The Game Was Not Free Speech

(In Response to Elena’s Post You say “All words (in the Game) were free to be said or unsaid. No words were held sacred or held against the sayer.” That’s just not the case. “Negativity,” i.e. criticism of Synanon or the man who seized increasing control of it was shouted down in Games. It was punished outside the Games. One example: Jack Hurst told me that he found himself on the way down and out because he merely allowed other members to criticize Dederich in a Game. At the Academy, even by the time I arrived in 1969, none of the Academy members or the genuflecting adult acolytes Dederich had gathered around himself would have dared to voice serious criticism of Synanon or Dederich in Games for fear they would soon find themselves shipped out.

Bottom line: To suggest as you do that the Game was somehow a forum of free speech just does not hold up. It glosses over the use of the Game as a management tool and as an instrument of coercion (for example in the Bloodbath Stews so clearly chronicled in Anthony Lang’s book, The People Business). If anything, it was the reverse, an instrument for throttling independent speech and, thereby, of thought.

You also say “The more the (rotten) story was told the closer it came to a reasonable truth and scales often fell away from the eyes.” Maybe in some cases to some extent, though I can’t think of one.

What is more true and verifiable is that in many case the pressure to tell and embellish one’s rotten story inculcated people with an overly harsh and unbalanced view of themselves. The practice, as it was intended to do, destroyed self-esteem and self-confidence so that it could be replaced with allegiance to Dederich and Synanon.

On that score, my wife was smart. She flatly refused to tell even the beginnings of a rotten story during her brief time in the community because she saw that whatever small amount she gave would be enlarged, engrossed and thrown against her in an attempt to undermine her independence and self worth. I was not so smart. It took me some years after leaving to shed the damage done by rotten storytelling and replace it with a more balanced and realistic tale of who I had been before encountering the community. But that is a tale for another day.

Meanwhile, thanks for your vivid tale about Esther.

One response to “The Game Was Not Free Speech”

  1. David. I won’t argue that the Game was a safe place to point out that the Emperor’s wardrobe was incomplete. But it was possible to tell most others that you thought they were assholes without risking a traumatic injury. That alone was a bit miraculous you might agree.

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