Anonymous versus Scientology

Okay, this topic comes out of a hijacked Pit Thread where I was asked what Anonymous was and why it’s battling the Church of Scientology. This isn’t exactly witnessing, I’m not here to tell you that everyone should hate the CoS. I can only explain why I’ve attended two protests against them and will continue to do so.

First, I don’t speak for Anonymous. Nobody does. That’s pretty much the point. For every generalization I make, a hundred people will tell you why it doesn’t apply to them. For every fact about Anonymous I give, two hundred will tell you I’m mistaken. I can only tell you my views. Second, I am lifting liberally from this site: Why We Protest I feel it does an excellent job explaining what is going on. Finally, I consider myself as having joined Anonymous in early February. So while I can comment on what was happening beforehand, I wasn’t there.

What is Anonymous?

Anonymous is a group of people who gather solely via messageboard. I’m assuming everyone reading this is familiar with how those work and how you can feel part of a group of people you’ve never met in real life. :smiley: There is no leader; there is no reason to follow anyone besides thinking they have a good idea.

We are your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends.

Unsuprisingly, we’re also a bunch of Suppressive Persons. Go figure. :cool:

What isn’t Anonymous?

It isn’t a bunch of people sitting in their mother’s basement cataloguing their pokemon collections.
It isn’t a bunch of terrorists, religious bigots, communists, fascists, KKK members, or nazis.(Illinois or otherwise)
It isn’t a group against Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Speech. In fact, it’s very much the opposite.

How large is Anonymous?

That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t know how many people attended last saturday’s protests, but the one in

Febuary had over 7,500 people in 17 different countries. The people who attend the protests are but a very small part of the people who consider themselves Anonymous. Many, many more people have done things such as write emails, make flyers, or even just share their views with friends.

Exactly who is considered a member is pretty broad. Have you ever told someone of the dangers of Scientology? Have you ever told someone about Anonymous? Have you ever provided someone with the resources to educate themselves against Scientology?

If you answered yes to any of those, congratulations. You’re Anonymous. I’d offer you cake, but that’d be a lie. Except for last saturday when it was most and delicious and the very opposite of a lie.

Do you know people between the ages of 15 and 30? Odds are good you’ve met at least one member of Anonymous.

How did it start?

Anonymous’s roots are either a thing of pride for having come so far, or a source of embarrassment depending on how you look at it. Much of it’s roots come from 4chan, Something Awful, YouTube, and other places best known as the retarded sandbox of the internet. And considering that the two most common things on the internet are porn and really stupid ideas, that’s pretty low.

There is at the root of Anonymous a general “information wants to be free” feeling, and people in it tend to have Free Content viewpoints of varying strength. From “let’s take a look at how we handle copyright laws” to “nobody owns any form of media and we should have access to everything.” Personally, I think that abolishing the idea of copyrights is utterly stupid, but the whole spectrum is represented. This isn’t really an intrinsic part of Anonymous, just my opinion of the social beliefs of its members. It also helps explain some of Anonymous’s actions and opinions.

Why Scientology?

For lulz. Okay, that may have been the start, but believing that’s why it’s continued is shortchanging what Anonymous has become. Scientology has a history of suppressing information, as well as outright litigation of anyone they don’t like. For a group believing that there is no such thing as too much information, that’s a big strike against them.

Scientology has a long history of abuses. They tear families apart, they engage in brainwashing, they’ve participated in assult, fraud, child neglect, and more. People have died because of them.

Their abuses are not limited to their own members either. Their Fair Game policy is a direct call to destroy by any means their critics. They will not shy away from doing so either.

They are a malicious con game masquerading as a religion. We oppose them because it is the moral and ethical thing to do.

Why now?

Honestly, because of the way Scientology reacted to the leaked Tom Cruise video. Not the most noble of reasons to join the fight, but there you go. The video was a big hit amongst various groups, played everwhere, and was posted all over the internet. Instead of taking the smart option and trying to ignore it, Scientology lashed out with its usual battery of lawsuits. Many of these lawsuit were directed to websites that members of Anonymous considered their own. Scientology’s plan didn’t work, and the more they tried to suppress it, the more enjoyment people got out of posting it. The Anonymous of the time got a big kick out of watching Scientology squirm and be outraged about everything they did. This was the point at which the fight was truly being carried out for laughs, with no other real reason.

But the more people took notice of Scientology, the more they stopped being that wacky Hollywood cult and became a monster in the eyes of Anonymous. Scientology’s crimes were real, and they didn’t see Anonymous as a group playing pranks but a threat.

Eventually Anonymous started taking real action against them. They joined with others who had been longtime opponents of Scientology, and became an activist group for real. Anonymous’s numbers have only continued to grow since.

What does Anonymous want?

For a start, an end to Scientology’s tax exempt status. An end to their crimes and possible punishment for them is a dream, but one that is still a long way off.

What about people who actually believe in Scientology’s teachings? (Or, why do you hate religion?)

We don’t make a judgement of people’s personal beliefs. We oppose the bait and switch tactics and outright brainwashing of Scientology members. We oppose their practice of charging their members in the name of religion.

Anonymous continues to support Free Zone as a group that practices the teachings of Hubbard without the price tag.

The best video I can direct you to is one that I feel strongly about. It’s about the formation of Anonymous and the start of the war on Scientology. It includes footage of the Febuary 10th protest and an invitation to come to the last protest. (It was held 3-15) It’s long at 14 minutes, but if a bunch of ritalin popping youth can sit through it I’m confident at least one member of this board can as well. :wink: Road to February 10

Other links detailing Scientolgy, their beliefs, and crimes:

Operation Clambake/ More information on Scientology then you ever wanted to know.
Ex-Scientology Kids Ever wonder what it’s like growing up as a Scientologist? These people did it, and still bear the emotional and mental scars. This is what Suri Cruise has to look forward to. I found the part on Scientology’s school system fascinating, if horrifing.
Why are they dead? A list of people who’s deaths have been attributed to the Church of Scientology.

I suppose the debate here is three part. Is Anonymous right in protesting Scientology? Is Anonymous right in protesting Scientology over other, more mainstream religions? And does Anonymous have a snowball’s chance in heck of acomplishing anything?

I’d say the answer to the first two is yes. I’d like to say the same about the third, but I am forced to admit that I can really only hope that the answer is yes.

Thanks for reading what turned out to be a fairly long post.

We are Anonymous. We are Legion.

This is ridiculous. I have talked to people about Scientology, including what I view as its dangers. I am not now, nor have I ever been, part of anything called “Anonymous.” You don’t get to set up a movement and determine everyone you say is in it, is in it. Or am I a member just because you say I am? In which case, my opinion of “Anonymous” goes down a few more notches.

Oh. And I was just about to ask for your union dues too. :frowning:

I think I made my point poorly. What I’m trying to get across is that Anonymous isn’t just the people who showed up at the protests. It isn’t just the people who post to message boards like Operation Clambake’s. It’s of less use as a description than American or Canadian. Words like “leaderless” and “faceless” make it sound grander then it really is. At it’s heart it’s a campaign to spread information. There isn’t any real “joining” Anon. There are no benefits to being Anon. There are no penalties. There is just people sharing information on the same topic.

Call yourself Anonymous. Don’t call yourself Anonymous. In the end the information was shared. I apologise if you feel I have painted with too large a brush, but there isn’t any better definition I can really give you. There isn’t a badge to wear, a place to sign up, or actions to take. It’s nothing more than people who feel the same on one paticular topic. And even on that one specific topic the feelings are not the same for everyone. Some really are in it for the fun. Some because they want to see Scientology destroyed. Some who want to protest the abuses committed by Scientology. Some who just think that a better informed person makes better choices and so getting information on Scientology out is far more important than whatever happens to the CoS itself.

May I ask what besides the quoted text lowered your opinion of Anonymous? You said it went down further, what caused it to drop orginally?

I’m not villa, but let’s be honest here. As you stated, Anonymous hardly has lofty origins. They, or the boards they’re most associated with, are connected with the origins of some of the Internet’s most obnoxious memes. I’d go so far as to say that Anon’s previous crusades have been little more than bullying.

And yet… And yet… They’ve gotten organized. They’re growing a conscience. I don’t know if it’s simply that they’re attracting a better class of people because of their current crusade, or if it’s because they looked into the face of Scientology, saw it for what it was and snapped into sense. It’s very exciting, not just because Scientology had it coming, but because the idea of a leaderless mass movement is itself interesting.

I’m confused by this. Anonymous is something that defines itself as being from the “retarded part of the internet”, and your opinion of it goes down based on how parts of define membership in it? It’s not an oganization, a group, or anything with structure; it’s a bunch of kids who realised that acting silly in mass can get some odd results.

Anonymous, as far as I have seen, doesn’t care what you think, any more than it cares what I think. It isn’t something that has, in itself, any direction or guidence. It seems to me to simply be the usual result of a bunch of young people pissing off older people, and then discovering that there are things in the world that aren’t “right”. The fact that the Scientologists tried to slap the kids into submission seems like the act of poking a wasps’ nest because you were stung, there’s a whole lot of wasps in there, and now there’s a swarm coming.

I find the whole thing facinating. What happens when kids who are used to being connected like this grow out of their teens?

Logical inconsistencies like this…


Also the whole vigilante aspect does not appeal to me, to be honest. Other than that, I have nothing really against Anonymous, because I know next to nothing about it. I just don’t appreciate having a person claim I am a member of an organization, however loose that organization may be, when I am not.

I hope this post made it clearer, Redwing - I have no strong feelings about Anonymous, other than a general opposition to vigilanteism (except for Rorshach… dude knew where it was at). I don’t know much about it at all; but claiming everyone who holds similar views about one particular issue to be a member or supporter is not a good or rational thing IMHO.

Ah. If it’s a case of Anonymous starting off low and having to rise, I can’t disagree. I won’t pretend that your description is wrong about what Anon was.

I’d say that the framework for organizing was always there. Organizing the Straight Dope would likely prove easier than some random collection of people off the street. It’s easy to convince people they are a group when they already think of themselves as such, no matter how different they see each other or what differences they’ve had in the past.

As for growing a conscience, well, I think that for the first time Anon found itself on the moral high ground. Once you’re up there, it’s hard to want to go back. You can certainly slide, but for now Anon is still too firmly focused to look down. And yes, it has been attracting a better class of people. And thankfully, given the nature of Anonymous these people carry just as much weight as anyone else. This is a big part of why I think the current Anonymous is nothing like the old Anonymous and at the same time the exact same bunch of mudkip loving folk you described at first.

I’d say there are as many (probably more) college age members as high school, but you have a point. Scientology essentially both forced Anonymous to grow up and painted themselves as the target in one neat step. What happens afterwards is a good question. I honestly have no clue. I don’t know of any group that presents such a good target. Where else can you be assured of both the moral high ground and that you’re the less crazy side? More than likely Anon will cease to exist as a collective group, splintering away. But the habit of being able to communicate relatively quickly and freely won’t just disappear. Or the feeling that it’s perfectly normal to be constantly bombarded with conflicting and random opinions and ideas and that its up to you to decide which are the good ones and which are the bad. Or the lesson that just because two people only have one small thing in common doesn’t mean they can’t work together or even hold a calm discussion about their ideas. (Yeah, that’s an old idea. I won’t get on your lawn, and you don’t get to lecture. :smiley: My only defense is that it’s something you have to learn for yourself no matter how much you’re told and that Anonymous has done this on an international scale.)

I can only plead poor word choice on my part. Joining is not the word I want, but I am not sure of the right one to use. For myself, I literally knew nothing about Scientology other than that they were that “wacky Hollywood cult.” I knew about Anonymous, and their early call for the destruction of Scientology. But I still didn’t pay much attention. My opinion of them was not the highest either. I assumed when the next shiny thing came along Anon would chase after it and forget the whole thing. That didn’t happen. It was then I actually took the time to learn what was going on. I didn’t like what I saw and decided to do something about it.

I’m unsure how best to describe it, but holding similar views is really the only defining characteristic. Don’t call yourself by that name. Nobody will disagree with you. All I can do is tell that I painted with a broad brush initially because it’s the only one that worked.

Sorry, but could you explain the vigilante nature to me? Nobody is stringing people up. This was mentioned in the pit thread as well, and I didnt understand it there. Is it a holdover from Anonymous’s early days?

Anonymous has stage two peaceful, incident free (except for Deklab, GA) international protests. Public protesting seems a far cry from anything related to vigilanteism in my opinion.

Anon’s “early days” were in January. It’s gonna take a while until people trust that you’ve moved on past DDoS attacks and plotting to destroy Scientology’s septic tanks, nevermind the completely puerile crap they were up to before that.

It pleases me that Anonymous has matured and grown a conscience, but you’ve got some proving of yourselves to do.

What were they doing before this Scientology thing? Can you give a few details?

Yeah, I can grok that kind of annoyance - it’s a bit like those spam messages that have a footnote claiming that you’re receiving it because you signed up for it, when you know damn well you didn’t, and you know damn well they know you didn’t.

Rule 1 and 2.

Well, to be fair, they’re both the same rule - but I’ve already said too much.

They stormed the online chatroom/MMO Habbo Hotel with legions of avatars of “nigras” with fros complaining that “Pool’s Closed. It’s full of AIDS”

They harassed a racist rightwing talk show host.

They made life a living hell for a woman they outed as a zoophile, including exposing her RL name and predilections to the general public.

They invented RickRolling, as explained in this video.

And a host of other less savory stuff. Basically, if it’s something bad that was happening on the Internet, Anonymous probably was into it.

But that seems to be changing now.

I’m not part of Anonymous, but I’ve been an opponent of the “Church” of Scientology for years and know a number of major critics. I’ve even spent a night in jail as a result of protesting against them. Anonymous doesn’t represent me, but the more people who know about the Co$'s crimes, the better.

From your words to God’s ears.

But…why? I don’t understand these previous “attacks.” They don’t seem to have any single conviction; they just want to get attention.

Not for attention so much as shits and giggles. This wasn’t an organized group. They were a loosely affiliated online group that thought it was fun to occasionally raid things outside the boards.

Now Scientology has given them a real target. Something that actually has it coming. Something that gives them a thrill by fighting back. And something that they had to change their tactics to combat.

Can I join Anyonymous?

Oh, wait…

I can’t help but wonder if Anonymous is the start of a new type of movement, internet-based and almost anarchic in organization, working on the basis of pure democracy; members contribute exactly how much they want, in exactly the way they want.

What happens when a movement targets a group that a significant portion of the population actually supports? Will there be a new style of internet “war” that includes the masses on both sides?

It’s fun to speculate.