Sunday 22 September 2013

The Third Party, by Jon Atack

'Scientology erodes compassion' (pic by Lizy Atack)
Recovering Scientologists and other campaigners need to shake off the destructive mindset typical of those still inside the movement, writes Jon Atack.

If somebody does you wrong, you must be willing to retaliate a thousand-fold.’ Eric Theodore Cartman.

Ron Hubbard put forward the notion that the only reason people become upset is a ‘third party’ who is whispering in someone’s ear. This is not true, of course, people can become upset without the least bit of help.

The term is general among Scientologists to mean gossip. So, third partying has come to mean spreading rumours.

It is a tool used by the harassment operatives of the cult. So, in How to Do a Noisy Investigation, Scientologists are instructed to use a generalization (the mark of a Suppressive Person, according to Hubbard) about the ‘criminal’ past of the person they are attacking when calling that person’s friends and colleagues.1

Not long after I resigned the Scientology cult, almost thirty years ago, and began unravelling Scientology’s mind-knots, I was approached by a man whom I shall call ‘Brian’ (because that was his name). He advised me that he had been in B-1 – Scientology’s dreaded bureau of ‘covert operations’ and dirty tricks – in London.

He wanted to know if he could help the Independents by running covert operations against the cult. I still believed in the teachings of Hubbard, the Technology, and was at the heart of the thriving independent movement.

Once I had lifted my jaw from the ground, I assured him that I’d left the cult when I realized that it harassed people, which to me seemed a very unspiritual and irreligious practice. Unlike the loyal officers of the Office of Special Affairs, I don’t believe that anti-social behaviour helps society.

Brian’s confederates in the US and Canada had been found guilty of the infiltration of government offices, the theft of a mass of documents and the false imprisonment of one of their number who tried to inform the police. Mary Sue Hubbard, the Founder’s wife, was sentenced to a prison term, along with ten other officials of the Church of Scientology.

A few days later, Brian wrote what turned out to be the first of many affidavits impugning me.

In parting, I’d joked that such ‘operations’ were not my remit, and would have to be decided on by my superiors. Someone in the harassment ‘bureau of covert data collection’ should have checked, but here he was, in a sworn document, asserting that I was simply a tool of the Great White Brotherhood. My sense of humour is a constant cause of trouble.

In those heady days, I was privately assured by a member of the Advanced Ability Center, David Mayo’s independent group, that they would put ‘squirrels,’ like the Phoenix Association and Bent Corydon, out of business. I’d been involved with independent Scientology for a couple of weeks by this time, and I was shocked.

I explained the old dictum that we could either hang together, or the Scientology cult would most certainly hang us separately. We didn’t, and they did. Very few of us lasted any distance.

It still shocks me, three decades later, when I encounter the backbiting and infighting of the unhealed Scientologist, whether they are mindlessly following the implanted command to harass others, or simply ‘third-partying’ or ‘rumour-mongering.’

John Hansen, an important critic and a fine man, who travelled the globe delivering relevant documents to we indies, once told me, with evident exasperation, ‘We are the only people on the planet with the technology of third-partying, so why do we do more of it than anyone else!’

Shooting the messenger

This need to humiliate can have severe consequences.

In the spring of 1984, a distraught auditor told me that she had been woken at 2:00 am by a drunken altercation between her case-supervisor and a fellow auditor. She said that one had tried to run the other down with their car.

My days were just packed, back then, so I made the mistake of delegating. The chap to whom I delegated found a fully-hatted Ethics Officer to deal with the situation.

I expected the two people who caused the disruption to be censured, but I had placed too much faith in the ‘sane’ procedures of Scientology ethics.

It took less than 48 hours for the fully-hatted Ethics Officer to create utter chaos, out of which came disaster, as so often happens when Scientology is exactly applied.

Instead of suggesting they be more private in their drinking and even more private arguing, to my amazement, he focused his attention on the complainant, gathering a sheaf of ‘knowledge reports’ about her.

She was, unsurprisingly, distraught. I was unable to reassure her, because so many willing drones had presented their spiteful and entirely inappropriate observations. So it came as no surprise when the cult swooped in.

Scientology wreathed the poor girl in a fog of promises and she reported her considerable knowledge of the theft of OT materials from Copenhagen. The two people she had complained about had both been involved in the theft – along with former Flag executive Robin Scott, who briefly ran an independent centre up in Scotland.

The victimised auditor’s confession to Scientology led in turn to the arrest and brief imprisonment of Scott in Denmark, and an eleven-year court struggle for Scott and his co-conspirators, in England.

So a single shot reverberated throughout the Scientology world – and all because an Ethics Officer had encouraged ‘third partying’. Not one of those he interviewed had proved unwilling to join in the feeding frenzy.

So instead of dealing with the actual problem – the drunkards – the Ethics Officer had encouraged everyone he could find to ‘third party’ the poor auditor who was the victim of his horrid behaviour.

Of course, such behaviour isn’t unique to Hubbard’s Dev-OTs. A historian studying Gestapo files found that they couldn’t keep up with the flood of reports sent in by vengeful people who were determined to have their annoying neighbours tortured or sent to the camps.

Hubbard cannot claim to have invented the ‘knowledge report’ that Scientologists so gleefully write to the Ethics Office. It was actually old technology. From an earlier civilization that bears marked similarities to Scientology.

When that remarkable film-maker, Carlos Cornier, was at his lowest ebb on the Flag RPF, all hope lost along with all liberty, a protester spat at him. Spleen is not a healthy use of time.

Hate the sin, but love the sinner, as St Paul had it. Hate the thought, but not the person who thinks it, as Gandhi said in agreement.

In this case, I say, hate the disease – Scientology – but not the person infected with it. The spiteful attitude, the rumour mongering and the self-righteousness are part and parcel of the Scientology implant.

Break the vicious circle

The starey eyes and the uncompassionate mindset don’t evaporate, just because you leave the cult.

Too many ex-members are malicious and vindictive, as we see in the chat rooms and message boards. It suggests that they have not recovered. It also suggests that they are very unhappy and want to inflict their misery on others, rather than bringing hope of recovery.

Many years ago, my late and very dear friend, Sheona Fox-Ness, advised me to stop wasting my talents on Scientologists, because, after all, they had ‘pulled it in.’ This is the smug belief that there is no need to help anyone, because of the simplistic notion of karma implanted by Hubbard into his followers.

Sheona had been at the very top of the organization – an L. Ron Hubbard Personal Public Relations Officer – and truly believed that she had shed all of Hubbard’s ideas. I asked if I should intervene, if a child was about to go under a bus, but she didn’t seem to get it.

Maybe she was right. I could certainly do something less stressful with my time than trying to persuade angry people to be more compassionate.

Essentially, Scientology is a system of ‘processing’ and ‘indoctrination’ (to use Hubbard’s own words) that erodes compassion and turns the true believer into a clone, brimming with fear and fury. It will only be done, when the believers begin to care about other people, again.

Or, as Hubbard put it, with inimitable irony, ‘It ill behooves the best of us, to criticize the rest of us.’ Unless they happen to be psychiatrists, communists, journalists, gays or have any reservations about the godlike perfection of the Old Man of the Sea Org.

Luckily, there are many fine and compassionate former members, who make up for the deficiencies in their fellows, and won’t involve themselves in vitriolic pack attacks. I have been charmed and delighted by my contact with them, which has been entirely untainted by ‘natter’ (to lapse into the scientologese).

Sadly, while the intentions of most members of Anonymous are commendable, there are also some among them who delight in spite.

I shudder when I see an Anonymous group venting their amusement on confused cult members. It may cheer up the protesters, but it only rigidifies the members in their cognitive dissonance, making them all the more sure that they are the brave subjects of persecution.

Trolling has become a problem throughout the world, and we have seen the first court cases where such people have quite rightly been found guilty of serious abuse. If we are truly here to help, then we should not resort to public vitriol and should do everything we can to calm down the rage and heal the enraged.

Those who have recovered are able to use taboo words, like ‘victim’, and to feel such emotions a sympathy. They can once again have an open mind and act reasonably.

The clumsy, mock-scientific words are expunged, they once more ‘criticise’ rather than ‘invalidate’; they ‘wish’ instead of ‘postulating’; and those ‘broad generalities’ about the conspiratorial evil of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists are set aside.

Staring is recognized as a dominance behaviour, in no way reassuring to someone in counselling, and hypnosis has been recognized (just as Hubbard insisted it should be, though he didn’t mean us to understand it well enough to see how it is used on a daily basis in his supposed church).

Compassion and fellow feeling gradually return, but the process need not be so gradual.

If the monstrous ego, inflated by years of self-centring, can be quieted, Scientology can be diminished (reduced from infinity to zero, in Hubspeak), and the recovery process can be achieved in days,.

But for most it takes years or never actually happens. All too often, even decades later, the ex-member holds onto ‘ARC breaks’ and ‘missed withholds,’ and the certainty that anyone who makes them feel uneasy is a ‘suppressive person.’

There is no checksheet, no white-taped route, because we are actually and thankfully all different, and part of the trick is to become genuinely self-determined, which means allowing for independent and even eccentric thought, after years of ‘doing what Ron says.’

'We are nothing without compassion'

With freedom of belief must come freedom of disbelief.

Climbing back out of the abyss whence Scientology deposits its victims doesn’t need any bridge. Rather the dissolution of those famous imprisoning shadow bars, of which Hubbard so fondly spoke.

But, of course, Hubbard even faked the derivation of Scientology. He says, accurately enough, that ‘scio’ is the root for the first syllable, but then wanders off into Latin, not the Greek of the second syllable, ‘logos’. Scio does not mean ‘knowledge.’ It means shadows or even shades, so Scientology is the ‘study of shadows.’ Which is far less useful that studying your own navel, and keeps Dev-OTs assured that they too will one day be like Ron (what a ghastly thought!).

John Gottman, likely the world’s greatest expert on relationship, distinguishes between complaint and criticism: ‘A complaint focuses on a specific problem, addressing the other person’s behaviour, not his or her perceived character flaws. Criticism, on the other hand, is more judgmental and global ... Criticism attacks the other person’s character, often with negative labels or name-calling. It often assigns blame.’2

Relationships succeed when people restrict their complaints to actual difficulties, without adding every horrid thing they can think of to the mix. Better to say, ‘You didn’t do the washing up, this morning,’ without adding, ‘As usual, you dumb ape.’ And maybe Hubbard is right, and sometimes critics are shouting to avoid being found out.

Freud and his chums spoke of ‘projection’ and determined that incessant criticism is usually a direct denial of the critic’s own faults. It is one of the few Freudian hypotheses that has stood the test of time.

Of course, Scientology is not the only reason for people to become distressed. Some were angry before they became involved, and non-members also join in, but there is a festering fury that is often expressed by those who are unhealed, and it flares up and blazes out at the least opportunity.

Such people need help, not a platform, because no one heals by yelling, and yelling spreads the hurt all around. As eminent psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, points out, sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can leave you suffering for a lifetime.

So, go easy with the brickbats and don’t encourage destructive behaviour. On message boards, that can mean simply ignoring the flames. Better yet, find a message board where the moderator understands the job description and weeds out personal invective.

Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy, wrote a superb book about the amplification of individual anger into all out war. After a review of anti-social behaviour, from spouse battering and child abuse, to assault and rape, he and his colleagues ‘observed a common denominator … the victim is perceived as the Enemy, and the aggressor sees himself as the innocent victim.’3 

They have no sympathy whatsoever, and, as Hubbard rightly pointed out, they will then claim that their acts were motivated by the victim.

In his essential text, The True Believer, Eric Hoffer said:

That hatred springs more from self-contempt than from a legitimate grievance is seen in the intimate connection between hatred and a guilty conscience. There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice.

That others have a just grievance against us is a more potent reason for hating them than that we have a just grievance against them … Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us.

I came to Scientology from Buddhism, where compassion is held to be the cardinal virtue. I left Scientology, when I realized that it erodes compassion, causing scorn for ‘raw-meat, dead-in-the-head wogs,’ who are treated as prey, and those evil Suppressives, who always seem to massively outnumber believers and are attacked as enemies.

Jesus advised us to love our enemies, if we wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven (which, as he also said, is all around us). St Paul said that without caritas, or compassion, we are ‘nothing.’

There is every reason for vigorous and open debate, but looking at the message boards, at times, it is as if chains of withholds have been missed, releasing streams of molten natter (for the uninitiated, Hubbard taught that people become hostile if they think someone may have guessed their hidden sins – and they ‘natter’ or criticise the person they fear).

I left Scientology, because I refused to treat people without regard for their humanity. I wouldn’t disconnect from anyone, and I certainly wouldn’t engage in malicious gossip. How about you? Could we try to play nice?
UPDATE: You can hear a terrific interview with Jon Atack by Australian journalist Steven Cannane at ABC in which, among other things, he describes the harassment that he suffered during when he started speaking out against the movement.

You can read his earlier essay, A Cult by Any Other Name elsewhere at this site. Jon also has a regular dialogue with Tony Ortega at The Underground Bunker, Scientology Mythbusting. For more on Jon at this site, see Atack Reloaded and Atack Unchained.

1   “How to do a Noisy Investigation”, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, September 5, 1966, as quoted on p144 of the 1971 Foster Report into Scientology.
2   Gottman & DeClaire, The Relationship Cure, Three Rivers Press, NY, 2001, pp.72-73.
3   Aaron Beck, Prisoners of Hate, HarperCollins, NY, 1999, p. xiii. 

Friday 20 September 2013

ECHR rebuffs Scientology Belgium

Europe's top court has thrown out a Scientology complaint against Belgium over prosecutors' comments to the media about an ongoing investigation.

The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed a complaint from Scientology against Belgian officials for their comments to the press on an ongoing investigation into the movement.

ECHR rejects Scientology bid
Briefly, Scientology was arguing its right to a fair trial had been breached by comments made by prosecutors. The ECHR pointed out that since the trial had not yet taken place, that was a little premature.

The Strasbourg-based court ruled the application inadmissible and that decision is final.

Here is how the ECHR news release summarised the matter.1

Scientology's complaint was over news reports of an investigation that Belgium opened back in 1997 into alleged fraud and embezzlement at the Brussels-registered ASBL Eglise de Scientologie.

Scientology filed a series of five criminal complaints in Belgium against “person or persons unknown”, saying its right to be considered innocent until found guilty had been violated.

This was based on reports in the Belgian press between 1999 and 2007 in which state prosecutors were quoted allegedly making certain accusations against the movement.

The Belgian authorities shelved each one of the complaints.

In 2007, the Belgian prosecutor's office filed charges against 12 individuals and – rather more importantly for the movement – two Scientology organisations.

Scientology went to the court of appeal the same year to argue that the proceedings against it should be thrown out.

Prosecutors' statements to the press had breached the secrecy of the judicial investigation, they said. That violated the principle of the presumption of innocence and thus their chances of a fair trial.

In 2007, Belgium's Court of Appeal, while agreeing to consider their complaint, rejected it: an appeal on points of law was dismissed the following year.

A hearing to set a pretrial timetable for this case was adjourned in 2010 but the Belgian case is still active, said the ECHR statement.

Sound familiar?

This is not the first time Scientology has gone after an adversary on procedural grounds.

Scientology follows French media coverage of its affairs closely and some news organisations have been caught out.

Eric Roux, the movement's main spokesman in France, reported how Scientology recently won a judgment against France Televisions.2

A piece on its website advertising a documentary on Scientology made the mistake of reporting on the 2009 fraud convictions as if they were definitive.

But “as any fule kno” – at least if they read Tony Ortega's The Underground Bunker – the case is still active.

As we reported for Tony earlier this month, France's higher court, the Cour de Cassation, heard oral arguments on this case on September 8 and will hand down its ruling on October 16.3

Caught out

The offending piece was a brief item posted on its website promoting a documentary on the movement “La Scientologie, la vérité sur un mensonge” (“Scientology, the truth about a lie”).

This item, reproduced in the appeal court judgment, read:

Founded in 1950 in the United States by Ron H. and rebaptised “Church” in 1954, Scientology – whether it is considered as a “technology of the mind”, a church or a cult – has managed to make its mark on the world in the last 50 years. So what is this “empire”, whose former followers say has certain totalitarian trends and which nevertheless continues to seduce. What are its aims, its practices and its ideology. To unlock the mechanics of Scientology, former and present disciples speak out and show how you can be trapped, body and soul, sometimes with the whole family, children included, in a totally alienating system. This investigative documentary throws a light on the real issues Scientology poses to our world and our time, as the “Church” has just for the first time been convicted in France of organised fraud (Emphasis added)4

While none of this was exactly flattering, it was that last phrase that crossed the line legally.

In France, a conviction cannot be described as definitive until the defendants have exhausted every legal remedy.

France Télévisions knew fine well that Scientology had taken the case to the Cour de Cassation: after all, they had reported on the story at the time.

There is always the possibility that the Cour de Cassation will next month strike down the original convictions against Scientology and so wipe the slate clean – so the broadcaster should have taken the trouble to explain that the case was still active.5

The organisation that actually brought this action was L’Association Spirituelle de l’Eglise de Scientologie CC (ASES): Scientology's Celebrity Centre in Paris and one of the two Scientology bodies convicted in the Paris trial.

The Celebrity Centre's initial complaint was rejected by the civil court in Caen, so it appealed.

But while the appeal court found in its favour, it rejected Scientology's suggestion that the lower court had “unduly favoured” the defendants. And when it came to damages, the court hardly threw the book at the broadcaster.

France Télévisions should not have given the impression that the conviction against Scientology was definitive, it ruled: but the offending piece was a brief item on its website and there was no evidence that it was up for more than a few days.

The court ordered the broadcaster to pay 3,000 euros in damages (about $4,044) and another 3,000 to cover legal costs.

The irony here is that the EHCR seems to have rejected Scientology's claim against Belgium on the same grounds that France Télévisions got caught out: the case is still active.

Here's how the Strasbourg court's English-language press release summarised the ruling, (which itself was handed down in French):

The Court reiterated that it had to ascertain whether proceedings were fair in their entirety.

As there had not yet been any final judgment by the Belgian courts on the relevant “charge”, the part of the application concerning an alleged violation of the right to a fair hearing was premature and therefore had to be dismissed.

The ECHR also found that the evidence submitted of the prosecutors' allegedly prejudicial remarks was inadequate.

There had been no audio or video recording of those statements, nor had they been transcribed in documents emanating from the authorities in question, such as procedural documents or official press releases.

The only evidence produced by the applicant association consisted of press articles for which the relevant journalists were solely responsible, and it was highly possible that those articles did not accurately reflect the nuances of the remarks in question...

Consequently, the Court found that this part of the application was manifestly ill-founded and had to
be rejected.

This rather sounds like the Strasbourg court is telling them to stop messing about – and of course Scientology ought to have known better.

For they know that the ECHR is the court of last resort for most European countries.

They know that a plaintiff must exhaust all legal channels in the country concerned before submitting an application to the Strasbourg court.

And if France's Cour de Cassation throws out Scientology's appeals in the fraud case and the convictions stand, that is where they will take their case next.

But then, as Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard himself wrote:

The DEFENSE of anything is UNTENABLE. The only way to defend anything is to ATTACK, and if you ever forget that, then you will lose every battle you are ever engaged in, whether it is in terms of personal conversation, public debate, or a court of law...

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.6

They did not quite manage that in either case – but you get the general idea.

This is not, of course, the only case that Belgian prosecutors are developing against Scientology.

As we reported last December – first at The Underground Bunker and then at greater length here – they are also going after them in a separate case on charges of fraud, the illegal practice of medicine, breach of privacy and extortion.

We are still waiting for a court date on that one too.
1 You can download the release here.
2 Eric Roux's report is at his website. Here's an English-language account of this judgment, posted at the site of the European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience, (CAPLC). It describes itself as an NGO that “follows a humanist universal call towards peace, brotherhood and tolerance regarding all human beings”. A brief browse of its contents however suggests it is another lobbying group for Scientology.
3 I'll try to post a more detailed write-up of the arguments presented at the Cour de Cassation before the end of the month.
4 This is my own translation: you can read an alternative translation at the English-language summary referred to in note #1. The full appeal court judgment in French has been posted here.
5 It is worth just noting in passing that the judgment is no reflection on the documentary itself.
6 “A Manual on the Dissemination of Material”, L. Ron Hubbard, March 1955, Ability magazine.