I'm Feeling Activist Today.

Postby Phrim Leviah on Mon Mar 25, 2002 8:16 pm

Wow, I didn't know that it was quite so secretive. My cousin used to be a Scientologist, but to me it was just a weird thing about my family, part of a list, in fact. He met his wife there, and they got married in some weird scientology ceremony. I wasn't actually invited, but my parents were. The description they gave made it sound like they were showing propaganda videos, not hiding it.

Anyway, he left, and doesn't seem to have any grudges...
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Postby Maccabee on Mon Mar 25, 2002 9:40 pm

Welcome, Phrim Leviah!

Manticaurus: most people accept that spirituality is more important than money, at least in theory. Convince them that they're getting enlightenment/absolution for their money and they'll give. History has shown this over and over.

Of course, if you realise that your enlightenment dealer isn't selling the real thing he's not likely to give you a refund.

Scientologists may not be Heaven's Gate level disturbing, but they're plenty ooky enough for me.

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Postby Roscoe on Mon Mar 25, 2002 10:34 pm

Can I highly recommend not mixing Scientology news and Nirvana?

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Postby Vitriol on Tue Mar 26, 2002 4:26 am

While the group is powerful in a number of places, at least people are doing something about it. Scientologists are banned from holding public office in Germany (and, I think, Japan), after it was revealed that the organisation was pooling its resources to find information to blackmail public figures and gain political power.

I've read their recruiting book. It's actually very well written and illustrated, but if you read it closely, you'll notice some interesting things.

There are hundreds of pages of info about the 'auditing' process, but only half a page about some odd beliefs with migrating souls and so forth. The fact that a religion stuff their book with details of the processes they use, but mentions next to nothing about their actual beliefs, should start ringing warning bells.

As far as I can tell, they believe in 'auditing', where you pay vast sums of money to have your subconscious removed; according to Hubbard, the subconscious is left over from our animal roots, and you can rise to a higher sphere of consciousness by removing it.

Now, while I agree that by removing all your unconscious thoughts you may achieve better focus and so on, I rather like my subconsious.

The most damning evidence comes from their own book, where they publish a graph of "typical" levels of happiness, drive and so on before and after auditing. It shows that those who have spend hundreds of thousands of dollars are happier and more contented, but have less drive or creative ability. These are their own statistics.
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Postby Czhorat on Tue Mar 26, 2002 6:11 am

Wow, T. Look what you started! As I already said, I agree with you that the barbarians are not at the gates and that, in this case, the good guys won.

Personally, I find Scientology-bashing to be just a little too easy. Imagine an organization that starts recruiting people from a very young age, gives them rules on all kind of behaviour, teaches them that their physical body is unimportant. Imagine that this group preaches that it holds the secret to immortality, but that you only get to be immortal after you die. Imagine that the group forces those recruits who wish to join its hierarchy to take vows of celibacy and chatity and renounce worldly goods. Then, for good measure, imagine that it encourages all of its members to donate to it their hard-earned money.

Ok, I know that you all know that I'm describing the Catholic Church. My point is that ANY religious organization can seem malign and cult-like, and I haven't even TOUCHED on the church's _real_ offenses. Do I think Scientology is "bad" for people? Yes, but I think that ALL religion is bad for people. I also think it dangerous to form opinions solely on hearsay, the testimony of unhappy former-members, and internet-based rants.

I'm not defending Scientology, but am suggesting that we all step back and look at this critically. What I saw here, at the beginning of this post, is an organization trying to mis-use copyright laws to silence a critic and, ultimately, failing to do so. That is hardly surprising and, in the end, not a bad result.
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Postby SteveB on Tue Mar 26, 2002 8:02 am

Czhorat wrote:

"What I saw here, at the beginning of this post, is an organization trying to mis-use copyright laws to silence a critic and, ultimately, failing to do so. That is hardly surprising and, in the end, not a bad result."

(One of these days I'm going to look up how to do those quotes right)

Read it again. You too, T. The good guys did not win.

Google claims that dropping the main page of the anti-Scientology site was an accident in the first place. And that's all they've replaced. If the Google folks are lying, then the good guys had a partial victory by getting the main site reinstated. If they're telling the truth, the bad guys won everything they asked for, with an added accidental bonus of even further silencing their critics for a week.

Google still does not link to the specific pages the Scientologists demanded be deleted from their index, according to the story, the pages that quote passages from their copyrighted "scriptures." The Scientologists won.

The Anti-Scientologists claim that the passages quoted constitute "fair use." The Scientologists say it goes far beyond that. This is something that should be decided by a court.

Thanks to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the Scientologists don't have to win in court, because they don't have to shut down the site to win, just deny access to it. If no one can find it, it might as well not be there.

Under the DMCA, Google is protected against lawsuit only until notified by the copyright owner. Once notified they have to remove the links, or take the chance that the Scientologists might win the lawsuit, in which case THEY would be jointly liable for any damages.

As usual, just the threat of a lawsuit was enough to silence, not the critics themselves, but an important middle connector without which the critics voices cannot be heard. In the past, they've done this with newspapers, TV stations and Internet access providers. This time it was Google.

They know their critics can't be silenced so easily. Some of them feel that Scientology has destroyed their lives, or the lives of their loved ones. They're not going to give up in the face of a lawsuit. But if no one will put their words in the paper, on the television, on the Web, it won't matter much, will it?

As I've said already, my problem is not with what Scientology may or may not do to its members. My problem is that they did not misuse copyright law to silence critics this one time, they have used this and other tactics to do so continually for decades. That's what makes them scary.

Do other churches and religions try to cover up bad practices? Sure. It's been in the news a lot lately about the Catholic Church covering up for child molesting priests, and they've used some pretty despicable tactics along the way (locally, they claimed a priest was "cleared" when a case was thrown out because of the statute of limitations).

But the Catholic Church has never silenced a critic for telling people what it is that Catholics are taught to believe, nor has any other church that I'm aware of.

The Scientologists claim not to be a "faith," and indeed will often say they're not a religion -- except to the IRS. They claim to hold the secret to a scientific truth that will free all our minds of unhappiness and cure the world of all its ills. But they won't tell us what it is unless we pay them money, and no one else can tell us what it is, either.

This is a secret society, a con game, a successful business enterprise, a self-affirming life experience for a lot of people and a nightmare for others. Like many other things in life, it has its good points and its bad points. But it's not a religion.

The German government is right, and our IRS was right before 1993 (bet you didn't know they've been a "religion" for less than a decade). Religions proclaim their truths for all to see. A member of a religion is proud to profess what he or she believes, often to the point of being willing to die for it. Religions do not hide in darkness, hoarding the truth and jealously guarding against its discovery.

The Church of Scientology treats their scriptures like the Secret Formula for Coca-Cola while claiming it's more like a patentable scientific truth, all the while claiming the legal protections of Holy Writ.

The fact that it's mumbo-jumbo hocus-pocus doesn't bother me. The fact that they go to such lengths to keep anyone from seeing that it is does.

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Postby FrustratedPilot on Tue Mar 26, 2002 5:14 pm

About a week ago, I got an S-F dictionary of sorts. Anyway, I see you people talking about the supposed bet between Hubbard and another S-F writer...? I bet the writer in question isn't Heinlein or Herbert but Kurt Vonnegut. In the novel <i>Cat's Cradle</i>, Vonnegut invents Bokononism, a religion that centered its philosophy that all religious "truths" were in fact lies, including those of Bokononism.
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Postby KingLeon on Tue Mar 26, 2002 7:18 pm

Heh... I dunno. Vonnegunt doesn't sound as likely as Herbert or Heinlein (I've always wondered... what's with all the last names of 'H' in scifi? It's like all the 'Terry's in Fantasy... Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Terry Pratchett... There might be a conspiracy here...). His religion sounds like just a reversal (I've only ever read Slaughterhouse which I didn't like, too abstract), while the Dune and Stranger religions were pretty complex... Anyway, religion shows up alot in scifi... It's one of those things about society that can be easily poked at.
Although... Herbert wasn't even an author before he wrote Dune, was he? I thought he was just an enviromentalist...
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Postby Maccabee on Tue Mar 26, 2002 7:26 pm

Gordon Dickson also explored the religion as lie concept in the Hugo-winning "The Way of the Cross and Dragon."

King Leon, you might like Player Piano better, or some of the short fiction collected in Welcome to the Monkey House -- they're more traditional sf.

I read Cat's Cradle after starting Galapagos and abandoning it because I thought it was too depressing. Brilliant move, Greg. :roll:

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Postby PDI on Wed Mar 27, 2002 2:42 am

Ah, Bokononism, a fine, fine religion.

Last I checked (I have a "how to start a church" book around here somewhere), there has to be a written set of beliefs and practises for a movement to be known as a church (religion is not necessary -- just church). Nothing about said written material being publically accessible.

Scientology (and the Hubbard Mafia -- you think I'm making that up?) scare me, sure-- but they're not the villains in that story.

It's the DMCA. What scares me is this: This isn't even a case of misusing DMCA.
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Postby Czhorat on Wed Mar 27, 2002 5:25 am

Well, the main page WAS restored in Google's directory, so I still don't believe that there was any real harm done. Free speech does NOT mean that everyone with somethign to say has the right to be linked by whichever third party search engine they choose.

As far as the DMCA goes, I understand your concern, but what do you think would be a viable alternative? It seems that placing the burden of finding copyright violations on the copyright owners does free up web indices and search sites from the responsibility of policing the content they link while still allowing for the protection of copyrighted material. It isn't a perfect system, but does seem to be a compromise. How would YOU protect intellectual property on the web? Do you have any better ideas?
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Postby SteveB on Wed Mar 27, 2002 8:47 am

On the DMCA:

Look at it this way.

I decide to publish a book about, oh, let's say, Isaac Asimov. In my book, I include many quotes from his many, many books -- in fact, there is far more quoted material than there is prose written by me.

Asimov's estate finds out about my book, gets a galley, and complains to the publisher than my book goes far beyond "fair use" and constitutes copyright infringement. The publisher thinks I'm in the right, but they don't want to take a chance, so they cancel the book.

So I find a small, gutsy publisher who is willing to take on the lawyers. They publish the book, and send it out to all the bookstores. The Asimov Estate sues.

In court, I argue that my use of the Asimov quotes constitutes the "fair use" exception granted for scholarly works. They argue that I used too much material to qualify for the exception. If the court agrees with me, the suit is dismissed. If I lose, I have to pay monetary damages to the copyright holder, and probably unsold copies of my book will be destroyed.

That's how copyright has always worked. Until now.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in the guise of protecting people like AOL or Google, in fact indemnifies them in a way unthinkable in previous publishing.

Threatening Google with a lawsuit based on supposed copyright infringement on a page in their index goes beyond, say, suing the bookstore for carrying my book -- which would already be far beyond anything contemplated by previous copyright law. This is like suing a newspaper for carrying an ad for the bookstore that listed my book among the books sold there. It's absolutely insane.

Yet the DMCA, while protecting Google from damage for ACCIDENTALLY linking to copyright infringing sites, specifically makes them liable for damage once they've been notified that the copyright infringement exists. And remember -- they don't need a court decision or anything, all they have to do is ACCUSE you of copyright infringement and Google is faced with the choice of delinking your site or sharing any possible liability.

I say again, this is insane.

Would it be an impossibly difficult task for a copyright holder to seek out and shut down each and every individual site that is violation of their intellectual property rights? Maybe. But that's just tough. They should at least be forced to show in court that they have done all they could in this manner BEFORE they can demand someone like Google start taking down links.

Let's take my Asimov book. Once the book is out there, the only way to really get rid of it, if they won the lawsuit, would be to track down each and every copy of it and destroy it. Is that impossible? Probably. It certainly would be difficult. The law allows them to make me pay monetary damages, but that's all.

Up until now intellectual property owners lived in a world where their rights were violated all the time, in ways none of us thought of as a violation. The entire concept of the lending library is a violation of intellectual property rights, as they are described today in things like the DMCA. To believe RIAA's claims of losses presented in the Napster case, you have to also believe that every book checked out of the library is the loss of a sale in a bookstore. Obviously, those notions are both nonsesical, but it's also obviously true that at least some people get books out of libraries who could afford to buy them, and probably would buy more if the library weren't there. Does that mean libraries should be shut down?

Yes, I know, the DMCA specifically exempts "non-profit libraries," but that's only because libraries have become such vital institutions it would be unthinkable to do away with existing ones. But if you examine the whole trend of intellectual property law in the last few years, you can see that if libraries were in their infancy they would be strangled by this. The whole point of the DMCA and most recent legislation and court action is the idea that receiving the benefits of someone's intellectual property (reading a book, listening to a song, etc.) without paying for it is an evil, evil thing.

Under the concept of intellectual property implicit in the DMCA, you do not have the right to let someone read a book you own, or listen to a CD you own. The intellectual property owners insist that putting it up on the World Wide Web to share with anyone in the world is a very different thing from loaning it to a friend. This is true, but between the DMCA, the new anti-piracy technology and the trend toward "licensing" content, they are quietly trying to make the latter illegal and/or impossible, in the name of preventing the former.

I don't have any easy answers. I understand the need of creators to be able to profit from their creations. Information may want to be free, but rent still wants to be paid.

But the DMCA goes way too far in squashing the natural tendency of people to share stuff with each other, and does so primarily NOT in defense of the real creators of intellectual property, but large conglomerate owners and/or controllers of such property who themselves are often ripping of the real creators.

(That the RIAA could go into court and argue with a straight face that they stood for the rights of musicians would inspire laughter, if it weren't so terrifying. That a few of the millionaire rock stars who have managed to benefit from a system that crushes thousands of their peers stood by them is merely pathetic.)

The U.S. Constitution grants the Congress power to "secure for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries," but it specifically says that the purpose in doing so is "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."

The purpose of copyright is to give some incentive to creators to create, to inventors to invent, by allowing them a limited time to be the sole profit-maker from their creations. It is not to allow corporate thugs to bludgeon dissent.

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Postby SteveB on Wed Mar 27, 2002 9:16 am

PDI:

While public dissemination of doctrine may not be a requisite for definition as a church, I know of no recognized religion that actively keeps their doctrine secret.

As far as the distinction between a church and a religion: if we believe the Hubbard story, the Scientologists didn't really succeed until they were recognized as the latter, because a church that is not part of a recognized religion doesn't get the tax breaks, etc. implicit in his "If you really want to make money" quote.

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Postby SteveB on Wed Mar 27, 2002 9:45 am

(I'm putting these on three different posts because they're three different ideas.)

Giving the Scientologists the benefit of the doubt for the moment, and accepting for the sake of argument that they really do have something, why do they charge money for it?

Jubal Harshaw and Michael Valentine Smith are talking in "Stranger in a Strange Land," shortly after Michael has started his new religion (which is also not a religion, and claims to be based on provable scientific truth, and even ultimately derives from alien intelligences). Mike, who spent some time with a carnival, says, "The marks won't grok it if you don't make them pay," or words to that effect (don't have the book handy). Jubal answers, "I knew that. I didn't know that you did."

Likewise, a former TM trainer once confided to me that you can get everything important about TM by reading any of their $5 paperback books. The only thing you're paying the training fee for (and it was $125 back then but is now up around $1000-1500) is a coach to help guide you and your personal mantra, which is actually neither personal nor indispensable. Early on, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said you could use any word, but soon decided that you needed a neutral one free from negative energies.

You can find on the Internet lists posted from former trainers of acceptable mantras. Any of these will do. (As far as I know, the TM organization has made no effort to get these pulled off sites as copyright violations, by the way.)

According to this guy, the TM(TM) people (I just love the fact that they have TM trademarked) charge exhorbitant amounts of money not as a scam (he insisted, even though he was no longer part of the organization), but because PEOPLE IN OUR CULTURE DON'T VALUE THINGS THEY GET FOR FREE.

I dunno. $125 was a lot of money in the late 70s-early 80s, but not nearly as much as $1500 is now. I think even if it didn't start out as a scam it may have developed into one, moving from using money as a motivating factor to money as the motivation for the classes. Money is power in our society, after all, and power corrupts . . .

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Postby Khavren on Wed Mar 27, 2002 10:28 am

I've always wondered... what's with all the last names of 'H' in scifi? It's like all the 'Terry's in Fantasy... Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Terry Pratchett... There might be a conspiracy here....


And the prophecy was spoken that in times to come would be the Unifer, the one who truly wrote the definitive work of fantasy/scifi. The mighty and incomparble Terry H!!
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Postby FlyingFish on Wed Mar 27, 2002 11:57 am

On 2002-03-27 09:45, SteveB wrote:
...the TM(TM) people (I just love the fact that they have TM trademarked) charge exhorbitant amounts of money not as a scam (he insisted, even though he was no longer part of the organization), but because PEOPLE IN OUR CULTURE DON'T VALUE THINGS THEY GET FOR FREE.


Ten years ago I might have agreed with that statement. But this is the Internet Age, where millions go online each day and get their news, mail, entertainment, music, movies, and innumerable other bits of data for the low, low price of ZERO. Most of them are downright resistant to the idea of paying for anything internet-related. This doesn't cover all the world, or even all of America just yet, but I'm willing to bet that any of the people from this group who wish spiritual enlightenment are going to seek the free services of a Christian church or Buddhist temple.
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Postby KingLeon on Wed Mar 27, 2002 12:25 pm

True... True... Like with IGN... It's a gaming site. Used to be free. Had to start charging people twenty dollars a year to view certain articles on games. Their motto is that everyone will have to do it soon... but that was more than a year ago, and the other gaming news sites are still alive. And where do people get their news? Most people wait for the next day to read it when it is unlocked, or go to another site...

I think what I just said had a point to it. I'm no longer sure.
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Postby SteveB on Wed Mar 27, 2002 12:30 pm

On 2002-03-27 11:57, FlyingFish wrote:
On 2002-03-27 09:45, SteveB wrote:
...PEOPLE IN OUR CULTURE DON'T VALUE THINGS THEY GET FOR FREE.


Ten years ago I might have agreed with that statement. But this is the Internet Age, where millions go online each day and get their news, mail, entertainment, music, movies, and innumerable other bits of data for the low, low price of ZERO. Most of them are downright resistant to the idea of paying for anything internet-related.


"Internet-related" is the key here. I think people today have almost no regard for intellectual property compared to, say, automobiles or diamond rings or houses, partly because it always has but also because it's easy to get free on the Internet. I still think "price=value" is the attitude most people have.

What has changed is not people's perceptions that free stuff is valueless, IMO, but merely an enlarged range of things that are now considered of little worth because they're so easy to get free.

. . . I'm willing to bet that any of the people from this group who wish spiritual enlightenment are going to seek the free services of a Christian church or Buddhist temple.


Well, if you mean folks on this board are too intelligent to spend $1000 on dubious enlightment, I'd certainly agree with you. :wink:

There are costs and there are costs. What I do believe that people in our society are finally becoming aware of is that not all costs can be computed in terms of dollars and cents. How much does an hour with your child cost? How much is a smile worth? What is the value of clean air, clean water?

I think -- I hope -- that we are beginning to become aware that cost does not equal price, which is almost as imortant as knowing that price does not equal value. But I don't think we're there yet, and I'm not really sure the general availability of free stuff on the Interenet is helping, frankly.

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Postby Maccabee on Wed Mar 27, 2002 1:02 pm

On 2002-03-27 10:28, Khavren wrote:

And the prophecy was spoken that in times to come would be the Unifier, the one who truly wrote the definitive work of fantasy/scifi. The mighty and incomparble Terry H!!


Ironically enough, the one of the authors who does the most to blend science fiction and fantasy sensibilities within single books (or series) isn't Terry H. but Harry T. Turtledove, that is.

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Postby FlyingFish on Wed Mar 27, 2002 2:09 pm

On 2002-03-27 12:30, SteveB wrote:
I think people today have almost no regard for intellectual property compared to, say, automobiles or diamond rings or houses, partly because it always has but also because it's easy to get free on the Internet.


And the doctrines of a faith don't count as intellectual property?
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