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lifted after I contacted Delphi and explained the situation."
Milne, one of the three most prolific posters to alt.religion.scientology, eventually adopted more standard practice, but it didn't improve his image much--one regular gleefully posted a "killfile count" (sample: 534 of Milne's messages killed in one week). Milne criticized this: "What the killfilers are showing is that they can't tolerate a point of view other than their own--the exact allegation they level against the Church." He has, he says, also received hate email, including the statement "Scientologists should be hunted and shot like dogs."
Also in late March, Daniel Davidson, a student at San Francisco State University, found himself called on the carpet by his system administrator after Kobrin complained that he had posted copyrighted and confidential information to the Net. Davidson said that all he did was hit a couple of keys to copy a posting from alt.activism into alt.religion. scientology, since it was relevant to the discussion there--behavior which on the Net is generally accepted as normal rather than a copyright violation. By the time the meeting with his system administrator took place, email from Netizens had gotten him out of trouble.
By that time, too, regular critics had begun reporting strange incidents in which their long-distance phone companies were asked for information about their bills by unauthorized strangers; one said his neighbors had received visits from a private investigator; and another said the local police had come around bearing printouts of alt.religion.scientology postings. One user's real name and hometown (she used her husband's account and a consistent pseudonym for posting online) were divulged by Milne in what she considered to be an invasion of privacy, "for no other reason than asking questions of the wrong group."
And then there was Scamizdat, still jeering and posting anonymously, taking the law into his own hands. A day or so after I let it be known that I'd welcome a quote from this person about his or her activities, an anonymous message landed in my email box. It read: "I am just a netizen fighting a litigious cult in the age of information. While the net has its own perpetual struggles among its orthodoxy and revisionists, it strobes into immobility lawyers and money that darken the battles in the ordinary world. Once a representative portion of the Scientologist cartoon mythology is posted into undeniable digital immortality I will snow crash back into oblivion. SCAMIZDAT."
It took until March 21, 1996, for the CoS to file that expected lawsuit and obtain a temporary restraining order against Grady Ward. The accusation: that he was Scamizdat.
"The only thing I really care about is freedom of speech (and criticism) on the net," says Ward, who categorically denied the charges in a 1996 email interview. He was, however, asked by Judge Whyte not to call the CoS lawyer "Madame Kobrin" in court. Regular alt.religion.scientology readers had no trouble recognizing this as a reference to the newsgroup habit of referring to Kobrin as "the 'Ho of Babble-on." On the newsgroup, she is routinely mocked and ridiculed, and people boast about getting letters from her directing them to cease posting portions of the secret documents as a kind of status symbol.
Ward was quickly followed into the courts by Keith Henson. Henson, whose interests in space colonization and cryonics were chronicled in Ed Regis's 1992 book Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition, welcomed the case, saying by email in 1996, "It will increase my status on the net." Henson has filed a counterclaim for $500 million in damages.
Ward and Henson pose a new challenge for the CoS. Unlike the shocked former Scientologists raided earlier, these two seem to be enjoying their situation enormously. Acting as their own attorneys, they also seem determined to push the CoS as far as possible into producing witnesses and documentary evidence, even successfully demanding that David Miscavige make himself available to testify (Miscavige was deposed in May 1997). The transcripts of the court hearings, available in full on the Net, reveal a true clash of cultures in which the CoS
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