CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne


The Scientology Critic Group Anonymous: A Research Paper

by John Bowen Brown
A paper presented at The 2009 CESNUR Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 11-13, 2009

This purpose of this research paper is to present accurate information about the Internet group known as Anonymous.  The author of this paper is nether a Scientologist or Anonymous, but an independent researcher preparing an academic paper on the Anonymous’ campaign against Scientology.  Any inaccuracies will be clarified.

What is this Anonymous? Are they Cyberterrorists? Criminals? Activists? How did they start? This research paper will feature documentary research and clarify unanswered questions about Anonymous.

What Is Anonymous?

According to the 4Chan imageboard “Anonymous is the name assigned to a poster who does not enter text in to the [Name] field. Anonymous is not a single person, but rather, represents the collective whole of 4chan. He is a god amongst men”[i] 

Anonymous appears to be a group of individuals united by a distinct social identity and objective.  Anonymous says its “strength lies in our numbers.  Our will as a whole is the combined will of individuals.  This knowledge is a fruit of our anonymity.”[ii] Anonymous’ grand plan against the Church of Scientology is called Operation Chanology[iii]

How Did The Campaign Against Scientology Start?

The “war against Scientology” by the internet community Anonymous[iv] started on January 15, 2008 with a message posted on the 4Chan.[v] Imageboard “I’m talking about hacking or taking down the official Scientology website. It’s time to use our resources to do something we believe is right.  It’s time to do something big again…”[vi]

Then the attacks began.[vii] On January 21 Anonymous issued a statement to Scientology telling the faith community that “your organization should be destroyed, for the good of your followers, for the good of mankind, and for our own enjoyment.”[viii]  Soon after that YouTube message, members of Anonymous began Denial-of-service (DOS) attacks against the Scientology.org web site.[ix]  On January 26 an internet group[1] calling itself the Regime sent a message to Anonymous crediting itself with hacking one of Anonymous’ imageboards.[x] Anonymous responded and accidentally targeted the wrong person, taking down his site.[xi] Anonymous stopped the DOS attacks when Scientology critic Mark Bunker issued an online statement to Anonymous.[xii]  Then Anonymous re-organized itself and started protesting.[xiii]

Contrary to the media and Anonymous claims, Anonymous did not respond to Scientology because of a leaked Scientology video featuring celebrity and Scientologist Tom Cruise. There is a video that was leaked,[xiv] but the video was not the stimulus that prompted the “Scientology Raid?” thread. The leaked video escalated the growing hostility. After the initial post to “take down” Scientology, another poster responded with a link to the leaked video by the internet magazine Gawker.com. The poster added, “Inspiration to feed the fire.”

That “Scientology Raid” posting is revealing. Several Anon[xv] posters who identified themselves as Scientologists objected to the proposed take-down[xvi] as well as other Anons.[xvii] Not all members of Anonymous agreed with the take-down. In an interview with the leader of a local Tucson Discordian group, Reverend Roger, said that many Anons were dissatisfied with the Scientology protests and left the community.[xviii] Political scientist and Scientology critic Jeff Jacobson corroborated this dissent in Anonymous with his research.[xix]

How is Anonymous organized?

“The leadership of Anonymous is non-existent.  We have no controlling party.  We fall under the sway of no individual or organization.  We are directed only by the decisions of the whole.  Guidance comes from the message, not from the individual.”[xx] This statement is not exactly true.  There is no official leader or hierarchy in Anonymous, but they have fallen under the “sway” of Scientology critic, Mark Bunker.  Anonymous refers to Bunker affectionately as “Wise Beard Man.”[xxi] “Wise Beard Man...His words are wise…His face is beard”[xxii] is the slogan Anons use for the Wise Beard Man meme.[xxiii] Bunker seems to be a source of information and leadership for Anonymous. 

Why does Anonymous Protests?

Anons protest “for the laughs.”[xxiv] Anonymous claims many of their protests do look like parties.  There has been dancing, music and singing,[xxv] but not always.  In March 2008, several Anonymous protesters in Atlanta were arrested for violating a local law about wearing masks.[xxvi]  When a police officer approached the other protesters to discuss the implications of their disguises, there were no organized leaders so the officer had difficulty communicating with the protesters. At a 2008 Anonymous protest in Boston, protesters entered a scientology church to pass out flyers and were arrested.[xxvii]

In June 2008, a local Tucson Scientology student called Kool-Aid Man by Tucson Anonymous, passed out Scientology literature to Anonymous members.  One Anonymous member ripped up the package, inciting a shouting match between the Scientologist and the Anonymous member.[xxviii]

What is Anonymous’ ultimate goal for Scientology?

There are several versions of Anonymous’ ultimate goal for Scientology.  The original goal communicated by Anonymous said, “Anonymous has decided that your organization should be destroyed.”[xxix]  The most recently stated reason from Why-We-Protest.Net said, “While our immediate goal for the corrupt Church of Scientology is to have their (illegal) tax exempt status rescinded, our ultimate goal is to ensure that they are unable to continue their history of fear tactics, disconnection, and other illegal behavior.  This may require completely dismantling of the Church of Scientology.”[xxx] 

The publicly announced goals may not be the underlying objective.  A member of the Tucson Legion of Anonymous said, We’re not dead yet.  We’re postulating and strategerizing.  Tucson Scientology, expect moar lulz.  Tucson Anonymous, Coming to a protest site this fall.”[xxxi]  LULZ, a corruption of the internet term “LOL (laugh Out Loud), means for the laughs. “Laughs, or “lulz,” are an important part of Anonymous ethic. “If something can’t be fun then it probably won’t be done.”[xxxii]


  1. Scientology lawyers had the legal right to request that their organization’s copy written material be removed. It was leaked and made public illegally. Scientology attorney’s have the right to pursue such an infringement as aggressively as they desire within the confines of the law.
  2. Anonymous’ objective in the Scientology campaign is to do something for the LULZ. The LULZ ethic is a part of the community’s culture. Online raids and invasion are part of the Anonymous ethic. The lingo used when protesting Scientology comes from Scientology Watchdog Groups like Mark Bunkler’s Xenu TV, and is repeated by Anon factions that are involved in Scientology protests. The Anons that actually are not doing it for LULZ and feel that Scientology is wrong would be labeled “moralfags,”[xxxiii] which is unacceptable to “traditional” Anons.
  3. Anonymous did not do any research, but is simply repeating what cult watchdog groups told the community about Scientology. The information distributed by Anonymous is the same information distributed by Scientology watchdog groups. Based on observation it seems that Anonymous has become the delivery service of cult  watchdog groups.
  4. Anon protesters seem inexperienced at the politics of protesting. Those planning a protest should always check with the local law, unlike the Atlanta protesters did. Those planning a protest should never go on to the property of the group that is being protested like the Boston Anons did. Another example is Anon protests near San Jacinto, California. While protesting at the international headquarters of Scientology some Anons observed Scientology security personnel looking around one of their cars. The Anons chased the Scientology security personnel onto the property. Security responded by arresting the Anon [xxxiv]. Those Anons labeled the response as “abuse,” but what was done was perfectly legal.[xxxv]
  5. Not all Anons or even former Scientologists agree with the campaign against Scientology.[xxxvi] Some former Scientologist like Bernie and Kymus[xxxvii] object to what cult watchdog groups do[xxxviii] and Bernie specifically objects to Anonymous’ campaign against Scientology. Both are also critical of Scientology.


            The activities of Anonymous are almost always confrontational, done purely for the laughs (LULZ) and sometimes illegal. Because Anonymous does things for the laughs it might be difficult to include this internet community in the same categories as terrorist and criminal organizations or gangs. Even though some Anons have organized themselves under the tutelage of certain Scientology critics, Anonymous is still the “horrible, uncaring, monster” that they describe themselves to be.[xxxix]

Appendix A

Short Anonymous Word List

Anon – a member of Anonymous

/b/tards – those who hang out continually on www.4chan.org’s /b/ forum.

9000 – an impossibly large number.

Butthurt – upset, bothered.

CoS – Church of Scientology

DOX or GTFO ­– Stands for Documentation or Get the fuck out. The word means produce the documentation or get out

Epic win – a victory, such as a successful protest.

Epic Fail – Completely failed at something

Epic Fail Guy – An internet meme that never seems to win. Epic Fail Guys face resembles the Guy Fawkes masks from the movie V for Vendetta.

Fag – a derogatory term that is used so ubiquitously within Anonymous that it essentially means person.

Hive-mind – where two or more people express the same thought at the same time. Alternatively, as consensus.

IRL – In Real Life. Something done when you are not in front of a keyboard and monitor.

Longcat – a particular photo of a cat from the lolcat series (www.icanhascheezburger.com) that has become a meme. Longcat sometimes battles its evil nemesis, Tacgnol.

Lulz – fun, humor, laughs. A major goal of Anonymous

Moralfag – an Anon who does something for a righteous or moral reason rather than for lulz or fun.

Namefagged – within Project Chanology, when a person’s anonymity is destroyed, for instance to obtain a sound permit for a protest.

NYPA – “not your personal army;” a statement used to reject a suggestion or order from a poster on a forum.

Rick-roll – watching or listening to a Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up.” If you can trick someone into watching the music video, that is a great source of lulz.

Scilons – Scientologists

Appendix B


[i] 4Chan  Faq Page, 4Chan,  8 June 2008 <http://www.4chan.org/faq#anonymous>

[ii]More About Anonymous, Why We Protest.org, “8 June 2009 <http://www.whyweprotest.net/en/more-about-anonymous/>.

[iii] Ryan Singel, “War Breaks Out Between Hackers and Scientology-There Can Be Only One,” Wired, 23 Jan. 2008, 8 June 2009 http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/01/anonymous-attac/.

[iv] Many of the documentary sources sited are primary sources found online by Anonymous and others. If the links provided turn out to be dead links, the author has the same sources available by request

[v] An imageboard is an interactive internet forum that revolves around posting images. Imageboards permit people to post anonymously and without registering

[vi] Anonymous, “Scientology Raid?,” Online posting, 17 Jan. 2008, 4Chan , 14 May 2009 <http://4chanarchive.org/brchive/dspl_thread.php5?thread_id=51051816>

[vii] Anonymous: Hate Crimes, CD-ROM (Unknown, n.d.)

[viii] Anonymous, “Message to Scientology,” online video posting, 21 Jan. 2008, YouTube,  6 August 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCbKv9yiLiQ>

[ix] Ian Thompson, “Anonymous Wages War  on  Scientology,” VNUNET.com, 28 Jan. 2008, 4 June 2009 <http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2208236/web-users-declare-war

[x] The Regime, “Re: Message to Scientology,” online video posting, 26 Jan. 2008,  YouTube , 6 August 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHFqNySAiR4&feature=PlayList&p=3AE37FC81E 940152&index=23

[xi] Ryan Singel, “Anonymous Hacker Track Sabbateur, Find and Punish the Wrong Guy,” Wired, 29 January 2008, 8 August 2008 <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/01/anonymous-hac-1>

[xii] Mark Bunker, “Scientology: Xenu TV Speaks to Anonymous,” online posting, 27 Jan. 2008, You Tube, 6 August 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW466xcM0Yk&feature=PlayList&p=41EEFC5B D971C19D&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=16

[xiii] Mark Bunker, “Scientology: Wise Beard Man Responds to Anonymous-Part 1,” online posting, 28 Jan. 2008, YouTube, 4 June 2009,  < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A3WnmcRbTQ& feature=PlayList&p=0DAA5AF921F203A7&index=14>

[xiv] “Tom Cruise Scientology,” Online posting, 24 Jan 2008, YouTube, 8 June 2009


[xv]A member of Anonymous.  See Appendix A

[xvi] See “Scientology Raid?, “ postings 51052344 and 51052990

[xvii] See“ Scientology Raid?, “ postings  51053009 and 51052482

[xviii] Reverend Roger, personal interview, 18 July 2008

[xix] Jeff Jacobson, “We Are Legion: Anonymous and the War Against Scientology,” Online article, n.d, 8 June 2009 < http://www.lisamcpherson.org/pc.htm>.

[xx] More About Anonymous.  Why We Protest. com

[xxi] Kim Masters, “Anonymous Wages Attack on Scientology,” Morning Edition, NPR Radio, 7 Feb. 2008. Audio. 9 June 2009 < http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=&islist= false&id=18764756&m=18764810>.

[xxii] Anonymous, “Wise Beard Man”, cartoon, online, The Village Voice, 2008 <http://blogs.villagevoice. com/runninscared/WiseBeardMan.jpg>.

[xxiii] Merriam Webster Online, 2009, Merrian Webster, Inc, 9 June 2009 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meme>

[xxiv] Jacobson, “We Are Legion.”

[xxv] More About Anonymous, Why We Protest.

[xxvi] Yawgy001, “3-15 Scientology Raid, Police Violate Firs Amendment,” online video posting, 16 March 2008, YouTube, 9 June 2009 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7cgA2bOLRk&feature=related>.

[xxvii] Emily Rooney, interview with Anonymous members Gregg Housh, Tom, and Church of Scientology attorney Michael McCormick” Greater Boston, PBS, WGBH, Boston, 24 April 2008, video file, 9 June 2009.

[xxviii] Bill, personal interview, 16 June 2008

[xxix] Church0fScientology, “Message to Scientology.”

[xxx] More About Anonymous, Why we Protest.

[xxxi] Anoytensil, “When I was…” online posting, 31 July 2008, Legion of Tucson Anonymous Discussion Forum, 8 June 2009 <http://www.yiitucson.com/node/478>

[xxxii] Jeff Jacobson, “We Are Legion.”

[xxxiii] See Appendix A

[xxxiv] Gnssengr, “Scientology Gold Base Security Guard Aggression on Anonymous,” online video posting, 4 Nov. 2008, YouTube, 9 June 2009 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynlfJHzIMsA>.

[xxxv] The author worked in the Security business from 1995-2002. The Scientology security arrest performed a legal arrest.

[xxxvi]  Anonymous, “Scientology Raid?”

[xxxvii] They will not give their last names

[xxxviii] Another Look At Scientology, Bernie, 7 June 2009 < http://bernie.cncfamily.com/ars.htm>

[xxxix] See Appendix B