Social Control in Scientology, by Bob Penny  -- prevToCnext

The Creation of Ignorance

A cult's special kind of group-think may need to contend with alternative or competing ways of understanding the world. Thus there may be special definitions which explain to the group member how he is supposed to understand other understandings and the persons who represent them. If the group member happens to have knowledge of the alternative understanding, it may be necessary for him to create an ignorance of the alternative in order to be able to accept an emotional and unsubstantiated rejection of it -- just as racism demands some degree of ignorance of the humanity of the "wog" or "nigger."

Consider, for example, the relation between Scientology and psychology. Both offer explanations of and methods to change individual human behavior and so might be seen as competitors. Scientology attempts to invalidate psychology (and psychiatry) by describing both as a single undifferentiated generality identified with the physiological school of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920). In thirteen years I never once heard any Scientologist communicate anything even vaguely informed about the actual state of psychology. Skinner, Maslow, Erikson, Piaget were all one with Wundt. To study (or teach) psychology would be heresy. To accept and promulgate this viewpoint requires accomplishing an ignorance.

This kind of thinking can produce harm beyond that done to the person's intellect. Scientology's self-serving anti-psychiatry campaign led, in 1991, to a war on the anti-depressant medication Prozac; a war in which, as usual, individual Scientologists knew nothing of the facts but just followed group direction ("Psychiatry Kills" bumper stickers, for example).

An FDA investigation, prompted by Scientology's smear campaign, pronounced Prozac to be safe and effective. But meanwhile, a public scare had been manufactured which deprived many patients of badly needed help, the April 19, 1991 Wall Street Journal reported. A representative of Prozac's manufacturer is quoted as saying, "It is a demoralizing revelation to watch 20 years of solid research by doctors and scientists shouted down in 20-second sound bites by Scientologists and lawyers."

In another example of the creation of ignorance, Scientology is laced with pseudo-scientific overtones such as referring to Mr. Hubbard's opinions and pronouncements as data and tech to make them sound somehow scientific. This attitude includes ridicule of physics, often personified in the name of Albert Einstein, a name sure to be known by anyone, the implied assertion being that Scientology is far advanced beyond mere twentieth century Earth science -- an assertion not borne out by any evidence that I know of. But a person actually educated in the sciences could have a very hard time un-learning enough to go native credibly in this environment. Anyone applying normal standards of validity and scientific method to the data of Scientology would become an instant pariah ("he's attacking my religion"). To survive in the group one must accomplish an ignorance.

A striking instance of willful ignorance is Scientology's Purification Rundown, a supposed detoxification program developed by Hubbard which uses saunas and high doses of niacin and other vitamins. That procedure is also the basis of Narconon, a Scientology recruitment effort operating under the guise of drug rehabilitation (as their promo puts it, Narconon is the bridge to The Bridge).

Dr. James J. Kenney, Ph.D., R.D., a member of the National Council Against Health Fraud (a group which also includes former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop) cites medical studies of the effects of niacin, and concludes:

There is no credible support for claims that large doses of niacin clear toxins from the brain, fatty tissue or any other part of the body.... To subject people to ... potentially serious side effects on the pretense that they are being "detoxified," "cleared" or "purified" is quackery.

What else does Scientology want you to believe? Consider what you would have to ignore or cease to know in order to be able to agree with the following points of the Scientology group-think.

That last includes justification of Hard Sell dissemination tactics and the group's asserted right to control all aspects of a member's life, such as knowledge reports. Such ideas justify the intended conclusion, you can't be half in and half out of Scientology, and thus total commitment by and total control of the individual.

It appears to be irrelevant to the faith of Scientologists that the guy who got it all right is the same guy who, according to extensive court testimony, lied continuously about his childhood, education, military record, research activity and much else, and accumulated millions of dollars from the Hard Sell and Crush Sell tactics of his followers. Despite abundant red flags and indications of a trap, many things can be made to sound rational, given properly controlled information and good cheerleading.

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