[Originally published in Het Parool; translation by Patricia Savenije.]
‘TECHNIQUE 88’: it sounds like a name for a hardcore-band. The lyrics fit the image. Fans all over the world holler along with the song that gets so much airplay. The rhythm is pounding, monotonous, repetitive, hypnotizing and ineluctable, carried by African drums, the call of warriors waging war. Boom – boom – boom, enter the monsters of Doom:
THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM.
You can write that down in your book in great big letters.
The only way you can control anybody is to lie to them.
When you find an individual is lying to you,
You know that the individual is trying to control you.
One way or another this individual is trying to control you.
That is the mechanism of control. (..)
Check these facts, you will find they are always true.
By the way, the song is called: ‘Never defend, always attack.’ And it sells like mad.
But alas. This isn’t a hardcore-band, it’s the Church of Scientology (CoS), a well-organized cult that gains its wealth by selling this kind of lyrics, in which it explains its adepts the true nature of this world.
What CoS exactly advocates, what methods it uses and what gospel it spreads, has for a long time remained a well-kept secret; the CoS tolerates no onlookers. ‘Members of Scientology are never allowed to be interviewed by the press’, the cult commands. But in spite of that, some of the inside affairs of the CoS occasionally leaked through to the outside world. Sometimes journalists studied the cult and wrote elaborate articles or books about it. But because their sole information unevitably came from people that were at war with the cult – renegades, or people that had seen their relatives disappear in the black hole of the cult – the CoS could always discard such criticism as libel and lies.
Apart from that, it took a fair amount of courage to persist in criticizing the CoS. The cult has a long tradition of intimidating, pursuing, phone-tapping, spying and otherwise cornering its opponents. Many people have been financially and psychologically ruined. ‘We have to sue people for libel even on the smallest possible ground, in order to prevent the press from even daring to mention Scientology’, it says in one of the cult’s official internal documents. When the Washington Post was planning an article about Scientology a few weeks ago, the cult took the case to court in an attempt to prevent publication. After CoS had lost the case, they posted billboards with the journalist’s picture and an incriminating byline all over town.
The cult loses many of these lawsuits, but this hardly helps the defendants: CoS immediately files an appeal or starts a new trial. And because the party that loses the trial doesn’t have to pay the trial-expenses (as is the case in the Netherlands), a fair amount of the people that have won such lawsuits, against CoS are confronted with bankruptcy – a true Pyrrhus-victory. Most of the cult’s opponents are afraid to go to court, no matter how strong their case is. So they decide not to do it. Fighting the battle to the end is too costly, especially for individual victims.
But things are changing. Former Scientology-members are stepping forward now and speak freely about the cult’s methods and teachings. They do so on Internet, where a person is less seizable than in the life on this side of the monitor-screen. On Internet, you only have an e-mail adress and no house that can be put under strict surveillance in order to get a grip on its inhabitants. The latter enabled CoS in the past to harass the mother, the child or the loved ones of the critic.
Opponents of the cult (some of whom are ex-members) now communicate through a newsgroup (alt.religion.scientology) and have set up homepages where people can find authentic information about the cult. These pages contain internal documents in which Scientology elaborates on its methods: they speak about tax-evasion, about breaking and entering the IRS-office in order to falsify data that was kept there; and about the way the cult deals with its opponents. There are numerous guidelines that instruct cult-members how to put opponents under suspicion and how to ruin these critics.
Furthermore, the teachings of the cult are now widely available. In the past, all there was were some vague stories about the nature of the cult’s beliefs. CoS could wrathfully maintain that this nonsense had all been made up by by vile opponents whose sole interest was to damage the cult. But now it’s in black and white, bit by bit.
Their religion is a bad science fiction-story. Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, actually was an sf-writer, and unfortunately a very mediocre one. According to CoS, Xenu (the head of the Galactic Federation) nuked our planet millions of years ago. The remainders of earth’s former inhabitants are still floating around, and have entered our mind and body. These ‘Thetans’ are dangerous and only Scientology can teach us how to free ourselves from them (‘clearing oneself’). Cult-members have to pay a lot of money to learn all this nonsense. Tens of thousands of dollars.
That is why these documents have to remain secret, no matter at what cost. They are Scientology’s major source of income. (A strange religion by the way, that demands payment for revelations and doesn’t want its gospel spread freely). But now, these stories are wandering around the Net. The most important document is called the Fishman Affadavit. It consists of court documents that contain some of the cult’s scriptures. The CoS pursues everything and everyone that makes this document available. They cancel other people’s messages on Internet, try to remove a newsgroup, raid Internet-providers, demand the immediate removal of the document from homepages and are sueing themselves witless. They lose each and every case.
And every time the CoS succeeds in having someone remove the document, it emerges somewhere else. The protest against CoS is like a dragon: cut off one head and six new heads will grow overnight. Technique 88 is ineffective. You can’t control everyone, not even when you are Scientology. And contrary to the cult’s conviction, not everybody is willing to be controlled by lies.