Australian Critics of Scientology
This page maintained by David Gerard.

Melbourne 9/9: report (long)

David Gerard, Wed 13 Sep 1995

Note: The CoS public relations officer here named as 'Jane' is Judy Tampion, a second-generation Scientologist.
From: (David Gerard)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Melbourne 9/9: report (long)
Date: 13 Sep 1995 17:10:27 +1000
Message-ID: <436053$>

              by Reverend Doctor David Gerard KoX SP4.02

Back in *my* day, of course, the clams were TEN FEET TALL! And they could
DROWN YOUR DOG! And bring the HOLY VENGEANCE of RON down on yo' HAID if
yo' PLAYED UP out front of an ORG! MARK MAH WORDS! ... 


Met at the Hyatt Coffee Lounge next door ... and finished up the signs: 

                              FREE SPEECH


                              HANDS OFF

(Our leaflets have been posted separately. This report is long enough as

Got down there 11 to 11:10. Myself, Cyril Vosper and Damian Pope (who did
the May demo; Cyril is an SP-VIP, having been the writer of one of the
first anti-Church books, 'The Mind Benders' -- to be available
electronically, er, soon -- details later) and several others, including
our video cameraman. A few concerned Netizens, many of whom were
accomplished sceptics (or Skeptics). 

We were pretty happy about the feel of our enterprise before the demo ...
the police and council had been informed and we'd been given the rules
(don't disturb public order, don't block the footpath, don't block any
entrances or exits) and we knew they were both fairly on-side with an
anti-Scientology demo anyway. A couple of police watched the demo for a
while from the other side of the street, but left when they saw that it
was all quite civilised. 

The Melbourne Org was underpopulated; it didn't have more than ten people
present at any time (One non-Church esimate of staff numbers is
twenty-five to fifty). A few people were coming and going. They didn't
give us the patented Cold Stare(tm), but more a look of contempt for us
polluting their footpath ... We saw one Asian woman and one man who was
darker than white. The local edition of 'The Auditor' does list a lot of
Asian names. I expect they're completely non-racist if you've got money.

Most of the people coming and going in and out of the Org seemed to be
middle- to upper-middle-class ; the sort of people whose ears would prick
up at the word 'Internet'. Early on, three Sea Org members, in their
uniforms, went into the Org with stern, serious, businesslike faces,
totally ignoring our presence. 

Church representatives handling the demo were a 'nice' PR Officer (Jane, I
think -- could be 'June' -- I really want to know who she is, because she
was obviously the main handler) and an 'attack' PRO (Pat), plus an older
woman helping with flyers. (A little senile, and no doubt soon to be on
the receiving end of the Church's charming 'dumping' policies. At least
Australia has a welfare system, so she won't starve. But that's hardly an

There was also a young fellow taking photos later on, at first through the
window but through the door when we started posing with our signs and
smiling. He smiled back and came out and took one of me. I promptly
whipped out my camera and got a couple of him. Heh. 

The official Melbourne PR that Damian and Cyril met in May, Brian Johnston
(Cyril's favourite house painter), wasn't in evidence at all. Presumably,
the present PRO is the 'Mary Anderson' listed in the Church leaflet as
'Community Relations', though she wasn't there either. But they knew we
were coming, which is why they had a leaflet ready. 

Jane was hassling Cyril Vosper a lot at first -- trying to upset him (she
knew him back when he was a Scientologist in England, and knew his wife)
and vicious DA'ing with a sweet smile toward the rest of us. Cyril kept
his cool completely, which I think is more than I would have done under
the circumstances. 

(Jane tried to coax us inside for a "nice cup of tea and some biscuits,"
so we could discuss our problems with them and not be in front of their
building. Cyril suggested that she bring the tea and biscuits outside ...)

Jane was from the 'Way To Happiness Foundation', based on the nineteen
commandments of LRH; an organisation to bring some moral fibre to a
troubled and directionless world. Not Church-linked at *all*, of *course*,
though she did say how she'd been in the Church for thirty years. She
looked and acted like a totally normal well-dressed middle-aged
professional PR person. I experienced a bout of cognitive dissonance at
this point: someone looking like that telling me with gentle but sincere
enthusiasm of how an entire wing of Moscow University Library is devoted
to the works of L. Ron Hubbard. (I kept a straight face. What am I going
to do, be rude? *She* believed it.)

Pat started off in 'always attack' mode: 

Her: "What's your name? Look, WHAT'S YOUR NAME?" 

Me: "Dennis Erlich." 

Her: "Dennis. Dennis ... Early?" 

Me: "Yeah, that'll do." 

(Later I did tell her my real name and that that was me listed on the
flyer. I said I was 'just joking' on the name and didn't explain the

Her: "This man [Cyril] is a KIDNAPPER!" (note: part of DA pack; he isn't.)

Us: "So what? It's irrelevant if he is or not." 

-- then calmed down when it obviously wasn't working. (Also, spouting DA
pack in sound and vision range of a video camera would definitely be a
sufficient 'smoking gun' to nail her and the Org on slander charges in
Australia, should it prove necessary.)

Pat was the stereotypical Scientologist: alternately nasty and nice in a
completely schizophrenic manner, sort of fried, a bit ill and
tired-looking. When she gave up the 'attack, attack', she then tried to be
really extremely friendly ... we didn't buy that either, oddly enough.
Many of our number came to dislike her thoroughly in mere seconds, though
I was happy to chat irrelevantly to her during the demo -- chat to anyone,
it's important to charm even the obnoxious people in these situations ... 

Jane continued trying to DA Cyril (he *must* be the leader behind the demo
-- we *couldn't* just be a bunch of concerned individuals or something,
'cos Ron said so) until a sceptic said bluntly, "Look, cut with the
dead-agenting. It's unconvincing, it's malicious gossip and it's
COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT." She then asked what 'dead agenting' was, but she
did stop. 

The sceptics didn't address religious issues at all, which was an
important part of keeping face for us. They did, however, go for the
throat on matters of the Church organisation and the upheavals in LRH's
final years ... consistent mispronunciation of MIS-c'vige eventually got a
correction of 'Mis-CAV-ige'. It was extremely entertaining and emotionally
satisfying ... and the sceptics were happy to keep the Church
representatives completely occupied while we leafleted. 

At this point we started trying to discuss the issues we had with her,
while she tried to work out what organisation was behind this protest. My
name and phone numbers were on the flyer, so I was therefore hatted
Leader. (None of my protestations that I had NEVER MET ANY OF THESE PEOPLE
[except one] BEFORE IN MY LIFE made it through her 'incoming' filter.)

It was weirdly difficult trying to *explain* that we weren't from an
organised group: 

"Oh, you're from the group 'Alt Religion' ..." 

"No, it's an open discussion forum, not a group of people. It's called a
'newsgroup' because it's a group of articles on a given topic. There are
thousands of these on the Internet. It's called 'alt.religion.scientology'." 

"Right ... so you're from 'Alt Internet'." 

(sigh) "No, not quite ..." 

Once I had been tagged as Leader (when it seemed Cyril wasn't after all),
Jane gave me and Damian ("One for David, since he's the leader ..."
"I'm not the leader," I said, tho' it was basically pro forma as she'd 
already decided I was) actual paper copies of the Internet issue of 
'Freedom'. Score! PLUS copies of the even scummier CAN Special Issue. Oh 
yeah, they tried nailing Germany in it too. Heh. 

(What a foul little pile of DA it is too. If they ever try DA'ing an
Australian in 'Freedom' and distribute the issue in question in Australia,
they'll be nailed on defamation *that* quick. Libel here is onus on the
defender to prove their statements true *and* in the public interest. And
the Church of Scientology is not viewed sympathetically in Victoria.)

We talked a lot about freedom of information, and the pros and cons of a
medium in which anyone could say anything -- subject to the relevant laws
after the fact, but without an editor blocking one's speech *before* the
fact. Jane told us (a few times -- drilled, one presumes) about a
businessman who someone had said was *gay* (shock! horror!) in an
anonymous posting to the Internet (we didn't bother introducing the term
'Usenet' ... at least no-one said the 'cyber-' word), and that this was
enough to completely destroy his business. I said that it couldn't have
been much of a business nor he much of a businessman, because no-one takes
insupportable anonymous postings seriously. This didn't keep her from
repeating the story and emphasising the Church's important role in
defending the interests of the small people in these situations. "No-one
is more concerned with these freedoms than the Church, you know." "Mmm!" I
mmm'ed politely. 

We were quite happy for them to hand out their leaflet (you've seen it
posted elsewhere in the newsgroup, under the name 'Pat Broeker'; I may
repost it after posting this report); anyway, ours looked much better and
didn't suffer from Hubbardistic wording conventions ... also, many people
took our leaflets and refused theirs. Heh. 

We also made sure to ask permission before posting their leaflet here in
the newsgroup. We emphasised that we were happy for the Church to put its
information on the Net, where everyone could read it and say what they
thought of it. 

We discussed our list of Web pages, how anyone could access these and how
we had read the Church page and appreciated that the Church did indeed
have a page and had put the Internet issue of Freedom on it. 

"Yes, the list is generally of critical pages. But we have taken care to
list the one and only official Church page *first*, so people can see for

"Oh ... But not everyone can access that. That's just a list of negative

"Well, certainly they can. Anyone could take that list, go down to the Net
Cafe in St Kilda, use Netscape for five dollars a half hour ..." 

(expression brightens) "Oh, I see, you're from the Net Cafe in St Kilda ..." 

(sigh) "No, not at all ... Let me try again ..." 

(Sri's quote about arguing not with a drunk, not with a wall, but with a
drunk wall springs to mind.)

One demonstrator was a weird nerdy dickhead on a bicycle. He said he'd
heard about the demo on the radio the week before ('Liar's Club', 3-RRR
Sundays 10am -- sceptics' show -- a good listen, not just the tedious
demolish-everything style of scepticism) and came on down. Didn't talk to
us much. Then an Org staffer came out and told us to stop putting the
notices on the window. The dickhead had been putting notices saying 'The
only good Scientologist is a DEAD ONE' on the outside of the windows
facing inwards. We emphasised that we did NOT agree with these notices and
helped rip them down. Someone had a Little Word with the weird nerdy
dickhead and he left. I could be paranoid and mark him as a plant, but he
could just have been a real loser. I dunno. 

Important things on a demonstration such as this: 

* The importance of a GOOD SIGN. Keep it to a large, clear, simple slogan
-- clear enough for passing cars to see. The corner the Melbourne Org is
on doesn't have much pedestrian traffic and no shoppers, but a lot of cars
go by; and they *all* rubbernecked at our signs. A few, including a guy on
a motorbike, even took leaflets! (Sort of like Milne claimed happened for
'Freedom' in Germany, tho' ours actually did happen.) The word 'INTERNET'
has *good* publicity value, no matter the context. As does the leaflet

* No religious issues at all; we were strictly concerned with the actions
of the organisation. We emphasised this point over and over to them. I
think this caught them off-guard. We didn't tell any clam jokes. No 'Ron
Is Xenu' shirts either. (Though I tip my hat to the fellow in Boston who
had one made specially!)

* Keep your cool. No matter what. Be so damned polite they run out of DA
and aggression. This can be difficult. 

* When they go into 'nice' mode, they will attempt to take you out of
action without force. "Let's go for a coffee at the Hyatt and discuss the
issue ..." "Well, we'll be here until one or two, I think, but after that
we might ..." (The trick here is never to quite say 'no'. This is an
advanced trick of small talk and should only be attempted by a Boring
Person level III at least.) Or, they will chat to you on the street in an
attempt to distract you from your leafleting or sign-waving. KEEP SOMEONE
ON UNINTERRUPTIBLE LEAFLET DETAIL. You should be able to keep up an
animated and substanceless conversation while continuing to hand out
leaflets ... this takes *their* agent out of action. 

* Do offer leaflets to people going into the Org. None took them on the
way in, but a few did take them on the way out. Hmm. 

The Org is next to the Hyatt Hotel, a large, quality and popular
establishment; buses pull up outside all the time. One bus pulled up full
of people in naval uniforms. "Please tell me that's not the Sea Org," I
said to one fellow demonstrator. Heh. They were airlines folk, we think
(pilots and stewards and stewardesses), and some took leaflets. But that
was an interesting few seconds there ... 

At the end, Pat asked me how someone gets Internet access ... her son had
apparently been hassling her to get it, but she was under the impression
that you have to pay overseas phone calls to America for it. I explained
that you make a local call your Internet access provider, and they work
out their international hookup themselves; and that a public-access
provider can cost under $100 a year, and one local one (Suburbia -- even offers a free tryout. Her ears pricked up at that. I
gave her all the info she asked for on Suburbia. Of course, this could all
have been further investigation concerning Who Sent Us, and maybe Suburbia
will get a visit from the cl*ms some time soon ... 

The demo more or less broke up around 1:15pm, and we adjourned to the
Hyatt for post-mortem coffee. We examined our Scientology materials (I now
have more Church crap than I ever wanted to have) and a copy of Cyril's
book that Damian had found in a second-hand shop, and discussed scanning
"The Mind Benders" and the Anderson Report (is OmniPage available for
Windows 3.1?) and how, given a million dollars and no morals, we could do
a much better job of destroying Usenet than the Church seems capable of

Rogue Agent's recent analysis of the OSA's handling of a.r.s seems on the
ball: that they're just too bloody stingy and clueless to resource the OSA
sufficiently and efficiently. Cyril (who knows a thing or two about the
Church, after all) agreed. He was amazed by their computer illiteracy --
"They still use *all* that paperwork! Why? Because that's the way Hubbard
did it. Imagine what the world will be like in fifty years -- the
Scientologists will still be using all that paperwork then!" Me: "Yeah ...
all hundred of them ..." 

(We're desperately trying to coax Cyril online. He's au fait with
computers and appreciates the wonderful possibilities of an unmoderated
medium, and will be a real asset to the Net. We tried to give him a fair
picture of what Usenet is really like -- "Ninety-nine percent of all
messages are garbage, and you'll never meet bigger dickheads than you'll
meet online" -- but I think we've got a chance.)

One of the Church's biggest problems is their strict Ron-fundamentalism.
If they keep doing things the old way just because it was good enough in
the sixties, they will simply fail to make it in the vicious Darwinian
real world. As they are presently discovering with the Internet. Heh. 

Our media coverage was a flat zero -- we didn't have much publicity
beforehand (faxes to media, but no real push -- more next time,
definitely) and the uprising in Tahiti blew us completely out of the
mainstream media anyway. Where's a slow news day when you need one. Jeez. 

But I would call the demo a modest success -- thirteen to three, over a
hundred pamphlets and a lot of cars noticing. And, most importantly, a
message delivered to the Church. 

I saved the punchline for the post-mortem in the Hyatt Coffee Lounge: 'The
Auditor' #137 (AOSH ANZO) had stated that Auditor's Day was on September
16th this year, not September 9th. I hadn't told anyone, not wishing to
spoil the day out ... but I did notice that none of the Church
representatives had corrected us. Pity; I'd just been waiting for my
chance to say, "Oh well, we'll certainly be back next Saturday then ..." 

The Church reps were sitting two tables away from us, of course. We smiled
and waved goodbye as we were leaving. 

Reverend Doctor David Gerard, KoX, SP 5 (awaiting verification)
Prestige Elite(tm) Research Church of the SubGenius
"Servicing the Prestige Elite(tm) since 1985!"
OK, clams. You want war? You've got war.
Please email ALL followups (crappy and thoroughly dysfunctional newsfeed).
Personal visits from Scientologists will be greeted with extreme hostility
  and the vigilant attention of VUT Security, but personal physical violence
  *only* when appropriate, legal and called-for.
Rev Dr David Gerard, VUT SRC Footscray NoName. (preferred);
July 5, 1998, 7 AM. Saucers. End of the world. Your US$30 is your trip ticket.

[Demonstrations against Scientology]