Not in physical space, but online.
The reason I ask is that it seems that many articles that mention Transcendental Meditation, whether they appear in an online newspaper, news service or blog, seems to attract a number of commenters - the same names and handles much of the time - who write much the same thing every time, most of it the usual TM promotional soundbites anyone familiar with TM has heard hundreds of times. (The TM-Free Blog, by contrast, seldom receives such comments.)
These commenters all seem to have started TM sometime before 1975, if they happen to mention when it was that they were initiated, or became a teacher, or took up the TM-Sidhi course.
The most recent posts that bring this phenomenon to mind are these two articles on the examiner.com website:
Transcendental meditation in schools (July 24, 2009)
Is Transcendental Meditation a religion? (July 25, 2009)
(Update: This later enquirer.com article garnered 198 comments, many of them from the same set of TM promoters I discuss here:
Transcendental Meditation in Tucson schools (August 5, 2009))
(Another update: For an example of how such comment threads often play out, see "Anatomy of a Comment Thread" which focuses on the above Tucson examiner.com thread.)
In the comment thread attached to this second article I made mention of just this phenomenon. I wrote, in response to the author of both of these articles who was quite stunned by the unusual large number of comments (though still less than ten) he'd received in response:
The reason you're getting more comments than you're used to is that the so-called "governors" who promote the TM program are specifically tasked with monitoring every single mention of TM online and respond by promoting the organization.
Those who've commented with a "Dr." in front of their names (Tobin, DeBoer) show up often in such threads; their "Dr." as is usually true of these propaganda-spewers is a supposed degree in "World Peace Studies" from the movement's own "MERU," a supposed "research university" that reportedly was just a desk in a TM movement owned hotel in Switzerland.
In fact, Keith DeBoer, "a certified teacher of TM," was one of the commenters on both of the articles. Keith uses "Dr." in front of his name when he promotes TM, as in these comment threads, but upon further inspection, DeBoer's PhD was issued by "Maharishi European Research University." Back in the 70's, it appears, MERU was handing out PhD's in "World Peace" like candy to those who were in residence there at the TM movement's Swiss hotel; they seem to have been a reward for early loyalty to the movement and its leader, since reportedly, MERU was nothing more than a desk in that hotel. Today, those same people, flaunting a title of implied authority before their names, seem to turn up often whenever the TM organization is promoting itself.
Now it seems that my comment about "'governors' who promote the TM program are specifically tasked with monitoring every single mention of TM online" got under the skin of yet another frequently-seen online defender of TM, who posts under the name of "laughing crow." Sources tell me that this "crow" is Tom McKinley Ball, director of the Asheville, North Carolina TM center and yet another long-time TM devotee with one of those MERU PhD's. Ball replied to me by insisting, "Doughney's remark, that all the TM teachers scan the Web for TM articles to comment, is mean-spirited & false..." In fact, I didn't say that "all" governors are tasked with monitoring online forums and promoting Transcendental Meditation in all sorts of online venues. But clearly, as we shall see, some number of them are.
Ball also seems to feign outrage at the fact that some TM critic (it's not clear who, but it's certainly not me) operates all of three websites devoted to a critical view of TM. But why is that important to Ball? Certainly, if we were to try to count the total number of websites, blogs, twitters, and other online venues worldwide operated by some element of the TM organization and the allied, TM-promoting David Lynch Foundation, there would be at least a few hundred in total. Critics of TM control no more than half a handful of websites, and you're reading one of them.
Ball himself operates the misleadingly-titled "Skeptics on TM" website, which of course is not operated by a skeptic or a critic of TM, but an individual who's been teaching TM since 1975 and today operates a TM center! Articles on that website, far from being the work of true "skeptics," are simply a repackaging of the same promotional material that the TM movement has produced for decades. Unintentionally hilarious in its faithful repeating of decades-old TM talking points as if they came from "skeptics," this site almost looks as outrageous as something produced by the Church of Scientology.
Now that I've established who DeBoer and Ball are, it's time to go see what they've been up to recently. The following message, forwarded to me by a helpful source, is from Keith DeBoer; last October, DeBoer sent it to some number of teachers of TM, or in the toy-government language of the TM organization, "governors."
From: Keith Deboer
Subject: Hello Enlightened Bloggers!
To: (a redacted list of recipients)
Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008, 5:19 PM
Dear TM Bloggers,
Hi and welcome to the world of TM blogging! I am proud to be the captain/coordinator for this group of enlightened TMers. I will be sending you web links 2-3 times a week and inviting you to visit the sites and post a response to an article, video or a reader's comment. In some cases you will need to register with the site but it only takes 30 seconds and it will be quick next time you are directed there. The web is a powerful tool and together we can improve TM's positive presence on the web and inspire many people to take advantage of this wonderful technique. Please send me your suggestions, questions and feedback whenever you have the urge. I will help and support you in any way that I can.
Jai Guru Dev
PS: I am attaching the file "Tips for Bloggers" which was created by Tom Ball and has lots of great points about blogging. It will be very helpful if you save it on your computer and use it as a reference.
This next paragraph appears to be DeBoer's first suggestion for his "group of enlightened TMers," to go write a response to the mere mention of one particular website which seems to have long been of some annoyance to TM movement leaders:
This link takes you to article on TM that is quite positive however at the end of the article he complains about the high cost of TM and refers people to some links where they can learn meditation cheap. One link is for www.natural-stress-relief.com which is a group of former TM teachers who teach TM via a CD for $25. This group is now under pressure from Bill Goldstein, but so far he has been unable to stop them. This groups use the TM research and says this version on the CD is the non-religious version of TM. So what you want to do is tell the author and readers of this article that you can't learn TM from CD, TM is not a religion etc.
It's interesting that the name "Bill Goldstein" appears here. Goldstein, a law professor at the TM organization's Maharishi University of Management, is well-known among some critics of TM for legal communications, in one case, sending a preemptive complaint targeting a planned webinar critical of TM. The Natural Stress Relief website seems to be a particular thorn in the side of TM lawyers, but a TM regional organization's internal notes from 2005 recently posted at wikileaks.org are not specific as to what website was the intended target for elimination in the sentence, "We want a bigger presence on the web and not have the negative sites."
This e-mail certainly confirms that DeBoer is, or was, actively sending some number of TM devotees on something of a search-and-destroy-critics-if-necessary mission which, among other things, included posting "a response to an article, video or a reader's comment" at DeBoer's suggestion.
Now, let's see what Ball's "Tips for Bloggers" looks like. As with some of Ball's other work, it's again unintentionally humorous to those of us looking at the TM toy-government from the outside. In these "Tips" DeBoer is named as "Team Captain" of this online group.
(My comments appear in italics. Points which are not noteworthy, particularly those which repeat yet again the TM party line have been omitted to adhere to fair use conventions.)
(My comments appear in italics. Points which are not noteworthy, particularly those which repeat yet again the TM party line have been omitted to adhere to fair use conventions.)
30 Blogging Tips
Please keep private and do not forward.
- Rule number one: HAVE FUN DOING THIS! All your comments should be natural expressions of bliss. Then that will come across in the writing. (Seems to me the expression of "bliss" most frequently seen from this team is the sneering, holier-than-thou tone - high-falutin' academic titles from marginal if not non-existent institutions included.)
- Create your “blogger identity,” with an ID that has a friendly, interesting, uplifting ring to it (peaceful warrior, knowledge kitten — be creative!). We recommend that you do not create multiple identities or post under different names, especially on the same site. Sometimes the owner of the site can see the IP addresses and will know. Honesty is our policy. (Calling oneself "laughing crow" in this context suggests to me that the writer's primary role is to mock critics while talking up the alleged universal supremacy of all things TM.)
- As a general rule, best if posts are short, not over 100 words. Otherwise, people may tend to avoid reading them. (Brevity also forces the writer to mindlessly repeat TM talking points instead of actually responding to objections.)
- (List of suggested TM websites omitted, except for:) http://permanentpeace.org/ (when appropriate — it’s the only site that so extensively discusses the Maharishi Effect and Unified Field) (A site showcasing one of the most outrageous claims made by the TM organization, which shows that TM promoters have a thing for magical think-good-thoughts-for-world-peace methods unsupported by science)
- On sites such as Youtube, Google, and many other formats you can create a profile that is visible to the public. It is a good idea to fill out the profile and create an identity that will convey your credentials, achievements, interests, etc., so that people who look will find you credible. (But that PhD in "World Peace" from MERU looks silly no matter where you put it.)
- Write as a TM teacher speaking to the public: cool head, warm heart, to the point—always dignified and uplifting. (As always, do as I say, not as I do, or is it, pay no attention to my avian sockpuppet, through which I work out my "unstressing" on critics?)
- It’s OK to be personal; in fact, it’s most convincing. You don’t want to sound like an official of some organization. And it can be good to refer to your own personal experience of TM’s benefits, those of your family, friends, etc. It may sometimes be useful to say how many years you’ve been meditating. (Thus it'll be easy for me to point out that all of you are well over 50 and every one of you learned TM in 1974 or earlier. Not a sign of a growing, healthy movement, is it?)
- Always address the innocent reader, never the author of the article or of other comments, unless it’s to praise them or thank them for their article or comments. (See the next item.)
- When responding to confused or negative comments, it is crucial that we NEVER criticize or condemn the author of those remarks, and never say directly that the PERSON is wrong. There’s no need to draw attention to the person at all. In such cases, we address only the false claims that are being made, and simply state the facts, referring to scientific research when relevant. (Calling me an "anti-TM blogger-Webmaster-commenter-Wikipedian & general TM basher" is a condemnation of an author, given only a small portion of my work online concerns TM. As I already noted, Tom is a real "do as I say not as I do" kind of fella.)
- It is fair to state directly that a particular claim is untrue or a misunderstanding, but refrain from using inflammatory adjectives such as, ‘preposterous,’ ‘absurd,’ insane,’ ‘bogus,’ ‘whacko,’ etc.("Anti-TM" or "general TM basher" is perfectly appropriate, though.)
- Remember, you are representing the Movement. (We all know the movement's reputation is already toast, and you'll behave accordingly.)
- We suggest that you thoroughly read the questions and answers on AsktheDoctors.com, and that you also read all of OJ’s site, truthabouttm.org. (The unfortunately-initialed "OJ," better known as David Orme-Johnson, is one of the TM movement's own researchers affiliated for the last few decades with Maharishi University of Management. He was most recently published in a "journal" that specializes in publishing otherwise unpublishable works by cranks and whackos, often focusing on UFO's and fringe pseudoscientific subjects like divination.)
- Always have your facts straight. Those few (but vociferous and dedicated) anti-meditation activists are eager to find an error in your statements. (Last I checked, most TM critics have real lives and other things to do than "fact-check" the stock talking-points we've seen thousands of times over by now. TM "governors," on the other hand, are expected to work for the TM organization 24-7. There's no way we'd keep up, if we ever bothered to try.)
- If you are ever stumped about how to respond to a particular negative claim, contact your team captain and if necessary we will research the question. Team Captain: Keith DeBoer • The best way to contact him is email: email@example.com • Or, in case of an urgent question, xxx-xxx-xxxx Mobile. (DeBoer's e-mail address is at mapi.com, the online location of Maharishi Ayur-Vedic Products International, another unit of the global TM organization. And again, let's remember that Keith is a leader of a team that doesn't exist, or certainly "laughing crow" implied such.)
- Usually, if you simply state the opposite of the negative claim, and refer to scientific research when applicable, that is accurate and enough to refute. (Again, this offers more opportunities to repeat the TM marketing points and ignore the actual objection or question.)
- If the negative blogger responds to your post from another angle, coming back with another attack, it is better NOT to engage in an exchange with this person or with other negative bloggers who come to defend their cohort (who may well be the same person now posting under a different name). Instead, pass the link on to another of our bloggers or to your blog team captain, so that another positive blogger can be assigned to respond. This way, there will be more supportive, positive people joining the discussion and standing up for the truth — outnumbering the naysayers — and you will avoid getting involved in a personal interaction with the negative bloggers, which can be VERY DRAINING. SAVE YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM! (I find it hard to believe that a little online verbal combat is damaging anybody's nervous systems. Those toy-government governors are oh so delicate and spending a night in a hotel with a south-facing entrance is just too much for their wimpy little nervous systems to take...)
Also, we never want to get drawn into a heated debate, because that can make us look fanatical. (But having a swarm of different commentators repeat the exact same talking points at once doesn't look fanatical at all. Nope. Sure doesn't.)
- It is important to understand that there is only a small handful of people, literally 3-4, who spend time regularly posting negative comments about TM. Some of these people post under different names, but they alll say the same old wrong things. (It's really funny how 3 or 4 people seem to be causing you guys endless heartburn. Perhaps it's because almost everybody else already knows you guys are flaky burger king crown wearers, the latest generation of snake-oil salesmen, and they know you are best ignored?)
- It’s best not to copy and paste ALL of your response, however, because if someone exposes that you are doing this it could discredit you. Generally, blogs are meant to be personal statements.(While they may be discouraged from on-screen cut-and-pasting, the problem with being a TM movement dead-ender for three decades or more is that you end up with a cut-and-paste mind, and everything you say about TM, to outsiders, sounds like it came out of the same can.)
- Explanation of TM course fee: (400 words omitted, most of which we critics have heard tens if not hundreds of times before)
- Definition of ‘Rajas’: The meaning of the word ‘raja,’ in the context in which it is used in the TM organization, is ‘administrator.’ Just as many professions have their uniforms, such military, the rajas have theirs: as professional peacemakers. (These are the guys wearing the burger-king crowns. Funny how John Hagelin has no official portraits of himself on any TM website wearing the full "Raja" "uniform." That's because it makes him look ridiculous, and they need at least one guy who looks good in a suit, even if it's the usual Global Country-sanctioned beige.)
- If the negative blogger cites ‘scientific research studies’ to support a claim that TM is not effective or has negative side-effects, to rebut this you can draw from or quote: (More from the usual sources. Fact is, TM, being barely one step above the usual snake-oil and quackery, merits very little scientific interest one way or the other.)
- If the negative blogger cites the “Alberta study,” a meta-analysis on various forms of meditation that was publicized as showing that “meditation has no clinical effect,” it is a false claim — that is not what the study found, and, furthermore, the study has been criticized by researchers for methodological flaws. See http://www.TruthAboutTM.org/truth/Research/RebuttalofAHRQReview/index.cfm (More from the same guy who's proud to be published in a journal with fringe pseudo-science and UFO nuts. I'll take the Alberta study instead.)
- If the naysayers argue that the TM research is not valid because it was all done by meditating scientists, you can say, first of all, this is simply untrue, it was not done primarily by TM organization scientists—the majority of research studies was conducted by scientists not affiliated with any TM organization. Hundreds of scientists of the highest credentials have conducted research on TM. (But note that the few recent studies being touted by the TM organization all have meditating researchers involved - including the previously mentioned David Orme-Johnson. Nearly four decades of "research" - and this is all you can come up with?)
- In the case of blogging, which can become a battlefield, it may be better not to proclaim “there are over 600 scientific research studies,” because not all of the 600-and-some studies were published in peer-reviewed journals — it’s indefensible to say that all 600 reflect the highest caliber of research. Over 350 studies were published in peer-reviewed journals, and all these will soon be listed on the tm.org research page.(That's not the only thing that's indefensible about TM. That it comes from the same people who insist it's absolutely necessary to immediately tear down and rebuild most cities because the architecture doesn't match their reinterpretation of Hindu temple design is also one of many indefensible things about this organization.)
- Whatever negative claim is asserted, however well they might argue it, remember that it is always simply flat-out wrong — their most ardent and rational-sounding arguments always contain the seeds of their own undoing. You know from your own experience that TM is 100% natural, innocent, and good, and you can always refer to your self-referral experience — saying that you have experienced the benefits directly, and over 300 peer-reviewed scientific research studies support TM’s benefits. (Off into blathering fanatic-land we go, where life is beautiful all the time, and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and... where was I?)