A Clever Sect

Scientology understands the rules of U.S. politics

Berlin, Germany
November 11, 1997

It has been nine months since a German member of Scientology is said to have obtained asylum in Clearwater. The woman claimed that she was persecuted in Germany because of her religious convictions; at least that is what the New York Times stated, and they are the sole source, so far, of this story. On Sunday, a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a resolution against Germany's treatment of Scientologists. Nevertheless, it was debated, was almost unanimously accepted by the Committee for Foreign Relations, and a representative from Arizona voiced his concern for German intolerance of religious minorities. In past weeks, the Scientologists have also been the topic of discussion between Foreign Minister Kinkel and Secretary of State Albright. How did Scientology manage to get this kind of attention?

"Elementary, my dear Watson," as Sherlock Holmes would have said: the Scientologists pay more attention to the laws of U.S. American politics, which teach more about their campaign than does the treatment of minorities in Germany. Rule number one: "Define your Enemy," taught George Bush in 1988, "isolate him," means stay on the theme and hem it in. The secret consists of not dispersing the attack.

"Make your message simpler and more intense," is the next ground rule. One would compare the Scientologists' program to the elections last week. A governor won in Virginia because he as good as made vehicle taxes the sole issue of his campaign, and in New Jersey the challenge would have won by a hair with the motor vehicle tax. For months, Scientologists have been bombarding the media and carefully selected representatives with one theme almost daily: Scientologists are persecuted in Germany. One representative from West Virginia maintained enough reserve to point out that the Scientologists are not regarded as a church in other countries in Europe and had difficulties in the United States itself until 1973. The Scientologists are clever enough not to talk about other countries.

And one other thing they have understood - in contrast to the German Embassy. One ground rule of U.S. American politics goes, "Assertions which are not rejected become truth." In the USA there is not even a word for "aussitzen" [not in this dictionary, either - trans.]. Without a counter-offensive on the same plateau as the PR professionals who serve Scientology, this spook will not go away.

Finally, that is also a campaign trick: the most nonsensical accusation forces the opponent to waste time and money. But he who does not come up with the time and money, loses.