The Dirty Dozen
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing my own analysis of the “Bad Barrel” factors in Scientology, that is, what are the systemic factors that tend to make for a toxic environment within the Scientology world.
This follows on my last post, and was inspired by reading Philip Zimbardo’s book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. Zimbardo, the Stanford professor who conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, argues that while most people blame individuals for evil acts (“bad apples”), there can also be situational and systemic factors that can cause even normal people to carry out, support or condone evil acts (“bad barrels”). And note that I said “also;” it’s not either/or.
This started me thinking about the systemic factors in Scientology that contribute to an abusive environment. Are there things in the culture of Scientology, in its DNA, so to speak, that cause Scientology organizations to become toxic?
Of course, as soon as you start looking along this line, you land squarely in the middle of the pro-LRH/anti-LRH squabble – one of those black/white polarized conflicts where intelligent conversation is all but impossible. So let me try to deal with that before we even get into my twelve toxic factors, the “dirty dozen.”
To some, hinting that LRH may have some responsibility in creating Scientology’s toxic environment is blasphemy. It’s all Miscavige. Anything abusive in Scientology has nothing to do with Hubbard. On the other side, there are those who say it’s “all Hubbard’s fault,” and that he deliberately set up an abusive system and is therefore an evil person. And the debate tends to be black and white with no middle ground.
Let’s look at it another way, one that might get us somewhere. Let’s take Phil Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. If you have read about it, you know the experiment spun out of control after a few days. It got far more abusive than anyone thought it would. Now, suppose you had a “pro-Zimbardo” group and an “anti-Zimbardo” group arguing about this. The anti group would argue that Zimbardo was responsible for all of the abuse that occurred, and it demonstrates that he is an evil person. The pro group would argue that Zimbardo is a good person, and his instructions to the guards contained nothing about abusing prisoners. That was solely the fault of the “bad apple” guards.
Well, fortunately Zimbardo himself resolved this by taking personal responsibility for the abuse that occurred during the experiment he set up, working to isolate the factors that caused such abuse, and then using what he found to help reduce abuse in real-life situations. In other words, he had a bit of humility. He realized his responsibility for what happened, even though he never intended it and never told anyone to abuse anyone. He was human, and like any human being, he was not perfect and could not predict the ultimate consequences of his actions. But once he saw what happened, he was man enough to take responsibility for what happened rather than insisting on his rightness.
I happen to take the view that Hubbard was human, like all the rest of us, and that he made mistakes, as all of us do. Many people who consider themselves aggressively pro-Hubbard will admit, under pressure, that he was only human, that he had faults, and that the system he devised was not perfect, merely workable. Yet they are rarely specific about what those faults or imperfections might be.
In light of the catastrophic failure of organized Scientology, wouldn’t it be a good idea to actually isolate and examine those imperfections? And maybe correct them so that there is never a recurrence? Well, here is my stab at it. Here are the toxic things that I observed, in my 35 years in Scientology, that contributed to making Scientology Organizations as toxic and abusive as they have become. These are all things that are part of the Scientology culture, the organizational zeitgeist.
Whether Hubbard “intended” that things turn out the way they did is beside the point. In most cases they have their roots in his writings. One could argue, and I’m sure some will argue, that these writings were misunderstood, misapplied and taken out of context. That’s also, really, beside the point. Things turned out the way they did. Institutional Scientology became abusive, toxic and cult-like, and to some extent has always been so, at least in my 35 year experience. And we can’t, in my view, credit Hubbard with all of the good in Scientology and assign him no responsibility for the bad. But why moan about whose fault it is rather than trying to understand what happened and why?
With that caveat, I give you my “dirty dozen” factors that have made Scientology toxic. Excuse the length – each one probably deserves a post of its own.
One of the key factors that Zimbardo mentions as facilitating abuse is dehumanization. If one makes less of people – prisoners, minorities, outsiders – then that justifies abusing them, lying to them or deceiving them. In Scientology, this begins with the term “wog” to refer to anyone who is not a Scientologist. The law becomes “wog law,” the justice system becomes “wog justice,” the media becomes “wog press.” These things are considered inferior. A Scientologist can therefore consider himself or herself to be above these things – including “above the law.”
If you consider yourself superior to others, that justifies looking down on others as “low-toned,” “low on the Bridge,” or even “in a lower Org.” A sort of arrogance or condescension can crop up.
At the Int Base, this sort of arrogance was amplified – as all of the factors on this list were. RTC looked down on CMO Int. CMO Int looked down on Exec Strata. And everyone looked down on Gold. And you would be shocked to hear how Int Base executives talked about “lower org” staff or public. And of course that sort of arrogance led to actual abuse.
To grow up, Scientology has to rid itself of this sort of elitism, condescension and arrogance and learn to respect others.
2. Enemies and War
It’s axiomatic that if you want to control someone, give them an enemy. I wrote a post about this recently here.
One of the first things I heard about in Scientology were its “enemies.” The government was out to get Scientology. The press was out to get Scientology. The Psychs and Medicos were out to get Scientology. We were at war against the “forces of evil.” You can always ask people to sacrifice, give money, give up holidays, weekends or sleep, accept low or no pay, if you are “at war.”
If you are dealing with an “enemy,” it also justifies using any tactic to defeat them. The recent post on Marty’s blog, containing an OSA program to discredit and silence Tory, is all too typical of the sort of tactics Scientology has used against its “enemies” throughout its history, from Paulette Cooper to Gabriel Cezares to Larry Wollersheim to Tory to Mike and Marty. And it’s all justified. These are enemies. They are “trying to destroy Scientology.” If you label someone an “enemy” or an “SP,” anything goes.
If Scientology is to mature, I believe it has to stop its obsession with “enemies” and “wars” and start realizing that they are responsible for their own failures, negative press and bad public image, not some vast evil conspiracy that’s out to get them.
3. Collapsed Time, The Constant Emergency
It was my experience on staff and in the Sea Org that things were on a constant emergency footing. Everything had to be done now-now-now. For one thing, management was by weekly (or even daily or hourly) stats. Things had to be done immediately in order to “count.” Everything, it seemed, was a constant flap, a constant “Hill Ten” requiring late hours or all-nighters, skipped liberty days, minimal meal breaks.
This kind of think was destructive of any real long term planning or strategy. When faced with a choice between a short-term action that would get immediate stats (particularly income), and a long-term action that would result in steady expansion, which do you think got chosen 99.9% of the time?
Sure, it’s a good idea to watch statistics. But not obsessively so that your time frame is constantly collapsed down to nothing.
All of this stat obsession resulted in the cannibalizing of existing public rather than developing future public. Gimmicks like monthly price raises and special deals rather than sane pricing and marketing. Now-now stat pushes and daily phone calls rather than sane management planning and strategy.
Well, what do you expect when you put people on weekly, daily, or hourly stats and threaten them with heavy penalties if they don’t get them up now-now-now?
Scientology will get sane when it calms down, gets off the constant emergency footing and gets in honest long range planning.
4. Secrecy, Transparency and Accountability
Scientology has an obsession with “confidentiality.” No one may know what higher echelons are doing, thinking, or planning. One reason given is that “enemies” may find out the plans – see “enemies” above.
The result is that the right hand usually does not know what the left hand is doing. One insane result is events. Orgs don’t know before the event what is being released. It’s “confidential.” So no one can prepare for it, generate word of mouth or ramp up excitement. It’s silly.
But the most destructive effect of all of this secrecy is that management can pretty much do what it wants with no accountability, oversight or transparency. And they can do anything they want with the money collected. They don’t have to report back to the field what they did with the money. No one knows, no one can know. So management can do what they want.
This even extends to management personnel. When WDC was first formed, their identities were secret. As a joke, they sent an album of photos to “middle management” with bags over their heads. No one was supposed to know who they are. And it’s still that way, only more so. No one knows who is on which executive post (in fact, every executive at Int has been removed from post without the knowledge of Scientologists). Scientologists are not informed when key executives are appointed or removed. They are not told the reason for any removal. They are not able to review the qualifications of any appointee. It’s all “confidential.”
And now even the international statistics are “confidential.”
Any reform of Scientology must include complete transparency and accountability of management plans, actions, statistics, finances and personnel.
5. Information Control and Thought-Stopping
Key to any cult-like operation is strict information control. Members must get their information from approved sources only, and must never read material that is critical of the group, its doctrine, or its founder. Such thought-stopping mechanisms are deeply ingrained in Scientology.
Scientologists know that if their friends or family members express any criticism of Scientology, they will have to “handle” them (silence their criticism) or disconnect. They cannot be connected to anyone who is critical of the Church or Hubbard. If anyone challenges Scientology, they have to stop listening as it’s “entheta.” They know they cannot look into Scientology on the internet – they have to stick with the Church-approved websites (that is, the Church websites). They cannot read negative stories in the press or watch negative stories on TV. These things might cause them to doubt – and Doubt, in Scientology, is a Lower Condition.
Scientology is full of thought-stopping phrases: “That’s entheta.” “That’s a hate site.” “They are SPs.” “He’s a religious bigot.” “She’s an LRH-hater.”
This isn’t a search for truth, it’s running away from it.
Information control isn’t a sign of strength, it’s a confession of weakness. It’s a confession that one’s beliefs are fragile, tenuous, and can be blown away by any real search for information.
If Scientology wants to be taken seriously as a subject, it has to give its members freedom to study and access any information they want, associate with anyone they want to, and make up their own minds.
6. The End Justifies the Means – Machiavellian Power:
I wrote an earlier post on the subject of utilitarian ethics, which is encapsulated by Jeremy Bentham’s phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” Bentham was a proponent of utilitarianism, which holds that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. That is, “the end justifies the means.”
David Miscavige’s favorite piece of LRH writing, hands down, is Hubbard’s essay, “The Responsibility of Leaders.” This was subject of a recent post on Marty’s blog. The essay is Hubbard’s criticism of Simon Bolivar and his consort, Manuela Saenz. He analyzes what he feels they did wrong and what they should have done to be successful. It is widely used in Scientology, is a part of the Ethics book, and is studied as part of the materials on the Condition of Power, the highest Ethics condition in Scientology.
But listen to some of the things he criticized Manuela for not doing:
“…she never collected or forged or stole any documents to bring down enemies…”
“…she never used a penny to buy a quick knife…”
“She never handed over any daughter of a family clamouring against her to Negro troops and then said ‘Which oververbal family is next.’”
The means he recommends in this essay include bribery, murder, rape, forgery, and theft.
He also recommends that those working for a power give that power deniability – the famous “pink legs” quote. And he recommends always “pushing power to power.” “It may be more money for the power or more ease or a snarling defense of the power to a critic or even the dull thud of one of his enemies in the dark…”
I know, I know, this is all “taken out of context” and “he really didn’t mean it” and “he was only kidding,” and so on. No, re-read the essay. Read it for what it actually says. Machiavelli would be proud.
The fact is that the culture of Scientology is steeped in this kind of utilitarian ethics. That’s why Scientologists defend Miscavige no matter what he does. It’s why OSA carries out disgusting dirty tricks on their “enemies.” It’s how Scientologists justify what’s going on within their Church.
It’s how Miscavige justifies his constant abuse of staff.
Scientology will gain respect when it abandons its utilitarian ethics and realize, as Gandhi said, “means are, after all, everything. As the means, so the end.”
7. Authoritarianism, Intention and Counterintention:
It is my opinion that David Miscavige could never have come to power if Scientology was not already organized as a strict, top-down authoritarian system. He could bully his way into the top position and use the structure of Scientology to enforce his orders.
Sure, there have always been councils – Aides Council, Exec Strata, WDC. But the fact is, no one ever questioned the top guy – Hubbard. There is even a phrase for “doing what Hubbard says.” It’s called Command Intention. Hubbard was always Command. On the Apollo, his entries in the Orders of the Day were always printed under the heading “Command.”
Scientology was structured to carry out and enforce his orders. Every Sea Org Member swears to “uphold, forward and carry out Command Intention.” And the purpose of Ethics in an organization, we learned, was “to remove counter-intention from the environment.” Anyone not carrying out Command Intention was “CI.”
To ensure orders were carried out, there was an “LRH Comm Correction Form” which escalated Ethics gradients automatically for any non-compliance to LRH Orders. It was soon copied by every Programs Ops as “the way to get compliance.”
So you have a system where every Sea Org Member, executive and Programs Ops is dead-set on carrying out Command Intention, and where every Ethics Officer is working full-time to “remove counter-intention.” All Miscavige had to do was establish himself as “Command,” and he had the whole system working for him.
Scientology will only truly embrace freedom when it ceases to be an authoritarian dictatorship.
8. A Culture of Confession:
Sure, confession can be beneficial. But only if it is kept in the strictest confidentiality and is not kept in files and folders for the purposes of future blackmail.
Confession, misused, is the tool of the mind controller, the cult leader. Many cults use confession as a means of controlling their members.
Scientologists “know” that if anyone leaves Scientology, it’s because they “have overts.” If anyone wants to leave, it’s because of their “crimes.” If anyone complains or “natters,” it’s because they have overts. They “know” this so thoroughly that they don’t dare complain or think about leaving.
Anyone who defies David Miscavige is immediately pulled in for Sec Checking. Anyone who complains about anything in the Church of Scientology is sent to Ethics.
Scientology will mature when it ceases using confession as a method of control.
9. “Toughness” and the Para-Military Paradigm:
Another part of the Scientology ethos is a sort of macho toughness. “We are not a ‘turn the other cheek’ religion,” they brag. No, Scientologists are tough guys.
Being “reasonable” is a bad thing in Scientology. Having sympathy for others is “low-toned. “Human emotion and reaction” is simply a “barrier to production.”
No, you have to be tough. “It’s a tough universe,” we are told. “…only the tigers survive.”
At the apex of all of this “toughness” we have the quasi-military Sea Org, with its uniforms, ranks, marching, musters, all-nighters, screaming and even physical abuse. And don’t get in their way.
What about empathy, compassion, love, caring for others? “Shut up – don’t be a pantywaist dilettante.”
Scientology only has a chance of becoming a real religion if they jettison all this quasi-military, fake-macho “toughness.”
10. Money and Greed:
As long as I was in Scientology, 35 years – executives, orgs and managers were always obsessed with money. And not money as in long-term investments or long-range financial planning. Money as in “how much can we rake in now, now, now before Thursday at 2:00?”
Anyone who has worked in Orgs, or worked in Registration, or in Management, knows how true this is. One is judged by stats, and the most attention, rightly or wrongly, went on GI.
I could point to many organizational factors, starting at the top. The stat of WDC is Int Reserves. The FBO system took any limits off how much of the org income could be grabbed and sent “uplines.” “Proportionate pay” justified not paying staff. The dateline payment system justified not paying bills. Orgs were always under terrific financial stress, all in the name of padding central reserves.
And now, of course it’s over the top, with every staff member commandeered as reges and salespeople, constant pressure for Donations, failing orgs, and central reserves being squandered.
Scientology will get a lot saner when it stops fixating on money and starts caring about people.
11. Penalizing Downstats
You get upstats of you reward upstats and penalize downstats. Sure, makes perfect sense.
But what do you mean by “penalize?” How do you “penalize” someone in an org?
Over my many years on staff, I saw executives get very inventive on this point. Having downstats scrub floors or toilets with toothbrushes was one method. Locking people in basements or chain lockers was another. Throwing people into a harbor or a lake was yet another.
At the Int Base, this reached draconian proportions with something called the “Team Share System.” One had five cards, for Social Events (which allowed one days off, or parties), Bonuses, Pay, Food, and Berthing. One could have one or more cards removed for downstats or infractions. One could lose one’s pay, food (only rice and beans), or berthing (sleep under one’s desk or out on the lawn).
And of course, downstats could be screamed at, or even hit or punched or shoved.
And if they don’t come around, RPF.
All of these things have one common name: abuse.
In any other organization, production is achieved through incentives and rewards – better pay, promotions, bonuses. The only penalty is, you might get fired.
In Scientology, production is achieved through abuse. How’s that working for you, Scientology?
Scientology may start to get real production when it stops abusing its staff.
12. Appearance vs. Substance, Hypocrisy:
In Scientology, unfortunately, what is important is how things look. How they appear. How they sound. Appearances over substance.
A flossy video promoting Volunteer Minister activity is more important than the actual activity.
The external appearance of an org is more important than the fact that it’s empty and failing.
Assertions that Scientology has thousands of Orgs is more important than any actions to actually establish organizations.
Claiming that “there is no Disconnection” on national TV is more important than actually cancelling Disconnection.
Claiming “Fair Game was cancelled” is more important than ceasing to Fair Game people.
Scientology might gain some respect if it actually becomes honest.
My point is this: the abusive environment that exists in organized Scientology is not merely the errant behavior of a few bad apples. There are factors like the above that are part and parcel of the culture of Scientology. Where they came from, why they exist, who put them in place, are all matters of speculation and personal experience. But these factors do exist throughout Scientology. And most of them, while they have been taken to psychotic extremes by Miscavige, have always existed in the organization culture.
If anyone is serious about reforming Scientology, these are the sorts of things that will have to be examined, evaluated, and corrected.