Scientology Daily Digest: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today’s news seems to be focused on the new Mark VIII e-meter, with some commenters noting that it bears more than a passing resemblance to the recently redesigned Kenner Easy-Bake Oven.  Some say that this is because Ideo, the legendary design firm that did tons of iconic products over the years including many for Apple, did both products. In a comment on Mike Rinder’s blog, not yet moderated by press time, I said that the design of the new e-meter isn’t half bad, and could well have been done by Ideo.  And I’m actually serious. The good design doesn’t excuse the stupidity of leaving this thing in a warehouse for a decade or a lot of other mistakes in the GAT2 rollout, but it’s not bad design by itself.

Also, life seems to have dealt Mr. Thomas C. Mapother IV a mixed bag today.

My Blog

I normally don’t like to do something that looks like I might be tooting my own horn, but there were a couple comments on my blog in the last 24 hours that I thought were worth calling your attention to.

  • Eclipse-girl wondered how I got an estimate of 500 to 700 Scientologists in Germany when the German government’s official count was about 4,000.  I went through a detailed discussion in my reply.  This might be a useful read as we start to go through and build up an estimate of membership.
  • OrangySky takes umbrage with a commenter in another forum who says they’re too clever not to get involved in a cult.  I share the experience of several very smart people who still managed to get tangled up a cult (one Scientology, one not), because that cult was able, whether by intent or by accident, to target their Achilles’ heel.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s blog post today contained the regular Tuesday feature with Claire Headley (recently joined by longtime top ranked auditor Bruce Hines) taking us “up the bridge,” going through all the materials for each level.  Today’s OT 2 stuff basically sounds like pages and pages of Orwellian “word salad” that sure looks like the goal is to scramble any remaining critical thinking skills.

There’s also a status update on the depositions in the Monique Rathbun case. The next court date is December 11.  They’ve gotten depositions from cult execs Warren McShane and Allen Cartwright, plus defendants Monty Drake and Steven Sloat. Tommy Davis is scheduled for December 4 in Austin and Leah Remini is still not scheduled.


Senate House at the University of London, considered to be the model for the Ministry of Truth building in George Orwell's 1984.
Senate House at the University of London, considered to be the model for the Ministry of Truth building in George Orwell’s 1984.

My take:  Some of these statements, including the first few, which read:

1. To Die is To Live
2. To Live is to Die
3. To Surrender is to Victimize
4. To Victimize is to Surrender
5. To Lose is to Win

… all suggest that somebody was reading a little too much George Orwell when they wrote all this stuff. Perhaps one could envision these chiseled on the wall at the Super Power building, which, given its foreboding footprint on its lot, resembles the immense

Super Power Building. If you imagine this in gray, you can kind of see a resemblance.
Super Power Building. If you imagine this in gray, you can kind of see a resemblance.

Ministry of Truth building in 1984 but with a pseudo-Mediterranean Disney-esque paint job. Even skimming this list without holding the cans, I can see my synapses frying like an egg on a hot griddle.

Regarding the depositions in Monique Rathbun case, it would be delightful fun to read Warren McShane’s deposition, given that I seem to recall a quote from Miscavige to the effect of how he loved it when Warren testified because he is the best liar on the management team. And I would certainly pay money (though I wouldn’t go so far as to hock the Global Capitalism HQ jet) to see the video of Tommy Davis’s deposition, just to watch him get “really angry!”

Some of the comments that riff on other trending topics are the best payload of Tony’s story today.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Exhibit 1: The Mark VIII E-Meter
    Exhibit 1: The Mark VIII E-Meter

    Mike picked up on the commenter from Tony’s blog who noticed the resemblance between the new Mark VIII Super-De-Duper and the recently restyled Easy-Bake Oven.  One commenter claims that these two products were done by the same design firm, the one that has done a lot of work for Apple.

    Easy-Bake Oven... Separated at birth?
    Easy-Bake Oven… Separated at birth?

    I contend that this is eminently possible, and in a long comment on Rinder’s site, I deconstructed the design elements of the new e-meter that make me believe this. I also tracked down an interesting tidbit on the history of the redsign of the Easy-Bake Oven.

  • New Valley Org solicitation.  I "command" you to reach for your wallets, since asking politely didn't work too well.
    New Valley Org solicitation. I “command” you to reach for your wallets, since asking politely didn’t work too well.

    Mike also published an interesting Valley Ideal Org flyer (which a tipster originally sent me a couple of days ago).  The first thing you see is the word “Command” at the top. It’s all about how DM is commanding you to get the Valley Org done. Not about how great it will be for those about to throng the doorway to learn about Scientology, nor what it will do for existing public. It’s all about how you can obey him.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

  • WWP discusses new “rules” for owning an e-meter, including a clause that says you can only own one if you remain in good standing. Not sure how enforceable that is, but nice try… Also, it might be interesting to see if the requirement that you have a current annual or lifetime IAS membership before being allowed to buy a meter constitutes “tying” under anti-trust law.
  • A WWP thread discusses the software update for your PC that connects to the new Mark VIII E-meter, wondering if it is entirely about the E-meter or wondering if there might be other secret capabilities involved, like a new “net nanny” package.  Worth monitoring in case some clever Anon manages to disassemble part of the executable to see what it really does.

General News

Scientology Daily Digest: Monday, November 25, 2013

Shameless plug:  An earlier post today highlights a poster listing the most common logical fallacies in persuasive writing.  Read this carefully every day for a week or two and you will find yourself making fewer logical mistakes in your own writing, and you will have great fun seeing what gaping errors people make in the arguments they use to sell you stuff, get you to vote for them, etc.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Today’s post reports that Leah Remini was officially declared a Suppressive Person by the cult.  While the biggest wave of actual disconnections has already taken place, this move is yet another own goal by Miscavige since it gives the Hollywood gossip press another chance to revisit the disconnection story, just when it was starting to die down a bit.

My take:  As Mike Rinder points out in the article, the fact that Tom Cruise didn’t have to disconnect from Suri when Katie Holmes divorced him has probably rankled many ordinary Scientologists who have been forced to disconnect from wives, parents and kids when they blew.  So with typical Miscavige ham-handedness, he’s going to “make an example” of Leah by not cutting her any slack.

It seems to me that this is yet another situation where Miscavige has boxed himself in with arbitrary decisions in the past to accomplish whatever short term goal he had in mind at the time, which then limit his flexibility in dealing with the present.  His inability to think clearly about potential unintended consequences of his actions is a crippling flaw that would have, if present in a CEO of a real company, caused him to be fired long ago.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Mike’s first post today reprints a letter from a longtime “field auditor,” who remains in the cult due to family connection and fear of disconnection.  He complains that the new Golden Age of Dreck 2 is so awful that it’s put him back at square one.  He’s wondering what to do next… I am sure some people here can come up with helpful suggestions, though it’s probably tough to formulate a pithy suggestion we haven’t already heard a few times.
  • Mike’s second post raises an interesting possibility: given that Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez are BFF’s, would Miscavige order J Lo’s father to disconnect from her if she continues to hang out with Leah?  Technically, according to Mike, she’s guilty of a “suppressive act” which could get Dad in trouble.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

South African Independent Scientology Blog

  • Today’s article estimated “crowds” for the GAT2 launch video event in J’Burg at 300 to 500, down substantially from the 800 they got in 2005 opening the Johannesburg Ideal Org, versus 1,200 confirmations on Facebook.  Pretoria supposedly had about 120 as did Durban.  Wonder if they had any seat fillers, which according to earlier comments on that blog, were used in the past at some events.
  • Cultural RevolutionA great article from a couple days ago written by someone who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution compared the mind control tactics of the government to the way Scientology attempts to stamp out dissent and disagreement in its ranks.

General Press

  • Apparently, the cult’s German membership base has dwindled to the point that the watchdog BFV (Agency for the Protection of the Constitution) has stopped monitoring it, despite protests from some German states.  BFV officials base the decisions on what they estimate as 4,000 members in the country, though that seems rather high versus what we think is a more reasonable estimate of 500 to 700.  Interestingly, some BFV offices say that the cult is trying to lure new members through “hidden Internet portals.”  Craigslist, anyone?
  • From a few days ago, Huffington Post ran an article about local Clearwater fundamentalist Christian pastors complaining that Scientology “serves a false god.”  A fairly lame “my God can beat up your God” article, but nice use of some of the aerial shots that may have come from Rinder & Bennitt.  Some fairly amusing comments, though.



Scientology Daily Digest: Sunday, November 24, 2013

Programming note: We’re back in the saddle after a couple of days off due to an exhausting trip plus commitments that ran way late on Saturday night.  We’ll be putting out Digests for tonight through Wednesday night inclusive and we’ll be off for the US Thanksgiving holiday (our annual date with gluttony, for readers outside the US who are unfamiliar). We’ll resume daily publication on Saturday night.

More details of the Golden Age of Dreck 2 release are emerging, as well as abundant evidence that the cult is going into overdrive to get people to come into their local orgs to see the videos of the events.  The prose is more purple, the promises are more extravagant, and the testimonials are more over the top than ever before.

New York GAT 2 video broadcast invitation
New York GAT 2 video broadcast invitation

Last night, the cult held a video viewing event in Manhattan.  The tipster who e-mailed me the flyer was unable to attend, on account of being a declared SP (a minor impediment in the staff’s eternal quest to be upstat by inviting tons of people).  The most notable detail is that the event was held not at the NYC org’s “chapel” but at the Washington Irving High School auditorium.  That’s the biggest auditorium of any of the NYC schools.  They did this because renting from the school district is dramatically cheaper than renting a hotel ballroom in NYC, but it’s nowhere near as classy and successful.  But there are other private event venues that are also extremely competitive versus hotels, but which are a lot nicer than a high school auditorium.

I couldn’t get the exact seating figure, but based on a couple of pictures, it seats at least 1,500, probably a few more.  I would be extremely surprised if the NYC org was able to draw more than about 50 people given that the cult has never been that big in NYC in per capita Scientology involvement.  22 million people in the metro area served by the Org and they are unlikely to have gotten more than a few dozen to show.

It would be incredibly difficult to hide the number of empty seats in an auditorium that size.  I’m sure the acoustics were pretty interesting, with hard floors to make the empty hall echo all the more.  And it’s a good thing there aren’t many “whales” in the NYC area, since the hard plywood seats standard in NYC school auditoriums is not the plush comfort that they presumably expect.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Today’s post had a brief comment by Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige (daughter of his older brother Ronnie, who blew long ago).  She says, “I can’t believe people still buy any of this BS about ‘discovery’ of ‘lost tech.’ It’s just such an obvious and blatant money making scheme.”  While this is probably obvious to the readership of this blog, it’s nice to see somebody from the gene pool point this out.

Also worth noting is the annual “Christmas Stories” event invite, which features a few of the usual celebs reading Christmas stories.  You know, the holiday for that guy Christ, who turned out to be nothing more than a momentary blip in the R6 implant all those years ago.  Mostly the C-listers, but Kirstie, Anne Archer and others a bit nearer the top of the list are not there.  Not sure about the significance of this particular guest list. People with access to prior years’ lists might be able to shed some light on the changes in the cast from, say, 3 or 4 years ago.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

Mike’s been pretty prolific the last couple of days. Here are the most relevant posts:

Forums (ESMB, WWP, OCMB)

General Press

  • The cult recently purchased a building in Auckland, New Zealand.  The purchase price was NZ$16 million (US$13.1 million).  Interestingly the article reports that the building was financed by a loan from CSI to the local group, which will have to be repaid later (terms unknown).  There may be less than 250 Scientologists in all of NZ, if they exist at the same rate as in Australia, excluding staff (the 2006 census listed 350, but defections have obviously reduced this number over the course of nearly a decade).  Financing the building in advance of fund raising could be an interesting change in strategy, if we start seeing this elsewhere.  In fact, it could be a recognition that large donors () are getting tapped out, so Miscavige is going to take more cash over time rather than getting all the proceeds from an Ideal Org purchase up front.  The only problem is that if the org continues to spiral downward and is unable to meet payment deadlines a year or two out, the international management may be left holding the bag, which is of course very unattractive to DM.

Requesting your Thoughts on Independent Scientology + A Momentary Lull in the Action

Due to a relatively sudden trip out of town mandated by my Global Capitalism HQ overlords, I was unable to get the Daily Digest done last night. Tonight is not looking great, either. I expect to be back in the saddle with a Daily Digest on Friday night. I apologize for the lack of notice on this one, and thank you for your understanding.

If time permits on the trip, I’ll try to get something done on a story about the scenario for Independent Scientology, which I would love to publish in the next week or two. I would welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note for the purposes of this analysis that I do not think it necessary to distinguish between various “flavors” of people attempting to practice their own flavor of Scientology apart from the official Church of Scientology.  In other words, I’m looking for a scenario that encompasses Ron’s Org, Freezone, Milestone Two, “indies” affiliated with none of these other groups, etc.  I believe that one general scenario is possible.

Do you think:

  1. Independent Scientology will become an effective, organized movement that actually helps to drive membership losses at the COS by marketing its positive advantages?
  2. Independent Scientology must inevitably be a way station for people who are leaving the cult but who aren’t ready to walk away from it entirely, and thus it is not able to exist on its own over the long term?
  3. Independent Scientology will be able to attract a significant number of adherents from the world of the never-in’s, by putting together a case for the value of auditing and other Scientology practices?
  4. Independent Scientologists will be able to resolve factional disputes and come together in agreements on key points, to present a unified face, thus attracting new adherents? Or will it forever look like the People’s Front of Judea versus the Judean People’s Front?
  5. Some other scenario will come to pass?

I would welcome your thoughts.  I have my own opinion, which I have shared in many comments on Tony Ortega’s site, but would love to see if there’s some sort of consensus among the cadre of Insightful Readers here.

Not to sound too much like your 9th grade English teacher, but please don’t just repsond with one of the 5 numbers; I need to understand your thought processes more than which answer you think is correct…  Analysis is as much about getting the reasoning process right as it is about getting the “answer” right.


Scientology Daily Digest: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Programming note: Again, exhaustion overtook me in trying to get this done last night.  That and a desire to maintain some semblance of an actual life. Apologies to Faithful Readers who may depend on this before bedtime.

Perhaps the most unexpected news item today is that Marty and Mosey Rathbun recently became parents, with little William James Rathbun entering the world a few days ago.  Ironically, William James is considered “the father of American psychology.”  Congratulations!  And, of course, this makes Mosey Rathbun a mother lioness; Miscavige would do well to remember that messing with a mother lioness (think Karen De La Carriere after the loss of her son Alexander) is almost always a low-percentage shot.

The best Facebook comment by a cultie hyperventilating over the ultra-amazing events of the weekend goes to this unnamed Kool-Aid drinker, posted to BlackRob’s WWP thread of crazy cult Facebook posts.

Some delusionally delirious praise for David Miscavige from an attendee at last weekend's events.  Wonder if the Nobel committee will pick Miscavige over that Pope Francis guy.
Some delusionally delirious praise for David Miscavige from an attendee at last weekend’s events. Wonder if the Nobel committee will pick Miscavige over that Pope Francis guy.

Something to watch for:  Buffalo (thanks to Ze Moo) and Melbourne report Scientology ad campaigns popping up in the last couple of weeks.  It will be important to see if this is the beginning of a major initiative to pollute adorn buses and airwaves in major cities worldwide.  Please pass along any data points on new ads in mass media (Craigslist doesn’t count).

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Today’s story featured leaked photos from the Super Power building.  Apparently, these photos came from one of the books distributed as souvenirs to the attendees at the weekend’s events.  There are some pictures from inside the building being posted on social media, but nothing yet that appears to be actual pix of the oiliness table or anything else on the Super Power floor.  Tony also revisited the fact that the speech was 8 minutes long.

My take:  

I had another thought on the 8-minute speechus interruptus (perhaps better termed quotus interruptus, evocative of another happens-too-fast problem that DM may have to contend with) and why it is such a disaster for Dave. Recall that, based on the articles on Mike Rinder’s site, all the events on Friday and Saturday gave a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo about Golden Age of Dreck 2 issues, filled with nonsensical acronym-slinging. But he didn’t say much about Super Power at that time.

So if he really wanted to “sell” Super Power to his best customers, most of whom were seated in the front row at the event, he really needed to get people whipped up into a lather before they entered the building. When you unveil a major new product, you have to get people emotionally invested before they try it out. You don’t want them making a buying decision on purely rational grounds. It’s like when a manufacturer unveils a new car at a car show — the speeches, music, lights, food, booze, etc. are designed to get people excited before they see the car, and then transfer the excitement from the other stuff to the car itself. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been hyping Super Power for 15 years of fund raising; you still have to do it all over again when people are about to sample the product for the first time.

That’s why I think this is an epic fail, far worse than just the personal embarrassment of being “confronted and shattered” by “chopper tech.” It’s a strategic blunder of the first degree. And it will definitely be felt not only in Super Power enrollment figures, but perhaps even in the IAS event in two weeks.

So what’s the next scam after this one?  Ivan Mapother tongue-in-cheekily thinks we’re up for new Super Powers buildings in Europe and Australia.  I think we would do well to watch the “Pacific Events Center,” an auditorium complex so sorely needed because the dozens of live event venues within 10 miles of Pac Base, ranging from the 1,300 seat Wilshire Ebell theater to the Forum, the Sports Arena and the Staples Center (each 15,000+ seats) just don’t give them any choices on where to hold an event.  They’re also talking about an “L. Ron Hubbard Auditorium” in Clearwater.

But there are also local ad campaigns popping up.  It’s going to be important to keep an eye on local ad campaigns (which are cheaper, and thus involve less fundraising) versus big building campaigns (which last longer, and have the potential to raise more money over time but probably a much slower start). That may give us some insight into whether DM believes his donor base is tapped out.

Selected comments:

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • One of Mike’s sources talks about their tour of the Super Power building. Apparently, they’re not allowed up on the sixth floor to see the running track where the Cause Resurgence Rundown will take place.  Perhaps that’s because the marketing promise that this rundown can be done at any point and will absolutely positively deliver all sorts of “case gain” won’t reconcile too well to the reality of a running track in the dark in the minds of even the most obedient public.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

Thanks again to Aeger Primo for the eagle-eyed scan of the forums.

General News

  • Leah Remini was on The View, the ABC gab-fest led by Barbara Walters. Apparently, Baba Wawa asked about disconnection, and Leah pointed out that she didn’t disconnect from her friends, they are the ones not allowed to talk to her.
  • In Buffalo, the gateway to the quaint rural region of upstate New York called “Canada,” the local paper notes a billboard and bus ad campaign for Scientology and considers the question of whether they’re trying to spruce up their image.  Leaving aside the question of whether raising the Titanic would be easier, it’s nice to see local press do a reasonable job grappling with the question.  Nice job scoring an interview with two recently departed local ex’s.
  • Off topic but still relevant, since many in this community are fans: Monty Python is reuniting for a show.  They had rarely appeared together in public in the last 20 years (I was at a movie premiere of a documentary in NY in 2009 and actually got to shake Terry Jones’s hand) and now they’re performing together.

Scientology Daily Digest: Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Apostate Air Force Edition

I think the follow-on effects of yesterday’s airborne raid on the Super Power ribbon-cutting ceremony will reverberate for some time, and we might even see some significant changes in the way the cult produces the IAS event in two weeks.  Given that those changes are likely to be about protecting David Miscavige from imagined threats to his personal security and about protecting his image with his “flock,” it’s possible that he takes his eye off the ball: raising money.

If it is true that Miscavige has postponed the events earlier this year mainly due to his need to micro-manage the legal cases he’s embroiled in, then there’s a non-zero chance that he’ll postpone the IAS event while he revamps the event and the security plan.  And if he does that, it is extremely likely that the proceeds from the gala are going to be down substantially.

Rookie poster “roxhum” asked in yesterday’s story, “Although it was fun pissing off the little dictator, what is the objective?”  Roxhum also went on to suggest that it might be counterproductive because cult members might actually become more loyal since they perceive their religion as coming under attack.

Certainly, it’s valuable to be skeptical of the game-changing potential of what could be seen as a rather expensive prank.  My reply to “roxhum” may provide some illumination on why I think this could end up being as epic as the coordinated Anonymous raid with approximately 10,000 protesters in front of half of the cult’s org buildings.  I said:

There’s actually a very real objective in play, which Mike & Mike either intuitively or overtly grasped: keeping your opposition off balance causes them to make mistakes. This idea goes back to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, first published about 2,500 years ago. If you control the time and place of the battle, you’re way more than halfway to victory. He who doesn’t shape the battlefield faces an uphill fight from the opening shot. And demoralizing an opponent by attacking at a moment they might consider a time of triumph has the most leverage of any attack you can make.

What’s the practical effect of this stunt? Miscavige has been increasingly paranoid about outsiders getting a hold of his speeches and mocking him on the Internet. He appears to be obsessed with what outsiders, particularly ex’s say about him, despite his media strategy, which appears to be to ignore them at best, be hostile at worst.  To the extent opponents can keep him focused on security and on shoring up his image, he won’t be focused on growing the business, and it will probably end up shrinking.

Last year, a tabloid reporter easily snuck into the IAS event in the UK. In May, at the opening of the Portland Ideal Org, the cult was responding to the London disaster by having unprecedented security and area control for the event, checking ID’s and prohibiting electronic devices. When they discovered that Mark Bunker (“Wise Beard Man”) had cut a deal with the store across the street to put a hidden camera up with a great sight line to the stage, Miscavige lost it, and ultimately ended up turning the sound down so that his speech can’t be recorded, and he also appeared to cut short the event.

Both of those events shaped the current reality: he moved the big tent from the UK to the US, where he probably thinks he has better security for the IAS event than he could get in the UK (it was easy for people to sneak onto the Saint Hill property from adjoining fields). But better security in response to Bunker’s little prank comes at a cost: he has basically killed the European event business, and by doing so, has probably hastened the decay in the European Scientology orgs — the rich donors from Europe who have been propping up the cult over there are not that likely to come all the way to the (tasteless, low-brow) US for an event. The biggest event of the year is probably going to pull in a lot less revenue going forward.

While it is correct that many people still in the cult will be able, through thought stopping and cognitive dissonance, to think that the attacks on the cult and on Miscavige must mean Scientology is important and successful, not everyone will be swayed that way. While I can’t accurately predict that attrition will accelerate specifically as a result of this event, I strongly suspect that bad knee-jerk decisions made as a result of this event (more security, more sec checking of people who posted event details on Facebook, etc.) will ultimately accelerate the exodus, and we should start to see people whose “Aha!” moment was shortly after this and the upcoming IAS event appearing in the next couple of months.

I thus believe that yesterday’s stunt is important in causing Miscavige to withdraw even more from reality, and thus to make even worse decisions. Because the events business is such a money maker, any damage to the event business significantly reduces cult profitability, and when they start eating into reserves, the decision making process is likely to become even more insane — Miscavige can rationalize almost any idiotic decisions, as long as the reserves go up every year. But if reserves start getting depleted, that’s when the death spiral begins.

Is this a prank or a really, really good investment?  A Robinson R44 goes for about $500 per hour, plus perhaps a bit more for a pilot, insurance, etc. So for less than $2,000, Mike & Mike had an opportunity to rattle Miscavige significantly. Perhaps even enough to cause him to make a potentially significant mistake that could potentially bury the events business for good as he worries about his personal security and about his image. I don’t think his personal security is at much risk, because most ex’s are having too much fun laughing at him. And his image is none too good except in the presence of the most rabid Kool-Aid drinkers.

So why do this now instead of at the Portland Ideal Org opening? Because Miscavige has another great opportunity to screw up, in just two short weeks, at the biggest-grossing event of the year.

I will bet you that Rinder and Bennitt will look back in a couple years and tell you that this $2,000 was the best two grand they ever spent, both in terms of the fun value and in terms of the gravel it dumps in Miscavige’s gearbox.

The IAS event, this year more than ever, needs to be about revenue growth. But as a result of the first mission of Viper Squadron 1 of the Apostate Air Force, it will be all about trying to plug imagined security leaks. It’s entirely possible that Miscavige will postpone the event entirely while he tries to figure out what other leaks might exist that those evil SP’s might try to exploit. That would be a $20 million mistake at least, a 10,000-to-1 return on their investment…

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s story today featured an exclusive interview with Jacqueline Olivier, the principal hired to turn Will Smith’s home schooling operation into a “legit” private school, the New Village Leadership Academy, which closed its doors after three years.

My take:  It sounds like Olivier took the job knowing that “study tech” would be involved, but may have figured that, since the school board was “committed to best practices,” they would be able to move past that odd fixation once she showed them that “study tech” was anything but a best practice.  But I suspect she ran up against a small definition problem: in the real world, best practices are “the current consensus of qualified experts as to the best way of accomplishing measurable results, subject to evolution over time as new, scientifically valid research shows improved methods.”  Scientologists also believe in best practices, but unfortunately, they use their own definition: “stuff that Hubbard pulled out of his ass 50 years ago.”  So when those two visions of best practices collided, it’s no surprise that Olivier’s reality-based version lost out.

There is a lot of commentary about what she should have done, with some thinking she should have left immediately and blown the lid off the cult’s machinations, and many who felt she did the best she could given the circumstances.  I don’t think the commenters here were able to settle the issue, but there were some well-articulated points raised on all sides, which makes me proud of the community in these forums.

I think it will be very hard for Will and Jada to deny they’re Scientologists after Olivier alleges full involvement of the Smiths in making Scientology-related decisions in the school.  I can hardly wait until some intrepid reporter asks one of them why, if their new religion confers such super powers on anyone, they seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that they’re involved in it.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

Mike didn’t have a new post up today, pleading exhaustion (a veritable epidemic among Scientology bloggers the last couple days), but he did put up a post late last night that I didn’t include in yesterday’s Daily Digest with pictures from the event.

General News

Various news outlets picked up the Super Power opening.  I glanced at the stories and didn’t see anything remarkable; some of them basically rewrote the Tampa Bay Times piece.

Scientology Daily Digest: Sunday, November 17, 2013

COB David Miscavige (l) and Flag Captain Harvey Jacques (r) work on their postulates and attempt to wave off a helicopter carrying Mike Rinder and Mike Bennitt, as they are about to overfly the Flag Building opening ceremony.
COB David Miscavige (l) and Flag Captain Harvey Jacques (r) work on their postulates and attempt to wave off a helicopter carrying Mike Rinder and Mike Bennitt, as they are about to overfly the Flag Building opening ceremony.

Today, it’s all about the helicopter, though there are a lot of other interesting goings on that took place.

Mike Rinder decided to take advantage of an offer from Mike Bennitt, he of the high-quality videography of the Mosey Rathbun case in Texas, and use a helicopter to fly over the Super Power building during today’s 1:00pm opening ceremony, so they can get an estimate of the crowd size.

While nobody’s talking, it seems almost certain that they coordinated with Tony Ortega, who filed a story about the inbound spy-copter after it lifted off and was headed for downtown Clearwater.  Just in time for the OSA monitors covering his blog to read the story and call Miscavige, but not enough time for the cult to do anything about it (it takes 45 days to obtain “temporary flight restrictions” from the FAA, even in a case where they would be inclined to grant one, which is not clear in this case).  It seems reasonable to guess that he wouldn’t have cut short the presentation had he assumed that one of the two helicopters was hired by the Church and the other was perhaps a news channel.  The only way he would have cut short the presentation was on the basis of a staff report telling him that Rinder was in the second helicopter.

Miscavige cut short the presentation after less than 10 minutes and started trooping everyone inside the building, as if they were going on lockdown back at Int Base. Given his penchant for bloviation, it seems unlikely that he was planning to make the presentation so brief, so it’s a reasonable guess that the news of arch-SP Rinder hovering over the event was enough to send him into panic-and-flee mode.

Busted!  Apparently, there may have been paid actors to pad out the audience today.
Busted! Apparently, there may have been paid actors to pad out the audience today.

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Cruise, Travolta, Preston and Alley were in attendance, but oddly, it says that “hundreds” of members were in attendance.  Based on a reasonable estimate of no more than 4,000 total bodies and a likelihood that 1,000 are outer org trainees and 1,000 are Clearwater-based Sea Org and staff, it looks like no more than 2,000 (perhaps 2,500 tops) public were in attendance. Attendance certainly fell far short of the 10,000 listed as the upper bound in the parade permits.

Tony Ortega’s “Helicopter Tech” Article

This caper is likely to go down as one of the biggest humiliations of David Miscavige in history.  It’s even bigger than the epic fail at the Portland Ideal Org grand opening back in May.  In Portland, Miscavige had to turn the volume down in a bold move to “confront and shatter” Mark Bunker and others in attendance.  Here, he had to scrap most of the grand opening speech in order to avoid “confronting and shattering” arch-nemesis Mike Rinder who, along with Mike Bennitt, were cruising the friendly skies looking for lulz.  It’s interesting to note, by the way, that the two of them were able to “postulate” good weather for their flight, while all those OT-level Scientologists weren’t able to stop the rain on Saturday.

Most people who took a look at the high-resolution photos posted in the article came up with an estimate of about 3,000 to 4,000 total bodies at the event, and the consensus is that perhaps 1,000 of these were “outer org trainees” and a like number were Sea Org and local staff.  However, there was also evidence that there were paid extras in the event.  It would be interesting to get a paycheck for four hours for what ended up being eight minutes of work.

My take:  This is a brilliant collaboration between the two Mike’s (Rinder and Bennitt) and Tony, who proved, once again, that they have DM’s number.  It should also prove to us that DM is utterly predictable in his actions, and is driven to an extraordinary degree by his own personal vanity to do anything possible to avoid joking & degrading.  That’s a remarkably insecure way to live life for a guy who is sitting on top of a Global Capitalism HQ-sized pile of money, who travels by jet and who has an immense entourage.  And it’s a hell of a way to run a company — to let a distraction from a small helicopter buzzing around in the skies cause you to cut short a major event that you’ve been building up the hype for for over a decade.

Selected comments: 

  • Jeff Hawkins weighs in.  As an Int Base veteran who’s been in the room with DM on many occasions, he says that there’s no way the event was scheduled to last only eight minutes. Sure, it was supposed to be short, but that means “only” an hour of Danny Sherman-penned bloviation.  He clearly got no game.  Clear evidence that they were planning a longer speech: whales in the front had seats, which you presumably wouldn’t need for a mere 8 minute speech.
  • “ex sea org member,” who says he used to collect stats on org performance when he was in, gives great perspective on how this one is a meltdown for the ages.
  • OTVIIIisGrrr8 and MonkeyKnickers have dueling views of the radio traffic as David Miscavige attempts to call in fast movers to take out the helicopter.
  • “Peter” refers to the hardware involved as the “Apostate Air Force.”
  • Kevin Tighe (an ex, not the actor) filed an on-the-ground report of his own.
  • Derek trolls the still-in Sea Org who are reading this blog with pictures of his weekend, hanging out with friends and family and enjoying Austin.  Derek, play nice!
  • “Great White Clam” points out that DM’s move to cut short the presentation to avoid the Entheta-copter is “hiding,” which is -30.0 on the Tone Scale. Way to impress your flock with Scientology super powers!
  • My vote for shoop of the day (out of many to choose from) goes to “Walter Mitty,” with the poster for “Top Gun: Mission Double Mike.”

Tony Ortega’s Sunday Funnies Post

There are some pretty lulzy details in today’s regular Sunday Funnies post, which don’t deserve to be lost against the noise of the “helicopter tech” story.  First, Tom Cruise’s attorney Bert Fields, he of the countless nasty letters to the press, is shown congratulating TomKat Project producer Brandon Ogburn after Fields attended the show last night.  Apparently, Christopher Lloyd, “Doc” in the “Back to the Future” series was also in attendance, as were a number of commenters from Tony’s site.

Significant comments:

  • According to “Elen,” the cult could apparently use a little help when it tries to run Craigslist ads in Spanish in the Brownsville area.  They said: “Aqui esta lo que ha estado buscando por muchos anos.”  “Anos” = anuses.  “Años” = years.  So instead of “Here is what you have been looking for for years,” they said, “Here is what you are looking for among many anuses.” One little tilde makes all the difference!
  • Derek points out the improbability of some of the news out of the cult in the last couple of days: “Bert Fields has a sense of humor. Tampa Bay Times suggesting a truce. Scientology still has 5500 members. David Mayo’s BTBs are being exhumed. Scientology giving out free swagz. Super Power actually opened as promised. I’m pretty sure at least half of these things are in the book of Revelations.”

Mike Rinder’s Blog

Mike has more details of the Super Power events, including an event last night that featured a five-minute standing ovation for DM.  As of press time, he had not put up a blog post about his little helicopter ride earlier today.  Mike’s post contains a lot of “tech” details that might only be understood by longtime auditors or by Indies; one gets the sense he’s also taking to lurkers who are still in the church to get them to re-examine their beliefs.  Importantly, in a point that bears watching, Mike pointed out that some course fees went up while others went down.  Given that the cult was promising giant price increases (none of which appear to actually be in effect), this seems like a major blow.

Forum Sites

Thanks again to Aeger Primo for keeping an eye on the avalanche of traffic on the forums.

  • Black Rob has an ongoing thread at ESMB that mirrors the one at WWP. It’s interesting how the two different communities come up with very different flavors of Joking & Degrading off the same Facebook posts by cult members.
  • ESMB’s thread about Helicopter Tech is here.  
  • GreyWolf announces that his World Cult Watch radio show Sunday night will have guests Karen de la Carriere, plus Scott and Kerry Campbell who both served in the Sea Org and were among original Freewinds crew.  
  • Details of the upcoming GAT 2 event at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  The Shrine seats over 6,000.  It will be interesting to see what the cult does to try to fill the seats, given that they got nothing like that at the live version of the event in Clearwater.  
  • Always fun to enjoy a good shoop of the COB. Starting here are some new ones on a WWP thread of nothing but DM shoops, called “Project Mass Shoop.”  
  • A side project from the project to stop the cult from advertising on Craigslist is to gather information on various promoted services, courses, and books the Co$ charges for. New info posted in the past three days.

General Media

The Tampa Bay Times seems to be getting a little comfy with the cult in two recent stories.  First, the Times says that it may be time to let bygones be bygones on the part of the City.  This, especially when it was under the byline of Joe Childs, half of the dynamic duo of writers, sounds like the paper is going soft all of a sudden.  It doesn’t seem necessary for the City to go hat in hand to the cult when the last Mayoral election wasn’t that close and the cult comprises approximately 3,000 of the 108,000 population and a disproportionately small share of the City’s economic activity, given the low payroll and the property tax exemptions of the city.

Second, the TBT reports on the afternoon building ceremony with a celebrity-spotting article that didn’t really ask a lot of questions about the Super Power building.  Best line of the article, however: “[Miscavige’s] remarks couldn’t be understood outside the church’s perimeter.”  That’s probably because Mumbles Miscavige couldn’t be understood inside the perimeter, either, even by those trained in the bogus Method 9 Word Clearing procedure of the useless “Study Tech.”

Scientology Daily Digest: Saturday, November 16, 2013

Important Programming Note

Stay tuned for a major scoop tomorrow.  This weekend, Supermodel #1 and I hosted a guest who was in town from her idyllic rural home in the frozen northern part of the US (no, she’s not from Canada, but close enough). This guest, a much-loved commenter on Tony Ortega’s blog who hasn’t been seen in a while, was in town for a girl’s weekend out while the males in her family were busy on opening day of deer season.  I had to spend some time in the office in the morning, so our guest accompanied Supermodel #1 to the pre-Black Friday sales at Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

Later, while Supermodel #1 was fixing tea, the super-secret Analysis Hotline in the penthouse apartment rang.  Since I started the blog just over 10 days ago, I’ve been deluged with calls and e-mails, even though the phone number isn’t yet public.  The voice at the other end claimed to be very, very close to the festivities taking place in Clearwater and offered a unique perspective on David Miscavige and on the content of the events.  Since Supermodel #1 was busy making hospitality happen, our guest decided to conduct the interview, and had a transcript prepared for me when I got home.  After a careful review of this source’s bona fides, I realized that we might have a unique look at the Most. Important. Events. Ever.  Stay tuned sometime around mid-day tomorrow (US Eastern time).

In the meantime, here’s the Daily Digest. I’ve mixed in a couple comments and stories from yesterday that remain relevant, even though they’re 24 hours off the crest of the wave of breaking news.

The Big Picture

Obviously, today is all about the Super Power opening event. We’re starting to get some data points trickling in from various sources, including some photos leaking out to Facebook.  Mike Rinder’s blog put up the first confirmed look at GAT 2, confirming no surprise at all — it seems to be a retread of prior “tech,” bringing back a bunch of stuff that Miscavige previously cancelled almost 20 years ago. The forum sites have other interesting details.  The problem with this, of course, is that if gung-ho auditors realize the sleight-of-hand Miscavige has engaged in, they’ll realize that he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing and are at risk to bolt.  I would suspect some number of long-time loyal cult members who have been frustrated with their progress “up the Bridge” and who have believed promises that GAT 2 would fix everything, are going to wake up on this one. Defections are likely to increase.

Surprisingly, there are a number of pictures that are making their way to Facebook, perhaps from culties who are there attempting to impress their friends who remain stuck back home, or from leakers trying to expose the craziness to the outside world.

As you continue to read coverage about the events, it would be helpful to try and look at anything substantive that turns up regarding whether the new facility actually has anything new and different for new member recruitment, as implied by Tobin & Childs in their Tampa Bay Times article of Thursday night.  Any evidence we can find for what’s on the first floor, particularly if there are any changes from the architectural drawings Tony published at the Voice in early 2012, would be extremely helpful in helping us determine whether this is just reporting what the cult claims, or whether it is deeper insight into a signifcant change in strategy — the cult clearly has not been interested in new member recruitment in many, many years.  Bring any data points you find to light in the comments section here!

Tony Ortega’s Blog

The regular Saturday series with “A Piece of Blue Sky” author Jon Atack continues, this time with the startling assertion that Mary Sue Hubbard may have doubted the validity of “the tech,” refusing to pursue an endless series of auditing sessions in the 1970s to enable her to “go exterior.”  Atack says she was overheard on at least one occasion calling Hubbard a fraud and a charlatan.

Tony also featured numerous pictures from the event, including some posted on the Internet by a Scientologist in good standing who apparently couldn’t resist the urge to share all the theta.

My take:  One of the pictures was a pool party at the Fort Harrison, appearing remarkably under-attended. It would be useful to get a sense of what this event was and whether the photo was taken early or late in the event to try and figure out if the event was really as dead as this one picture with no context might make it appear.

Another picture featured a scene in the lobby of the Fort Harrison, where two of the columns were festooned with banners reading “New Universe” and “Big Push.”  I’m a big fan of non-sequitur marketing, and these two banners are great examples of the genre.  It goes to show that fancy artwork doesn’t rescue bad copy, and even good copy can’t rescue an incoherent marketing strategy.  Non-sequitur words on the walls were put to great use in the legendary Talking Heads concert film, “Stop Making Sense.”  In this video, check out the effects starting at around 31:15, during the song “Making Flippy Floppy.”

Selected comments:

  • Marc Headley outlines a less-exensive alternative that Scientologists can use to get all of the same value as “Super Power” at a fraction of the price.
  • RMycroft posts a picture of the Toronto Org during the event, with the building enshrouded in Stygian gloom.  Apparently, all that theta emanating from Clearwater stops cold at the 49th Parallel and doesn’t penetrate far into Canada and people are not putting down their dinner plates heaping with back bacon, donning their toques and spontaneously flocking to downtown Toronto to get free personality tests.
  • Once_Born found a record of a nifty, simple experiment that would demolish the notion of out-of-body experiences being accurate descriptions of the actual environment, if only the sample size were large enough.  But this certainly points the way.
  • Once_Born also suggests that bringing back the “Board Technical Bulletins” that Miscavige outlawed in 1996 may be a way for Miscavige to make stuff up when he needs to evolve the product strategy in the future.  These BTB’s were written by staff either based on something Hubbard said or something they found in his archives that pointed to the possibility of what they were trying to do.  It was a fairly low-level way to have a committee evolve the product to keep things current, though it clearly was purged when Miscavige came to power.
  • MonkeyKnickers says well in her unique style what many have long wondered: how did Hubbard manage to score with the ladies, with his physical and mental attributes?

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • The first post in the series gives details, heavy on the cult-speak, about what is at the heart of GAT 2.  Apparently, the key to this is un-cancelling some stuff that he cancelled almost 20 years ago.   It will be interesting to see stories developing of long-time auditors who aren’t fooled by this move and who blow as a result of these changes.
  • Mike’s second post features lots of Facebook comments by loyal culties who are long on enthusiasm and short on details.
  • The third post, which appeared just before press time for tonight’s Daily Digest, goes into mocking detail on a lot of the new courses, and how Miscavige will profit, probably at the expense of the orgs and missions.  Mike even obtained a picture of the new (old, warehoused for a decade or more) e-meter, which has a candy apple red housing and a new, higher price: $5,000 apiece, minimum order of two.  Interestingly, he says that the new e-meter puts the readings  on a memory stick, so it could be possible that this is a new device, not the ancient one that has been moldering in a warehouse for a decade, since memory sticks weren’t all that common back in the day, and (IIRC) the original meters interfaced with PC’s via an RS-232 serial port rather than the now-ubiquitous USB.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

Thanks again to eagle-eyed reader Aeger Primo, who once again helped out immensely by staying on top of the avalanche of comments on these sites.

As expected, much of the day’s discussion centers around “joking and degrading” of the new building and the new “tech.”

  • WWP talks about the Super Power opening.
  • Black Rob is at it again! This ongoing thread of screenshots of Scientologists’ Facebook posts lists numerous entries all related to the Gat 2 release. The thread also includes recent shoops and real photos of Flag’s weekend events.
  • OCMB notes that there is actually a real card-carrying capitalist in the cult: Robert Duggan is now officially a billionaire after his company’s shares have soared in the last year.  I am sure Miscavige is lavishing even more attention on him than usual at the event.  It would be interesting to see if Duggan shows up at the IAS event in a couple weeks; it might be very interesting if he does not.
  • OCMB has another great thread of squirrel-related shoops.

Scientology Daily Digest: Friday November 15 — Tampa Bay Times Overview

Due to scheduling constraints, there will be no Daily Digest tonight.  We’ll resume with a double-header edition distilling down what will undoubtedly be a flood of reports of the goings-on under the Thetadome tomorrow night.  I have a very early start tomorrow morning (the pilots are not happy about a pre-dawn pre-flight check of the jet) but will be back on the air in plenty of time to catch up.  

Just in case you haven’t seen it, there is a big article in the Tampa Bay Times by Joe Childs and Tom Tobin which was published after Daily Digest press time last night about what’s inside the Super Power building. The article is not particularly critical of the cult, but it does contain an interesting statement:

Scientology says it’s the most important project in its 59-year history. And indications are it will represent another important first for the church in Clearwater.

Recruiting new followers will be emphasized, it appears from a Tampa Bay Times review of church publications, internal memoranda and construction plans submitted to the city.

This is extremely unexpected — the idea that Flag will now be used as a central tool for recruitment of new members, whereas previously it has been exclusively for higher-level services to existing members.  It is too early at this point to tell whether this is a distillation of a low-level PR statement or whether this is a significant change in strategy.  It would be extremely important to try to understand any attempt by the cult to do something different (and perhaps actually effective for once) in terms of member recruitment, which it has seemed relatively uninterested in doing in the last decade or two.

In looking through the text of the article, it is possible that this conclusion is based entirely on the contents of the first floor. But Tony’s initial article in the Village Voice with the renderings of the first floor exhibits don’t lead me to the same conclusion; it seems that they’re more about presenting tangible “evidence” for the success of Scientology to existing members who may be at risk for doubting the achievements of their “Church.”

My guess is that the cult is not going to make a major change in attempting to recruit new members, though they may say they are.  But this is only a hunch at this point. If they really are embarking on a serious, credible program to attract “fresh meat,” it is important to recognize this as early as possible to try and figure out maximally effective ways to thwart that, and then to undertake coordinated action to nip it in the bud.  

So my challenge to readers is to watch for any data points to try and look for those that confirm this as a major change in cult thinking versus as a “throwaway line” in a PR package.    Talk is cheap, and I think that we must look carefully for evidence of behavioral change rather than just verbiage, before we believe this.  But it is important that we not miss evidence of such a change if it is in fact taking place.  Skepticism is a viable way to approach looking at this statement, but cynicism (unwillingness to believe that they are making such a change even if evidence suggests they’re going to try) is unwise here.


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Scientology Daily Digest: Thursday, November 14, 2013

Perhaps the best news today is a long comment on Tony O’s blog from former Scientologist and now leading LGBT activist, and beloved “Auntie Kate” of so many on this blog.  Kate wrote her first long post here in many months, and said she’s feeling completely free of cancer.  Her post is worth reading.

Tony’s blog talks leads with a great explanation of Scientology ethics and features a remarkable video from Karen de la Carriere about life at Int Base.  Mike Rinder scores some pictures and over-the-top e-mails about the weekend’s events.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s blog featured the regular weekly story from former cult marketing exec Jeff Hawkins about the Scientology “ethics” system.  Jeff does a great job explaining how Hubbard took something simple, albeit something that equated “ethics” with “making money” rather than what the rest of the world understands, then added in mechanisms to control and brainwash his followers.  I found this a great explanation.

Karen De La Carriere produced a video with an interview with Jeff Hawkins and many others, which captures some of the craziness of life at Int Base.  Mike Rinder compares life there to being in North Korea.  Also available at

The lulz for today come from yet another piece of Super Power equipment, this time the “pain table” which appears to be a vibrating plate of spikes that one puts one’s hand onto.  It’s not nearly as cool as yesterday’s endocrine system “vomit comet” flight simulator ride, and nowhere near as bizarre as the oiliness table.

My take:  of particular interest in the ethics discussion is how the fundamental roots are in economics, putting you in a state to be punished if the organization doesn’t hit its goals by growing every single week.  And of course, no organization can grow every single week no matter what.  It just doesn’t happen.  The unreasonable goals backed up by the punishment-oriented culture, which eventually acquired such powerful tools for coercion, is why we protest.

I pointed out that this system of “ethics” used to drive production actually creates massive blowback and unintended consequences, particularly to try to bend the management goals to ones that are achievable consistently, even though they may not actually do much to improve the business.

Selected comments:

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Mike’s first post reveals a Facebook post from a Kool-Aid drinker gushing about how great GAT 2 will be.  Mike takes a stab at likely positioning for the release.  Worth a read just for the long jargon-ridden post by the lady talking up how magic this is.
  • Mike’s second post has a couple photos from the stage area for the events plus the new Terrace Restaurant at the renovated Oak Cove hotel.  As dedicated foodie, I will say that the décor isn’t as awful as I had expected, though I hope they’re not waiting for their Michelin stars.  I’ve eaten in neighborhood Chinese restaurants in Manhattan that are more elegant.
  • Mike’s third post highlights the hype in some recent e-mails about the events.  My favorite embodies Hubbard-like math skills: “Take that “WOW”, multiply it by infinity, and you will have about 1/1000th of a concept of what is in store for you when you get his briefing.”

The Forums (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

Thanks again to Aeger Primo for keeping an eagle eye on things.  She notes it’s a quiet day on the forums, though a couple interesting articles pop out.

AegerPrimo started a thread on ESMB to get their perspective on Scientologists and not drinking, a theme that was brought up by some of the ex’s in response to my post looking at the power of anecdotes.  This could give more data points to think about as we try to understand the woman’s drinking behavior in the post from B. B. Broeker in the case study for analyzing anecdotes.

General Press

The Daily Fail is reporting that Tom Cruise’s sister Leanne De Vette, who was his publicist during the “crazy times,” will be deposed in the Bauer Media suit.  This ought to be fun to see how she will use her Scientology communication skills and her Hubbard-created PR skills when under oath.