Party coloured laundry

[Originally published in Het Parool; translation by Patricia Savenije.]

THE CONCEPT OF ‘brainwashing’ – rinsing the inside of a person’s head until he or she is totally impressed with a single idea, a single perspective – is considered obsolete nowadays. A very similar principle is nevertheless catching on in modern psychology: the ‘False Memory Syndrome’ (FMS). False memories allegedly develop along the same lines of what used to be called brainwashing: somebody gradually gets to re-interpret his or her personal history on the basis of a specific memory that could be unjust and suggested by others. This memory is a centrifugal thought – it is declared to be the absolute truth for the individual concerned and a major explanation for various problems and experiences.

A major difference between both concepts, however, is that FMS relates to individual occurances, while brainwashing is usually brought up in connection with rigid organizations and a mode of thought that perceives the ‘enemy’ everywhere. Apart from that, FMS is mostly associated with incest and child abuse, and brainwashing with religion, espionage and cults.

This Scientology-business that I’m still caught up in – they have filed a new law-suit in which I’m the only private person accused; the case will serve coming February 26 – regularly makes me ponder the question what exactly is happening in those washed brains. Can a person become so unshrinkable that he or she completely believes in the goals and methods of the washing institution? That he or she will vehemently reject each and every report about this institution’s failures and shortcomings that circulate in the outside world, and explain them away with references to conspiracy theories, established interests and fabricated stories, told only to incriminate the organization?

Of course this question cuts both ways. My perception of Scientology has been coloured by everything I have read about them in the past months – I have become biased. Which makes me wonder: in how far do I want to read bad things about them? Am I still interested in positive news about this organization? Am I not too much inclined to regard everything Scientologists write as a lie or twisted truth, without giving it a second thought? Can I keep distance? How reliable are my sources? How does it work, how does one become biased? How does one turn oneself into a no-iron and heat-resistant individual? By ignoring the facts, I think, and once more I look up the court rulings and try to stick to the proven facts.

Scientology apparently doesn’t feel inclined to do the same. I see it happening right before my eyes, almost every day. In January of this year, Het Parool reported that a member of the German government is considering to have National Security keep an eye on Scientology, because the organization is aiming at destabilizing democracy. Julia Rijnvis, Scientology-spokesperson, thereupon wrote an angry letter to this newspaper in which she stated that “over 25 court rulings”‘ have confirmed that “Scientology is a religion”.

When I read that, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets. How can anyone have such blinkers, and show them that proudly as well? After all, in many of those cases the question about the religious character of the organization hadn’t been the issue at all; Rijnvis should know that. But more important is the fact that appeals have been made in a number of those cases and that, as a consequence, the German Federal Court recently ruled that Scientology can’t be regarded as a religion because it’s a commercial organization – a ruling that cannot be appealed, since the Federal Court is the highest legal institution. And yes, the court came to this conclusion after extensively studying internal Scientology documents.

I know – It’s simply not Julia’s job to report such things; so be it. After all, PR-departments – of any organization – always wash the truth to make it fit to size and they are more interested in creating a positive image than to discuss painful facts. Moreover, it is Scientology’s policy to tell ‘acceptable truths’ whenever the organization is forced in an awkward position: do not omit all the facts but be selective, so that nobody can accuse you of straightforward lies and you will be able to make a crisp and freshly washed impression. This produces press releases that seem to have been rinsed with a too powerful detergent: what remains are the shreds of the truth. That moths have actually feasted upon the cloth, is only known to people who have followed the case more closely.

In the Dutch Internet-newsgroups Julia’s ‘mission’ is taken care of by Karel Jeelof, who – as a former Scientologist wrote me – is a staff member of the Church of Scientology Amsterdam and has been involved in the organization for twenty years. Karel never ceases to amaze me. This week, for instance, ‘Operation Snow White’ was mentioned, a huge project of Scientology’s secret service, the ‘Guardian Office’, that had been going on for years. Governmental departments were infiltrated and numerous documents were stolen or forged. Proof about this was found during an FBI-raid in the seventies.

The investigations and legal procedures took years, and in the end Scientology admitted to a number of accusations (as evil voices claim: to prevent the organization from worse). Thus, both parties signed a so-called ‘Stipulation of Evidence’. In such a document, both parties declare that the material described in it, is undisputed. On the basis of this Stipulation of Evidence, Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue was convicted to four years in prison; Hubbard himself (in those days on the run for the Americans and hiding out under a false name) was labelled an unindicted co-conspirator.

What does Karel have to say about this infiltration of governmental departments? This: “Operation Snow White was a program intended to correct the false information that was still lingering around government files.” It sounds as if they helped someone out of a dire situation. Out of pure sloppiness, Karel makes it seem, the government just had not yet gotten around to cleaning the information about Scientology so, you know, we just lended a hand. “False information that was still lingering around”. We just polished away a few minor stains, and helped the government to save some time. Jeelof’s indignation – being convicted for such actions is an injustice, he feels – is scary. Infiltration? Forgery? Why no! This was a public service we rendered, courtesy of Scientology.

Whereupon I started reading yet another court document, highly amazed about the aberrations of the human mind and thinking that Karel probably didn’t read the same documents about Snow White that I have seen.

Have Jeelof and Rijnvis been washed, rinsed and dried? Honestly, I wouldn’t know. But they are telling us some extremely party-coloured stories, and I think it might be wise to stay clear from them. After all, I wouldn’t want my linen to be stained.


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