Thanks to the brave exes, critics, journalists, and activists who paved the way, most of us who speak out about the abuses of Scientology will never face the kind of Fair Game tactics Scientology is famous for bringing against those who dare to question or criticize. Gone are the days when media outlets were too cowed and afraid to so much as whisper the name Scientology for fear of legal, or worse, reprisals. Today Scientology is facing a bit of fair game itself as everyone from late night comics to high profile news journalists poke fun or speak frankly about the abuses of this high control cult.
That doesn’t mean, though, that we should just throw caution to the wind. There are reasoned and considered actions and precautions we can take to protect ourselves both online and in real life. As much as Scientology has become the butt of a myriad of jokes the viciousness of this organization is no laughing matter. And while a full scale campaign to “destroy utterly” is too costly to bring against every blogger, youtuber, critic, or social media junkie who speaks out or “jokes and degrades” they may very well jump at the chance to attack even casual critics who get too entangled on social media. What happened with Jill on Twitter is a case in point.
Fortunately for us Scientology is predictable. It is stuck in an unworkable paradigm of Hubbard’s 1950’s ideology. Indoctrinated fanatics use the same old tired tactics over and over again with no organizational option to evolve. As horrific as their abuses are we do have the advantage of knowing what to expect. With that in mind, here are some things to consider.
- Who’s at risk?
To some degree anyone who criticizes Scientology has a potential risk but that risk is typically commensurate with the media attention captured. Fair Game campaigns can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Scientology, under the direction of David Miscavige, is going to put its money where it feels the greatest threat lies. Celebrity former members with large numbers of followers are higher profile targets. Leah Remini certainly tops that list. High ranking former members, with damaging information, like Ron Miscavige and Marty Rathbun, might also warrant spending the hundreds of thousands of dollars to surveil, stalk, and harass. Ditto with anyone who credibly accuses a current member of a crime. Less high profile critics such as guests and contributors to Leah Remini’s Aftermath will probably be the object of an online smear campaign of lies and twisted half truths.
- What about extended family members?
Even if you fall into the higher profile category Scientology typically sticks with attacking the critic and occasionally the spouse. In the case of Marty Rathbun, his wife Monique, who was never a member, became the target of a campaign of harassment. While Scientology may not directly attack others close to their targets one of their primary aims is to destroy those relationships by attempting to discredit the reputation of their targets. In the case of Paulette Cooper at one point even her parents feared she might be guilty of the crimes Scientology was attempting to frame her for. If you fall into the category of critic likely to draw fire consider being proactive and talk to the important people in your life before that happens.
- Are my home and pets at risk?
If the CoS is stalking and harassing you, yes. They have been known to enter private property and to both harm and kill pets.
- Should I be suspicious of new people in my life?
If you fall into the high profile category, possibly. But remember, it costs a lot of money to put together the kind of campaign that inserts people into your world. Be intelligently cautious but for most of us there’s no need for paranoia. The biggest risk in this area is probably social media – and we all could use a healthy dose of responsible online behavior.
- If I’m writing about my Scientology experience do I need to change people’s names?
I personally go back and forth on this one. Lori Hodgins book, A Mother’s Heartbreak, her memoir about how Scientology destroyed her family, had issues when she used names of Scientologists and the organization threatened action. The best advice is to talk to a lawyer if you are considering keeping real names in your writing. Even if you know they couldn’t win a case against you the CoS has far more money than you to spend on lawyers to keep your work from ever seeing the light of day.
- Be smart about things like online passwords – especially where it’s important. Your login for sappy online birthday cards may not be life altering if it’s hacked. It’s a completely different story if it’s your credit card, email, social media or banking. It’s a good practice to review and change these anyway. You might also want to check the security features in place for when you call places like your physician, bank, or other establishment that deals with important areas of your life.
The world of being a Scientology critic has changed dramatically thanks to Anonymous, the internet, Tony Ortega,Going Clear, Leah Remini, and so many more. The sheer number who have raised their voices to expose the abuses of this cult are too numerous to name. I see scores of casual comments daily on social media everywhere. Bloggers and writers like me will likely never know the horrors of being stalked, harassed, screamed at, smeared, or attacked the way Scientology is famous for doing. And while the CoS isn’t completely disabled they simply can’t keep up with the avalanche of information. If you have a story to tell now might be the perfect time.
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If this is your first time visiting my blog or if you are not familiar with our Scientology story I share it with Chris Shelton in this interview for his Sensibly Speaking Podcast.