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Hubbard’s ‘Brainwashing Manual’ — how a crude Scientology hoax became a far-right touchstone

[Kenneth Goff, left, and George Putnam]

Chris Owen continues his two-part series today with a look at what became of L. Ron Hubbard’s hoax, a “Brainwashing Manual” that he pretended had been written by a Soviet academic. Yesterday, Chris traced the origins of the hoax. Today, he looks at its lasting implications.

L. Ron Hubbard’s fraudulent “Brainwashing Manual” might eventually have faded into obscurity but for political events in 1956 and the intervention of a high-profile far-right activist. On January 18, 1956, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to improve mental health care in the then Territory of Alaska. Six days later, prompted by the far-right American Public Relations Forum and Minute Women of the USA, the conservative Santa Ana Register newspaper published a lurid warning about the bill under the headline, “Now — Siberia, U.S.A.” It claimed that the bill was the cover for implementing a scheme to turn Alaska into a psychiatric concentration camp, to which the government could deport political opponents from across the United States. It prompted a wave of activism from far-right groups.

Within weeks, the bill became one of the most controversial pieces of legislation before Congress for many years. Congressmen were deluged with thousands of calls and letters from outraged constituents. Some undoubtedly came from Scientologists, who Hubbard urged to write to their congressmen to protest the “Siberia Bill.” He also appears to have stepped up the distribution of the Brainwashing Manual. It was likely no coincidence that an Alaskan legislator received it — it was quite possibly sent to every Alaskan representative in a bid to incite them against the bill. But its biggest impact was on the far right more generally.

One of the loudest voices in the campaign was the Rev Gerald L.K. Smith, the leader of the white nationalist, anti-Semitic America First Party. Another far-right activist, Kenneth Goff, chaired Smith’s Christian Youth for America organization. Both were fanatically anti-communist — Goff claimed to have been a member of the Communist Party in the late 1930s, though this seems to have never been proved. By 1956 he had published numerous tendentious anti-communist and Holocaust-denying books and tracts. His activities as a rabble-rousing public speaker had already brought him onto the FBI’s radar as early as 1942. The Bureau considered him to be a “borderline psychopath.”

At some point in 1956, Goff acquired a copy of Hubbard’s Brainwashing Manual. It is not clear whether Hubbard knew of or had any contact with Goff or Smith, but all three had a common connection: They all used the same publisher, E.E. Manney of Fort Worth, Texas. Manney’s wife was a co-editor of Smith’s official journal, The Cross and The Flag. Hubbard evidently had some social contact with them, as his letters to Manney shows him enquiring about his wife. Goff may well have acquired the manual from Manney. He then proceeded to make a hoax out of a hoax, and managed to give the Brainwashing Manual a far bigger prominence than Hubbard could ever have expected.


Goff made significant changes to the manual. He deleted the introduction by “Charles Stickley” and added his own introduction, claiming that he had compiled it and that “Beria’s” lecture dated to 1936. He also added references to his own Pentecostal Christianity as well as mentioning the “Siberia Bill.” Goff claimed that he was the first one to have published it, that “Stickley” had merely plagiarised it, and that it had come from the Communist Party headquarters in New York City. Sold for $1 per copy, it soon became a hugely successful publication. Even Scientology began selling the Goff version to its members, indicating that Hubbard was likely happy to see someone else promoting it and further obscuring his own role.

The manual even reached Australia, where the Melbourne-based Victorian League of Rights published a reissue of the “Stickley” version later in 1956. This may have been due to the efforts of Scientology, which sent copies to Australia and reportedly tried to hoax the Australian authorities into believing that the manual was genuine. According to evidence later heard by a public inquiry into Scientology in Melbourne, the American HASI sent “an envelope containing a copy of the manual, and a similar envelope but with no copy of the manual in it. When the two envelopes arrived at their destination, the Melbourne HASI then complained to the authorities that the contents of one envelope were missing, the suggestion being that the manual had been removed en route by communists, and the other envelope containing the manual was produced to the authorities, so that they could see the nature of the material involved, and in this way the manual was brought to the notice of the authorities.”

Goff’s fraudulent claim of authorship led to persistent confusion about the origins of the Brainwashing Manual. Some writers have claimed that his version was the first to be published; others give this credit to the “Stickley” (Hubbard) version. There are several clear signs that the “Stickley” version came first. The FBI’s files show that it received the “Stickley” version well before the Goff version, and indeed its analyses of the Goff version refer back to the “Stickley” version. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, wrote that it had received the Goff version around the start of July 1956, six months after the “Stickley” version. When the Victorian League of Rights published its version later in 1956, it chose to publish the “Stickley” version. It specifically identified the “Stickley” version as having been published in 1955 and the Goff version in “early 1956.” No copies of the Goff version are known to date to earlier than 1956, and no copies of any version — or a Russian original — have been found dating to before 1955. Nor is Goff recorded making any mentions of it prior to 1956.

The text also holds clues to the manual’s authorship, allowing it not only to be attributed to Hubbard but dated to a specific and fairly narrow time period. The “Stickley” version of the manual refers several times to Dianetics and Dianeticists, an obvious giveaway about its antecedents but also showing that it could not have been compiled before 1950, falsifying Goff’s claim about it dating to 1936. It also includes other Hubbardisms which still remain in recent reprintings of the manual. Even if we did not have John Sanborn’s eyewitness testimony of Hubbard’s authorship, these inclusions show that the author was someone who was very familiar with Hubbard’s recent ideas.

The first such clue is the manual’s use of the term “pain-drug-hypnosis” to describe the supposed communist method of brainwashing. This was coined by Hubbard in his 1951 book Science of Survival; there is no trace of it having been used previously. The second is the whole of chapter 7 of the manual, “Anatomy of Stimulus-Response Mechanisms of Man.” The concepts it describes are pure, undiluted Scientology doctrine — not Dianetics — and it contains the similarly idiosyncratic expression, “mental image picture.” Hubbard’s first recorded use of this tautological term appears to be in a lecture of July 1954, “Axioms,” which was collected in his book The Phoenix Lectures. Clearly, Beria, who died in December 1953, could not have used it himself, nor could he have been aware of Scientology concepts which were apparently not devised until 1954.

The Brainwashing Manual went on to become probably the only work by L. Ron Hubbard to be read into the Congressional Record (by North Dakota Representative Usher L. Burdick in June 1957). The segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond and a California Superior Court judge enquired about it to the FBI. It was quoted on the floor of the Australian Senate and reproduced in the pages of the Rotary Club’s international magazine. The television newscaster George Putnam spent a week in March 1960 reading from it during his news reports and advocated that a copy should be sent to every school in America.

Numerous far-right groups, including the John Birch Society, adopted it as a rallying cry to campaign against the supposed evils of “Jewish-Zionist” psychiatry. It was no wonder that in 1964 the American Journal of Psychiatry lamented that it contained “some of the most bald-faced lies ever directed against the psychiatric profession” but also that it had “a tremendous circulation and has been cited at great length.” The FBI reported, accurately enough, that it was being “circulated by persons of highly questionable background and, in some cases, sanity.”

The hysteria it engendered persisted well into the 1960s and only subsided in the 1970s. The FBI was still receiving enquiries about it as late as 1969. It prompted death threats against psychiatrists over their supposed communist affiliations, contributed to the derailing of mental health legislation in several states and, according to a professor of psychiatry at UCLA interviewed by Look magazine in 1965, resulted in individuals committing suicide rather than seeking treatment from “communist” psychiatrists.

Hubbard, who had by then declared his intention to eradicate psychiatry entirely, must have been delighted at the chaos that he had sown with his hoax.

— Chris Owen

Tomorrow, Chris Shelton follows up on this two-part series with a video discussing how the Brainwashing Manual is still being used in Scientology to this very day.


Scientologists now being told to vote for two Clearwater Council candidates

Previously, we told you that a Scientology front group was telling Clearwater Scientologists that it had endorsed city council candidate John Funk, a real estate investor who is trying to unseat incumbent Hoyt Hamilton in the council’s Seat 5. Now, Scientologists in town got a new email saying that besides Funk, they are encouraged to cast a ballot for retired contractor David Allbritton in the open race for Seat 4.

This email was sent out by Scientologist Pat Clouden’s WISE business, Accelerated Training Solutions, to local church members…



Bonus items from our tipsters

The fearless leader wrote a big check!


Who else would you want to learn public relations from than Scientology?



Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,032 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,635 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 178 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,241 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,015 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,789 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,135 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,629 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,669 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,381 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 907 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,996 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,136 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,456 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,431 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 787 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,089 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,195 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,598 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,470 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,052 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,557 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,801 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,910 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 21, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | 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


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