Work in Progress: What are the Big Questions?

Summary

“Work in Progress” notes are ones where I’m reaching out to the community (that means you) for perspective, research and thoughts that will become part of the “official” published work.  In other words, this is your chance to get caught up in the adventure of predicting the future of Scientology, and figuring out how we can help bring that about.

This note introduces the list of “big questions,” the issues that have the most bearing in understanding where the cult is headed, how fast it will get there, and how we can help it along.  The questions here are the topics for the major research projects that we will set ourselves over the next few months.  The answers to these questions will probably change over time, so we’ll need to revisit each of them periodically and re-examine our conclusions in the light of new information.  But the first step on the intellectual adventure is to identify the most important questions.

The Role of the Big Question

When we in Global Capitalism HQ are trying to evaluate stocks to invest in, there’s an ocean of financial data that we have to consider.   Every single quarter, we look at a couple of hundred different numbers for each company in our portfolio.

It turns out that very few of those numbers actually matter at any given point in time.  We note that Microsoft currently owns $1.15 billion in mortgage-backed securities, a tiny sliver of its vast cash hoard.  That number has no bearing on its stock price, but there’s always an outside chance that it could.  If Management suddenly decided to roll, say, $35 billion of the $66 billion in US government debt it owns into mortgage-backed securities, we would certainly try to figure out why, because it would tell us whether they were smarter than we thought, or if they were putting a huge chunk of money to work in a risky investment, causing us to worry about a whole bunch of things, not the least of which is that management went collectively insane without our noticing.

In the case of Microsoft, the potential for the stock to go up can be determined by the answers to a small number of questions. Part of the job of an analyst is to figure out what investors are concerned about and answer those questions really, really well.  In the case of the software giant, the questions are things like:  Will management raise the dividend?  who will be the new CEO after Steve Ballmer retires next year?  When are they going to stop losing money on their Internet search engine? How will they fix the disastrous Windows 8 user interface and make their customers happy?  There are a couple others, but you get the picture.  If I can answer these questions better than my competitors, and especially if I can see when the answers to those questions might change, I will make enough money to justify my exorbitant salary.

The Current List of Big Questions

In the case of Scientology, here is my first stab at the list of big questions that would help us figure out what might happen next. From there, we can figure out what trends work in our favor, and how to blunt the cult’s strengths that we may find.  Each big question leads directly to a number of smaller questions that bear answering as well.

  • Membership count:  How big is the cult today in terms of both “public” and staff?  What is the likely rate of membership decline?  What is the cult doing to increase members?  Is disconnection an effective way of stemming the membership decline?  How many people still in the cult are “under the radar,” pretending to do Scientology, but only hanging in to avoid family or business consequences of disconnection?
  • Financial momentum: What are the cult’s sales and profits currently, and what is the trend?  What is the cult’s financial strength (mostly, the size of reserves)?  What are the effects of recent developments in the business, such as the major changes to the events business that could arise over the next year?  What could cause the financial picture to change rapidly over a reasonably short period of time?
  • New member recruitment: What is the cult’s strategy, if any, to bring “fresh meat” in the door? Just because its strategy is not working doesn’t mean they don’t have one.  It’s easy to believe, given Miscavige’s apparent long-term myopia that they don’t have one, but it’s much wiser to presume that there’s a strategy.  That way, if the cult does start to see growth in new members, we can formulate ideas of how to oppose that.
  • How much do Narconon and other ABLE businesses contribute? What is the current status and the future of the entire constellation of ABLE-related entities, including Narconon?  What is the financial impact to the cult?  What is likely to affect the fortunes of these businesses?  What percentage of recruitment of new members or new employees for the cult does Narconon comprise?  Is the business small enough that the cult could shutter it if legal issues continue to climb?  Or will the cult hang on because it is the only viable source of “fresh meat?”
  • International momentum: What is the current state of Scientology in key countries, especially outside the US?  Understanding this will allow us to determine whether the cult is retreating in reality, even if they continue to open new Ideal Orgs, such as the one announced recently in Buenos Aires.  Given the news in South Africa this week,
  • David Miscavige’s mental state: Is David Miscavige’s behavior rational?  Is it possible to develop a predictive model to estimate what Miscavige will do in a particular set of circumstances?  Colloquially, people say Miscavige is crazy.  It’s irrelevant whether he has a mental illness or even a diagnosable personality disorder.  What matters is whether there is a consistent model to assess what his likely responses are to situations. That way, if Miscavige suddenly starts behaving differently, it could be an important harbinger of change within the cult.
  • The king is dead; long live the king! What would happen if Miscavige were suddenly no longer the head of Scientology?  Would the organization simply shutter its doors?  Would a worthy successor be found? Or would the successor be so cowed and inept that the organization would implode slowly in an absurd soap opera?

How You Can Help

You can help by contributing your perspective.  What other questions should be on the list? Why are those important to understanding the cult and what can answering these questions help us decide?  Which of these questions don’t belong?  And for any of that, please help me understand why you think the way you do.  I promise I’m open to being convinced.

And of course, if you have any thoughts on data points that would help answer any of the numbers questions, or some valuable perspective that you haven’t seen anyone else understand, then this is the place.

I’ll produce a final “Predicting the Future: The Big Questions” document after the discussion here has settled down. Thanks in advance for your help!

  • Graham

    On the subject of new member recruitment: Some anti-gay fundamentalist Christian groups, finding their message falling on stony ground in the US have been exporting their philosophy to less sophisticated parts of the world where they have been having some success. Is this model relevant to $cientology? As the pool of new recruits dries up in ‘the west’ will they nevertheless be able to expand in less ‘savvy’ parts of the world? Admittedly these people are poorer, but a small contribution from a large number of victims can still add up.

    • Snippy_X

      Footnote: Clark Carr has been working hard to get Narconon going in the Galapagos. If they get government funding, it doesn’t matter to them how impoverished the people are.

      • OrangySky

        This worries me greatly. The spread of the Scientology virus into third world countries.

      • Gerard Plourde

        Are you sure it’s the Galapagos? They’re a territory of Equador and their total population of the islands is 25,000.

        • Snippy_X

          yes, bizarre but true:

          “We were excited at the reception we received from government agencies, schools and radio and television stations during our stay in the Galapagos,” said Dr. Tagliaferro. “The Health Ministry is building their first drug rehabilitation center for the islands. After we presented recently at the 14th International Toxicology Conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador, they invited us to come out and present Narconon rehabilitation technology, possibly for use in their future center, and also to deliver our drug prevention curriculum to their schools. We were happy to share our four decades of worldwide experience.”

          http://www.prweb.com/releases/narconon-techonology/to-galapagos-islands/prweb11301814.htm

        • Apparently it’s becoming a problem there, and the Galapagos are becoming a useful way station for shipments from South America to points west of there:

          Narconon International Introduces Its Life-Saving Addiction Recovery Technology to Galapagos Islands

          An invitation to visit the Galapagos Islands to present both drug rehab technology and drug education seminars results in broad popularity for Narconon program.

          …………………………………

          The Galapagos lie dead center in the drug trafficking channel that extends from South America to Mexico and the US. Every year, there are huge seizures of cocaine in this channel. In 2013, there was a $500 million seizure of cocaine in May and a $78 million seizure in August

          This is from the Narconon Internation website, if you Google drug addiction in the Galapogos it’s the first hit after 3 or so ads for drug addiction treatment. I’m not posting the link for obvious reasons.

          • SuperModel#1

            So marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and tortoises are too to be besmirched by these atrocious fiends. I feel like flying down there and taking them out myself.

          • John P.

            Since I am wise in the ways of supermodels, this sounds like an unmistakable hint for where I might want to decide to take us on our next vacation.

            I will have to ask the pilots in the Global Capitalism HQ aviation department if the Gulfstream can make it non-stop from NYC; we may be forced to fly commercial just this once.

          • And I don’t rent cars!

            Dear John P, err…, I mean SuperModel#1, what kind of Super Model are you?!

            You wrote, “I feel like flying down there and taking them out myself.” Besides being beautiful, what on earth… other talents do you have? And, if I may ask, what kind of cosmetics do you wear on the runway (not the one for Global Capitalism HQ’s Gulfstream) or pack in your make up travel case? Pung Fu* Foundation? Mixed Martial Arts Moisturier? Marine Corps Martial Arts Mascara? Echani* Eyeliner? Baton Francais Eye Brow Liner (or simply Brow Beating Eye Brow Liner)? Emerson Combat Systems Eye Shadow? Freestyle Fighting False Eyelashes?… ?… !

            Or do you simply use M.A.C. Cosmetics only (Modern Army Combatives Martial Arts)?

            Respectfully,

            Cars

            *Pung Fu: A fictional Asian martial art for women, in a Norwegian comic. It is all about
            kicking men in the groin (the word “pung” can translate “testicles”).

            *Echani: It is a martial art developed by Echani people and is used across the galaxy by
            many people and security organizations. In echani fighters use strikes which come from their hips, they pivot their body and hips to make their strikes stronger and use many nerve strikes and pressure points. They turn to the side to present smaller target area, and for defense they intercept enemy attacks by striking the limb that carries the attack. The art has three circles or forms and higher levels are performed with weapons, though use of the Force is forbidden.

          • SuperModel#1

            Dear Mr. Cars,

            You certainly must know that strong is the new beautiful! I like to think of myself as something more
            along the lines of the attached image:

            A woman who is graceful, well-mannered, and assertive (in
            the nicest way of course), as well as outdoorsy, capable, creative and ever so
            slightly wanton. Only the head of Global
            Capitalism truly understands all this entails….
            In answer to your questions about products, I enjoy a
            variety of interesting cosmetics, many of which can be purchased at any Sephora
            or Body Shop. I must tell you that I
            have a secret weakness for La Mer. Don’t
            tell anyone. A girl has to have some
            things up her sleeve for those dry, winter days. By the way, If you are confusing me with John P. it’s probably time for me to step up my game. Thanks for the heads up!

            Martial arts are all about being centered, breathing, and
            using one’s opponent’s chi against him.
            If I were to guess, Aikido would be most effective against this
            cult. One simply awaits their missteps
            and uses momentum against them. I look
            forward to seeing M in a wristlock very soon.

            Best to you!

          • Don’t forget the finches!

          • SuperModel#1

            And the finches!!!

          • Gerard Plourde

            I saw that article and wondered if it was written to get more donations from the clams here. For example, I wonder whether it’s actually true that the Galapagos lie in the “dead center” of the drug trafficking channel from South America to Mexico. Would a drug trafficker in a boat go 200 miles west then north to Mexico? And even if they did use the sea lane, would they stop in the Galapagos? (Sorry for the double post. Still getting the hang of adding picture files).

          • John P.

            I too was suspicious of that claim. I seem to recall hearing that ship landings in the islands are fairly tightly controlled so that cruise ships and private yachts don’t come in and over-use the wildlife. This is one of the major, if not the major tourist draws in the country, so they want to protect it. So I would have to believe that they are tightly patrolled and drug smugglers would have a hard time sheltering in some of the protected islands.

            Also, I did a quick flyover on Google Maps. The two largest towns, Puerto Ayora (main tourist town) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (capital and location of the airport) don’t seem to have major fuel storage depots (or even a couple of smaller tanks), so I doubt the islands are used as fueling stops for “fishing boats” that are heading on long journeys.

            Also, ships stopping in the Galapagos for “points west” have only gone about 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador before they reach the islands, and drugs being smuggled to, say Japan and China, have a very long ways to go after that — probably at least 4,000 miles. Doesn’t sound like all that ideal a location there.

            This almost sounds like some modern cult minion’s version of one of Hubbard’s “seafaring tales,” where even rowing around a pond on a sunny Sunday becomes an epic battle against the elements like Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”

          • I did a bit of Googling, the only reference I could find to a cocaine shipment close to the amount they referenced in May of this year took place in the Caribbean.

            There was a shipment intercepted north of the Galapagos worth 82 million, and another in the Western Caribbean, both shipments come up to the 500 Million figure they cite in the article. It could be that they are going out further west and then north to avoid being intercepted by the military closer to the coastline of SA on their way to points north, but it would make more sense that the shipments would be westbound for the thriving Western Pacific market.

            http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/30/justice/massive-cbp-cocaine-seizure/

            There was a 78 million dollar seizure in August of this year, I excerpted from the article about it below. I doubt that they used the islands as a trans-shipping point, they might’ve dropped a few kilos or so there for sale locally at the utmost.

            Less than a week on station in the 4th Fleet area of responsibility, servicemen seized 2,123 pounds of cocaine from a fishing vessel north of the Galapagos Islands.

            http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2013/aug/16/rentz-cocaine-interdiction/

            This does support your hypothesis that they’re misrepresenting the figures and location of the seizures in order to get more funding for their scam.

    • John P.

      At one level, the exporting of anti-gay nonsense to Africa is somewhat similar to what the cult may be trying to do. But on a closer look, it’s not clear that they are the same thing.

      The main difference is that the anti-gay crusaders are not only sending ideas and doctrine to Africa; they’re sending tons of money. And they’re essentially trying to co-opt the existing churches there to get them to shift doctrine to include anti-gay elements. In other words, they’ve got a ready made host that just needs money.

      On the other hand, the cult is all about extracting money from any lands it enters. The greatest anti-gay success so far has been in Nigeria, which has a per-capita GDP of $2,500 (even with all that oil money), and that’s certainly not attractive to Miscavige. South Africa, btw, has a per-capita GDP of $10,700 (we’re using World Bank 2010 numbers here; I published something else yesterday that used 2012 data). So if you started signing up Nigerians, you’re not exactly going to get rich with this particular scam all that quickly.

      The cult tends to pull slaves from Latin America and Eastern Europe, if I am recalling correctly lots of anecdotal comments over the last few months. I think part of this may be Miscavige’s racism and xenophobia.

  • Science Doc

    Treatment Strategies: One of the big questions should include the best means or practices to get information to members and facilitate their movement out of RCS. Scientology stayed under the radar for its first few decades and members had no source of information about it other than from church entities. That has changed big time, especially in the past year. How do we best capitalize on this to get information to members of various classes, public, staff, and SO?

    Inoculation Strategies: What demographics are most vulnerable to recruitment and how do we most effectively raise their concern about potential recruitment?

    Miscavige’s Stats: The COB is a life-long Scientologist. He is largely above the rules, and he makes new ones all the time, but his thinking is grounded in Scientology Ethics. I suspect that as membership waned he started inventing other metrics that he could rely on as positive indicators of his affluence. Hence, the Idle Org push. When he sits down, maybe on Thursday at 2, to evaluate his own stats, or those of his inner circle, what exactly is he counting and graphing?

  • aurora50

    John P.: here is a searchable database provided by the Pinellas County Tax Assessor’s Office. You can scroll over the maps, search by address, plat page, etc.

    http://egis.pinellascounty.org/apps/PropertyAppraiser/paotpv/

  • The Desert Father

    It is the advent and proliferation of the Internet, and the consequential free dissemination of OT materials that has better established the cult, making its demise less likely.
    Let me explain.
    When I first encountered the cult back in 1988, (pre-Internet), its focus leaned towards academia and pysch-brutality. e.g. the Mind is a computer, a Science of the Mind, The Philadelphia Doctorate course (PDC), The OCA Test (Oxford Capacity Analysis), Freedom Magazine, “Man the Unfathomable”, Vitamins, and the occasional demonstration outside a local children’s hospital if there was any chance of publicity and birthday game stats.

    Today I perceive the focus has markedly moved away from science and firmly into the arenas of religion and human rights. Ah yes, the cult has discovered human rights. Science has been replaced with faith and academic perfection with fanaticism.

    This shift is, in my opinion, the product of the free availability of the OT cosmology and the reduced discourse defending it. As an impressionable inductee back in 1988, I was told that reading the OT3 materials – before I was ready – would likely result in my body death. Today, any reference to this material during TV interviews is met not with the protests of the impending danger that such relevations will pose, but the offence it causes parishioners, always assuming of course the existence of these materials is acknowledged at all. (This is the tactic Tommy Davis once used in an interview with CNN).

    However, the Internet far from heralding the end-game has provided an unforeseen bonus for the cult – leaving aside the obvious economic advantages. The march of technology has forced the organisation to survive by draping itself in its religious credentials, allowing it to demand faith above proof and becoming more extreme as a result – and more able to justify such behaviour. Furthermore, criticism of a “religion” espousing “human rights” renders the accuser liable to counter accusations of bigotry.

    We can analyse the Church of Scientology and its cosmology and draw the inevitable conclusions. It is ridiculous. And so are the tenets of many established religions if one looks at the esoterica closely enough. Sadly, those who want to believe will always be very easy to convince.

    And there lies the problem.

    • Gerard Plourde

      I think that the question of whether there will always be believers in Scientology and the validity of their beliefs or lack thereof is separable from the question whether the organization founded by L. Ron Hubbard and currently headed by David Miscavige will continue to exist. John’s focus is on the latter.

      • Anonymous

        Gerard Plourde,

        I think your point is important.

        It is true the church is currently emphasizing its religious nature in its PR and to some small degree, in the way it defends its actions. However there is no money in piety and Scientology has ALWAYS been about money.

        And while the internet may allow the church to hypocritically proclaim its concerns about the human rights of nameless others, the record of its treatment of its own parishioners and staffers has been broadly published on the internet to such a degree that recruitment of new members in industrialized countries has dropped to near zero.

        It is also now true that when a newly disaffected member crosses the Rubicon and starts looking on the internet, they are likely to see many of their old, long lost fellow members already happily sharing their experiences and new found freedoms.

        I’m not going to declare the church hopeless, because it has proven resilient in the face of tough odds before. However it does seem to be severely wounded and bleeding out. It could be reduced beyond a laughing stock to long-term irrelevancy if it continues much longer on its current downward trajectory.

  • Unloyalofficer

    Hi John, great blog, thank you for doing this for us.
    I’ll try to help a little, with the Data I know, especially on recruitment. I have for the most part, been out of the church since 2004, with the exception of a few events, and reg cycles. I believe I was declared, but nothing in writing, just friends disconnecting. Anyway, what I do know is I do see active recruiting around town for the cult(I live in Southern California. One example is I was at the Mexican Independence day celebration in downtown Santa Ana a couple months ago, and the staff(or volunteers) were handing out promo, a lot of it ended up on the ground. I also see “stress tests, and Dianetic book kiosks around town, mainly at County fairs, and various festivals, and I have seen stress tests on Hollywood Blvd. There is also a Dianetic book kiosk in a shopping center, near where I live in Irvine selling Dianetics books, I am not sure its still there and didn’t see it listed online, but it was a few months ago. In addition to that billboards litter town in a few places, and on buses, and benches. I have also seen OCA graphs(personality tests) in Penny Saver magazines.
    I also know that they hang out in central casting, recruiting actors for films, I talked to one who was recruited, and they described the experience as pretty positive, and they were there to do a job, and no one forced them to sign up or anything, they raved about all the great food that was there, for an unemployed actor I guess its a pretty big deal. My guess is they kind of wine and dine them, and get them impressed, and interested in finding out more about Scientology.

    Sometimes people go door to door, selling books, and giving out OCAs I used to do that back in the day.

    I hope that helps some.

    • aurora50

      “…wine and dine them”

      the ironies aboundeth…

    • OrangySky

      How fascinating, Unloyalofficer.

      When I read Tony’s story on Manuela being sucked into the cult, it was a like a jolt that made me realize, their methods are still powerful. Their “brand” may be forever tarnished, but they can still get to the vast pool of people who don’t pay attention and the methods of indoctrination are so effective, if they can get their fresh meat far enough into the process, they can still do considerable damage.
      I know of a celebrity who was sucked in by another more famous celebrity and the new celebrity has also brought family members into the cult, and has even tried to attract employees. All this in the past couple years. To me, that’s a big “HUH?” I was pretty shocked. Who would join Scientology NOW? But it still happens.
      I think this is one of the Big Questions, John P.
      Who are the people who still get sucked in. And how can they be warned?

      I think because of the internet and the brand damage, it will be harder to get Whales and publics, but Sea Org membership – slave labor – will still continue to be a problem, especially targeting the young, the resourceless, immigrants, foreign nationals, etc.
      I think it is up to critics and exes to enlist the media, and make the innoculation of society in general against Scientology much stronger.

    • John P.

      Sorry to take so long to get back; it’s taken a while to get to the 400+ items in my inbox to reply to. Thanks for the perspective. It’s interesting to see a relatively high degree of activity for recruiting in SoCal; that’s more than I would have expected.

      They’re essentially invisible in NYC, with the only activity I have personally seen being occasional book tables at the 125th Street stop on the 4/5/6 subway.

      I have also heard that they treat the actor crowd well, in part because if they put too much pressure on to join the cult at the job site, it could be actionable as harassment and it could ultimately make it harder to hire actors in the future, since there are a number of casting call sites where people can comment about various producers.

      I’d be interested in whether others notice book kiosks in malls, particularly as we head into the holidays, since this is the second time today I’ve seen this particular channel mentioned — yesterday’s story in the Buffalo News (http://www.buffalonews.com/life-arts/religion/is-scientologys-ad-campaign-aimed-at-sprucing-up-its-image-20131118) has a commenter who notes that they used kiosks at malls recently. That’s a fairly high priced channel, much more so than handing stuff out at county fairs.

  • Gerard Plourde

    Financial Issues (including contributions from Narconon and ABLE) – Although I have no solid data on which to base my opinion I continue to believe that the financial condition of the cult is more precarious than is generally believed. My reasons for holding this theory basically boil down as follows –

    1. Membership (which was never extensive) is declining and those members who remain are either becoming or already have been tapped out. (Even the whales don’t possess inexhaustible resources).

    2. The real estate owned by the cult is a consistent drain. Although it is widely perceived that the tax exempt status of the cult is a major plus for it, the truth is that most of the financial outlays real estate requires are not related to taxes. Maintenance and utility costs comprise a far bigger slice of the outflow. Although the slave labor available to it cuts the cost of actual repair the cost of materials cannot be avoided. The Idle Morgues and other church facilities have to be heated, air conditioned, lit and supplied with water. The cult also has to pay for telephone and internet service. The publishing facilities, Gold Base, Flag Land Base and the vault sites need these services as well. The operational and berthing costs of the Freewinds also are a drain. On balance, my guess is that this portion of the cult operates in the red.

    3. Costs that sustain Miscavige’s lifestyle also is an expense that must be assessed against income. While the labor costs are minimal because of his use of staff the costs associated with the care and feeding of DM must be factored in, i.e. the cost of fuel, insurance and wear and tear on his vehicles, of flying him to various Scientology facilities, of his food are probably taken off the top of any receivables.

    4. Reserves and any income they generate may be overestimated. Given Miscavige’s micromanagement it’s questionable how much investment advice he’d tolerate and consequently how effectively any cash reserves have been invested. It’s likely that the cult was not immune from the diminution that equities suffered in the crash of 2008 and the resultant recession.

    5. Income from Narconon and other cult entities. While WISE and ABLE probably contribute some it’s most likely that the main source of income here is Narconon. The cult could exploit the shortage of inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities that existed for a long time. The actual contributions would be dependent on the size of the facilities and how efficiently they were used (whether they were habitually filled to capacity with paying clients). Hubbard’s “Bodies in the shop” tech was probably fairly effective when used on abusers or concerned family members seeking treatment for an abuser. How much of these receivables generated could be banked depends on the net income of the other entities. My guess is that much of this is spent to prop up the church operations.

    • John P would be know more about interest rates and the like than I do, but I can tell you that my

  • Drat

    Income may be derived from completions lists in publications, current prices (where available) and estimate of timeframe covered, which is rarely provided. From that income, money goes to Int, the rest is spent on utilities, staff are rarely paid.

    New members are recruited using the recruitment drill, which Jon Atack’s recent comment on The Bunker showed is still sufficiently effective. My local org regularly has “stress tests” and staff members in shopping streets. So far, though, the only young staff members appear to be 2nd generation. I would suggest Scientology has not lost its appeal to some, but the cost will be out of reach for most.

    DM’s mental state: it seems irrational. I don’t believe a person can keep up those kind of rages over years as an act. However, I personally prefer to believe their is method and intention to his madness. If you take the utter destruction and ruin of the church and its members as a goal, his actions make perfect sense to me. There may be other ways to achieve it, but none that will ruin the brand or people forever.
    Mike pointed out recently that DM likes to dominate. I think he may be the type who will kick you when you’re down, meaning, he doesn’t know when to stop. He will dominate to the death.

    I see a couple post-coronation scenarios as somewhat likely:
    – A resourceful person will arise out of RTC or CLO/CMO. Perhaps even one of the current SO captains (Walter Kotric?). Should this person take over, we would likely witness a defamation campaign and similarly harsh justice actions as when DM removed M.S.H., DeVaugn and others in the late 70s/early 80s.

    – The current situation may turn into open and informed revolt, calling for a new leader. No idea at present who that might be (or who would even want the job).

    I do believe that Marty and Mike have made the most progress so far in educating people on the fence. From my own experience, they knew exactly which points to address and how to address them to get me thinking without going into defensive mode. Translation and distribution of at least Mike’s articles into a couple of key languages (German, French) would probably target the largest non-English speaking markets.

    My questions:

    – Wiki article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_analysis talks of the consumer. Could we approach this with CoS as the consumer, outlining actual vs. success/fail?

    – How about approaching it as a fundamentalist group rather than a corporation?

    • Spackle Motion

      I’m pretty sure that the 1/2 tone above rule started with our friend Kate Bornstein. She wrote about that in her book.

      • Drat

        Then let me rephrase that: by all means, do the financial analysis. Just bear in mind you are analysing a group that can run on a lot less than any normal corporation of this size. I have known staff to pay for office materials and use their mobile phones to make calls – possibly some have chipped in to pay for utilities. Go without pay most of the time. When does that happen in the corporate world? Just factor that in, otherwise your analysis will predict the end long before it ever actually arrives.

        Willingness to sacrifice is the other factor and is what I actually mean by membership attrition – that people no longer want to sacrifice their time or money to forward the cause.

        JohnP is sacrificing his time here on an interesting but globally insignificant organisation. Why? He’s fighting the good fight. Well, so are they, and they are willing to sacrifice much for it over many years. An organisation is people first and property second.

  • aurora50

    A pertinent (to the issue of DM mental state) comment made at the Bunker by Jeffrey Hawkins:

    “A common thread over the past few days is the seeming inability of Scientologists to communicate in “the real world.” They seem to be hampered at every turn by Hubbard’s fixed ideas about the proper way to deal with difficult situations.
    Tommy Davis receives an invitation from Tony to meet. He could have
    either ignored it or politely declined, and that would have been that.
    No, he has to launch an over-the-top attack – something that also marked
    his inept press handlings. He doesn’t seem to see that he made it
    worse.

    Same with Tom Cruise. He seems to have never heard of the Streisand
    Effect and does not understand that he has made the situation far worse
    by getting all huffy and litigious. Now he’s getting far worse press –
    and not just in the tabloids, How much classier would it have been for
    him to simply ignore it or laugh it off?

    One factor is Hubbard’s insistence that you never defend, you always
    attack. The other is the fixed idea that all of Scientology’s critics
    and all media are “1.1” (“covert hostility” on the Tone Scale). Hubbard
    says that to command or control any Tone Level, you just go one half to
    one tone above it – so the proper Tone Level to communicate to any
    critic is 1.0 (Anger) to 1.5 (Antagonism). That’s why you ALWAYS see
    Scientologists in any interview situation reacting with this faux anger
    and outrage. You can bet that all of the Desperate Wives were drilled,
    drilled, drilled on these principles. “More anger! More anger! Attack!
    Attack! Atttack!” That’s how any Scientologist is coached to deal with
    media. They would have been so much more effective if they had just been
    themselves.”

    • Spackle Motion

      I’m pretty sure that the 1/2 tone above rule started with our friend Kate Bornstein. She wrote about that in her book.

  • DeElizabethan

    I was told by a fairly reliable person that Flag itself took in 1 Million a day. This was early 2011. I was impressed with the glamor existing there. I can hardey believe it is that way now, if it was even then.

    • Spackle Motion

      Getting Amy Scobee’s husband (Matt…? I can’t remember his last name) to verify real numbers would be helpful with this one.

    • John P.

      That seems significantly high. I recall Mat Pesch, Amy Scobee’s husband, saying that he personally saw numbers of $2 million a week fairly consistently (not growing, not shrinking much) while he was there until the mid-aughts. $100 million is not exactly chump change, but they appear to have been increasingly propping that up by restricting services that the orgs (Class V and AO’s) can offer and requiring people to come to flag. I would have to believe that the number is a bit lower now, as they’ve run out of stuff to shift out of the orgs to keep propping up the Flag number.

      Edited to add: I accidentally clicked “post.”

      I think it’s high because if you divide $365 million by 20,000 active Scientologists (my current estimate is 25,000 including 5,000 staff), you get Flag taking in over $18,000 per member per year. This seems high since it requires significant travel to get to Flag and stay there for what could easily be 3-4 weeks or more, and not a lot of people have that flexibility.

  • OrangySky

    If DM falls tomorrow – either via a coup, a criminal charge or simply by fleeing with as much cash as he can carry – what will happen to the cult?
    Will there be a new DM (as suggested below) rising from the ranks of the SeaOrg?
    Likely, there will be a fierce power struggle before the new dictator is chosen. Such a power struggle along could be enough to end the church for good.
    But whatever removes Miscavige will be such a shock to the system of the church, there will be “enturbulation” throughout the entire ranking. It may be the opportunity for many to get up and leave.
    In a perfect world, the entire corporate structure would come tumbling down, the IRS would seize the Idle Morgues and the Fed would take whatever was left of Scientology’s ill-gotten gains and create a fund for ex-Sea Org to begin a new life.
    Will the ideas of Scientology go away? No. We can only hope what is left of it will be kinder and less crazy. Will there be people who still consider L Ron Con Man Hubbard to be the greatest genius who ever lived? Yes. Sadly.
    I think the complete dismantling of the corporate structure should be the goal – especially when we think about Scientology’s growing presence in the 3rd world. Those people have to be protected. The snake must be cut off at the head.

    Oh – and there are questions about the financial drain on the company caused by the empty Idle Morgues. Am I mistaken, but aren’t the Orgs responsible for their own utlilities?

    Does Scientology have to pay property taxes for the Orgs?

  • Eclipse-girl

    As to recruitment : I would ask for investigation into the India. I have read one link about India from Tony’s blog, posted more than 1 yr ago about an org in Mumbai

  • Sarah James

    I am frustrated by the lack of media attention. I keep thinking about all the young people dieing in Narconons. Emily Morton’s Mom… The disconnections Lori,Cindy Mishell and so many others. Tom Cruise will be old news soon, will the general public remember anything but the names of Tom, Katie,and Suri?
    When Lisa McPherson died I believed the cult would get the attention and the consequences for all of it’s actions. I was so wrong.

  • aquaclara

    Good questions all…
    Following the money:
    I come back to the importance of identifying the sources of funds (what are they plus how much) and uses of funds (again, categories and dollar estimates).
    If we see how this has changed over time, we could perhaps get to projections.

    On the people side:
    What are the counts? By business units. Trends. New recruitment.

    Information:
    Can we identify the sources of information to see, for example, if tax reporting is available, any FOI info out there that could be requested? This would add to our ability to data mine.

  • Narapoid

    Regarding the end of Miscavige.

    The master cultist in talking about leaving a position of Power said to take a big pot of cash and lots of black mail for those left behind. (Paraphrasing)

    If little Nero takes his cash and blows, not even getting into where he would go, that would leave the Degraded at Int Base to pick up the pieces. I think he has another “strategy” that a vain and stupid monster would use: Throw all of the Degraded from the Hole under the bus, and he just walks.

    Their names are on all the documents, (last I heard is that 80-year-old Heber Jentzch is still the president of Church of Scientology International (CSI)) but he really hasn’t had a role in anything except roll call at The Hole. John Broussard, one of the last souls to get out said the whole line of execs looked broken and defeated. JB left three years ago.

    I believe that Miscavige thinks he can throw these broken souls into the court cases and have them fall on their swords one last time. He is forgetting that while Moxon or Yingling may send incompetent witnesses straight out of a mind control complex into deposition (it would be a monster gamble to put these shaky people on the stand), a real attorney will not endanger their career on that foul proposition. Miscavige however…

    The first of this may be seen in the Garcia case as the Scio attorneys have not even provided a list of the trustees. I’ll bet they are Hole dwellers. Even now they are trying to get them into some sort of human form to handle this high pressure situation. It worked OK with the ex-wives on Anderson Cooper, but a real lawyer will feel (slightly) guilty about dismantling them in testimony to reveal broken people inside.

    For a piece of WILD speculation/wishful thinking, the court may find all of the trustees to be so incompetent and obviously manipulated as to call for protective custody and possibly refer charges, if it can be determined who and what should be charged.

    Thanks for your Blog John P, now I can sleep after reading Kevin Tighe’s post from yesterday’s Bunker.

  • 1subgenius

    I would like to address certain terminology that is used, or avoided, when discussing the so-called “Church of Scientology”.

    Tony Ortega, in particular, makes a point of avoiding any discussion of brainwashing, or whether it is a cult. His avoidance of it I understand as being the result of his particular perspective, that of a journalist. He has to be focused on digestible news events. Whether or not Scientology is a cult or engages in brainwashing is not news, and would distract from the numerous current happenings.

    And neither of those issues is helpful under current laws. The so-called “Church of Scientology” can and will be found to be in violation of more mundane
    criminal statutes. You can insert Al Capone analogy here.

    Tony (no, I’m not bashing him) has on a number of occasions pointed out that the issue of brainwashing has not been brought up in a couple of the current lawsuits, the Garcias’, and Monique Rathbun’s. I believe that he also mentioned Laura DiCrecenzo’s in this context, although in that case in fact they attempted to offer expert evidence on the subject.

    The difference in approaches in the lawsuits is similar to the reasons why Tony
    avoids the terms. The issue is unnecessary and in fact irrelevant to the
    Garcias’and Monique’s lawsuits. The issue of brainwashing is completely
    relevant to the issue of the delay in Laura’s filing.

    Another reason why the terms brainwashing and cult are avoided is because of the
    varying definitions for the terms. Inevitably arguments arise because people
    have different views of what those words mean.

    To avoid either one of them, or an equivalent term, is to ignore the 900 pound gorilla on the porch. There is a definition for each of those words which fits the
    so-called “Church of Scientology” perfectly, and in fact describes its essential nature and provides an explanation for its existence and behavior.

    For instance, it is often asked how intelligent people, much less an average
    person, could get caught up in Scientology. It is brainwashing pure and simple.
    The definition of that word that fits is along the lines of “a coercive persuasion hypnotic mind control technique”. You can insert a few other words, and I would if
    I wanted to take the time.

    It is very well documented that L Ron Hubbard used hypnotic techniques, and he devised a system of automated brainwashing that is also self-perpetuating. People are taught to brainwash other people even though they don’t know they are doing it. And people are even taught to brainwash themselves. It’s an evil thing, that lives on after his death. He truly “smashed his name into history”.

    30 years ago when I became interested in mind control cults by reading the book “Snapping”, I came to the realization that they would not be controlled adequately until science and the law developed techniques to determine whether and when someone was operating under free will, or was mentally enslaved. Until that time we
    have to wait until current laws are broken, and many will suffer because of
    abusive behavior that fall short of particular laws.

    I’ll leave the discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a cult for another time, but only say that there is certainly a definition that fits like a glove.

    • Gerard Plourde

      In law the concept of overcoming the judgment and will of an individual to influence his/her ability to decide freely is well known and goes by the unsexy term “undue influence”. While not spelled out directly in the decisions issued so far, mentions made of Laura’s age and the control the cult exercised over her are the building blocks that underlie the finding that undue influence was exerted. The use of the term “brainwashing” in Laura’s lawsuit to describe the situation is unnecessary and inflammatory.

      • 1subgenius

        Your point is taken. I didn’t mean to say they used that particular word.(brainwashing). They did attempt to offer expert testimony on something beyond undue influence.
        I do believe there is something beyond “undue influence” that the law does not address.
        And my point is that whatever that is called is an essential element of Scientology and needs to be addressed directly..
        Undue influence is quite limited in its real world usefulness.

        • Gerard Plourde

          “Undue influence is quite limited in its real world usefulness.”

          True. Outside of the courtroom descriptions using terms like “mind-control” and “brainwashing” are needed to convey the evil to the general public. The way of introducing it is tricky, though. To use it as an initial point of argument exposes the cult opponent to charges of being intolerant of others’ beliefs. I think the best way to get to the point is to give examples of what members do (disconnection, going into bankruptcy to pay for course, submission to forced abortion in the Sea Org, etc.) Issues like this raise the question “Why would any sane person do that?” in most people’s minds and opens the door to a discussion of the techniques used to bring a cult member to that state.

    • OrangySky

      I think there’s a real problem in that, as you said, science and law enforcement have not yet come up with any kind of definitive mechanism to ‘measure’ the influence of mind control on a person. Therefore, the argument remains by some not familiar with this fascinating subject that Scientology belief is a product of influence, just like buying a certain brand can be a product of influence or persuasion (advertising.)

      I’ve been fascinated by mind control for a long time, also, and what I’ve learned from my study is that it is frighteningly easy to ‘brainwash’ a person. That is why I hate it when new folks on the Bunker will say, “Well, I have a level head, so that would never happen to me.” When it comes to undue influence, never say never. But there are so many levels of this phenomenon that right now it looks like a losing battle to try and quantify it.

      Perhaps certain obviously hypnotic techniques could be quantified (by MRI results, brain scan results, perhaps?) Forced sleep deprivation is another potentially measurable piece of data. But at the moment, the only hard stuff that can be used legally is the outright coercion (for example, the Sea Org physically preventing Laura D from getting in the van to go see her mother.) And of course, the old reliable “false imprisonment,” which I wonder isn’t used more often against Scientology. I recall the techniques used to keep Nancy Many and her husband in the RPF in Big Blue (before they escaped) absolutely constituted false imprisonment, because they refused to sign the “voluntary” RPF forms.

      It is a larger discussion, and I understand why Tony won’t go there. It’s a losing battle in America because of the damn religious argument – a hardcore atheist will claim that a hardcore Christian is brainwashed, for example. And who is to say that chanting, praying, meditating, confessionals, stand-kneel-stand-kneel routines aren’t mildly hypnotic in themselves?

  • Penny

    I think the question of how many current public are “under the radar” is something to look at. It should become much more evident when we see the turn out for these upcoming Flag events. How many members have stopped feeding the cannibal? How many are not coming out publicly due to fear of disconnection from friends and family? If the disconnection machine get’s broken, I think there will be a mass exodus. For a few years before I walked, I started not liking much that was happening organizationally. I hated the events, continuous phone calls, regging every minute of the day, redoing old stuff endlessly. Now, here’s the kicker. They are promoting this new product “super power” as the be all, end all of any tech ever. I have been in the chair with a Golden Age of Tech auditor and that’s when I ran for the nearest exit after 42 years.

    • John P.

      Exactly right. That question is now on the list. And it’s an important question because we can use this to estimate what happens to sales/profits but also to the reserves.

      It’s important to try to segment the membership into different categories, to try to get a sense of what each different type of member will spend per year on Scientology. That helps us to estimate the cult’s sales, or to cross-check our estimates that we develop through other methodologies. For example, members in Buenos Aires aren’t going to contribute as much to the cult on average as members in Hollywood, because inflation in Buenos Aires, currently running at about 25% per year, is eating a hole in the disposable income of the citizens of that country, since they have to pay more for food and fuel. So even if we got a very accurate estimate of the number of members in Buenos Aires, if we just used one per-capita “donation” figure for all members worldwide, we’d get a very inaccurate revenue estimate.

    • aegerprimo

      Then there are people like me who have not been involved with Scientology for years, but over the past 3 years I am flooded with mail and inundated with phone calls from various Co$ orgs…

      • aegerprimo

        BTW, they have tried to sell me books, but I do not fall for that “hard sell” thing anymore. But I wonder, do any who have been uninvolved with the Co$ and off the “bridge” for years, do they buy – anything?

      • Penny

        This speaks of desperation…not yours, of course, theirs! This is Mike quote today on his blog in reference to disconnection.
        November 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        “Believe me, if disconnection is abolished, the church will be gone soon thereafter. For a LOT of people it is the ONLY thing that is keeping them “in line.””

  • bAnon

    I know it’s a HUGE can of worms, but should there be a ‘Big Question’ about the cult and the IRS? How is it that their ‘agreement’ with the IRS is sealed? Are they (and all of the front groups) complying to those terms? Does it make any sense to examine the cult/IRS relationship?

    • John P.

      I think that is a very interesting question to answer, not only in conjunction with the cult, but in conjunction with how any organization in the future can use tax exemption to milk the system. And it is a great human story to try to understand on the motivations of the IRS to writing a deal that has all sorts of stench when you look at the circumstances.

      I would not say that it is a question that belongs on this particular list, however. The key guiding principle for including a question on this list is how answering this question enables us to predict the scenario for the end of the cult, and thus, how we can bring that about faster.

      I don’t think that the end game for the cult will change materially if the cult loses their tax exemption tomorrow. I may will be in the minority of readers on Tony’s blog in reaching this conclusion. Losing the tax exemption won’t change their conduct in a way that leads to a substantially faster demise. Even the threat of losing the exemption is not likely to cause them to behave better; they remain convinced they’re above “wog law.”

      Smaller profits every year, or even larger operating losses, won’t much matter in view of the size of the reserves and the ability of those reserves to keep them in business for decades even if they do nothing right going forward. It might mean that the cult goes out of business in 17 years instead of 20, but that’s not all that significant.

      As I tried to illustrate in my example relating to stock picking: there are lots of questions that are important to think about and lots of data to monitor in conjunction with analyzing a company like Microsoft, but not all of it is relevant in deciding whether their stock will go up or down in the short to medium term.

  • Couch_Incident

    This is off the cuff, but I would suggest a line of inquiry regarding the (nominal) corporate structure of Scientology and each of the entities’ (nominal) trustees/directors and officers.

    I think most of us here would agree that the above is “in name only” and does not reflect the fact that Miscavige is Scientology’s sole dictator, authority, and beneficiary. However, the question is important for the following reasons:

    1. As suits continue and multiply, it will be important to know how the power (and money) is supposed to flow;
    a. Knowing in advance will avoid the diversity issues plaguing the Garcia case;
    b. Individual Director/Trustees and Officers (“DTOs”) can be named as defendants in suits (which is what will surely happen if Garcia is removed from the federal courts and the Garcias have the stomach to pursue it in California state courts) and it will be helpful to have the information publicly known. Either:
    i. DTOs will be held accountable for their breach of fiduciary duties to the entity and possibly the commission of individual fraud in their positions (which, I’ve
    argued before, would put them individually in harm’s way without the benefit of any Director & Officer insurance that the entity might hold); or
    ii. More likely, it will become apparent in the course of suits naming DTOs that such DTOs are in fact not free to exercise their fiduciary duties and are not decision
    makers. For example, there has been speculation that some of the DTOs are in the Hole and are not free to operate at all. Possibly the individuals do not even know that they have been named DTOs (this would be consistent with the theory that Miscavige would not empower anyone to challenge him, even theoretically). At least some of the DTOs are likely to be lawyers beholden to Miscavige who are not likely to exercise independent judgment, but who have been “dutiful” to their master in
    filing minutes, etc. If the DTOs are shown to be figureheads, then piercing the corporate veil to target the real power centers becomes easier (and more embarrassing).

    2. If it becomes apparent that DTOs are being targeted, Miscavige will be under pressure to show that they are doing something and going through the motions (e.g., attending and conducting annual meetings). If the individuals know that they are named as DTOs, what their supposed powers and responsibilities are, and who their fellow DTOs are, then they could, at some point, become a power center independent of Miscavige (which, of course, is how it is supposed to appear). This could become important in the extreme case where Miscavige flees or is otherwise incapacitated and the DTOs are the ones with the authority (on paper) to replace him/exercise power. Similarly, the Directors/Trustees would be the ones with the responsibility to oversee the Officers and their actions – if the Officers are committing fraud and it is not the policy of the Directors/Trustees, they need to take action or they will be viewed as complicit.

    3. Relatedly, if the DTOs realize that they may be individual targets of suits, they will be under pressure to show that they are exercising some sort of independent judgment consistent with their fiduciary duties to avoid individual liability. I doubt this will lead the Scientologist DTOs to do anything differently than what the COB wants, but it may give the non-Scientologist DTOs pause about rubber-stamping Miscavige’s decrees without at least a cursory look.

    I think the above explains why Scientology has been loath to disclose the identities of their DTOs for each of their entities. Recall it is generally not required to name the DTOs, (at least for non-profits), so the federal discovery in Garcia (naming the DTOs and possibly investigating their true involvement, if any) may give birth to the Phoenix rising from its ashes.