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Newspaper exposes Church of Scientology, yet again.
June 24, 2009 5:51 AM   Subscribe

The Truth Rundown: High-ranking defectors provide an unprecedented inside look at the Church of Scientology, its leader David Miscavige, and the Lisa McPherson case. Expose from the newpaper in Clearwater, Florida, the "worldwide spiritual headquarters" of Scientology, in three parts.
posted by mosessis (85 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Do they use any of the McPherson autopsy photos in this? I really don't want to see those again.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:57 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous: Yes, one of the hand. Nothing more than that that I recall though
posted by edd at 5:58 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Scientology must really be going to the dogsclams if they can't even control the newspaper in their own spiritual headquarters.
posted by DU at 6:10 AM on June 24, 2009


So Scientology is Fight Club?

Does... does that mean Xenu was me all along?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:13 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


It doesn't help that the guy's name reads like "miscarriage" from the mouth of someone chewing on the opening chapter of Battlefield Earth.

Just my $0.10 worth.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:14 AM on June 24, 2009


I've heard a recording of Miscavige on the radio, debating some anti-scientology guy. He sounds like a robot newscaster. And he looks like one too. Fairly creepy. You have to be twice fucked up to smack people around like that, he's obviously dehumanized his closest associates and enjoys the fact that he can just beat people and get away with it. Crazy.

The other thing is, these defectors seem like they still belive in scientology, and respect L. Ron Hubbard, but just don't like Miscavige.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 AM on June 24, 2009


To the music of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody they played through the night, parading around a conference room in their Navy-style uniforms, grown men and women wrestling over chairs.

To be fair, that describes most private clubs in West Hollywood.
posted by rokusan at 6:31 AM on June 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Kind of a strange question...but do any of you guys know a Scientologist? I mean, I only hear about them on the news and know that there are a lot of celebrities (which, really, aren't even people anyway) that are Scientologists. But I've never met a regular person who was. I've met folks from all other types of religions, but never a Scientologist.
posted by snwod at 6:32 AM on June 24, 2009


I've known a couple of dabblers--guys who attended a seminar here and there but wised up before they got sucked in too deep. I've also had suspicions about a couple of other friends involvement, but never asked. it's hard to imagine they ever went beyond casual interest either, though.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:36 AM on June 24, 2009


Was wondering if this was going to show up on the Blue. It's a very well presented series. Kudos to the St. Petersburg (SP?) Times!
posted by Hutch at 6:37 AM on June 24, 2009


The classic Nightline interview.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:38 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


its leader David Miscavige

Another reason why Scientology lawsuits are a Miscavige of justice.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:54 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kind of a strange question...but do any of you guys know a Scientologist?

My ex's uncle and his wife were scientologists at the "we're poor in part because we send way too much money to Clearwater" level. Eventually his father threatened to disown him if he didn't start spending his money taking care of his kids instead; I don't know what came of it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:56 AM on June 24, 2009


LOL
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:56 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not so much. But ripe for parody.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:57 AM on June 24, 2009


Kind of a strange question...but do any of you guys know a Scientologist?

It's extraordinarily unlikely that we would know Scientologists. They're protective and seclusive. If someone looks like they might defect, they'll only rein them in further. If you're hostile to Scientology (which is really a quite rational response if you're not already sucked in), they'll avoid you, and keep friends and family members of yours who are members of the cult away from you.

So yeah, it's about as likely as knowing someone on one of those FLDS compounds.
posted by explosion at 7:14 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


They've received such a drubbing in popular culture lately as news of their excesses and weird beliefs has spread, and Tom Cruise hasn't helped things any. Scientology has become a punchline. But could all of Scientology's excesses be explained as the work of one man?
posted by JHarris at 7:16 AM on June 24, 2009


JHarris: "could all of Scientology's excesses be explained as the work of one man?"

Sure.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:19 AM on June 24, 2009


So yeah, it's about as likely as knowing someone on one of those FLDS compounds.

Nah. I've known several Scientologists. For a while my dad employed an "organizational assistant" who was a member, and I had a friend who rented a room from a Scientologist family. They all seemed like harmless but unusually quirky people. Horrible conversationalists.

Meeting a high-ranking member might be unlikely, but in certain areas (e.g. LA, Boston, the Bay Area) there are plenty of low-ranking members around.
posted by avianism at 7:32 AM on June 24, 2009


I know someone who went through rehab via Scientology's Narconon program in Oklahoma. He's no longer a Scientologist.
posted by emelenjr at 7:33 AM on June 24, 2009


Yeah, this entire "defectors speak out!" thing isn't "Hey, here's how Scientology is a terrible machinery designed to devour the credible masses", it's "Hey, here's how our upper-upper management structure really doesn't interact well with our upper-middle management personnel."

So basically, fuck them.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:43 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


In this time of financial decline-and-ruin for newspapers, I have to salute any that are willing to publish a piece that may as well have the headline "Hey, let's get sued!"
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:46 AM on June 24, 2009 [21 favorites]


Why hasn't there been a good investigative journalism book about Scientology? I mean something vaguely neutral, that goes into the facts of the church's early founding. I imagine it'd be difficult to try to be fair and balanced since the "religion" is such a cult-case, but I'd like to see someone try. Is there just no data available, all locked away inside the church?

Also: some of the anti-Scientology folks are just as crazy.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on June 24, 2009


Cracked.com had a couple of articles on Scientology yesterday, and it got me thinking; at this point, anyone who is considering of becoming a member has to have a pretty good idea what the big secrets are. I mean, it's been all over the media, what with the South Park episode and all, so what would the incentive to join be?

The more I ponder it, the more I suspect that it has nothing to do with "getting clear" or Xenu or thetans for most of the people who join, it probably has more to do with joining a social club for the purposes of networking and the like.

Because the only other answer is that people are paying fortunes for "secret information" that is already widely available, and that would make them kinda dumb.
posted by quin at 8:01 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


In that second commercial East Manitoba found, after the announcer guy rambles on about how paperclips and flirting and what-not make up LIFE, the word 'Scientology' comes on the screen. I found it particularly interesting that as the glowing word emerged on the screen, the t in the middle looked exactly like a cross. When the glowing stopped, however, it was an uppercase T. Hm hm hm.
posted by Bageena at 8:05 AM on June 24, 2009


quin:

Apparently there are people practicing scientology outside the main church, see Free Zones.
posted by phax at 8:07 AM on June 24, 2009


The excuses given for the beatings have a lot in common with the excuses victims give for domestic violence - "I thought I must have done something to deserve it". But then they get into what sounds like group punch-ups as well. Do you think it's possible for it to end with a Jonestown massacre type thing at one of these churches? I'd think the church as a whole is too large, but the group hysteria seems to be similar.
posted by harriet vane at 8:08 AM on June 24, 2009


I think for some people it's kind of like joining a MMORPG, living a real-life science fiction soap opera.
posted by setanor at 8:10 AM on June 24, 2009


Yeah, this entire "defectors speak out!" thing isn't "Hey, here's how Scientology is a terrible machinery designed to devour the credible masses", it's "Hey, here's how our upper-upper management structure really doesn't interact well with our upper-middle management personnel."

Yeah, that's the thing. It seems like the church spokesmen don't understand that saying these guys are nothing but a bunch of lying liars who lie still points up fundamental problems with the organization. If David Miscavige is as nuts as the defectors are claiming, that's a big problem with the organization. If these guys are as evil as the church is claiming, that's a HUGE problem with the organization. If both groups are totally nuts and evil, that's a big problem with the organization. The whole point of Scientology is that it allows you to rise to a greater mental/spiritual level, and the church has always claimed that its leadership is the best of the best. Maybe you can't live up to the "higher standards" of a group like the Sea Org, but it's not supposed to be possible to get there and in reality be a total fuckup who is only fit to sell cars. It's an implicit admission that "The Tech" is flawed, a serious misstep on their part. I imagine these guys are playing musical chairs or jumping into swimming pools in full dres uniforms or being given hot multivitamin enemas or whatever as we speak.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:13 AM on June 24, 2009


I've known only one ex-Scientologist, and she had become a hardcore Xtian (she had a sideline in escorting tourists around D.C. to view examples of hidden religious symbols in monuments and government buildings). She made me wonder if there was a personality type that presdisosed to joining cult-like organizations. It's worth remembering, though, as former People's Temple member Deborah Layton observed: "Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think is going to hurt them. You join a religious organization, you join a political movement, and you join with people that you really like." The people who are drawn into Scientology aren't doing it because they're into bad science fiction masquerading as a religion, but because they have personal problems that they're trying to work through.

Salon.com's touchy-feely advice columnist provided a useful first-hand account of why someone first becomes involved in the organization when reader's sent the question "A friend is involved in Scientology. Should I interfere?" .
Let me tell you a little bit about what I was feeling at that time. I felt a fear that something was terribly wrong. I was filled with unexpressed rage. I felt powerless. I felt hopeless and without direction. {...} I believed, simplistically, that there was some one tragic wound, some one traumatic event in my past, that if I could just get at and remember it or perhaps relive it, I would be freed from this messy human frailty. I thought that if there were just some method ...

You know that abstracted, glazed look that Scientologists get, that steely, cold, rationalistic, power-hungry force field around them?

Scientology looked pretty good to me at the time. It looked like power. It looked like a solution: Not to feel, not to be confused, to have a rational framework, to be able to change the weather. Especially the part about being able to change the weather looked good to me. Who says you can't change the weather using your mind? Who says? Just some asshole scientists?{...}

I liked the auditing: Well, somebody's attention was on me! I liked that. I could express a little of my pain. It's the same kind of attention you get in actual therapy, although you can keep the wall up much easier in Scientology. You can simply report these events from your past and do not have to bring your whole self to bear on them. You just report them and magically you're supposed to be rid of them, these troubling, irrational events, these injuries, these engrams. The distanced, hyperrational style of it appealed to me, as though the mind were just a machine.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:14 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


do any of you guys know a Scientologist?

One of my older sister's best friends growing up (in the midwest in the 80s) was from a Scientologist family. I don't know all of the details, but apparently as they got more involved with the church stuff their whole family ended up getting more and more alienated from everyone. In the case of my sister's friend, that culminated in a my sister getting a random angry phone call from her where she was accused of being a bad person and blaming her for all sorts of terrible things. Not long after that she dropped out of school and left to go to some weird Scientologist program to learn how to be the captain of a ship or something like that.

at this point, anyone who is considering of becoming a member has to have a pretty good idea what the big secrets are. I mean, it's been all over the media, what with the South Park episode and all, so what would the incentive to join be?

Sure, the whole Xenu thing is out of the bag now, but who can pass up a free personality test?
posted by burnmp3s at 8:15 AM on June 24, 2009


The more I ponder it, the more I suspect that it has nothing to do with "getting clear" or Xenu or thetans for most of the people who join, it probably has more to do with joining a social club for the purposes of networking and the like.

My guess is that, at the lowest levels at least, Scientology does in fact help people somewhat. I've met a Scientologist (she was born into the church, but didn't go to Delphi Academy or anything like that) and she's normal (for LA, anyway). She doesn't spend a crapload of money on the church and is a nice conversationalist.

I think that Scientology attracts three kinds of people: the kind who just need some help through a rough patch, the kind whose lives are entirely out of control, and the kind who enjoy the idea of controlling others. The last two groups really shouldn't interact with each other; otherwise we get more empty bank accounts, forced labor and autopsy photos.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:21 AM on June 24, 2009


My parents knew someone who got off drugs via scientology. Nothing else had worked. Make of that what you will. (I've no idea what happened to him later.)
posted by IndigoJones at 8:28 AM on June 24, 2009


Is Xenu the one who keeps interviewing steampunk porn stars over on Boing Boing?
posted by MuffinMan at 8:45 AM on June 24, 2009 [13 favorites]


do any of you guys know a Scientologist?

I used to trade Grateful Dead tapes. A guy responded he had a show I was looking for and could I bring the one he wanted to his office, and we could trade there. When I got there he said, we can trade the tapes, but would you like a personality test? Turns out I was in the local scientology chapter's HQ or some such thing. I said, umm, no. He kept going, then made the mistake of asking me about my beliefs. 5-10 minutes later, after I repeatedly tried to convince him that Zen buddhism and Taoism was the way he should go*, he was ready for me to head out. I have fairly strong beliefs, but getting someone to come in on false pretenses then browbeating them pretty much sums up what they represent to me. A people pleaser or someone with a weak BS detector might not have come out of that mess so quickly.

* I wasn't actually trying to convince him of anything, I was giving him some of his own medicine, in a playful manner, no antagonism at all.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:47 AM on June 24, 2009


MuffinMan: "Is Xenu the one who keeps interviewing steampunk porn stars over on Boing Boing?"

No, but she's just as evil.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:48 AM on June 24, 2009


In this time of financial decline-and-ruin for newspapers, I have to salute any that are willing to publish a piece that may as well have the headline "Hey, let's get sued!"

Or: "Hey, orchestrate a takeover of our parent company and drive us into bankruptcy."
posted by saulgoodman at 8:55 AM on June 24, 2009


quin : you'd have thought, wouldn't you? But then you'd have thought that after all the internet and television coverage of 419 scams, no-one would send money to Lagos to help a widow get her dead husband's money out of the country...

Stupid, uninformed and vulnerable people are everywhere. You just need to know where to look. Hence Narconon I guess...
posted by twine42 at 9:02 AM on June 24, 2009


"Stupid, uninformed and vulnerable" - that's three different groups, not one specific one.
posted by twine42 at 9:02 AM on June 24, 2009


What kind of scares me about Scientology is that it's got so many of its tentacles in seemingly innocuous, non-Church related business enterprises. For example, Sterling Management Systems, which offers management training and consulting programs among other things. In Florida, it's quite common for state agency bureaus to pursue a Sterling Certification, which is supposed to indicate they operate according to the highest standards of management practice. As it turns out, Sterling is a part of Scientology's family of companies belonging to the umbrella organization, the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2009


twine42: "Stupid, uninformed and vulnerable people are everywhere. You just need to know where to look."

Creative Artists Agency
posted by Joe Beese at 9:10 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "could all of Scientology's excesses be explained as the work of one man?"

Sure.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:19 AM on June 24, 2009


"Kind of a strange question...but do any of you guys know a Scientologist?"

Yes, an ex. But I haven't seen her for years.

I have known a few others, not real close, but they all ended up in debt to the Church for far more money than they make.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2009


"My parents knew someone who got off drugs via scientology. Nothing else had worked. Make of that what you will. (I've no idea what happened to him later.)"

Research consistently shows that one recovery program works as well as the next, about 5% effectiveness. It all depends on the addict. The program doesn't matter so much. Problem with Scientology is, sure, you got off drugs, but now you're in a cult. Good luck giving that up.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:28 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Problem with Scientology is, sure, you got off drugs, but now you're in a cult. Good luck giving that up.

So it's like AA then? *rimshot*
posted by burnmp3s at 9:38 AM on June 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


About 15 years ago I got a job as a vision therapist--entry level, required about six months of paid training, based in an eye doctor's office. When I applied for the job, part of the application process was a personality profile. I didn't think anything about it; I figured we'd be working with kids, so they probably wanted to make sure we weren't sociopaths before hiring us. After being hired, I noticed that there were L. Ron Hubbard management books in the office and commented to one of the other employees that I'd heard his name but never read any of his books. She looked at me strangely, but didn't comment. I was clueless.

About halfway through the training, they brought in a new instructor who they explained was going to use teaching techniques specifically developed by the Church of Scientology to improve learning and retention. He was nice, and the teaching techniques seemed to work well, if a little common sense based. Then, I made a mistake. I was a religion major, so I asked him about Scientology. We had a spirited discussion. Shortly afterwards, I was fired, supposedly because my school schedule interfered too much with my work schedule (despite the fact that I'd gotten it OK'd up front when I was hired).

Some months later one of the other people I'd trained with called me. She was working somewhere else, managing another vision therapy center and was interested in having me come work. I had to decline because I was a full-time student at that point, but we chatted for a while. It turned out that shortly after I left, the doctor who we were training with started suggesting that all employees go to classes at the Scientology center. A couple of months after that he made it a condition of employment that you agreed to take classes. (You were welcome to continue working without going to classes, but you wouldn't get paid.) I was, at that point, more than happy to have been fired.
posted by elfgirl at 9:47 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


DU: Scientology must really be going to the dogsclams if they can't even control the newspaper in their own spiritual headquarters.

Tomorrowful : In this time of financial decline-and-ruin for newspapers, I have to salute any that are willing to publish a piece that may as well have the headline "Hey, let's get sued!"


When I read the article, it looks to me like the writers of the article have very carefully allowed Scientology people to counter every point made by the defectors. At some points, every other paragraph is a statement from the Scientology spokespeople. The journalists most probably had to do that very deliberately, to avoid getting sued. Notice that the journalists also refrain from editorialising or passing judgement on which side is telling the truth. They've probably had a ton of legal advice on this. Would be interesting to see their earlier drafts.
posted by memebake at 10:01 AM on June 24, 2009


Congrats to the tampabay.com people for such extensive coverage of this amazingly enticing yet ultimately evil cult, a "religion" based on the often apparently plagiarized writings and stolen concepts (from other mental disciplines and psychology) of a failed science-fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard. I just hope and pray that the folks doing this courageous reporting have very good lawyers and, perhaps a few bodyguards as well. From everything I've seen, here and elsewhere, these folks can be notoriously ruthless, and seem to stop at nothing. They are masters of manipulation.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:30 AM on June 24, 2009


The best clue to the moral bankruptness of scientology is the fact that Miscavige's hair has no part in it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2009


"Why hasn't there been a good investigative journalism book about Scientology?"

There have been plenty, though none recently. "Bare-faced Messiah" by Russell Miller, "Religion Inc" by Stewart Lamont., "A Piece of Blue Sky" by Jon Atack (Atack was a member himself, but the book is impressively neutral and well-researched; only a small part of it is his personal experience). The Welkos and Sappell LA Times series "The Scientology Story" wasn't published as a book (it was a series of long feature articles, now available freely on the LA Times site) but probably has a book's worth of content. Back in the Seventies there was Paulette Cooper's "The Scandal of Scientology", though a great deal has happened since then.

The St Petersburg journalists have balls of steel. They spent 25 hours with the Church executives: we know what happened to British journalist John Sweeney when he tried something similar. The coverage is both neutral and damning: former executives have admitted to destroying evidence in a criminal case arising from the death of a member. Hooray for good ol' investigative journalism.
posted by infobomb at 11:01 AM on June 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Very proud of my hometown paper. Lots of really top shelf investigative pieces coming out of the St. Pete Times these last couple of years.
posted by kosem at 11:06 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I knew a kid in high school who had been raised a scientologist. He was nice enough, I suppose. A bit awkward (but who isn't at that age?).

The main thing I remember about him was that he was always telling everybody that Scientology was a real religion "based on Buddhism" and we shouldn't believe the lies spread by it's enemies.
posted by Avenger at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2009


he was always telling everybody that Scientology was a real religion "based on Buddhism"

That's absurd. Scientology has about as much in common with Buddhism as it has in common with the gentle humanistic philosophy of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. If anything, the COS follows in the tradition of the mystery religions, or the Roman Catholic Church, back when it granted indulgences to its wealthier patrons for a fee.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:20 AM on June 24, 2009


But I don't doubt for a second they make claims like that about themselves. Hell, that link Joe Beese posted to Will Smith's defense of Scientology says it all: COS is 98% like Christianity, Buddhism and every other mainstream religion. (The remaining two percent just happens to involve weird electrical gizmos, galactic warlords, prison planets and doing penance in swimming pools).
posted by saulgoodman at 11:42 AM on June 24, 2009


Mark Rinder on Mark Rinder
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:43 AM on June 24, 2009


do any of you guys know a Scientologist?

In high school I dated a girl who'd been born into the church. I can't remember if her father (one of Nixon's speechwriters, then a manufacturer) was the driving force behind the family's religion, or if it was her kooky mother, but they lived a relatively normal home life. The girl was sweet, smarter than I, and put up rather well with a (then) Christian dolt like me asking about her religion. When I wasn't happy with the extent of her answers to my questions I picked out a book at random about Scientology—don't remember which one it was, but I'm thinking it's one of those infobomb listed. Needless to say, she was unhappy with my selection and we broke up soon thereafter. She's a law student now, was big into the french Scientology org during her collegiate studies abroad, and is probably happy to work her way up the ladder within her religion.

From other interactions I've seen online and witnessed in person (I lived for 1 month across the street from the big blue compound in Hollywood), it's a weird bunch with some really really weird dynamics. Even aside from the well-known crap. The fighting makes total sense to me; it's my understanding that a part of the clearing process is revisiting dark corners of your past and dealing with them in a way that supposedly relieves you of guilt and shame. 'Clearing'. Done with people who have only done the same as you but for longer, not with health professionals and not with any sort of confidentiality agreement.

But like that Salon columnist says, it's easy to keep the wall up and I'm suspicious that the whole process is a sham devised to generate and file away dirt on all new members. So you get these people that are down to begin with (Narconon, etc.), force them to revisit their darkest pasts (for a price no less!), give them a sense of security in return for their work, money, and life, and then hang that shit over them the rest of their lives. Makes for some fighty subordinates, I'll bet.
posted by carsonb at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops, meant to add a link and a 'mental' to "health professionals".
posted by carsonb at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2009


Oh yeah, more weirdness regarding that Hollywood compound: One New Years (a few years before I moved in with the friend) we were celebrating outside at midnight. Other revelry was apparent in the 'hood, but the compound and the dorms (which were directly across the street) were dark and silent. But! Standing on the fire escape of every floor was a pair of Scientologists, hands on the rail, apparently just staring intently into space. Talk about creepy.
posted by carsonb at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


do any of you guys know a Scientologist?

On a lark, I visited the local Church of Scientology with a friend. We ended up watching some informational videos, attending a service, and taking personality and IQ tests. All of the members there were friendly, but also pretty clearly well practiced in dealing with tourists.

Three things in particular struck me:
--How dubious some of their factual (as opposed to faith-based) claims were (if L. Ron Hubbard actually produced as much written and spoken material as they claim he personally did, he must have been using two typewriters concurrently while recording his lectures)

--The number of religious symbols they appear to have coopted without explanation (or at least that didn't connect to any of the material in their introductory set of informational videos)--it was an especially interesting contrast to all of the Freemason symbols that decorated the outside of the clearly repurposed building.

--How easily I could tell their practices would draw someone in. If you eliminate the aspects of the organization that are questionable, there still seemed to be a pretty solid base of seminars designed for self-improvement. The personality test was as spot-on as any other personality test I've taken, and I can see how someone could easily be drawn in to an organization that says "Hey, here are your weaknesses and look: here are the classes you can take this week to help you work past them."

And then we watched a video on the hows and whys of the auditing process and returned to a point well outside of my abilities of suspension of disbelief.
posted by jdherg at 11:58 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know quite a few Scientologists, and am close with a couple of them. Some are creepy. Some are completely and totally normal until you bring up psychiatrists. Some are really great people. They don't talk much about the religion though, which is understandable considering how we all see it as being a cult. They're not like FLDS. While many of them separate themselves from the rest of the world, a significant majority don't. You may even have talked to a Scientologist without knowing it! Crazy! They walk among us! Kinda like communists.
posted by incessant at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reading further into the article and watching the videos: this is really damning stuff.

I hope someone took screenshots of these pages, I can't even imagine the legal onslaught that is to come on this poor little paper.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:15 PM on June 24, 2009


Why hasn't there been a good investigative journalism book about Scientology? I mean something vaguely neutral, that goes into the facts of the church's early founding.

Because the church's response to anything other than silence or effusive praise has been violent and litigious.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:52 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's important for folks to know who these people are. Mike Rinder was CO OSA INT for more than a decade. OSA is the Office of Special Affairs, sort of like the FBI, CIA & NSA all wrapped into one & he was in charge of it worldwide; PR, lawsuits, criminal defense, surveillance, intimidation, dirty tricks, the enemies database. Every crime committed in the name of defending the cult was coordinated from his office. And before he moved on to more "spiritual" matters, Marty Rathbun was Deputy Director of Intelligence for OSA INT (yes, that was his real title). It's good that the story of Miscavige's insane brutality against his own people is being told, but I for one won't be satisfied until all of them are held to account for what they've done to so many others.
posted by scalefree at 12:55 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, they got Janeane Garofalo? Is nobody safe?
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2009


at this point, anyone who is considering of becoming a member has to have a pretty good idea what the big secrets are. I mean, it's been all over the media, what with the South Park episode and all, so what would the incentive to join be?
See, I feel that way about pretty much any religion...
posted by Megami at 2:02 PM on June 24, 2009


Holy shit, they got Janeane Garofalo? Is nobody safe?

It sounds like no one on that list has actually converted yet. But it is concerning that someone as smart as Janeane was vigorously supporting the church's bullshit detox methods. It'd be stupid woo coming from any group.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:13 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You may even have talked to a Scientologist without knowing it! Crazy! They walk among us! Kinda like communists.

Well, I think Operation Snow White rivals any Red Scare nightmare.

This project included a series of infiltrations and thefts from 136 government agencies, foreign embassies and consulates, as well as private organizations critical of Scientology, carried out by Church members, in more than 30 countries; the single largest infiltration of the United States government in history with up to 5,000 covert agents. This was also the operation that exposed 'Operation Freakout', due to the fact that this was the case that brought the government into investigation on the Church.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:35 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Note that Marty Rathbun may have waited for the statute of limitations to run out (on his claimed crime of destroying evidence in the Lisa McPherson case) before coming forward. Mike Rinder might not be as safe (I think I read that he only got out 2 years ago?), possibly explaining his initial reluctance to speak with journalists.
posted by Hutch at 2:50 PM on June 24, 2009


I've just had an opportunity to read the first two parts, and will read the third and all the additional material when I get home. First, I want to reiterate that this is really, really good reporting.

Second, and maybe I'll write a little more about this later (and vet some links), but I grew up in Clearwater, FL, a few miles away from the Fort Harrison. I haven't been back for awhile, but the downtown area positively crawls with steely eyed robots in canceled Navy uniforms, carrying envelopes from nondescript Church-owned building to nondescript Church-owned building. Many of these were, of course, the hovels in which the rank-and-file were, and presumably are still, made to live. It is creepy and fucked up in the extreme and at least when I lived there, ruined what might have been a very area.
posted by kosem at 4:36 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bah! A very nice area.
posted by kosem at 4:41 PM on June 24, 2009


I worked with a guy years ago in Portland who was a member. He was a really nice guy, not weird, culty, or anything like that. In the interest of full disclosure though I must tell you that I pretty much see Scientology on the same level of all religions really. So if I didn't give Shane a chance then I couldn't give my parents, co-workers, anyone really, a chance. Whether it's God, Allah, Yahweh, Xenu or Xena it doesn't matter... it's all pretty batshit anyway.
posted by GratefulDean at 4:53 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


OK, I read all the articles. It's good research, and goes about a third of the way towards the book I was asking about before. What's missing is some detailed coverage of Hubbard's building of the cult and more detail on the various other personalities who led the organization early on.

The odd thing about these articles is that the story is basically "Scientology is good, it's just Miscavige is bad". It plays right into Scientology's official response that these are some insiders who have their nose out of joint after Miscavige disciplined them. It's a compelling story, focussing specifically on the evil Miscavige has done. But the articles never really criticize the larger enterprise, the entire craziness of "the tech" and the mythology and the weird recruiting stations. I think the article series is probably stronger for having a narrow focus, but it misses the forest.
posted by Nelson at 5:11 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I understand that this, in some respects, leaves you wanting more of a generalized indictment of Scientology. You want these defectors to have fully seen the light, and they haven't. They haven't absorbed the obvious lesson: the whole fucking enterprise is an evil, ruthless scam. But that research has been done. Hubbard's insanity is pretty well documented and no doubt there are others working on the long-play takedown.

What kills me are the lawyers. Yingling, the tax lawyer, is far and away the most frightening character in the whole story. As an attorney, there's a point at which zealous advocacy becomes aiding and abetting. You will basically never hear me say this about lawyers doing their jobs, but the Scientology lawyers have long ago sold their souls to the devil.

Separately, I understand that there is a reductio ad absurdem available to anyone who wishes to make the Scientology=Judaism=Christianity=Islam argument, but I totally reject the equivalence. If it were just about the batty beliefs you would be right. Scientology is about tax fraud, monomania, abuse of the legal system and various tactics involving its own employees that are tantamount to slavery.
posted by kosem at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and as a fun fact, "Fair Tax" was invented by Scientology back during its war on the IRS- during the battle that ended with the CoS basically threatening to undertake a massive DDOS assault on the American court system if its demands weren't met (which they were). It's like the Berserkers- a weapon that outlived the war it was made for, drifting about forever and never dying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:39 PM on June 24, 2009


Please tell me they don't have tax exempt status.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:46 PM on June 24, 2009


Please tell me they don't have tax exempt status.

Yep! They spent years infiltrating government offices and stealing documents in hopes of finding materials they could use to blackmail the IRS into giving them tax-exempt status. When that failed, they flooded the courts with an enormous flurry of lawsuits against the IRS alleging (if I recall correctly) religious discrimination, and went to the IRS and more or less said "Give us what we want or else you'll have to spend time and money litigating all these cases." The IRS decided it was easier and cheaper to give in to their demands than to spend billions of dollars and untold amounts of time fighting the lawsuits.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:58 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


GratefulDean, it's a fair point, and it helps to distinguish between the Church of Scientology, which, like many young churches, leaves mafia-like patterns in the economy and obituaries, and the inert philosophy and practice, the Hubbard 'tech.' There have been attempts to pry the latter away from the former, an interesting example being the Freezone of pirate orgs and members shrugged off from the body proper, and roped into a digital archipelago by the internet. Hey, it's all nautical metaphors for LRH. At best, Freezone might be an innocent conjunction of the Pirate Bay, open source, Lutheranism, and pilates:

The scientology freezone is an area in which one is free to persue ones personal development up the spiritual ladder using the techniques Ron Hubbard designed for such a purpose, without any stops, harassment, unethical abuse, suppression of the right to practice ones own philosophy or threats to ones spiritual future.

Ron Hubbard said ...The work was free keep it so..." and the Freezone is delivering up on this promise!

We are pioneering the freedom of Rons Technology. There are many people in the Freezone providing the activities necessary for people to advance up the spiritual ladder. This is no mean feat when you consider they are working with little support and money.". Technology said Michael, the President of the International Freezone Association. The Freezone does not get any Tax Breaks." He added.


A good question to ask in any case is how well the bad decouples from the good; Freezone keeps several of the more hardcore doctrines of Scientology, such as the infallibility of Hubbard's writings and the idea that enlightenment is a self-improvement pyramid (they still speak of spiritual ladders; not, I think, Jacob's).

Here's the problem. At its worst, a Freezone could be just another front, another mafia appendage designed to carry out church policy by sleight of hand. They've done this very thing before:

The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was founded in the wake of the November 18, 1978 deaths of members of the group Peoples Temple and assassination of Congressman Leo J. Ryan in Jonestown, Guyana. CAN is now owned and operated by associates of the Church of Scientology, an organization that the original founders of CAN strongly opposed. Prior to its hostile takeover, CAN provided information on groups that it considered to be cults, as well as support and referrals to exit counselors and deprogrammers.

Yeah. The secret-agent level shit which must be anticipated with the CoS is, I think, because this thing is not merely an organization that seeks profit. It aspires to be the living narrative of a genius-level bad Sci Fi writer; it inhabits a world of crazy plot. Battlefield Earth is its scripture. To do it justice warrants a Dan Brown movie: a prose illuminati, a sailor-suit mafia. Tom fucking Hanks.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not an SP though! I liked Hubbard's take on Jungian memory.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:19 PM on June 24, 2009


To my mind, Hubbard's is one of the epic stories of our time. I don't believe there are many 20th century authors whose writings have made as many lead such different lives than they might have. Just as a psychological case study, he would be fascinating. Not only did he establish his own navy, he crewed his flagship with young women in hot pants. [No, I am not making that up.]

Say whatever else you like about him: that's a man living on a larger scale than you or I ever will.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:19 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Say whatever else you like about him: that's a man living on a larger scale than you or I ever will.

Yikes. And this apologia coming from a guy who can't seem to shut up about the personality cult surrounding Obama!

No, but seriously, bigger is not always better. And Kim Jong-Il probably has a flagship full of ladies in hot pants, too, to put the psychological profile into perspective.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:11 PM on June 24, 2009


I don't think Joe Beese was praising Hubbard. Just saying that he did some wild and crazy things that most people would not have even have thought to try.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:22 PM on June 24, 2009


I was just ribbing him.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:30 PM on June 24, 2009


Say whatever else you like about him: that's a man living on a larger scale than you or I ever will.

There should be a Scientology Godwin's Law, because I can't stop my brain from making the analogy. Sorry, Hitler!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:11 PM on June 24, 2009


So yeah, it's about as likely as knowing someone on one of those FLDS compounds.

Clearly, you have never been to Los Angeles.
posted by rokusan at 10:23 PM on June 24, 2009


Kind of a strange question...but do any of you guys know a Scientologist?...

In my undergrad days I rented a house with two other guys. We realized our landlord was a Scientologist when we began receiving mail addressed to her inviting her to sessions at the "Flag Land Base."

I was pretty ignorant of the CoS then and I remember how mystifying this stuff was. Nicely printed brochures with people in vaguely naval uniforms, holding out chromed cyclinders. Obtuse references to "getting clear and over the bridge!"

The landlord was an unhappy neurotic dumpy woman in her late forties. She seemed neither clear nor over anything. But she did take a chance on renting a house with white carpets to three nineteen-year-olds.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:45 AM on June 25, 2009


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