From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Gerard) Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology Subject: Melbourne 9/9: report (long) Date: 13 Sep 1995 17:10:27 +1000 Message-ID: <email@example.com> REPORT TO A.R.S CENTRAL COMMITTEE ON MELBOURNE 9/9 by Reverend Doctor David Gerard KoX SP4.02 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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! ... Heh. Met at the Hyatt Coffee Lounge next door ... and finished up the signs: SCIENTOLOGY *SUPPRESSES* FREE SPEECH and HANDS OFF THE INTERNET (Our leaflets have been posted separately. This report is long enough as is.) 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 excuse.) 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 joke.) 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 themselves." "Oh ... But not everyone can access that. That's just a list of negative statements." "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 headline 'SCIENTOLOGY TERRORISM'. * 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 -- suburbia.net) 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 understanding. 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. email@example.com (preferred); firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 1998, 7 AM. Saucers. End of the world. Your US$30 is your trip ticket.