A/N: Yes, I know it’s supposed to be seven; when doing research for this post, however, I was gratified to get such wonderful responses from various journalists, activists, and other members of the anti-cult movement, that the wealth of wisdom I collected could not be contained in seven points. In this Brave New World of internet activism, one need only ask to receive information: I humbly thank all my various sources, amongst them the irrepressible humanitarian and anti-cult activist Tory “Magoo” Christman as well as the ever-knowledgeable journalist and “Wise Beard Man,” Mark Bunker. Additional support, material, and encouragement came from all the wonderful people at the S.P. Café, Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker, S.P. International, and many other fine anti-Scientology and anti-cult message boards and forums.
- Hold a Sign – It’s important to remember who your audience is, or rather, audiences. Unlike many other protests, you have two completely separate targets you will want to address – the ordinary public, and active, indoctrinated Scientologists. As you might imagine, the signs that work best on the general public are completely ineffective with the people conditioned to blank out the facts, and the phrases that seem to work best to cut through the “Truman Show” shell of the cult member’s conditioning will only leave the man on the street scratching his head.
To reach an entrapped cult member, keep in mind that facts aren’t going to work; your average clam will have a dozen thought-stopping phrases to counter any statistic you could bring to the table. However, there seem to be a few phrases that have been proven to work – “Doubt Is Not a Crime” and “It’s Safe to Look” are helpful because they directly address a cult member’s cognitive dissonance, letting them know that it’s okay to notice that things aren’t “all right.” Reassurances like “We’ll Be Here for You” and “I blew; so can you!” are equally as effective from the different tack of emotional acceptance, something a cult member is generally starving for.
You can use facts when composing signs for the public; it’s better, actually, to keep your sign as factual as possible. Sensationalism might grab attention, but the topic is sensational enough, and inaccuracies ultimately hurt any cause using them for support. So, do your research: if you have time and inclination, pick one of the many people who died all too soon, or had their lives ruined – listed on a reliable website (there are a fair few; just google “Scientology Deaths”). Learn their story well enough to tell someone, then create a sign using the name and a picture, if available. “Why did X have to die?” or, “How did Scientology help X?”, backed up by a few minutes’ personal interaction with an interested member of the public, can put a solid, memorable face on the crimes we’re trying to expose. If you were in the cult, then you are a personal ambassador for the cause. One brilliant woman I know sometimes carries the sign: “Want to know about Scientology? Ask me. I was raised in it.”
Whichever your audience, the point of your sign is to draw peoples’ attention so that you can give them information personally, so keep your sign concise, to the point, and attractive with only a few primary colors for a clean look with high graphic impact. And for goshsakes, please make sure it’s spelled right and grammatically correct; carelessly made signs can detract from your message. And speaking of your message, bolster it with facts. We all know the websites, but Joe and Jane public don’t. It’s a great idea to print up a few cards or even flyers with the relevant websites, something they can take home and look up. You might very well have a new protester next time!
- Don’t Go Alone – This is very important! One veteran protester underscored the darker reason behind the use of masks; until very recently, facing down the Cult of Scientology was not without its dangers. Even now, you still might have to be careful you are not followed. However, there is safety in numbers and help is three digits away on your cell-phone, and it is more important to be out there than to be dissuaded by fear. Also, you are not only less likely to be bullied in a group, but also you’ll simply have more fun in a group than you will by yourself, and your friends will be there for emotional support if things get tense. Also, it’s best to go to your timing rather than the cult’s: although it seems counter-intuitive, it’s better to avoid their events such as Hubbard’s birthday or the Maiden Voyage, when they have heightened security. It’s much better to arrange a “flash mob” of friends and protest on an average day, when you’re not expected.
- Be Visible – This could fit into category one, but there’s a whole other dimension here. For any protest, it’s not as effective (not to mention not nearly as fun) to just stand there, looking like any other member of the public. The iconic Guy Fawkes masks are always stylish, but other looks work very well, too: Subgenii, show your slack with a Bob mask. I do not know if it has been tried, but I imagine that a public Scientologist on their way to course might get a slight crack in that Truman shell if they saw their diminutive dictator’s face amid the protesters – or even the likeness of the old fraud, L. Ron himself! It is important to note, though: if your local org is in a city with laws against wearing masks in public places, remember that a silly hat or a glitter boa can do wonders for not only your visibility but your self-confidence. You are out there to make a statement and to make yourself heard; this is no time to be shy. And remember, strange wigs and antennae on springs can help even the most timid of us break out of our shell.
- Keep Those Cameras Rolling – It’s a proven fact; clams behave better when on film. Besides, if there’s enough of you, one or two of them will be filming you, so apparently it’s only polite and expected. In these days when everyone has their camera-enabled cell-phone at their hip, this is easy enough to arrange. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a couple people in your group filming at all times; a recent incident with activist Tory Christman, when a belligerent Scilon deliberately bumped her camera arm, could have been documented and the man called out for assault. It goes without saying that if you see anything violent or illegal going on, keep a camera rolling but don’t forget to dial your emergency police number. Which brings me to the next point:
- Keep Yourself Safe – Thankfully, it’s a lot safer to speak out against the CO$, but remember this is the organization that still spends millions a year on private detectives. Now, we all know there are many good and fine people in that field, but consider a moment the caliber of person willing to lower his ethical standards enough to take a check from the cult’s coffers – and then remember that at least one embarrassment to his profession will be watching you. Carpooling is not only environmentally friendly, it’s easier to assure that everyone stays with the group and won’t be targeted alone. That brightly-colored and visible clothing I talked about in point three is not just for advertising, but for safety – most likely you’ll be near a busy intersection and you don’t want any accidents. Unfortunately, it won’t just be accidents you have to watch out for: Scilons in cars have tried to run into protesters when driving across picket lines, so it pays to keep to the curb. If something does happen, remember to keep filming, and dial that emergency number (if the offense is something minor, like someone taking down your car plate number, at least call the desk of the local constabulary and make a report – it’s important to document everything!). And remember, if you are attacked, do not retaliate! Remember, your mother raised you better than that. And, yes:
- Your Mother Was Right – Remember that you’re going to be outdoors for some time. For those of us in the northern regions, that means wrapping up for the extreme cold (except on those rare occasions when summer just happens to coincide with the weekend you’re planning a protest). Sensible, comfortable shoes are a must, as is a bottle of water (hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!). Layered clothes in cold climates and breathable clothes for hot regions are also essential, as is wet weather gear for any climate – remember, Los Angelites, the one day it rains all year is always the day you had something planned! (Remember, those emergency ponchos that fold up to fit in a pocket-sized pouch can be found inexpensively anywhere.) And speaking of those strange climes haunted by that big yellow thing you call the “sun,” remember your sunblock, your sunglasses, and your hats, and if you can, bring extra for the poor clam who’s been assigned to stand there in the heat watching you: he might remember later on that a ‘wog’ was kinder to him than anyone inside. And that leads to the next point:
- Stay Peaceful – This cannot be stressed enough. As tempting as it might be to “administer some butthurt” to the cult, remember that the person on the frontlines is not currently thinking correctly, and for all our nicknames of “Scilon,” “clam,” and “zombie,” there is still a person under there, and that person’s life really, really sucks right now. In the words of one veteran protester: “don’t harass the poor deluded batshit bonkers clams.” This person is not L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige, or anyone who has control over anything – be kind. Yes, they will be doing everything to get you annoyed, but they’re trained to do that, and do it well – they will bombard you with words, trying to bluster you into silence but also they will pepper the discussion with insults and accusations, looking for one of your sore points; if they touch one, think of it as desensitization therapy. Remain friendly, even humorous, and don’t be mean; chances are, you’re the friendliest face they’ve seen in a while. Unfortunately, you’ll also get mean remarks from the general public, who should know better but don’t seem to. Whatever you do, don’t take what anyone says personally, don’t lose your temper, and, most importantly, don’t break the law!
- Don’t Break The Law – Seriously. Don’t. This includes not only what should be obvious things like No Violence and Absolutely No Weapons, but less obvious things like not blocking the public throughway, or (although it’s tempting) their doorways and drives. Keep your intoxicants at home – save the partying for the after-party (and then always have a designated driver). If you’re in a country or even a region other than your own, be sure to ask a native friend to go along and keep you aware of the local laws and also how the police view protesters. Remember, things that might be okay in your home town might be looked at a completely different way somewhere else (as I’ve said above, make sure your mask is allowed in the city limits where you’re protesting; if it can’t cover your face, then put it away, or, better yet, put it on your shoulder or atop your sign). Many neighborhoods have noise statutes, so be aware of the noise level. Keep in mind that shouting can too often be taken as belligerent behavior (I only know personally of one protester who can pull off the “friendly shout” – it’s much harder than you think!). Which is why the next point is so important:
- Don’t shout – SING! We’ve had music longer than we’ve had language; it touches something deep inside us and reaches us in ways almost nothing else can. Only the sense of smell can control us more deeply, but, since modern science has yet to devise pheromones for use in civil demonstrations, we shall have to stick to song.
Putting new words to popular songs is a great way to get a message into a cult member’s head and crack their shell just a little more. You know how hard it is to get rid of a good earworm? Now imagine if that earworm had a message that a cult member isn’t supposed to hear… and yet they can’t help hearing it. The more familiar the song the better; even simple chants can hold wonderful power. Try a rhythmic chant such as “Larry blew! So can you!” (or Katie, or Haggis, or any good two-syllable name of well-known CO$ defector). Remember, you don’t have to sing well, just as long as you’re having fun. And that leads to my final point:
- HAVE FUN!!! More than one defector has said that their “cracking point” came when they saw just how much fun the protesters were having. Yes, your purpose is serious, but remember: we can laugh and joke. They can’t. Humor, joking, or any kind of frivolity is deeply frowned upon in the Sea Org. By having a good time, you’re providing a solid demonstration of why they need to leave. The spirit of community is stronger than the divisive, isolating tactics of the cult. Also, when you’re having fun and laughing and joking, it’s harder for them to believe that you’re an angry mob out to destroy humanity by making them fail. When you have fun, it raises everyone’s mood, and when people are happier, they act better, so that makes for a more polite protest. Remember, it’s called civil disobedience (yes, I know the word does not take the same definition here; nonetheless, it’s a damn good line). In the words of a great Delta Quadrant philosopher: “it’s nice to be nice.”
Above all, though, the most important thing is just to show up. Remember that you’re there to raise awareness and crack a few “Truman Show” bubbles. And most importantly: