Subject: Holy Dianetics, Batman! The Narco-weenies are after me!
May 5 - 11, 2002
So there we were in the stark, feng shui correct offices of The Carroll Star News: myself, Bill Chappell, Sue Horn, Brian Crotty, and Larry Johnson. We were waiting. Waiting for a showdown. The Scientologists were a-comin'. [music swells]
Or, at least, they said they were a-comin'. Over the last few weeks, I'd covered the saga of the Church of Scientology - under the guise of a quasi-medical drug counseling program called Narconon - as they attempted to infiltrate the sleepy little town of Bowdon, Georgia. Now, I won't take any credit for their failed efforts at getting the zoning changes necessary to build their facility. Credit for that goes to the citizens of Bowdon, and the members of the planning and zoning committee. Good job, guys. But I did cover the stories, and took a genuinely investigative interest in them.
I uncovered a lot of disturbing stuff, which I duly reported. And I made them mad, apparently. The first indication of this came after the rezoning meeting, out in the parking lot. See, Narconon's big claim is that, even though their program is based entirely upon the principles and writings of Scientology founder L.Ron Hubbard, they are not in any way associated with the Church of Scientology. By the way, there's a pile of evidence that says otherwise sitting on my desk as I write this.
So after the meeting, with my buddy Sharon Clower there as a witness, I went up to Narconon's representative and asked her outright whether she was a Scientologist. Her reply was to flash me a look which would have melted armor plating at fifty yards as she snapped, "That's not an issue here!!" Almost immediately, a big guy gets right up in my face, standing between me and her. (Is this supposed to intimidate me?) He explains that he would be happy to answer whatever questions I might have. And for the next half hour, every question I asked received a pat, well rehearsed response which told me absolutely nothing. I also got a stack of propaganda which told me even less. They also asked for my card.
A few days later, I got a call from one of the Narconon people, asking to "meet me". Fascinating. If curiosity really did kill the cat, I'd have gone through many more than nine lives by now. I agreed to a meeting here, at The Carroll Star News office.
I think I received something like seven calls from this guy, providing me with different pro-Narconon websites and asking that I fax them what I'd written about them. (Oops. I forgot. Darn!)
Okay, so here's where things get weird. As the day of the meeting approached, all of a sudden, a lot of people - people we don't know and who should never have heard of us - start contacting us. These are anti-Narconon/Scientology people, and from the looks of things, there are as many of them out there as there are Scientologists.
Now, we're not talking about locals here. We're talking about people from across the country, sending us e-mails, calling us, faxing us. One woman, a former Scientologist, now an attorney in Marietta, had not only heard about this meeting, she also knew how many of these Narco-weenies were going to be "visiting" me - six - and had, somehow, gotten a copy of what I had written on the subject over the past few weeks. Too weird. One guy out in California sent us an e-mail detailing the intimidation tactics that they might use against us: "noisy" surveillance (that's surveillance where they make sure you're being watched), posing as private investigators and digging through our trash, talking to our neighbors, following us around. He also gave us tips on how to play mind games with these people.
The thing you've got to realize, though, is that just the word "intimidation" got Bill fired up, chomping at the bit in anticipation of whatever showdown these clowns might provide. We were ready for them: documentation, surreptitious recording devices. Newspaper people, traditionally, tend to be some pretty tough hombres, but I doubt that the Narco-Scientists would have been prepared to deal with the reception planned for them here at The Star. But it never happened. They didn't show, and it was anti-climactic for all of us here. They did call later in the day (just a few minutes ago, actually) and demand we fax them what I'd written last week on Narconon (which I'm going to forget about also...darn), but apart from that, nothing. Of course, I don't suspect that this is over yet. But we'll see. Ah! It isn't over yet. They just called again, demanding that fax. This time, Sue's accidentally forgetting to do it. Darn.
You know what I find hardest to believe about all this? It's how incredibly fast all of this news spread, especially among the anti-Narconon people. In one way, it's a testament to the influence the internet and newspapers have in our lives. In another, it's an equally compelling testament to how passionate Narconon's opponents are, and that alone speaks volumes. This has been a weird week...and it's only Tuesday...