Scientology Daily Digest: Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Today’s story was another installment in the interview series with legendary former cult marketing exec Jefferson Hawkins.  Today, the review of Chapter 3 in the book Introduction to Scientology Ethics is all about statistics, which is the basis for so much of the craziness around “management tech,” and, in my view, that is the craziness that drives so many businesses owned by Scientologists into criminal or at least incredibly short-sighted behavior.  I think this one is well worth reading, since Jeff once again does a great job presenting the subject accessibly, and it’s pretty easy to see how an already stupid idea of Hubbard’s can be taken and turned into a source of even more evil and ineptitude than Hubbard could have ever dreamed of.

Tony also got a brief “fuck off” e-mail reply from former cult spokesman Tommy Davis on asking Tommy for confirmation that he was in New York (New Jersey, actually, at the CNBC studio, a place I’ve done dozens of interviews myself) shepherding the chairman of his fund on a press tour.  It looks like Tommy’s new title of “special assistant to the Chairman” is real.  But it raised a question for me: a chairman of a big fund is not going to travel with an assistant he doesn’t trust.  And he’s not going to trust a rookie assistant unless that assistant has already got a lot of face time with him.  The only way to do that is to live in LA.  So is Tommy living in LA?  And if so, is wife Jessica with him?  I seem to recall that Tommy either owns or has access to a house in LA in addition to his place in Austin.  I am not starting a rumor; I’m just pointing out that a question worthy of further investigation has arisen.  

Finally, Angry Gay Pope was in court; other reports just before press time indicate he was released without being charged; the $150,000 bail and all charges were dropped. According to Karen De La Carriere, the district attorney was utterly uninterested in pursuing the case. Apparently, AGP will agree voluntarily to stay 100 yards away from HGB for a year, but the case was dismissed completely.  

My take

Jeff’s article is a great explanation of why Scientologists seem to gravitate towards sleazy or even criminal get-rich-quick decision making. Declaring that a) stats must go up every single week regardless of what is going on in the real world otherwise people inevitably have “crimes” that must be discovered and b) that people whose stats are up are exempt from trouble even if they are causing the wreckage that is depressing others’ stats is a recipe for disaster.

Much of modern management training is trying to figure out the real root cause of problems.  A lot of that is trying find out whether short-term problems are really symptoms of long-term issues.  High-quality organizations like GE are fanatical about trying to identify deep underlying causes of problems.  Trying to make weekly targets go up every single week with no exceptions inevitably leads to insanity.  And in that world, you never get to stop the hamster wheel and solve long-term problems.  

“Management tech” is based on the unstated assumption that demand for the “product” of Scientology was infinite. The cult could “grow to the sky” if the people in it weren’t such nitwits.  Like most fundamentalist sects, Hubbard says “everyone is a Scientologist, they just don’t know it yet.” In other words, everyone will inevitably become a Scientologist. That’s arrogant and naive at the same time. No product has infinite demand. Not even “eternity.”

A corollary is the idea that the product is never the problem when people don’t want to buy it. Naturally, Hubbard believed that the product was perfect because he had created it. But even if he were humble about his creation, the obsession with Keeping Scientology Working, which was originally an attempt to standardize delivery of “the tech” would ultimately became a mechanism for arresting any attempts to improve what didn’t work.

Customers change and evolve. We no longer dance the Lindy or Charleston, or even the Macarena. So a business trying to “sell” those dance moves would be in trouble, no matter how thoroughly management investigated the employees for “crimes” and no matter how thoroughly management graphed weekly stats.

The idea that people hitting their numbers are exempt from “ethics” is incredibly dangerous. Back when I sold corporate software (big applications for big companies), sales people could initiate radical alterations to the standard pricing and deal terms to close big deals late in the quarter. I’ve seen terms like one guaranteeing the customer they would always get the lowest price they paid for a given product for the next ten years.  So if the salesman gave a 70% discount to get a big order in this quarter, the customer would get a 70% discount for years to come, limiting the growth potential in the biggest customers.

This idea of ethics protection as a reward for performance is just like what happens if you give a surgeon immunity from malpractice suits if he performs a minimum number of procedures a week. Clearly, that’s a bad idea.  Why would you set up a similar “perverse incentive” in any other business? 

Key comments

  • “Anonymous” takes my main comment and runs with it, pointing out further ways that management by weekly stats backfires in the real world. 
  • I built on his views by pointing out that Hubbard probably got almost all his management thinking from the Navy, where you don’t have to think about things like customer demand, and where you do have to teach rookies about the importance of graphing trends so you can see that you have a steam leak in a boiler when fuel burn goes up to maintain a given level of pressure.  Without graphing, a farm boy from Arkansas who is now serving his second week on board a ship would miss a steam leak that could be fatal.
  • “Truthiwant” has an interesting detailed take on Scientologists and swearing.
  • Skip Press has a nice personal story about how Scientology stats basically make it worthless to make some superhuman effort to get something done this week: your reward is that you have to do more of it next week. That’s why the 100-hour weeks, etc.
  • Derek Bloch also reminisces about the insanity of weekly stats.
  • Another story of someone who lived it, from Natasha Boris.
  • AquaClara points out how the craziness spreads at some companies who have tried “management tech,” including Allstate Insurance.
  • Attorney Shockenawd thinks that Tommy Davis will talk about all the hate groups hating on his beloved church when he finally gets deposed in the Mosey Rathbun case.  A nice, withering blast of contempt that makes great reading.
  • My reply to Shockenawd: Anonymous is not a hate group, nor is Tony’s site or most of the rest of the universe.  They’re a laugh-at-and-ridicule group, which causes fundamentalists far more angst than real haters. Fundamentalists are so self-important that they can’t deal with people that laugh at them.
  • Relatively new commenter “M Diggs” points out that one potential reason people stay away from the cult is Hubbard’s language, which sounds increasingly archaic.  It’s a good argument, but I have to believe there are so many dimensions of suck that the language issue is a little further down the list.
  • Observer pithily notes the hypocrisy in Tommy Davis’s willingness to stalk countless cult members while they travel when he participated in “blow drills,” but blows a gasket when Tony does a much more benign version of the same thing.

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Mike’s first post has four examples of marginally literate drivel talking up the big product releases.  Another amusing adventure in bad punctuation and in avoiding obvious bits of reality beginning to obtrude in the Truman Show.
  • The second post, appearing just before press time, points to the Tampa Bay Times story about permit issues with the big event tent, and features the clever title, “Counter In-Tent-Ion.” Mike raises the point that Miscavige continues to push the city, potentially pushing them around just to push them around. But given the risk of disruption to the events, this is probably not a smart time to pick a fight with the city and potentially encouraging them to come down on him for real. After all, since there are probably more ex-Scientologists in Clearwater than active members, it’s likely that someone has helped them understand just how critical the events are to the cult, and thus how much leverage the city has against them.

Marty Rathbun’s Blog

  • Radio silence, day 8.  This is now the longest he’s gone since I have data from RSS on his posts without writing something new.  I just got word moments before press time from Mike Rinder that Marty’s OK, just insanely busy working on supporting his wife’s case and on some other projects.


Thanks again to Aeger Primo for today’s cruise through ESMB.

  • WWP has a post with e-mails from another campaign by CCHR supporters to try and oppose a new psychiatric hospital to be built by Signature Healthcare Services, by fighting a zoning change.  Unsurprisingly, the WWP crowd are going to flood the Sacramento Zoning Board with letters exposing the crazy.
  • Some poignant examples of how difficult it is for former ex-Scientologists to find homes for thousands of CDs and video tapes of Hubbard lectures, and just how many trees died to print stuff that even formerly die-hard Scientologists didn’t read.


A fairly abundant harvest from today’s general press:

  • They don’t call it the “Daily Fail” for nothing. UK’s Daily Mail is out with an article about the Twin Peaks CST base up in the mountains above Hemet, which is where they do all the engraving of the plates that go to all the other CST vaults.  It’s also the likely home of Shelly Miscavige, as Tony reported long ago.  The Daily Fail article starts by misspelling Leah Remini’s name and quickly gets worse.
  • The Tampa Bay Times reports that the City of Clearwater is now starting to get really irate after discovering a lengthy list of code violations involving the tent complex.  We may be at a major inflection point in the City’s willingness to hold the cult’s feet to the fire.  It’s possible that some connected ex-Scientologists have explained to the city how much leverage they have because of the importance of these events.  This would be the wrong time for Miscavige to have pissed off the city fathers once too often.
  • Radar Online is out with an update about the Tom Cruise suit versus Bauer Publishing over “abandoning” his daughter Suri.  This one contains a link to a PDF with excerpts of the deposition of Cruise taken in September.  While the deposition is only an excerpt, and while it is important to remember that Cruise has successfully sued publications for defamation previously, it sure looks like he’s really hanging in there on an uphill fight, what with truth being a defense and all that.
  • Vanity Fair is now picking up the story with Tom Cruise’s leaked deposition in the defamation case he brought against Bauer Media over charges he “abandoned” Suri.  The fact that only part of the deposition has been leaked makes it difficult to determine how solid the defense might be.  I’d expect a bunch more press to pick this up, and I don’t plan on reporting more instances of the story from the  general media after tonight, unless there’s a release of the full transcript that we can access.
  • The award for “Best General News Article of the Day Whose Title Snarkily References Scientology” goes to Forbes for an article on “The Church of Climate Scientology: How Climate Science Became a Religion.”  The article itself is fairly disastrous and isn’t worth reading.  Apparently, the author is not a Forbes reporter but is a “contributor” who apparently heads a pro-fracking lobbying group, a fact that Forbes forgets to mention on the masthead.
  • The Daily Dot, a news site for web site operators, has a feature article on the Anonymous campaign to rid Craigslist of deceptive cult ads.

Author: John P.

John P. is a Wall Street money manager and IT technologist fascinated by irrationality in all its forms, and Scientology most of all. He's a lifelong Steely Dan fan.