Unbiased columnism # 1.1

Zenon does research

Stockholm, Friday May 22 1998

In order to prepare himself for his upcoming trials, Zenon needed to study some files at the court; the same court where one can request to be provided with a copy of the NOTs and read them.

We arrived there at half past one. (Yes, we were late. We had been drinking and talking the previous night and I had been admiring the strange light. At three at night the sky looked as if it were seven in the morning, and at seven in the early evening the light gave the distinct impression that it was four in the afternoon. It is utterly confusing. My internal clock doesn’t match with what my eyes present me with.) The light promised summer, but outside it was rather cold and windy; so we took a cab to the court. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to smoke in the car.

The court. A high building with heavy doors, bright inside. Zenon went over to the reception desk and asked whether there were still Scienos coming in every day in order to ‘read’ their precious material. “Yes,” the receptionists told us smiling, “they are. They were here this morning and they will be back after lunch.” The ‘service hours’ for the NOTs are from nine to twelve and from one to three, so we had just enough time for a very quick breakfast and – oh! the relief! – a smoke. A couple of minutes before one o’clock we returned to the reception desk and asked for the NOTs. Zenon received a brownish envelope captioned ‘MATERIELET’ (sic) and handed it to me. Ha. At last. I’ve seen the NOTs so often by now that I’m quite prepared to consider posting them on a.r.s. to be an instance of spamming, but this was the first time that I saw analogue copies and could actually touch the NOTs.

In one of the corners of the entry hall, opposite the reception desk, was a wooden bench. And an electricity outlet. It is the place where the Scienos usually sit with the NOTs, Zenon told me. Perfect. Zenon left and went to a higher floor from which he had a good view of both the reception desk and me; I plugged in my computer, leafed through the NOTs until I had found a chapter dealing with illnesses and disabilities, and started taking notes.

Scientology members habitually ‘borrow’ the NOTs and ‘study’
them, basically in order to prevent others from seeing them – which
is a nonsensical strategy because anybody can order a private copy.

If a Scieno were to approach me – such was the plan – I would explain that I was so happy to finally be able to study this material, because I had heard that Scientology Tech could cure illnesses and alleviate disabilities, and well, you know, considering my legs and the wheelchair and all, and wouldn’t everybody in my condition be grasping at each and every straw, so there, you see? The idea was that by feeding them this story, I could maybe lure them into having a conversation with me. (All this, of course, assuming that Swedish Scientology members wouldn’t recognise me; and since Scientology provides their members with information on a need-to-know basis only, whilst being unable to predict when the need to know actually arises, chances were they would indeed not have the faintest idea who I am.)

Perusing the NOTs and typing merrily along, I happened to find something that did indeed incite some interest. A couple of years ago I wrote a book about New Age quack therapies that will be re-issued later this year. These quack therapists believe that illnesses ‘say’ something, that their type and location are symbolical, that infallibly there is a correlation between psychological problems and illnesses, and that language proves this. Thus, some New Age therapists provide their readers with convenient ‘translation’ lists which insist that the cause of having bladder problems is that the sufferer ‘has difficulties in letting go’ and that spine injuries originate in one’s belief that ‘the world is on their back’. In the revised edition, a new chapter is to be added which explains that much of this modern crap is rooted in the more rigid branches of Protestantism and in Christian Science, and that many cults take a similar view upon illnesses. And what did I find in the NOTs? Elron indulging in the same diagnosis-by-proverb that New Agers adore so much and stating that “Phrases such as ‘a man of my kidney’, ‘got no spine’, ‘got to have spine’, ‘no stomach for it’, confuse BTs and clusters in those body parts and play a role in pinning them in.” (HCO Bulletin of 29 October 1978, Issue II; NED for OTs series: ‘Chronic somates, missed BTs’.) I will surely use this quote – and others, probably – in the revised edition of my book.

Zenon interrupted me after ten minutes. Not wanting to blow my cover, I had busied myself reading and typing whilst trying to not pay too much attention to my surroundings, trusting that Zenon would observe whatever scene might present itself. And yes, he had indeed witnessed how the Scieno had returned at ten past one, had gone to the reception desk, asked for the NOTs, and was told that, unfortunately for him, (the clerk pointing in my direction) I already had them; the Scieno had stared at me for a couple of seconds and had then left. Caught. Bad boy. Hadn’t done his job properly. (And now, via this article, he has been reported to his superiors as well. Damn. What can I say? Shit happens. Especially when you’re a clam.)

We stayed a couple of minutes more, took some pictures of the rather worn-out NOTs (really! It’s a disgrace. The holy scriptures are all in tatters. Somebody should do something about it, and perhaps present the court with a fresh copy), packed the computer and took the elevator to section seven, where Zenon’s files are kept. We were greeted rather warmly. Zenon asked for a couple of files and informed the court that meanwhile, he had enlisted my help. Some of the files he requested are sealed – at one point Zenon handed in NOTs to the Court of Appeals; and these were subsequently closed – and while he himself has the right to study these sealed files, others are of course not. That’s what sealing is all about, isn’t it. Then again, he does have a right to appoint attorneys and biträden, that is, aides or consultants. So he told the court (who appeared before us in the shape of a friendly woman) that he had appointed me as his biträde, and would they please acknowledge that status and grant me the right to see these sealed documents as well. The court withdrew while pondering their decision.

Within fifteen minutes or so, a formal decision had been reached and both Zenon and me were give copies of the court’s most recent ‘beslut’ regarding RTC vs. Zenon Panoussis. I had now been promoted to biträde and could officially study the sealed files, on condition that I will not disclose to third parties whatever I would learn during this session. (Funny. Downstairs, at the reception desk, the NOTs – which, according to Scientology, are amongst the best kept secrets of the world, were given to me with no hassle whatsoever. Here, a couple of floors higher up in the same building, I needed to have an official status to see the same files, while being forced to promise non-disclosure. There is an almost clownish element of procedures being ritually obeyed in this court case. And even funnier is the fact that the first thing that officially happened to me while in Sweden was that the court presented me with a Temporary Restraining Order. Now that is a souvenir not many tourists would take pride in; I do, however, and will file it with my other Scientology memorabilia.)

We were given the sealed files. Four fat folders. We opened them, found paper and pencils, and started our task. Unfortunately, we couldn’t smoke.

A man who had been working at the same table where we were now sitting, had cleared away his stuff and simply sat there, looking at us. While we had been waiting for the court to reach its decision regarding my status as biträde, Zenon and he had engaged in conversation. My knowledge of Swedish is almost non-existent, but I could figure out that they were talking about Zenon’s upcoming trial. The man seemed rather interested.

He sat there. Just sat there, doing nothing but look at us. Zenon and I worked, every now and then talking or laughing or commenting upon something funny, strange or interesting. (I won’t tell you what. I can’t. I am not allowed to. I am a biträde with a TRO and cannot disclose to third parties what I learned this afternoon.) The man simply kept looking. Every time I looked up from my task I would meet his eyes. After some time, I started feeling slightly uncomfortable. If he was waiting for somebody he would surely at one point have averted his eyes. Was he keeping a watch on us? Yes. He observed our every movement. Why? Was he a Scientologist? Nah, not here, and Zenon would not have been so forthcoming about next week’s events if he had even felt the slightest distrust of this man. But why the fuck was he scrutinising us?

It was only later that I found out that this man was there on the court’s behalf. Ever since some of the Scientology vs. Zenon files were stolen from the court (the NOTs, of course) the court safeguards them, especially when somebody asks for sealed files. This man was here to guard the documents and to see to it that nobody — Zenon, or Magnusson, or whoever is allowed to see them — will fiddle with them.

We did our work, took our notes, greeted everybody and left. Once outside the building, we could finally smoke.

[Unbiased columnism is a series of seven court reports on the proceedings of Scientology versus Zenon Panoussis. This series covers the May 22,1998 – June 3, 1998 sessions. Next: What material?]


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  1. From Warburg Institute to unseal the Babalon Working Documents - Page 3 - Why We Protest | Activism Forum on 02 Jan 2010 at 17:52

    […] have read Karin Spaink’s account of the two Panoussis cases last week. Here’s her account of the Scientologists camping out at the Court in 1998. […]

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