Australian Critics of Scientology
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How effective is this newsgroup?

Steve A, Sun 28 Jun 1998

From: (Steve A)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Re: How effective is this newsgroup?
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 15:35:33 GMT
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 26 Jun 1998 08:28:30 -0400, John Stone <>

> Since this newsgroup seems to be mostly concerned with being critical
> of Scientology I was wondering how effective it really is in getting out
> the message on Scientology.  Does anyone know if it is reaching a wide
> audience or is it just "preaching to the choir" so to speak.

Much of it is, almost certainly, "preaching to the choir". Worse
still, you should see how we critics tear each other to pieces when
there's no Scientologists around!

But for all that, there have been plenty of posts from people who
came, lurked and learned, and who got out of Scientology, or avoided
getting in (or prevented friends or relatives from getting sucked in),
and of course, we never get to hear from those who did all their
research via the DejaNews archives.

It is hard to calculate readership figures for a newsgroup, especially
now that many people will be reading groups via a database like
DejaNews, but a generally accepted figure is that a ratio of somewhere
around 100:1 applies for the number of lurkers vs the number of active
posters. At times in a.r.s.'s history, that number of active posters
has been well in excess of 300, suggesting a possible online
readership of around 30,000. The group also exhibits a high turnover
of posters, which, if reflected in the lurker group, would suggest an
even higher per annum exposure.

And that, of course, does not include the spinoff publicity that
a.r.s. generates, such as paper media reports on pickets or court
cases such as Keith Henson's, nor the interest such activities
generate in other areas of Usenet: one of Scientology's major foulups
was attempting to first rmgroup a.r.s., then spam it out of existence.
As a result, Scientology got well known to the news.abuse crowd,
themselves a powerful force for further cross-fertilisation, and is
now a byword for the worst excesses of vertical spamming.

Furthermore, the structure of Usenet is such that it has been possible
for people who would in the past have been hunted down and "shuddered
into silence" by Scientology to comment openly. It is essentially for
this reason that Dennis Erlich, a high-profile ex-Scientologist, is
being sued and "fair gamed" at the moment: his "crime" was to
authenticate some sections of alleged Scientology scripture as being
the genuine article. Since the cult sued Dennis, a.r.s. has become a
focus for a worldwide campaign to expose these scriptures for what
they are - variously, criminal instruction manuals and the most lurid
of sci-fi cosmology - which has resulted in large parts of these
writing being publicly available via the Swedish Government, and other
sources. While this may not, in itself, appear to be a particularly
constructive step on the part of Scientology's critical opposition,
much of Scientology's success to date has been based on the manner in
which they reveal their "beliefs" on a gradient, such that the more
ludicrous stuff is not presented to followers until they have been
sufficiently conditioned to accept it.

Much of the critical opposition to Scientology is focused on the
manner in which it operates a bait and switch scam, whereby potential
recruits are lured in on the basis of wild-assed claims, and are then
subjected to high pressure sales techniques to sign up for courses,
which are themselves a means of indoctrination designed to pressure
customers into signing up for yet more Scientology processing, all at
grossly inflated prices. By exposing the secrets that Scientology
would wish to remain hidden, we can show potential recruits what they
will ultimately be being asked to believe in. We rely then on the
utterly ridiculous nature of those beliefs - for example, the fact
that we are infested with the souls of dead space aliens, brought here
75m years ago in spaceships that looked like DC-8's, dumped in
volcanoes and nuked before being shown 30 days of bad 3D films - to
convince people that Scientology is not what it claims to be.

To date, that appears to have been a pretty effective tactic.

So, in short, a.r.s. is *highly* effective in getting the message out.
> I've never been involved with Scientology and just stubbled onto this
> newsgroup at some point, many of the postings seem rather surreal to
> someone like me that really has no background in this area but I must
> say it is rather interesting and also entertaining in its own way.

One of the problems is that understanding Scientology, much like being
in Scientology, is a process of ongoing revelation. For example,
Scientology, in common with many other high-control cults, redefines
words to mean other things. This is done to reinforce a sense of
isolation from the "profane" world in the cult follower, and is indeed
very successful at doing so. What it means, though, is that critics
debating with Scientologists will often couch their points in
Scientology language in order to reduce the possibility that their
debating partner will "accidentally" misunderstand what has been said
and fail to address the point. While that works well in the immediate
debate, it can tend to make a.r.s. a little impenetrable for someone
who has had little experience of Scientology, from within or as a

That said, there is a Terminology FAQ posted on a regular basis, and
something like the a.r.s. Week In Review (which is also available on
the Web) does an excellent job of summarising the main issues that
have arisen in the preceding week, in clear and concise reportage,
with generous quotes and message ID's for the posts in question. A
valuable starting point for the neophyte a.r.s. reader!

a.r.s. is also somewhat unique in that there is a fairly broad
definition as to what is on-topic. For example, over the last two
months, we have seen informative and interesting debates on everything
from nuclear-powered spaceships, through distributed computing, to
in-depth discussions on the legal ramifications of various bits of
Californian legislation.

To a new arrival, such a breadth of debate might tend to be
disorientating, and the sheer volume of a.r.s. traffic does not help.
But, with a selective cursor finger and a little patience (not to
mention a decent killfile), a.r.s. can be rendered readable in a very
short time.

> I saw the Bob Minton segment on Dateline after reading on here it was
> going to be shown.

There ya go, then. We did our job :-)
Practicing medicine without a licence? You decide:
  "Step Four - Cures for Illness
  You will now find BTs and clusters being cures for illnesses 
  of the body part. Handle all such BTs and clusters by blowing
  them off. "Cures for Illness" will then cease to read.
           [NOTS 34, Fair Use excerpt]

Steve A, SP4, GGBC, KBM, Unsalvageable PTS/SP #12.
<SARCASM>I am a Scientologist</SARCASM>

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