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“My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church.”
February 6, 2011 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Paul Haggis Vs. the Church of Scientology. Haggis' defection was discussed previously on the blue, as were allegations of abusive practices in Scientology's Sea Org. This week's New Yorker includes a massive investigative piece by Lawrence Wright, part of an upcoming book by Wright that has already been the subject of some speculation.
posted by availablelight (68 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Scientology, on human trafficking.
posted by availablelight at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2011


The following are trademarks and services marks owned by Religious Technology Center, Los Angeles, California, USA. These marks are licensed for use by the Church of Scientology International and its affiliated organizations and have been registered in many countries of the world.

DIANETICS, FLAG, FREEDOM, L. RON HUBBARD and SCIENTOLOGY.


Ha!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 PM on February 6, 2011


DIANETICS, FLAG, FREEDOM, L. RON HUBBARD and SCIENTOLOGY.
Does this mean that the Tea Party pays royalties to the CoS every time they invoke the flag?
posted by arcticseal at 10:20 PM on February 6, 2011


Scientology, on human trafficking.

Awww, propaganda, KEEEEWT. Thanks for dropping that irrelevant link in there!
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:32 PM on February 6, 2011



Awww, propaganda, KEEEEWT. Thanks for dropping that irrelevant link in there!


The main article breaks the story of the FBI investigation into human trafficking allegations against the Sea Org, but I'm guessing you didn't make it that far into it before posting that.
posted by availablelight at 10:46 PM on February 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


F-f-fair enough!
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:52 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there an abbreviation for "too long; despaired"?
posted by bicyclefish at 10:54 PM on February 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow. That's a lengthy piece. (And now I'll get to skip over a large portion of the new issuse of The New Yorker when it arrives in my mailbox.)

It's such a strange thing, this Scientology thing. So organized, so insidious, so full of contradiction between current and ex-members.

I'm one of the people who bought Battlefield Earth in hardcover. (Great book, actually. I've not seen the movie, but the book is stupidly entertaining despite it having a zillion moments when the plot should resolve and then it doesn't.) I bought Mission Earth in hardcover as it was issued based on the strengths of Battlefield Earth. It wasn't nearly as good -- the satire is too broad and the whole plot is far too pointed.

But then I reflect on Fear, which is an outstanding piece of SF/fantasy/horror.

All his fiction aside, Hubbard's religion seems to be kind of creepy as its currently practiced. I don't hold out any hope that there will be real revelations which discredit the church, because it's so careful with its control of its members. And since Paul Thomas Anderson's movie seems to be on eternal hiatus, I don't think we'll have even any pop culture windows opening which would shed light on the organization.

Still, wow. Great article. Thanks for posting.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 PM on February 6, 2011


Often, the process leads participants to recall past lives.

O RLY!
posted by basicchannel at 11:48 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


As always, I recommend everyone read "A Piece of Blue Sky."
posted by five fresh fish at 11:52 PM on February 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


This was all over USENET in 1994. Remember the FactNET archive and Wollersheim vs Sceintology For the true beleivers this kind of revalation is irrelevant.
posted by humanfont at 11:53 PM on February 6, 2011


I don't hold out any hope that there will be real revelations which discredit the church...

I thought we're way past this point already.
posted by sour cream at 12:09 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought we're way past this point already.

If that were true, I wouldn't have spent an hour reading a New Yorker piece about it.
posted by hippybear at 12:14 AM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Infiltrating the US government doesn't count?
posted by lumensimus at 12:29 AM on February 7, 2011


The article was really interesting, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:42 AM on February 7, 2011


This was all over USENET in 1994. Remember the FactNET archive and Wollersheim vs Sceintology For the true beleivers this kind of revalation is irrelevant.

Someone else who didn't bother to read the article, huh?

One of the primary themes in this New Yorker piece is the impact that learning about the criticisms of the church being made recently by senior ex-figures is having on high status, high profile Scientologists.

And the extent of Miscavige's dictatorial insanity was far from well documented back in 1994. Certainly not with the kind of authority that it has been over the last year or two.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:52 AM on February 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Scientology fascinates me. It's so obviously a great big scam. E-meters? Thetans? Xenu?

But the way it breaks down complex, messy human problems into bite-sized, seemingly manageable chunks -- I can see the appeal. And it's so resolutely "modern", in that peculiarly postwar American "let's put fins on cars and build transistor radios in the garage!" kind of way. And so completely devoid of warmth and humor. An engineered faith. A cunning bear trap for the unwary soul.

Miscavige sounds like a real piece of work, too. Wonder what his typical day consists of? Check email, sign off on some business, an hour or two conducting brainwashing sessions followed by a light lunch and a violent tantrum.

The idea of immersing oneself in a like-minded group of seekers after occult knowledge is powerful and tempting. Scientology scares me even though I can plainly see how downright silly the whole thing is.

But now that it's been around long enough that children are being trafficked into servitude by their brainwashed or desperate or delusional or evil or uncaring or deceived parents, perhaps we should, I dunno, do something about it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:28 AM on February 7, 2011 [23 favorites]


Surprise! A new religion, less than 50 years old, that is so new it can't fundamentally explain its beliefs publicly. It wraps itself in celebrity and so look liberal but in fact is a massively conservative institution: believing homosexuality and abortion are wrong.

Christianity was probably a little larger by the time its half-century came about but Scientology will probably die within the next 70 to 100 years.
posted by parmanparman at 1:45 AM on February 7, 2011


Surprise! A new religion, less than 50 years old, that is so new it can't fundamentally explain its beliefs publicly. It wraps itself in celebrity and so look liberal but in fact is a massively conservative institution: believing homosexuality and abortion are wrong.

Erm--the article I read suggested the COS was forcing abortions.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:26 AM on February 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


PeterMcDermott : Someone else who didn't bother to read the article, huh?

Someone else who doesn't remember USENet, huh?

Seriously, nothing new here (Though I don't mean that as a criticism of this FP - Anyone who wants to take a stab at those tax-scamming morons has my support). We can, at best, hope this will make scientology a bit less fashionable in Hollywood.

You could take any "true believers" back in time to have a chat with ElRon about creating a scifi-inspired religion on a bet; With Jesus having a few too many with his posse; With Moses trippin' balls and staggering around through the desert; And you'd get nothing but a weak "but the underlying message...!"

Putting a new face on an eternal fraud won't change much.
posted by pla at 3:35 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


A survey of American religious affiliations, compiled in the Statistical Abstract of the United States, estimates that only twenty-five thousand Americans actually call themselves Scientologists. That’s less than half the number who identify themselves as Rastafarians.


There is hope for America yet.
posted by chavenet at 4:48 AM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, the Rastafarians are even more homophobic.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:53 AM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


You can have all the press exposes of Scientology you want, but until the leadership is indicted for things like blackmail, false imprisonment and negligent homicide these articles will always be tempests in teapots.

Also, this is obligatory in any Scientology thread.
posted by clarknova at 6:10 AM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Someone else who doesn't remember USENet, huh?

Peter's memory is just fine. It should be, he was there for it. Miscavige's personal, physical brutality against his own people was not evident back then. That's something that's only come out in the last couple years. I continue to have high hopes that these revelations will finally put an end to the main Scientology organization through attrition as members leave & aren't replaced & the cut can no longer sustain itself.
posted by scalefree at 6:22 AM on February 7, 2011


I do find it interesting the way that a religion basically centered around appeal to celebrities is so retrograde when it comes to homosexuality, abortion, etc. It's almost as if it isn't actually possible to construct a religion that isn't misogynist.

You'd think that wouldn't appeal to many celebrities, given the standard liberal leanings found in that group, but apparently the lure of being one of the Elect is enough to overcome liberal discomfort with a blatantly misogynist and homophobic dogma.

hippybear If revelations of wrongdoing discredited religions then Islam, Christianity, Mormonism, etc would all have been abandoned long ago.

The True Believer is impervious to facts, that's why they're a True Believer.

BitterOldPunk wrote Scientology fascinates me. It's so obviously a great big scam. E-meters? Thetans? Xenu?

Eh, I can't really be surprised. Talking snakes, magic fruit, souls, Satan. Religion as a category involves requiring people to believe things that are self evidently bullshit. The only reason Scientology stands out is because, like Mormonism, it's relatively new and it's bullshit hasn't had time to acquire the patina of faux legitimacy that makes it impolite to point out how obviously a scam it is.

If it survives 500 years it'll seem just as "normal" as the Christian stuff.
posted by sotonohito at 6:31 AM on February 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


"You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion."

L Ron Hubbard in response to a question from the audience during a meeting of the Eastern Science Fiction Association on (7 November 1948), as quoted in a 1994 affidavit by Sam Moskowitz.
posted by gonzo_ID at 7:12 AM on February 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


As far as E-meters go, over 40% of the American population believes that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago. 31% of Americans believe in astrology. Around 50% believe in angels. An overwhelming majority believe in lie detectors. Hell, we Americans bought millions of rubber bracelets with a shiny sticker because we believed it would do something beneficial to our "energy".

Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't seen more religions with the trappings of science and engineering pop up. E-meters are probably one of the biggest draws Scientology has, other than the offer of superpowers. It's cool, and techie, and Not At All Superstitious.

For all that Americans are anti-intellectual, they're also pro-"science", at least in the sense of the props and gadgets and faux certainty that they think science provides. They're especially in favor of "science" if it reinforces their own prejudices and superstitions.

Xenu and the space traveling B-52 bombers I can see straining the credulity of people. But I think E-meters reassure most people that there must be something real there.
posted by sotonohito at 7:19 AM on February 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I live in Los Angeles. I just found out that my local polling place for the upcoming primary election has been changed to the local Scientology center down the street. O_o
posted by Asparagirl at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2011


Miscavige sounds like a real piece of work, too.

Whatever else you want to say about him, he's an extremely accomplished salesman.

I've listened to him give a 3-hour spiel about a big new edition of "corrected" Scientology books and his delivery was flawless from beginning to end.

And they say the best salesmen are those who truly believe in the product...
posted by Joe Beese at 7:40 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


As far as E-meters go, over 40% of the American population believes that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago. 31% of Americans believe in astrology. Around 50% believe in angels. An overwhelming majority believe in lie detectors. Hell, we Americans bought millions of rubber bracelets with a shiny sticker because we believed it would do something beneficial to our "energy".

I'm not entirely sure what an e-meter is. It seems to either just be a prop, manipulated by the operator, or something closer to a lie detector. Which, to your point, does not detect "lies". But they are real things. They detect stress. Used by a skilled examiner and when the results are not overstated, they can produce fairly accurate information. But, on the other hand, they are also a good prop.

I think the tragedy of Scientology is that it isn't 100% bullshit. Like going to confession or being dunked in a river and reborn a better person, going through some of their stuff allows people to face up to their past and shed some of the guilt and stress those things caused us.

And the power of the mind thing is scientifically proven to work. (For good and bad.) CBT, for example, works. Just as people can whip themselves into a delusion that they are Jesus, other people can work themselves into a "delusion" that they are no longer miserable.

Of course, then it turns evil when they use that information to extract more money from the gullible.
posted by gjc at 7:44 AM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just noticed the title of this FPP, then noticed it was from the last paragraph of the article:

I once asked Haggis about the future of his relationship with Scientology. “These people have long memories,” he told me. “My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church.” He thought for a moment, then said, “I was in a cult for thirty-four years. Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.”

Suddenly, I'm feeling compelled to read the whole thing.
posted by philip-random at 8:19 AM on February 7, 2011


Reached for comment, Scientology addressed Mr. Haggis:

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
posted by The Bellman at 8:22 AM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Christianity was probably a little larger by the time its half-century came about but Scientology will probably die within the next 70 to 100 years.

In šāʾ Allāh!
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:09 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


gjc I meant "believe in that lie detectors actually detect lies and are valid". They may be somewhat useful devices, but they don't detect lies and we shouldn't pretend that they do.

Perhaps lie detectors have some minor legitimate function. Due to the hype, the proven inaccuracy, etc I doubt it, but it's possible. However, if they do have a legitimate function, they are certainly not lie detectors and believing that they are is preposterous.

But that's the pint. Americans really like the faux certainty of BS with a "scientific" overlay. Notice how often lie detectors feature in popular media and how ingrained they are in the popular mind despite the fact that they simply don't do the job they claim to do.

Which is why I disagree with BitterOldPunk about e-meters. Of course they're total BS. But they're BS that is designed to resonate with and appeal to American sloppy thinking. Far from being a point that is going to many make Americans think "this shit is crazy" they're a point that is going to make many Americans think "this must be real!"

As far as polygraphs themselves go, the NAS explicitly rejected claims that they performed their stated function in 2003.
posted by sotonohito at 9:25 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has anybody else noticed the recent surge of Scientology TV ads? I've been seeing them regularly over the last few weeks during shows like Bones and Fringe on Fox 11 here in LA.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:27 AM on February 7, 2011


Has anybody else noticed the recent surge of Scientology TV ads?

There was a whole slew of them running on various channels of my satellite service a while back. I don't know if they were network ads or inserts by the sat company.

Interesting to also note: "The Way To Happiness" also has been advertising heavily, and it's basically Scientology-lite. A list of non-religious precepts the ElRon came up with for moral guidance or something. They're all pretty much common-sense, but the website and the movement are basically used as an in-door to the full-on Scientology system.
posted by hippybear at 9:39 AM on February 7, 2011


E-meter = ridiculously-overpriced high-range ohmmeter. Detects skin resistance using electrodes like two tin cans. If subject is the sweaty-palmed type, might be useful for detecting stress. Or not.
posted by tspae at 9:48 AM on February 7, 2011


I know a guy who was very critical of the Church back on Usenet. One day he gets a knock on his door. It's the FBI. It turns out that someone from an IP address in Clearwater, Florida had posted death threats against the CoS and had signed his name to them. Of course the FBI knew he didn't do it, but had to interview him anyway. This led my friend to unleash a bit more savage mockery at them.


I've said on the big blue before that you can't trust this evil cult to 'play fair'. I think that the New Yorker article is pretty damning, especially near the end when they clearly catch the Scientology spokesperson lying and not admitting that the statements he's making are contradictory.

Don't underestimate that this "church" doesn't have more money and patience than it's detractors. (And they are petty and malicious enough that Haggis is right to warn that he'll get caught up in a scandal that seems unrelated to the CoS.) I'm glad it's been revealed that the FBI is now investigating them for human trafficking.

That New Yorker article though, wow. What a large amount of coverage. You could dissect any number of things they said critical of the church and google it and find it to be 100% true. I can't wait to see the IRS grow a pair and revoke their tax-exempt status.

Also, the article doesn't mention any of the firsthand accounts of people who volunteered their medical skills in Haiti after the earthquake and reported on clueless yellow shirted Scientology 'ministers' who were flown in on private chartered flights and were unwelcome by the locals.
posted by Catblack at 10:03 AM on February 7, 2011


Unlike a lot of other Hollywood scientologists, Paul Haggis was introduced to Scientology well before he came to L.A., even before he started pursuing screenwriting. This probably means that he's seen both the real, plebian version of Scientology and the expurgated celebrity version.

Also, approximately 80-kajillion words about Paul Haggis and not one mention of Due South?
posted by mhum at 10:41 AM on February 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


This probably means that he's seen both the real, plebian version of Scientology and the expurgated celebrity version.

Yeah, I came out of the article feeling like Haggis may be a sort of ideal defector. He's not coming out of the "church" with any personal horror story of being abused which the "church" can just deny like it denies everything else. Also he doesn't seem to deny any of his faults - he seems pretty open about the problems with his marriages and his kids, so one wonders what they could possibly try to slander him with.

I look forward to Wright's book.
posted by dnash at 10:59 AM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Catblack You do know that tax exempt status has nothing to do with religion, yes? It doesn't matter if you consider the CoS to be a "real religion" or a "mere cult", as long as it complies with 501(c)(3) requirements it's tax exempt.

If the IRS is going to start going after religious groups that don't meet 501(c)(3) requirements I'd rather they start with the Mormons, the Roman Catholic Church, and the various megachurches that have been improperly dabbling in politics to the detriment of my homosexual fellow citizens. The CoS seems small potatoes.

I'll also point out that cult is just a pejorative term for religion. The law makes no distinction because there is no real, valid, distinction to be made. From my POV they're all equally scams. Crackers turning into zombie flesh seems no more or less preposterous to me than Xenu. Thuggishness may vary between religions, though even the largest seem to have thuggish components.

Take, for example, Roman Catholicism. You can argue that the Church, as a whole, is less thuggish than the CoS. You may even be correct. But would you argue that Opus Dei is less thuggish than the CoS? And there's more members of Opus Dei than there are Scientologists.

There is no legitimacy to be found in religion, thus using the term cult to mean "illegitimate religion" is either redundant, or an attempt to whitewash mainstream religions. Religion as a whole is corrupt, vile, and thuggish; Scientology fits the category just fine.
posted by sotonohito at 12:30 PM on February 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: when he read it again he decided, “This is madness.”
posted by everichon at 1:16 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


a religion basically centered around appeal to celebrities

Okay, I just have to tell this story, and I will ask for forgiveness/indulgence to use Metafilter yet again to natter on about Paul Weller.

The first time I met Weller was here in L.A. in 2007, when I was invited backstage. Before talking with The Man himself, I chatted over a beer with his (then-)drummer, Steve White, who told the following story:

"Today between lunch and sound check, we decided for shits and giggles to go over to pay the Scientologists a visit." [The venue they were playing at is a few blocks away from the main Scientology center in Hollywood.] At this point he stopped himself and asked me cautiously, "are you a Scientologist?" When I laughed hysterically and said no, he looked relieved and continued:

"So we head over to the Scientologists and explain that we'd like to take one of their personality tests, please. As we're filling it out we 'casually' mention that we're in town for several concerts, and that Paul is up for an award back in England. Well, the second they realize that we might be celebrities somewhere, they start getting really excited. They tell us if we start courses with them immediately that we'll be able to create music we've only ever dreamed of, and will have more success than we've ever imagined. And Paul goes, 'can it finally make me big enough in the states so that no one ever confuses me with bloody Peter Weller again?' And when they say yes, that's when he starts laughing and says 'Right, mate, now you just proved you're a scam.'"

posted by scody at 2:13 PM on February 7, 2011 [30 favorites]


There are worse things than being confused for Peter Weller. Give the man some credit.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:21 PM on February 7, 2011


Oh, I love Peter Weller. I just doubt Paul Weller enjoys being asked about Buckaroo Banzai.
posted by scody at 3:39 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


But would you argue that Opus Dei is less thuggish than the CoS?

Yes, and I hate Opus Dei a lot. I just think the CoS is even more thuggish.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:58 PM on February 7, 2011


E-meter = ridiculously-overpriced high-range ohmmeter. Detects skin resistance using electrodes like two tin cans. If subject is the sweaty-palmed type, might be useful for detecting stress. Or not.

A big part of the trick is that it has a little sensitivity knob so the little needle can bounce suggestively for the sweaty-palmed and dry-skinned alike. I submitted myself to one of these tests on a sidewalk one sunny day, and as I gripped the two cans ever more lightly, trying to covertly balance them on my fingernails, my "examiner" just kept turning the knob up higher...
posted by intendedeffect at 4:01 PM on February 7, 2011


Hell, we Americans bought millions of rubber bracelets with a shiny sticker because we believed it would do something beneficial to our "energy".

Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't seen more religions with the trappings of science and engineering pop up.


In Western Europe during the "Age of Enlightenment" (approx 200 years ago or so) there were various scams which worked the new "Science" angle. One of the most interesting was Mesmerism, which involved charged copper ingots to improve your "Animal Magnetism". Charcot debunked it, and his student Freud was curious about why it seemed to work sometimes.

(of course, back then people were more superstitious than we are now... uh, oh, sorry.)
posted by ovvl at 4:49 PM on February 7, 2011


It's almost as if it isn't actually possible to construct a religion that isn't misogynist.

Well there's the Raelians.
posted by clarknova at 5:04 PM on February 7, 2011


Challenging the New Yorker's fact-checkers is like taking a stick of wilted celery to a gunfight.

it's so resolutely "modern", in that peculiarly postwar American "let's put fins on cars and build transistor radios in the garage!" kind of way.

Scientology fits seamlessly into its context: that is, the nascent critique of psychiatry in the 1950s that turned into the anti-psychiatry movement in the 1960s after the publication of Szasz's Myth of Mental Illness. (And, in all honesty, psychiatry in the 1950s offered up a fuckload of stuff to be anti- about.)

But in its cloak of modernity, it harkens back to a pre-modern model of external possession, and practices, in essence, a form of exorcism. What distinguishes it from, say, the Human Potential Movement is the esoterica, the celebrities, the sums of money involved, and the use of intellectual property and contract law.
posted by holgate at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2011


it harkens back to a pre-modern model of external possession, and practices, in essence, a form of exorcism

That's an interesting point. Getting "clear" is essentially the process of exorcising thetans. And the idea that one's flaws and shortcomings arise from external (intergalactic!) causes: just demonic possession restated for Today's Modern Man. It's like the kindling was already there, just waiting for Hubbard to toss a match on it. I wonder if Scientology has made significant inroads among populations that lack those cultural references.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:53 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


What ever you do don't mess with the Unitarians.
posted by humanfont at 8:16 PM on February 7, 2011


Getting "clear" is essentially the process of exorcising thetans.

Yep. As opposed to the psychiatric model of the 1950s where the cause is deemed to be internal, and can be taken care of with benzos, barbiturates, insulin comas, lithium, ECT, lobotomies, and other fun stuff. This isn't to offer an apologia for Dianetics/Scientology, but a context that's easily forgotten; even without the OT III esoterica, "clearing" takes the form of a chrome-finned exorcism.
posted by holgate at 9:01 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously on the blue. Bizarrely, pretty much exactly the same story two years ago.
posted by atbash at 6:23 AM on February 8, 2011


That link's in the post, atbash.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:27 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously on the blue. Bizarrely, pretty much exactly the same story two years ago.

To be clear, that story is the impetus for this one. That is, Haggis wrote the letter that stirred things up in August 2009 (a year and a half ago). This story is an investigation of the "crisis of faith" that drove Haggis to write the letter, and an update on what's gone down since.
posted by philip-random at 8:34 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Challenging the New Yorker's fact-checkers is like taking a stick of wilted celery to a gunfight.

This is my favorite aspect of the article - the sense that every syllable was checked and re-checked, that they have reams of evidence supporting every claim made. The author and the magazine, and everybody he interviewed, know that they might have to stand up to legal bullying over it, and the article is built to be bulletproof in that regard.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


This talk by Gabriella Coleman about Anonymous taking on CoS was fascinating on several levels. She also shows up in the Anon vs HBGary thread yesterday. Coindidence? I think not.
posted by sneebler at 7:19 PM on February 8, 2011


Well, it's shorter than threadsynchronicityness.
posted by sneebler at 7:20 PM on February 8, 2011


Thanks for posting and thank God (figure of speech) for the deep pockets and deeply serious staff of The New Yorker and the St. Petersburg Times:

In late September, Davis and Feshbach, along with four attorneys representing the church, travelled to Manhattan to meet with me and six staff members of The New Yorker. In response to nearly a thousand queries, the Scientology delegation handed over forty-eight binders of supporting material, stretching nearly seven linear feet.

I wonder how much this report cost to produce.

My favorite part was this line from Terry Jastrow:

“Is there some other religion on the horizon that’s gonna help mankind?” he said. “Just tell me where. If not Scientology, where?”

That's kinda the whole story, ain't it? Some people really want a religion and this happens to fill the void. What's most remarkable to me is how a novelist could invent a religion in the 20th century. (Albeit one with less adherents than there were Grateful Dead fans in that group's prime.) Like, how do you come up with all of that doctrine so quickly? Do you test it out as you go along?

Upthread someone tried to draw an analogy to those who believe in Jesus' zombie flesh. But the very problem with so much Christianity is that it takes as literal stories that are more likely intended as metaphor. ("Do this in memory of me" is the key phrase during the transubstantiation ceremony – hello intentional symbolism.)

The tenets of Scientology are intended to be taken literally. Its appeals to science and technology are so desperate as to be tragic. The brief theological debate towards the end, wherein the author takes Tommy Davis to task over the authenticity of military records is so terribly sad:

At the meeting, Davis and I also discussed Hubbard’s war record. His voice filling with emotion, he said that, if it was true that Hubbard had not been injured, then “the injuries that he handled by the use of Dianetics procedures were never handled, because they were injuries that never existed; therefore, Dianetics is based on a lie; therefore, Scientology is based on a lie.” He concluded, “The fact of the matter is that Mr. Hubbard was a war hero.”
posted by noway at 9:01 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, now on NPR's Fresh Air, who title it: The Church Of Scientology, Fact-Checked.
posted by noway at 8:34 PM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


noway : “Is there some other religion on the horizon that’s gonna help mankind?” he said. “Just tell me where. If not Scientology, where?”
That's kinda the whole story, ain't it? Some people really want a religion and this happens to fill the void.


I have to disagree... If you change the question to "Is there some other biological weapon on the horizon that's gonna help mankind", you wouldn't look at it in quite the same light.

Yet they amount to the same thing, whether talking about genetic or memetic poisons.

We have a "void" for religions because we have a defective bit of wiring in our temporal lobes. That doesn't mean that something we might properly call "god" doesn't exist, but it does mean that filling that void with whatever BS comes along amounts to "scratching an itch" little different than uncontrolled overeating (though the latter has caused far, far, far fewer wars, genocides, and human misery in general).
posted by pla at 6:29 PM on February 10, 2011


Very late to this thread, but damn that was a long article....anyways:

Like, how do you come up with all of that doctrine so quickly? Do you test it out as you go along?

It seems pretty clear that Hubbard just repurposed a lot of his own internal bullshit. I remember reading somewhere that relations between L. Ron and his mother were of the frostiest; thus all that bullshit about no screaming during birth because any expression of pain by the mother serves to fuck up the kid. Viewing homosexuality as a perversion/mental illness was s.o.p. for pretty much every middle-class American born in 1911 --- he's just referencing a commonly held assumption as an aside.

What interests me is how much he came to believe in himself, by the end. All those alleged quotes about him viewing it as a good con from the get-go --- you've got to believe it a little to make it work at all, so you start out with all the private little philosophies that you've been ruminating about in the back of your mind, those little hobbyhorses that your friends can't make you shut up about, three beers in; and then you weave in all your best boyhood fantasies of a life beyond the stars, all that pulpy, purple, stirring stuff, to give it scope; and then...then people spend the next 40 years calling you a genius and treating your every syllable as gospel*...do you forget after a while, what was con and what wasn't? Does it come back to you at odd, frozen moments: oh wait a minute, this is all a lie? Do you just think of the millions you've got squirreled away and pour yourself another Scotch, when that happens? Or do you come to fully believe and the knowledge that it was false it just a nagging itch at the back of your brain, a feeling you can never bring yourself to name?


*Irony there: it was gospel.
posted by Diablevert at 5:12 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The best con artists believe their own schtick, at least partially. I have no doubt that Pat Robertson and his ilk are at least mostly sincere in their beliefs.

I'd be quite surprised if Hubbard didn't believe it at least a little. And his lieutenants doubtless believe it even more than he did. The cartoon image of the cackling con artist fake preacher laughing about the rubes is nonsense. I'm pretty sure that most of them have at least a bit of doubt, I have a hard time thinking that anyone is really, fully, 100%, able to believe such obvious nonsense, but they've got to have at least some true belief to hide their doubt behind if for no other reason than to better fool the rubes.
posted by sotonohito at 11:19 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd be quite surprised if Hubbard didn't believe it at least a little. And his lieutenants doubtless believe it even more than he did. The cartoon image of the cackling con artist fake preacher laughing about the rubes is nonsense.

My take on Mr. Hubbard, which is almost entirely based on a recent read of Russell Miller's BARE-FACED MESSIAH, is that he was nothing if not a megalomaniac, a brilliant, yet extremely unbalanced man who first (and ultimately) BELIEVED that the world should revolve around him. That this could all lead to a belief in his own bullshit is not beyond my ability to believe.

It's a pretty amazing read by the way: as much weirdly appalling as it is weirdly hilarious. Definitely the kind of stuff you couldn't make up.
posted by philip-random at 12:58 PM on February 12, 2011


The best interview I've ever read about just how dark and messed-up L. Ron Hubbard's thinking was and just how cynical he was about Scientology from the beginning is this.

It's an interview with L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., the son of the prophet, who fell out with his father, but was in the middle of all of it for a long time. It's really eye opening, if you haven't read it, and explains some of what happened early on with Scientology.

Here's a sampling:
Hubbard: My father started out as a broke science-fiction writer. He was always broke in the late 1940s. He told me and a lot of other people that the way to make a million was to start a religion. Then he wrote the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health while he was in Bayhead, New Jersey. When we later visited Bayhead, in about 1953, we were walking around and reminiscing --he told me that he had written the book in one month.

Penthouse: There was no church when he wrote the book?

Hubbard: Oh, no, no. You see, his goal was basically to write the book, take the money and run. But in 1950, this was the first major book of do-it-yourself psychotherapy, and it became a runaway best-seller. He kept getting, literally, mail trucks full of mail. And so he and some other people, including J. W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction , started the Dianetics Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey. And the post office kept backing up and just dumping mail sacks into the building. The foundation had a staff that just ran through the envelopes and threw away anything that didn't have any money in it.

Penthouse: People sent money?

Hubbard: Yeah, they wanted training and further Dianetic auditing, Dianetic processing. It was just an incredible avalanche.

Penthouse: Did he write the book off the top of his head? Did he do any real research?

Hubbard: No research at all. When he has answered that question over the years, his answer has changed according to which biography he was writing. Sometimes he used to write a new biography every week. He usually said that he had put thirty years of research into the book. But no, he did not. What he did, reaily, was take bits and pieces from other people and put them together in a blender and stir them all up --and out came Dianetics! All the examples in the book --some 200 "real-life experiences" --were just the result of his obsessions with abortions and unconscious states... In fact, the vast majority of those incidents were invented off the top of his head. The rest stem from his own secret life, which was deeply involved in the occult and black-magic. That involvement goes back to when he was sixteen, living in Washington. D.C. He got hold of the book by Alistair Crowley called The Book of Law. He was very interested in several things that were the creation of what some people call the Moon Child. It was basically an attempt to create an immaculate conception --except by Satan rather than by God. Another important idea was the creation of what they call embryo implants --of getting a satanic or demonic spirit to inhabit the body of a fetus. This would come about as a result of black-magic rituals, which included the use of hypnosis, drugs, and other dangerous and destructive practices. One of the important things was to destroy the evidence if you failed at this immaculate conception. That's how my father became obsessed with abortions. I have a memory of this that goes back to when I was six years old. It is certainly a problem for my father and for Scientology that I rememoer this. It was around 1939, 1940, that I watched my father doing something to my mother. She was lying on the bed and he was sitting on her, facing her feet. He had a coat hanger in his hand. There was blood all over the place. I remember my father shouting at me. "Go back to bed!" A little while later a doctor came and took her off to the hospital. She didn't talk about it for quite a number of years. Neither did my father.

Penthouse: He was trying to perform an abortion?

Hubbard: According to him and my mother, he tried to do it with me. I was born at six and a half months and weighed two pounds, two ounces. I mean, I wasn't born: this is what came out as a result of their attempt to abort me. It happened during a night of partying --he got involved in trying to do a black-magic number. Also, I've got to complete this by saying that he thought of himself as the Beast 666 incarnate.

Penthouse: The devil?

Hubbard: Yes. The Antichrist. Alestair Crowley thought of himself as such. And when Crowley died in 1947, my father then decided that he should wear the cloak of the beast and become the most powerful being in the universe.

Penthouse: You were sixteen years old at that time. What did you believe in?

Hubbard: I believed in Satanism. There was no other religion in the house! Scientology and black magic. What a lot of people don't realize is that Scientology is black magic that is just spread out over a long time period. To perform black magic generally takes a few hours or, at most, a few weeks. But in Scientology it's stretched out over a lifetime, and so you don't see it. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology --and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works. Also, you've got to realize that my father did not worship Satan. He thought he was Satan. He was one with Satan. He had a direct pipeline of communication and power with him. My father wouldn't have worshiped anything. I mean, when you think you're the most powerful being in the universe, you have no respect for anything, let alone worship.
posted by MythMaker at 6:54 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


We place no reliance on virgin or pidgeon. Our method is science, our aim is religion. ~ Hubbard's hero, A. Crowley.
posted by Jezebella at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


reading Diablevert's comment: you know what would make a great Hollywood movie? the story of Scientology / the biography of L. Ron Hubbard ala The Aviator.
posted by noway at 9:27 PM on February 28, 2011


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