Who speaks for Anonymous?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Traffic to this blog has exploded in the past day thanks to my post suggesting that the anti-Scientology organization Anonymous is a Stand Alone Complex. Being a Stand Alone Complex, there are no leaders, no chain of command, no orders, little cohesive organization, and the meaning of Anonymous is pretty much open to interpretation to each stand alone individual (within the overall bounds of anti-Scientology, which defines the overarching movement). Yet there are people commenting on this blog who insist that I don’t have the meaning right, that the Anonymous movement is tackling the organization and practices of the Church of Scientology itself, but not any of its attendant beliefs. Is that really a meaningful distinction though?

The church and the beliefs it exists to espouse are one and the same. The church only exists as a result of the beliefs. If nobody held the beliefs that being a Scientologist entails, then there would be no Church of Scientology, and thus none of the evils that Anonymous exists to fight against. This curious habit of semantic nitpicking amongst the anti-Scientologists speaks to a complex dance of mental contortion caused more by attempted rationalization than logical consistency. After all, isn’t it hypocritical to attack someone else’s beliefs when your own are no less believable? I’m looking at you, mainstream religions. Is Xenu blowing up a bunch of aliens with atomic bombs any more believable than creating the universe in seven days, with the light from the Sun created two days before the Sun itself? At least the Xenu story is possible, though unlikely. The desire to avoid tackling these issues of indefensible taking things on faith is the reason for the weird parsing of exactly what is under attack, as seen in this comment left on this blog:

Anonymous does not protest Scientology. Scientology is at its core perfectly valid belief; if someone wants to believe this Xenu stuff, he’s certainly free to do so. Anonymous protests the Church and its actions rather than the movement itself; it considers other independent Scientologists, such as the Free Zoners, to be its friends and allies even though those groups may not be participating directly in the movement against the church.

Is Scientology really at its core a perfectly valid belief? No, of course not. Some of the evils Anonymous is attacking Scientology for are caused by its deranged belief that psychiatry is dangerous, that psychiatric drugs cause harm rather than do good. Scientology’s beliefs have directly been responsible for murders and suicides when bipolar and schizophrenic individuals who needed serious medication were instead told that auditing could solve their problems, with deadly results. It’s no less acceptable of a belief than that of the Jehovah’s witnesses who rather would let their children die than receive a life-saving blood transfusion or organ transplant. These beliefs deserve condemnation because they are wrong and harmful, not respect because they are “sincerely held”. After all, you know who else had sincerely held beliefs?

I should carefully point out here that I am not advocating fascism; I am not advocating that we make people give up their silly beliefs by force. But I do think it is entirely acceptable to argue against the beliefs, to present reasons why they are flawed and dangerous, and to attempt as fervently as possible to get the adherents to cast them aside. Thus, attacking the beliefs of Scientology really is within the bounds of the Anonymous movement. And if it wasn’t, how can you explain all of those protest banners I’ve seen in pictures from the February 10 raids that directly and openly mock Scientology beliefs? By the very nature of a Stand Alone Complex, if a lot of the members of a movement think something is in bounds as part of the movement, then it is!

So keep making fun of Xenu all you want. I know I will be.

Wherein a fortune cookie instructs me to do the logically impossible

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Check out this logically impossible fortune cookie fortune I got from a Chinese restaurant last night:

Tomorrow, plan to be spontaneous.

I suppose they would also want me to achieve world peace through force, or fail to fail at everything, or list the members of the set containing exactly the sets that are not members of themselves.

Still, I do derive some satisfaction from knowing that somewhere out there is a fortune cookie fortune writer with a sense of humor who knows it’s all bunk, and reveals it by making an oxymoron into a fortune.