This past Saturday, March 15, thousands of people around the world gathered under the name “Anonymous” in front of their local Scientology centers to protest the organization’s tax-exempt status as well as their tactic of using strong-arm tactics to silence critics.
It’s those strong-arm tactics that forced the vast majority of protesters to don masks lest they become “Fair Game,” L. Ron Hubbard’s term for out-spoken critics who should be stopped at all costs. Here’s what he had to say about the punishment those critics invite: “Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” Scientologists say the Fair Game Law was canceled shortly after it was enacted, but opponents maintain that only the use of phrase itself was stopped, to avoid bad PR. The opponents certainly make a good case — see The Un-Funny Truth About Scientology for a gruesome overview.
For all their energy and noise, the protests went mostly unnoticed by major media outlets. I searched the Boston Globe for the slightest mention, and nada. They covered the first Anonymous protest back in February, so why not this bigger, more focused event? The New York Times was similarly empty of any mention of the 500+ masked protesters in the city.
What’s going on? Were there not enough protesters to get attention? Were the protesters too young? Was the event’s Internet-origin tough to take seriously? Is the issue not an important one? Or, not to foster any unnecessary conspiracy theories, is the media reticent to criticize Scientology?
Also, the idea of thousands of people protesting in Guy Fawkes masks under a code name of “Anonymous” is appealing and exciting, and it sends a very strong message about Scientology’s tactics. But, would it be a stronger statement to take off the masks and show a lack of fear? The Scientologists send photographers to the protests to try to identify people — what would they do with an overabundance of information? How could they possibly track down and harass thousands of people with no identifiable leaders? I’m reminded of the uproar caused by the Danish cartoons of Mohammad. One media outlet printing the pictures is a target for ignorant hoards, but hundreds of media outlets would send a statement of solidarity and strength.
Anyway, the next planned Anonymous event appears to be April 12 and is called Operation: Reconnect. From Anonymous:
Scheduled to take place during April, Operation Reconnect will shine a spotlight on families torn apart by the Church of Scientology. The aim is to bring these families together, with a number of the “disconnected” giving detailed accounts of their experience with Scientology and making public pleas to their families to “reconnect” with them.
The name of this operation stems from the Church of Scientology’s notorious ‘disconnection policy’, under which individuals within the Church are forbidden contact with those whom the Church deems to be a threat to its security. This policy is used frequently by the Church of Scientology to separate families, creating a rift between those outside the Church and those trapped within it. This also serves the purpose of removing any social supports an individual has outside the Church, making it more difficult for them to end their affiliation with this organization.
Since Anonymous set out on a campaign against the Church of Scientology, a number of individuals have stepped forth with accounts of their personal experiences within the Church. Many of these people described the negative influence exerted by the Church of Scientology on their families. On April 12th some of these individuals will be relating their experiences to the public as speakers at peaceful demonstrations.
Mark your calendars. Here’s hoping the major media outlets are doing the same.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s video of Saturday’s protests in NYC:[youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcUXeum1Eqg]