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The technology of ‘ruining’ people: Jefferson Hawkins on Scientology’s opening pitch

Jefferson_Hawkins_ObeyJefferson 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 previous written a series about Scientology “ethics” for the Underground Bunker.

This is the first of what I hope to be a series of articles on Scientology’s marketing, advertising and recruitment techniques. As most people know, I was a key player for many years in Scientology’s marketing and advertising efforts. My hope is that by unpacking some of Scientology’s recruitment techniques, I can give a peek “behind the curtain” and help lessen their effectiveness.

Scientology is essentially about manipulation, and that begins right at street level, with “finding a ruin.” When I was a Scientologist, I heard some of the top Scientology disseminators routinely refer to this step as “ruining” a person. That’s right, they would actually talk about “ruining” people.

Hubbard didn’t want Scientologists to try to explain Scientology. In his HCO Bulletin of 15 September 1959, Dissemination Tips, he said: “Don’t explain. Penetrate. Don’t overwhelm. Penetrate.”

He explains it in this way:

We don’t try to sell Scientology then. We give an apparent and understandable goal of what we’re doing and then put the person or persons to whom we’re talking into a state of being interested in their own cases.


In other words, don’t try to explain or sell Scientology at public level, just get them introverted into their own “ruins” – their problems and worries. This is the essence of the street-level “Stress Tests,” the “Free Personality Tests,” and virtually any social contact with a Scientology disseminator. Their top priority is to get inside your head and find out what your ruin is. And then press that button hard.

This is accomplished with the “Dissemination Drill,” HCO Policy Letter of 23 October 1965, which every Scientologist is trained to use. The first two steps are

1 . Contact the individual: This is plain and simple. It just means making a personal contact with someone, whether you approach them or they approach you.

2. Handle: If the person is wide open to Scientology, and reaching, this step can be omitted as there is nothing to handle. Handle is to handle any attacks, antagonism, challenge or hostility that the individual might express towards you and/or Scientology…

I suspect that these days, most attempts to promote Scientology hang up on this step, due to the sheer volume of factual information about Scientology now available and easily found, but assuming one can get past this, the next step is finding the ruin:

3. Salvage: Definition of salvage: “to save from ruin”. Before you can save someone from ruin, you must find out what their own personal ruin is. This is basically — What is ruining them? What is messing them up? It must be a condition that is real to the individual as an unwanted condition, or one that can be made real to him.

This is the crux of the drill. If you are talking with a Scientologist, whether at a street “Stress Test” booth, in an organization, or even socially, their conversation will be directed at “ruining” you – finding what your worries or problems are. The Stress Tester will use a meter and jump on any needle reaction with cries of “That! Right there! What were you thinking just then!” An org staffer will use a “Personality Test.” The casual disseminator will just conversationally probe for ruins. It’s all aimed at introverting you into your “case” and away from any need to explain Scientology itself.

Then the final step:

4. Bring to understanding: Once the person is aware of the ruin, you bring about an understanding that Scientology can handle the condition found in 3. This is done by simply stating Scientology can, or by using data to show how it can.

Often it’s just the simple statement (delivered with good “Tone 40” intention!) “Scientology (or Dianetics) can handle that!”

Of course, before the person actually begins a Scientology service, they have to sign a contract stating that they understand that the Church has made no claims that any specific result may be forthcoming from their Scientology services! But at street level, no matter what the ruin is, “Scientology can handle that!”

The person is then directed to buy the book or service that they are selling. I’ve written before about Hubbard’s knowledge of and use of the “confusion technique,” which is a tool in hypnosis. In a lecture called “Decision,” given on the 20th of May 1952, Hubbard says

Now, if it comes to a pass where it’s very important whether or not this person acts or inacts as you wish, in interpersonal relations one of the dirtier tricks is to hang the person up on a maybe and create a confusion. And then create the confusion to the degree that your decision actually is implanted hypnotically.

And in a 1950 lecture called “Educational Dianetics,” he describes the examination system used in schools as follows:

The examination system employed is not much different from a certain hypnotic technique. One induces a state of confusion in the subject by raising his anxieties of what may happen if he does not pass. One then “teaches” at a mind which is anxious and confused.

So theoretically, if one could raise a person’s anxiety level by, say, talking about their worries and problems, one could then hypnotically implant an idea, such as “Scientology can handle that.” Hmmmm…

Of course, Scientologists believe that any technique, no matter how manipulative, is justified as long as it gets the person onto the “Bridge to Total Freedom.”

What those innocent “Stress Testers” and “Personality Testers” may not realize is that plunging random people into their “ruin” is not just manipulative, it is potentially dangerous. Take the well-publicized 2008 case of Kaja Ballo, daughter of a Norwegian Parliament Member, who took the Scientology personality test and subsequently committed suicide. Her family and friends said that she was happy prior to taking the test, and that her mood dramatically shifted after seeing the results.

“Ruining” people can have consequences.

— Jefferson Hawkins



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.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

Oct 25: Melbourne, The Wheeler Centre, 3 pm, free but reservations recommended (with Steve Cannane)

Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, (with Sen. Nick Xenophon and Bryan Seymour)

Oct 30: Perth, Collins Street Centre, Collins St and Shaftesbury St, South Perth, 7 pm (with Bryan Seymour)

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29)


Posted by Tony Ortega on October 23, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com 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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