Jefferson Hawkins was once the top marketing executive for the Church of Scientology and helped it reach its greatest extent with the famous “volcano” TV ads in the 1980s. He’s told his tale of getting into and out of the church with his excellent books Counterfeit Dreams and Leaving Scientology, and he’s helping us understand the upside-down world of Scientology “ethics.”
Where are you taking us this week, Jeff?
JEFFERSON: Last week, we looked at the first half of Chapter 7, all about the Suppressive Person. This week, we’re taking a look at the second part of that chapter, Potential Trouble Source, or PTS.
THE BUNKER: Walk us through the concept of PTS and why it was first devised.
JEFFERSON: One of the hallmarks of any authoritarian group or cult is information control, or, as Robert Jay Lifton calls it, milieu control. They have to be able to control the information that their members receive, and particularly to block them from receiving any negative information about the group or its leaders. An authoritarian group or cult can only exist in a bubble of controlled, positive information.
THE BUNKER: I can understand how that is done in, say, North Korea, where the government controls the media, but how do you accomplish that in a free society, where information is readily available — particularly with the Internet?
JEFFERSON: As Orwell pointed out in his novel 1984, “mind control” is not someone else controlling your mind, like a robot. True mind control is the person controlling his or her own mind according to the dictates of the group. This is done using thought-stopping mechanisms. Orwell uses the term “crimestop” to describe this. He says,
Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought.
In Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steve Hassan says:
If information transmitted to a cult member is perceived as an attack on either the leader, the doctrine, or the group, a hostile wall goes up. Members are trained to disbelieve any criticism…
The SP-PTS “technology” is how Scientologists are trained to avoid, ignore and not listen to anything critical of Scientology or Hubbard. This thought-stopping began with the definition of a Suppressive Person, which we covered last week. This is an evil being who seeks to suppress, or squash, “any betterment activity or group.” According to Hubbard’s definition, they delight in keeping people down and preventing people from getting better. A Potential Trouble Source, then, is
A person who is in some way connected to and being adversely affected by a suppressive person. He is called a potential trouble source because he can be a lot of trouble to himself and to others.
If you are connected to a SP in any way, if anyone you know is critical of Scientology or Hubbard, then you are “PTS.”
THE BUNKER: And that includes reading any negative news stories, watching negative TV programs, or visiting negative sites on the internet — like our own Underground Bunker.
JEFFERSON: Yes, anything that is critical of Scientology is, of course, the work of an SP. If you read it or watch it or listen to it, you are therefore “PTS.”
THE BUNKER: Be warned, readers! So are there penalties for being PTS?
JEFFERSON: Absolutely. If one is exposed to any negative information, whether from family members or from the media, one is supposed to immediately report oneself. Hubbard says,
It is a crime to be or become PTS without reporting it.
THE BUNKER: A crime! That’s pretty harsh. So, you report yourself, then what happens?
JEFFERSON: Well, you get suspended from all auditing or training. In effect, you can’t get any Scientology services if you are PTS. Hubbard says:
a person who is PTS may not receive processing or training while PTS.
At the beginning of this section, Hubbard introduces the idea of the “roller-coaster case.” The person has “case gains” from Scientology, then loses them because of invalidation by the SP. They go up and down like a roller coaster because of this evil person who is feeding them negative, critical information about Scientology. The person’s “progress up the Bridge” is therefore blocked as long as they remain connected to the SP, so they have to handle the condition before they can be admitted back onto their Scientology services. In essence, they are ostracized until they handle or sever the SP connection.
THE BUNKER: I see that there are three different “types” of PTS listed here. How does this work?
JEFFERSON: Type I PTS means “the SP on the case is right in present time, actively suppressing the person.” This is the simplest to handle. The person is asked if anyone is invalidating him or his gains or Scientology, such as a friend or family member. Once the person is found, they are told to “handle or disconnect.”
With a Type II PTS, “the apparent suppressive person in present time is only a restimulator for the actual suppressive.” That means that the person who they think is the SP isn’t really the SP, they just remind them of a real SP back on the time track.
This, by the way, is how they handle anyone who names Hubbard or Miscavige as their SP. Hubbard says:
…if the person starts naming org personnel or other unlikely persons as SP, the Ethics Officer must realize that he is handling a Type II PTS.
Get that: if they name Hubbard, Miscavige, or org seniors, they “can’t possibly be the real SP” so they have to look elsewhere.
A Type III PTS is described as “entirely psychotic” and “beyond the facilities of orgs.” Treatment for a Type III is “a relatively safe environment and quiet and rest and no treatment of a mental nature at all.” This is where the “Introspection Rundown” came in later. It was supposed to handle “Type IIIs.”
I saw a few of these cases while I was in Scientology, people who had been labeled “Type III.” These were usually people who insisted on leaving, refused all handling and in some cases had become violent. And they were definitely isolated from the group.
THE BUNKER: So how is a PTS condition resolved?
JEFFERSON: Now we get into the “handle or disconnect” section. The person is told that they must either handle the SP or disconnect from them.
Hubbard gives various steps one can do to “handle.” The first step
…may consist of requiring him to actually answer his mail or write the person a pleasant good roads, good weather note or to realistically look at how he estranged them.
Fill in any vacuum of missing data with factual data about Scientology and to prove any lies, rumors and false data encountered to be false.
To do this effectively, Hubbard tells them to get packs of current materials from their local Ethics Officer or from OSA. He also mentions the book, What is Scientology, and a “cassette” called Can We Ever Be Friends. For those not familiar with the latter, this was a recording scripted by Hubbard to supposedly handle antagonistic parents or family members. He even dictated which “emotional tone level” each line was to be delivered in. It was originally narrated by old-time Scientologist Fred Hare, and was later re-recorded using the cheap-game-show-announcer voice of Jeff Pomerantz. The result, in both cases, was a corny, obnoxious, overblown piece of crap that most Scientologists were too embarrassed to play for their family members.
THE BUNKER: There’s a real oddity with this “handling” step. As we saw last week, Hubbard described an SP as a totally evil individual who hates and attacks any effort to help mankind, who cannot be helped or improved, and who hates the thought of anyone getting better. So how would writing pleasant letters or educating them on Scientology handle an SP?
JEFFERSON: Exactly. Something doesn’t add up with this proposed handling. It becomes obvious, as you read this section, that he is NOT in fact talking about some irredeemably evil, antisocial being who is out to destroy all mankind, as he earlier described. He is talking about the Scientologist’s friends and family who may be antagonistic or critical towards Scientology. He advises Scientologists “Don’t create antagonism.” Well, that would be a stupid statement to make regarding an SP — the SP is already as antagonistic as he’s going to get — if you go by Hubbard’s definition.
Remember that he earlier gave Hitler as an historical example of an SP. Well, consider if Jews in Germany had followed this “handling” advice and wrote “good roads, good weather” letters to Hitler and sent him educational materials on Judaism to handle any false information he may have received. You start to see how ineffective this would be in handling what Hubbard has described as an SP. It becomes obvious that he is not taking about handling antisocial, evil beings here, he is talking about handling friends and family who are critical of Scientology — an entirely different thing.
And it also becomes obvious that “handle” means only one thing — get them to stop being critical of Scientology.
My mom was “handled” in that she learned not to be critical of Scientology in the presence of me or my brother. She had her opinions but never expressed them to us, and so was able to keep communicating to us. Many parents and family members are coached to do the same thing — not to be openly critical of Scientology to their Scientologist family members, no matter how they personally feel. They know that if they do so, they will be disconnected.
THE BUNKER: And so we get to disconnection, which Tommy Davis insisted does not exist.
JEFFERSON: It’s a key part of the thought-stopping. In Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steve Hassan says:
Ultimately, if the family of a new member is critical enough, he will be instructed to break off all contact. Destructive cults cannot tolerate opposition of any kind. Either people agree with them (or are seen as potential converts) or they are the enemy.
This section is an apology for the practice of disconnection, and contains the arguments that Scientology commonly uses to justify the practice — when they are not denying that it exists! It is presented as “a fundamental right.” Anyone, we are told, has the right to accept or reject communication. This principle, we are told, “exists in any group.” The essay mentions that the practice of disconnection was earlier cancelled “because of misuse” but was reinstated as “we cannot deny Scientologists this right.”
THE BUNKER: Was it actually cancelled?
JEFFERSON: It was publicly cancelled by Hubbard in 1968 as the result of a broad public survey that found that it was wildly unpopular. It was part of a “reform” effort designed to handle Scientology’s horrible PR at that time. According to some, it was Miscavige who reinstated it — for the same reason it was originally devised. People were getting bad news from friends and family members and it had to be controlled and stopped. If you’re going to create an information bubble that excludes any negative or critical ideas, you have to have a mechanism like this.
THE BUNKER: We hear “PTS” used these days as a catch-all justification for some of Scientology’s most dramatic failures.
JEFFERSON: Of course. Since Scientology “always works,” Scientologists need handy excuses for when it obviously and dramatically doesn’t. The most common excuse is “it wasn’t applied properly.” But right behind that is “He/she was PTS.” We hear this when a high level OT commits suicide, like Steve Brackett, kills someone, like Rex Fowler, or defects, like Leah Remini (and countless others). “They were PTS.” It excuses anything, because Hubbard made some pretty sweeping statements about the PTS condition. He said,
The first thing to know is that CASE WORSENING IS CAUSED ONLY BY A PTS SITUATION. There never will be any other reason…
All institutional cases are PTSes. The whole of insanity is wrapped up on this one fact…
…all illness in greater or lesser degree and all foul-ups stem directly and only from a PTS condition.
So it’s a handy, thought-stopping excuse for the most egregious failures.
“PTS technology,” I believe, is the core of Scientology’s thought-stopping control system. Scientologists are deathly afraid of being declared PTS, of being taken off “the Bridge” or forced to disconnect from family or friends. So they avoid negative or critical information at all costs. This means they are trained to police their own information bubble and not let any negativity in. You can make any amount of critical information available to them and they literally will not read it. They will not touch it. They are afraid to. They have learned their own version of Orwell’s crimestop: the technique of “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought.”
Scientology and Apartheid
With the rest of the world, we are remembering today the life of a truly great man who left the world a better place than he found it.
Nelson Mandela was a towering giant of the 20th Century. L. Ron Hubbard, not so much.
Professor Dave Touretzky has preserved some interesting pages about the history of Scientology’s support for apartheid. You might give them a look if you have some extra time.
Posted by Tony Ortega on December 6, 2013 at 07:00
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