Sympathy for the Devil- part 5
September 9, 2001
Earlier, she had dabbled in the Web, visiting such sites as Operation Clambake. But now she was commanded to take it on in earnest.
She dived into the job, exploring Websites that criticized her church and reading bulletin boards where church defenders and opponents debated. (Some church
And before long, she realized that she really, really enjoyed it.
As Magoo, she obsessively posted to alt.religion.scientology. Her messages were rarely very substantive. She was just there to jab and parry, to drop off stingers and comebacks -- most of which were non sequiturs -- and more than anything else, to keep hitting the "reply" button. Day and night, Bezazian told off anti-Scientologists and managed to annoy plenty of them.
Mark Bunker, a church critic and a.r.s. participant, says he bore the brunt of some of Magoo's harshest attacks. "When I found out who it was, and that Tory was the one being so incredibly nasty to me, I laughed." Bunker realized that he had met Bezazian when he picketed church sites and always found her to be pleasant, even though they disagreed so markedly about the church. "I was amazed that this nice person could be so damned nasty anonymously."
Jeff Jacobsen, another a.r.s. regular, says Magoo's posts were not only harsh but difficult to read. It seemed obvious that Magoo was someone or a group of people who had little experience in newsgroup debates, he says.
Bezazian admits that was true. She was a novice. And her lack of experience was causing her to post great amounts of extraneous and distracting material. She may have been a relentless poster, but she was a sloppy one.
And that's what prompted someone to send her an e-mail about her messy ways.
Bezazian says she was shocked to see that Lucifer himself, Andreas Heldal-Lund, the operator of Operation Clambake, the Website that Scientologists considered the world's most poisonous, had sent her an e-mail.
He had written a polite note, suggesting ways Bezazian could improve the readability of her postings on a.r.s. so that more people would read her arguments and respond to them intelligently.
Bezazian struggles for words to describe how stunned she felt after she had read the e-mail.
"The devil had not only sent me a nice message, he had offered me useful advice," Bezazian says.
Besides taking her entirely by surprise, Heldal-Lund's note had placed her in an awkward position.
"I had been raised to believe you send a thank-you note when someone helps you out. I realized that I owed the devil an e-mail message," she says.
After she had sent a thank-you and Heldal-Lund replied with another kind missive, Bezazian says she came to another startling revelation: "I realized that I could talk to this guy. This was a big shock to me," she says.
Heldal-Lund tells New Times that when he first noticed Magoo's posts, she sounded like "just another OSA goon trying to create a disturbance." But he extended a helping hand all the same. He says he didn't see the point in being rude and confirming everything that church members thought about Scientology's critics.
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