Open Letter to Anonymous and Critics of Anonymous

anonymous.jpgIn a post entitled The Anonymous Group are Juvenile Bigots, Scandalous Candice accuses Anonymous of being, well, juvenile and bigoted, and also says that they should spend their time on more worthy causes (e.g., organized religion as a whole, the Bush Administration, etc.). She also accuses Anonymous of sending an anthrax-lookalike to a Cult of Scientology location. There are many problems in Candice’s argument, which I will discuss below.

Why have I made this post an open letter to Anonymous and its critics if I’m just going to be responding to Candice? This post was initially intended to be just for Candice. However, the angle Candice has taken is by no means unique. It is heard regularly from Scientology spokespersons and individual Scientologists. This response to Candice is really a note to all of these people, too. This letter is relevant to Anonymous as it comments on how Anonymous is enabling the cult and cult members to spread vicious misrepresentations of Anonymous. Whether Candice is a Scientologist or a misled outsider, I do not know.

Problem 1: Treating Anonymous as a coherent group and attributing acts of individuals to the group as a whole.

The biggest problem is Candice’s treatment of Anonymous as a coherent group. To call Anonymous a group is really only semi-accurate, at best. Anonymous is very loose. Anonymous has no hierarchy of authority, very little internal structure at all, very limited internal oversite capabilities, and a complete inability to control “membership” or the behaviours of individuals. Because individuals claiming to be a part of Anonymous are, well, anonymous, their membership and their behaviour cannot be monitored or constrained by the collective.

It is difficult to say what the mission of Anonymous is because of the “group’s” lack of coherence and structure. The closest approximation would be this: to increase awareness of and put an end to the cult’s oppressive exploitative abusive deceitful profiteering isolationist fear-mongering home-wrecking unethical criminal conduct. However, this does not speak for all of the people who claim to be of Anonymous. It does not speak for the Scientologist spies (or Scilons) who attend protests in order to attempt to inspire riots, gain personal information from protesters, and (apparently) perform illegal acts that can be pinned on Anonymous. It is also highly probable that Scilons have been at work making threats, prank phone calls, and prank faxes to the cult under the cult’s orders so that the cult could point the finger at Anonymous. And, of course, they are probably also at work online, doing things like spamming comment sections like that of Candice and committing other acts intended to promulgate a negative image for Anonymous. These sorts of underhanded behaviours are well established standard operating procedures in the cult. Ex-Scientologist Tory Christman has spoken of a number of occasions in which she was ordered by higher-ups to engage in exactly these sorts of covert missions. Paulette Cooper was framed for bomb threats by the cult due to releasing a book critical of it. Heck, this sort of deceitful conduct is mandated in the organization’s official policy! According to Scientology’s Fair Game policy, those deemed “enemies” of the cult can be tricked, lied to, deprived of property, or destroyed utterly by a Scientologist with no negative consequences going to the culprit.

The aforementioned approximation of Anonymous’ mission also does not speak for people self-identifying as Anonymous who do not subscribe to this particular mission. Anonymous existed before the Scientology protest. Internet users have been partaking in Anonymous for years in various online projects. Some benevolent, some juvenile, some immature, some this, some that. The Scientology protest does not define Anonymous. It is simply one particular project that a segment of the Anonymous population took on, and was later joined by thousands of other opponents of Scientology that had never had anything to do with the Anonymous online community (or had even heard of it). A commenter wrote in response to an earlier post that there is actually somewhat of a civil war taking place in the online world of Anonymous, as some of the oldschool Anons (“Oldnons”, as the commenter dubbed them) are frustrated that Anonymous has been hijacked by the Scientology protesters. The commenter said that some Oldnons are doing things (e.g., pranks that would embarrass the collective of Scientology protesters) to try to sabotage the Anonymous protest on Scientology. I have no idea if this is true, though.

So, Anonymous is made up of people who fit into the approximation given above, as well as fake Anons who are really Scientologists blending in, and people who self-identify with Anonymous but not with the Scientology project. People claiming to be of Anonymous can be for the protest as well as against the protest or indifferent to it. And of those who are for the protest, they can be for it for different reasons. There are probably still some Anons who continue to be in it for the “lulz” (i.e., laughs resulting from various pranks). Despite the rapid radical reformation of the protest in which over the course of just a few days it went from being a movement of hackers and prank callers and faxers motivated by the cult’s censorship and litigiousness to being a highly ethical grassroots movement dedicated to the reform of a comprehensively malevolent cult, there was probably still a proportion of Anons who wanted to continue with the lulz.

A problem of Anonymous.

One of the biggest problems with Anonymous is identification with Anonymous—with the logos, the memes, the V for Vendetta masks, the slogans like “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us”, and the very name itself. By identifying in this way, Anonymous continues to link itself to Oldnon; to the hacking, the prank calls, the black faxes, the pre-Scientology-protest conduct—to the lulz. Scientology admins and Scilons are clearly loving this, as it allows them to continue to link current Anonymous with Oldnonymous, and to generate new material to complain about (e.g., Scilons committing unethical acts in the name of Anonymous). It is true that many efforts have been made by many NewNons(I’ll use this term to refer to members of Anonymous who support the ethical protesting of the unethical conduct of the Cult of Scientology; excluding Scilons, Oldnons against or disinterested in the protests, and Oldnons interested in the protest simply for the lulz) to clarify what Anonymous is (i.e., a faceless, structureless, oversightless collective of people from various walks of life who oppose the unethical conduct of the cult, and do so anonymously because of the cult’s deplorable history of viciously harassing its critics), there is only so much that such communications are going to accomplish as long as Anonymous continues to identify with Oldnonymous logos, masks, memes, slogans, and the name, and as long as the Cult of Scientology and individual Scientologists continue to be motivated to cast its protesters in the worst possible light. As long as masked protesting continues to be prudent (and it will, as there is no reason to believe that the cult will stop being an abusive harassing terrorist organization anytime soon), it will be difficult to shake the impression of group cohesion that comes quite naturally when one observes a deindividuated faceless mob. But perhaps doing away with the logos, memes, masks and slogans, and also making many video notices of why these marks are being pushed aside, would be a very good start.

Problems 2 and 3: Devaluing the cause and other political activities of the protesters.

In her post, Candice consistently devalued the magnitude and breadth of the cult’s unethical and criminal activities. She did not discuss its suppression of criticism, free speech and the freethought of its members, its application of hypnosis and other controllability-inducing procedures,  separation of families and friends, threats to members and critics, medical malpractice, infiltration of government agencies, forced detainment of and gulag-like working conditions of some of its members, its framing of critics for fabricated crimes, its brainwashing of its members to believe that anyone who opposes the “church” is necessarily a criminal, or its official organizational policy which allows for (if not flat out encourages) Scientologists to go to unethical lengths (e.g., trickery, lying, stealing from, spying on, intimidating, harassing, destroying utterly) to take out supposed enemies of Scientology.

Her ignoring of Scientology’s horrible criminal history went hand-in-hand with her asking “Don’t you people have anything better to do with your time?” (this was a paraphrase). She asked why Anonymous was not out protesting more important things like the Bush Administration or organized religion as a whole. Two things. Firstly, given the track record of Scientology, I would hardly call the current protest to be of minimal justification.

Secondly, on what grounds does she simply assume that these people do not protest other things, too? I am a protester of Scientology, but a quick look around the blog will show that I am also a staunch critic of organized religion as a whole. I think religious faith is intellectually bankrupt and undeserving of any default respect—I’m sorry (actually, I’m not sorry) but an idea deserves no more respect when it is believed by a billion versus when no one believed it. I in addition to a number of other secularist activists that I know actively engage in the current protest against the cult. However, I will also say that Scientology is not like most other religion. Far more social backlash is warranted by Scientology than the majority of other religious communities. With a few exceptions (e.g., fundamentalist Islamic communities where apostacy is punishable by death; some of the more fundamentalist Christian communities where gays, atheists, evolutionists, liberals and other groups that are at odds with the Conservative Christianity are demonized, and where becoming one of these things could result in mass social ostracism, etc.), Scientology is far worse than contemporary organized religion.

And how does she know that many of the protesters have not actively opposed the Bush Administration? I have spoken to a number of Anons who also attended anti-War protests. Given that the largest segment of popular Anonymous, the NewNons, are young, relatively socially active, and are in favour of openess of information, human rights (e.g., free speech, thought, affiliation), and so forth, I would imagine that the proportion of the NewNon community that also actively protest other social causes (e.g., the Bush Admin, war, Israel-Palestine, environmentalism, poverty) probably towers over the proportion of the general population that engages in such activism.

Conclusions.

Firstly, Anonymous is not a coherent group. It has little internal structure and has no means of identifying or controlling people claiming affiliation. Not everyone who presents themselves as being members of Anonymous are on the same page. Some are Scilons, some are Oldnon who are against or indifferent to the Anonymous protest, some are Oldnon who are in support of the protest but only because it is an opportunity for lulz (lulz which may actually be counter-productive to the movement), and the majority are what I have dubbed NewNons (those who are in support of ethically protesting the unethical conduct of the Cult of Scientology). NewNons may want to consider trying to disconnect the movement from Oldnonymous logos, masks, memes, slogans, and the very name “Anonymous”, so as to decouple itself from earlier Anonymous and from the lulz.

Secondly, the Cult of Scientology is a dangerous oppressive exploitative abusive deceitful profiteering fear-mongering home-wrecking criminal organization that absolutely has warranted intense protest and investigation. This is a worthy cause. Charges that protesters should be concerning themselves with bigger things are hardly justified, because this is a significant issue. It may not be the most significant issue in the world today, but most things aren’t. I imagine that most people who would say that NewNons should be worrying about bigger things would not have said this to those who have protested for gay rights, for or against abortion, or for or against stem cell research, claiming that they should be protesting something else that is more important. Furthermore, there is no basis to assume that NewNons are not also active in other social causes. In fact, there is very good reason to believe that NewNons out-protest the general population by a significant margin.

For more posts on Scientology, click here.

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Comments
17 Responses to “Open Letter to Anonymous and Critics of Anonymous”
  1. matt says:

    actually, I think newnons and oldnons isn’t quite right. They’re
    “newfags” and “oldfags”, but that has more to do with the high emphasis placed on the value of absolute free speech and their right to call anything a “fag”. That being said, I have little other info about anon myself.

  2. Emily says:

    “Scientology is far worse than contemporary organized religion.”
    True, if you conveniently choose to ignore the entire history of these various religions. I know you’re saying that Scientology is worse than MOST religions as they are NOW, but honestly, you know this because you are referring to Scientology’s *history*, albeit it is a short one. Therefore, you should have to take into account the *history* of all of the other religions which you claim are today not as “bad” as Scientology. The line between religion and cult is very vague, and we can’t forget that these are fundamentally arbitrary terms imposed by scholars (and abused by pop culture…and abused by scholars, haha) in the first place.

  3. David says:

    Emily, Scientology is “bad” now. Disconnection, Fair Game and exorbitant fees for pseudo-science hokum are still elements of their religion. They receive special tax exemption status not shared by other religions. But, I think this will all change very soon with the current protests and the general publics awareness being heightened. It will ultimately be good for the Scientologist, who are actually trying to better themselves, as well.

  4. L. Ron Brown says:

    Em: I’m fully aware of the horrible histories of a variety of the major religions. But yes, I’m talking about contemporary concerns.

    As for the cult/religion divide, yes, it’s murky. To a real extent, every religion/cult is a cult. But when it comes to the socially recognized negatives of cults (e.g., isolationism, coercion, abuse, dogmatism, oppression), the recognized cults tend to lead the pack. There are certainly pockets of contemporary religion (e.g., Islamist pockets; Christian fundamentalist pockets) that can rightly be called cults. But to lump liberal religious groups like Ismaeli Muslims, Unitarian Universalists, or United (Christian) Church with Scientology and Islamist groups is surely a poor categorization given what meanings the term “cult” has come to draw to mind.

  5. L. Ron Brown says:

    Matt: I had no idea that’s where “fag” came from in Anonymous speak. I always found it pretty assholish, and never really used the terms (e.g., Scifag) myself.

  6. matt says:

    LRB: I don’t really use the chan boards or anything, i mostly drive my buddies to the protests (because I’m glad my generation is getting off its ass for something, anything), but from my various glimpses of chan/anon culture they use “fag” and other insults quite regularly, just like they post pictures of hitler and mutilated pictures (also: don’t click on the “delicious cake” link. nsfw, not safe for staying out of jail)

  7. L. Ron Brown says:

    What is “nsfw”, and how come the link isn’t safe?

  8. L. Ron Brown says:

    PS: Now all i want to do is go find that link and open it.

  9. Nate says:

    LRB,

    NSFW means “Not Safe for Work”.

    The whole ‘fag’ thing isn’t serious at all. On the internet, the words ‘fag’ and ‘faggot’–normally pejorative terms for homosexual males–is just a generic insult. On boards like the chans and their ilk, they have not insulting meaning at all and are used affectionately.

  10. AnonStL says:

    I like your defense, but I have a problem with part of it. You suggest dropping the memes and masks because that identifies with the oldfags. I say, that’s the reason we’re making so much progress. We have the CoS scared because their tactics of harrassment don’t work against a faceless mob and they’ve never encountered so many protesters at once before. The memes show that we can protest something serious and still have fun, something the scilons aren’t allowed to do. Even the ‘Old Guard’ has started following our lead that lulz do not need to be left out.
    Think about the reaction when the CoS tried to call us terrorists then the image of us in public is singing “Never Gonna Give You Up” while dancing and wearing masks. CoS loses credibility.

  11. Terry says:

    LRB, Nate:

    Yah Ron, don’t be such a fag. 😛

  12. Emily says:

    (sigh)
    Do you honestly think I’m not aware that scientology is every bit as bad as Ron’s post says it is?
    To quote the same quote over again: “Scientology is far worse than contemporary organized religion”. What I’m saying is…define “worse”. And I’d like to say again: I *know* scientology is bad, I’m not defending it, and I agree with ron’s post. I just want a definition of “worse” as it’s used here, because so far, I don’t believe that scientology is (my definition of) worse than any contemporary religious belief. They are just bad in a very modern way, just as they are a religion in a very modern way.

  13. L. Ron Brown says:

    Em: Who are you responding to? I’ll reply to your query in any case.

    I’ll also be replying to AnonStL

  14. Baldy says:

    I’ve been reading up on Anonymous vs. $cientology, and am very pleased to see how things are going.

    While I haven’t been a part of that community, I am now realizing I’ve had some links to it. Various comments in other chat rooms now make sense – such as when someone told me I deserved some delicious caek. And I don’t need to click on a link to know what kind of file can send a person to jail for a very long time, just for clicking on it. (Fortunately, only if the cops find out, or most of America might be in jail by now. Wait! it’s America, which practically IS a jail. Never mind.)

    Even as Indiana is suspending the 4th Amendment and making noise about restricting freedom of movement, and Maine is making it a felony to be “visually aggressive” in public (that is, making it a felony to look at a child in a public place), I am beginning to feel just a tiny bit hopeful that the American people have not *all* gone nuts.

    All the same, I’ll be continuing with my contingency plans to get out of the country for good. Still too soon to say.

  15. George O'Well says:

    I don’t understand Emily’s post at all.
    “……..so far, I don’t believe that scientology is (my definition of) worse than any contemporary religious belief. They are just bad in a very modern way, just as they are a religion in a very modern way.”

    If she learnt about totalitarian character and structure -watch a documentary about workings of the Nazi’s- she would see that scientology’s badness is hardly ‘modern’ .

    Also, by reading about Scientology’s misdoings (crimes) and what Hubbard actually wrote she would understand that the organisation is corrupt without any possibility to redeem itself. It is a criminal organisation in the truest sense of the word. It is not ‘a religion in a very modern way.’

    How do you arrive at your conclusions Emily? If you are not a Scientologist I would like you to explain what you think Scientologists believe in. And then I’d like your opinion as to whether these beliefs were shared by LRon Hubbard.

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