Emerging Tech

When an online group becomes a force to be reckoned with

It is easy to ignore what happens online. Or is it? Since early January this year, the online group Anonymous has been protesting the Church of Scientology over its cult behaviors and tax exempt status. And they are making headway. So, what would happen if an online group decided to go after a different target -- like business or government?

Last month, I told you about the Internet group "Anonymous" and their fight against Scientology (The Internet and IRL- have the lines blurred?). At the time, I don't think that I fully appreciated what impact an online group would have against an organization that has a world wide presence and a reputation for litigating out of existence the people who speak against it.

In January, a nine minute video hit the Net featuring Tom Cruise speaking about Scientology. Scientology demanded its removal, but the popular Web site Gawker decided not to comply. The whole issue caught the attention of a group called Anonymous who published a statement via video sharing site YouTube.

What followed was a series of DDoS attacks, black faxes, and prank calls to Scientology. Along with this, a declaration that Anonymous planned something for February on the anniversary of Lisa McPherson's birthday. Then Mark Bunker of xenutv.com stepped in. Dubbed "Wise Beard Man," Mark Bunker has been actively engaged in speaking out about Scientology for over 10 years. In a video on YouTube, Mark spoke to Anonymous about some of his experiences with the organization and recommended to Anonymous that they engage in a peaceful demonstration and helped them to understand what they would be going up against.

The February 10th protest was a peaceful demonstration that took place world-wide. Impressive on its own, Anonymous decided that they would celebrate the anniversary of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in a similar manner. And on March 15th, another world-wide protest was held.

But this time Scientology was ready, accusing Anonymous of bomb threats and mailing "white powder" to several of its buildings (Anonymous denies these allegations). It also tried unsuccessfully to have a court bar Anonymous from demonstrating outside of its Clearwater, FL, head quarters. Scientology failed because it couldn't accurately identify anyone in Anonymous. In fact, the court documents identified someone who worked for the Starbucks across the street who was on duty during the Feb. 10 protest.

And there lies the point. What is Anonymous, and who are they? For all anyone knows, I could be Anonymous. You, the reader, could be Anonymous. Unless a person declares himself or herself, there is no way to know.

This may be more than a group speaking out against what they see as a cult. The impact of Anonymous may be a demonstration of the real power of the Internet to reach out and change the status quo. What will our reaction be when they turn their collective attention away from Scientology and towards something else? Like, maybe, business? Or the government?

For more information about Anonymous:

Sub Section of the St Petersburg Times devoted to Scientology (TampaBay.com)

Scientology, The China Syndrome, and my wiki ways (InformationWeek)

Church of Scientology fighting fire with fire (PC World)

Cult Friction- Has Scientology met its match? (Radar)

71 comments
lisa_work_aws
lisa_work_aws

For more on Anonymous and this whole story, check out: http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/pastpodcasts.html?43#ref43 Scroll down to: Feb.7/08 Search Engine Keywords: the not-so anonymous face of Anonymous, Wise Beard Man???s beardy wisdom, and China???s video outrage Right click to Download Feb.7/08 Search Engine http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/searchengine_20080207_4645.mp3 [mp3 file: runs 27:57] Jan.31/08_Search Engine Keywords: Tom Cruise vs. Anonymous,Hilary covers Bowie,and the shmaltz factor. Right click to Download Jan.31/08_Search Engine [mp3 file: runs 27:50] http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/searchengine_20080131_4585.mp3

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I appreciate that you are keeping your eyes on this. I am too often easily distracted, especially now that Spring is here. I have been fascinated by the whole affair, but it has lain dormant at the back of my brain since the earlier Scientology threads went by the wayside.

AnnNiNymous
AnnNiNymous

"What will our reaction be when they turn their collective attention away from Scientology and towards something else? Like, maybe, business? Or the government?" If we consider the recent version of Anonymous, there is little to fear. If it were to focus its attention to some excess committed by a governement, a company or a group of company, what is the problem ? Hopefully, this would end in better governments and companies.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

The internet started a revolution of democracy.

Trashy
Trashy

Way to go "Anonymous" Give Scientology a big dose of their own medicine. Scientology has a many secrets it wants to keep hidden. Scientology is an evil cult! The majority of people in that organization are paranoid, deluded, brain washed zombies...Scientologists have committed multiple FELONY crimes in the US. Ron Hubbards wife spent time in Federal Prison. She lead a group that broke into various IRS offices. Ron Hubbard was a fugitive living abroad then illegally returned to the US living under false identities. He was a drug addicted lunatic failed sci-fi writer..His ideologies are that of a mentally unstable man.. His organization is infiltrating US public school systems. His followers have abused, terrorized ,starved,defrauded,embezzled and in a few cases killed "patients" at Scientology "treatment" centers. These people are untrustworthy. The celebrities are blackmailed into staying in Scientology, or their secret lives will be exposed by Scientology.... STAY AWAY from Scientology....it is a DANGEROUS, DEADLY organization....

particlebeam
particlebeam

You seem to be marveling at how wonderful and demonstrative of "the power of the internet" it is that an anonymous clique of people are spreading hatred and lies via masked protests, slanderous websites, hate-speech-filled YouTube videos, denial-of-service hacking attacks, etc. That doesn't sound exciting to me, it sounds insanely dangerous and loony. Even loonier than Scientology itself. When a group is out to "get" someone or something, but they don't have any proof or evidence go through the proper law enforcement channels, they do exactly what Anonymous is doing - stage a showy but cowardly attempt at character assassination on Scientologists. If anyone has genuine evidence of Scientology's wrongdoings, let them come forward - not anonymously - and show it in a court of law, a class action suit, testimony to congress. Anyone can make a "Scientology sucks" website or carry a picket sign - that proves nothing. To me, people who obsess over some abstract crusade that overwhelmes their lives are sad, sick people. That includes both cultists and anti-cultists.

Tig2
Tig2

The hardest part of writing these articles is keeping my opinion out of the discussion. I don't want to present bias. Fortunately, Anonymous gives me good information to work with- they protest peacefully and make their arguments in a thoughtful manner. When I hear CoS accusing them of all manner of violence, it simply doesn't gel with the way that they have conducted themselves. And I am not the only person to see that. Taking Mark Bunker's very wise advice, Anonymous may be able to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves- to revoke the tax exempt status that the CoS has enjoyed for some time now. They have certainly managed to "enturbulate" the CoS and that is not a bad thing. I find it fascinating that this group has become such a force so quickly. I think that they plan to protest again in April, focusing on the forced separation of families in the name of Scientology. I will likely try to join that protest- I have some direct, personal experience with that. Stay tuned...

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

What was their objective? Have they accomplished it? Has Scientology membership reduced? leveled off? (Typically, these 'anti-cult' propaganda exercises actually have the reverse effect- increasing membership in the targeted group, by raising awareness/interest). Seems more like one nut chasing another to me. Actually, I have been to Clearwater (on the compound itself. Quite a few years ago). The people I met there seemed less unbalanced to me than the anonymous folk seem, from watching their videos (Tommy C. on the other hand...)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"main stream" religions how?!?! Scientology only looks scary now, wait till they piss off Peter's Legacy.... then we will see scary...it will be worse then the kidnappings of 1985, or the wholesale disapperance of several towns in Brazil last year... Seriously, every religion starts this way, looked at as crazy, a cult (at one point Jesus was a "Cult Leader" by the standards of his time)... And while I think that its taking advantage of idiots for profit (see also Organized Religion), these said Idiots ARE LETTING it happen. Thats right folks. They are sad enough, gullible enough, dumb enough to fall for such pathetic claims. It makes my heart break to see a once proud, intelligent country brought to its knees by stupidity. Scientology is no more scary then the "We Still Pray" (AKA The Constitution is Wrong, OUR religion SHOULD be the State Religion (if you see nothing scary in this, leave America now(pre-911 no less))) people, just more visual. The True Danger of Scientology is that its Ruining an already crappy Hollywood. Think back to all the movies staring "Sci'es". these movies are produced mostly by C o S front companies. And 99.9% of them were bombs (Leader of the Pack: Battlefield Earth). This influance is spreading, and soon, all movies from Hollywood will coyote suck (ie chew my own arm off to get away if need be). Wow, relax, they will go away, its obvious they are as talented and bright as a box of rocks.

ferasdour
ferasdour

an hero. you should look into it. that being said, you are well aware that people like you are the ones who tell people these things only for them to desire to look into it themselves, most often finding out that you "COMPLETELY MISSED THE POINT?" please sir, do some research.

Terryeo
Terryeo

Mr. Particlebeam, if you had done only the slightest research, you would have found that the Church of Scientology has been rebuffed through courts of law many times. However, the Church of Scientology is extremely rich for a religious organization, and can afford to spend millions of dollars on lawsuits. Hubbard himself has been quoted as saying: "The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly." ?L. Ron Hubbard, The Scientologist, a Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955 Attorney Luke Lirot has been quoted that comparing average litigation with litigation against the Church of Scientology is like comparing orange juice to LSD. Given that the Church of Scientology is bent to abuse the legal system so blatantly in its favor, most the Church of Scientology critics have taken to avoiding litigation against the church, and rather focusing on building awareness among the populace at large of the Church of Scientology's virulent abuses.

JCitizen
JCitizen

And I mean the sites in question that are being sued by CSI for defamation. I would like to examine these sites for myself and decide whether they are defamatory or simply freedom of speech. It is not hard to find a site of one kind or another spewing hatred; but I am not asking about just ANY site, but the one in question under the suit. If said site(s) are not found to be defamatory. Then I have to take sides with Anonymous; because no one wants to be sued for no good reason; who can afford that? If said site is defamatory then I must agree with you on the secrecy thing. Anything that can't be done in plain site of the Lord(anyone's lord) is not worth spitting at.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"I will likely try to join that protest- I have some direct, personal experience with that." While I don't have that particular experience, I definitely have quite unpleasant experience with CoS.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

of Anon based on their (propaganda) videos. They are presenting a strong point of view. But over time, a good feel for the organization (or at least the front they wish to provide) can be achieved based on their releases.

Anonymous1111
Anonymous1111

did the recovering drug addict chose to become a Scientologist, when he was enrolled with Narconon, unaware of its connections? What about the children, who learned through Applied Scholastics, also blissfully unaware of its connection with the Church of Scientology? How about the criminal who is forced to go through Crimanon, another Church of Scientology front-group that implements themselves into prisons. Did this person voluntarily decide to become a Scientologist? Scientology has many different, dangerous faces. That is why it must reform.

JCitizen
JCitizen

If the Romans had ingnored Christianity I think it would possibly have died on the vine. Mostly because that is the folly of humans in history. But the moment you persecute someone for a belief; others begin to wonder what it is all about and why it would matter? Hence the curiosity that killed the cat gives it nine lives instead.

ferasdour
ferasdour

these are the people you are afraid of. these are the people that many of you may deny credability. these are the ones you hate, and the people you all know well. it's when people like this post well thought out arguments that you people become scared and willing to ridicule them for being "evil monsters," or even "members of the anonymous legion." good sir, you are a gentleman, and one of the brighter people to post about the problems with scientology. although there are many people out there who do like to uselessly slander people through the use of hiding themselves on the internets, there are also many, MANY, well informed people out there ready to protest the wrong-doings of this earth.

JCitizen
JCitizen

This brings one to a closer understanding of the actual situation here. I feel tort law is one of the most abused instruments in the US. If at least some minimum reform is not carefully formulated our medical/ and system of free speech may collapse.

JCitizen
JCitizen

if we had the time; this is the US army I am relating to. In fact they taught us in leadership school how to deliver planning and orders so there was no need to question by the time execution was eminent. This was all accomplished under the urgent time stamp of course.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

in that you must evaluate all situations constantly, but they really do not want you questioning orders... A fine line between think and question, Just not Us... But what you say is accurate JC.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Civilians may not understand that the soldier does exactly what you describe. A constant re-evaluation of position, policy, and belief. One wouldn't survive long without that logic.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

Oh, who am I kidding, no I don't =)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I was ranting on only vague;y related points... I should have worn my foil hat while typing it...

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

It's my students who need the luck with the schoolwork! :D

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

I'm curious as to what you deleted. I assume that it was pretty good given past experience... Oh well.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

glad I didn't offend. =) GL with the school work etc, and enjoy the gardening. I' doing "busy" work this week before anything (happens to fill my time up again...

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

with some of the more extreme "baptist" communities here int he south? Snake (rattle snakes, not defanged nor had venom sacs removed) handling is the tip of the ice berg, even for 6 and 8 year old kids. Disconnection is the same as shunning that was performed (and still is) in many religions. Its not a new practice. Its just new to our generations. Shunning is the milder form of the usual alternate, which was death. This was practiced by many of our forefathers here in America prior to the separation of church and state. (Both shunning and execution). Most of our current religions have moved on from these stages of barbarism, it seems the C o S has just entered it. So far, I have seen nothing that really deviates from traditional cult behavior from the C o S. (And thus religious behavior. As all religions start as cults, in much the same way a butterfly starts as a caterpillar.) What we are seeing is religious behavior in America not really prevalent since the 1600's. Wrong and distastefull yes; new, no. Aside from Scientology, there are many of these "Money Churches" out there, a huge one (1500 members easy) is less then 15 miles from where I sit. And while the worst I can lay at their feet is greed and indifference (does a minister need 2 Million a year?), they are of the same genius and species as the C o S. "As for blowing the whistle for years" I have no doubt. i have disliked the Co S for many many years now. Eventually they will be broken, even the Inquesition was eventually de-fanged. My extreme usage of argument is a reflection of 3 things: 1) I am extreamly bitter about religion. I was raised in churches, and have seen everything from hypocrasy to what borders on white slavery. 2) The need to examine a political body never ends. By lumping the good and the bad in the same catagorie, most people will never stop to examine their assumptions, they will simply refute the Lumping. The point is not that their assumptions are wrong, but they do not believe that they could be wrong. "The unexamined life is not worth leading." The examination can never stop if we are to be responsible for our lives and our selves. 3) Its more fun. If we all said "some good, some bad.." no topic would ever be worth reading.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

no offense taken, nor have any 'off' (outside my usual 'off' manner) or bad feelings been harvested. The removed post is simply because a thought that I had and posted just did not present itself correctly and niggled at the back of my brain until I removed it. I agree that the situation is not new, but have been attempting to avoid getting too deeply involved in this discussion. This is a subject of interest to me and while I would like to get more deeply involved, I have a whole lot of schoolwork and garden work to deal with at the moment. I won't do either if I turn too much of my attention to this! ;)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I in no way wanted to make you feel off or bad. I do not discount your experiences or opinions. And I do agree that the use of ALL is indeed dangerous when discussing religion. My point was just that this situation is not new. This behavior has been going on for thousands of years. Its part of the human condition. "Foulest Evil and Most Sublime Compassion is Man." I tend to take extreme points of view in any discussion, as its more fun to debate from that vantage then from a point of moderation. Once again I apologize if I have caused any offence. "Not all gods are the same." I would disagree here only to say all gods are one god, it is our view and understanding that varies.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

and no easy answers. EDIt: Deleted Post. Do not feel like getting into this atm.

Tig2
Tig2

First- I have faith. Religion? Not so much. I file that under "independence of thought", something a minister I knew growing up encouraged. My partner is an atheist. He was raised in the Lutheran church, I forget the Synod. When he attended a Catholic College, he made a decision that God was not rational to him and therefore he would not only quit being a practicing Lutheran but would also not choose to pursue a religion at all. At about the same time, his mother was attending the Catholic sister college to obtain her second degree. She also made a decision to discontinue as a practicing Lutheran, but began taking Catholic instruction. The difference in these two cases is that neither of them were required to disconnect from their family or friends that remained in the Lutheran church. No one knocked on their door, tried to meet with them, or in any way harassed them. They were allowed to make independent decisions and act in the direction that their individual hearts led them. Scientology does no such thing. There are numerous accounts of people being "disconnected" because they chose to leave. Check out http://www.xenu.com for various accounts. Google "Mark Bunker" or "Tory Christman". I don't disagree that churches have not always been shining examples. But I think that CoS is different from other churches in how it basically operates. I choose the practice of "tithing". I donate 10% of my yearly income. But I choose where that donation goes. The SO and I have chosen charities that we wish to support. If I belonged to a church, I would give a portion of that money to them. It does cost something to turn on the lights and such. But the only time I have ever paid for a theology class it was one that I took on a college campus. I was never charged to learn my faith. Nor was I compelled. I had a choice that was reinforced to me- I could always walk away. Scientology charges a great deal of money to take courses required to learn the "religion". In addition to that money, donations are "strongly recommended". The instructors are not paid so I have to wonder where all that money goes. And because that seems like a business to me, albeit an educational business, under the law, they should not enjoy tax exempt status. I will make you a bet that if you tried to start something similar, it would not pass the necessary requirements to qualify as a 501(c)(3). People have been trying to "blow the whistle" for years. Scientology has better lawyers.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I follow your posts on their meander through the sometimes dismaying brogue that accompanies technology as they provide the equivalent of don Juan's 'punch at the shoulder blade' for me. I find myself required to shift my thought patterns and use of language from the mundane to the creative and 'mindful'. I value this quite highly. Quite highly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Juan_Matus edit the usual

santeewelding
santeewelding

I'll strike what I said, never to have said it.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Irretrievable thought attended to by the inevitable outpouring of gibberish. edit

santeewelding
santeewelding

Not on your list, not now or earlier or later, but pieces left in tantalizing view.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

is also not on my list of things to do today. My position on Scientology is derived from my own personal experience with them. I have had bad church experiences, and I have had bad drug experiences. But neither compares to the experience I have had at the hands of CoS, who in fact behave more like a Mafia/FBI amalgam than a bad church or drug cartel. IMO. Now, while the whole money thing that you quoted from me can also quite likely be thrown at the feet of the Catholic heirarchy, any, if not all governments in existence today, the drug cartels, et. al., it cannot be thrown at all churches and all religions, no matter how badly one might want to do just that. All is a terrible word to use when discussing religion. Not all religions are alike. Not all gods are the same.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Or just a handful of nuts within he organization? Are we incorrectly attributing a behavior of an individual as a belief of a collective? Are all Catholics pedophiles? All Muslims suicidal? All evangelical Christians overzealous and overbearing? Even outside of religion, you can find both good and bad in organizations (from boys/girls clubs to Nations). The organization itself may have good principles/ideals, but still have individuals , even in positions of leadership who do not (properly) apply those principles. Labeling a given organization an 'evil empire'. Doesn't seem to be the most productive way to encourage reform...

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

how this is different then any other major religion/corporation? Looked at tobacco companies lately? Drug cartels? All of them are sold the same way: Bring em in young. Bring em in easy. Sell them an image of salvation. (religion == soul, drugs == pain, tobacco == cool factor.) I agree with you all the the C o S is indeed a problem, its no more of a problem then any of the existing entities that have had many more years building up support. As bad as they are, the C o S is like the local coke dealer as compared to the Colombian cartel that imports the product. And that is why I do not sleep so well some nights. And the main reason is: we can not really do anything. They are in certain ways, protected by our own constitution. And using the legal system to "break" any religion at all opens the door to one state religion, and a loss of another constitutional right. "The sole purpose for their existence is to suck as much money from as many people as possible in order that the church upper echelon may enjoy the fruits of riches and power."

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

but it is still no different then any other religion. They all need to reform. At one point, religion may have actually been interested in the salvation of mens souls, and at its base level, I still believe this is true. But by the time you reach the national/regional governing body, you can see the effects of power-corruption and politics. Now days, religions are another way to control a population and keep them ignorant (through the use of conditioned social blinders, and typical belief/response patterns) of important issues. I guess they can't give up the idea of being Priest-Kings... but then again, I am a born in the wool cynic, and I guess it doesn't hurt that I was raised in churches of all types, and have seen even on the local level, the lies, deceit, bigotry perpetrated in the name of the lord... But, back on topic... I can agree that not every one agreed to become a Scientologist, just as not everyone agrees to be Baptist, Catholic, Moslum, or Sub-Genius. BUT, while they had no choice to "belong" to these agencies, they did have a choice in doing more then lip service to the agency, as well as they could have blown the whistle as soon as time/circumstance allowed. Even the Mob had its share of whistle-blowers, and I'm pretty sure the C of S is not any worse then this (keep in mind, my view of the Mob is based on the movie Scarface, and thats really about it)... "Scientology has many different, dangerous faces. That is why it must reform" To assume anyone DOES NOT have such a face is the height of ignorance and nievete. The question is not "are they bad", but "are they a true threat..."

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Far too many people are unaware of the subtle and extremely well-hidden ties between Scientology and a variety of 'charitable' and 'social' and 'educational' organizations. Furthermore, an equal number of people are blissfully unaware of the low-level brainwashing techniques employed long-term by COS. The sole purpose for their existence is to suck as much money from as many people as possible in order that the church upper echelon may enjoy the fruits of riches and power. COS is subtle, sly, manipulative, destructive, evil.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

and I do not deny the value of the body of work, and am a great fan of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic gospels, I fear for people who do not look to see what was altered for political gain vs what was left intact. "The Devil's greatest lie is the truth."

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I'm just glad you avoided The Debate. =)

JCitizen
JCitizen

Especially since I was trying to take the position of a detached observer; which is probably folly I will admit.

pcwamble
pcwamble

While I agree much of the bible was rewritten to exert control over the masses, there are nuggets of actual history in there that are accurate. There are scraps of the Gospel of Mark that are actually dated back to before 100AD, near when they were written, and most of the rest of the current new testamsent can be found quoted in the letters of the early bishops before 200AD. (can't quote something that isn't existing and authoritative, can you?) 'Travesty' best describes modern Christianity, only because it obscures the actual jewel in its heart, that an infinite loving being has contacted us. one source regarding history: http://www.scripturessay.com/article.php?cat=&id=738

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

concerns the council of cardinals and about ad 850, when the re-wrote major chunks of the new testament to meet their agenda, or anything concerning the Papacy esp the Two Popes period, and the Borgea's and their connections to the HRE.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

THANK YOU!!!!! Those kinds o debates never go well =\

Jaqui
Jaqui

has an interesting bit in it about that. seems that there is ZERO historical documentation from when Jesus was supposed to have lived. every bit of documentation about Jesus and Christianity dates from around 350 AD, and most of that is directly attributed to the Roman empire itself, as a means to CONTROL the population. http://zeitgeistmovie.com/ http://zeitgeistmovie.com/dloads.htm

JCitizen
JCitizen

I've been trying to play catchup every since the last article!

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Jesus is not who he said he was. But that debate is not on my list of things to do today.

JCitizen
JCitizen

And voting out a few judges, that don't throw frivolous law suits out of court, doesn't hurt either. We've been successful in that tactic more than once.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

We do not have a loser pays system and in most instances, legal fees are not recoverable. Even in cases where you can recover legal fees, you still have to lay out the funds initially. Having been nearly bankrupted by such tactics myself, I know first hand just what a crippling blow it can be.

jdclyde
jdclyde

If it is found to be baseless, the defendent should be able to sue for all losses, including time and mental anguish of having to deal with fraudulent charges. They should also make it so the original filer could get charged with fraud and filing a false report.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

literally dozens of false accusations. I was able to beat them all, but I had to pay legal fees to defend myself against every last one. A organization with deep pockets like scientology can BURY anyone under legal fees even if the suits are totally baseless.