Battling Scientology

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  October 23, 2008

At first the message of the video — which also promised “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” — was mostly bark inspired by tough talk that Housh and his comrades likely internalized from sci-fi antagonists. But then legions followed suit. Though Housh contends that he did not participate in the ensuing cyber raids, which the CoS calls “cyber-terrorism,” or in the bomb threats that Boston CoS members allegedly received, he giggles when discussing how CoS-related sites were terrorized in the days after “Message” was posted.

“People started going into channels and saying, ‘Take this tool, go to this site, and run it,’ ” remembers Housh of the potentially dangerous computer viruses that circulated through 4chan. “That’s really stupid . . . because you don’t know what kind of virus was in there, but the people creating these tools were not designing them to hurt us — they were designed to hurt them. There wasn’t real skill being used other than by a few people who showed up with real DDS [Distributed Denial of Service] capabilities — the masses were mostly just killing bandwidth — slowing sites down and making them die every now and then.”

With “Message to Scientology” drawing YouTube hits in the millions, the IRC channel that birthed the movement consequently had a flood of new arrivals who were eager to enlist with Project Chanology. When the heavy traffic made it difficult for people to engage in dialogue, one member of Housh’s ad-lib press corps suggested that Anons break off into channels according to their hometowns. “It was doable because just knowing what city someone is in doesn’t mean they have to give up their identity,” he says. “People could remain anonymous.”

With users separated into dozens of geographic groups by locale — including London, Boston, Tokyo, and Southern California — one member of the original press group (who has remained anonymous) reportedly realized that there was potential to take the project to another level if they could mobilize manpower off line. “We were just screwing with the Scientologists because it was fun to screw with them,” says Housh. “But one guy was saying that, if we actually did something and the organization really went somewhere, then we’ve changed the face of activism on this planet for good.”

On January 27, Housh and his cronies posted “Call to Action” on YouTube. The video picked up where “Message” finished, declaring: “Anonymous is not simply a group of super hackers. Anonymous is a collective of individuals united by an awareness that someone must do the right thing. . . . Among our numbers you will find individuals from all walks of life — lawyers, parents, IT professionals, members of law enforcement, college students . . . and more. . . . We have no leaders . . . Anonymous invites you to join us in an act of solidarity. . . . Join us in protest outside of Scientology centers worldwide.” The announcement called for folks to rally on February 10 — the birthday of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who Anonymous alleges, and the CoS denies, died in December 1995 because church officials blocked her from receiving adequate medical and psychiatric treatment.

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