Sunday, April 13, 2008

Anonymous vs Scientology, Sydney edition

Congratulations to Anonymous for getting their Sydney anti-Scientology protest mentioned in a major Sunday newspaper. The article on page 40 of the Sun Hearld looks impressive, with a big photo of members of Anonymous wearing their Guy Fawkes masks. Some are wearing sunglasses over the masks. A bit odd looking, but also kind of cool. Their various protest signs also feature prominently.

Most of the text of the accompanying article is available here. There is further text in the print edition which follows the final quote from Vicki Dunstan, Scientology trustee, which I'll get to in a second.

But: "Vicki Dunstan, Scientology trustee"? In the Defamer she is called "the Australian head of the Church". NineMSN simply called her a "spokesperson". In the Brisbane Times last year she was called "President of Scientology Australia". Where does "trustee" suddenly come from?

Certainly the Church of Scientology operates some discretionary investment trusts in Australia, and has since 2003: The Church of Scientology ACT Academy Building Fund, The Church of Scientology Adelaide Academy Building Fund, likewise for Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. No Sydney though. So, "Scientology trustee" of which specific Scientology institution?

In any case, the actual corporate position in the CoS structure tends to be less important than the internal management position. I have absolutely no idea what that is, but there's no guarantee that Miss Dunstan holds a high level in it: it's not uncommon for the corporate position of "President of the Church of Scientology" or similar to be held by someone with the internal position of "Head of OSA PR": their basic job is to be a spokesperson. But the represented title of "trustee" does seem odd...

The text not included in the online article is as follows:
Those who attended yesterday's Sydney protest by Anonymous denied they employed violent tactics against the church. One member, who did not wish to be named, said: "We are not a hate group - we just want people to know the truth about Scientology.

"People do not know what they're getting into because they're getting into because Scientology does not tell them the truth.

"Truth is not hate. One of the things about our group is that we came together from the internet. The internet is free and is all about freedom of speech. Scientology is not."

Other supporters said Anonymous' main objection was to what they claim is a policy of destroying families by cutting off followers from anybody who is not a Scientologist.

Hm. If this is still talking about the disconnection policy, then it's inaccurate: disconnection doesn't require cutting off all non-Scientologists, only someone who is a "Suppressive Person". This usually means someone who is vocally opposing the CoS, or else someone who used to be in the Church and has since been kicked out, or "declared SP". The practice of disconnection is obvious in such SP Declares, as they include the lovely phrase "his [or her] only terminal is the International Justice Chief", which in non-Scientology jargon means that the declared SP is prohibited from communicating with any Scientologist in good standing, except the IJC. Here's a typical example. Vick Dunstan did a poor job of trying to spin this in a positive light. A blanket denial of something that is evident in every official SP Declare issued by the Church? Please.

Moving on...
A former member of the church said: "I thhink these protests are just wonderful because they're getting the message out there about what happens in Scientology. I know mothers who have been cut off from their sons and families split up because of the church. It is dreadful."

Anonymous says its membership is growing every month and that more than 8000 people worldwide protested yesterday.

I am rather impressed by Anonymous' work here, all thing considered. But I do think they need to work on the precision of their criticisms.

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