The core of the "What is Scientology page" on Operation Clambake is that Scientology is a form of dangerous brainwashing. A serious allegation which the author emphatically states as a fact but does not substantiate in any way apart from a flawed logical argument regarding the science fiction nature of Scientology and a misleading reference to a brainwashing manual supposedly written by L. Ron Hubbard - all the while completely ignoring the whole brainwashing debate that put to rest the question from a legal point of view two decades ago.
The "What is Scientology" introductory article of the Operation Clambake web site, written by Roland Rashleigh-Berry (RRB), is an ultra-negative, one-sided, presentation of Scientology using the crudest anti-cult cliché available and written in a very disparaging manner. Though his alarmist approach may at first frighten the public, authorities, prospective members, and relatives, it backfires in the long run because it does not fit with what people are able to observe for themselves and what they can easily find out by digging a bit further than anti-cult web sites.
The core of RRB's argument is that Scientology is a form of dangerous brainwashing. A serious allegation which he emphatically states as a fact but does not substantiate in any way apart from 1) a flawed logical argument regarding the science fiction nature of Scientology, 2) a misleading reference to a brainwashing manual supposedly written by L. Ron Hubbard (LRH) - all the while 3) completely ignoring the whole brainwashing debate that put to rest the question from a legal point of view two decades ago.
1) Indeed, contrary to what RRB states, the authorship of the brainwashing manual is disputed. Even his own fellow critic, Chris Owen, the author of an extensive analysis of this manual, was forced to admit that Hubbard “may not have written the bulk of it“ - and this was after Owen dismissed elements pointing to another possible author, Kenneth Goff, on the ground that Goff died in 1953, and so could not have known events that had taken place in 1955, when in fact Goff died in 1972. RRB's argument is misleading, factually incorrect, and just as ridiculous as the whole article.
2) Another argument RRB uses to try and support his brainwashing argument is that “the science fiction content of Scientology is revealed to them after they have reached the state they call 'Clear'". This is utterly false. The science-fiction nature of Scientology is very widely available and obvious through books and magazines right from the beginning. The implication that Scientology must necessarily be brainwashing because people would not accept this kind of fiction at an early stage is demonstrably false.
3) The whole cult mind-control brainwashing issue was in fact debated to death and put to rest by academic and the court back in the 70's-80's. Anticultists utterly lost that debate, but it does not prevent RRB to totally ignore this most central issue and to keep on repeating the same debunked assertions that can easily be disapproved by those making the effort look a bit further than anti-cult sources. Warned of this situation, Andreas Heldal-Lund, the web master of Operation Clambake, posted a second opinion balloon with a comment pointing to one of my own pages, though he did not actually link to it so people still have to copy and paste the URL to check it out.
Because of the absence of actual substantiation for the wild claims RRB is making, the whole page could be re-written in the exact opposite propaganda and it would be just as "true". It is a joke, though not a funny one, and a disgrace for a web site that claims to give lessons to others when it comes to "critical thinking".
This does not mean that cults do not pose problems and that indoctrination in Scientology is not worth being studied. On the contrary it of very high interest. This, however, should only be carried out after the potential dangers of the extreme anti-cult approach such as the one found in this introductory article and throughout the entire Operation Clambake website has been recognized and addressed.
The “What is Scientology page” is the introductory page of “Operation Clambake”, the leading web site on Scientology criticism, and it usually is the first page people read on that web site. It is therefore a very prominent page in the realm of Scientology criticism.
The first paragraph of this page gives the tone for the whole text. It is an over-negative presentation of Scientology based on typical anti-cult clichés, that cults are not real religions but scams and a dangerous form of brainwashing.
Roland Rashleigh-Berry, author of the article, writes in this first paragraph:
It brings fuel to my argument that fanatical critics mirror fanatical cultists. I claim that neither side is correct and that both are dangerous in their own right.
Anybody reading the “What is Scientology” introductory text would naturally be alarmed. Most people will wonder, however, why, if Scientology is really as evil as critics portray, it is still allowed to exist.
This question is the first sign of what I refer to as “cognitive dissonance”.
Cognitive dissonance is created by the fact that the extreme presentation made of Scientology by anti-cultists just does not hold water when confronted with the part of reality people are able to observe for themselves.
Critics try to explain this cognitive dissonance away by even more absurd and conspirational theories, such as Scientology is so evil that it is able to manipulate media and government and the entire justice system of every country in the world….
A simpler explanation, however, is that critics’ wild claims are simply not correct.
Another example of such a cognitive dissonance may arise when one reads in the same text:
Knowing that people like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and quite a few other celebrities are Scientologists, the above just does not fit. The simple truth is that Scientologists really are people like you and me who just happen to believe differently.
The cognitive dissonance that arises when comparing Rashleigh-Berry’s claim with the reality is explained away by anticultists using the conspirational theory of cult mind-control.
According to this theory, cult members are mindless robots who have lost their own will and are basically ready to kill at a word trigger, even though they may appear normal to anybody else.
This theory is used by anti-cultists to de-humanize Scientologists and to justify their own form of discriminations and abuses. It is akin to the demon-possession belief that was used during witch hunts in the “dark age”. The cult mind-control theory is a modern adaptation of what amounts to the same theory, one that could be accepted by our “advanced” society to make disparagement and oppression of minorities acceptable.
In his article, RRB uses the notion of mind-control and brainwashing freely but does not substantiate such exists in the first place from a flawed logical argument regarding the science fiction nature of Scientology, and a misleading reference to a brainwashing manual supposedly written by L. Ron Hubbard - all the while completely ignoring the whole brainwashing debate that put to rest the question from a legal point of view two decades ago.
(Small nit-picking correction. Roland writes in the first sentence of the quoted paragraph above: : “The results of applying their oversimplified and inapplicable rules in life is to lose the ability to think rationally and logically.” – this should be either “results … are” or “result … is”. To write “results … is” is neither rational nor logical ;-)
Rashleigh-Berry does not bother with any of the many debates surrounding brainwashing and once more simply asserts:
“There is no doubt at all that L. Ron Hubbard incorporated brainwashing techniques into Scientology to put people under his control.”
All he offers in support of such a definitive statement, however, is hardly more than the statement itself and a reference to a “brainwashing manual” that Hubbard supposedly wrote, as Rashleigh-Berry adds in support to the above statement:
He even wrote a "brainwashing manual" which is still in existence today.
Though Rashleigh-Berry may have no doubt about the authorship of that brainwashing manual, in reality it is a subject matter of considerable controversy. Even his own fellow critic, Chris Owen, who studied the question in depth, was forced to admit that Hubbard “may not have written the bulk of it“, though it is indeed likely that Hubbard did edit the booklet which he claimed had been found on the front desk of the Phoenix office.
The controversy as to the origin of the manual deepens several notches knowing that at the time Owen made this statement he dismissed other elements pointing to another possible author, Kenneth Goff, on the false belief that Goff died in 1953 and so could not have known events that had taken place in 1955. In reality, Goff died in 1972. A correction to this effect was placed in the side bar of Owen’s text but the text itself has not been amended.
By all means, Hubbard’s purpose in publishing that booklet was, as Chris Owen himself puts it: “to demonstrate to his followers the magnitude of the conspiracy [psychiatry/communism] they were up against”, and not, as Rashleigh-Berry implies, as something that demonstrates Hubbard’s mastery in brainwashing.
The way Rashleigh-Berry refers to the manual as a support for his argument that Scientology practices brainwashing is extremely misleading, and by all means simply ridiculous.
Rashleigh-Berry also implies that his brainwashing presentation must necessarily be true because:
“The science fiction content of Scientology is revealed to them after they have reached the state they call "Clear", meaning freed from the aberrations of the mind. […] The insane content of it is only revealed to a person when the early stuff has done its work and made them more susceptible.”
He refers to the Xenu story that is only revealed when one reaches OT III, a very advanced level in Scientology
However, this argument is seriously flawed, because the fact that the Xenu story is only revealed at the OT III level does not mean that the science fiction content of scientology is not available before that stage. Quite on the contrary, the science-fiction nature of Scientology is very widely available and obvious through books and magazines right from the beginning, and the stories recounted are just as science-fictionesque as the Xenu story. Even the publicly available promotional presentation of the OT III level itself states that “75 million years ago a great catastrophe happened in this sector of the galaxy” – a true science-fiction testimonial by itself…
The Xenu story does not really add more science-fictionism than what is already available before it becomes known, and hence the implication that Scientology must necessarily be brainwashing because people would not accept this kind of fiction at an early stage is demonstrably false.
A flawed logical argument and a misleading reference to a brainwashing manual supposedly written by LRH is all Rashleigh-Berry offers to substantiate the serious allegations he is making. All the while, he completely ignores the whole debate that has put to rest the question from a legal point of view two decades ago.
And this constitutes the main introductory page of the Operation Clambake website…
The Mind-Control Debate
The cult mind-control theory originated with Ted Patrick who in the 1970’s kidnapped cult members and subjected them to unrelenting and grueling verbal assaults until they broke up and recanted their faith. According to Patrick, what he was doing was not a violation of the basic rights of these individuals because, he claimed, the cult had taken away their capacity to make their own decision, and without this capacity they simply were not in a position to exercise their rights. In other words, cult members were not human and therefore had no human rights…
Kidnapping/deprogramming was a craze in the 1970s-1980s and anticultists were able to get away with hundreds of such criminal deeds using this theory as a justification in courts.
Naturally, a full-fledged war as to the soundness of the theory ensued in the academic and legal fields.
Because anti-cultists lost this war, kidnapping/deprogramming came to a halt or at least a slow-down towards the middle of the 1980’s. For two decades now nobody who conducted a minimum of earnest investigation in the field would believe in that theory anymore – except for anti-cultists who continue to believe it like flat-earthers continue to believe in their own pet theory.
Naturally, you will find little to nothing about that very central debate on critical web site, – except for personal attacks and conspirational accusations that scholars who successfully challenged the theory are “cult apologists” who have been bought by the evil cults.
Even the “Mind Control booklist” posted as a reference at the end of the article is made of a series of books exclusively supporting the anticult notion of mind-control, with a total absence of any of the countless works to the contrary generated by the controversy, or even the existence of such a controversy.
Nor will you find any mention of this controversy and the debate than ensued, not even mention of the existence of a very different approach accepted at large by academics and the court in RRB's article. RRB just stresses the anti-cult view of mind-control as if these have never even been debated and as if this was a universally accepted fact.
In the face of repeated objections, though, Andreas Heldal-Lund, the web master of Operation Clambake, finally included a “second opinion” balloon with an email he received challenging him to at least point the controversy. The post also refers to one of my own web page (An IRC presentation of Scientology) though Andreas did not actually link to that page, making it a bit arduous for people to check it out as they have to manually copy/paste the URL in their browser first.
The problem is not that anticultists are wrong in their perception and intent. The problem is that they turn what could be an interesting subject into a fanatical and cultic believe system which, rather than address the problem, becomes a danger on its own.
What anticultists really aim to point to in their maladroit presentation is the phenomenon of indoctrination. Indoctrination indeed much better describes the cult phenomenon, while it also avoids the disparaging and dehumanizing upshots involved in the notion of cult mind-control.
If only anti-cultists could put water in their wine and smooth their notions out to approach the issue as indoctrination rather than brainwashing, and if scholars, instead of limiting themselves to debunk the cult mind-control theory (something that, due to the potential harm of this theory, is absolutely necessary) could look into the phenomenon pointed by anticultists but under the form of indoctrination rather than the discredited notion of cult mind-control, then together they could maybe come up with very interesting psychological, sociological, and even spiritual findings that could be extremely useful to society. I believe it could even help to address the phenomenon of religious terrorism, an issue of utmost actuality.
The "What is Scientology" introductory article of the Operation Clambake web site, written by Roland Rashleigh-Berry, is an ultra-negative, one-sided, presentation of Scientology using the crudest anti-cult cliché available and written in a very disparaging manner. Though his alarmist approach may at first frighten the public, authorities, prospective members, and relatives, it backfires in the long run because it does not fit with what people are able to observe for themselves, as well as with what they can find out upon a more thorough investigation. The whole article could be re-written in the opposite propaganda and it would be just as “true”.
The core of Rashleigh-Berry argument is that Scientology is a form of dangerous brainwashing. This he states as a fact but does not substantiate it apart from a misleading reference to a brainwashing manual Hubbard supposedly wrote and for a flawed logical argument about the science-fiction content of Scientology. He also completely ignores the whole central debate surrounding cult mind-control that settled the issue from a legal point two decades ago, and no reference to it is made in the footnote links either. Though Andreas Heldal-Lund, the web master of Operation Clambake, did eventually make a second opinion balloon pointing to the controversy, it is still sad that this page is allowed to be, and has been allowed to be since the inception of that site years ago, the introductory article of a web site that claims to be champion in critical thinking.
This does not mean that cults do not pose problems and that undue influence is not worth being studied. On the contrary it has very high potential. This, however, should only be carried out after the potential dangers of the extreme anti-cult approach such as the one found in this introductory article has been recognized and addressed.
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