Operation Clambake - Reception - Scholarly Perception

Scholarly Perception

In Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World, Jack Goldsmith notes that the site's "secret library of Scientology" page was blocked from Google for a short time. He notes that Google's actions in the matter were indicative of its policy to remove search results when threatened by governmental action. The incident between Google and the Church of Scientology involving the Web site was also discussed in an annual meeting of The State Bar of California, and cited as part of the caselaw for "Domestic Copyright Law in Cyberspace."

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, raised free speech concerns in the Xenu.net case, stating: "The danger is that people will attempt to silence critics under the guise of copyright infringement." In Beyond the First Amendment: The Politics of Free Speech and Pluralism, author Samuel Peter Nelson raises the question: "Why should a private actor (Church of Scientology) in the United States have the power to restrict the speech of a Dutch citizen publishing in the Netherlands whose speech is protected by Dutch law?" In an interview on the Xenu.net controversy, Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain predicted that more conflicts involving the Church of Scientology were likely to occur in the future. Zittrain stated: "The cutting edge on such battles is often the Church of Scientology. They have very well honed procedures and tactics to remove information that they find objectionable."

Mentioning Operation Clambake as an example of an Internet response to a controversial movement in their 2003 book Understanding New Religious Movements, John A. Saliba and J. Gordon Melton referred to the site as "a Web page devoted to the negative aspects of Scientology". Douglas E. Cowan, writing in Religion Online (2004), characterizes Operation Clambake as an example of a "surfeit of sites dedicated to so-called watchdog organizations or home pages of disgruntled ex-members." According to Cowan, Internet coverage of the Church of Scientology represents an "important example of competing propagandas that struggle for authority and control both online and off". Cowan proposes that Operation Clambake seeks to demonstrate that the Church of Scientology "lacks any redeeming social value". Cowan notes that most of the content presented by the site is not the result of original research by the owner but rather a collection of hyperlinks to media reports, scholarly and popular articles, court documents and out-of-print books. Complemented by links to like-minded sites hosting essentially the same information, the result is thought by Cowan to be inflation of the apparent quantity of anti-Scientology material available. According to Cowan, Operation Clambake is not designed to be read by Scientologists, but rather meant for those who already hold negative views about Scientology and might join Heldal-Lund in his self-stated purpose: "The Fight Against the Church of Scientology on the Net." Cowan compares the site to a propaganda effort, and writes that a message is presented repeatedly, consistently to a target audience that already has some affinity with it, leading to a somewhat self-limiting construction of reality.

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