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Religious Extremism

February 20, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

The evil acts that many people associate with religion are in fact the work of religious extremists, not the work of mainline or moderate religious people. Whether we are talking about the Spanish Inquisition or 9/11, it is the extremists who insist that the end justifies the means, and that end includes the destruction of those who do not believe as they do.

There is nothing wrong with religious faith. There is nothing wrong with holding strongly to one’s beliefs. There is nothing wrong with having the conviction that one is on the right spiritual path.

But most people exercise a degree of tolerance. They recognize that others may not believe as they do. And they exercise some tolerance of other faiths and beliefs, recognizing that there are many paths to wisdom or enlightenment and “to each his own.”

As one moves toward the extremist end of the spectrum, one starts to treat “nonbelievers” with increasing attitudes of condescension (they are misinformed), to arrogance (they are stupid), to hatred (they are evil) to violence (they must be destroyed).

What does all this have to do with Scientology? Everything.

When I first became a Scientologist, more than 30 years ago, I don’t recall an atmosphere of extremism or fanaticism in the orgs. Maybe it was the times, the late 1960s and early 70s, but it seemed people were pretty easygoing. Many of my friends became Scientologists, many did not. But we all remained friends. Some of my family members got into Scientology, some didn’t. But we all stayed close.

We were enthusiastic, sure. And we disseminated to them, sure. But we didn’t judge people or condemn people or put them down because they weren’t Scientologists. Or because they tried Scientology and left – my best friend in high school tried Scientology for a year, decided it wasn’t for him, and left. But we’ve stayed friends.

And, incidentally, dissemination was at a high roar and orgs were packed.

But over the years, that shifted. In more recent times, I began to see Scientologists more and more isolated from any friends and family who were not Scientologists. They began to speak only to each other, to work in Scientology offices, to mix socially only with other Scientologists, to only read or view those things which would reinforce their beliefs. Razzline anyone?

Today’s Church of Scientology certainly encourages that trend. There are websites a Scientologist can read, and those they cannot. There are certain people who can be on one’s Facebook page, and those who cannot. And anyone who questions Church leadership is an enemy – to be destroyed.

And orgs are empty. Maybe extremism is unpopular.

American researcher Laird Wilcox, who specializes in the study of political fringe movements (both right and left), compiled an interesting list of 21 alleged traits of a “political extremist.”  I found a few of these to be interesting:

Character Assassination: “Extremists often attack the character of an opponent rather than deal with the facts or issues raised. They will question motives, qualifications, past associations, alleged values, personality, looks, mental health, and so on as a diversion from the issues under consideration.”

Name Calling and Labeling: “Extremists are quick to resort to epithets (racist, subversive, pervert, hate monger, nut, crackpot, degenerate, un-American, anti-semite, red, commie, nazi, kook, fink, liar, bigot, and so on) to label and condemn opponents in order to divert attention from their arguments and to discourage others from hearing them out.”

Tendency to View their Opponents and Critics as Essentially Evil: “To the extremist, opponents hold opposing positions because they are bad people, immoral, dishonest, unscrupulous, mean-spirited, hateful, cruel, or whatever, not merely because they simply disagree, see the matter differently, have competing interests, or are perhaps even mistaken.”

Tendency Toward Argument by Intimidation: “Extremists tend to frame their arguments in such a way as to intimidate others into accepting their premises and conclusions. To disagree with them is to ‘ally oneself with the devil,’ or to give aid and comfort to the enemy. They use a lot of moralizing and pontificating, and tend to be very judgmental. This shrill, harsh rhetorical style allows them to keep their opponents and critics on the defensive, cuts off troublesome lines of argument, and allows them to define the perimeters of debate.”

Assumption of Moral or Other Superiority Over Others: “Most obvious would be claims of general racial or ethnic superiority–a master race, for example. Less obvious are claims of ennoblement because of alleged victimhood, a special relationship with God, membership in a special ‘elite’ or ‘class,’ and a kind of aloof  ‘highminded’ snobbishness that accrues because of the weightiness of their preoccupations, their altruism, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves (and others) to their cause. After all, who can bear to deal with common people when one is trying to save the world! Extremists can show great indignation when one is ‘insensitive’ enough to challenge these claims.”

Belief that It is Okay to Do Bad Things in the Service of a “Good” Cause: “Extremists may deliberately lie, distort, misquote, slander, defame, or libel their opponents and/or critics, engage in censorship or repression , or undertake violence in ‘special cases.’ This is done with little or no remorse as long as it’s in the service of defeating the Communists or Fascists or whomever. Defeating an ‘enemy’ becomes an all-encompassing goal to which other values are subordinate. With extremists, the end justifies the means.”

Inclination Towards “Group Think”: Extremists “talk only with one another, read material that reflects their own views, and can be almost phobic about the ‘propaganda’ of the ‘other side.’ The result is a deterioration of reality-testing, rationality, and moral judgment. With groupthink, shared illusions of righteousness, superior morality, persecution, and so on remain intact, and those who challenge them are viewed with skepticism and hostility.”

Any of this sound like the attitudes of the current Church of Scientology?

These tactics have nothing to do with the basic principles of Scientology – such things as the granting of beingness, ARC, “gaining support by creative enthusiasm and vitality backed by reason” and “search for different viewpoints in order to broaden reality” (Chart of Human Evaluation).

So when someone tries these tactics on you, recognize what you are looking at.

An extremist.

– Rebel008

  1. February 20, 2010 11:13 am

    Well said Rebel.

    Personally, I think there also acute and chronic extremism as well.

    Ya know some of us dip into momentary lapses of extremism 😉

    However, now that you mention it I do distinctly remember a point when Scientologists started becoming less tolerant of others. I think it was in the early ’90’s when this massive SP declare came out declaring practically everybody and their dog.

    A typical Miscavige approach. Just declare everybody and let ethics sort it out or whatever.

    In a way it sort of parallels the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisition and Nazism where you were a “Good Christian or German” for fear of what would happen if you weren’t. One way was to persecute others who weren’t so “blessed”.

    Any way good point Rebel. I promise to be more tolerant even if it kills me 🙂

    • lunamoth permalink
      February 20, 2010 6:11 pm

      RJ – XOX

    • Mickey permalink
      February 20, 2010 10:55 pm

      Here’s that 1992 SP declare you mention RJ.

      Read it for a laugh or two, especially the list of groups that appear. I remember reading this about 1o years ago and wondering if I would have to “handle or disconnect” from an old high school buddy who was a regular attendee of the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), which has a location right next door the LA org on Sunset. An SRF facility and it’s adherents exude nothing but a quiet loving and peaceful presence if you’ve ever attended one of their weekly public Sunday meditations. The founder and spiritual leader of SRF wrote “The Autobiography of a Yogi” (Paramahansa Yogananda), a book I highly recommend now that being open-minded has no repercussions!!

      The thought of having to talk my friend into leaving (the handle part I guess) his chosen path or ending (the disconnect part) a long-term friendship of some 30 years, which “per policy” I’d thought I would have to do, was ludicrous. This experience of seeing the SRF name on the list was one of those seminal moments that added to my doubts and wondering as to just where things were going in the CofS.

      • lunamoth permalink
        February 21, 2010 2:39 am


        I remember coming across this earlier in my search for answers, and being so blown away by the sheer volume of the thing, I printed it out to see how many pages it was – should probably have just weighed the thing instead.

        Holding it in my hands, it was clear to me that anybody having that many enemies (and the list has not been updated in a while) has to be Type 3. It was the first of many moments to would follow when I would look at the evidence of dm’s and the church’s insanity in disbelief (make that near disbelief. I believe it).

        Seems like a long time ago, back then, when I was still surprised.

      • February 21, 2010 4:38 am

        Yeah I couldn’t believe it either when I saw it!


        A suppressive group?????

        In the words of Frank Zappa from “Just Another Band from LA”

        “Eddie are you kidding?”

  2. February 20, 2010 12:03 pm

    An enlightening post!
    You have framed this in a way that highlights the ruin of many scientologists in the church who are not extremists them selves.

    This will help me communicate to my friends who are still being “reasonable”.

    I am rehabbing my dissemination skills so that I can find the ruin that a scientologist is sitting in and bring them to understanding that freedom is available outside the church.

  3. Mickey permalink
    February 20, 2010 2:57 pm

    Nice find Reb! What else need be said. This one piece alone should pull some heads out of the sand, one would think.

    “After all, who can bear to deal with common people when one is trying to save the world! ” ——> Translated in current Scientologese reads: “After all, we must deal with the elite able only while we are trying to clear a planet!”

  4. Natalie permalink
    February 20, 2010 3:15 pm

    Wow, that is so spot on. This is exactly what is going on all over the place. My husband and I left the Church of Scientology after making our disagreements known, and after writing up the violations of LRH policy. Not once were any of our disagreements or concerns addressed. Instead a defamation campaign was launched to discredit us and attack our character, and our associations.

    Individual Scientologist were pulled in to “churches” in Seattle, Twin Cities, Clearwater and a few others to be “briefed” on our situation. 99 percent of these people didn’t even know we had left because other than posting our declaration on Marty’s blog we hadn’t sent it to any of our onlines friends. We had to laugh when we started hearing what they were being told about us.

    The church via OSA and OSA volunteers in the field have done more to promote our post about leaving the church than we ever have. One C of S Scientologist in Clearwater took it upon herself to send our mutual friends on facebook a link to our declaration on Her thinking was that here was the proof that people could see for themselves that we left. She thought she was helping OSA by sending C of S Scientologist to to a website dedicated to exposing the crimes of the C of S. With people like that “helping” the church, who needs to do anything else?

    Through these actions the C of S and their “helpers” have disaffected more Scientologist than they know. What happens after these “briefings” is these C of S Scientologist then get on the internet to find out what their handler was talking about and they start confirming what they have suspected for sometime, that their church is off-source and operating contrary to the basic beliefs of Scientology. All of this without myself or my husband ever speaking to anyone!

    Many of them told us that hearing the black PR on my husband and myself was the last straw for them, that they already had one foot out the door or at least doubts. Seeing their own church commit libel and slander against Scientologist who were very active in the church and very well thought of was a huge ARC break for many. It only acted to confirm their own doubts.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank OSA, the C of S and it’s helpers, for proving our point and showing others the truth about what you have mutated into.

    • Thought provoking permalink
      February 20, 2010 9:54 pm

      That’s awesome, Natalie! Good to hear things are going well with you guys!

  5. February 20, 2010 4:20 pm

    Editor, excellent post!

    When I came across Scn back in 78′ extremism was certainly not the order of the day…at least on the surface. In looking back I can see that the extremism was extant in many Scios but I suspect that they recognized how socially unacceptable that behavior was generally considered. Hence, it was kept under wraps by a thin layer of social veneer. But it was there and it would raise its ugly head in conversations between Scios behind closed doors, in product meetings, musters, battle plans, and admin scales. I do believe that most Scios come to truly consider that Scn is definitely the “Only” way and that every other religion or religious practice, even while having some degree of merit, is ultimately flawed and unable to deliver actual spiritual freedom i.e., unable to make OTs. And, it seems that this consideration of being the “Only” One, the “Only” way just becomes more pronounced and more ingrained the longer someone continues to be an active Scio. That said, it would appear that Scios are somewhat predisposed to become extremists.

    Again, thank you for this article Editor.

  6. John Doe permalink
    February 20, 2010 4:33 pm

    Those traits of extremism pretty much paint the grim picture before us.

    As more and more old-timers leave staff to be replaced by the minor children of “dedicated scientologists”, the extremist attitudes of the church are going even more solid, because there is no one around who remembers that scientology was, or even could be fun.

    Hopefully, many will read this article. When a person can recognize that a certain tactic is being used, that tactic has less power over them. (I read “Big League Sales Closing Techniques” years ago; after that, no reg could close me unless I wanted it. Same for car salesmen!)

    • Thought provoking permalink
      February 20, 2010 10:03 pm


      Although the minor children are predominantly seen inside the church, many of them are closely connected to “old time” opinion leaders. I think as we see more and more of these opinion leaders speak against the church you will see the eyes of the younger generation start to open as well. There is truly a lot of respect for those who have been around, even if it doesn’t seem so at times. I look at it more as an out of valence dramatization that will stop having its effect when they start to look.

      • lunamoth permalink
        February 21, 2010 3:08 am

        I believe you’re right, Thought Provoking. And seen from another viewpoint, it looks more likely still that the younger generation, the children of older scientologists, will not be the “future” of the church.

        For many years I worked with lots of kids of scientologists. In the past 10 or 12 years or so I was still seeing many of them getting on course at the local mission, or going to Flag with parents, or getting a little auditing from field auditors, but I was struck by two things.

        The first is the number of that faction who routed in and then right back out of the sea org ( a staggering number), often coming back out without an education and no high school diploma and not in very good case shape due to their experience “inside.”

        The second was the number of teenagers who seem quite disillusioned or perhaps unimpressed by scientology at all. They had no apparent appreciation for it and resisted attempts to get them “on the bridge.” This group was generally very adept at handling sea org recruiters, as well.

        The bottom line is that children of scientologists are often not scientologists themselves, and those who are, are then also vulnerable to the same mishandlings, bpc, and failed cycles that the adults are. While you may see more young faces on staff due their lack of familial and financial responsibilities at that age, I don’t think there’s a huge field of them for the church to exploit.

  7. February 20, 2010 4:41 pm

    To see one very nonextremist Scio in action (and I know there are many, many out there), I would encourage anyone to watch the four part video series presented by OT IV Power FSM, Helmut Flasch. IMO, Helmut not only sets a stellar example of what it means to be a true Scientologist but he also sets a stellar example of what it means to be a sane, tolerant and caring person.

    Find Helmut’s videos here:

  8. lunamoth permalink
    February 20, 2010 6:03 pm

    Rebel, thank you for such a terrific article. You have certainly found the pith of the current problem. RFK’s quote and the 21 traits are eye-opening.

    I’ve followed the evolution of scientology you speak of, from a free-spirited movement to an insular, intolerant institution. I can vouch for your observations of its change in character; it has become something scary and fascistic. And unwittingly, so have many of its members, right along with it.

    What concerns me is to see OUTside the church, the same insensitivity and disrespect for the rights and the beliefs of others expressed toward those who do not share the viewpoint that scientology is The Way. This is unfortunately accompanied by an unwillingness to honestly evaluate the effects of ones own actions in that regard. Outside the church these attempts at rightness seem ignorant and clumsy at best; at their worst they are offensive in the extreme.

    In a tolerant society, that clumsiness can be forgiven, and the attempts to be right can be understood. The insensitivity and the disrespect can even be tolerated by many, to a point. But the unwillingness to see the real effects of such behavior on those around you is just stupidity, and at some point that becomes quite “counter survival” for both the perpetrator and the society at large. At that point, its benefit to “the greatest number of dynamics” must be honestly re-evaluated by those practicing it.

  9. Thought provoking permalink
    February 20, 2010 9:49 pm

    Very interesting observations! In the past six months I have made a complete about face on my feelings and attitudes toward the church. Although it has been somewhat humbling to discover that I have unmittingly been part of the flock of which I detest for so many years, by separating from it, I have been able to recover the integrity I had lots while being part of it.

    • lunamoth permalink
      February 21, 2010 11:34 pm

      Thought provoking

      I find myself in the same situation, right down to the time-line.

      It’s a little easier to understand the condition of those still sleep-walking through this situation when I’m aware that I was one of the sleepwalkers not that long ago.
      The ability to put oneself in the place of another, or willingness to “be” another, is
      a huge factor in being able and willing to grant beingness.


  10. February 20, 2010 10:14 pm

    My wife is not a Scientologist. Although she has read several books written by LRH, completed a couple of Div 6 courses and received a couple of intensives of Book I auditing; despite having some really wonderful wins, she still did not see Scn as being a spiritual path for her. By way of her experiences we me and observing my attitude toward other spiritual practices, she concluded that Scn, as a spiritual path to enlightenment, was far too confining for her. Thus we came to exist in a relationship where we agreed to disagree and doing so has done nothing but benefit each of us in our process of spiritual evolution. In other words, we have been able to, more often than not, maintain a state of optimum “rub” between us requiring that we stretch our points of view out into the new and uncomfortable.

    In 99′ a friend of my wife’s brought a bundle of tapes over to the house for my wife to listen to. These were taped talks given by the collective entity known as Abraham-Hicks. My wife invited me to listen with her but I arrogantly declined. But, as she listened (without headphones) I began to be pulled more and more into listening to what was being said. The next thing you know I’m sitting next to her and we’re both devouring the tapes. Well, that little experience opened the door. I had started looking again. Looking outside Scn. Not for answers, of course, as I felt I had all the true answers available to me in Scn. I was just innoncently looking. But, for some reason, in allowing myself to look and listen to someone other than LRH, felt remarkably freeing to me.

    After Abraham-Hicks, I moved onto Father Anthony DeMello, then Ken Carey’s Return of the Birdtribe series and on and on I went and continue to do so to this day. Being able to Look and conclude without any restrictions is an incredible Freedom. But, IMO, if one wants such a freedom for self and keep that freedom, one must first be willing to give that same freedom to ALL others. It is the LAW OF ALLOWING.

    Check out what Abraham-Hicks has to say about the LAW OF ALLOWING in this video:

    • lunamoth permalink
      February 21, 2010 2:49 am

      P. Henry,

      I came across the Abraham-Hicks collective entity, too, quite by accident one day. It was fascinating. Once I got past the urge to “evaluate” the phenomenon using scientology concepts, and just listened and watched, there was much of value there.

      One of the BEST things about changing my mind about what I can and cannot be
      open to is the return of an enthusiasm for and love of new ideas! By rejecting the strictures I had previously accepted, I regained my ability to really openly observe and question and imagine. I hadn’t realized how much I had shut them down. What can I say? I was stupid about my stupidity!

      Just think of going through life without those abilities, and not even knowing you didn’t have them. Where was all that enlightenment, that freedom and ability?

      Ironic, huh?

  11. February 21, 2010 12:43 am

    The plus points of being an extremist as put forth in this short video”

    • lunamoth permalink
      February 21, 2010 4:41 pm

      Brilliant. Made my day (week, actually).

    • craig houchin permalink
      February 21, 2010 4:47 pm

      P. Henry,

      The John Cleese bit was absolutely brilliant! Thanks for sharing it.

    • sherrymk permalink
      February 21, 2010 9:13 pm

      Perfect!!!! No one could have said it better than John Cleese. Just perfect…

    • ButterflyChaser permalink
      February 22, 2010 10:24 pm

      That John Cleese video really makes the point, doesn’t it?

      Here’s a video that made me quite uncomfortable when I saw it a couple of years ago when I first got out. It is quite relevant to this post on Extremism. Not all of it is applicable to Scientology, but enough of it certainly is.

      It’s called:
      Mind Con­trol Made Easy -​ How to Be­come a Cult Lead­er (12:36)

      • SherryMK permalink
        February 23, 2010 7:07 pm

        This video sent chills down my spine. Too close to the bone…and the heart.

      • February 23, 2010 9:11 pm

        Hell of a video BC! Thanks for adding it. I would say that it definitely has a Scn thread that runs through the whole video. Certainly presents a perspective that, not all that long ago, I would not have been able to actually see.

      • ButterflyChaser permalink
        February 24, 2010 12:32 am

        Thanks, Sherry and P. Henry. I was a bit hesitant to post it as it’s sort of freaky and uncomfortable to watch. It’s almost TOO straightforward and doesn’t pull any punches.

        I understand, P. Henry. I would not have been able to “see” this video a few years ago myself. I would not have seen how it relates to Scientology at all – just to those “other groups”.

        Strange, isn’t it? How our perspective changes! My, oh, my.

  12. craig houchin permalink
    February 21, 2010 4:02 pm

    Hey lunamoth,

    I saw your post about the enemies list being a Type III phenomenon, and it reminded me of this song by a band called Smog. The song is “Short Drive.” It’s a good illustration of this type of character. Here are the first two verses.

    Short Drive

    I took your party invitation list
    And wrote ‘enemies’ across the top of it
    Then I asked you
    To go on a short drive with me
    So I could point out
    Some more of our enemies

    Drive with me
    Scowl with me
    I put my hand on your knee
    And say, to your left you will see
    Some more of our enemies


    • lunamoth permalink
      February 21, 2010 6:58 pm

      Craig – LOL – I went on that ride, and it wasn’t so short!
      It’s OK, though. I got out of the car, and I took back my party list!

  13. February 21, 2010 11:19 pm

    Yesterday while I was perusing youtube I happened upon this pocket of videos featuring this guy by the name of Robert Anton Wilson. If I had ever heard of Robert before yesterday I had totally forgotten about it. But I listened to several of his videos and he had a lot to say about a lot of things including LRH. In any case I took a shine to the man and did add a couple of his videos to my network.
    If you’re curious go here: His video is at the top on the far right and in this particular video he breifly mentions LRH.

    The reason I’m bringing the late Robert Anton Wilson to your attention is because in one of his videos he’s talking about eliminating the word ‘is’ because he feels that the use of this word perpetuates conflict. And, I could see his point. What brought this home to me was another forwarded email I just moments ago received from a Christian friend of mine from one of the social networks I belong to (he forwards me lots of Christian related emails). Anyway, as I was reading through this email (yes, I actually do read them) I noticed that ‘is’ was used generously. For example: God is this and God is that and this is the way it is and so on and so forth. Clearly, using ‘is’ does not leave any room for a different or contrary idea. This little word ‘is’ effectively closes the door to discussion as it is a matter of fact statement of existence. End of story. I totally get what Robert’s saying. He suggest saying one variation or another of, “It appears to me that…” rather than using ‘is.’

    Notice the ‘is’ in extrem -IS -t Certainly that is no mere coincidence! 😉

    What do you think? Appreciate your thoughts on this?

  14. Rebecca-Tribecca permalink
    February 24, 2010 4:37 am


    I think you have hit on something here. There is something in the culture of the COS which is a dramatization of what Hubbard called a “GPM”. (2 opposing forces)

    It is the Church vs THEM COS vs Church Enemies.
    The “Good” Church of Scientology vs the EVIL Bad SPs such as ~~
    Psychiatry, all Psychiatrists, Psychologist, Psychotherapists, all Government and Intelligence Agencies CIA, FBI, NSA, DOJ, especially the IRS before Tax exemption. etc etc.
    Other Enemies as declared by the Church are Governments of the world, the Australian Govt. was SP and it’s court decisions were “Kangaroo Courts”. Then the British Government who denied Hubbard re-entry to the UK and denied Scientologists returning on entering the UK. Then the German Government, the French Government, the Belgian Government, the Spanish Government etc etc~~ all big SP enemies.
    All media~~ Los Angeles Times, 60 minutes, Reader’s Digest, Clearwater Sun, Time Magazine, the BBC, ABC TV, CBS TV, NBC TV, St. Petersburg Times etc etc.
    Any human being that practiced any kind of Scientology outside of the REG cycles of the Church, were denounced as ENEMY groups. The current SP declare list is about 20,000 SP declares.

    The culture within the Church is to instill the members on how the Media, the Governments of the World, the TV networks of the world, the mental health of the world, the Scientologists practicing outside Church walls (outside of giving COS the revenues$$$) are all ENEMIES. Not to mention reporters. authors, family members who have departed the Church, family members who have said anything negative.

    While under the umbrella of “Religion” the above enemies are

    Name called and Labeled
    Viewed as Essentially Evil …and all the other key points you named.

    Did you hear Tommy Davis attack the Catholic editor in a recent Catholic online publication ?
    “To forward on a Catholic site the vicious and false allegations of disgruntled ex-members of any religion is the epitome of hypocrisy. No constructive purpose is served whatsoever, and you are in fact promoting religious hatred and violence. Your entire article is so un-Christian, it boggles the mind!”

    Click here to view 1982 ENEMY LIST

    Heaven only knows with 26,000 folk registered on Anonymous message board and all the other Message Boards and Blogs, how many are now pronounced ENEMIES of the Church in 2010.

    Religious Extremism plays a great part in creating new daily enemies.

    • lunamoth permalink
      February 24, 2010 7:29 pm

      Rebecca –

      “Religious Extremism plays a great part in creating new daily enemies.”

      Absolutely. As a matter of fact, it’s a critical part of creating an insular group and cutting the members of that group off from the “outside world” while uniting them against common enemies and making the group the only “safe” environment.

      If you view the church as a new friend, and that new friend started telling you that your old friends, your family, and your previous set of values were all “bad,” you would probably spot the third party and think there was something wrong with your new friend. Unfortunately, it’s not that clear when the same thing comes from a new group. But it’s still third party, and it has the same result.

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