Did you see any of the big anti-Scientology protests this past weekend in Midtown and San Francisco and wherever else they were having their "Day of Action"? Talk about your nerd alerts. Entire blocks full of short guys in ill-fitting trenchcoats and tall guys with long hair tucked behind their ears and girls with awkward tits, all of them wearing those V for Vendetta masks (which you wouldn't think real nerds would be into considering the massive shit that movie took on the original comic, but whatever). We've never really understood the whole mass fascination with Scientology vs. other krazier kults (like Mungiki) and still aren't sure why all these demonstrations have suddenly been cropping up every other month, so we asked a friend of ours who briefly joined the church a few years ago to explain to us what the whole deal is. Here is the first part of what he told us (part two will go up later in the afternoon)...
The thing with the Church of Scientology is it's a shitty, criminal organization that wrecks people's lives and deserves whatever it's got coming so long as what's coming is punitive and bad. That said, there are a lot of cults out there that fit the same bill and a lot that are even worse to their members but get no attention in the mainstream press. Try googling "House of Yahweh" or "Apostolic Faith Church, Body of Jesus Christ Newborn" if you want some real creepfests.
The "protest movement" that's sprung up around Scientology in the past year or so is a completely disengenous joke. I'm sure there are a couple of people—probably the ones organizing the events—who have some real, vested interested in trying to take the church down, but the vast, vast majority of the folks showing up are only there because they want to be "part of something" and are only interested in the cult because it involves celebrities and funny-sounding space terms made up under the influence of heroin. The whole deal may as well be co-sponsored by Us Weekly and Babylon 5.
I was passing through Times Square on Saturday and stopped to ask a few of the protestors outside the church's main New York branch why they were there—did they have friends who got sucked into Scientology, family members, are they really against cults in general and go to pickets whenever NXIUM or Landmark Forums are in town? That sort of stuff. Maybe I just happened upon the biggest pack of retards in the throng, but one kid seriously described watching the Scientology episode of South Park to me as an "eye-opening moment" in his life. Another one said, "I got an email from a friend who was like, 'Dude, you have to come down to this,' so I grabbed my V mask and got the train." To give them their fair due, everyone I spoke with all knew a decent amount about the church and why it sucks, but none of them had any real reason for being there other than it was something to do and they didn't have work that day. It's basically a protest-themed flash mob.
Now, you're probably be saying, so what? So a bunch of nerds are protesting a bunch of other nerds who you admit are abominable—what's wrong with that? Well, for one thing it's counterproductive. Scientologists make up an estimated .02% of the US population, which is admittedly larger than a lot of cults, but still, less than a tenth the size of the Jehova's Witnesses in America (and they don't even let their kids celebrate CHRISTMAS). They're sitting on tons of money, a couple of actors, and Chick Corea, but otherwise their recruitment rates have been in freefall since the early 90s and unlike groups such as the Moonies, they have zero political clout outside their Floridian HQ in Clearwater (which hates them). At best they're a stagnant mess decades past its prime. No doubt a huge part of this can be attributed to the sudden availablity of their goofy-ass secrets on the internet, but when you plaster those secrets on a sign and yell them in the middle of the street it plays right into the church's carefully cultivated persecution complex.
It's like when the Klan or Aryan Nations or whoever announces that they're going to have a rally in Feetsboro, Tennessee, and all the punks and Food Not Bombs kids from nearby areas rush in to scream and throw bottles at the 10-15 pathetic old racists who wind up attending. While the kids may see it as "them and the townspeople taking a stand against fascism," the townspeople generally see it as "a bunch of scary kids with weird hair leaving garbage all over the town square" and it helps push those with latent sympathies for the racists to the fore.
To be continued...
STANTON X AS TOLD TO JEREMY GERNER