Some remarkable documents hit the Internet yesterday. They appear to be actual scripts used by employees who answer the phone numbers listed at drug rehab information websites with generic-sounding names.
The websites claim to deliver impartial advice about drug rehabilitation programs, but many of them are in fact front operations for Scientology’s rehab network, Narconon. According to the scripts — as well as confirmation by several former employees — the people who answer these phone calls are instructed to do everything they can to convince a family to send a potential patient to a Narconon center (and they earn a large bounty for doing so).
It’s the first step in Narconon’s deceptive business model, which has come under intense scrutiny in the past year because of deaths at centers in Oklahoma and Georgia. Before patients arrive at the centers, however, they must be convinced to go there. And that’s where these scripts come in.
Researcher Mary McConnell obtained the scripts from a source inside the Southern California Narconon network — known as “Narconon Fresh Start” — and posted them to a Scribd account and to the Reaching for the Tipping Point Forum, which keeps a close eye on Scientology’s drug rehab program.
While it’s not unusual for businesses to provide scripts to their telephone operators, particularly in telemarketing firms, the Narconon scripts are remarkable for how plainly they spell out Scientology’s total influence over the process and the deceptive methods used to answer the questions of callers.
As we’ve reported numerous times previously, the Narconon network insists to reporters that it is not connected to the Church of Scientology. In fact, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard tasked his Guardian’s Office — the church’s legal and intelligence wing, which was replaced by the Office of Special Affairs — to use Narconon and other front groups as a way to improve Scientology’s image. Today, church leader David Miscavige touts Narconon’s statistics at big annual church events, and only members of Scientology’s inner hardcore, the “Sea Org,” can staff the Association for Better Living and Education, the umbrella corporation that licenses Narconon International.
Narconon is a Scientology enterprise. And that’s quite obvious from the telephone scripts.
With jargon like “build ARC,” “dead agent material,” “reg cycle,” “out rudiments,” “PTS,” “stable datum,” and more, it’s clear that these scripts are written by Scientologists for Scientologists.
In fact, several of them are signed by Chris Bauge, Narconon Fresh Start’s deputy executive director, who has a history of Scientology involvement. Tax records show that Bauge was paid $256,543 in salary and $11,015 in other compensation by Narconon Fresh Start in 2011, the last year the organization’s records are available.
We called Narconon Fresh Start yesterday, explained why we were calling to the person who answered the phone, but were then told to call Narconon International — Narconon Fresh Start’s licensing body. We did as we were told and left a message. We’re still waiting for a reply.
McConnell posted several different scripts that tend to have much in common. They instruct a Narconon employee, when he or she receives a call, to spend some time getting basic information about how the caller is connected to the potential patient, and gather more data about the full family situation, which seems prudent. But then, the operator is instructed to convince the caller that things are worse than he or she may have believed…
After more conversation, the employee is instructed to use the classic Scientology strategy of “finding a ruin.” In other words, to find the key vulnerability that will convince the potential patient that he’s at serious risk without immediate help: “I.e. — Felony charges and he will never be able to get a good job, legal charges, kids get taken away by CPS, children grow up without a father or mother, addict’s liver or kidneys fail, wind up in jail or prison, kill themselves or someone else by drunk driving, they die from an overdose.”
After finding that vulnerability, the employee is supposed to pretend that he has other families to talk to, and will call back later, but at that point must also speak with the “family opinion leader” — in other words, the decision maker and source of funding.
After convincing the family opinion leader that the addict’s problem is very severe and requires at least 90 days of treatment, the employee then has to convince the family that there are numerous programs to avoid.
The employee then “dead agents” other well known options. “Dead agent” is a Scientology term for providing negative information to bias a listener against someone or something. In this case, the employee first badmouths inexpensive state or county programs, saying that they are “used as an absolute last resort.” The employee is instructed to describe them as crime-ridden hellholes.
Next, the employee takes on the more well known private programs around the country. The employee describes Passages of Malibu as one of the best programs, with an excellent success rate, but costing $150,000 “which in my opinion is a bit ridiculous.”
The Cirque Lodge in Utah costs less, but “their success rate is horrible.” Then, there’s the famous place in the California desert named after a former First Lady…
(Betty Ford died in 2011, which is when this script is dated.)
The employee then raises the prospect of Narconon centers, but doesn’t sell too hard: “The success rates are claimed to fall between 75 to 80 percent.” (Emphasis ours. In fact, those rates are preposterous. Even the best programs claim success rates of closer to 25 percent, and Narconon programs seem to raise their numbers all the time. Some are even claiming 90 percent success rates in recent advertisements.)
The employee continues with the soft sell: “The only thing with these treatment centers is sometimes they are full and running on a waiting list. That and they are not as ‘posh’ or luxurious as the more expensive ones.”
A line is then written out which gives the impression that the employee did not have his mind made up from the very beginning…
As the employee continues to push the caller toward Narconon, he also continues to pretend that he may have a difficult time getting them in, saying that he will “try” to get someone at a Narconon center on the phone.
In reality, he may be simply transferring his call to another person just down the hall.
That’s what Stacey Payne tells us she experienced when she worked at several Narconon centers over a nine-year period.
When she worked at Narconon Vista Bay in northern California, she would field calls that came in through the generic websites. Like the employee described in the scripts, she had to pretend that she had no connection to Narconon, even though she was sitting in one.
“I would pick up the phone and pretend that I wasn’t a Narconon employee, and I’d try to get them into Narconon,” she says. It was also important, she says, to keep Scientology out of the conversation. After convincing the caller that Narconon might be the best option, she’d transfer the call to someone else in the building.
At one time, Luke Catton was president of Narconon’s flagship facility in Oklahoma, Narconon Arrowhead. He’s now speaking out about the deceptions he saw at the centers where he worked.
“They have their own staff members pretending to be referring sources. So those are their own employees handling those calls and referring them to a Narconon SoCal ‘reg,’ even though they’re just referring down the hall,” Catton says, referring to the registrars (‘reg’ for short) whose job it is to get people to buy services.
And Catton points out that convincing people to go to Narconon is a lucrative gig, with a ten percent commission on a $35,000 program. “You can make $3,500 for a ten-minute phone call,” he says.
Eric Tenorio worked at Narconon centers in Oklahoma, Michigan, and Florida. He too says he witnessed Narconon employees pretending to be impartial referrers.
“The calls come from the fake referral lines. Typically they’re in the same room. They’re just handing one call from one guy to the next,” he says.
Catton, Tenorio, and Payne tell us that the generic websites and referral calls are only the beginning of Narconon deceptions. Families are told that Narconon patients will get personalized counseling for their specific drug problems in a facility staffed with professional medical personnel. In fact, they say, there’s little drug counseling; instead, Narconon materials show that patients go through the exact same training as beginning Scientologists do. (Narconon claims that these activities, such as shouting at ashtrays, have somehow been “secularized,” but it’s not clear how talking to ashtrays or holding staring contests in the church is “religious” to begin with — in fact, Hubbard claimed that Scientology was an “exact science” of the mind.) As for medical personnel, Narconon facilities are in fact staffed largely by former patients for low pay, and in the case of Narconon Georgia, court records showed that the lone physician associated with the staff had never once actually set foot in the place.
Catton and Tenorio also alleged recently that Narconon staff members obtained some of their professional certifications fraudulently. Last week, the National Association of Forensic Counselors took the extraordinary step of revoking the certifications of Gary Smith (CEO of Narconon Arrowhead) and Mary Rieser (former executive director of Narconon Georgia) as well as an undisclosed number of other employees. (We’ve made multiple calls to Smith and Rieser which have not been returned.)
Smith is losing his certification at a time when the Narconons in Oklahoma and Georgia are under intense scrutiny by local and state investigators in multiple criminal probes. The state of Oklahoma, meanwhile, is considering legislation this month that could make it tougher for Narconon Arrowhead to hold onto its licensing.
Catton and Tenorio tell us they will be making sure investigators are made aware of the scripts that McConnell posted to the Internet. We’ll follow up with them soon.
SMERSH Madness: Sowing the Seeds of World Domination!
As we announced on March 1, we’re joining bracket fever with a tournament like no other. It’s up to you to decide who should be named the new SMERSH, the traditional nemesis of Scientology. Cast your vote for who’s doing more to propel the church down its long slide into oblivion!
Continuing in the first round, we have a fun matchup this morning.
Paul Haggis, Oscar-winning director and screenwriter, is easily the most famous person to leave Scientology and speak openly about it. But more than his fame, it was his obvious credibility and self-deprecating style that made him such a devastating witness against the church on NBC’s Rock Center. The church has tried multiple times to smear him, but it’s only backfired.
Jason Beghe, the well-known character actor, made his own splash when he left Scientology and spoke up in 2008. As we’ve written before, Beghe not only won many fans for his brash style, but he did much more behind the scenes than he’s usually given credit for. And his career has zoomed since he left the church, providing evidence that Scientology’s influence in Hollywood is waning.
Yesterday’s result: Tory Christman barely squeaked by Karen de la Carriere in a nailbiter.
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 11, 2013 at 07:00