friendly, and polite by nature, but the postings on the newsgroup brought out a vein
of anger she didn't know she had. The timing of her arrival didn't help: she showed
up in August 1994, about the same time as Dennis Erlich, who was attracted to the
newsgroup in part by the Net-wide anger over Siegel's letter, which was widely
copied and distributed.
Farmer told me, "When Dennis Erlich came in, it started turning nasty." Erlich does
not have a sense of humor about Scientology. He was in the CoS for fifteen years,
in which time, he told me, he was assigned personally by Hubbard to the position of
Chief Cramming Officer: "It's like the quality control engineer in the skull-fucking
factory." He left in 1982 after what he describes as a failed attempt to reform the
CoS from within. "That made me persona non grata, and they couldn't work with me
because I wouldn't follow their orders any more." He was declared an SP, and has
since devoted himself to debunking the CoS at every opportunity.
Given the strength of Erlich's convictions that CoS is a dangerous organization, it's
hard to imagine a situation in which he could come to any sort of amicable
agreement with Scientologists--especially the CoS staff who started showing up on
the newsgroup--or they with him.
In December 1994, messages started disappearing fromalt.religion.scientology. The contents of all such messages are not known, for obvious reasons. Even without
detailed information, though, many people believed they knew who was responsible.
Gathering evidence and understanding what was happening, however, were
altogether different matters.
Unlike postings canceled by the more or less official cancellers, such as the
Cancelmoose, these messages were not spam (usually defined as any message
posted to more than twenty newsgroups of widely varying character). Further, no
one claimed responsibility, whereas the spam cancellers post regular reports of
their actions to the net-abuse.* newsgroups and openly take responsibility. The Net hates a technology vacuum, so a program called Lazarus was
quickly developed to get a look at what was being canceled.
Lazarus was another of Schafmeister's ideas. It takes advantage of the fact that
along with a unique message ID every Usenet posting has a header containing the
date, subject, sender's name and email address, and a mess of other identifying
information, and that those headers are recorded in a general header log on
Usenet servers, while every Cancel message lands in a special newsgroup called
control. Schafmeister's notion was that at a site where Cancel is disabled (some
system administrators abhor even the merest hint of censorship), a program could
scan the thousands of Cancels posted to control each day and compare them to
the log of headers, looking specifically for the ones pertaining to messages
destined for alt.religion.scientology. A match would mean that a message to the
newsgroup had been canceled.
Smith took the idea and turned it into a working script in the programming language
PERL, which is available to anyone on the Net though it takes some skill to use.
Smith said he could have designed Lazarus to reinstate the canceled postings, but
because cancellations are sometimes intentional, he decided to configure Lazarus
so it just put up a note to the newsgroup saying the message had been canceled
and including all the available information about the message, including any
comments entered by the cancellers.
"At least we can see when messages have been canceled," Schafmeister said. He
believed the cancellations had "too much intelligence" behind them to have been
automatic. Those on the newsgroup took to calling the canceling agent--whatever
it was--the "CancelBunny" or "CancelPoodle," terms intended to disparage the
unidentified flying cancelers. In the absence of evidence, when Lazarus began
reporting that some messages had been "cancelled because of copyright
infringement," most of the newsgroup felt justified in assuming that the
CancelBunny was one or more CoS representatives.
What Lazarus showed, according to frequent poster William C. Barwell, who signs
himself "Pope Charles" and is one of the satirical Church of the SubGenius, Praise
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