Notes to Chapter 6
notes to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

All the Web addresses included were checked when we went online, but some, inevitably, may have moved or changed.

  1. An important caveat here: after my article about Scientology versus the Net appeared in Wired (December 1995), CoS representative Leisa Goodman wrote to the magazine to complain that my article was "an indiscriminate skinful of innuendo and rumor, but highly selective about its facts." In 1987, I founded a magazine called The Skeptic, a British and Irish publication dedicated to rational examination of paranormal claims; its mission is similar to the much better known American journal Skeptical Inquirer (for which I have also written from time to time) and its parent organization, the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Goodman felt that this background inclined me to be biased against the CoS; you will have to judge this point for yourselves in the light of these criticisms (the magazine I founded is on the Web at ). When I called Helena Kobrin for comments on some of the court decisions for an update for Wired (November and December issues, 1996), she declined to comment unless Wired was willing to set up a full editorial board meeting with the CoS representatives to discuss matters, saying that they felt my reporting was unfair and one-sided, and that if she granted me an interview I would "just use that to give an aura of legitimacy to slanted reporting." For a highly critical discussion of the CoS and its practices, see Richard Behar, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power," Time, May 6, 1991. The group has tax-exempt status in the United States as a religion, as well as many celebrity supporters, including actors John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruise, and Mimi Rogers, jazz musician Chick Corea, and entertainer- turned-politician Sonny Bono. For more positive material on Scientology, see the group's own glossy promotional book What Is Scientology? or its Web site, at
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  1. What Is Scientology?, 359. <back to text>
  1. "Scientology in the News: Press Office," on the Web at <back to text>
  1. As mentioned in chapter 2, the alt.* hierarchy was set up to by-pass the formal voting procedures required for the Big Seven hierarchies, so that, in the interests of freedom of speech, anyone could start a newsgroup at any time. This leads to some very silly newsgroup names and a minor amount of abuse, but it also gives Usenet a responsive, timely quality it would not have otherwise. Part of by-passing that formal structure is writing a message to form the new newsgroup, called a "newgroup" message, according to a specified format. More information about how to successfully start a new newsgroup is in the "So You Want to Create an Alt Newsgroup" FAQ, maintained by David Barr and available at, and the "How to Write a Good Newgroup Message" FAQ, maintained by Brian Edmonds and updated regularly on the Web at good-newgroup.html <back to text>
  1. A copy of the original newgroup message is archived at <back to text>
  1. Smith gets a brief mention in Part 3 of the "Net Legends FAQ (Noticeable Phenomena of Usenet)," maintained by David Delaney and archived at <back to text>
  1. A German organization, the Free Zone Association, has a Web page at The home page is at <back to text>
  1. Interview for Wired, March 1995. <back to text>
  1. The full text of Siegel's letter has been reproduced and circulated extensively on the Net and is archived on the Web at However, this copy, like the others archived around the Net, is not dated. My personal copy was forwarded to me in an email message on June 3, 1994. At that time, the newsgroup had already been discussing Siegel's letter for a several weeks, so a best guess is that it was first posted to alt.religion.scientology in April or May 1994. <back to text>
  1. All quotes from personal interview, April 1995. An interesting sidelight: I read the newsgroup for a long time before picking Farmer to contact to find out what it was like to be an ordinary Scientologist confronting the newsgroup's anti-CoS atmosphere. Within twenty- four hours of our conversation, which took place on a Saturday evening, I received email from Leisa Goodman, then the CoS's chief PR person in LA, near where Farmer was based, to inquire about some of the questions I had asked and why. <back to text>
  1. In the "Cancel Messages FAQ," maintainer Tim Skirvin stresses the importance of accountability in issuing third-party cancels; the three-part FAQ is archived at One of the other most important guidelines is that cancels should not be content-based, carefully delineating the difference between acting in the public net.interest and censorship.
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  1. The Church of the SubGenius predates the widespread use of the Net by a long way. For more on their beliefs, which focus on getting "Slack" from their deity, J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, see J. R. Dobbs, The Book of the SubGenius (McGraw-Hill, 1983), compiled by Reverend Ivan Stang, who is also the author of High Weirdness by Mail (Simon and Schuster, 1988). <back to text>
  1. This is very easy to do in Netscape, and other methods are detailed in the "Better Living Through Forgery" FAQ, on the Web at and posted regularly to alt.censorship and news.admin.misc, among others. <back to text>
  1. alt.config is the newsgroup in which the formation and withdrawal of newsgroups in the alt hierarchy is discussed. This message and the systems administrators' replies are archived at <back to text>
  1. Newsgroup names of the formation are an old Usenet joke that's only funny the first hundred times you see it. The original was alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork, after the poster who signed himself the Swedish Chef.
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  1. All IDs on Helsingius's remailer took the form One of the elegances of the system he wrote was that if you wanted to email an user but wanted to show your own identity all you had to do was reverse the "an" to "na." <back to text>
  1. By September 1996, when the remailer closed, its database had reached 716,000. Helsingius won the 1997 Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award for his work setting up and maintaining the remailer. <back to text>
  1. Contemporaneous statements, and press material available on the Web at <back to text>
  1. Personal interview, March 1995. <back to text>
  [chapter 6 notes continued]


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