Google “Scientology” and see how many hits you get. A lot huh? How about “Anonymous Scientology”? Hmm, almost as many. If you don’t know (say, you’re living without electricity and newspapers in Antarctica) Anonymous is a group of well, anonymous people, who mostly gather online and are supposedly against Scientology.
Recently, The Church of Scientology has begun a massive online advertising campaign. One might think this campaign is an attempt to combat the black hat tactics employed by Anonymous, but is it really? Or is it simply capitalizing on the public awareness created through the controversial ‘anonymous’ attacks.
A long time media analyst has been quoted as saying, “It is far easier to rehabilitate a bad name that has had broad media coverage than it is to simply get good coverage in the first place.” And of course the old saw, “There’s no such thing as bad press” also comes to mind.
If this were simply a short term capitalistic foray, the idea of instilling a poor image of your product on the public consciousness and then rehabilitating that image might seem a little ridiculous; but this is a religion. Scientology has big goals; ending war and crime, rights for honest people, etc. These aren’t short term objectives so maybe there is a worthwhile trade, publicity wise.
There is also the point of establishing a religion, historically no simple task. “All major established religious sects have gone through persecution, attacks, and public smear campaigns. It’s like a right of passage for religions,” says one religious observer. “These attacks can strengthen their communities and even create sympathy in those who aren’t followers. The attacks also have the effect of filtering out the weak and fearful and attracting the interest of the bold and curious giving the upstart religion a very capable pool of talent to recruit from.”
So is Anonymous the publicity wing of the Church of Scientology? It’s hard to say, they are anonymous after all. It could be anyone behind those masks, maybe John Travolta and Tom Cruise, who knows? Is it likely? No, not likely. Is Anonymous really doing long term damage to the Church of Scientology? It certainly doesn’t look like it. If anything it looks like they are plowing the fields for the growth of the world’s next major religion.
And by the way, if it does turn out that Travolta and Cruise are behind those masks, you heard it here first.