The San Francisco-based Anonymous demonstrators who have waged a protest against the city's Church of Scientology for three years may have won over their first potential defector -- a person who posted on the group's message board this week as a "cult member in hiding" to let them know their protests have proved "something is really wrong" with the Church.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco church's president, Jeff Quiros, is brushing this off as a troll -- internet-speak for someone trying to start trouble online. "I'm sure it's not legitimate," he says.
One Anonymous protester chalked it up as a victory. "This is the first time someone has publicly come out and said 'I want to defect.' It's really heart-warming to see him so grateful" for the Anonymous protests.
Here is the text of the first post
that went up Tuesday on a San Francisco message board of whyweprotest.net
. The writer says, "I hope one day to join you."
Anonymous has been in the news these days mostly for its continuing protests of BART. But eons ago in web terms, or say, early 2008, the Internet-based collective of free speech advocates and merry pranksters first came to the world's attention
for their boots-on-the-ground protests of the Church of Scientology.
This summer, a new generation of Anonymous members have taken up the cause in San Francisco -- many of them unemployed recent college grads or older folks, according to our Anon source.
Now they have what they think is contact from a member within the church.
After ethicstrouble posted his or her first message, the Anons on the message board egged the person on, asking for statistics, including how many people have been visiting the San Francisco church and how much staffers earn.
Wednesday morning, ethicstrouble responded with a more detailed letter purportedly describing life within the San Francisco org: "You guys are winning, the only reason this is holding together is because of the few really dedicated staff and the few deep pockets that keep it financed." The person continued, "People are leaving, if not publicly, at least by not coming to events or course."
Here's the screen shot of the actual page
. The poster seems to have the Scientology lingo down, and outlines an organization that is losing staffers, having problems attracting new prospects, and paying its existing staffers poverty wages.
Quiros wouldn't comment on specifics like staffers' wages, but did say "We're actually gaining staff." He says the amount of people walking into the door is increasing. He added that the person could possibly be an ex-Scientologist, which would explain the church-specific lingo.
"There's a lot of info in those posts that lead me to believe this is bogus," Quiros says. "There are seeming specifics, but really it's a lot of generalities. I don't want to get into it much further cause I don't want to get into our church expansion. I want to say we are experiencing expansion -- especially in people walking in off the street."
It seems it's unlikely we'll hear much more from ethicstrouble soon. As the person wrote in their Wednesday post: "Maybe one day I will be able to cry about this situation, but now I can not, it is not the right time."