August 2003 Media
Scientology in the German media focusing on the Internet
1997 - 2001
A compilation of articles commonly identified under "German Scientology News"
September 1, 2003
For introduction see background article and comments by Joe Cisar.
The physical compilation of this survey began August 2002 and lasted until August 2003. A list of texts according to the location they are categorized in is at pgmlist. The period covered is from 1997 to 2001. That is approximately from the time an "Open Letter to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl" signed by several dozen Hollywood celebrities appeared in US newspapers to the time the war on terrorism began in September 2001. Here are some short answers to survey questions for the period covered:
Has Scientology brainwashed US decision-makers into treating Scientology as a religion?
No. Scientology was portrayed as religion, but not chiefly for reasons of substance. The two main reasons were tactical. Scientology was held to be a religion 1) for tax exemption and 2) to prove hostility of opponents by portraying itself as a persecuted religious minority. To illustrate, it has been decided over and over in Swiss courts that Scientology is a business, but, compared to Germany, there was no uproar at all from Scientology about Switzerland. Perhaps this is because Scientology pays no taxes in Switzerland, as reported by a Swiss journalist. It paid no taxes because its expenses (including money it forwarded to the USA for commissions) somehow end up matching its earnings every year.
To explain US decision-makers: the US appears to support the idea that the more religious currents there are, the more choice there is, the more freedom of religion there is. It follows the concept of more is better, such as the richer, cleverer and stronger people get, the freer they are. Scientology, in addition, is highly compatible with consumerism with its steady re-creation and marketing of new situations.
Have the Germans been brainwashed into portraying Scientology as a cult?
For the period of the survey, the Germans seemed more sensitive in general toward a "Big Brother" style government than they were toward a cult. However, this appears to be changing in 2003, in the sense that there seems to a public need for Big Brother to protect the world from fear and terror.
Have the media been playing a responsible role in reporting on Scientology?
The media in Germany have the same problem journalists the world over do when reporting on cults. Sports reporters report on sports, technical reporters report on computers, political reporters report on politics, but not many journalists specialize in religion and cults. That means not many people know how to ask the right questions.
In Germany, however, as a result of what happened in World War 2, "cult commissioners" have been appointed to various churches and different parts of the government. Their purpose is to monitor the influence and potential infiltration of secretive, smallish, strangely persistent organizations. They do a fairly good job, although Germany is beginning to experience the same problem as the US in that the authorities themselves are slowly giving in to cult rationale.
In Germany, for instance, the head of the Hannah Arendt Institute, which is supposed to research totalitarianism, is portraying Nazism as totalitarian because the Nazis persecuted religious minorities, i.e., cults. (Cults are frequently portrayed mainly as religious minorities.) In other words, the entire picture has been turned around. Those who openly criticize modern cults are now themselves viewed as a cult, according to this model.
Things have been turned around in the US with a similar sleight of mind. For about a decade, US pro-cult academic experts have been writing scathing letters to publications saying that the word "cult" is derogatory, by virtue of the fact that no group ever calls itself a cult. US journalists don't want to get sued. Therefore there are no cults in the US, according to the media. Problem solved in the sense of "no witnesses, no crime." The exception to the cult-calling rule are the groups who are portrayed as having committed suicide ( a euphemism for murder in some cases) and, at the other end of the spectrum, the anti-cult itself is portrayed as a cult.
The German pro-cult model gets its point across more cleverly, but the American model is more durable as it attacks the problem of opposition from both ends: blurring the line between destructive and non-destructive cults and assigning a newly created derogatory term to the opposition, the anti-cult.
As far as responsible reporting goes, reporters have a list of sources they consider reliable. Anyone who wants to plant information in the media has to follow a procedure, complex to the uninitiated, to become a working source of media information. Some professional PR personnel are familiar with these procedures.
Have the media profited from controversy about brainwashing?
The facts of life are that the media print or broadcast information to fill up the space between advertisements. In doing so, some, but not all, journalists try to find a higher purpose in making sense of the world and of the people that live in it. If brainwashing exists, it would be art and science combined to fog human reasoning. The media, supposedly, works to better unfog persons, things and events. The meeting of the two are bound to cause some situations, if not profitable, at least interesting.
Observations regarding brainwashing. This survey will now suggest that the seeds of brainwashing are hidden in plain view. The first element, in this case, is the authoritative redefinition of "cults." Cults have been authoritatively redefined from instruments of mind control to persecuted religious minorities. This redefinition includes large profit-oriented corporations, like Scientology, which make a tidy profit religiously selling and re-selling its own secrets for the express purpose of altering human thought and behavior. Another element of brainwashing lies in the weaknesses of the media's gatekeeping system (an example is the Raelian cloning hoax). Professional PR personnel know how to bypass this gatekeeping system. Certain cults are expert in the PR department and this planting of information gives credence to cult authorities.
Last but not least, there is the loophole for religion created by courts subsequent to the writing of the US Constitution. The US congress "shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Since those words were written in the First Amendment, US courts have ruled to the effect that corporations have Constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech. A corporation exercising its religion is practically identical to a living human being exercising religion. To be more explicit, a soulless man-made corporation, which assimilates humans to give it life, has Constitutional rights so that it can be protected from the humans it makes its money from. This is likely the backbone of cults. Instead of having the one Big Brother envisioned by Orson Wells, however, it can be said there are hundreds or thousands of Big Brothers. That seems to be not so bothersome somehow.
These elements have something in common. They are based on inconsistency. Another complication in the recognition procedure is that they can be combined in different ways by each individual. Each individual has his or her own excuses as to inconsistencies in behavior indicative of brainwashing. Inconsistencies in behavior would include, but are not limited to, unnatural loss of funds, friends, family, health and, rarely, life. In this sense, "unnatural" relates to the deception associated with the information upon which life decisions were based.
For more substance, see, an informal
Media Review of German-language articles on
Scientology, July 2000
or 1) comments on the State Department 2001
2) comments on the State Department 2001
Definition of terms
The concept of brainwashing cults is a product of the American media which began in the 1940s and gained credibility in the 1950s. It started with hypnosis and progressed to new technologies advancing quickly enough to give the impression that man would now have the ability to play God and turn people into happy idiots. One of the main problems with the brainwashing concept is that it tends to feed itself if not approached in a responsible manner. For instance, it's not necessarily true that all happy idiots have been brainwashed. One factor in this irresponsible approach has been that a large part of the media's revenue does not result in dispensing information, but in providing entertainment. In a manner of speaking, the media live by creating cults.
As far as definitions of terms go, a cult is a group of people that is focused on doctrine from one source of information, as opposed to having a well-balanced view. Most cults, as the entertainment industry has demonstrated, are beneficial or at least harmless. Brainwashing aggravates the single-minded aspect however by providing a method or technology of having people rebel against the established, presumably well-balanced view, as opposed to having the doctrine survive based primarily on its own merit. To accomplish this conversion from the traditional to the expedient rationale, brainwashing operators use mass agitation and indoctrination. The purpose of agitation is to create hysteria and the purpose of indoctrination is to provide a solution to the artificial hysteria. Hysteria is an emotional state conducive to irrationality, which can be thought of as the inability to tell fact from fiction. The mass media are a a natural part of this, with sensational reports to bring about hysteria on the one hand, and soothing platitudes from dubious authorities to start people down the windy road to indoctrination on the other hand.
As can be assumed, a major ingredient of the brainwashing is deception. Deception proceeds from hysteria, but takes it a step further in that fiction becomes reality. Therefore, one initial stumbling block to detection of brainwashing is that brainwashers, when accused of brainwashing, will often hurl the accusations of brainwashing back into the face of the accusers. The conclusive step in evading open accusation, though, is to slightly change the perception of the brainwashing method being used so that it appears to no longer meet the accuser's specifications. Another stumbling block in detection of brainwashing is that the brainwashing cult, which is the actual source of mis- and dis-information, often works with outsiders sympathetic to outside causes to give the public impression that these outsiders support cult views and thus the cult.
To prove that brainwashing does not exist or to render it moot, it is best to proceed from the individual point of view. After all, an individual is legally responsible for his or her own actions. It is assumed that we are constantly aware of everything we are doing and that we are fully responsible for our own actions. That is the way things have to be in order for us to have a society. People who are judged to be not responsible for their own actions, such as criminals or the insane, may be isolated from society. The question, however, lies in being a member of a group and in the inclination of a member to put personal judgment into the hands of others -- while externally assuming sole responsibility. Neither can it be overlooked that in actual practice, people experience situations that diminish personal responsibility both by natural and artificial means. For instance, a person just waking up (or suffering from sleep deprivation) is not as responsible as a person operating at full-speed, nor might a hysterical person be considered fully responsible. Moreover, people are generally expected to have consciences. Which people keep their own consciences and which have entrusted them to others? These are difficult questions because the proof may involve overturning an individual's own claimed perceptions of reality, a situation that would best be avoided.
Coercive tactics encourage brainwashing as coercive tactics are, by nature, the direct exertion of an outside influence. Man-made laws are by nature coercive, so it's possible that a small degree of brainwashing is necessary for the purpose of setting bounds. Once these bounds are established, however, encouraging people to develop a conscience and use it would have a tendency to make people more responsible for their own actions to the extent that the examination of multiple sources of information was encouraged, among other things. The threshold of what is and what is not brainwashing probably lies in this area.
One sensational aspect of brainwashing is that sometimes it is done without the knowledge of the subject. While this is possible, increasing degrees of complicity are required on the part of the subject. The point is not whether a person has been brainwashed willingly or unwillingly, but whether a person has come to a conclusion by a rational method or had been induced by a brainwashing method. How much of the full process of making a decision has the person gone through and in how many stages of this process has the brainwashing cult been active and effective? Has the soulless cult conscience, in effect, replaced the personal conscience?
Brainwashing is defined in this survey as methods regularly used by cultic groups to make people come to irrational conclusions. A real-life example of this might be the recent claim by the Raelian Clonaid company that it is mass-producing cloned babies. While the overall effect of the coverage can reasonably be assumed to be that most people would now think of the Raelian claim as a hoax, it may also be reasonably assumed that some people believe the claim. Evidence of this would include an increase in business for Clonaid and increased membership for the Raelian movement. Would this prospective increase in business and in membership come about by rational means or by irrational means on the part of individuals? For this one case, the word "brainwashing" might be too strong of a word to describe the power of expectation exercised upon believers through the media. "Mental manipulation" would be a more suitable term for an instance of brainwashing.
The brainwashing method may be considered to be a system of control by assimilation of conscience. This includes gradually overcoming an individuals's defense of conscience, such as by using the power of expectation. It can be envisioned that emotion is used to form conscience, and that conscience is the basis of speech and action. One outcome of this (religious?) conversion might be that an increase in self-corruption by members of the group would result in a corresponding compensational increase in self-righteousness for the group itself. This feeling of compensation and exchange might then be interpreted by members as having a balanced view.
As previously reported, these pages are being reorganized for the purpose of answering various interesting questions that have come up over the past years about Scientology in Germany.
Has Scientology brainwashed US decision-makers into treating Scientology as a
Have the Germans been brainwashed into portraying Scientology as a cult?
Have the media been playing a responsible role in reporting on Scientology?
Have the media profited from controversy about brainwashing?
Assumptions and biases
Many (anti-)cult observers pretend to be unbiased. Asserting one's own lack of prejudice is absurd as it denies that we are human. The author of this research makes the assumption that "brainwashing", or something like it, exists. "Brainwashing" is a matter of debate, but it is considered to be a form of forced communication used by totalitarian powers. Coerced confessions may be an indication of brainwashing, on the other hand, who can prove it? Maybe this research can provide some visibility to the question so that answers, if they exist, may become apparent.
With regard to possible author bias, unofficial representatives of Scientology have suggested that the author is an "extremist" who "routinely translates hate propaganda circulated in German newspapers, magazines and TV shows." Because that statement was made at the end of 2001, it may be assumed that it refers to the material used for this survey. In response the author has removed "sideline" comments from survey material. Even though those editorial comments were generally labelled "comments" or enclosed in square brackets to set them apart, some of them nevertheless contained personal opinion and so could be removed without loss to the outcome of the survey. Categorical summary comments remain as part of the survey.
Additionally, there is anti-Scientology sentiment present on the Internet, from where the vast majority of these articles were selected. It is likely one source of this negative trend lies in the Scientologists themselves, as Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard instructed adherents repeatedly 1) not to discuss Scientology with non-Scientologists and 2) to launch spirited attacks on those who do not openly accept his policies. Consequently, instead of posting of pro-Scientology articles, Scientologists tended to sidetrack issues. This combination resulted not only in less material that supported Scientology's point of view, but in more opposing material, as dissenters apparently had a tendency to repeat themselves in the absence of intelligible response.
Finally, note that this material mainly covers Internet texts. The Internet, as convenient as it is, is not the most reliable place to get information. Besides the reliability problem, the Internet contains only a miniscule fraction of what is available throughout all the media.
What material was included
Over 1,600 German-language media articles posted to the Internet were taken into consideration to answer the survey questions. The texts include all the German-language articles data collectors found through Internet search engines, bulletin boards or various e-mail lists for the five-year period 1997-2001 containing the word "Scientology" plus anything that seemed to relate to the topic. Exceptions to that rule include duplicates. Due to various limitations, it is very likely that not all media articles webbed or posted to the Internet were collected. An effort was made, not always successfully, to pinpoint time and date of sources, which are listed with the text.
Here are preliminary results, subject to change, of an break-down of articles by quantity and geographical area:
|260 - Berlin, Germany||336 - Germany||153 - Hamburg, Germany||122 - USA|
|107 - Zurich, Switzerland||118 - Munich, Germany||93 - Stuttgart, Germany||81 - Vienna, Austria|
|65 - Switzerland||48 - Basel, Switzerland||42 - Bonn, Germany||45 - France|
|45 - Zwickau, Germany||27 - Frankfurt, Germany||25 - Austria||18 - Leipzig, Germany|
|12 - Sweden||13 - China||11 - Russia|
56 - others 9 - Italy, 7 - Spain, 6 - Netherlands, 4 - Japan, 5 - Greece, 5 - England, 3 - Belgium, 2 - Liechtenstein, 2 - Korea, 2 - Israel, 2 - India, 2 - Hungary, 2 - Denmark, 1 - Vatican, 1 - Uganda, 1 - Slovakia, 1 - Paraguay, 1 - Guatamala, 1 - Canada
Problems with geographical location: Not all incidents reported upon
happened in one location. In some cases, specific location was not given.
Another difficulty is that the journalist reporting upon an event was not always
in the location of the event. And of course, the report itself was distributed
from yet another location. These are the problems which are currently still
under debate with regards to the above. Note: it was finally decided that each
text would go in only one category, with a tendency toward even distribution
Generally speaking, the city and country distributing the report was used, then the location of the reporter, then the primary location of the incident, as specified above.
|Initial Breakdown by Year|
The primary range of concentration is 1997-2001. A secondary range of pre-1997 may also be taken into account, but data from this period is much less complete, therefore greater caution must be exercised in generalizing.
After a preliminary scan of a survey sample (approx. 140 reports), a decision was made to form three divisions: material by source, material by special event, and material of only an incidental nature. An attempt is being made to divide non-incidental, non-special event data into the following sources: court, official/government, Scientology, and public response. These could be compared in the future to material from US State Department annual reports, for instance. It is expected the following initial categories will be further refined as the sample increases.
In passing - reports of an incidental nature
Note on accuracy of data
The source material of this survey was in German. Since this survey is in English, language was a barrier. Therefore the source articles had to be re-worked into English for processing by English-speakers. There are occasional transcription and spellchecking errors, which should be plainly obvious to those familiar with the source material and to those who have read more than one article. Since the reworked articles did not have to fulfil the full requirements of translation, there was no need for such time-intensive labor. For instance, the German "Office for the Protection of the Constitution" is routinely rendered as "Constitutional Security." Another example, well-known to some, is an article containing the word "euro" (a European dollar) did not pass a Windows 98 spellcheck and was changed by the operator to Eurodollar, which passed the spellcheck test fine. If text reads 1939 in text concurrent with 1993, that is obviously an inversion error. These occasional errors, even if uncaught by evaluators, are not significant to the survey because the survey, as a rule, measures high-quantity, multi-source trends.
A word of caution: the data for this survey was volatile at the time it was collected. To explain this, the situation will be simplified. Assume that, in terms of brainwashing, half the text was for Scientology and the other half was against Scientology. Taking the simplistic view that perhaps Scientology does not really brainwash people, then half of the data for this survey would be false. That is what "volatile" signifies. The date listed on the text may be helpful in that regard.
In addition, it can be assumed that the data was not always transferred 100 percent accurately from the information source to the reporter, from the reporter to the editor, from the editor to the publication, from the publication to this survey. Another source of possible error: it can also be assumed that various sources unintentionally planted half-truths or perhaps even used the media to launder their information on occasion. The source listed with the text may be helpful in this regard,
This study cannot possibly sort out all these puzzles, but it is hoped some valid observations may still be made, and that these, in turn, may serve as a starting point for the next person.