Inside HowdyCon, a Gathering of Anti-Scientologists - The Hollywood Reporter

Discussion in 'News and Current Events' started by failboat, Jun 26, 2019.

  1. failboat Member

    Inside HowdyCon, a Gathering of Anti-Scientologists
    6/24/2019 by Seth Abramovitch

    Inside a theater on a desolate stretch of East Hollywood, a group of about 100 people gathered on Friday evening for something called HowdyCon.

    Don't let the name fool you. These weren't fans of Roy Rogers, but rather the most avid readers and commenters on The Underground Bunker — an anti-Scientology website overseen by journalist Tony Ortega.

    A spinoff of Ortega's column at the since-shuttered Village Voice, the blog has grown since 2012 into perhaps the biggest single thorn in the side of the controversial religion, which has counted Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley among its most famous adherents.

    This was the fourth HowdyCon and the first in Los Angeles. Previous iterations of the annual meetup — named for Steve "Captain Howdy" Cox, a popular commenter who died in 2015 — were held in Cleveland, Denver and Chicago.

    Over bottles of supermarket wine and bags of chips, a few hot topics hung in the air. A lawsuit filed June 18 by a former Scientologist against the church and leader David Miscavige, accusing them of "false imprisonment, kidnapping, stalking, libel, slander, human trafficking, labor violations," had energized the bunker dwellers, some of whom flew great distances to converse face to face.

    Also on everyone's lips: the June 19 NXIVM ruling, in which alleged cult leader Keith Raniere was found guilty of all charges related to sex trafficking and child pornography. The crimes were committed by Raniere under the guise of running an empowerment and self-help organization.

    Both had the potential to turn the tide against Scientology, the buzz went, which has managed to emerge relatively unscathed from previous lawsuits while retaining its tax-exempt status in the U.S.

    The event space was provided by the Center for Inquiry West (CFIW), which publishes Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine which sets out to debunk all manner of claims relating to paranormal activity and pseudoscience, and Free Inquiry, a magazine dedicated to secularism and atheist thought.

    Toward the back of the room, a man in his 30s lingered alone. He is Failboat, a member of the online collective Anonymous, which targeted Scientology with a series of online hacks and street protests in 2008 and 2009.

    That action, dubbed Project Chanology, was a direct response to the leaking of a Tom Cruise video in which the star made outlandish boasts about Scientology. (One was that only Scientologists are properly equipped to help victims after a car accident.) Failboat directed me to photos of a 10th anniversary protest — he's the one in the Guy Fawkes mask...


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