What is Narconon?
Narconon And Its Critics?

Last updated
10 December 2002
Contents > What is Narconon? > Narconon And Its Critics


Narconon, like the Church of Scientology and its other related entities, subscribes to L. Ron Hubbard's theories of "human evaluation" and his rigorous regime of "Scientology Ethics". The Church of Scientology has a well-deserved reputation for a vindictive intolerance of criticism - as United States Judge Paul Breckinridge said in a 1980s court judgment, "the organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid". It views itself as constantly being at war with a massive international organised conspiracy including doctors, politicians, the media and especially psychiatrists. The latter are supposedly the secret masters of the world, being responsible for most of its problems, including crime, insanity and war - the Holocaust, the Balkan wars and the September 11th attacks are all blamed on psychiatry. In response, the Church operates on Hubbard's motto that "the price of freedom is constant alertness, constant willingness to fight back." It certainly shows no lack of willingness to adhere to his dictum..

This attitude originated, like virtually everything else in Scientology, with its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Thirty years ago, Sir John Foster's public inquiry into Scientology in the United Kingdom commented:

The reactions of individuals and groups to criticism varies from grateful acceptance, or amused tolerance, at one end of the scale to a sense of outrage and vindictive counter-attack on the other. Perhaps unfortunately (especially for its adherents) Scientology falls at the hyper-sensitive end of the scale. Judging from the documents, this would seem to have its origin in a personality trait of Mr. Hubbard, whose attitude to critics is one of extreme hostility. One can take the view that anyone whose attitude to criticism is such as Mr. Hubbard displays in his writings cannot be too surprised if the world treats him with suspicion rather than affection.
[Sir John Foster, Report of the Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology (HMSO, 1971), p. 127]

The key theme of Hubbard's approach is that there are, in effect, three groups in society of interest to Scientology. The first is the Scientologists themselves, and their allies in like-minded groups. The second is the great mass of the uninitiated - in Scientology jargon, the "wogs" (not the British racist term but U.S. Naval slang meaning clueless or inexperienced individuals). The third is the "antisocial personalities" whom Scientology sees as its implacable enemies - according to Hubbard, these account for about 20% of the population (a completely arbitrary figure with no clear source).

In practice, this boils down to whether or not they disapprove of Scientology. In the eyes of Hubbard and his Church, it is permissible to be neutral but not to be critical. He produced a list of twelve "antisocial characteristics" by which one can supposedly recognise an "antisocial personality". Unsurprisingly, his often self-serving definitions (see <http://www.scientologyhandbook.org/sh11_1.htm>) neatly pigeonhole anyone critical of Scientology or a Scientology-supported organisation such as Narconon:

One might well argue a free-speech justification for criticising Scientology or Narconon. This holds no water with Scientology, however, as Hubbard did not favour democratic values. He viewed democracy itself as not having "done anything for Man but push him further into the mud", having produced little more than "inflation and income tax", and explictly rejected its use in Scientology [Hubbard, "Keeping Scientology Working", HCO Policy Letter of 7 February 1965 reissued 27 August 1980]. He suggested that only the "social personalities" should be given rights, as only they were capable of contributing to society:

As the society runs, prospers and lives solely through the efforts of social personalities, one must know them as they, not the antisocial, are the worthwhile people. These are the people who must have rights and freedom.
[Hubbard, Introduction to Scientology Ethics - also at <http://www.scientologyhandbook.org/sh11_2.htm>]

Which implies, of course, that the "antisocial" do not deserve "rights and freedom". Hubbard rejected utterly the idea that they could possibly have anything worthwhile to say:

Attackers are simply an anti-Scientology propaganda agency so far as we are concerned. They have proven they want no facts and will only lie no matter what they discover. So BANISH all ideas that any fair hearing is intended and start our attack with their first breath. Never wait. Never talk about us - only them. Use their blood, sex, crime to get headlines. Don't use us.

I speak from 15 years of experience in this There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime. All we had to do was look for it and murder would come out.
[Hubbard, "Attacks on Scientology", HCO Policy Letter of 15 Feb 1966]

The claim that "all critics are criminals" is preposterous on the face of it - presumably that includes the many doctors, journalists and officials who have criticised aspects of Scientology and its offshoots - but it is taken with the utmost seriousness by Scientologists themselves. For them, "critics are criminals" is not simply a figurative statement; it is proven fact:

Now get this as a technical fact, not a hopeful idea. Every time we have investigated the background of a critic of Scientology we have found crimes for which that person or group could be imprisoned under existing law. We do not find critics of Scientology who do not have criminal pasts. Over and over we prove this.

Politician A stands up on his hind legs in a Parliament and brays for a condemnation of Scientology. When we look him over we find crimes - embezzled funds, moral lapses, a thirst for young boys - sordid stuff.

Wife B howls at her husband for attending a Scientology group. We look her up and find she had a baby he didn't know about.

Two things operate here. Criminals hate anything that helps anyone instinctively. And just as instinctively a criminal fights anything that may disclose his past ...

We are slowly and carefully teaching the unholy a lesson. It is as follows: "We are not a law enforcement agency. BUT we will become interested in the crimes of people who seek to stop us. If you oppose Scientology we promptly look and will find and expose your crimes. If you leave us alone we will leave you alone".
[Hubbard, "Critics of Scientology", HCO Bulletin of 5th November 1967]

This, it will be recalled, is a doctrine which is taught to Narconon clients as part of its detoxification programme, but it also informs and guides Narconon's own behaviour towards its critics. Like the Church of Scientology, Narconon has shown little hesitation in "fighting back" - occasionally in conjunction with other Scientology-related organisations and the Church itself - when it sees its interests being threatened.

In line with Hubbard's dictum that critics are motivated by criminal interests, Narconon's line against its own critics has often been that they are motivated by a desire to get or keep people on drugs. Charging critics with corrupt motives is a standard Scientology tactic. On occasion, the Church of Scientology has itself taken up cudgels against Narconon's critics (despite the two supposedly being independent). The Church of Scientology in the United Kingdom distributes a series of anti-drug booklets such as "The Truth About Joints" and "Cocaine: A Deadly Road To Personal Ruin", promoting Narconon and the Scientology purification programme. They each include a curious "anti-disclaimer" on the inside front cover, presumably as a sort of pre-emptive response to the strong criticism which Scientology's anti-drugs campaign has aroused:

Drugs destroy or ruin millions of lives every year. Thus society owes a debt of gratitude to those who dedicate themselves to salvaging others from the harmful effects of drug abuse. Sadly, such educational groups and beneficial organisations are sometimes attacked by individual officials or vested interest groups who in some way benefit from keeping our society on drugs. It has been proven again and again that those who try to attack or hinder people who are salvaging others from the scourge of drugs have an agenda to promote drugs or to allow them to spread.
["The Truth About Joints", Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc., 2001]

When the Spanish authorities took legal action against Narconon in 1988, charging it with fraud and tax evasion, the Church promptly accused Interpol and the Spanish government of corruptly profiting from the drugs trade. Church spokeman Richard Haworth told the St Petersburg Times that "Whoever is behind these actions stands to profit by increasing the drug proliferation and addiction expansion," while Edith Buchele, the Church's chief officer for international affairs, claimed that "the present attack can only have come from those vested interests who make a lot of money off drugs." In a very similar vein, in June 1993 the Church distributed a leaflet entitled "The Cause of Conflicts and Violence" to households in East Grinstead, England. The leaflet was a denunciation of a local critic of Scientology, Jon Atack, and claimed that:

Another area of conflict which Mr. Atack has attempted to stir up is in the field of drug rehabilitation ... And to handle the hard-core addicts, the Church strongly supports the Narconon programme which utilizes Mr. Hubbard's drug rehabilitation technology to not only get addicts off drugs but to keep them off for good ... So why would Jon Atack attack a programme which is working towards a drug-free society? It is the Church's experience that such people often have hidden ulterior motives which they use to justify their actions. Perhaps that is the case, perhaps not. Mr. Atack should be asked to declare what vested interest he has in drug use continuing in society.
[Jonathan Caven-Atack vs Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc. et al, case no. HH 402401 - <http://www.religio.de/atack/hh402401.html>]

Narconon has made very similar statements, particularly during the acrimonious controversy sparked by its establishment in the town of Newkirk, Oklahoma. In a letter to the Newkirk Herald Journal of 18 May 1989, Narconon's then President, John Duff, claimed that "there will be those that will not want Narconon to succeed at Chilocco because they are for drugs and are on the other side in the battle against drugs." and that "only those that are in favor of a drug ridden society or those who are directly profiting from the drug racket would oppose such a program." Shortly afterwards, Narconon spokesman Gary Smith claimed that the townspeople had been misled by "outside sources with criminal motives": "There's fear being put into the town by false information being fed in there by somebody who's in favor of drug abuse. They're either connected to selling drugs or they're using drugs." ["They Totally Misrepresented What They Are Doing", Associated Press, 13 July 1989] When a Tulsa TV station, KOTV, ran a series of critical reports on Narconon in 1989, Narconon staff and supporters called the station to denounce the motives of the station and its reporter, Larry Blunt, who recalled: "We had a few people call ... and say that we were on the side of drug abuse and drug pushers. Mr. Gary Smith of Narconon Chilocco called our assistant news director and told him that he would find some way to have my job." Two years later, Gary Smith was still pushing the same line, telling CBS News that Narconon's problems were being perpetrated by "individuals with a lot of power and a lot of money that have something to profit from people being on drugs, whether that be substitute prescription drugs or whether that be drug pushers in influential places." [CBS Morning News, "Newkirk, Oklahoma Fighting A Mind-Control Cult", 18 November 1991]

An earlier version of this website has come in for similar criticism. Narconon's research director, Shelley Beckmann, claimed in a message to the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup in June 1998 that "To put this much effort into a web site that attempts to discredit a workable drug rehab program makes it loud and clear that someone is more interested in getting people on drugs than off." [Shelley Beckmann, "Narconon", <http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl2048196552d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&selm=6mc009%24ls2%241%40nnrp1.dejanews.com>]. We have heard that claims have been made that the website was being run and maintained by "someone in Europe" who "has ties" with "a drug manufacturing company." (In fact, it was hosted at the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany; it is now hosted at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania.)

Narconon's response to its critics has on occasion stretched far beyond mere criticism. After the Oklahoman controversy erupted, Narconon hired a private investigator, Woody Bastemeyer, to discover the identity of those opposing "effective drug rehabilitation programs." According to the then mayor of Newkirk, Gary Bilger, Bastemeyer told him that he had been hired by Narconon to find out who had been supplying the city with information about Scientology and Narconon, and was particularly interested in the source of a BBC documentary on Scientology that had been circulating in the area. (The local Baptist pastor was actually the "culprit".) Advertisements were placed in local newspapers asking people to give the names, addresses, place of employment, and type of vehicle driven by anyone known to be selling drugs or "anyone who may be opposed to effective drug rehabilitation programs." Kay County Sheriff Glenn Guinn was contacted by Bastemeyer who was seeking information about Newkirk Herald Journal publisher Bob Lobsinger's wife and children. [Source: "Scientology Group Hires Investigator, Buys Ad" - Newkirk Herald Journal, 31 August 1989]

This sort of tactic is standard operating procedure for the Church of Scientology, which refers to the practice as "noisy investigation". It was originally established as Scientology policy by L. Ron Hubbard in his confidential "Manual of Justice":

Overt investigation of someone or something attacking us by an outside detective agency should be done more often and hang the expense. It's very effective. Often investigation by a private detective has alone closed up an entheta [critical] source or a squirrel [breakaway] organisation. In fact at this writing I can't remember a time when it hasn't!

The reason for this is simple. Of twenty-one persons found attacking Dianetics and Scientology with rumours and entheta [criticisms], eighteen of them under investigation were found to be members of the Communist Party or criminals, usually both. The smell of police or private detectives caused them to fly, to close down, to confess.

Hire them and damn the cost when you need to.
[Hubbard, "HCO Manual of Justice", 1959]

After the state authorities became involved in the Oklahoman controversy, Narconon resorted to a range of other tactics familiar to critics of Scientology. In July 1990, the state Board of Mental Health pointed out, quite correctly, that Narconon was operating without a licence and had not applied for state certification; it therefore applied to the courts for an injunction to shut Narconon down until such time as certification was granted (if it ever was). In response, Narconon unleashed a legal and public relations offensive against it, aided by other Scientology-related entities. The entire board - collectively and each individual member of it, as well as the state Department of Mental Health - was sued by Narconon International, which accused it of "religious and racial bigotry" and operating a "conspiracy" within the state mental health department. When the Board appointed a Tulsa psychiatrist to evaluate Narconon's methods, it ended up having to provide him with legal cover in case he was sued. At the same time, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) - another Scientology-related organisation, which campaigns against psychiatry - began a campaign against the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health, accusing it of condoning or covering up the deaths of mental patients. A particular target was the Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital in Tulsa, where - by a remarkable coincidence - one of the Board members, Dr. Dwight Holden, worked. After Narconon acquired accreditation by a backdoor route, the lawsuits and the interest from CCHR were quietly wound down.

From all of this, it is fair to say that Narconon, like its parent organisation, takes a hard line on critics. The irony is that it undoubtedly does itself a disservice in the process. The Church of Scientology's use of such tactics has inspired deep distrust of its motives; one of the main reasons why the Scientology connection so often appears to cause trouble for Narconon is the generally unsavoury reputation which adheres to Scientology. Narconon would have been better advised to take a more media-friendly line, but its close ties to the Church and its staff's personal commitment to all aspects of L. Ron Hubbard's "technologies" probably make this impossible - much to Narconon's own detriment.

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