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Attacking the Attacker: Why it’s an admission of failure

August 1, 2009

How does a sane person react to criticism?

Let’s take your Uncle Fred, who seems to like the bottle too much. He always has alcohol on his breath and yells at his kids a lot. So you take it up with him. Does he:

  1. Take your concern to heart and promise to do better, or
  2. Deny he has a problem and viciously attack you for bringing it up, loudly criticizing your actions and failings to the rest of the family.

Or let’s take an organization, say a manufacturing plant that is accused of dumping toxic waste. Do they:

  1. Promise to investigate the matter and handle any illegal dumping, or
  2. Vehemently deny any wrongdoing and viciously attack the local citizens group that accused them, calling them “a bunch of criminals.”

I think we would agree that in both cases, the second reactions are not sane. They speak of an individual or an organization more interested in silencing criticism, covering up, and justifying their bad behavior, than in actually reforming and doing what is right.

Okay, so let’s take the Church of Scientology’s reaction to the recent articles in the St. Petersburg Times.

Four former top-level Church executives came forward to describe a culture of intimidation and violence under current Church leader David Miscavige. Their reaction? Attack the attacker. They branded the critics as criminal and insane, and even brought forward confessional information from their confidential pc folders and ethics files to “prove” how bad they are.

They followed it up with an 80 page Freedom Magazine, just mailed out to virtually the entire St. Petersburg Times mailing list, further attacking and denigrating those who spoke out.

Of course, they would tell you, this is what LRH said to do. In HCO PL 15 August 1960, “Department of Governmental Affairs,” he says,

“If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace. Peace is bought with an exchange of advantage, so make the advantage and then settle. Don’t ever defend. Always attack. ”

Well, sure, that kind of a strategy might work in the cigar-chomping, back-room environment of a political campaign. Your opponent challenges you on the issues, and you can’t think of a good comeback? Easy. Dig up or make up some dirt on him and spread it around to the press. People will forget about the issues and focus on your opponent’s peccadilloes.

Well there’s a reason why most Americans think politicians are corrupt.  And their sleazy public relations manipulation doesn’t help.

But come on, this is supposed to be a religion. The Church of Scientology. Religions are supposed to take the moral high ground.

You see, people aren’t stupid.  They know that when an organization attacks its attackers, they are trying to change the subject.

There is an excellent Wikipedia article here on the subject of ad hominem arguments. It says, in part:

“An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: ‘argument to the man’, ‘argument against the man’) consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.”

So if you are “attacked on a vulnerable point,” let’s say, abuse and violence within your organization, the response is to change the subject with an ad hominem attack on the critic. Perfect.

The article goes on to say:

“Ad hominem abusive (also called argumentum ad personam) usually and most notoriously involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent, but can also involve pointing out factual but ostensibly damning character flaws or actions which are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions. This tactic is frequently employed as a propaganda tool among politicians who are attempting to influence the voter base in their favor through an appeal to emotion rather than by logical means, especially when their own position is logically weaker than their opponent’s.”

So what does all this “attacking the attacker” really say about the current Church of Scientology management?

  1. They consider the current allegations about abuse and violence “a vulnerable point.” They know it is a weak point – as it’s true.
  2. They are desperate to change the subject, using ad hominem attacks.

Do they really think that whistleblowers will go away? They attack the current batch of whistleblowers and ten more will spring up. They attack those and ten more will spring up.

You can’t run from the truth, and you can’t keep a cap on it.

  1. Jim Logan permalink
    August 17, 2009 2:41 pm

    This policy of the church has been cited repeatedly as ‘proof’ of something. It seems to me the operative word in the quote has always been pointed out as the lurid ‘attack’. Of course, if one is robotically applying some piece of information I suppose ‘attack’ would be the word that would arouse him, as a robot. On the other hand, reading this from the perspective of another prominent word in the quote ‘peace’, I see that the purpose of the point being made is senior to the ‘policy’ of ‘attack’. That purpose is to achieve an exchange of advantages and with that ‘settle’.

    In other words, the intent is to settle the issue, achieve peace and fan the flames of enemy vs. enemy but gain a resolution. It takes very little to fight someone appearing to attack. It takes a broader look to deal with that ‘attacker’ in such a way as to settle the issue.

    Advantage can be anything including the fact of the ethical high-ground, which if current church management were actually applying not only the above quote but many other aspects of the materials, they would see. In any case, the advantage gained is the point. Then settle. It isn’t continue the fight. It isn’t ‘attack’ as anything other than for the purpose of gaining peace and settling the issue. ‘Attack’ can be just as effective if for example in this case management said ‘Yes, this is true, we’ve found it ourselves and we agree it is is irrational and non sequitur to our basic purpose’. That would END this. That is gaining the advantage, truth, and settling this.

    That’s how I read the above quote from Mr. Hubbard.

    • Jim Logan permalink
      August 17, 2009 2:43 pm

      In the first post the para beginning ‘In other words…’ should read ‘and NOT fan the flames…’

    • rebel008 permalink*
      August 17, 2009 5:14 pm

      Jim, you are certainly free to interpret and apply the materials as you see fit, and your application seems much more pro-survival than that of current Church management. Their aim is just one thing: to manufacture enough negative material against the whistleblowers to get them to shut up. Certainly shutting up the whistleblowers would create “peace” for David Miscavige, but that isn’t about to happen!

  2. Jim Logan permalink
    August 19, 2009 9:01 pm

    I suppose it has to do with a technical term in the materials of Scientology, that is a ‘service computation’. This is a fixed idea one uses to make himself right and others WRONG! To DOMINATE and obsessively avoid what one mis-perceives as others attempting to dominate. To seem to the one plagued by such obsessive fixed computations to enhance their own survival and damage the survival of those they feel are agin’ em.

    In other words, if someone who has one of these fixed ideas, these ‘mind sets’, then he’ll not be able to view present reality and make rational decisions as he’s stuck on a robotic sort of ‘have to think this way’ when that way isn’t viable or appropriate.

    That’s how the above reference of Mr. Hubbard is construed by those ‘running’ the CofS, with a fixed idea that ‘attack’ is some sort of vehement diatribe salted with all the irrationality of an angry man and meant to stir prejudice and hatred. Whereas a person without such a fixed interpretation of the actual data and its context could see that this sort of stimulus-response is a sign of less than reasoned action. Hence, the absurd, frantic ‘attack’ of Tommy Davis, the recent ‘Freedom’ magazine and so on.

    Scientology policy is expressly stated to be evaluated against reason and if a robotic use of it is contrary to reason then it is being misapplied. Of course, a fixed response of ‘attack’ is irrational as is the case with David Miscavige and poor sap, Tommy Davis among others.


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