson, among others. I'm starting to have hope that Narconon will soon be 'on the ropes' as they face challenges around every corner.

    1. Thanks for that: I'll be doing my best to present the material in such a way that I am not just duplicating the work of other campaigners, or indeed the mainstream media, who seem to be all over some of the wrongful death lawsuits.

  3. As a 27 year Sea Org (lifetime staffer category) member, I was in the administrative training department for 7 years, then on compilations projects for 5 years, then the rest of my years in positions to read almost ALL of Hubbard's behind the scenes administrative theoretical writings, where he frankly laments the world doesn't have a suitable label for the great individual that he is.

    He considered Scientology his greatest accomplishment, and with that accomplishment came the spinoff "secular" fonts of wisdom he's packaged into the front groups compartmented in the various promotional items that Scientology puts out to promote their great founder, L. Ron Hubbard's vast expansive wisdom to the world.

    Hubbard was pretty big on the organizational behind he scenes setups, staffed with the undereducated willing gullible well meaning people, who carry Hubbard's whole show.

    What Hubbard's perfected in terms of acquiring the staff to man his various organizations, which make all concerned follow the Hubbard straight and narrow "paths", is what keeps this show on the road.

    Thanks Jonny Jacobsen for being so helpful to many of us, who helped boost this whole 2000s era exposures about Scientology's underside.

    For sure the 1990s era critics, like Professor Dave Touretzky and the whole alt.religion.scientology and the FACTNET and Lermanet chat group participants and the Lisa McPherson Trust people, all did their parts in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    This 2000s decade has seen the emergence of a lot more ex official Scientologists, who've opened untold new cans of worms.

    I see the longterm battle, unfortunately, even with the great books by Reitman and Urban, their summary updates of Scientology's controversies fall on deaf ears, since the movement leadership and staff, are obligated to follow the Hubbard script he left for them.

    And his script boldly blunders along as if society's current rules will just have to learn to accept Hubbard as he was and accept his organizations for the way they are, as hypocritial and imperfect and badly lying and dissembling to the public, as those organizations do so.

    Those organized corporate entity staffs of Scientology entities, all have to follow Hubbard's script.

    A dead man's "religion" script, a script he's just pushing for the world to accept.

    Hubbard's ASI writings about how to promote and sell the "battlefield Earth" movie property, is an example. Hubbard said go against the normal trends in Hollywood, and he ordered Author Services Inc to stick on one Hubbard fiction at a time, and just hype and push each one, and force it to be a success.

    Hubbard was operating on his whole track (past lives) memories (which as an atheist I know how useless one's past lives memories are!); Hubbard always went against the grain, as routine, and it's caused all his followers to be stuck with mad Hubbard's glorious idiocies.

  4. It's fairly clear that Hubbard made little or no effort to cover his tracks when it came to the Scientology-Narconon. That's perhaps become more important since the IRS granted the movement church status in '93. The documents I would really like to see are more from the Miscavige era, linking Narconon to Scientology. I know there's at least one interesting item from an ongoing lawsuit, but I'll leave for when I actually write up the case.