We know that Scientology uses a myriad of techniques in order to lure unsuspecting victims into their “church”. Free stress tests are probably the most common, but even more manipulative methods exist. Narconon is a Scientology front posing as a substance abuse treatment program. The audacity of such a group, one that prohibits any form of psychiatric medicine, using completely unscientific methods to treat very serious conditions, all for the sake of gaining members for their “church” and ultimately making more money. There a few activities more distasteful than this. Just take a look at the extent of the criticisms of their approach.

Well, today I learned of yet another Scientology front. LITE is an English school for foreigners. Here and here you will find an expansive list of the “church’s” schools worldwide.

The LITE program in the Czech Republic states:
“The study technology of L. Ron Hubbard addresses these issues. It’s the first truly functional technology, enabling you to study and understand any subject. It’s not mechanical studying, but true understanding of the material and the ability to use in practice what one has learned.”

Here is what academic researchers think of the “Study Tech“:

  • In a paper entitled The Hidden Message in L. Ron Hubbard’s “Study Tech”‘, Professor David S. Touretzky, Principal Scientist in the Computer Science Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon University and historian and researcher Chris Owen. MBE, claim that ‘study technology’ is a disguised effort to proselytize for the Church of Scientology. “Scientology jargon and religious beliefs . . . are inseparable from Study Tech.”
  • Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Clark said that the Scientology methods of learning comes to: “Train the child to be either a willing subject of tyranny or to be a tyrant himself.”

Although the media has begun to cover Scientology in the United States and England, their activities are not yet widely known around the rest of the world. The Scientology schools capitalize on people’s lack of awareness and their desire to learn English. Posters and advertisements promoting the LITE school can be found in public transport stations and elsewhere. Several prominent Czech newspapers (Dnes, Metro) have written articles promoting the school probably unbeknownst to its connection to Scientology.

Here is a site in Czech that deals with some of the controversies surrounding the Lite School.

southlandtalesgn1.jpgAs Donnie Darko fans sit in anticipation, many wonder how Richard Kelly will pull off his second major film. So far the reviews and comments by critics have been pretty poor. Adjectives such as confusing, complex, disappointing, dense, too ambitious, have been used to describe the movie. One question that no one seems to be asking (probably due to being ill informed) is “what are the disadvantages of releasing three comic books as the prequel to a film”? Yes, although Southland Tales won’t be released till November 14th, the first half of its story has been available in graphic novel form for quite some time. It’s unsurprising a film would appear incoherent if you unaware the first half of its story.

I admit that I love what I’ve read so far. Staying true to form, Richard Kelly uses the themes of time travel, parrallel dimensions, and meta-realities to create an experience you may actually have to think about. Characters in the graphic novels are playing the roles of actors as a the comic turns into a screen-play and back. The comic book even alludes to the fact that one the characters is actually writing the plot of the movie. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles anybody? It took me several readings to get a grasp on what is actually going on. Add social-political critique and conspiracy theories into the mix and you’ve got yourself quite the story. Try to fit the continuation of such a plot in the time span of a single film and have it appeal to the average viewer, that’s a challenge.

The film is ambitious indeed and it seemed to have an aggressive marketing plan that might have not come to fruition. Many of the characters from Southland Tales have myspace profiles and websites such as Krysta Now . Even one of the main corporations in the story have a promotional flash video for their car. The site for the Donnie Darko film featured an interactive game where more information about the plot was revealed. It looks like Richard Kelly was intending to do the same with Southland Tales, but to my knowledge the sites haven’t been updated since their creation.

If this wasn’t confusing enough, the film is a dark comedy and satire which is almost kitsch in its presentation. Not until I reflected on the trailers did I realize what was going on. Perhaps this will sound like a bad excuse to some, but the incredible cheesiness in the film may actually be intentional. An amnesiac action movie star is trying to save the world and a porn star is assisting him on his mission. Doesn’t exactly sound like the plot of the most serious film.

It wasn’t the critics that made Donnie Darko a cult classic, but the fans. So, I would encourage people to give the movie a chance. And if you want the full experience, read the Southland Tales prequal to get an idea of what’s going on.

And finally… a trailer:

WorldviewI’m currently working on a project and stumbled upon a bit of information I find fascinating.

Terror Management Theory attempts to describe a significant motivator behind human action. It arouse from various academic traditions but is mostly familiar to students of social psychology. The basic thesis is that as humans our primary biological imperative, aside from passing on our genetic material, is to stay alive. And as everyone knows, there are countless unforeseen circumstances in which our existence can come to an abrupt end. It is precisely this which most likely differentiates us from other animals, our awareness of our impending death. I say “most likely differentiates us from other animals” because this has not been entirely proven true. What can be confirmed experientially however, is the overwhelming anxiety generated from this awareness of death.

Otto Rank, Norman Brown, and Ernst Becker posited that humans, ingeniously but unconsciously solved this dilemma by developing cultural world views: “commonly held beliefs about reality that serve to reduce the potentially overwhelming terror resulting from the awareness of death”. All cultures provide meaning by offering a creation myth, a blue print for acceptable behavior on earth, and a promise of immortality either symbolically or literally. Individuals thus become participants in a world of meaning and gain emotional stability in the face of death.

As readers of this blog may know: “All cultural world views are ultimately shared fictions, in the sense that none of them is likely to be literally true, and their existence is generally sustained by social consensus. When everyone around us believes the same thing we can be confident of the voracity of our beliefs”. Good old social proof.

This may not be entirely news for many but the following was certainly something I somewhat knew but never considered in its entirety. “When we encounter people with different beliefs, this poses a challenge to our death-denying belief system, which is why people are generally quite uncomfortable around (and hostile toward) those who are different.” Religious and political conflicts may be much more than disagreements on how one should live their life and more a coping mechanism for death anxiety. Suddenly the state of the world gains a whole new dimension.

“Additionally, because no symbolic cultural construction can actually overcome the physical reality of death, residual anxiety is unconsciously projected unto such groups as individuals, designating them as scapegoats: all encompassing repositories of evil, the eradication of which would make earth as it is in heaven. We therefore typically respond to people with different beliefs by berating them, trying to convert them to our system of beliefs, or just killing them and in so doing asserting that “my God (or political-economic system) is better than ours and we’ll kick your ass to prove it.”

Quotations from Psychology and Consumer Culture

jfk.jpgLike many posts presented on this blog we advise you to take this information with a degree of skepticism. However, if Howard Hunt’s allegations are true then this truly is some piece of news.

‘As the explosive revelation of E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession, in which the former CIA agent and Watergate conspirator admits that he was part of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate JFK, continues to rage across the Internet, the establishment media remains almost mute on what is undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the decade.’

From Wikipedia:

The April 5, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone contained an extensive article on Hunt, based in large part on an interview with his eldest son St. John. It describes Hunt’s alleged deathbed confessions of his supposed knowledge and indirect complicity in the JFK assassination.[12] Among other things, the article claims that Hunt, in hand-written notes and a voice recording to St. John, implicated Lyndon B. Johnson, and CIA operator Cord Meyer as the key players in the JFK assassination conspiracy. According to Hunt’s son, Hunt claimed the other assassin was a French gunman on the grassy knoll, often identified in other assassination theories as Lucien Sarti.

Listen to a part of and read a transcript of his taped confession here.

Bee EinsteinI’m in the midst of some work and decided to take a break with a quick post on Animam Recro. On a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Mahr, the host said the following on air:

“Here’s a quote from Albert Einstein: “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Well, guess what? The bees are disappearing. In massive numbers. All around the world. And if you think I’m being alarmist and that, “Oh, they’ll figure out some way to pollinate the plants…” No, they’ve tried. For a lot of what we eat, only bees work. And they’re not working. They’re gone. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder, when the hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, and all that’s left are a few queens and some immature workers…”

Watch the Video

Originally, I was going to write about how the recent disappearances of bees. No one knows where they are going or if they’re still alive. We depend on pollination work of honey bees to grow over 90 varieties of vegetables and fruits. How do we know about these missing bees? Well, many are misinformed and believe random bees just fly around and pollinate our crops. This is not the case. Bee pollination is a large industry and the import/export of bees from around the world is a large part of it. Beekeepers will travel around the country and offer their services to farmers, letting their bees fly and pollinate crops. These beekeepers soon realized that millions of their bees are disappearing.

So, Bill Mahr raises awareness about human impact on the environment as a possible cause of these disappearances. This is one issue that needs to be addressed, especially if Einstein was correct.

However, this is not the only issue that has been brought up by Bill Mahr’s statement. Being a blogger who tries to back up his facts (partly because I deal with highly controversial issues), I googled the Einstein quote to find a source. What I found instead was a series of websites, including the SNOPES forum, who are questioning the validity of the quote. No one has found an actual source to verify it yet. What can be learned from this? The psychological effect of attributing information to an authority figure as a method of persuasion. Attribute a quote to Einstein and a piece of information suddenly becomes much more believable. He was a genius after all.

But not an ecologist or botanist alive today.

Does this falsify Bill Mahr’s statement? I wouldn’t say so. Will the disappearance of bees mean the end of man? Probably not. But it goes to show how masses of people can be influenced by a meme regardless of an individual’s intention. It also offers a glimpse into the beauty and dangers of the Internet. Before the Internet it would be very difficult to discuss the statements of public figures and find relevant information in such an immediate and organized way. Yet, misinformation can spread like wildfire as well.

As far as we know, these are current media outlets using the Einstein quote without verification:

-Discovery Channel Europe -BBC Radio 2 -The Independent -The Telegraph -Der Speigel

At this point no verification of the quote has been found and major Einstein scholars are highly skeptical of its authenticity.

Well, ladies and gentlemen – in the face of wikipedia most of my literary endeavours seem ultimately pointless. Judging by the sheer amount of information that is quoted, sometimes outright stolen from wikipedia – whether it is quoted by bloggers, employees, or even journalists – I have to say that wikipedia has won the information war. The only reason why I do not feel sour about wikipedia’s monopoly on information is that wikipedia does put a lot of effort into being impartial – any one-sidedly spun account usually gets very quickly challenged and an effort ensues to correct the information and provide the most balanced account. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how a community informs and keeps on updating information – now compare this balanced version of information sharing with the way that all media spin theirs – whether it is CNN, Times, or even BBC. Have you ever wondered why people who read particular newspapers have very definite and unchallengable opinions on politics, usually in line with the particular direction of spin that the newspaper they read produces. Hence radicals read radical literature, liberals prefer liberal media, anarchists anarchistic, religious people religious literature – now imagine that these people chose to shift their focus and read the opposite of what they believe. Would it change their opinions? I have tried similar experiments on myself and yes, I can be molded to change my views. Care to try yourself?