This section examines the malicious and aggressive methods used by Nichiren Shoshu in its campaign against the SGI. We'll look at their activities on the newsgroup ARBN, and examine (broadly) some of its more massive websites. This will entail an examination of the methods and character of its primary webmaster, his relationship to the priesthood itself, and his similarities to a rather shady group in Japan.
A Nichiren Shoshu member recently asked her temple representative about what the Temple is doing on the Internet. She posted the answer:
I quote YOU, temple rep: "Don't go on the internet, we have members who have been on it a very long time and they know what they are doing." ARBN post, Thursday, May 31, 2001 2:12 AMDon't be fooled: Nichiren Shoshu has a calculated stake in the Internet; it's priests are involved (despite protestations that they are not); and, as we see from the above, they don't want even their own members jumping in to gum up the works.
Nichiren Shoshu's activities on the Internet are marked by aggression, cunning, persistence, and the ability to adopt a most innocent persona. It is continually caught with its hand in the cookie jar, and continually is ready with a detailed story of how someone else forced its hand into the cookie jar.
Its presence and all of the above attributes can be witnessed most keenly on a newsgroup, "alt.religion.Buddhism.Nichiren" (ARBN). ARBN was established by a member of another Nichiren sect, for the purpose of constructive dialogue among all who purport to follow the Daishonin's teachings; it was actually called, in its inception, "Nichiren Believers Unite".
For at least five years, however, the culture of ARBN has been defined by Nichiren Shoshu. There is no dialogue; there are only attacks on the SGI.
As an illustration of the nature of Nichiren Shoshu, ARBN is very revealing. The NST members claim is that it is the SGI who is attacking, out to destroy Nichiren Shoshu; while the temple members just want to be left alone to practice their own religion in peace. Since about the middle of 2000, very few SGI members participate there. One would think, then, that with little input of any kind from the SGI, ARBN would become a discussion among Nichiren Shoshu members about the benefits of practicing their religion.
In the ten days from March 2 through March 11, 2001, only two SGI members posted more than two messages, and only four posted at all. None of their posts had anything to do with Nichiren Shoshu doctrine, activities or members: one significant thread had to do with nomenclature for a type of Gohonzon scroll, and the other had to do with ARBN itself, and its hostility to open discussion. SGI members totaled 36 messages and even this is stretching it, as one of the posters has declared his opposition to the SGI and especially to his local organization. Counting him, though 36 messages originating from SGI members.
In the same period, there were 317 posts by Nichiren Shoshu members, of which 168 were unprovoked messages about President Ikeda, about the editor of the World Tribune, and about an SGI member who doesn't post to ARBN. Ten of these were "refutations" of articles taken from Gakkai publications (not posted by SGI members to ARBN; the temple members had to go looking for them), and 30 were responses to messages posted to "SGI members'" message boards. These boards are supposedly just for SGI members, but the temple members invade, read, and exploit them by "responding" on ARBN (where, of course, the original poster has no idea he/she is being "refuted" or, as in most cases, merely mocked).
A typical thread is one entitled "About This Newsgroup". The first existing message (the thread had started before the 10 day window, and the first few posts had already been dropped by Usenet about which more later) was about this:
"I'm not naive. I understand what's up with the SGI leadership. They do sometimes expend what I consider to be too much effort on the anti-temple thing. But, as I've said, I've never seen or read anything or anyone advocating any sort of destruction or violence towards temple members or property. It's not militant by any means. As for the skits, they're no more hateful or harmful than any Saturday Night Live skit about George Dubya. It's called parody.There were 48 responses to this 41 by Nichiren Shoshu members, all of them attacking the SGI member's sensibilities and his right to distinguish between the SGI and Nichiren Shoshu.
Anyone who has observed ARBN for any length of time knows that at one time SGI members posted frequently often countering Nichiren Shoshu attacks on President Ikeda, pointing out flaws and omissions in tabloid articles posted by Nichiren Shoshu, and making extensive use of the Gosho to discuss doctrine with Nichiren Shoshu members.
They also have observed that
when their attacks on President Ikeda are rebutted, Nichiren Shoshu members
respond by re-posting the original article, or calling the SGI member a
name usually some sophomoric mutation of his/her real name.
This is true of every Nichiren Shoshu member who posts to ARBN and meets reasoned argument every one sooner or later devolves into gratuitous insults of their opponent. Every time.
For instance, the posts "about an SGI member who doesn't post to ARBN" mentioned above: This person used to post to ARBN over a year ago and made many valid comparisons of the two sects, based on history and his own observations. Nichiren Shoshu members decided that he masturbates frequently. All their responses to him had to do with hair on his hands and crude references to his body parts. For instance:
Subject: Re: Is Liap a man?Now, a year later, that SGI member is posting to an SGI discussion board. Nichiren Shoshu members can read what's posted there, and they have been taking isolated comments by this person, posting them to ARBN and making crude references to masturbation.
This is poor, innocent, persecuted Nichiren Shoshu.
Nichiren Shoshu has found the Internet to be a useful tool for its relentless attacks upon the SGI. Its members deny vehemently that their activities are controlled or even sanctioned by the priests, but consider:
Nichiren Shoshu does have websites dealing solely with their own religion; these are generally the ones that are obviously connected to the temples. But their most active websites the ones updated most frequently, the ones from which anti-Gakkai material is disseminated around the world are the ones the priests allow their lay members to take credit for. These are in no way attempts to propagate their own religion. They are meant solely to undermine the SGI.
Three of these are major. They are: Clearing House; Cebunet/Netnitco; and SG-eye.
1) "Clearing House": This one has been taken down, though its content have found their way into other sites. Its specialties were tabloid articles about the Komeito and President Ikeda, and articles from the Myokanko publication Emyo a publication High Priest Nikken used as a barometer for proposed campaigns.
For instance, while the priesthood was allowing its members to vehemently deny that the Sho Hondo (the Grand Main Temple) was going to be demolished, Emyo was carrying articles hinting that the building was about to collapse due to structural flaws. The basis Emyo used for this argument was that a security guard had noticed rust spots on some pillars. It went on to speculate that the wrong kind of sand had been used in pouring the concrete, and that the Soka Gakkai (whose members contributed the bulk of the financing for the Sho Hondo's construction) had stinted on the quality of the material and labor.
In pursuing this line of rationalizing the impending doom of the Sho Hondo, neither Nikken nor Emyo consulted any designers, engineers or contractors; soon enough the Nichiren Shoshu members on the Internet picked up the cue, and participated in a massive propaganda campaign about the utter instability of the structure. When the architects and contractors who had actually worked on the project attested to their painstaking attention to every detail and their unanimous opinion that the building was safe and would stand for hundreds of years, Nikken hung both Emyo and his followers out to dry in announcing the upcoming demolition of the Sho Hondo, he essentially said the reason is that it had been contributed by President Ikeda and the SGI with no mention at all of concern for its structural integrity.
2) SG-eye: This one will be dealt with in great detail on another page.
3) Cebunet/Netnitco: Cebunet is owned and operated by a Nichiren Shoshu member in Indiana, though it's based in the Philippines. This is necessary because it puts this individual out of reach of American laws, which he constantly flaunts. He also has a few websites and his email at Netnitco ("nitco" is Northern Indiana Telephone Company).
He uses a number of names: Cult Watcher International, jqpublic, SGI Information Center, adonos (an SGI member's name spelled backwards), Soka Gakkai News. His real name is Craig Bratcher.
As may be gathered from a couple of those names, he often tries to disguise himself as representing the SGI in one capacity or another, and then undermines his correspondent's confidence in it. He also receives information from the priests for use on the Internet.
A couple of examples: In 1997, High Priest Nikken was sponsoring a mammoth pilgrimage, for which he did not have enough members to meet his goal. So he announced that he had not really excommunicated SGI members six years earlier, that they were still members of Nichiren Shoshu and could see the Dai Gohonzon and then gave them a deadline of October 31st for leaving the SGI or they really would be excommunicated this time.
Two days before this announcement by Nichiren Shoshu, Mr. Bratcher posted a "poll" asking SGI members on ARBN what they would think if they were given a last chance to leave the Gakkai and embrace Nichiren Shoshu.
The year before, Nichiren Shoshu published a booklet entitled 100 Questions and Answers on the Gohonzon. Three months before its publication, Mr. Bratcher posted a draft by "The Nichiren Shoshu Doctrinal Committee".
Finally, by his own admission, he knew about an article in the Ghana Graphic, critical of Nichiren Shoshu, before the article became known outside of Ghana and Japan:
I stated in an article posted 4 hours BEFORE Keith panicked and posted his, I said specifically that any "main stream" reports from the Rawlings back-jungle country would not be accepted. posted on arbn, January 9, 1998(Bratcher had had a long-running "challenge" to give money to anyone who found an article critical of Nichiren Shoshu in a non-Gakkai publication; there were many, of course, from all around the world, but there was always some excuse for not acknowledging them.)
So Mr. Bratcher's activities on the Internet are quite obviously approved and supported by the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. What are his activities?
Subject: Friends of Chairman Ikeda Drown Newborn BabyThere's one. Here's more:
"Actually, they don't even *try* to cover their pile of vile dung they offer to Daisaku." Craig Bratcher 12/3/98(And when he's not fixating on dung:)
"Hey Snotty- isn't that spittle inside your mask getting uncomfotable by now? Of course- there are little sacrifices to be made for kosenrufu eh. So what if a little spittle is spraying out of the cracks...." Craig Bratcher 12/5/97(Or:)
"But now they have returned to their own vomit:" Craig Bratcher 2/14/98(And:)
"Jeezus H Christ, dickwad! What the hell do you think this is? Dime a dance? Get your head out of Ikeda's crack for a minute will ya??????" Craig Bratcher 12/14/97He has also asked an SGI member in Africa if he was "the leader in the SGI spear chucking club".
He has disguised himself as an SGI member in the Midwest to try to gain access to a controlled mail list.
He has used an SGI member's name, and set up a website purportedly the member's private website on which he said the member was "covered with leprous sores."
He has tried to hide a link to his own website in ARBN messages, so that anyone who clicked on the message would be transported to his anti-Gakkai propaganda. (He failed.)
He set up a website called "DIkeda", in which he had President Ikeda writing in pidgin English and asking for money.
He has taken items from SGI members' websites whether or not they had anything to do with religion and posted it either to ARBN or to one of his own sites. These included copyrighted lyrics to songs on a business website, and a picture of an SGI member's teenage daughters.
Whenever a new SGI member starts posting to ARBN, Bratcher does background checks on them as a means of intimidation. He posted details of the family makeup of one member, scoured phone books and directories for information on another, lifts messages that SGI members post to technical and other unrelated newsgroups as if to let them know that Mr. Bratcher can find out anything he wants, so they had better be careful.
But far more insidious than those puerile shenanigans are the articles he posts. Anything that can be remotely used for anti-SGI propaganda is fair game for Mr. Bratcher.
In 1996 he posted an article from a magazine called Archipelago, which tried to link the Soka Gakkai to the Tokyo subway gassing. This is the sort of thing Mr. Bratcher loves, so he posted it even though it contained grave slander against Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha Nichiren Shoshu purports to follow:
This article by veteran investigative reporter Jack Amano discusses the ideology of Final War, the central doctrine of Soka Gakkai, which represents a clear and present danger to Japan and the international community.There is no "core tenet" in the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin of a "final war" in which his followers would physically vanquish "materialist powers". Nor is there any such "prophecy". Nichiren Daishonin would have been appalled at such a suggestion.
The article stated, as fact, that there is such a tenet; but because it also contained anti-Gakkai propaganda, Bratcher did not hesitate to post it.
He has every piece of such material that is published, maintains it on his websites, and posts it en masse to ARBN. As mentioned earlier, Usenet purges the newsgroup every two weeks; a post does not stay there for more than 14 days. Mr. Bratcher schedules massive postings to ARBN so that there is always a spate of anti-Gakkai headlines there. This is so that anyone who may come across ARBN as a research tool, or as a means to find out about Buddhism, will see that most of what is said about the Gakkai is bad. In addition to the above:
In short: Craig Bratcher is a liar, and he will lie about anything that furthers his job, which is to attack the SGI at every opportunity.
Note that many of the methods
used by Craig Bratcher resemble those used by the Myokanko in Japan. Another
interesting characteristic of this group is multiple user accounts, in
which several people have the password to one email account. One of these
accounts ("ipcress"), which based in England, is active on ARBN. Mr. Bratcher
is a part of "Ipcress", and he and another temple member have often traded