CoS actions to quiet online enemies have provoked a great deal of anger. According to Seltzer, contrarian sites such as xenu.net have proliferated as a result. Launched in 1996 by Norwegian tech-provocateur Andreas Heldal-Lund, xenu.net — a comprehensive anti-CoS clearing-house better known as Operation Clambake — became a hub for multimedia, ranging from articles condemning Scientology to detailed insider accounts written by former church officials and secret Hubbard recordings. The church has sued, among others, Heldal-Lund, his service provider, and Google over Operation Clambake postings. It has succeeded in having various copyrighted materials removed. Yet xenu.net remains alive and clicking. Xenu, by the way, is a reference to an evil intergalactic overlord who, top church members reportedly believe, excommunicated billions of aliens to Earth 75 million years ago and incinerated them inside volcanoes. The title, Operation Clambake, is a poke at the late Hubbard’s claim, from his 1952 book, Scientology: A History of Man, that humans evolved from clams.
A movement is born
Housh and his pajama army took up the Operation Clambake cause with vigor. They saw the CoS as fighting dirty — both online and off. Housh and his colleagues figured they could fight back, even if they were mostly Web heads who had never met each other, or, for that matter, participated in protests that required them to leave the house. Within hours of CoS attorneys’ forcing YouTube to remove the first few Tom Cruise videos on January 15, Housh estimates that 20 to 30 instigators began uploading the clip on hundreds, if not thousands, of Web sites. An anonymous 4chan post the following day suggested that people unite on a common Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel and declare war against Scientology. Project Chanology, Anonymous’s anti-CoS initiative, was born.
There was, however, a lack of organization. So on January 17, Housh and four other Anons broke off into a separate channel that they specifically created to discuss press strategies. “A few people were saying that there should be a press release,” says Housh. “There were five of us at that point, and one guy said he was a writer, one was a proofreader, and I had some good ideas for structure. We started pounding it out, and by the end it looked more like a video script than a press release. Then the other two guys said they were into video and had the tools, and one of them said they had some creepy cloud footage. The next thing you know, we have ‘Message to Scientology’ up on YouTube on the 21st.”
The “Message to Scientology” video, two minutes in length, has been played several million times between YouTube and a number of other host sites, including Gawker. In it, an eerie synthesized voice declares: “Hello, Leaders of Scientology. We are Anonymous. Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation, suppression of dissent, your litigious nature: all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who have come to trust you as leaders has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed.”