America On Line (AOL) seems to have become “big brother.”

Not necessarily a kindly big brother to help Internet users, but more like what George Orwell calls “big brother” in his classic book 1984.

AOL shut down a long-standing educational website, because the webmaster didn’t remove certain historical information.

One article posted on cult watcher Carol Giambalvo’s website displeased someone important and AOL apparently concluded, much like the pigs on Orwell’s Animal Farm, “Some are more equal than others.”

The “more equal” apparently describes The Hunger Project (THP), an organization closely associated with Landmark Education. A controversial privately owned company, that stages a type of mass marathon training.

Landmark was previously known as Erhard Seminar Training (EST), founded by Werner Erhard. Their introductory weekend seminar is called the Forum.

Giambalvo, a former participant in both EST and THP wrote an article titled, The Hunger Project Inside Out.

But you won’t find it online anymore.


Giambalvo says it all started when, “The Hunger Project sent me a letter…asking me to remove it…[they said] the article [was] outdated.” The ex-ESTie says that she was given “the usual rap about them not being affiliated with Landmark programs or Werner Erhard.”

However, Christian Century exposed the historic ties between THP and EST in an article run in 1979.

And in fact, the Vice President at THP who sent the letter to Giambalvo, has ties to Landmark.

Giambalvo didn’t remove the offending piece. “I just put [their] letter at the end of [my] article so people could see their point of view,” she explains.

But that just wasn’t good enough.

As one of Orwell’s characters observed in 1984, “up to date…[means] any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was…scraped clean.”

When Giambalvo failed to comply THP complained to AOL and the Internet giant took immediate action. Giambalvo’s website was shut down without notice. And it was only restored after her “expression of opinion” was “scraped clean.”

Doesn’t this sound drastic for a media conglomerate, which includes journalism icon Time Magazine?

After all, Time is widely respected by cult watchers for its 1991 cover story “Scientology: The Cult of Greed.”

AOL it seems, should not be confused with its media partner.

Giambalvo concludes, “Wonderful freedom of speech we have here in America, but not America On Line!”

Has AOL become a corporate version of “big brother,” bent upon censorship to please the “more equal”?

Orwell summed this up neatly within 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

Note: Giambalvo now advises that a copy of the material previously posted about THP at her website is “available by direct request.”

Follow up: Carol Giambalvo advises that AOL brought to her attention the “terms of service” she agreed to, “which basically gives them license to say something is objectionable and to remove it.” She also admits AOL might have sent her a disconnect warning, but “I may have deleted it because…I get so much junk mail on AOL.”

Seems like two good reasons not to be an AOL user, the potential for censorship and spam.


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