Scientology gets caught in the Net
For a well-know Dutch weekly, "De Groene Amsterdammer", I wrote an
article on CoS, which was published today.
"De Groene Amsterdammer" was the first Dutch magazine to go on-line.
Usually, articles are put on their homepage a week after publishment.
In this one case, "De Groene" decided to make an exception: it is
on-line already at thier site http://www.dds.nl/~groene
And they *also* put Fishman on their homepage.......!
Have fun reading.
Scientology gets caught in the Net
Actually, the testimony of Scientology-member Gerry Scarff is
much more horrifying. Scarf was questioned under oath in 1993, and
elaborated on the behaviour of Scientology's lawyers (of the Bowles &
Moxon-firm, who are of course members of the cult too).
The complete declaration covers hundreds of pages that make your
flesh creep. For the sake of good taste, I'll just quote the summary
that the defendant's lawyer, Mr. Berry, gave to the court:
"In his deposition, Mr. Scarff testified about various criminal
and wrongful activities directed by or discussed in the presence of
attorney's from the law offfices of Bowles & Moxon, including:
death threats, Scientology's Fair Game doctrine, plans to kill Cult
Awareness Network president Cynthia Kisser and attorney Ford
Greene, threats against witnesses, instructions to commit suicide,
misdirecting and misleading investigations and prosecutions of
Scientology, the filing of frivolous lawsuits, financial scams, lies
and fraud by Scientology and similar activities."
This list is far from exceptional. Because of similar crimes as
mentioned above, Scientolgy is involved in a big Spanish trial. In it,
the cult was forced to pay 160,000,000 Peseta's (over 2,000,000
guilders) to guarantee the financial responsibilities that could be
The cult was established by sf-author L. Ron Hubbard. In 1950 he
published 'Dianetics', a so-called psychotherapeutic manual. Hubbard
managed to gather a group of people around him and changed
the Dianetics-movement into 'Church of Scientology' when his
organization got into legal trouble. Thanks to the religious status,
the cult furthermore doesn't have to pay any taxes. It's a very
hierarchically structured organization. CoS aimes at total world
control and has its own intelligence agency, the 'Office of Special
Affairs' - a secret service that, according to many people, could well
be a source of envy for many a middle-sized country. The cult's
renegades are systematically intimidated and CoS tries to
eliminate them by 'dead agenting' (spreading gossip and doubt).
Articles, books and television programs in which CoS is
criticized, are frequently attacked by the cult. Library books are
stolen, full editions of magazines bought and pages of the copies that
reside in public libraries are cut out with a razorblade by members of
CoS. Usually, critics are considered to be 'fair game' to the cult -
i.e. the hunt is on. CoS has a habit of sueing magazines and
network-stations. 'Time', 'The Washington Post', Reader's Digest'
and CBS have already been 'honoured' by such attention. This
month, both a British and an Australian television-program won the
trial in which CoS tried to prohibit them to put the program on air.
The Dutch televison company 'EO' still remembers how they had to
leave the studio under police-protection a few years ago, just because
they wanted to braodcast a BBC-documentary about the cult.
Currently, the cult is fighting the accessibility of another
testimony, which has been available to the general public for some
time: 'The Fishman Affadavit'. This testimony was given by former
cult-member Steven Fishman. He was arrested in 1988 and convicted for
fraud; once imprisoned, he turned his back on the cult, with the help
of psychiatrist Dr. Geertz. In 1991, when the two of them were
interviewed by 'Time Magazine', they made highly negative statements
about CoS - whereupon the cult immediately sued them. In his defense,
Fishman stated that the cult was guilty of 'illegal and criminal
practices' and had ordered him to commit these frauds. He delivered
documents to prove that CoS had manipulated, intimidated and
Before his arrest, Fishman was a relatively prominent cultist.
According to the discipline of the cult, each member has to follow
courses to reach a higher level. These courses are very expensive, and
there are quite a number of them. Before having 'cleared' yourself and
having attained some position in the internal hierarchy, you can
easily lose tens of thousands of dollars. Reaching OT IX will cost you
an estimated $350,000. Fishman had paid his dues and studied hard,
and had thus acquired a great many of these OT-levels. People who
have succeeded in mastering all OT-levels, have (in Scientology-terms)
'crossed the bridge' and are thereby part of the most elevated people
in the world.
Fishman brought the OT-material into his trial and thereby made
them officially public. His declaration could be asked for at the
court's library. Upon request, the court provided people with
photocopies of his statement, that has become known as the 'Fishman
The OT-levels Fishman provided look like a mixture of a bad sf-novel
and exhausting cross-interrogations. The condensed version: millions
of years ago, the planet Earth was used as a dump by Xenu, the head
of the Galactic Federation. All cosmic criminals were banished to
our planet. When the planet got overpopulated with this band of
disorderly rogues, Xenu arranged some nuclear explosions. All
criminals died, but their particles remained in the Earth's
athmosphere. These 'body thetans' still exist and cause humans to be
sick, miserable, psychically instable or otherwise not quite right.
Scientology teaches its members how to 'clear' themselves of these
'thetans' - and that is what is described in these OT's, the
The prescribed procedures consist of classical techniques to
render people numb. An example taken from OT II: under the supervision
of a so-called 'auditor', the zealous student has to repeat
contradictory concepts and drum them into his head - a certified way
to drive somebody crazy: 'You should survive. You shouldn't survive.
You Can Survive. You Can't Survive. He Must Survive. He Mustn't
Survive. He Should Survive. He Shouldn't Survive.'
Once you've made it to OT VII, you'll get assignments like these:
"1. Find some plants, trees, etc., and communicate to them
individually until you know they received your communication.
2. Go to a zoo or a place with many types of life and communicate
with each of them until you know the communication is received
and, if possible, returned." (OT7-48)
Even though these OT's were already known outside Scientology,
the mere fact that they were now officially available, tickled
people's curiosity. Many wanted to know what these high-level courses
amounted to. But at all costs, the cult wanted to prevent outsiders
or its lower-level members from seeing the documents. It took their
measures. Helena Kobrin, RTC's (a sort of umbrella organization
for CoS) lawyer, explained me in an e-mail how this was done:
"These materials are of such significance to my clients that they
had people at the court checking out the files *every day* before
they were sealed, so that others could not obtain access to them."
The cult claimed copright to the quoted OT's, and also stated that
publishing the material was an infringement upon their trade secrets
and thereby damage CoS's revenues (after all, the OT's are sold at
high prices). CoS demanded that court would seal the files. After
years of legal battle, the Fishman Affadavit was temporarily sealed on
August 15, 1995, pending a new investigation. The judge also ruled
that no more new copies were to be distributed.
But by then, the document was already widely available outside the
court's library. After all: for only half a dollar administration fee
per page, the record office had sent it to all those interested. The
complete affadavit had been scanned and was available on Internet,
could be read on BBS-es and had been posted almost daily in
alt.religion.scientology (a.r.s), a newsgroup dedicated to discussion
of the cult. Consequently, Scientology decided to wage a war against
Internet; an exhausting battle ensued. Messages that reported the
whereabouts of the document were cancelled by forged cancel-
messages; CoS tried to remove the newsgroup a.r.s as a whole by
sending a special cancel-command; providers were bombarded with
letters of law-firms. An anonymous remailer (a system that removes
the name and adress of the sender) that many critics used as a
precaution when posting in a.r.s, was raided. A number of people who
had made the document available and whose name could be
discovered, were faced with law suits.
For instance, the cult had the computer-system of FactNet
('Fight Against Coercive Tactics', an on-line archive about the cult)
seized. Last week the judge pronounced the seizure illegitimate and
he ordered CoS to return the material. But according to Hubbard, it's
no big deal that CoS has lost this trial: "The purpose of the suit
is to harass and discourage rather than win. The law can be used very
easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply
on the thin edge anyway [..] will generally be sufficient to cause his
professional decease. If posible, of course, ruin him utterly."
Now it's Internetting Holland's turn. On September 5 an usher, a
locksmith and two American CoS-computer-experts that had been
flown in, entered the XS4ALL-office and took possession of their
computers. The reason: one of the provider's users had the Fishman
Affadavit on his homepage. (By the way, the *real* reason probably
was that a former XS4ALL-based remailer had been used to post
anonymously in a.r.s) The cult demanded removal of the document by
XS4ALL, but they refused. They see themseleves as a service-provider:
what the users do, isn't XS4ALL's responsability. The user involved,
Fonss, removed Fishman from his homepage when his provider
informed him about the situation.
These events caused a giant commotion in Holland. XS4ALL
received a tidal wave of support messages and startled reactions. And
what's more: another user, Johanw, in no time put the document on
*his* homepage. After he received an e-mailed warning by CoS, he
removed it and told so in several newsgroups. In protest, other users
started putting the same document on their homepage at other
providers and made an announcement: D'VanGeely at DDS, myself at
Planet Internet, Newkid at Cistron. All did so because they were
adamant that public documents should indeed be publicly accessible.
Nobody contested that parts of the published texts could be copy-
righted, but all were convinced that this copyright was not violated
when the court document was published *as a whole*.
When member of parliament Oussama Cherribi (VVD) also put the
document on his homepage on September 22, the snowball started
growing rapidly. His decision generated much publicity for the case.
And a.r.s was baffled: a politician who dared to put Fishman on his
homepage? More people followed, amongst them Marcel Moring, a
laureated Dutch writer, and later that week 'TROS-online', a
television network's homepage. Ever since, dozens of people have
joined: the Fishman Affadavit appeared on one Dutch homepage after the
other. At the start of October, there were almost sixty of them.
We now await CoS's response. A number of people and providers
have received e-mail from Kobrin in which she threatens with legal
action. A few smaller providers - Cistron, Luna and Dataweb - have
by now received letters from the law-firm Nauta Dutilh, that
represents Scientology in the Netherlands. They demand that all
participating homepages be removed; rumour has it that even
Euronet has received such a letter. XS4ALL already received the
letter some time ago.
A number of people is determined to continue, and face a law suit.
They are convinced that they have the right to publish his legal
document, and what's more: that it is necessary to do so. Partly
because Scientology's malconduct on Internet is unacceptable, with
all these cancel-messages and their pursuit of critics on the Net. But
there are other reasons too. How can a text that has been public for
quite some time - the OT's having been public for years already - be
removed from the Affadavit? What is this religion, that doesn't want
to be spread and that prohibits its adepts to know what's in store for
them? That regards her rites as 'trade secrets' and asks exorbitant
prices for them?
Participant Marcel Moring: "All major world-religions
are transparant. Their source-materials can be studied by anyone and
may be freely quoted. If a movement claims to be 'clerical' or
'religious', why shouldn't we have the right to demand that anyone
should have the opportunity to gain insight in the texts that this
movement and its convictions are based upon? That all scriptures
regarding rituals, conduct etc. are accessible to anyone?"
Meanwhile, the newsgroup a.r.s is watching breathlessly. If this
case is taken to court, and if Scientology loses, Fishman will finally
be free on the Net. For it doesn't matter in which country you can
find the document. When you're on Internet, you can download it
from anywhere on the globe.
published in 'De Groene Amsterdammer',
a Dutch weekly magazine, oktober 5th, 1995
translated by Patricia Savenije
- *Der Spiegel*, september 25, 1995;
- L. Ron Hubbard: *The dissemination of material* (part of the
- Court of Madrid / Previas 2663/84, December 1994;
- Steven Fishman: *Statement*, april 29, 1994;
- Fishman Affidavit: Central District Court of California, Case no.
91-6426 HLH (Tx), April 4, 1994;
- Scarff's declaration: Central District Court of California, Case
No. CV 91 6426 HLH (Tx), May 3;
- Helena Kobrin's e-mail to me, dated September 29, 1995;
A list of all participating homepages can be found at
http://www.iaehv.nl/users/paul/fishman/fishnet.html (The FishNet).
- I write, therefore I am: