Recently the University of Wollongong in Australia published scans of the complete run of”Oz” magazine for historians and researchers.
Issues 36 and 37 are of interest here because “Oz” not only attracted the attention of the Church of Scientology but also meekly printed a letter from Scientologys’ ‘Guardians Office’ which ‘corrected’ an extract from a book published in a previous issue of the magazine which touched upon the involvement of Charles Manson in Scientology.
The content of “Oz” provoked something of a moral panic at the time, and it was twice taken to court on obscenity charges. In the age of the Internet, however, it seems rather tame. Nevertheless, if you choose to view the complete publications, please bear in mind that the university prefaced them with the following disclaimer:
Please be advised: this collection has been made available due to its research and historical importance. It contains explicit language and images that reflect attitudes of the era in which the material was originally published and that some viewers may find confronting.
In 1971 the Church of Scientology was at the height of its power to suppress the publication of critical materials. It did this through the “Guardians Office” – a cross between a secret police force and the holy inquisition. This strange institution had been created by L Ron Hubbard in 1966 to safeguard the interests of Scientology.
In its September 1971 issue, “Oz”, which had a reputation for defying the tight official censorship of the time, meekly published the letter shown in the image at the left on page7..
The letter is signed “D/Guardian Legal WW” -that is, director of the worldwide legal division of the Guardians’ Office. The implied threat of legal action against “Oz” is quite clear.
While “Oz” didn’t publish the ‘correction’ demanded by Scientology, they did present the text of the letter without further comment. They were obviously not up for a fight.
What Was In the Article?
The actual reference to Manson and Scientology in the article referred to is tiny. The paragraph in which it appeared is show on the right.
Manson used his Scientologist knowledge – with that vital occult ingredient – to a much higher degree of skill than the majority of ‘tribe leaders’ did in their communes.
The implication is that Manson used Scientology in his cult and that Scientology had “an occult ingredient”.
Manson, in fact, only took a few introductory Scientology courses, and their influence upon his his activities was likely small and incoherent.
However, it is well documented (for example in the book “Strange Angel“by George Pendel) that the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard was involved with John Whiteside Parsons and practised an obscure school of ‘Magik’ with him before he founded Scientology.
You can enter John Parsons the sites search box to find many posts related to this period of Hubbards’ life.
Why Did “Oz” Give in to Scientology?
“Oz” was renowned for defying censorship and they would have had a good case in any action brought against them. After all, they only published a short extract from a book (pg 10) and were not legally liable for any claims made by the author unless they repeated them – which they did not.
It seems likely that the publishers of “Oz” knew of the Church of Scientologys’ practice of aggressive litigation, set aside their ‘principles’ and caved in.
The problem, as with so many cases brought by the Church of Scientology, was not the merit of the case but the fact that the Church of Scientology was known to be prepared to spend a fortune on legal action in order to drive those who had offended them to bankruptcy.”
“Oz” Shot Themselves in the Foot
This is shown by the title of the article in which the extract appeared – “The WH Smith Story” – and the fact that the extract closed with the words, “An extract from “Satan’s Slaves” by James Taylor, available from your friendly local WH Smiths”.
WH Smith was (and still is) a prominent UK newsagent and bookseller. They had refused to stock “Oz” after accusations of obscenity were made against it. The purpose of the “Oz” article seems to have been to accuse WH Smith of hypocrisy for refusing to sell “Oz” on ‘moral’ grounds, but stocking equally salacious material (in the form of “Satan’s Slaves”).
“Oz” chose an extract from a trashy, exploitative book sold by WH Smiths to make their point – and accidentally attracted the hostile attention of the Church of Scientology.
Scientology – Big Brother, Watching the Press
It’s significant that the Guardians Office managed to spot, and take action against such a fleeting reference to Scientology in such a low-circulation magazine which, at the time, occupied a very crowded market.
This speaks to the resources that Scientology was willing to devote to monitoring the press and suppressing the slightest negative reference to Scientology. It’s quite likely that they would have been prepared to take further (legal and/or extra-legal) action against “Oz” if they had not been given what they wanted.
The Other Activities of the The Guardian’s Office
In the same year as “Oz” caved in (1971) a book “The Scandal of Scientology” was published by a rising journalist called Paulette Cooper. It examined and criticised Scientology, and the extraordinary organised persecution Cooper suffered is described in Tony Ortegas’ book “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely“.
After undertaking undercover operations with the purpose of driving her to suicide (including an attempt to frame her for making bomb threats) they managed to acquire the copyright of the book in order to suppress it. Thanks to the Internet, however, the text of her book is now available.
Also in 1971 The Foster Report – the results of Government inquiry into activities of Scientology in the UK was published. It relied heavily on the published writings of L Ron Hubbard, who condemned himself out of his own mouth with his extraordinary pseudo-medical claims.
It did not recommend banning the Organisation in the UK, but recommended tightening the practice of psychotherapy to prevent organisations like Scientology presenting themselves as of professional status.
In 1977, documents seized from the Church of Scientology in the US by the FBI showed that Scientology unsuccessful attempted to link the Sir John Foster, the chairman of the enquiry, to Paulette Cooper in an attempt to discredit him. The same document reveals that the Church of Scientology also went after Lord Balniel , the man who had requested the inquiry. Hubbard had personally ordered this in the same way that he personally ordered and oversaw the persecution of Paulette Cooper. He demanded the Guardians’ Office, “get a detective on that lord’s past to unearth the tit-bits”.
The power of the Guardians’ office was not to last. Beginning in 1973 (and at the instigation of L Ron Hubbard) it had undertaken ‘Operation Snow White‘, a massive operation which infiltrated US government departments with the aim of gathering intelligence and interfering with records to the advantage of Scientology. In 1976, two operatives were caught in the act, and investigations resulted in the seizure of documents by the FBI which revealed the wider operation.
L Ron Hubbard went into hiding, for fear of personal legal consequences, and allowed his wife Mary Sue Hubbard, who had been acting in his orders as head of the Guardians’ Office, to take the fall. Indited in 1978, she was sentenced to 5 years in prison and served one.
The Guardians’ Office was subsequently purged and supposedly dissolved. In fact, it was merely replaced with the “Office of Special Affairs” or OSA, which functions as Scientologys’ secret police force and intelligence branch to this day.
Tony White in his book “Britpulp” which examines trashy British Pulp novels of the period, describes the author of “Satans Slaves” as follows:
His book was indeed republished in 1998 (using the ”Richard Allen name). The “case brought by the Church […]” in which they “were made to pay damages for libel” mentioned in the letter published in “Oz” did not seem to succeed in suppressing it – and the publicity may even have increased sales
It would be interesting to see if later editions omitted that tiny reference to Scientology, and whether there really was a prosecution at all (I can find no record of one).