Just a small exploratory picket of the Scientology cult in a new location at Brighton (on the coast due south of London); only six men and a dog with waterwings. In many ways it was like our first demo at Poole. Rendezvous near the railway station at noon, moved out 1pm down Queens Road which past the clock tower becomes West Street, along the seafront -- further than I thought -- to the new pier and back up the A23 London Road to just above level with the clock tower. The Scientology bOrg is on the left prong of a fork in the road just above there, on the left: there is some sort of $cientology logo on the rail of the short stair from street level to the front door. It is small and downstat.
One clam came out to play. He asked why the dog was wearing waterwings, and was his name Duke like it said on them --- we explained about Wollersheim vs Church of Scientology of California, and how when CSC were losing someone went round the judge's house and drowned his dog. Roland, in his Xemu costume, explained a bit about the gnarly secret beliefs of Scn. Fairly soon his senior appeared at the door --"can I have a word for a moment?"-- and warned him off talking to the naughty SPs. We went to the corner, which was slightly more populous, and a couple of locals told us the real action was at the other building on Western Rd; i.e. down and across to the clock tower, keep going on the other side about 100yds, in a large first floor office....and this is a place with really heavy pedestrian traffic. On the way a woman asked to borrow the megaphone, or if not would I give a good loud anti MacDonalds slogan; I obliged. Most of the radical young lot were picketing MacDonlads just down the way, after the MacLibel verdict.
We turned up at the door and leafleted for a bit, then along under the window, then along to the corner by the post office----we hadn't really said we were doing a fixed picket in this spot. Anyway, the clams appeared in the third sopt and we stayed there, 10 or 12 of them needed to counter six of us....mostly they just tried to get into conversation with us to stop us talking to the public. Our leaflets were accepted and theirs largely rejected before, and after, this tactic was running. We enjoyed ourselves from 2pm to 4pm dead, then back to the pub for a bit of a plot and a debrief afterwards. All in all, not a bad day out. The weather stayed fine all day; it just started to rain down in stair-rods as my train pulled out of London.
For more background on this series of pickets and why we think that this organisation is worth picketing, see http://www.demon.co.uk/castle/scientology.html
The event was attended by Dave B, Jens T, Roland R-B, myself (Martin P) and the two anonymous entities who accompanied us to the Poole pickets, who are by now getting very good at handling Scientology's distinctive arguing techniques. We had one placard, with the message "Warning: you are entering a cult recruitment zone," and a range of props including Duke the trolley dog, a bullhorn to amplify Dave's voice, and a Xemu costume for Roland R-B. We handed out hundreds of leaflets, but not as many as at previous pickets (some London pickets have seen us hand out 2000 in two or three hours). This was because most of us took the opportunity to talk at length to the counter-protestors.
On the way to the rendezvous point, I saw something that I, correctly it seems, took to be a very good omen: there, on a sticker to a lamp post, was the Fist Face of "Bob". (If you don't know what this is about, have a look at http://sunsite.unc.edu/subgenius ).
Due to a confusion between the Church of Scientology of Brighton and the Dianetics Centre of Brighton, our first picket was of a place (the Church) where the scienos were not recruiting on the street. One chap came out of the centre and asked about Duke the dog. Dave explained that we had brought a toy dog with water-wings in honour of Judge Swearinger's dog Duke, who was drowned (allegedly by Scientologists) when the judge found against Scn in an important case. The scieno listened with bemusement, and even took a leaflet before someone else came out from the building and ushered him back inside.
A walk across the town centre brought us to the point on the busy shopping street where their recruiters regularly operate. The lone recruiter dashed indoors as soon as she saw us. The scientology centre turned out to be the first-floor office above the shops. Some people started leaning out of the windows, including one guy with a camera. As always happens when Scientology is picketed, they took *lots* of photographs of the picketers.
Once we were in position, we were into the familiar routine: Dave on the bullhorn; Roland, in costume, handing out the Xemu leaflet, the rest of us handing out leaflets and making sure that the placard was clearly visible. As has happened in other cities, we had a very good response from the public- some people thanked us enthusiastically for what we were doing.
It was then that the only really disappointing act took place- a man snatched a whole wad of leaflets from one of us and took them away. Given that on a previous occasion, Roland was punched repeatedly in the face by a scientologist, and that, on another occasion, a couple came back from one of our pickets to find *their own house* being picketed by Scientologists, we weren't too upset about this.
Part of the reason we were there was to publicise the case of Odhran Fortune, the irish ex-scientologist who was recently taken back into the cult and is now being kept by them in an undisclosed location in London. Dave, suitably amplified by the bullhorn, took care of this.
It seems that the org was prepared for a picket: after a short while, a man drove up by the org and unloaded some placards from his car (with slogans like "Scientology makes lives happy" and "Scientology says 'yes' to religious freedom"). The aforementioned ten Scienos came out, some of them to carry placards and the rest to hand out Dianetics leaflets to the public or to engage us in conversation. This tactic, used very commonly by Scn, makes it look to passers-by as though the whole picket is pro-Scientology.
The leaflets yielded two useful pieces of information:
One of the people I talked to was a South African. He claimed that the 2.5 million South African children that Scn had taught to read were real, not a fiction created for the sake of good publicity. He said that he himself had taught twenty social workers who each taught about 100 children. He admitted, though, that what they were doing was "increasing the reading age" of the children (I suspect "reading age" here means vocabulary: Ron Hubbard's "Study Technology" simply involves looking words up in a dictionary, and so promotes vocabulary at the expense of general reading comprehension. Of course, this "technology" can't be used to *teach someone to read*). This chap hadn't heard of the intelligence operations in Greece, but did know about the eleven top scientologists who went to prison in the Eighties for burglary and wiretapping of government offices. He said that it had been shown that the incriminating documents had been *planted* in Scientology offices by the FBI! Of course, he couldn't supply any kind of reference for this, or explain why the convictions had not been overturned by this evidence.
Another scieno with whom I had a long conversation listened patiently to my explanation of our objections to the organisation, but said at the end "I suppose that if it's true for you, it's true," (a notorious piece of Hubbard doctrine, implying that Scn may be criminal and exploitative in *my* reality but was okay in *her* reality). I countered that gravity works whether you believe in it or not; if you decided that there was no gravity and jumped off a tall building, you would be making a big mistake. She accepted this, so I suppose she has a way to go before she is fully sucked into the Scientology collective mind.
As always, the scienos were keen to ask if we had done any Scientology courses. I said I hadn't, but asked in return how they would react to a heroin pusher telling them that you can only have an opinion about heroin if you have taken it. When we also countered that, in addition to consulting independent sources such as government reports and court documents, we had consulted ex-scientologists to hear their first-hand accounts, these accounts were of course dismissed as "apostasy".
At one point, we saw a chance of a photo opportunity similar to an earlier one from Poole. While one scientologist held up his placard, I went to stand in front of him with the "cult recruitment zone" placard, lowering it so that both messages would be visible. The scieno then lowered his placard *in front of* mine. I shouted "Scientology's approach to free speech has just been demonstrated by a scientologist". To be fair, he did then say that covering my placard had been "just a joke". Nonetheless, it *was* a very graphic illustration of how Scientology likes to deal with "entheta speech".
Given the scienos' bad behaviour in other cities, I should in fairness point out that Brighton's scienos did *not* make frivolous complaints to the police, did *not* get a whole coach-load of counter-protestors to come down from nearby Saint Hill and did *not* jeer, yell abuse or physically intimidate picketers. In addition, the ones that I talked to did not react to any negative point about scientology with a dismissive laugh and change of subject, as I complained about in previous posts to a.r.s. Then again, perhaps they felt able to be civil because there were more of them and they had some control of the situation.
At 4pm we retired to the pub (talking to a Scientologist is a mentally exhausting thing because their belief system is so deeply ingrained, but it's a fascinating experience!) and collected our suitcase full of dollar bills from the FBI man, who debriefed us. Luckily, I had brought a spare pair of briefs.
I think that both sides learnt something from each other yesterday. As I have said before, Scientology orgs in the south of England will have to be almost continually on their toes for picketing from now on.
Just to say I was at Brighton on the south coast of England (situated almost directly south of London) yesterday for the demo.
The clams outnumbered us at least two to one. Their banners were must larger. They turned it into a pro-Scientology demo and I am sure they gave out more leaflets than we did. But never mind! I was expecting that.
The new tactic I am employing for small demos (6 of us yesterday) is to allow them to involve me in conversation. Dressed as Xemu and armed with Xemu leaflets they are in trouble if they talk to me. They think they are being clever by engaging people in lengthy conversations because they nullify the protestors and they have people to spare to give out leaflets. Its like in chess when you have more material than your opponent it makes sense to swap off pieces. However the Xemu material is dangerous to them. If they engage me in conversation then Xemu is what they get. Nobody in their right mind would believe the Xemu story and so nobody would see any advantage in doing the OT levels. Once you knock that out from underneath them then their enthusiasm and the gung-ho-ness of clearing the planet is gone.
I managed to seed stong doubt in one of the staff members. He was horrified of the idea that scientology teaches that people are supposed to be full of dead space aliens. I do not think he will be with them much longer. One guy I got nowhere with. He was ex-Sea Org from St Hill. But he has a tape recorder and so i talked with him for at least 30 minutes. This should use up some of OSA's time when it is sent back to St Hill. However at the end I got talking to two more regular scienos. They were somewhat concerned about the Xemu story. I assured them it was true and that I had listened to the tape. I pointed out the image on the back of the leaflet as being in hubbard's own writing. They went away concerned people.
My thinking was this (I have been rethinking the whole process of these demos recently). We have been turning up for demos and being opposed since they scienos simply do not believe what we are saying is true. They think we are the SP monsters hubbo rants about. Most have never heard of the Xemu story and if they knew about it and knew it to be true then they would not be in direnetics/scn. The best thing therefore is to fall for their trick of being engaged in conversation and to demonstrate to them that you are not monsters and are concerned people who really have a point. Talk about things so they know you are telling them the truth and then express your concerns about the Xemu side of things along with the DC-8s. Tell them that it is alright people believing in it. It is just that they should be upfront with the public. Talk them throught the Xemu leaflet if you can. Put doubts in their minds. Let them take those doubts back into the org with them. I was even pointing out some of the good things in scn and how if things were different it could be a respected religion. Be reasonable and don't be too opposed to them. Convince them that you are not at all suppressive in the way they think. Be polite and make your point. Give them the Xemu line. It works!
As I posted earlier I have targeted 15 of the 17 Direnetics centres over here. they are more vulnerable than the orgs since people in charge of the orgs are on OT levels in any case.
I have also been rethinking our efforts to organise other people. Dave Bird is a good organiser and to some extent being pushy comes with the job. It doesn't seem to be coming up with the goods in the local community. If the scienos are to be neutralised it will be local people doing so with their own understanding of what they want to do. It is counter-productive i think to push them down a particular path. Just turning up and giving a small demo gives them the encouragement to do their own thing but much more so. It seems each org/mission has a person in the local community who is dead set against them. It is better if they are encouraged and offered help and let them develop things from there. Maybe this is only true in the UK. In the UK you don't need any particular qualification to be regarded as a leader. Not money or qualifications. You just have to be respected and lead.
From now on i'll be equally trying to indulge in conversation, getting them to the point where they are convinced I am a perfectly reasonable person. And then they get to hear about Xemu.
SPs are clever! Roland
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