Anonymous, Scientology, and the Lulz

(TFC– While many lament on Anonymous being ineffective, offensive, and out of control and/or ineffective, there does remain many successes that Anonymous has been attributed to. Some in fact are solely as a result of Anons and their on and offline effects. Partly for the Lulz and partly for the protest, the Anons who worked against the Church of Scientology gave way to new range of exploitive and innovative attacks on organizations and entities that are seen to be oppressive and in violation of human rights. It also propelled the movement of Anonymous to the public eye and garnered more recruits and members as a result.

The Church of Scientology has lost huge influence and is highly restricted in its ability to affect defectors and whistleblowers. Once the organization held so much power in this regard that defectors had their lives shattered and their reputations maligned so severely that the Scientology Church operated with impunity and suffered little to no recourse. The Church had been so skillful and manipulative that its members would be subjected to infinite levels of a cacophony of programming and social manipulation; one ex-member described it as “…a slow train of mind control”. (Perhaps not unlike what we experience in our day-to-day exposure to nationalist and capitalist propaganda)

The Church had an upper hand in dealing with internal dissidents and when members attempted to leave, the Church would be able to follow suit in devastating attacks and constant hemorrhaging of the individual though being deprived of property and even being injured by any means. This is described in its “fair game policy”, and describes how an individual should be targeted. This envelops into a nightmare and becomes extremely dangerous for someone attempting to leave. What creates an even more perilous endeavor is that since severing of family ties is required by the church in order to join, the logistics of leaving become even more precarious. Any safe network or social safety net is attacked or at best often nonexistent. Leaving the ex-member vulnerable and open to a vicious and coordinated attack by the Church.

Anonymous Image Source: Matthew Cunnelly, Flickr, Creative Commons

Image Source: Matthew Cunnelly, Flickr, Creative Commons

Anonymous was instrumental in exposing the Church of Scientology for what it was and still is. A series of protests and most famous “Project Chanology” was a directed and coordinated attack on the church. It forced media attention that the Church attempted in vain to avoid. Here we see an extremely effective and positive result of an AnonOp. Exposing the Church’s involvement in human rights abuses and how effective and vicious it is in gaining new members adherences to its sociopolitical rules. The results of Project Chanology and the ruthless work of Anonymous against the Church helped pave the way for loosening of the Churches grip on its ability to control people through outside and overt mechanisms. Exposed in a dreadful light, and correctly I feel, media attention soared and forced the Church to back away and induced its influence to wane considerably.

Now with ex-members being able to share their stories in public as well as L. Ron Hubbard’s former personal secretary, Gerry Armstrong, and his great grandson, Jamie DeWolf; the Church became far less influential in being able to control its image and narrative. This is a huge change and without Anonymous leading the charge in its early stages this would not, at least at the time, have been possible.

So for all the criticisms and critiques, some rightly so, suffered by Anonymous, there remains proof that various operations carried out by the collective have shown to be in the public’s best interest. The collective also suffers from intense government propaganda and targeting. This comes at a price for later Anonymous operations, many of which also can be argued were successfully in the public interest as well. They are not without company in this regard and another dissident site, Wikileaks, would enter the world stage upon release of the “Collateral Murder” video, leaked to Wikileaks by Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, along with a trove pf additional military documents.

Hackers play a pivotal role in the release of leaked and hacked (there is a distinction between the two) documents from official government sources as well as corporate and other institutional sources. Shown by both Wikileaks and Anonymous, the non-central collective of hackers that exists within the ramparts of dissidents, revolutionists, whistleblowers, and spies; has shown to be extremely important and we must not underestimate or undervalue their abilities or roles that help to expose insidious workings of corrupt and/or illegitimate authorities, which can only be obtained through transparency and accountability.