An Anonymous War Against Scientology – or – How I Spent An Afternoon At The “Church”


[Anonymous in LA – source]

There’s been a virtual war a-brewin’ on these here interwebs. When I first came across this video last week, I thought nothing of it – sure, some crack group of teenage atheists hates Scientology, and had a computer voice read out a somewhat menacing, somewhat cute (the computer thinks its people…aww) threat against the Church of Scientology.

The group calls itself Anonymous, and according to Newsweek are, “a shadowy, loose-knit consortium of activists and hackers.” Donning face masks, gas masks, and suits, Anonymous members initiated a world-wide protest this weekend in Sydney, London, New York, LA, and Vancouver, among other places (check out this photo essay of the Vancouver protest). Here’s an excerpt from Anonymous’ first video release:

Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation; suppression of dissent; your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who trust you, who call you leader, has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed. For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind–for the laughs–we shall expel you from the Internet and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form.

Them’s be fighting words, especially given the history of vicious lawsuits (backed by serious bucks and more serious lawyers) brought about by the Church on those that would slander it. There’s not a single NGO or international aid agency that could take them on. However, given the entire Anonymous group is (presumably) anonymous, who could you sue?

I’ve been to the Church in downtown Vancouver. Almost four years ago, a friend of mine and I were strolling around the East end (Army and Navy = cheap socks, cheaper toques), when we came across the Church on the intersection of Hastings and Howe streets. Neither of us had any idea what the church congregate believed in, but had heard a variety of weird stories from “aliens brought us to Earth”, to “they practice mind control!”. I was hesitant to go in, but my friend (who was visiting for the week) was insistent we at least take their “free personality test” advertised on the sandwich board sitting outside their doors, and see what the hell the kafuffle was about. What we thought would last no more than a half hour turned into the better part of a day.


[Vancouver COS – source]

We walked in: to our left looked to be some sort of break-out room with pencils, paper, and Scientology posters on the wall (Scientology cats “hangin’ in there”); to our right was a long table with new and used Scientology texts being displayed (all with hefty price tags, I might add); at the back of the room was a reception desk with an awkward young woman sitting behind it, staring at us over the edge of the counter; beside her were a number of empty cubicles with computers.

The young woman rose from her seat, and walked towards us – she had perfect posture – you could balance the entire literary work of L. Ron Hubbard on her head if it wouldn’t snap in an instant. She had the queerest facial expression: priest eyes – wide and accepting – but her smile was shy and uncertain of itself, as if the mouth wasn’t quite sure what the eyes wanted to say (she very well could have been a robot).

She welcomed us, asked how we were doing, and why we were there.

“We just want to know what it is you actually do here…what do you do here? What are the central tenets of your church? What is it that you believe, exactly?”

She refused to answer any of our questions, and instead insisted that we accompany her to a back room to watch an introductory movie. My stomach turned. “This is it!” I thought, “They’ll gas us, brainwash us, and tomorrow I’ll have handed over my bank account to them, and asking for answers as I sit next to that girl, staring awkwardly at passers by.”

We followed her – around the reception desk and through back door that opened up to a room full of cubicles – each occupied by a shy-smiling individual, up some stairs – more cubicles. After a few twists and turns, we made it to their professional screening room. In the centre were 5 or 6 padded office chairs within a relatively empty space. On the walls were large pads – presumably to keep the noise of the films (or our screams) from interrupting the bright-eyed workers diligently typing away whatever Scientologists type. We sat down, and the lights went out.

“Oh, when the movie’s over, you’ll have to knock really hard against the door – it locks from the outside.” Slam. Click.

Great. We were done for – where’s the gas? Our last connection to the world beyond these padded walls was a small hole with a projector lens poking through it. After a few weary moments of despair, the movie started. The first half was dedicated to, “Yea – for reals, we’re an actual religion, we’re not shitting you, we mean it, look at all these court documents.” The next 30-odd percent dealt with, “Check it – we’ve got yachts, we’ve got cars, we’ve got limo’s, skyscrapers, and castles. We’ve got half the bloody screen-actor’s guild, the oscar’s, and a couple grammies. What.”

Finally, they began explaining what they did…well, not so much what they did, but what the consequences of what they did were on the world, “We’re everywhere – we’re fighting crime, saving cancer babies, ending drug addiction, and eradicating mental illness. What.” Lastly, the narrator – a slender man in a slick black suit and slicked back, black hair said, “And, if you don’t believe in us, you might as well shoot yourself in the head.”

Verbatim. I couldn’t make that shit up.

Forty five minutes after being locked away, we were finally released. We left without knowing anything more about the Church or its goings on – all we had were our personality test results (+200 questions of “What’s your favorite colour?” and “Are you suspicious of loved ones?” and so on), which were remarkably accurate (I’m a “procrastinator”) and quite obviously geared to identify and corral “weak minded” individuals.

“Oh, you need help with your personality, see here? You should seriously think about buying these three books.  They helped me!  *Awkward laugh*”

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terryman

Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: davidsemeniuk.com

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