Hubbard's 'Brainwashing Manual' - how a crude Scientology hoax became a far-right touchstone - 2018-02-21
Chris Owen continues his two-part series today with a look at what became of L. Ron Hubbard's hoax, a "Brainwashing Manual" that he pretended had been written by a Soviet academic. Yesterday, Chris traced the origins of the hoax. Today, he looks at its lasting implications.
L. Ron Hubbard's fraudulent "Brainwashing Manual" might eventually have faded into obscurity but for political events in 1956 and the intervention of a high-profile far-right activist. On January 18, 1956, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to improve mental health care in the then Territory of Alaska. Six days later, prompted by the far-right American Public Relations Forum and Minute Women of the USA, the conservative Santa Ana Register newspaper published a lurid warning about the bill under the headline, "Now — Siberia, U.S.A." It claimed that the bill was the cover for implementing a scheme to turn Alaska into a psychiatric concentration camp, to which the government could deport political opponents from across the United States. It prompted a wave of activism from far-right groups.
Within weeks, the bill became one of the most controversial pieces of legislation before Congress for many years. Congressmen were deluged with thousands of calls and letters from outraged constituents. Some undoubtedly came from Scientologists, who Hubbard urged to write to their congressmen to protest the "Siberia Bill." He also appears to have stepped up the distribution of the Brainwashing Manual. It was likely no coincidence that an Alaskan legislator received it — it was quite possibly sent to every Alaskan representative in a bid to incite them against the bill. But its biggest impact was on the far right more generally.