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Jon Atack: Scientology’s snitch culture, and how ex-members must relearn the notion of privacy

Jon_AtackJon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet. He was kind enough to send us a new post.

Jon, we were talking the other day, and one of us mentioned an ex-church member who seemed to have a difficult time with personal boundaries. You told us how that was a product of Scientology itself, and now we’re glad to see you’ve decided to expand on that. We’re all ears.

JON: I was shocked when I received my first Knowledge Report. I had been involved in Scientology for about eight months and had just finished giving my fifth two-hour session of “book and bottle” to a reluctant preclear. This “process,” also labelled “opening procedure by duplication” consists of moving the poor preclear between two card tables at either end of a room, and asking said preclear to lift the book on one and the bottle on the other and answer the same questions about weight, color, or temperature, each time.

“Op pro by dup” (and yes, it is pronounced “dupe”) is one of the mind-numbing procedures called “objectives” because they are physical forms of hypnosis. It is supposed to induce “exteriorization” – which usually means “depersonalization” or the sense of being outside your body. I have never met anyone who claimed that it was more than a sense; no one who had “exterior perception.” Its psychiatric relative – an aspect of psychosis – is “derealization,” which can lead to a spell in hospital.

After five two-hour sessions, my preclear eventually offered a “cognition,” or realization, that he felt as if he were outside his body, and with great relief I took him back to the Scientology Franchise. Later, I told a friend about the tedium I had experienced (I would happily have left my body and traveled almost anywhere to leave the book and bottle behind). He said nothing to me, but the next day I was handed a Knowledge Report, suggesting that I had denigrated the “Technology” by admitting my boredom.

In nine years, I only received one other Knowledge Report: For writing a list of policies violated by the leadership, a couple of weeks before I resigned from the cult. I later found that this method was employed by the Gestapo, and many Hitler Youths turned in their parents through such reports. Indeed, the Gestapo was never able to keep up with the torrent of reports that poured in, such is the malevolence created by this system. Hubbard made it law that anyone who failed to snitch would receive the same penalty as the offender.


As with all Scientology behaviors, this readily fixes and becomes immovable, so I call it the Knowledge Report Implant. With the advent of the Internet, many ex-members casually report private conversations. This implant destroys the normal social ethos of privacy. From Hubbard’s point of view, it provided an early warning system against potential defectors. It was never meant for our benefit.

Vaughn and Stacy Young told me that they had each waited seven years before telling the other that they wanted to leave. They were scared of being reported. I know of more than one case where a spouse did make such a report, with dire consequences.

Privacy is a basic human right, written into constitutions and declarations the world over. If you want to control people, this is one of the rights that must be stripped away. It is second nature among Scientologists to deny privacy, and regaining privacy and granting it to others is essential in recovery from Scientology.

I have several times had my confidence breached by ex-members, who think nothing of sharing private conversations or emails, and, most unfortunately, often misunderstand or exaggerate the contents of these. Let me suggest that if you want to share such a communication, you first share it with the person who made it and make sure that you are not violating their confidence.

The documentary Citizenfour deals with Edward Snowden’s leak of National Security Agency documents, which showed the extent to which US intelligence agencies have violated international law and invaded privacy. One commentator, J. Appelbaum, made this point: “What people called liberty and freedom, we now call ‘privacy’ and we say, in the same breath that privacy is dead … When we lose privacy, we lose agency, we lose liberty itself, because we no longer feel free to express what we think.”

Whether it be the NSA or the OSA, privacy is a fundamental human right, and we should treat it as sacrosanct.

THE BUNKER: Thank you for that, Jon. And now here’s a video of you from last August, talking about “undue influence” at a conference in London…



We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

July 12: Washington DC, Hill Center DC-Drummond Hall, Center for Inquiry, 2 pm (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE, 7 pm (with Tom Tomorrow)

July 17: Denver, The Secular Hub, 7 pm (with Chris Shelton)

July 20: Dallas, Times Ten Cellars, 7 pm (with Robert Wilonsky)

July 22: Houston, Fox and Hound, 11470 Westheimer Road, sponsored by Humanists of Houston

July 24: San Antonio, Folc Restaurant/Park Social, 6 pm

July 25: Austin

July 29: Paris, Le Bistrot Landais, 19:00 (with Jonny Jacobsen)

August 4: London, Conway Hall, (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Arizona State University

Sept 23: Cleveland

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 12, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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