International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation (IJCAM)
Vol. 4, (2022). Published December 30, 2022.
PDF of Article | PDF of Issue (in development)
"Dirty" Propaganda and The Church of Scientology: An Analysis of L. Ron Hubbard's Internal and External Propaganda Strategies
The Church of Scientology (COS) has been the subject of increased scrutiny in the media due to questionable practices, such as requiring payment for services, alleged abuses of members, and many more. Another questionable practice deserving of attention is the COS’s policies regarding negative press and apostate testimony. This study analyzes seven internal policy letters sent from the Hubbard Communications Office (HCO) to upper-level administrators within the organization. As I show in this article, these policy letters outlined specific strategies for use by upper-level COS administrators for both preventing and/or handling any press—what Hubbard deemed propaganda or entheta press—that cast Scientology in a negative light. I further analyze these policy letters as Hubbard’s internal communication with upper-level administrators. Following my analysis, I argue that this form of communication should be classified as “dirty” propaganda due to Hubbard’s role as founder and spiritual guide within Scientology. Though I borrow Hubbard’s term, I redefine “dirty” propaganda to refer to the communicative practices of a group leader who utilizes their position to manipulate their followers to take specific, often questionable, actions. Finally, I argue that such analyses of internal communications are critical in interpreting COS’s responses to negative press and examining the manipulation tactics used on those who do the bidding of group leaders.