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Jim Lippard

Skeptical Information Links: Cults and Religions : Scientology

Scientology vs. the Internet: An Update and Response to Leisa Goodman

[...] Finally, Goodman claims that our quotations of Hubbard were taken "out of context." The documentation of Scientology's "fair game" policies has been made at length in numerous court cases. The FBI raids of the seventies produced documents showing that the Church of Scientology had forged bomb threats against itself in the name of writer Paulette Cooper (author of The Scandal of Scientology) which led to a criminal case against her. A man who befriended her and she took into her confidences during this time was actually a Scientologist who made daily reports of her state of mind to the Church. She only learned of this betrayal and was fully cleared of the bomb threats after the FBI raids, years later. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) was also the subject of a Scientology dirty tricks campaign when forged letters were sent out on CIA stationery by Scientologists trying to depict CSICOP as a front group for government intelligence agencies (Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1980, pp. 8-10). I challenge Goodman to put the quotations from our article in context, show that the context makes any difference to their meaning, and demonstrate that her interpretation is compatible with the documented behavior of the Church of Scientology.

Skeptic vol. 3, no. 3, 1995: "Scientology v. the Internet" by Jim Lippard and Jeff Jacobsen

The power to control the dissemination of information is the power to influence the beliefs and actions of human beings. Nothing has transformed civilization in such dramatic and unforeseen ways as the development of information technology which affects that power. The printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, radio, and television have altered societies by increasing the speed of communication, the quantity of information that can be communicated, and the potential number of recipients of any message. As each new technology becomes cheaper to use, the ability of individuals to create and spread their own messages is enhanced, and control over the flow of knowledge becomes decentralized. Institutions and individuals that require the ability to control information to retain power have found themselves ousted as technologies have undermined that ability.

The Internet, a global network of interlinked computers, has given individuals the power to obtain information on virtually any subject from all over the world. It has also put into their hands the ability to communicate any message, almost instantly and at extremely low cost, to a potential audience of millions. Further, the technology exists and is used today to allow these communications to be anonymous or private and readable only by the intended recipients. The possible consequences of the technology of computer networking that worry many people. Anonymous and private communication can be used by terrorists, drug smugglers, and child pornographers, which the U.S. government offers as argument in attempting to justify restrictions on the use and export of encryption technology. Businesses that exist by controlling the distribution of music, film, and books rightly fear obsolescence as individuals are able to transmit these works to each other directly in digital form. Many organizations may rightly fear having their innermost secrets broadcast over the Internet.

Falling into the last category is the Church of Scientology (COS), which has seen texts of secret Scientology teachings, affidavits and declarations from court cases, and even entire books by Scientology critics, made publicly (and anonymously) available on both the Internet and the Usenet, a collection of thousands of public discussion forums known as newsgroups. Rather than answering the criticism, Scientologists have responded in their standard manner-by attacking their critics with confrontation and litigation. This article is a summary of recent events in what began as the battle between Scientology and its critics and, because of these tactics, is now the battle between Scientology and the Internet. [...]

The Lippard Blog

Scientology in Mesa, Arizona, picketing about the "Cancel poodle" (better known as the "Cancel Bunny"). This was about two years into Scientology's war on the Internet, which, despite a few Pyrrhic victories in court, was characterized by huge losses on the part of Scientology in the court of public opinion.

Shortly after this, Jeff Jacobsen and I published an article on the subject in Skeptic magazine, titled "Scientology v. the Internet," for which I received the Skeptics Society's Martin Gardner award for "Best Skeptical Critic" in 1996. This article was one of the few published that went into detail about the Tom Klemesrud/"Miss Blood" affair and its relation to why Scientology was so insistent to compromise the anonymity of a user of Julf Helsingius' Penet anonymizing remailer service in Finland. Some of these facts which are still not widely known, as seen by the Wikipedia entry on Penet. Scientology's search for the user seemed to have stopped at Caltech, but they did find that the account holder was a Caltech alumnus who had been working for Scientology, and had accurately leaked Scientology internal documents in his own attempt to support Scientology's position on the Klemesrud case. [...]

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