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A bad weekend for Scientology
October 26, 2009 6:26 AM   Subscribe

"I am only ashamed that I waited this many months to act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology." In a blistering letter that calls out some church lies, "Crash" director Paul Haggis quits Scientology after 35 years over its support for Prop 8. He says he was also influenced by this acclaimed St Pete Times series. The high level defection comes as ABC began running a multipart expose of the church that included choice video of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis storming off when asked about the alien lord Xenu.
posted by CunningLinguist (324 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
How badass would it have been if instead of storming out of the interview, Tommy Davis just floated gently into the air and then teleported away?

The look on the interviewer's face would have been worth the dawning dread at the realization that L. Ron Hubbard was actually right about something.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:35 AM on October 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


I honestly don't understand his storming off. If you ask a Catholic about, say, transubstantiation, they aren't going to get huffy and walk off. If he believes this, say so. If not, deny it. What am I missing?
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:37 AM on October 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


My goodness. I had no idea that Paul Haggis was a Scientologist.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:38 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's kind of blowing my mind that you could believe all the crazy that scientology wants you to believe and then choke on the relatively mundane and common (although just as wrong) opinion of gays.
posted by DU at 6:39 AM on October 26, 2009 [26 favorites]


Some day I hope to see the Pope storming off the set of ABC's expose of Christianity when asked about the lord God.
posted by cloeburner at 6:40 AM on October 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


So let me get this straight. He quits the church because they support some political issue he is against, but he had no problem staying with them for an entire year and a half after they ordered his wife to cut off all contact with her parents, something which he found "morally reprehensible"?

The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:43 AM on October 26, 2009 [56 favorites]


Not to get all nanny, but can an NSFW tag be added to the first link? I'm seeing exposed boobage in the sidebar.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2009


PastabagelHe quits the church because they support some political issue he is against, but he had no problem staying with them for an entire year...

People often have a turnaround when something affects them personally.
posted by clarknova at 6:48 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.

These two things really shouldn't be separated like that.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:49 AM on October 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


I honestly don't understand his storming off. If you ask a Catholic about, say, transubstantiation, they aren't going to get huffy and walk off. If he believes this, say so. If not, deny it. What am I missing?

I dunno. It's almost like it's a cult or something...
posted by ob at 6:52 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I honestly don't understand his storming off. If you ask a Catholic about, say, transubstantiation, they aren't going to get huffy and walk off. If he believes this, say so. If not, deny it. What am I missing?

That it's the only way he can avoid confirming ridiculous beliefs on national television? Cynically speaking, I think it was his best strategy, and pretty effective. Casual viewers could reasonably conclude that the stuff about Xenu was way off base and offensive, instead of bizarre, embarrassing and true.
posted by msalt at 6:54 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


"The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they hold." -- Frank Zappa
posted by msalt at 6:55 AM on October 26, 2009 [48 favorites]


Wow, I actually didn't know scientology supported prop h8. Next time I see them peddling their "stress test" wares at a BART station, I'm going to shout "YOU SUPPORTED PROP 8!"
posted by treepour at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2009 [14 favorites]


List of Scientologists

There's a surprise every time I look at this list. Chick Corea?

Also, it's nice to see William S. Burroughs down in the "former members" section.
posted by intermod at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2009


I cannot believe my volcano dwelling spiritual alien overlord hydrogen bomb detonating thetan Galactic Confederacy members hold homophobic views. These revelations have severely dented my confidence in this religion and I hereby resign.
posted by fire&wings at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2009 [83 favorites]


If he believes this, say so. If not, deny it. What am I missing?

The public relations strategy.

The one that attempts to grab the mantle of victimhood ("you are offending me and my religious belief") in order to shift the nature of the conversation and avoid the either/or/black/white framing device inherent to the question.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:57 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I honestly don't understand his storming off.

It's the non-denial denial. You notice they make a point of avoiding saying it's not true. They only say it's offensive.

IIRC, when Hubbard's documents were first made public as a part of the criminal trial against CoS, the church didn't deny it, and in fact tried to keep the court from making those documents public -- not because they were fraudulent, but because they were private, internal documents not meant for public viewing.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:59 AM on October 26, 2009


My goodness. I had no idea that Paul Haggis was a Scientologist.

Me neither. Let the record show that I detested Crash on it's own merits.
posted by Artw at 6:59 AM on October 26, 2009 [51 favorites]


Some day I hope to see the Pope storming off the set of ABC's expose of Christianity when asked about the lord God.

To be fair (?), his refusal to answer seems more like how a rather extreme Muslim fella might react when asked to "examine these artist's representations of Allah and tell me what you think."

Now, I realize this is a sham position deliberately designed to avoid these conversations ("My religion forbids me from answering the questions of reporters." basically), but I believe that is the claim he's making, anyway.
posted by rokusan at 7:00 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or perhaps it's more like if someone asked the Pope whether he supported the secret keeping of those breeder slaves locked up in the crypts of the Vatican for centuries. You know, the ones who are being bred generation after generation in order to continue the Holy bloodline of Jesus Christ....

...and, you know, assuming that question was accurate.
posted by rokusan at 7:03 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Casual viewers could reasonably conclude that the stuff about Xenu was way off base and offensive, instead of bizarre, embarrassing and true.

Indeed.

It also brings to mind other strategies about dealing with the more wacky aspects of religious belief. Mormons talk endlessly about family values; you don't see them whipping out stories of the Golden Plates, the Urim and Thummin, etc. Joseph Smith, a convicted charlatan that was eventually killed in a shootout by some of his own people, is almost an afterthought now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2009


The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.

I think I'd rather argue that it's the type of people doing the attraction.

Preying on the weak, and all that.
posted by rokusan at 7:05 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


You'd think they'd have come up with a canned response for questions about the Xenu stuff by now.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:05 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


They did. That was it.
posted by Jugwine at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2009 [18 favorites]


Leonard Cohen is a former Scientologist? There's a Xenu-themed parody of Hallelujah just begging to be written...get on it, people.
posted by Optamystic at 7:23 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wait, Martin Bashir? With a Scientologist? Were they both thinking the same thing? "Ha, compared to him people will think I'm the credible one!"
posted by Sova at 7:25 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why is he so upset about Xena, the Warrior Princess?
posted by Outlawyr at 7:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Leonard Cohen is a former Scientologist?

How many times can one man be duped?

I guess it's a good source of material.
posted by rokusan at 7:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


The journo let him off easy.
posted by mediareport at 7:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Me neither. Let the record show that I detested Crash on it's own merits.

I saw "Crash director leaves Scientology" on Linehan's Twitter and almost started crying until I saw they didn't mean Cronenberg.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:30 AM on October 26, 2009 [14 favorites]


The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.

This. This. A THOUSAND TIMES.

I honestly don't understand his storming off. If you ask a Catholic about, say, transubstantiation, they aren't going to get huffy and walk off. If he believes this, say so. If not, deny it. What am I missing?

I THINK it's something like: the stuff about Xenu is not for the layman to know about, and they believe you have to be completely indoctrinated before they reveal Teh Awesum Truth or something like that. So the equivalent is more like Orson Welles sitting down to an interview and the reporter starting off by saying, "So, what was up with 'Rosebud' just being a sled, huh?" My hunch is that Welles would get pretty damn pissed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I THINK it's something like: the stuff about Xenu is not for the layman to know about, and they believe you have to be completely indoctrinated before they reveal Teh Awesum Truth or something like that. So the equivalent is more like Orson Welles sitting down to an interview and the reporter starting off by saying, "So, what was up with 'Rosebud' just being a sled, huh?" My hunch is that Welles would get pretty damn pissed.

I think it's a bit facile to compare what is ostensibly a religion to a script with a twist ending, but then again that speaks to the fiction writer's origins of Scientology. Their current president has spoken in more measured tones about this, saying that some kind of preparatory work is needed before one can really understand what is implied by the final secrets. I don't have a link for that, but he didn't walk off in a huff like that. Perhaps they're changing their doctrines now.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 AM on October 26, 2009


Oh man, I can only imagine what it takes to leave Scientology, but to go out like that? If I weren't scared of 'Xenu' then, I would certainly be now. Godspeed Haggis Godspeed.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:47 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, some of this is new information for me - leave aside the whole volcano aliens insanity, this "disconnection" practice is what's creeping me out the most this morning.

Can't say I've got much sympathy for the troubles this group is facing right now, but geez is it really piling up lately. As if Tommy Davis's XENU RAEGQUIT wasn't enough, Scientology is facing competition unlike any it has ever known these days.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:49 AM on October 26, 2009


I honestly don't understand his storming off. If you ask a Catholic about, say, transubstantiation, they aren't going to get huffy and walk off. If he believes this, say so. If not, deny it. What am I missing?
Well, no. Assuming the question was perceived as genuine, most modern Catholics would be happy to explain to you the details regarding their beliefs. Given that these beliefs, including those around transubstantiation, have been debated and discussed for centuries and are no secret to anyone who wants to know about them.

In fact, isn't it more surprising that an official mouthpiece for an organization wouldn't want to take the opportunity to clear up "perversions" of their beliefs that have made it into the public sphere?

It is not reasonable in the modern Western milieu for someone to suggest that merely asking about a finer point of a belief to be disrespectful. This is obviously a rhetorical trick to shut down dialogue.

Let's not get distracted here: the particular aspect of scientology we are talking about here was published in a book by a science fiction author. It is not some deep, secret mystery that we have to respect beyond reasonable limits. ABC was not attempting to rip the cover off some fundamental belief system and expose deep mysteries that can only be understood as part of a personal relationship with g-d. It is about clarification, from the official source, of some potentially misunderstood aspect of a very public church.

No one is asking if scientologists really eat babies.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:50 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Did you hear the Good News about Xenu?
posted by stavrogin at 7:51 AM on October 26, 2009


Here's something I've never been clear on...was L. Ron Hubbard being ironic and people took him seriously? Or was he really trying to convince people of the truth of Scientology?
posted by jefficator at 7:55 AM on October 26, 2009


I walk out whenever an interviewer asks me about my widely reporter and legendary freaky three-ways. I tell the reporter that what he's describing is despicable and a perversion, that's the way I like it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:58 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.

I tend to agree with this only concerning the people in the higher levels of Scientology*. Plenty of ordinary, decent people find their lives wanting and at some point go looking for something to ease their angst. Indoctrination is a gradual process and has been successfully used by various types around the world for so long with so many people that I'm inclined to think it is successful because of human nature. That's just too many people for me to hold in contempt, especially considering that its' victims arrive at their doorstep compelled by pain.

*I've let them know this in as forceful of language as I could muster and included my name and address. I'm on the list.
posted by vapidave at 7:59 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


jefficator: "Here's something I've never been clear on...was L. Ron Hubbard being ironic and people took him seriously? Or was he really trying to convince people of the truth of Scientology?"
I think he liked money in a wholly unironic way.
posted by Drastic at 8:01 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


one of the really, really good things about not giving a shit about religion, is not caring a whit about scientology. ignorance really IS bliss.
posted by msconduct at 8:04 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


...I openly and vigorously defended the church whenever it was criticized, as I railed against the kind of intolerance that I believed was directed against it. ... I saw the organization - with all its warts, growing pains and problems - as an underdog.

THIS. What people seem to fail to understand about cults and cult-like organizations is the attending persecution complex. You can't simply snap someone out of their belief system by pointing out that it's crazy. Imagine you're invited to a free conference sponsored by Organization X. You attend out of curiousity. You see some interesting presentations - mostly pop psychology stuff but some of it is relevant to your work. You make new friends. Your new friends are really fantastic people - and, what's more, they seem genuinely interested in your well-being. You attend more conferences for Organization X. You do a little work for them on the side. You present at some conferences. At this point, you've probably invested at least two or three hundred hours of labor into this organization, it has been rewarding, you've received genuine gratitude from others and you have all these wonderful new friends.

Now some random stranger shows up on the street and starts in with a lot of hand-wavey, "Organization X is evil because just look... example one, two, three, also they worship aliens!" This has not been your experience of Organization X. Your experience has been one of friendship, hard work, and an overall increase in personal social capital. Also, this random dingdong on the street hasn't invested several hundred hours in this organization. After all, who's the expert on Organization X? Some random human you've never met - or you - someone who's spend years helping this group grow? You are the expert. They are jealous for being outsiders. aaaand that's how you can come to view a multi-billion dollar enterprise such as Scientology, with all its attending insanity, as - sweet Jesus of all things - an underdog.

Same goes for folks who spend too much time at church. Any church, really.

I feel the same way about the tactics of Alinsky-style organizing. I know it's a stretch - but people on the street get in my face about this stuff all the time and I've got a hair-trigger about it. "You don't get it, man!" You see, I've been to the trainings, the conferences, the rallies, I drank the KoolFlavor Aid, and now "one of ours" sits in the oval office. I'm one of Hoffer's "true believers." And despite the fact that church-based community organizing is nowhere near as wackadoodle as the CoS, I can kind of understand what's going on here.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:04 AM on October 26, 2009 [50 favorites]


I think he liked money in a wholly unironic way.

And being a messiah. There are attractions to being considered a messiah too.
posted by blucevalo at 8:09 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, it's nice to see William S. Burroughs down in the "former members" section.

As Dianetics first really came to the world via the world of pulp sci-fi ...

(Hubbard stated that Dianetics "forms a bridge between" cybernetics and General Semantics, a set of ideas about education originated by Alfred Korzybski that was receiving much attention in the science fiction world in the 1940s)

... a number of its early adherents were fellow writers and fans with open minds as to "what was really going on". AE Van Vogt actually ran a Dianetics storefront in LA for a while ... "before winding up at odds with Hubbard and his methods".
posted by philip-random at 8:10 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Leonard Cohen is a former Scientologist?

Apparently some of the lines in Famous Blue Raincoat ("Did you ever go clear?") are references to Scientology.
posted by acb at 8:11 AM on October 26, 2009


This is also making the rounds today: Banned Mormon Video.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:20 AM on October 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


Apparently some of the lines in Famous Blue Raincoat ("Did you ever go clear?") are references to Scientology.

I'll be damned... I always wondered about that line, and I figured it was just a phrase that Cohen came up with, that meant something to him. Are you saying then, acb, that "go clear" is an actual term used in Scientology? That relates to some specific thing in Scientology?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:22 AM on October 26, 2009


The "reason" Tommy Davis stormed off is that Scientologists believe that it is actually physically harmful to learn about the Secret of Scientology, unless you have gone through all the L. Ron-mandated steps to prepare yourself.

It used to be presented exactly that way: "Now that you have gone through all this stuff that we told you would fix all your problems and make you happy forever (but hasn't) (aka "Clear"), you are ready to learn the real reason why you're not happy. See, it's not us, it's Xenu, and you have to start essentially back at the beginning (at 10x the cost!)"

Now that everyone and their dog knows about the Xenu myth, it sort of makes it hard to justify this secrecy.
posted by muddgirl at 8:24 AM on October 26, 2009


The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.

This has nothing to do with the teleology of Scientology, or "the type of people" that it attracts. That last bit of circular logic is really rude and dismissive, by the way. It's the easy way out - to essentially label Scientology members subhuman and call it a day.

I think the problem is rooted in the lack of a coherent social agreement between Scientology and the rest of the world. Through his act of disobedience it seems this is what Haggis is trying to create here, a new kind of accountability, and I'm wondering how kindly the public will respond to this new of form of communication and if anyone from within the Church will acknowledge it. Very doubtful.

I think (this is conjecture because I do not know a lot about the reasoning and methodology of "disconnections" etc) perhaps this is a good thing for everybody if Tommy Davis is given his hat and asked to have a good day. I would hope this opens all of us to a new kind of conversation, and that the Church distance itself from the type of damage this guy has done to the "PR" of the organization by walking into hostile environments and throwing his microphone to the ground like a little b****.
posted by phaedon at 8:24 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's kind of blowing my mind that you could believe all the crazy that scientology wants you to believe and then choke on the relatively mundane and common (although just as wrong) opinion of gays.

Eh, I dunno. The whole Jesus-does-miracles-and-is-resurrected-after-death isn't fundamentally that much more insane than alien galactic overlords killing people and making ghosts that haunt the living. Really, any particular religion's creation myth isn't the important bit; what matters is the morality lessons taught. There are absolutely hateful Christian denominations, and absolutely delightful ones, and they share the exact same fundamental background.

So I think he was objecting fairly strenuously to the moral lesson of hating gay people, because he thought that was wrong. But, according to his letter, what actually pushed him over the breaking point was watching the Scientology spokesman lie about the disconnection policy. After having watched his wife go through hell for a year and a half because of that exact policy, he couldn't stomach any more, and finally twigged to the fact that Scientology does not represent what it claims to represent to its members.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.
posted by Malor at 8:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [14 favorites]


Holy cow - is that Mormon cartoon accurate? I knew about the plates and such, but not the cosmology.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:29 AM on October 26, 2009


Are you saying then, acb, that "go clear" is an actual term used in Scientology? That relates to some specific thing in Scientology?

Clear.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Countdown to Fair Gaming starts.... now. Or is he a candidate for a R2-45 audit?
posted by Orb2069 at 8:34 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Scientology is structured as a mystery religion, and I believe it was done so rather deliberately. Successive levels of buy-in for each tier of initiation have some advantages, namely that, rather than swallowing, say, transubstantiation in one big leap, you are introduced to progressively odder things only after you have digested and accepted the last, slightly less strange thing. It is an excellent strategy if your religion has concepts which run counter to the predominating mindset of the society in which it is embedded; attaining new converts is as easy as locating individuals who can be asked to believe in one ... tiny ... thing. You save the DC-8s and volcanoes full of antifreeze until the end.

Despite some initial wins in early battles as part of their ongoing war on the Internet, that particular mystery religion, or any other, will not survive in a world wherein people can send text messages which can be replicated around the globe in a matter of seconds. Scientology has more or less lost the initial ground it held, which was secrecy through copyright and the limited rate at which information might spread. It will have to restructure, radically, if it is to survive.

Here's hoping they're inflexible.
posted by adipocere at 8:36 AM on October 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


some of the lines in Famous Blue Raincoat ("Did you ever go clear?") are references to Scientology

Ok. Eeeeeewwwwwww. I used to love that song.

Many years ago a friend and I wandered into a Scientology clinic, lured by the sidewalk signs promoting the "free IQ test". After the test they took us both into separate rooms to tell us how emotionally stunted we were based on IQ test results; it was absolutely critical we come back for therapy ASAP. We anticipated this and were well prepared to rebuff their aggressive advances, but the whole time a group of supposedly "clear" senior people were arguing and sniping at each other in the office next door within easy earshot, effectively shooting down all their claims of supreme emotional balance achieved by the extensive regimen of expensive sessions. Chiropractic for the mind.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:38 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Odd that Haggis's contrived, braindead Crash won the Academy Award over the much superior Brokeback Mountain, especially considering Scientology's support of Proposition 8.

/tinfoil hat
posted by defenestration at 8:39 AM on October 26, 2009 [15 favorites]


that interview clip is amazing. This, by the way, is why nobody takes Scientology seriously. It's why the entire enterprise smells so distinctly of scam.

This is a scientology spokesperson acting like a martyr. why? possibly because martyrdom is notoriously effective for promoting a religion, as everybody has heard a thousand times. but here's the difference between, say, St. Francis and this guy:

St Francis proudly told everyone precisely what his religious beliefs were, and then happily accepted their scorn. Now, nobody has to be as happy as St. Francis. But the whole point is that you're supposed to be open with your beliefs and if they get you castigated, then so be it. You'll take it for your faith. If Christianity were a realitively new religion, and someone had asked St. Augustine "So, do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and then resurrected 3 days after his death?" he would have said "Yes." If the interviewer had then laughed in his face for admitting it, or accused him of some flaw or lack of moral character for the admission, Augustine would have taken it. That's the faith that wins people over, eventually.

But this guy? He's a carnival huckster. Put a straw hat on his head and give him a bamboo switch, 'cause that guy's got something behind the painted curtain, but you have to pay the entrance fee to see it. And he'll be damned if he's just gonna give that shit up for free.
posted by shmegegge at 8:40 AM on October 26, 2009 [17 favorites]


I thought his ragequit was phrased compellingly, and I am pleased to see him and his family escape from the grip of this dangerous cult.

Also, considering he posted this after discovering the existence of fair gaming and after decades of giving them his secrets? I have to say, the man's got balls.
posted by emperor.seamus at 8:42 AM on October 26, 2009


the other part of it, of course, is that if you openly admit to worshipping Xenu, then they start asking other questions, and the next thing you know you're being asked about Scientology's history of blackmailing and abuse, and the accusations about Hubbard's rape and forced abortion practices. And Xenu knows they don't want to deal with those questions.
posted by shmegegge at 8:42 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whoa David Gaiman - Neil Gaiman's father was a big deal Scientologist according to that list linked above... Neil Gaiman never mentioned those influences in anything I've read of his.
posted by bigmusic at 8:45 AM on October 26, 2009


Well since Xenu is the bad guy of CoS, maybe Davis was reacting with disgust because he really, really, really hates thetans.

oh god i crack myself up
posted by shakespeherian at 8:46 AM on October 26, 2009


Man, too bad Scientologists just quit instead of something more dramatic.... Think about it a Scientology schism would be way cooler than the schism in Chistianity was... Even just as passive observers we'd be able to claim we, the citizens of the Earth, survived an intergalactic alien space war....
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now that everyone and their dog knows about the Xenu myth, it sort of makes it hard to justify this secrecy.

Never underestimate the ability of the zealout to want to tell you all about the super-cool thing they've just discovered. It was news to them, and so they assume it'll be news to EVERYONE.

>some of the lines in Famous Blue Raincoat ("Did you ever go clear?") are references to Scientology

Ok. Eeeeeewwwwwww. I used to love that song.


With all due respect, who says you can't love it still? It's not like the Scientology references have subliminal coding in them or something, convincing you to join up. You can make up your own meaning for those phrases if you want, why not?

I mean, I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop into their lyrics (exhibit A: "See the bird with the leaf in her mouth/After the flood all the colors came out" from "Beautiful Day"), so why do Scientology references promote this "eeeeeww"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hardly new. Mindblowing regardless ...

Tom Cruise - Scientologist.

"This is it. This is exactly it. Because you know you're the only that can really help."
posted by philip-random at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2009


I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop

Come on now, I'm sure some very big people pay attention too.
posted by echo target at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Martin Gardner's piece on Dianetics in Fads and Fallacies is a good background for the layman. In fact, the entireties of F&F and Science: Good, Bad and Bogus are well worth reading for those interested in this stuff and its ilk.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:54 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Scientologists are crazy... but no crazier than anyone else who follows any other religion. The only difference is time.

If only there'd been an internet back in Jesus' day...
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:59 AM on October 26, 2009


You Should See the Other Guy: Scientologists are crazy... but no crazier than anyone else who follows any other religion. The only difference is time.

If only there'd been an internet back in Jesus' day...


Please let's not turn this into another one of these threads.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here's something I've never been clear on...was L. Ron Hubbard being ironic and people took him seriously? Or was he really trying to convince people of the truth of Scientology?

"If you want to make a little money, write a book. If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion." - L. Ron Hubbard
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:04 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


If there'd been an internet back in Noah's day, there'd be lolanimals for every animal on Earth.
posted by qvantamon at 9:06 AM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Alternate Headline: I'm not ashamed of the 34 years and couple of months I spent in Scientology.

Loser. He gets zero credit from for finally, and too late, discovering the blackened, gasping remnants of his conscience.
posted by Aquaman at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"from me for"

oops.
posted by Aquaman at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2009


I think the COS treats its talented and accomplished members relatively well, which explains why they have a skewed view of its behavior and why they defend it. For others, well, they are just marks.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's hard to argue that Cohen had anymore than a passing interest in Scientology. He was apparently experimenting with many belief systems at the time of "Famous Blue Raincoat", Scientology being one of them.

There's a brief discussion of the line, in the context of the song, here.
posted by bonehead at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


If there had been the internets back in Jesus' day Judas would have been the king troll.
posted by ob at 9:11 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


So let me get this straight. He quits the church because they support some political issue he is against, but he had no problem staying with them for an entire year and a half after they ordered his wife to cut off all contact with her parents, something which he found "morally reprehensible"?

This is actually understandable to me. Many religious people have disagreements with their leaders and church doctrines. So it's a tricky game of deciding whether to change things from the inside, living in violation of what the church teaches, or just packing up and leaving. It seems the straw the broke the camel's back so to speak involved church leaders openly lying about both Prop 8 and shunning in recent weeks.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2009


Whatever, Xenu. I'm saving up to buy an indulgence.
posted by thivaia at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


that interview clip is amazing. This, by the way, is why nobody takes Scientology seriously.

Quite the opposite. Tommy Davis' performance is why so many people do take Scientology seriously and get suckered in. If you're just a bit emotionally vulnerable or naive, his calm performance looks very compelling. Poor man, all religions are a bit kooky, how dare this snotty journalist push too hard and embarrass him?

It's an echo of Miscavige's legendary performance against Ted Koppel on Nightline years ago. That was a phenomenal clash of two people very good at using words to shape perception of truth. Most people who go up against a good news interviewer are amateurs who quickly lose the confrontation. Scientology's training produces very effective, slippery spokesmen.
posted by Nelson at 9:13 AM on October 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


I mean, I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop into their lyrics (exhibit A: "See the bird with the leaf in her mouth/After the flood all the colors came out" from "Beautiful Day"), so why do Scientology references promote this "eeeeeww"?

Good question that I don't have a clear answer to, except to say that (for me) there really is an instant "eeeewww" factor where Scientology is concerned. Look no further than Beck who I had no issue with until the fact that he came from a Scientology background surfaced (an affiliation he's made some effort to hide and none to denounce). Let's just say that ever since, it's coloured things for me.

I'm guessing it's the secrecy and the slimy money-grubbing manipulations that have always defined Scientology. True, the same negatives can be hurled at Christianity but maybe that's the difference between being around for 2000 + years, as opposed to sixty. There has been some discernible good done in Christianity's name, whereas Scientologists, man, they just come off as creepy flim-flammers with a persecution complex.

Also, in U2's defense, they've never exactly hidden their Christian leanings while at the same time managed to avoid the overt evangelizing of most of the idiots (sorry, visionaries) one finds in this ghetto.

I trust them. Sort of. But not any self-described Scientologist I've ever crossed paths with ... for all the reasons that Haggis points out.

Good on him, by the way. Writing that letter took guts.
posted by philip-random at 9:19 AM on October 26, 2009


Seriously? All the other Scientology abuses weren't enough?
posted by theora55 at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the COS treats its talented and accomplished members relatively well, which explains why they have a skewed view of its behavior and why they defend it. For others, well, they are just marks.

Tom Cruise and other big names are also "marks" from whom the CoS has obtained tens of millions of dollars from.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2009


I wonder if his spouse is out or if she has to disengage. I hope he takes the time to re-engage with his parents-in-law, especially allowing them to see their grandchildren.
posted by spec80 at 9:23 AM on October 26, 2009


My goodness. I had no idea that Paul Haggis was a Scientologist.

Me neither. Let the record show that I detested Crash on it's own merits.


Now I've got an excuse to hate it even more.

Play Tommy off, keyboard cat.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's something I've never been clear on...was L. Ron Hubbard being ironic and people took him seriously? Or was he really trying to convince people of the truth of Scientology?

Hubbard was an ego-maniacal liar and conman, no question (also, a Satanist if you believe everything you read). As to whether he actually "believed" his Scientology writings, only he really knows. I heartily recommend Russell Miller's Bare Faced Messiah to anyone who is not yet convinced that truth (particularly the 20th Century American kind) is definitely stranger than fiction.

By the way, there's links to both HTML and PDF versions of the book off that wiki-page.
posted by philip-random at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I knew Paul somewhat when I was kid. I went to school for a time with three of his daughters and was close friends with one of them at one point. I never knew him to be an especially easygoing or even particularly nice man. I didn't admire his early work as a kid (creator of Walker, Texas Ranger? Seriously?), and Crash just left me utterly cold when he came back on my radar years later. In short, I never really liked the guy or what he did, and I was more than happy to roll my eyes at any mention of him, so it's surprising to have a grudging respect for him today. Welcome to the club, man. It's small, but there's plenty of room to grow.

There are large numbers of people who silently dabble with Scientology and then silently slink away without the ensuing chaos, and he could have easily done that. I'm guessing most people were surprised to find out he ever was a Scientologist, so I'm really glad he decided to make a public statement. Scientology's stance toward homosexuality has never been a secret, so I am surprised it took something like Prop 8 to finally galvanize him into action, but I am still very glad he did it, for the sake of his family and his own sake. I wish him luck and hope he and the rest of his family will be able to get through this without much more heartache.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoa David Gaiman - Neil Gaiman's father was a big deal Scientologist according to that list linked above... Neil Gaiman never mentioned those influences in anything I've read of his.

David was part of the Guardian's Office World Wide, the forerunner of Scientology's intelligence agency, the Office of Special Affairs. He played a significant role in the GO's covert ops including the infamous Operation Snow White where they infiltrated the IRS & bugged a US Attorney's office in an attempt to uncover their crimes against the cult. Neil is understandably reluctant to talk about his dad's life as a criminal/spy.
posted by scalefree at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Relevant?
posted by jefficator at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2009


So the equivalent is more like Orson Welles sitting down to an interview and the reporter starting off by saying, "So, what was up with 'Rosebud' just being a sled, huh?" My hunch is that Welles would get pretty damn pissed.

Huh. Scientology as an artistic statement, and Xenu is the spoiler.

Well, I don't buy that it has anything to do with trying to protect precious intellectual property that only the rightly divine can properly understand. I think Hubbard knew damn well what he was doing by setting up the hierarchy of people-knowledge this way, which is not exactly unique to Scientology but is typical of cults.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:30 AM on October 26, 2009


@Baby_Balrog: Well said.

Cult members are just as intelligent, if not more so, than the general public. And the bulk of them are as sane as anyone here.

As much as we all like to think we're immune to them, if a cult gets lucky and gets you at the right emotional low point, you too could spend thirty-five years dressing like a member of the Polyphonic Spree and living in a backwoods commune.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:31 AM on October 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Whoa David Gaiman - Neil Gaiman's father was a big deal Scientologist according to that list linked above... Neil Gaiman never mentioned those influences in anything I've read of his.

I once saw him refuse to answer a question about Scientology. I don't know if that qualifies as a "mention", though.
posted by rokusan at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2009


I am pleased to see him and his family escape from the grip of this dangerous cult.

I don't smell any hamburgers in that sentence. You don't really believe he's escaped, do you?

Don't congratulate the man yet. Wish him luck, and don't be shocked if he issues a very public walk-back in the near future.
posted by rokusan at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2009


You too could spend thirty-five years dressing like a member of the Polyphonic Spree and living in a backwoods commune.

Hm. I notice you didn't mention anything about a harem.

Get back to me when you have info on the harem, please.

Harem.
posted by rokusan at 9:36 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Leonard Cohen is a former Scientologist?

That certainly puts his outrage at Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity in a new light.
posted by EarBucket at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good question that I don't have a clear answer to, except to say that (for me) there really is an instant "eeeewww" factor where Scientology is concerned. Look no further than Beck who I had no issue with until the fact that he came from a Scientology background surfaced (an affiliation he's made some effort to hide and none to denounce). Let's just say that ever since, it's coloured things for me.

True, but to me, there's a difference between name-dropping and actual context. I can see why you'd be upset if FBR actually was PROMOTING a mindset, but it sounds more to me like Cohen was just dropping a reference just because it sounded like a funky phrase to say. He could just as easily have said "Goo goo ga joob" or "Birthday party cheesecake jellybean boom".

As ever, I suppose, your mileage may vary, though...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on October 26, 2009


I prefer to remember Tommy Davis for the batting championships.
posted by lukemeister at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2009


Baby_Balrog : You can't simply snap someone out of their belief system by pointing out that it's crazy.

Exactly. Furthermore, I've always assumed that the majority of Scientologists are probably like the most religious folk, they are aware of the teachings that underpin their church, but for them, it's more about being a part of something and having peers who you can share your time with. The fact is, if you laid bare the core story of pretty much any religion, it would look crazy. Scientology just gets additional (deserved) attention because of the absolutely loathsome way that they treat their flock and outsiders trying to see what's going on.

That someone who was a member for 35 years would jump ship in such a visible way is promising.

I drank the KoolFlavor Aid,

/off topic; You could have drank either. Contrary to popular statements otherwise, both Koolaid and Flavoraid were both present at Jonestown.

posted by quin at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop

Well, they are an Irish band, so yeah, I suppose that could be true.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Man, too bad Scientologists just quit instead of something more dramatic.... Think about it a Scientology schism would be way cooler than the schism in Chistianity was...

Unfortunately, it's not true that it would be way cooler. Scientology had schisms from the beginning.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:52 AM on October 26, 2009


I don't know that this is the primary reason, but I would imagine that his gay daughter likely had a hand in changing his views on some of this. It's a lot different cutting off contact with your in-laws than it is to see an organization you're a part of publicly denounce your children.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the COS treats its talented and accomplished members relatively well, which explains why they have a skewed view of its behavior and why they defend it.

If I remember my Hubbardology correctly, that was the precise purpose of the "Celebrity Centers" in LA and Palm Springs. Rather than just suck on the dregs of society that they'd been attracting to date, this would allow them to: (1) get some rich and powerful members, (2) spoil them with parlor-trick level psychology, (3) profit.
posted by rokusan at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know that this is the primary reason, but I would imagine that his gay daughter likely had a hand in changing his views on some of this. It's a lot different cutting off contact with your in-laws than it is to see an organization you're a part of publicly denounce your children.

Dick Cheney seemed to sleep quite well at night.

(Upright in his bubbling hibernation pod, granted. But well.)
posted by rokusan at 9:54 AM on October 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


'Whoa David Gaiman - Neil Gaiman's father was a big deal Scientologist according to that list linked above... Neil Gaiman never mentioned those influences in anything I've read of his.'

David was part of the Guardian's Office World Wide, the forerunner of Scientology's intelligence agency, the Office of Special Affairs. He played a significant role in the GO's covert ops including the infamous Operation Snow White where they infiltrated the IRS & bugged a US Attorney's office in an attempt to uncover their crimes against the cult. Neil is understandably reluctant to talk about his dad's life as a criminal/spy.


Huh. I was googling "scientology cult checklist', as you do, to find this or
that, but what I stumbled across was the 'Scientology cult security checklist' on wikileaks:
http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Scientology_cult_security_checklist
(has link to 29 page pdf, quickish download and read)

Wikileaks summarizes it thusly:
This checklist is employed at Scientology subsidiaries ("Orgs") that show decreasing profits or other problems. It consists of five sections: Statistics, Production, "Ethics" (security), Admin and Case and can be conducted only by an "Ethics Officer". By the end of an investigation, the Ethics Officer will have reviewed the Scientologist's entire history with the organization going right on back to when the subject was a student. Recipients of the investigation may be declared either a Potential Trouble Source or a Suppressive Person.

But that doesn't really describe it. This is their institutional DNA. Tom Cruise jumping on a couch is one thing, but that's the public face, this is the private face: the checklist their internal loyalty officers use when sniffing out heretics and underperformers.

It is fascinating and depressing. I had never read operational documents used by the internal security officers of cryptofascist orgs before, and my soul feels a little greyer for having read it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:55 AM on October 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


EarBucket: Leonard Cohen is a former Scientologist?

That certainly puts his outrage at Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity in a new light.


No it doesn't. Saved is a terrible album.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:56 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop.

Well, I do flinch when I hear them, feeling something like a moment of pity... but that's no reason to call me "little".
posted by rokusan at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2009


Leonard Cohen, when asked about that line in Famous Blue Raincoat in the Jewish Book News:
"Yes, it was a Scientology reference. I looked into a lot of things. Scientology was one of them. It did not last very long. But it is very interesting, as I continue my studies in these matters, to see how really good Scientology was from the point of view of their data, their information, their actual knowledge, their wisdom writings, so to speak. It wasn't bad at all. It is scorned, and I don't know what the organization is like today, but it seems to have all the political residue of any large and growing organization."
posted by rokusan at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2009


Scientology is structured as a mystery religion, and I believe it was done so rather deliberately.

The cult goes to extraordinary lengths to protect its secret materials. Copies of the texts are numbered & stored in high security cabinets. In order to be given access to them you have to undergo extensive security checking with an e-meter (at your own expense), sign loyalty & liability forms & be issued an electronic card key. You go to the Org, surrender all recording devices, sign out your copy & take it to a special windowless reading room. For the highest level, OT-8, you have to book a cruise on the cult's ship the Freewinds, which is the only place that level is delivered. Freewinds never docks in an American port, to protect against seizure of materials stored on it.

Cult members have it drilled into them that premature exposure to the OT materials is at best harmful to their progress in the cult & at worst life threatening. Since Tommy's not an OT he did the only thing he could & bolted from the room.
posted by scalefree at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


you too could spend thirty-five years dressing like a member of the Polyphonic Spree and living in a backwoods commune.

Um... You do know that the Polyphonic Spree have turned into a bunch of jackbooted thugs, right? :)

I keed, I keed. I'd happily put on one of their robes and follow them for 35 years or so. New album in the works right now, folks!
posted by hippybear at 10:08 AM on October 26, 2009


I hope he takes the time to re-engage with his parents-in-law, especially allowing them to see their grandchildren.

In the letter Haggis says he never disengaged with his in-laws. His wife was ordered to, and did, disengage with her own parents for a year and a half during which time the the grandparents access to the grand kids was limited. The facts are bad enough, no need to exaggerate them.
posted by tula at 10:10 AM on October 26, 2009


Cult members are just as intelligent, if not more so, than the general public. And the bulk of them are as sane as anyone here.

Almost all the ex-Scientologists I've known were well above average & a couple of them were nothing short of brilliant.
posted by scalefree at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Freewinds never docks in an American port, to protect against seizure of materials stored on it.

How does that work? Do they fly a flag? If they fly an American flag, can't they get seized by the navy anyway? If they don't fly any flag, can't some disgruntled ex-scientologist hire a bunch of mercenaries to attack it?
posted by qvantamon at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2009


also worth pointing out on the Prop-8 tip is the sad story of Quentin Hubbard, son of L Ron and heir apparent to the Scientology Throne(?) for a while. According to the wiki-page:

Former Scientologists have said that Quentin was homosexual[1][2][3], and that this clearly caused him a great deal of personal torment due to the homophobia of the era. Scientology doctrine classified homosexuals as "sexual pervert[s]" and "quite ill physically."

He eventually killed himself in 1976, age 22.

L. Ron Hubbard was furious at the news, shouting, "That stupid fucking kid! Look what he's done to me!"
posted by philip-random at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


For the highest level, OT-8, you have to book a cruise on the cult's ship the Freewinds, which is the only place that level is delivered. Freewinds never docks in an American port, to protect against seizure of materials stored on it.

Where are the Somalian pirates when you need them!?
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


As an ex-Scientologist, scalefree, I'd have to say that your observation is probably tied to the "ex". The ones who leave are the ones who are stable and rational enough to recognize that something is not quite right. But there's also quite a large difference in the kind of Scientologist you get when someone joins as an adult vs. when they're brought up in Scientology. Scientology places an incredibly high value on the written word, so many Scientologists are quite articulate and possess robust vocabularies, so they generally present well socially, but math, science, and, consequently, critical thinking and reasoning, often fall to the wayside, making it easier to suck members into the pseudo-science.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:32 AM on October 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think the COS treats its talented and accomplished members relatively well, which explains why they have a skewed view of its behavior and why they defend it.

For their top-tiers like Tom Cruise they went to ridiculous extremes to keep him happy. When Tom was courting Nicole, Miscaviage learned that he had a fantasy of running barefoot through a meadow of flowers. So he ordered crews of his top executives who'd been put on the RPF for punishment to dig up a lawn at the cult compound in Hemet & plant flowers so Tom & Nic could wander through it in their tootsies on the way to their special bungalow. There's even stories that the cult shipped female celebs including Kirstie Alley around to places they expected Tom to be in order to dangle them in front of him when he was wavering in his faith.
posted by scalefree at 10:32 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


How does that work? Do they fly a flag? If they fly an American flag, can't they get seized by the navy anyway? If they don't fly any flag, can't some disgruntled ex-scientologist hire a bunch of mercenaries to attack it?

It's registered in the Netherlands Antilles & its home port is Curacao.
posted by scalefree at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2009


Cult members are just as intelligent, if not more so, than the general public. And the bulk of them are as sane as anyone here.

Hey, you don't have to be mean about it.
posted by msalt at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's kind of blowing my mind that you could believe all the crazy that scientology wants you to believe and then choke on the relatively mundane and common. . . "

This is likely because many people in Scientology *don't* believe all the crazy, because Scientology's most extreme craziness is something you only get from them once you've advanced (i.e. paid your way) so far into the org that your incredulity has already been thoroughly devirginized.

I always hear in these sorts of "leaving the church" letters that many people find the whole auditing process and basic techniques very helpful to them. That doesn't mean they've bought into the whole enchilada, however.

If Scientology's spokesman doesn't want to talk about such things, I can only assume its because he views it as damaging to the church to reveal such beliefs through the media to Scientology's own members, in that they're not only getting information before they're ready to believe it, and also getting it for free.
posted by markkraft at 10:46 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only difference between a cult and a religion is that someone will always come along and say that they're the same thing, even though that's patently untrue.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can believe anything.
posted by pianomover at 11:10 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate to say it, but on reflection, I'm sympathetic to Davis's strategy, having encountered so many bad-faith questions regarding issues that I'm concerned about.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:11 AM on October 26, 2009


Granted, a key difference here is that generally the causes I care about have had representatives explaining themselves until they are blue in the face, while I've never really heard an insider's explanation of scientology that wasn't evasive on the underlying theory, while hyping the claimed results. But still...
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:15 AM on October 26, 2009


Blue Asbestos cruising. Curtesy of MV Freewinds which continues to pollute in the Caribbean.
posted by adamvasco at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2009


Interesting. John Travolta now admits that his son was autistic, despite Scientology's denial of autism. Katie Holmes has enrolled Suri in a Catholic school, despite Tom Cruise's...Tom Cruisiness. Are some cracks starting to appear in the armor of Scientology?
posted by malocchio at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2009


I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop into their lyrics

I don't know about that. Maybe not anymore, now that they're supercelebrities and are about as identified with Christian music as, say, Bob Dylan is. But back in the day when they were still "less" famous than Culture Club and Duran Duran, lots of people paid quite a bit of attention to the Christian references. The entirety of The Joshua Tree is nothing but one humongous "little Christian reference," actually.
posted by blucevalo at 11:29 AM on October 26, 2009


That bullet-pointed list of credentials that appears at the end of his letter for no apparent reason is hilarious, because its such a total Scientologist thing to do. There's a total obsession with projecting an image of accomplishment and success in that way. Like L. Ron Hubbard festooning himself with medals that he awarded to himself. It's an effort that scans as completely juvenile and as "trying way too hard" to anyone who isn't 12.
posted by anazgnos at 11:29 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Currently sitting next to a Scientologist... this is going to be fun.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2009


Are some cracks starting to appear in the armor of Scientology?

It's End Game time for the cult. I've been studying them a long time; in my opinion they have maybe a year until complete implosion. Probably more like 6 months, but I'll hedge my bet to be safe.
posted by scalefree at 11:40 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


But back in the day when they were still "less" famous than Culture Club and Duran Duran, lots of people paid quite a bit of attention to the Christian references.

I didn't say what I had to say clearly, perhaps; I hadn't heard of any kind of "eewww, it's Christian rock" dismissal just because they dropped some references, is more my point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2009


blucevalo: I'm sure very little people pay attention to the little Christian references U2 drop into their lyrics

I don't know about that. Maybe not anymore, now that they're supercelebrities and are about as identified with Christian music as, say, Bob Dylan is. But back in the day when they were still "less" famous than Culture Club and Duran Duran, lots of people paid quite a bit of attention to the Christian references. The entirety of The Joshua Tree is nothing but one humongous "little Christian reference," actually.


I happen to know that, until Bono started his embarrassingly liberal concern about Africa and poor people and stuff, persecution-complex US Christians absolutely loved listing U2 among Christian bands (see also: Creed).
posted by shakespeherian at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2009


It's End Game time for the cult. I've been studying them a long time; in my opinion they have maybe a year until complete implosion. Probably more like 6 months, but I'll hedge my bet to be safe.

There may or may not be a big meltdown. But, I would wager that if it does happen in its place you'll see some kind of continuation with self-directed study courses and book sales that will still generate revenue for the entrenched upper echelon for years to come.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2009


>>The problem isn't Scientology. The problem is the type of people it attracts.

>This. This. A THOUSAND TIMES.


Except that this is a contradiction. Scientology attracts the kind of people it attracts because of what it is. The problem is the doctrine. Everything bad about the church: the litigiouness, the abusiveness - it all proceeds from the doctrine.
posted by anazgnos at 11:47 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't know about that. Maybe not anymore, now that they're supercelebrities and are about as identified with Christian music as, say, Bob Dylan is. But back in the day when they were still "less" famous than Culture Club and Duran Duran, lots of people paid quite a bit of attention to the Christian references. The entirety of The Joshua Tree is nothing but one humongous "little Christian reference," actually.

The band's always been very spiritual, and they've never tried to hide it. October was probably the most obvious album, but there's Christian imagery in almost all of their songs. "Until the End of the World" is pretty much Judas/Jesus slash from Judas's perspective. Songs like "Wake Up Dead Man", "Grace", "Yahweh", "If God Will Send His Angels" are all pretty explicit. The difference between them and typical "Christian Music" is that the Christianity is wrapped in layers of questioning and irony and sex and postmodernism.

This militant agnostic has always found it endlessly fascinating.

(And is sad it appears there's no Texas dates for the 2010 leg of U2 360.)
posted by kmz at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tommy Davis is son of Ann Archer (actress) by the way. And a plain clothes member of the SeaOrg
posted by A189Nut at 11:52 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


After all the backlash against Scientology, with widespread exposure of secrets like Xenu and related nonsense "theology," with the Anonymous protests and other assorted public shaming, with Hubbard's own quotes and plenty of thorough debunkings readily available on the internet… why does Scientology persist?

It's not a religion. It's not a cult. It's a scam, a very deliberate scam. And not a particularly well-disguised one. Isn't now the time when new Scientologists are supposed to say "oh, that's pretty dumb actually" and throw in the towel, and old Scientologists are supposed to say "darn, I guess the cat's out of the bag now" and also throw in the towel? Scientology's days are obviously numbered, but the really surprising thing is that it hasn't collapsed already. What a joke.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:59 AM on October 26, 2009


Katie Holmes has enrolled Suri in a Catholic school, despite Tom Cruise's...Tom Cruisiness.

Per Wikipedia, Neil Gaiman went to a prestigious C of E school as a kid. I hadn't realized just how deep in David Gaiman was, so it's easier to make sense of that now. The rules are definitely different for some people.

Aside on Gaiman & CoS: As far as influence, I feel like I can see a LOT of Scientology influence in Gaiman's work. It's loaded with mindfucking and festooned with arcane demonologies, people living concealed lives for millenia, bizarre hidden secrets (like, a small midwestern town looked after by a kobold in exchange for the annual sacrifice of an innocent). Still, it's not the dominant influence: I think the most cliched thing you can point out about Gaiman's work is that it usually involves some kind of mother-issues, often with an absent or feckless father -- which my wife points out is consistent with his upbringing: While David was off doing this or that inspired thing that might or might now keep bread on the table, it was Neil's mom who kept the house going. You find that dynamic again and again in Gaiman's work. (Mind you, I say all this as a strong admirer of Gaiman's work. I'd much rather deal with Gaiman's mother issues than Tim Burton's father issues any day of the week.)
posted by lodurr at 12:05 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm glad some people chimed in to point out that people involved with cults are not inherently idiots. The old Cult Awareness Network (now, sadly, a Scientology front) used to have a page that described in some detail the process whereby people of above-average intelligence get suckered in to cults like the CoS. It typically starts with depression, to which the cult offers a solution. The dynamic that Baby Balrog describes starts to work after a short while: You're less depressed (which you could basically accomplish on a short term basis by doing just about anything with enthusiasm and the help of others), you make new friends, you have something to do and the promise of something better. It works for intelligent people because they're curious and willing to try things. And once they try things, it continues to work for the associative reasons, but it continues to work especially well in CoS because a lot of the techniques they use at lower levels are essentially designed to put you into a suggestible state. I.e., they're hypnotizing you. (Which is why Hubbard historically had so many damning things to say about hypnosis: He didn't want people learning enough about it to know what's what he was doing.)
posted by lodurr at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


but the really surprising thing is that it hasn't collapsed already. What a joke.

One wonders if this kind of public meltdown didn't happen once, twice, maybe a dozen times in the early history of the Christian Church, before they finally got their story straight ... AND WRITTEN DOWN.

I'm way too much of a believer in the world's essential weirdness to be convinced that this kind of stuff marks the end of Scientology. I hope so, but I wouldn't bet on it.
posted by philip-random at 12:14 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had a long conversation one day wth a guy who knew Hubbard back in the 40s, in NY, when Hubbard was trying to pal around with the Heinlein circle. (Guy was running a bookstore in Ithaca when I met him -- his name escapes me, but he was a fascinating old guy.) There's that famous quote from Heinlein that's usually sourced to a letter (to Aldiss, I think), to the effect that 'Ron has had a busy war': Hubbard was basically Cotton Hill, engaging in heroic naval actions in disparate theaters while his actual service records show him in port or on extended medical leave. But my informant said people were pretty open about that stuff behind Hubbard's back. A lot of them apparently thought he was hilarious.

And then, the religion as a profitable business thing. In SF fanboy circles it's common to see that as a ripoff of Heinlein, but apparently it's more complicated. Heinlein had been thinking a lot about religion, but hadn't quite yet put it into such mercenary terms. And then Hubbard (who was always trying to cower to the biggest dog in the room, which in most rooms would have been Heinlein) would say outrageous shit to impress him like "if you want to make a lot of money, start a religion." And then they had a discussion about it. My informant said he always felt that's when the fire really got lit for Heinlein, and that he thought it might have really gelled the idea for Hubbard as well.

So maybe we can blame Robert Heinlein!
posted by lodurr at 12:24 PM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


He's offended by being asked to talk about his beliefs to a non-believer.

Sounds more like embarrassment to me.
posted by scrutiny at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2009


The old Cult Awareness Network (now, sadly, a Scientology front)


I did not know this. Thanks.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:32 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


If Scientology's spokesman doesn't want to talk about such things, I can only assume its because he views it as damaging to the church to reveal such beliefs through the media to Scientology's own members, in that they're not only getting information before they're ready to believe it, and also getting it for free.

I'd like to have a charitable interpretation as well, but while your words are rational, his actions were not.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:32 PM on October 26, 2009


It's not a cult. It's a scam, a very deliberate scam

Cults are almost always scams.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:35 PM on October 26, 2009


scalefree: It's registered in the Netherlands Antilles & its home port is Curacao.

Cite? I believe it flags as and is registered in Panama.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:41 PM on October 26, 2009


"Let the record show that I detested Crash on it's own merits."

That's his own merits, thank you ver...

Oh. Never mind.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:49 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great article, thanks.
posted by mrloiq at 12:52 PM on October 26, 2009


How does that work? Do they fly a flag? If they fly an American flag, can't they get seized by the navy anyway? If they don't fly any flag, can't some disgruntled ex-scientologist hire a bunch of mercenaries to attack it?

Like many US-owned ships, she flies the Panamanian flag. (Someone above stated that she has a Netherlands Antilles flag and is registered in Curacao; this seems to be confused with the fact that she has been based out of Curacao, but both her Classification Society, Det Norske Veritas, and the International Telecommunications Union have current records of her being registered in Panama).
posted by Lebannen at 12:54 PM on October 26, 2009


Next time I see them peddling their "stress test" wares at a BART station...

Seriously? What BART stations have you seen this at? I'm jealous! I love seeing this kind of craziness in person.
posted by brundlefly at 1:09 PM on October 26, 2009


IIRC, OT 8 was the famous "Jesus was a pedophile" document that CoS has worked very hard to maintain plausible deniability about. My understanding is that CoS was forced by the courts to validate the authenticity of many of the other OT documents (including OT 3, which is the beginning of the Xenu stuff). I guess keeping this teaching off US soil means they don't risk a repeat of that?
posted by middleclasstool at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2009


And then they had a discussion about it. My informant said he always felt that's when the fire really got lit for Heinlein, and that he thought it might have really gelled the idea for Hubbard as well... So maybe we can blame Robert Heinlein!

Tanj.
posted by rokusan at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2009


Cite? I believe it flags as and is registered in Panama.

Yeah my bad. I skimmed the Wikipedia page on it, which wasn't exactly clear:
The ownership and management of the vessel was organized through a complicated web of Scientology-run corporations and entities, most of which are owned by the Flag Ship Trust. It is owned by San Donate Properties, a Panamanian corporation of which FST is the sole shareholder. Another FST-owned Panamanian corporation, Transcorp Services, owns the mortgage on the Freewinds. FSS Organization was a Netherlands Antilles corporation responsible for paying certain taxes on the vessel to the Netherlands Antilles authorities. Scientology courses are delivered aboard the vessel by the Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO), in effect a floating branch of the Church of Scientology. Majestic Cruise Lines is a Panamanian corporation which operates the Freewinds, receiving payment from FSSO for the use of the ship. MCL Services is a Netherlands Antilles corporation which provides shore support and liaison services for Majestic Cruise Lines and FSSO from the Freewinds' home port, Curaçao.
Should've gone to the registry instead, like you did.
posted by scalefree at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2009


Yeah, there it is. Also, evidently Hubbard claimed he would return to fulfill the prophecy of the Antichrist.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Are some cracks starting to appear in the armor of Scientology?'

It's End Game time for the cult. I've been studying them a long time; in my opinion they have maybe a year until complete implosion. Probably more like 6 months, but I'll hedge my bet to be safe. -scalefree


Interesting; I had no idea they were failing. What are the indications of this and what are the internal mechanisms that are in play?
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:26 PM on October 26, 2009


middleclasstool: "Jesus was a pedophile"

Somehow I haven't been exposed to this particular bit of crazy. Elucidate?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2009


The link in my previous comment has the text of OT 8 plus speculation on its authenticity.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2009


Shit, meant to link it.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2009


He's not just the anti-Christ, he's the reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama as well! (If that document is authentic.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2009


The article about the ship is interesting, but it's kind of exaggerating the whole asbestos angle. Lots of ships (and buildings) have asbestos in them, and it's not a huge problem as long as you don't disturb the stuff. It doesn't surprise me that they would have decided not to remove it all; it's probably legitimately not necessary. There are enough things to go after Scientology for without resorting to asbestos hysteria.

The wastewater dumping is more interesting, but from what I've heard stuff like that is practically SOP for the cruise-ship industry, particularly on older ships with poor wastewater-treatment equipment. I'm not sure it's really a Scientology problem as much as it's a local politics / environmental standards problem.

The Scientologists are a litigious bunch of fucks; my suspicion is they're probably in (bare minimum) compliance with the law. But at any rate, it just seems like trying too hard -- they're a toxic organization in ways that extend far beyond how they dispose of sewage on their megayacht.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:55 PM on October 26, 2009


I think that, starting around the time right prior to OTIII, Hubbard was mixing lots of drugs. Also, I'm sure was under a lot of pressure because folks were starting to reach the "clear" state and not, you know, able to turn invisible or whatever he had been promising.

Also, "New" OTVIII doesn't appear to contain that stuff about Jesus being a pedophile.
posted by muddgirl at 1:56 PM on October 26, 2009


Seriously? What BART stations have you seen this at? I'm jealous! I love seeing this kind of craziness in person.

They're frequently at the entrances at both Powell and Montgomery. They're also in front of the Old Navy pretty regularly.

They seemed to disappear for awhile there (maybe because of the Anonymous brouhaha?), but I've started seeing them again recently.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:01 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


IIRC, OT 8 was the famous "Jesus was a pedophile" document that CoS has worked very hard to maintain plausible deniability about. My understanding is that CoS was forced by the courts to validate the authenticity of many of the other OT documents (including OT 3, which is the beginning of the Xenu stuff). I guess keeping this teaching off US soil means they don't risk a repeat of that?

There's three versions of OT-8 that are known & from insider stories there were probably a few more, it's something the cult has tweaked quite a bit over the years. The Fishman OT-8, the one you refer to, was released with the original OT levels during the civil trial of Steve Fishman. The rest of those levels have been authenticated by other exes who took them, but I've never heard anyone who verified the Fishman OT-8. Then there's the NOTS OT-8, which deals with past lives & body thetans. The full text of it's never been released but the gist of it has been written about by ex-Scientologist OT-8s Arianne Jackson & Michael Patterson. And finally there's the WikiLeaks OT-8, which was put together from memory by an unknown OT-8 & verified to WikiLeaks by an unnamed ex who took it in 1991. It's about uncovering your relationship to God; there is no specific revelation required, though from a quick read I expect most people will either come to the realization that they are God or Hubbard is. To my eye it seems to fit best with the Old OT levels & may have been the original OT-8 that got replaced by the NOTS one.

I know way too much of this crap.
posted by scalefree at 2:04 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]



I think that, starting around the time right prior to OTIII, Hubbard was mixing lots of drugs. Also, I'm sure was under a lot of pressure because folks were starting to reach the "clear" state and not, you know, able to turn invisible or whatever he had been promising.
The "technology" of counselling was an ongoing attempt to cure Hubbard's own ailments. Various early techniques designed to cure what Hubbard called "terror stomach" were surely an attempt to relieve his ulcer. Despite Dianetics, his ulcer, his poor eyesight and his bursitis persisted. In the 1960s, he suffered periodically from pneumonia, probably worsened by his drug abuse, definitely worsened by his chain-smoking. He promised that OT3 would cure such respiratory problems; it certainly did not work for him. Hubbard suffered from a catalogue of disabilities.

No matter how much Tech he developed, he continued to suffer from the same difficulties, both mental and physical... NOTs was developed in an attempt to assist his recovery. It is often possible to trace Hubbard's obsession with a particular new counselling "rundown" to some disability of his own.

Yet from 1950 onwards, Hubbard was to insist again and again that he had the solution to all human problems... There were tens of Clearing procedures, all promoted and sold as The Answer, and all superseded after a few months. Nibs Hubbard says his father produced a new technique every six months.

Hubbard seems to have believed himself cured every time. There are a series of excuses built in to Scientology to explain each failure, and to justify Hubbard's relapses...

All of these responses to stimuli accumulated to become Scientology. They are the incidents (or "engrams," perhaps) which make Scientology: procedures designed to solve Hubbard's own immediate problem, and then used on all Scientologists, whatever their difficulties.
from the enthusatically recommended A Piece of Blue Sky.
posted by anazgnos at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


But the really surprising thing is that it hasn't collapsed already. What a joke.

That won't happen. Religions don't really just end in a moment. And no amount of scandal's going to kill one off. I mean (not to take the troll derail, but) remember that one religion where the guy who was supposed to be God incarnate was summarily executed, no big whoop, along with the other common criminals? Oopsie. But given some time, later followers found a way to, um, build that humbling experience into their faith, so to speak, and it all worked out just fine in the end.

So sure, the Scientology of today might shatter or be similarly humbled into the shadows for awhile, but sooner or later we'll have little Scientology spinoffs or offshoots creeping back out anyway, in some form or another. Some might mutate into things we won't even recognize as Scientology. Others will fade away slowly, even almost dying over the course of a hundred years or so, until some enterprising or easily-impressed person rediscovers "this amazing lost religion".... and we're all off to the races again.

It would be truly cool, of course (or at least a heck of a story) if one of those offshoots defied the odds and turned out to be some sort of noble and good belief system, without the money and power tripping and bald-faced hucksterism of the original.

I mean, almost all religions have a few basic love-your-brother tenets at their core, anyway, and I'm sure some near-future historian could find a way to carve a healthy religion out of Scientology, somehow.
posted by rokusan at 2:18 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting; I had no idea they were failing. What are the indications of this and what are the internal mechanisms that are in play?

Defections at the highest levels of both staff & public including a bunch of OT-8s. Empty & closed Orgs everywhere. OSA's a bare shadow if its former self, unable to strike the necessary fear to keep members from defecting or handle even the most blatant threats to the cult's image. A level of desperation & forcefulness in how they're extorting money from their most loyal members that hasn't been seen in 30 years, since Miscaviage held his original coup. Even the staff assigned to training & delivering auditing are being turned into sales-droids to extract every last possible dollar today, with no thought to keeping the milk cows happy so they keep giving milk for years. The cult is leaking members at a growing rate & they're connecting with each other, building their own networks to share, protect & help each other. To my eye it's an unsustainable situation & has to come to a head in the very near future.
posted by scalefree at 2:23 PM on October 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


I always wondered if the Zeist backstory to Highlander II was a deliberate Scientology riff, or if it just paralleled it by accident.
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


That won't happen. Religions don't really just end in a moment.

Religions don't but churches do. The Church of Scientology's in an unusual situation of trying to define itself as having the exclusive franchise to practice the Scientology religion, but there has always been a community of outsiders, persecuted by the church but still practicing some subset of its tenets. When the church falls, they'll continue on; it'll probably bring about a renaissance for the religion, actually, along with God's own legal battle over the right to own, use & publish the "scriptures".
posted by scalefree at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2009


rokusan: Religions don't really just end in a moment. And no amount of scandal's going to kill one off.

American history is littered with the bones of dozens of charismatic religious groups that never survived the second generation of leadership. Most of them had their own land, and some even had factories.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:34 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


scalefree, i've often wondered whether the outcasts could make a go of it with renegade tech. personally I think most of the tech is probalby hokie as hell, but at least if it's in the clear, people can critique it.

there were rumors a few years back that Travolta was planning to skip out and join the renegades (accompanied by the usual counter-rumors of gay sex videos).
posted by lodurr at 2:46 PM on October 26, 2009


maybe about ten years ago I was looking over some old Church of the Sub-genius stuff I have (including a treasured copy of Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob"), and it suddenly hit me that the CoS was a parody of... the CoS! Right down to the alien invasion nonsense.

I was suddenly sort of awed that Stang had kept quiet about the connection all these years -- I thought, that's some serious power to intimidate, if you can scare the SubGenius folks into restraint from public mockery....
posted by lodurr at 2:48 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seriously? All the other Scientology abuses weren't enough?

So it turns out the Irish Catholic church took tax dollars to rape orphans through much of the 20th century, and yet the churches still have people showing up and donating money and whatnot.

It's kind of blowing my mind that you could believe all the crazy that scientology wants you to believe and then choke on the relatively mundane and common (although just as wrong) opinion of gays.

How many Catholics can swallow the idea that they're eating the blood and flesh of Christ, but get fed up and walk away from the Church on exactly the same issue?
posted by rodgerd at 2:51 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd like to have a charitable interpretation as well, but while your words are rational, his actions were not.

At least he handled it better than one-time spokesman Heber Jentzsch did. Audio (Real Media only, sorry - from the dawn of time before MP3s) & transcript of Heber & the Body Raisins.
posted by scalefree at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2009


brundlefly, you can often find them in the Powell Muni/BART station.
posted by ooga_booga at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2009


there were rumors a few years back that Travolta was planning to skip out and join the renegades (accompanied by the usual counter-rumors of gay sex videos).

"Yes. I think it's pretty brilliant. I try to separate the material and the organization, because I don't agree with the way the organization is being run. I believe that the material is more worthy than the individuals who are handling it." - Interview with John Travolta, Rolling Stone August 18, 1983.
posted by scalefree at 3:04 PM on October 26, 2009


sebastienbailard: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Scientology_cult_security_checklist

Now that is some fascist reading. It gives me chills to see the guts of this creepy organization in its own not-meant-for-the-public words.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2009


Also, considering he posted this after discovering the existence of fair gaming and after decades of giving them his secrets? I have to say, the man's got balls.

Err, he was a member of the SoC for 35 years and found out about fair gaming and all this shit only recently? I have to say, the man must have been living under a rock for the past few decades.

By Xenu, either he must have been totally blind or he is lying (and has known about this stuff for a long time, but couldn't -- for whatever reason -- admit it).
posted by sour cream at 3:17 PM on October 26, 2009


Yeah you fuckers think you're pretty smart now but I'm going through the tech gradients like nobody's business - I'm already at Operating Thetan IV and this shit will blow your mind - and the Bridge To Total Freedom has a way better view than your Anonymous Skeptic's Bunker. I actually met Tom Cruise at a Church dinner the other day and his smile is so amazing that my ears popped.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:41 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


but I'm going through the tech gradients like nobody's business

Back in my psilocybin fueled college days, I briefly was interested in getting some kind of grant to go into deep cover and try to climb the ranks of Scientology and write an expose about the whole thing, but then I thought better of it.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:45 PM on October 26, 2009


scalefree, i've often wondered whether the outcasts could make a go of it with renegade tech. personally I think most of the tech is probalby hokie as hell, but at least if it's in the clear, people can critique it.

The "tech" is just a voltmeter. You can make one yourself. In fact: "The US Food & Drug Administration raided Scientology on January 4, 1963 and seized hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices. The incident is described in Jon Atack's book, A Piece of Blue Sky, and in this essay by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Since that time, meters have been required to carry a disclaimer stating that they are purely a religious artifact. This appellate court decision describes the trial and the various witnesses who appeared."
posted by krinklyfig at 3:58 PM on October 26, 2009


I actually nearly got caught up in it. Years ago when I was young, depressed and generally intoxicated (different to now, because I'm older) I got caught up by the Free Stress Test out front of the theatre on Swanston Street in Melbourne. I thought, sure, I'm pretty stressed, so I went in with the dude and we sat down. I didn't know anything about Scientology back then, I guess this was about 10 years ago, and I was generally quite naive about interacting with hucksters in the street because I came from a small town where stuff like that didn't happen. Anyway, we sat down, he asked me a few questions about myself - and this was nice, because I was on my own and not talking to anybody and didn't know anybody and this charismatic young guy seemed genuinely interested - and then he introduced me to the E-meter. "This is incredible proprietary technology developed by Real Scientists that could just change your life!" It was a cheap plastic thing with some dials on it and I had to hold these two metal cylinders and he started talking about fields, and frequencies, that we're all surrounded by fields and have to get in tune with the frequencies of the universe and our spiritual...fields, and I finally had my "Uh Oh!" (as opposed to "Ah Ha!") moment and I muttered something and I bolted.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:01 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


BTW, that last quote is from here.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2009


The "tech" is just a voltmeter.

When members of the cult talk about the Tech they mean the writings, the processes, the methods. They see Scientology as a spiritual technology, an exact set of procedures that if followed exactly will have an exact, predictable result.
posted by scalefree at 4:34 PM on October 26, 2009


When members of the cult talk about the Tech they mean the writings, the processes, the methods.

Yeah, I understand, but it's just as ridiculous, because it's all centered around a device which lacks any scientific credibility, but which carries the trappings of "SCIENCE!" It's all (poorly) derived from psychology but they can't call it that, because most of it was simply made-up-as-he-went-along by LRH without any evidence to prove it's working, and all while castigating the entire mental health profession, to ensure you don't go see someone who actually does have proper knowledge to approach these problems, because then why do you need Scientology? Then LRH had the gall to claim that it's all backed by research and proven, and the Church will tell you this, too, though not "officially." It's bullshit. I understand some people feel they've been helped by it. That's fine, but a real therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist could probably help you more, and for a lot less money.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:41 PM on October 26, 2009


John Travolta now admits that his son was autistic, despite Scientology's denial of autism.

Scientology's denials can be deadly.

I know a "Scientologist" family. One of their sons in their late teens/early twenties came down with schizophrenia. The mother disallowed psychiatric treatment or medication. Needless to say, it all ended very badly.

I think the mother still feels some level of guilt over what happened, and of course these days the insanity of the "Church" is so well known that her "beliefs" receive a lot more ridicule then they would have ten or twenty years ago. But after having blown literally tens of thousands on their "courses" over many years, she somehow cannot bring herself to admit she this huge part of her life has been a dangerous and evil scam the whole time.
posted by moorooka at 4:54 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am as against scientology as anyone in this thread, but the papers in middleclasstool's link have a peculiar genius to their lunacy.

"Without the biogeneric meddling of those who stand outside time (who cannot yet directly influence our world and must work through others) the dwindling spiral is not nearly as automatic and self- perpetuating as it appears. There are regions even in isolated parts of the Milky Way where poets are free to poet and magicians can paint reality with their magic wands and exteriorize without body kickback. But these areas unfortunately are fewer and fewer. I will return not as a religious leader but a political one. That happens to be the requisite beingness for the task at hand. I will not be known to most of you, my activities misunderstood by many, yet along with your constant effort in the theta band I will effectively postpone and then halt a series of events designed to make happy slaves of us all."

Imagine paying hundreds of thousands of dollars and this is the big secret they reveal. And imagine how hard the recipient of the revealed secrets want them to be true.

You could view CoS as one big vanity press for LRH. Not only do they keep his works in print, but they round up readers and force them to read his mad theories. What a racket.
posted by vronsky at 5:00 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The "tech" is just a voltmeter.

Strictly speaking the e-meter is an ohmmeter (used to measure galvanic skin response. I've seen them used in demonstrations that can be pretty convincing. (The thing to remember there is that just because the needle does what they said it would do does not validate the rest of the spiel about the workings of the mind.)
posted by EmptyK at 5:02 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I will return not as a religious leader but a political one. That happens to be the requisite beingness for the task at hand. I will not be known to most of you, my activities misunderstood by many, yet along with your constant effort in the theta band I will effectively postpone and then halt a series of events designed to make happy slaves of us all.

Barack? Is that you?
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:21 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I will return not as a religious leader but a political one.

Politics is the one realm Hubbard never managed to get a grip on, even through cheating. Not for lack of trying, mind you. I believe his ultimate dream was to take over a nation-state. He made one semi-serious attempt at it when he tried to sponsor a coup in Greece in the 60s, memorialized in the book The Commodore and the Colonels (see also here for more bizarre cult meddling in Greece, after Hubbard's death). Government was just too big, even for his ego.
posted by scalefree at 5:59 PM on October 26, 2009


"The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they hold." -- Frank Zappa

This is cute, but completely wrong. A destructive cult is an organization that isolates people from the rest of the world (as Haggis describes vis a vis his wife's family), uses peer pressure and a particular set of tactics to induce obedience (isolation, various forms of discomfort, sleep deprivation, humiliation followed by "love bombing" etc.) and typically demands extreme, often total sacrifice from most members (give up all your money, possessions, be completely obedient and don't question). Religions often espouse this kind of stuff, but they don't *enforce* it (and when they do, they become destructive cults).

Pretending that Scientology is "just a new religion" ignores this and allows it to claim persecution, etc. Getting hung up on Xenu or any particular weird belief misses the point-- weird beliefs aren't what make the difference between religions and cults. What does make the difference is whether they want *all* your money (and make you pay for spiritual advancement: there's no legitimate religion that doesn't offer its basic services for free and to the poor without requiring stuff in return), *all* your time and whether they find unbelievers so threatening that they make you cut family and friends out of your life entirely and isolate you physically or socially from all outsiders.
posted by Maias at 7:05 PM on October 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


How many unemployed, and lower income people the Scientology church is desperately looking to convert to their practice??
posted by CRESTA at 7:59 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


How many real needed, low income people the Scientology church have been able to help, improve, convert etc. and qhere anyone can go and look at their records (information only, not even the f$#%ng catholic church or opus day allow that) so one can make its own opinion of the facts/reality??
posted by CRESTA at 8:03 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beyond the "all religions are cults" snark or "all cults are religions" pat equivalency,
how do defenders of Scientology reconcile the organizations extreme reticence in discussing their theology with the argument that they are just a modern religion?

I share the confusion expressed by others in this thread concerning Mr. Davis walking out of the interview. No member of a mainstream religion I have been exposed to is shy about sharing the core of their theology - and I've never seen a high ranking official within such a religion be so greatly offended about being fairly questioned concerning even a thorny bit of the theology (eg, transubstantiation, predestination). Ok - so the MSM has got it wrong - set it right! There are no volcanoes involved?

Imagine being approached by two people who invite you to attend their church. You ask the first one what they are all about and they reply: "Jesus rocks! He died so you could be saved! Come and give us money so we can spread the good word!". You ask the second what they are all about and they reply: "Can't tell - secret - come and gives us money and we'll let you know a bit - more money and some courses to know a bit more - and also if you tell them I sent you they'll tell me a little bit more too".

I've little use for much of Christianity or most religions for that matter, but there's no line to be drawn between religion and cult here?

The thing about the cloaked theology angle is that alot of the other cult indicators are a matter of degrees: eg i) while disconnection to isolate and create a dependency of the members may be endemic to Scientology, excommunication is also practiced within most Christian sects ii) while Scientology may regularly bleed their members of all of their money, this is not an uncommon story among those addicted to televangelism either. Yeah - to a certain extent these all prey on vulnerabilities within humans - but Scientology, why can't you tell us what you're building in there? It's seriously creepy.
posted by sloe at 8:57 PM on October 26, 2009


Cult responds to Paul Haggis letter.
posted by scalefree at 9:06 PM on October 26, 2009


Ziggy Kozlowski may be one of the greatest names of all time. I need to get a dog just to name it Ziggy Kozlowski.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:10 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


No member of a mainstream religion I have been exposed to is shy about sharing the core of their theology...

sloe, the short answer there is that there is a long history of what are called "mystery religions," religions in which the faithful can be given a fuller understanding of the nature of God/Whatever only when they have been adequately "prepared."

Take the Freemasons, for example. (It's been years since I studied this, so if I'm off, please somebody snap me back here.) They have their own secret name for God. This name is revealed to Freemasons one. Letter. At. A time. As they progress through the ranks. When you've learned the full name of God, then you've gone as far as you can go. There have been various Christian sects that did likewise throughout history -- we prepare you for the next revelation, then we give it to you, rinse, repeat.

What's unique (and, to me, fascinating) about CoS's situation is two things: First, this is the first mystery religion I'm aware of that charges fees (ultimately hundreds of thousands of dollars, or, alternatively, a several-lifetime work contract) to get there, and it's the first mystery religion to do so under the scrutiny of the public, at least on this scale. CoS is the first such religion to have to devise a PR strategy while indoctrinating its members. It's not terribly surprising that they'd fuck it the hell up here and there, IMO.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:14 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


thanks for the reply middleclasstool,
guess i'm in the camp that mystery religion rings more of a cult rather than religion

so - the avoidance about the tenets of theology -
the real answer from a true believer concerning the type of question that made Mr. Davis walk out would be that we aren't supposed to know that information yet? But I guess that response would testify to the veracity of the information rather than the mock offended attitude which seems to indicate that the charges are silly and unfounded.
posted by sloe at 9:54 PM on October 26, 2009


It should be noted that the space-opera stuff, outlandish as it seems to us, probably does in fact serve a purpose in keeping the insiders committed. Bear in mind that, until the OT3 documents were leaked to the public, the only way to learn about Xenu was to ascend to Operating Thetan Level 3, something that most Scientologists never manage. The only way to reach that point (other than being a celebrity and getting fast-tracked) is to spend a whole lot of money and go through years of grueling "auditing" and training exercises (which some claim resemble brainwashing techniques). In this system, by the time you heard about Xenu, you were already deeply committed to Scientology. In fact, you'd probably done some recruiting.

People in general find it easy to believe things if they have sufficient motivation, and not wanting to admit to yourself that you've been played for a fool is a strong motivation. People can rationalize all sorts of things when their self-image is at stake. And the best part is that if the thing they're rationalizing is difficult to believe, the effort required to believe it becomes part of the price they need to justify to themselves. It thus becomes self-reinforcing. You can see this happening in other religions, and also political movements and the like. Hubbard seems to have figured out how to exploit this phenomenon deliberately.
posted by baf at 10:13 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hasten to add that when I say "you can see this happening in other religions", I do not mean that all religious people are victims of this pathology. Just that most religions seem to have crankish offshoots.
posted by baf at 10:16 PM on October 26, 2009


There is an active movement by cultists to milquetoast the word cult to one that allows them free reign to be as destructively cult-y as they please.

The "Church" of Scientology was founded by a man who is a documented fraud. There is no question of the matter. The organization has taken action in numerous countries to infiltrate positions of power in the government: of particular note, they successully ran a mole program in the IRS to ensure benefit to the cult. There are numerous documented cases of physical and emotional abuse of both cult adherents and those who have left the cult. It has repeatedly abused the legal system to silence critics. Again, all documented.

The Scientologists are the very definition of a cult, from creation to current history.

It is irresponsible and foolish to not speak the truth. A Piece of Blue Sky and Bared-Faced Messiah and the alt.religion.scientology drama of the 90s can not be refuted: they are a cult organization.

Cult is a powerfully loaded term that speaks truth to power. The "Church" of Scientology is an abuser of power. Also, they're fucking nuts. It is the height of foolishness to grant them power over your freedom of speech. It is correct and proper to call them a cult.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 PM on October 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


When the church falls, they'll continue on; it'll probably bring about a renaissance for the religion, actually, along with God's own legal battle over the right to own, use & publish the "scriptures".

This is the battle that will matter, and the reason I'm thankful for judges, who, even at their most batshitinsane, are by-and-large a professionally skeptical bunch. When "freedom of religion" meets "copyright claims" as well as a still controversial "tax-exempt status," just about any judge in the nation is going to call bullshit, and rule in favor of the renegade sect, even though CoS can spend much more money on their side.

This gets us to the fun part. Does CoS then appeal? If there's a group teaching the same stuff, but without the scam and cult accoutrements, they'd almost have to, right? But the more they appeal it, the less sympathetic the judges they face are going to be, and the more educated about these issues they will be, and the bigger the story will get, etc. etc. Once this legal battle starts, the official CoS pulls into a death spiral. Can't litigate it, but can't not litigate it.

I'm an athiest, but one with a peculiar affection for the good works and moral grounding that religion can help people with as long as it's about the lessons and not about hatred, persecution, isolation, and all of the other problems. For all of the evils of Christianity, there's still something compelling about the original story of the guy who wanted people to be better towards one another, and who died sinless so that the sins of humanity could be on his shoulders. It's far from flawless, but the lesson is inherent in the story: we all do evil, but the one person who didn't understood that to the degree that he took the blame for all of it so that we might see him as an example and also be able to cleanse ourselves of sin.

As I said - pretty compelling.

I don't see anything like that in CoS, but it was written by a hack Sci-Fi novelist and I guess it's an accomplishment of sorts that it's gotten so many followers anyway. My point is that apparently some Scientologists do see greater meaning and moral lessons in all of this, but reject the evil instituted within CoS. I'm fine with that. In fact, I'm just short of crazy about that.

People found meaning and message? And then still thought about it enough to reject things harmful to other people, despite risks to themselves and their families for doing so? FANTASTIC! I'm okay with crazy - it's the evil I take umbrage towards.

CoS as it stands is a scam, and cannot survive without the scam being legally protected. If believers fight against the scam and win, that's a victory for everyone - Scientologists and Anonymous alike.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:41 PM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


"You have more fun as a follower, but you make more money as a leader."
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:46 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's kind of surprising that no Scientologist has ever thrown their $5 in and jumped into any of these fairly frequent threads...have they? Surely not all of them could be aware of how totally outclassed they'd be.

I mean I've never seen a real pro-vs.-con Scientology argument on metafilter, only con-vs.-who-gives-a-shit, or con-vs.-"all-religions-are-cults".
posted by anazgnos at 12:07 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Scientologists have had it drilled into them in recent years that they should disengage from public forums like this, that they need to leave it up to OSA to handle situations like this. Like Tommy's response of walking out on the interview, it's not very effective but it's better than the alternative. As for OSA, they've pretty much given up the Internet as a lost cause PR-wise. They're down to a handful left out of a couple hundred a decade ago.
posted by scalefree at 12:29 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bad Day continues: A French court has convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud.
posted by adamvasco at 4:31 AM on October 27, 2009


Unlike the US, France has always refused to recognise Scientology as a religion, arguing that it is a purely commercial operation designed to make as much money as it can at the expense of often vulnerable victims, the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby reports from Paris.
Sacre Bleu!
posted by fish tick at 5:19 AM on October 27, 2009


i heard there was a secret price
that David charged and it cost you twice
For audio tapes and what it takes to screen you
well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
the eighth OT and you're Clear to lift
And L Ron Hubbard tells you about Xenu

About Xenu, About Xenu, About Xenu, About Xenu


well your faith was strong but you lacked some proof
But then Tom Cruise belied his youth
You saw his fame and thought his fame had seen you
Jenna Elfman's name was there,
and Beck and Chick goddamn Corea
And who were you to say no to old Xenu

To old Xenu, to old Xenu, To old Xenu, to old Xenu

baby i've been here before
"It's not a cult" the cultists roar
But till you joined there's not one who had been you
you'd seen them fight the IRS
Protect their church under duress
Now if you leave they'll the lie and so demean you

Lies for Xenu, lies for Xenu, Lies for Xenu, lies for Xenu

well there was a time when you'd let me know
what's going on behind the show
but your family and their truth it got between you
So You charge just like a wounded bull
Till my pocket's bare and your pocket's full
And who am I to trust of those who'd screen you?

Maybe Xenu, Maybe Xenu, Maybe Xenu, Maybe Xenu,

well, there may be a true thetan
but every time I've been beaten
I've woken up with someone who had seen you
it's hard to tell, my eyes are blind
But I left my engrams far behind
There's lifetimes yet to pay in which I've been you

Pay to Xenu, Pay to Xenu, Pay to Xenu, Pay to Xenu.
posted by Sparx at 5:29 AM on October 27, 2009 [37 favorites]


Nicely done Sparx! Are we going to see this in MeFi music? Anyone?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:43 AM on October 27, 2009




Wow. I read the whole thread. Then I decided to watch the video of this Davis character that walked out of an interview.

I find myself shocked and dismayed that so many folks in this thread find it perfectly fine to mischaracterize so blatantly while damning someone else for fraud. The guy walked out of the interview with decorum. Whatever else may be the case, and I'm totally with y'all when it comes to bashing CoS, that guy handled himself. He explained the question was highly offensive, and said he'd leave if it wasn't dropped, and then did what he said he would do, when it wasn't.

Making shit like that up casts everything else said in this thread in to a questionable light, making CoS look the victim.
posted by Goofyy at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2009


Making shit like that up casts everything else said in this thread in to a questionable light, making CoS look the victim.

What? He was asked about the core beliefs of his religion. He said that that was offensive to him and he left. The issue isn't the walking out, the issue is that unlike every religion I can think of, he wouldn't explain the basic tenet of his belief system. The fact that he explained why he would walk out if he were asked this and then did so is irrelevant.
posted by ob at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just going on the record as saying Scientology sucks.






Since they're gonna come after us, I'd like to show my solidarity with you weirdos. :-)
posted by grubi at 7:10 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sparx, I regret that I have but one favourite to give to that song.
posted by Optamystic at 7:36 AM on October 27, 2009


Making shit like that up casts everything else said in this thread in to a questionable light, making CoS look the victim.

That's ridiculous. Are you not grasping the central fact that he walked off in a huff instead of answering a level question. I'm a religious person myself, and have no issues discussing any part of my religion to anyone, and would enjoy the chance to clear up a misconception on camera. So would most people I know. The fact that he doesn't address Bashir's question doesn't raise your red flag? Come on.

At any rate, perhaps they are in the midst of retconning their mythos, and by the time the next OT8 stuff is released it will not be volcanoes and DC8s but something more palatable to people. Also, is Davis an OT8 or otherwise privy to the "secrets" of Scientology via their own channels? A cruel irony of this story would be that he hasn't attained to that level yet so he's never seen the official teaching, and his loyalty to the church has prevented him from doing independent research. So, all these claims of Xenu and such seem like perversions to him simply because he's never seen them before in the context of official Scientology teaching.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2009


Reading about Scientology on the internet is a such a through the rabbit hole situation that I invariably give up after awhile due to the sheer volume of baffling wtf involved.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:56 AM on October 27, 2009


Burhanistan - the Xenu stuff is at OT3 and it's the point when people start "self-clearing".

According to this former Scientologist, Davis's "training level is unknown. His Bridge level is unknown." I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't on "The Bridge" at all. There's no point in using a bogus "path" to sqeeze money out of the insanely rich and connected - they're much more valuable as a public face than as a grunt.
posted by muddgirl at 7:59 AM on October 27, 2009


I mis-spoke - the blog I linked to is written by a renegade Scientologist, not a former Scientologist.
posted by muddgirl at 8:00 AM on October 27, 2009


that guy handled himself.

He's the national spokesman for this organization. He walked out in the middle of a Nightline interview. It's not as if some camera crew ambushed him coming out of the supermarket and shouted embarrassing questions. He was asked a calm, sober and I think reasonable question about his church's teachings. It's his job to answer. He left.
Whether he did it with decorum or not, it aint "handling himself."
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Davis's "training level is unknown. His Bridge level is unknown." I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't on "The Bridge" at all.

Heh. My suspicions confirmed. If that's actually the case then this is truly bizarre and I feel sorry for the guy.

On the other hand, the screen cap in that blog is awesome.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:08 AM on October 27, 2009


It's his religion, therefore, we/I don't get to judge whether it is reasonable or not to refuse to discuss some aspect of that religion. Just because you have justifiable contempt for that religion, doesn't mean you get to dictate what is or is not right within the context of that religion.

I stand firmly on my assessment that Davis handled the situation with decorum. Whether you find that "reasonable" or not is a different discussion. I am not, nor have I ever been, a part of any "mystery religion", so I don't have any direct experience with such things. Just because other religions are more straight-forward or simplistic, doesn't mean they must all be so.

To say "throwing his microphone to the ground like a little b****" is rubbish. You've got a wonderful case against CoS. Don't let zealotry get in the way of a rational argument.
posted by Goofyy at 8:11 AM on October 27, 2009


Goofyy, what the fuck was the spokesperson for CoS on Nightline for if he didn't want to answer questions about the CoS?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord. Comparing Scientology to a mainstream religion is the tragedy of the post-modernist pseudo intellectuals.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2009


Oh come on, Goofyy. Even Scientologists don't like Tommy Davis. Give it a rest.
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on October 27, 2009


CunningLinguist: Who/what the hell is "Nightline", that I should be in such awe and amazement that someone had the brass to walk out of an interview? Does it say somewhere that "Nightline" is super-ultra-supreme and must have its ass kissed, if they condescend to interview someone?

It was some TV show on some network. B.F.D. The subject said such questions were inherently offensive. The interviewer attempted, and failed, to reword the question. That was a failure of Brashir, not Davis. If the interview was oh, so terribly important, to either party, then things may have ended better. Apparently, neither Davis nor Brashir really gave a damn.
posted by Goofyy at 8:19 AM on October 27, 2009


How many unemployed, and lower income people the Scientology church is desperately looking to convert to their practice??

I dunno. All of them?

Many years ago, I was at the Pavilions store in Pasadena, not far from the Parsonage where Jack turned an uninitiated Hubbard on to all the high degree O.T.O. teachings. The guy in front of me had his partially unzipped backpack on the conveyor belt, and the backpack was literally overflowing with CoS materials...easily five to ten grand worth, and probably a lot more. I was a little amazed; it was the first time I had ever seen CoS materials in person, and this guy probably had spent enough to make a sizeable downpayment on a house. Obviously, he was in pretty deep.

When he made his way up to the register to buy his small basketful of items, he pulled out his wallet, and paid...in food stamps.
posted by malocchio at 8:21 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, man. Has Xenu gotten to you?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on October 27, 2009


sparx, so well-done! you even captured the Cohenesque awkwardness of meter in some of the original lines!
posted by lodurr at 8:22 AM on October 27, 2009


Muddgirl: Give it a rest? You may consider your own advice. I call it like I see it. Of course, it may be my mistake to attempt any rational discussion in a thread about something MeFites love to hate. I'll even go so far as to say "fair enough", considering I agree with the sentiment. But I clicked the link expecting to see a hissy fit, and there was no fit. I DEMAND THE PROMISED HISSY FIT!
posted by Goofyy at 8:24 AM on October 27, 2009


Gooffy: The subject said such questions were inherently offensive. The interviewer attempted, and failed, to reword the question. That was a failure of Brashir, not Davis

I want to make sure I understand what you're saying.

Are you saying that if an interviewer (the example is television, but this could clearly apply to radio, print or internet) "fails" to reword a question in a way that's acceptable to an interview subject, the interviewer has by definition failed, and must take blame for the subject's failure to answer?

Because if that's what you're saying, then all a miscreant's got to do is just say he doesn't like the way the question is worded. "Mister Madoff, why did you defraud those people?" "I find your use of the term 'defraud' highly offensive." "OK, why did you take their money with no intention of giving it back?" "I still find that offense. FAIL."

Or: "Mr. Rumsfeld, we have numerous accounts of you pushing for war with Iraq immediately after 9-11. Are they accurate?" "I deeply resent that you would even think I'd ever want to harm my country." "I'll try again: Mr. Rumsfeld, is Richard Clarke's account of your behavior in a meeting on 9/15/01 accurate when he states that you advocated attacking Iraq in retaliation?" "There you go again! I'm out of here!"
posted by lodurr at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Who/what the hell is "Nightline", that I should be in such awe and amazement that someone had the brass to walk out of an interview?

It's a venerable and respected news show. It is remarkable to see the national spokesman for an organization, whose job it is to go on such shows and who gets paid fantastically well to handle all sorts of questions, walk out in mid-interview. I'm not sure why this is a difficult concept to grasp.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:36 AM on October 27, 2009


If you want hissy fits, you can dig up the clips mentioned in these articles, where in (a) Tommy Davis storms away from another interview, and in (b) stalks the reporter from a and harasses him until he explodes.

The Nightline interview was not the first time a Scientologist has been asked about Xenu. Hell, it's not the first time Tommy Davis had been asked about Xenu. If Tommy Davis were an actual, you know, Scientologist, he would be better-trained to control an interview. The fact that he's just a guy who's handsome and charming and donates lots of money means he's the Face of New Scientology. From wikipedia:
In March 2009, Davis was interviewed by investigative journalist Nathan Baca for KESQ-TV and was again asked about the OT III texts.[47] Davis told Baca "I'm familiar with the material," and called it "the confidential scriptures of the Church".[47] When John Carmichael, the president of the Church of Scientology of New York, was asked about the Xenu story in the September 9, 2007, edition of the Daily Telegraph, he said "That's not what we believe."[48] When asked directly about the Xenu story by Ted Koppel on ABC's Nightline, Scientology leader David Miscavige said that he was taking things Hubbard said out of context.[15] However, in a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, Mike Rinder, the director of the church's Office of Special Affairs, said that "It is not a story, it is an auditing level," when asked about the validity of the Xenu story.[49]
Mike Rinder, by the way, has subsequently disassociated from the church and from his family members that are still Scientologists.
posted by muddgirl at 8:39 AM on October 27, 2009


lodurr: Well, it is a two-way relationship, and people on the left seem to support the current White House in snubbing FOX News citing persistent bias on that side. I think people are more than justified if they walked out on O'Reilly or when Glenn Beck asks something like, "I know that you are not, but I have to ask, why have you not denied that you are supporting our enemies?"

Of course we can come to our own conclusions as to whether the question truly was offensive and whether the interviewee ducked it or not.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:44 AM on October 27, 2009


i just object to the 'free pass' idea. As Gooffy phrased it, basically, all you have to do to get out of answering is claim offense. That basically means that no one has moral sanction to ask hard questions.

I watched the interview, and I don't really see an equivalence to what Bashir is asking and Glenn Beck saying 'I know you say you don't, but why do you hate America?' Because Davis never actually came out and said the Xenu stuff wasn't true -- he said it was offensive to be asked about it. He mumbled some stuff about lies on the internet, but he didn't actually say that the Xenu stuff was a lie. It's splitting hairs, but that's what spokesmen get paid to do, split hairs. All Bashir's doing in that final followup is establishing that Davis isn't going to answer, and Davis plays the offense card.

If 'it's a mystery religion and we don't talk about our mysteries' is Davis's final defense, then he needs to be prepared for the fact that handling it this way makes his mystery religion look kind of petty and lame.
posted by lodurr at 8:58 AM on October 27, 2009


Given what muddgirl just posted, I highly suspect planned theatrics on both sides. Interviewers are trained to deal with refusal or evasion of a question by getting it on the record and moving on to the next subject. If the producers at Nightline didn't plan around the probability that Davis would storm off at repeated questions about Xenu, I'll eat my hat.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:02 AM on October 27, 2009


Actually, in the previous interview, he answered the Xenu question (sort of), and stormed off when the interviewer either referred to Scientology as a cult or asked if Scientology was a cult.
posted by muddgirl at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2009


Yeah you fuckers think you're pretty smart now but I'm going through the tech gradients like nobody's business - I'm already at Operating Thetan IV and this shit will blow your mind

I know more about thetans than you can possibly imagine.
posted by rokusan at 9:12 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which, it should be clear that I have few sympathies towards Davis or scientology in this matter, they are a dangerous organization with wacky and dangerous beliefs. But television news is now in the entertainment business, and I don't buy for a minute that Davis's probable tantrum wasn't considered by producers. It's all theater folks.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2009


Goofyy: I don't understand where your indigence comes from.
posted by ob at 9:18 AM on October 27, 2009


indignation

Damn
posted by ob at 9:19 AM on October 27, 2009


Goofyy is an indigenous person, as well as an indigent.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:20 AM on October 27, 2009


Isn't it pretty typical for interviewees to submit a list of acceptable/non-acceptable topics in advance. If "Xenu" was on the non-acceptable list (or, probably, "Religious matters that are considered private and confidential by the CoS"), I wouldn't be surprised if the walk-out was planned for.
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on October 27, 2009


If Nightline's producers were expecting this, then it still makes the CoS look like a sham. Their "tech" is ostensibly for controlling situations and not letting others make a mockery out of you, and the failure of their spokesman to live up to that is really damning.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:28 AM on October 27, 2009


A better way to respond to that question would have been, "you are misinterpreting some parts of how Scientology works. What's more, there are specific, very good reasons as to why certain aspects of our religion are not taught until one has been sufficiently prepared. I'm afraid that I cannot meaningfully answer that question, as to do so would not only violate my religion, but would also be incomprehensible to non-Scientologists such as yourself."

I have no sympathy for Scientology, but I don't think walking off was the best way to handle that. I understand intellectually that he's trying to throw the blame on Bashir for even daring to ask that question, but I don't see how that "aggressive defensiveness" helped his cause.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:31 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't it pretty typical for interviewees to submit a list of acceptable/non-acceptable topics in advance.

It's pretty typical for celebs being interviewed by People Magazine to do so, I believe. I hope it's not yet typical in news reports and documentaries. But then, I've been caught underestimating the depth of our cultural plunge before...
posted by steambadger at 9:35 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


When talking to the former president, please don't mention:

Deficit
War
9/11
Torture
Environmental concerns
Business
Foreign affairs
Domestic affairs
Affairs
Mountains
Large birds
Katrina
Jazz
Minorities
His replacement
His predecessor
His family
Any friends
Hair

Please do ask about:

Puppies
posted by shakespeherian at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interviews are a dialog. Journalists know that there are some topics where the source just won't go on the record. Badgering the source is just going to result in more variations of the same non-answers you got the first time. So what you do is dutifully get the non-answer on tape (or disk these days) and move on to the next topic where you get a different non-answer.

The point of that part of the interview wasn't to get an answer from Davis. It was obvious from round one that he wasn't going to answer the question no mater how many times Bashir rephrased it. The point was to provoke Davis into an on-camera blowout. Davis is an asshole for supporting a corrupt and malevolent organization, but the producers of Nightline are assholes for provoking that blowout to give their story more zip. When Martin Bashir goes into his extended spiel about journalism and responsibility, it's not to convince Davis, it's playing to the audience.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:24 AM on October 27, 2009


Goofyy: "I find myself shocked and dismayed that so many folks in this thread find it perfectly fine to mischaracterize so blatantly while damning someone else for fraud."

Shocked. SHOCKED!
posted by shmegegge at 11:29 AM on October 27, 2009


The point of that part of the interview wasn't to get an answer from Davis. It was obvious from round one that he wasn't going to answer the question no mater how many times Bashir rephrased it.

I'm kind of surprised there is any level of apologism going on here about that. Bashir asked the question to get confirmation or further information. The blowup was a bonus.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 AM on October 27, 2009


I find myself shocked and dismayed that so many folks in this thread find it perfectly fine to mischaracterize so blatantly while damning someone else for fraud.

Yes, but our mischaracterizations are free. Also: fewer aliens!
posted by scody at 11:32 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]



If Nightline's producers were expecting this, then it still makes the CoS look like a sham. Their "tech" is ostensibly for controlling situations and not letting others make a mockery out of you, and the failure of their spokesman to live up to that is really damning.


You know what else is damning? The big CoS building in Hollywood that you can see from Amoeba - it's got these multi-colored lights on the outside that come on at night. Sometimes some of them are burnt out! They call that being at cause over MEST?
posted by anazgnos at 11:40 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Their "tech" is ostensibly for controlling situations and not letting others make a mockery out of you, and the failure of their spokesman to live up to that is really damning.

I've read enough of their stuff to know that this is the story they tell. (And could go on a real digression about it, because I find that aspect of it fascinating, but will try to keep this brief.)

I've seen CoS characters who were actually really good at gaming personal interactions. They looked like preachers or salesmen or some hybrid thereof. Which is to say, it almost looked natural.

OTOH, I've also read about the technicques that they teach for gaming personal interactions. E.g., the big, loud, fake-laugh thing that you'll see CoS drones do sometimes in the middle of a heated argument. It's supposed to un-hinge an opponent in some way -- Hubbard actually had some weird rationale about exciting thetans or something, and yes it can in fact be creepy as hell. But in most cases the instinctive reaction is "are you FOR REAL?"

(see this video for an example of the Big Fake Laugh in action, as practiced by a more typical CoS thug. It's also got some great examples of other CoS-approve destabilization techniques like Close Talking and Accusations of Felony Crime and Pedophilia.)

So I guess my point is that all this interpersonal gaming stuff they teach, doesn't seem to really work -- unless you've got a talent for it already. It only works with the faithful; to "meat" like us, it just looks deranged. That's probably why Tommy Davis doesn't use it.
posted by lodurr at 11:45 AM on October 27, 2009


KirkJobSluder, it sounds to me like you're saying 'it's all theater so it doesn't really matter.' Or maybe 'it's all theater so they're both assholes and we're naive if we expect better.'

It seems to me that the fact that it's all theater nowadays makes it matter more that someone who's being badgered hangs in there to make his case.
posted by lodurr at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2009


see this video for an example of the Big Fake Laugh in action, as practiced by a more typical CoS thug.

Man, I feel bad for seeing those people. They seem like they were fresh out of audit sessions and just eager to hurl that crap they "learned" at someone else. "What are your crimes!?" That was three years ago so I wonder how much debt they are in now.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:55 AM on October 27, 2009




Isn't it pretty typical for interviewees to submit a list of acceptable/non-acceptable topics in advance.

No, not at all. At fluffy celeb shows, maybe. But not on a news program.


It was obvious from round one that he wasn't going to answer the question no mater how many times Bashir rephrased it. The point was to provoke Davis into an on-camera blowout.

I disagree. I think the point was to make it absolutely crystal clear that he wasn't going to answer a most reasonable question. I doubt Bashir really thought he'd walk out. I mean, if I were doing the interview I would have expected the guy to be prepared with an answer to basic questions.
Then again, if he's walked out on interviews before, maybe Bashir was indeed trying to goad him into it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2009


Burhanistan: I'm kind of surprised there is any level of apologism going on here about that. Bashir asked the question to get confirmation or further information. The blowup was a bonus.

I'm kind of surprised that you can't see something that's blatant, stupid, and obvious.

What confirmation? What further information? Davis emphatically and clearly confirmed that he wasn't going to go on the record on those topics in response to two questions in a row. Do you really think that he's going to change his mind and spill the beans on the third variation of the question?

So we either have to assume that Martin Bashir is both stupid and incompetent in assuming that a source will magically change his mind on round three, or is provoking the source into a blowup.

lodurr: KirkJobSluder, it sounds to me like you're saying 'it's all theater so it doesn't really matter.' Or maybe 'it's all theater so they're both assholes and we're naive if we expect better.'

The problem here is that sometimes there are legitimate reasons why a person may not want to go on the record regarding a particular line of questioning. The asshole in front of a camera not willing to address a particular issue may be you or me sometime in the future. The fact that we may really, really, really all hate scientology doesn't make manipulative television news an inherent good.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:06 PM on October 27, 2009


The problem here is that sometimes there are legitimate reasons why a person may not want to go on the record regarding a particular line of questioning.

We should deal in specifics and not generalizations. In this case, there's evidence to suggest that Davis really had no clear idea about what the OT teachings were about. So what if Bashir was goading him. He should've been more adept at answering. The fact remains is that he was asked to confirm or refute information and he didn't. Apologizing for that is really missing the point of all this.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2009


KJS, I think you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, frankly. It sounds to me as though you're saying that we have to give up on any idea of pressing anyone to answer difficult questions. Or maybe it's just that the act of doing so is always immediately suspect. And similarly, that just refusing to answer difficult questions on the basis of personal offense is a defense that we just have to accept, more or less whenever we're presented with it.

Anyway, I've watched the video, and I can buy that Bashir was trying to call his bluff. I don't really care. At that point, it's a game and the way that they play it tells me things about the participants. I still maintain that Davis is playing with a very, very weak hand here: He's weaving together non-denial-denials ('there are lies on the internet', paired with 'it's against my beliefs to talk about this'), and then threatening to walk out, which is like pulling a gun in that once you make the threat you have to be prepared to follow through. (I would personally say it's to his credit that he does follow through, but I also think it was a mistake to make the threat in the first place. But whatever.)

Bashir's position is not at all analogous to the Glenn Beck hypothetical you proposed earlier, because Davis never denies anything -- he just says he won't talk about it. I think the better analogy (as I suggested) would be if you asked someone a direct question about something they've done or said and they answer "my religious beliefs say I can't talk about that." Say, if you ask Bernie Madoff whether he stole the money and he says "As an observant Jew I won't discuss practicing usury with my own people," and you just leave it at that.

We've got an aspect of this religion -- mystery religion or not -- that most people regard as quite insane, that flies in the face of logic and known science, and we're not allowed to ask about it just because it's a mystery? Even though this religion sells itself using the most rank and disingenuous scientism, which makes the fact of this bizarre hidden mystery quite exceptionally hypocritical and the scientism of the pitch all the more cynical?

I understand that you or I could well be placed under the lights by an unscrupulous host. If we are, I'm sure we'll each of us do the best we know how to do in that circumstance. But are you seriously telling me that if the host asks you factual and accurately-grounded questions which, if you answer them truthfully, would incriminate you -- that you should be issued a pass for walking out on him? (Seems to me the better solution would have been to not do the interview. People do that w/ O'Reilly every day.)
posted by lodurr at 12:23 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: We should deal in specifics and not generalizations. In this case, there's evidence to suggest that Davis really had no clear idea about what the OT teachings were about. So what if Bashir was goading him. He should've been more adept at answering. The fact remains is that he was asked to confirm or refute information and he didn't. Apologizing for that is really missing the point of all this.

Really, are we obligated like a schoolyard battle to pick one side or another? It can be both true that Davis is an asshole, and true that Nightline and Martin Bashir are generally manipulative in structuring their interviews to support the narrative they want to present. It might be a good thing they manipulated him, but it's still manipulation.

The only apologism here is coming from people who are arguing that this example, rather unique and extraordinary in broadcast news, represents an unbiased perspective. And I don't accept that as the case.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2009


Comparing Scientology to a mainstream religion is the tragedy of the post-modernist pseudo intellectuals.

I'm pretty pseudo, occasionally tragic, but I'm not very pomo. I hope I qualify.

I don't know if there's much to philosophize about, but I really don't see much difference between 1970's Hubbard and 1840's Joseph Smith. That's enough to lead me to suspect that it wasn't much different for earlier religions, either, which only became "mainstream" and "acceptable" once the lens of history got long enough to provide fuzzy credibility.
posted by rokusan at 12:40 PM on October 27, 2009


... but I really don't see much difference between 1970's Hubbard and 1840's Joseph Smith.

Yes, but where do you go with that comparison? Are you trying to argue that Mormons are nice non-dangerous people now and so will Scientologists be someday, so all the wacky abusive stuff they do now is excused because a modern mainstream religion used to do it too?

There are an awful lot of people who thing the bad shit Mormons have done in the past was pretty bad shit. (Like, say, stealing indian children, abusing their wives, forcing arranged marriages onto young girls, etc.) I'll be among the first to tell you that most of the mormons I've ever known were fine, upstanding people who I'd be happy to trust or help*, but that doesn't excuse bad shit done in the past that was driven by their religion.

If that's true for Mormonism, it should be true for Scientology, too. Or Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, you name it.

Then I would ask you to take into consideration some facts that are available to you with a little research: Namely that the CoS has in fact been particularly nasty and pernicious in many ways, and with a joy at malice that I have a hard time picturing in Joseph Smith. See Five Fresh Fish's comments, above.

Specifics do matter, sometimes. The specifics of the CoS are pretty effing nasty.

--
*I'm sure I've known some I wouldn't think that about, but none that I've known were Mormons.

posted by lodurr at 12:56 PM on October 27, 2009


I don't know if there's much to philosophize about, but I really don't see much difference between 1970's Hubbard and 1840's Joseph Smith. That's enough to lead me to suspect that it wasn't much different for earlier religions, either, which only became "mainstream" and "acceptable" once the lens of history got long enough to provide fuzzy credibility.

The main difference, of course, is that mainstream religions don't give you spiritual ranks (aside from clergy levels, which is not the same as spiritual attainment and is rarely billed as such) that you buy specific material for.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:13 PM on October 27, 2009


Yes, there's something a little ruthless about the whole level thing. There are plenty of religions where you work your way up by mastering dogma or technique or by making the right obeisances, doing the right services, or just consistently donating enough wealth. But the CoS has made a downright mechanical business model of it.

In that sense, they're the most essentially capitalist of all religions I know of. I wonder what Weber would make of them.
posted by lodurr at 1:20 PM on October 27, 2009


rokusan: I really don't see much difference between 1970's Hubbard and 1840's Joseph Smith. That's enough to lead me to suspect that it wasn't much different for earlier religions, either, which only became "mainstream" and "acceptable" once the lens of history got long enough to provide fuzzy credibility.

The differences I'm seeing is that e.g. early-stage Christianity kept secrets because otherwise the Romans would kill them, whereas Scientologists keep secrets because otherwise the CoS will kill them; early-stage Christianity mandated giving all you had to the poor, whereas Scientology mandates giving all you have to the CoS.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


lodurr: Well, you are drawing some conclusions I find to be unwarranted here. I'm saying as a practical matter, a source who refuses to go on the record regarding an issue isn't going to change their tune over the course of an interview. So you have a real opportunity cost to weigh in that case. Do you continue to shoot the moon, risk a premature end to the interview, and hope that your source will have a epiphany and change their mind? Or do you move on to other pressing issues that need to be discussed?

I'm not saying that journalists should never press their sources on camera. I'm saying that doing so is a deliberate choice that sacrifices empathy and rapport for a confrontation. Martin Bashir knew exactly what he was doing when he reframed the question twice, and knew that his source was growing more hostile by the moment. Perhaps that confrontation is a good thing, but it certainly was engaged by both both sides of the interview.

Of course, the analogy to Bernie Madoff is off-base on both sides, first because a belief in Xenu isn't a felony, and second because Madoff has a constitutional right to refuse to answer questions regarding criminal guilt, and probably should do so if he expects an appeal.

You can ask anything you want. But outside of a courtroom, you can't expect or compel an answer.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:37 PM on October 27, 2009


Well, Madoff actually does not have a constitutional right to refuse to answer questions, unless he's engaged in a criminal process. Outside that process, he has a practical right to refuse.

If I'm drawing unwarranted conclusions about your views, I'm sorry. I'm trying to understand what they are. You're spending a lot of time & effort on this and maybe it's just that you're engaged, but one of the (it seems unwarranted) conclusions I was de facto drawing was that you were making a value judgement on the matter. Since it looks like you werent, I apologize.

OTOH, I think the Madoff analogy is apt, and I think you're losing part of it in your recasting. The CoS is, in fact, scamming people: It's selling this scientistic (i.e., scientific-sounding, wearing the trappings of science, with no real scientific or technical basis) package that promises the ability to cure yourself of ailments both spritual and physical, and it's selling it in large part on the strength of it being more than mere religion: It's science. In that context, I think it's not just perfectly fine, but in fact very important to ask them to reconcile that with a story that everything sources back to some bad stuff that Galactic Emperor Xenu did billions of years ago.

IOW, I think when you lie to sell a product, it's fair to be called out on it.
posted by lodurr at 2:00 PM on October 27, 2009


There have been a lot of Christian sects and sub-sects over the past two millenia that are based on concealed mysteries to which you got access through some manner of payment (either material or spiritual). Some have persisted, even prospered in a relatively small way, but the clear winners of the followers sweepstakes have always been the sects that offered more openness. (Viz. the Reformation, and changes in the Catholic church to compete with the idea that you should all be allowed to read your own bible.)

It's really a lot like evolution in an ecological context. You find varying degrees of mystery-keeping, with varying strategies for getting "payment" out of the participants: Judaism has the Talmudic traditions which you "pay" to enter into through years of study and service (and having a penis); Islam has the aracana of islamic law that must be interpreted by highly trained imams; Catholicism has orders like Opus Dei that may not have truly secret teachings, but do promise a sort of secret wisdom; and it goes on and on. Still, though, the greatest number of converts seem to flock to the religions that are accessible.

It's comparable to reproductive strategies. Some animals and plants expend great energy to ensure that a single offspring survives. I see the mystery religions as analogous to them. Whereas others scatter their seed willy-nilly -- rely on volume to make up the difference. There's a continuum, of course.

Mormonism is one of the few successful mass-religions that retains a strong mystery component, and note how they downplay that in public forums.

Again, I have to agree with burhanistan that what's most intriguing about Scientology in that context is the raw capitalism of their approach: Pay us and we'll tell you. I can't think of any other religion that's been that blatant about it. Even when Catholics were selling indulgences, it was clear to a lot clergy that was wrong, by their own dogma.
posted by lodurr at 2:13 PM on October 27, 2009


It's comparable to reproductive strategies. Some animals and plants expend great energy to ensure that a single offspring survives. I see the mystery religions as analogous to them. Whereas others scatter their seed willy-nilly -- rely on volume to make up the difference. There's a continuum, of course.

In this context, I can't help but think of the Parable of the Sower when I read that.
posted by baf at 2:41 PM on October 27, 2009


Namely that the CoS has in fact been particularly nasty and pernicious in many ways, and with a joy at malice that I have a hard time picturing in Joseph Smith.

Get back to me when they've got something comparable to organising the genocide of the Cathars, or filled mosques in Jerusalem with blood to "the knees of horses", or destroyed the cultural artifacts of the South American civilisations.

The thing that's exceptional about religions in a modern Western context is how nice they are in comparison with their own history.
posted by rodgerd at 2:58 PM on October 27, 2009


It would be just swell if all y'all would quit legitimizing this fraudulent cult by using the term "religion" when discussing it.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:09 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, rogerd, we're not supposed to complain about anything that happens in the present if something worse ever happend in the past?
posted by lodurr at 3:17 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lads, Ladies, I think y'all missed the $1M question here:

HOW THICK?
posted by mr.marx at 4:14 PM on October 27, 2009


According to the author of Sects, Cults and Alternative Religions, one thing which distinguishes CoS from other sects, cults and alternative religions is that they tend to deny basic facts about their programs.
posted by ovvl at 8:55 PM on October 27, 2009


ovvl, hmm... trying to think about how they do that differently from other mystery religions, and here's what I come to:

Mystery religions as a rule say "we have stuff you're not going to learn until you pay these costs." You don't really understand Talmud until you've studied for years with good rabbis; Sufi's say you don't really understand Truth until you win the ability to do that through mastery of yourself (or something, I still don't quite get what they believe about truth); etc. Usually, though, they're happy to tell you what the deeper truth means before you get there. (E.g., "Do as you would have done." Or: Kind of like "42" without the question.)

CoS says that, but they also bait and switch: When you get to the mystery, it means something different from what you were previously told.

This is the Heinlein connection, BTW: it's at the center of his idea of organized religion. Discordians pretend to do this, too, sometimes, but they do it with a sly wink that says 'this is meant to teach you something.'
posted by lodurr at 5:00 AM on October 28, 2009


lodurr: "Mystery religions as a rule say "we have stuff you're not going to learn until you pay these costs." You don't really understand Talmud until you've studied for years with good rabbis; Sufi's say you don't really understand Truth until you win the ability to do that through mastery of yourself (or something, I still don't quite get what they believe about truth); etc. Usually, though, they're happy to tell you what the deeper truth means before you get there. (E.g., "Do as you would have done." Or: Kind of like "42" without the question.)"

Mystery religions? huh? You don't have to understand the Talmud to be a Jew. And if you want to know something about the Talmud, no Rabbi is going to lie to you about it. That the Talmud is largely a rabbinical study is true, but there's something distinctly... meh... about calling Judaism a mystery religion, or any religion a mystery religion. And that there's an indirect implication of similarity between judaism's talmudic scholarship and CoS is also pretty meh.
posted by shmegegge at 7:34 AM on October 28, 2009


Those were poor examples, you're right. Probably that I instinctively resorted to them illustrates how hard it is to find a bona-fide mystery religion these days. Anyway, what I was talking about w.r.t. Talmud was the internal idea of it. From an objective perspective, you probably could understand Talmud (in particular) better for not being a Jew, if you're a sufficiently careful and dedicated scholar, since it's all there in such exhaustive detail and yes, any rabbi ought to be willing to talk with you about it.

So, better example, maybe, is Masonic secrets. I'm having a hard time thinking of other things. I was really with those examples trying to get at practical mysteries, I suppose: Stuff that's a mystery in practice, because you have to "pay" to win it.

Which is another difference, though not as distinctive a one: In most mystery religions, the "payment" has been very personal. You have to give something up, or engage in some struggle (or at least hard work) to win the truth. In CoS, that struggle is purely commercial: You work hard to make the money, and pay the money. There is more to it, of course: You have to do the auditing. But that's more a matter of sitting there and letting yourself be put into a mild trance for an hour or two. It's really all about the money. My sense is that if you pay your money, you'll get your level.
posted by lodurr at 7:42 AM on October 28, 2009


another analogy: CoS treats attainment of the mystery like elective surgery that you pay for, instead of hard work that you do.
posted by lodurr at 7:44 AM on October 28, 2009


... and (and I'll shut up after this) I don't mean to speak against Five Fresh Fish's point about "cult" versus "religion". I'm using the term "religion" in a technical sense. Religions can also be cults. When they are, I agree with him that we should point it out.
posted by lodurr at 8:01 AM on October 28, 2009


Cults are just baby religions. They all start out a little wild.
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on October 28, 2009


artw, that doesn't correspond with anything I know about the formation of religions.
posted by lodurr at 8:16 AM on October 28, 2009


artw, that doesn't correspond with anything I know about the formation of religions.

Exactly. The comparison to cults is usually rather facile and used as a lowbrow rhetorical slam. Look at the story of Jesus and his disciples. Only a very few people such as his disciples could get close to Jesus, the rest could only see him as he passed through. His demands and movements were just too hard for most people to follow. It was only later that Christianity became something institutional that encouraged more followers. Contrast that to a cult like Scientology or the Moonies where getting followers is one of the main aims of the organizations. It's upside down from the glib "cults are just baby religions" line.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Burhanistan: Exclusivity in young religions seems to me to usually serve the function of self-protection: You don't necessarily want other people to know what you do because it would be dangerous or inconvenient for you if they even knew you were doing something different. Whereas something like The People's Temple or Unification Church is (as you say) out to get whoever they can. That's just another way of seeing what you're saying, I think.
posted by lodurr at 9:17 AM on October 28, 2009


Exclusivity in young religions seems to me to usually serve the function of self-protection

There's a simpler explanation - the point of religion is to offer answers to questions that are difficult or impossible to answer logically (Why are we here? Why is there suffering? What does it all mean? etc.).

An exclusive answer, or one difficult to get or understand, is "special". It's the same trick Bernie Madoff used to attract investors: "Sorry, we're closed to regular investors. Only special people get in."
posted by msalt at 9:43 AM on October 28, 2009


Only a heathen would say that, lodurr.
posted by grubi at 9:44 AM on October 28, 2009


grubi, and your point....?

actually, I think "heathen" is exactly what it says on my Facebook profile. And my wife's. though hers used to say "apostate."
posted by lodurr at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2009


msalt, you're describing the function of exclusivity in cults, and what you're saying is entirely compatible w/ Burhanistan's view.

Also, the first premise doesn't imply the second. Yes, that's a usual function of religions; but a lot of people practicing a new religion are happy to have that answer for themselves and don't feel a need to spread it around. Ergo, no need to attract followers. But yes need to protect livelihood and family, so no, we don't tell everyone in the neighborhood that we strip naked in our basements every fortnight and Call Down the Moon while reciting Gardnerian verse.
posted by lodurr at 10:02 AM on October 28, 2009


I think "heathen" is exactly what it says on my Facebook profile. And my wife's. though hers used to say "apostate."

Man, I am getting tired of all these Halloween costume AskMes!
posted by rokusan at 10:13 AM on October 28, 2009


Certainly, many Wiccans are somewhat reluctant to talk about the multifaceted relationships between sexuality, doctrine, and practice because that's the sort of thing that taken out of context and distorted can result in legal sanctions and lost custody. Likewise, modern Buddhism seems to be more than willing to debate the role of teachers in-house, but are reluctant to see that become fodder for scandal.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009


OK, OK, so it was sexy apostate.
posted by lodurr at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009


Neil Gaiman doesn't talk about Scientology because he's still involved. Gaiman has been funding the cult for years and is listed as a Patron with Honors in 2006 and is a Founding patron, which is a lifelong affiliation. Just this year, Gaiman was photographed at Wealden House, the Scientology sanctuary run by his sister Lizzy Calcione in East Grinstead. Gaiman's other sister is Claire Edwards, head of recruiting worldwide. The Scientology blogs have gushed about Gaiman's involvement for years. When it comes to Scientology, you're either in or you're disconnected, just as Paul Haggis described. When Paul Haggis' in laws left Scientology, he and his wife were ordered to disconnect from them... she was not supposed to speak to her own parents! Every member of Neil Gaiman's family is a scientologist and so is he. The reason he keeps silent is that it's bad for business to admit he's a Scientiologist. Many people did not realize Paul Haggis was a scientologist, a lot of them hide it until they are outed, as Tom Cruise and Beck did. In Cruise's case, they disconnected the woman who they felt was responsible for the leak, disconnected her from her own children! Scientologist are taught to lie and manipulate reality to suit them and Neil Gaiman was raised with these techniques. Scientologists lie about their disconnect policy and hide their status until they're cornered. Neil Gaiman will never ever say a word against Scientology, even though they are now violating the civil rights of gay men and woman by supporting prop 8. Gaiman's a coward who likes his easy life.
http://forums.whyweprotest.net/15-media/dont-mess-russians-37205/5/
posted by Esalen at 11:29 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


CunningLinguist: Holy cow - is that Mormon cartoon accurate? I knew about the plates and such, but not the cosmology.

Seriously, that cartoon blew my mind way more than any of the wacky Clam nonsense.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:37 PM on October 28, 2009


Gaiman has been funding the cult for years and is listed as a Patron with Honors in 2006 and is a Founding patron

Sonofabitch.

Guess I won't be supporting him by reading his books any more. That sucks, but not nearly as much as Scientology sucks.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:37 AM on October 29, 2009


Gaiman has been funding the cult for years

Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure
he is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 AM on October 29, 2009


Gaiman has been funding the cult for years and is listed as a Patron with Honors in 2006 and is a Founding patron

Sonofabitch.

Guess I won't be supporting him by reading his books any more. That sucks, but not nearly as much as Scientology sucks.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:37 AM on October 29 [+] [!]


The one supporting link provided doesn't resolve, the comment itself sounds a wee bit bananacakes, and comes from a poster who signed up just to make it. Why do you automatically assume it's true? There's absolutely no proof provided here.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:18 AM on October 29, 2009


Seriously, here are the google results for "Neil Gaiman" plus "Patron with Honors". It seems to be mostly comment spam from nutters with nothing even resembling proof.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:29 AM on October 29, 2009


Flagged as other, but now I think that was a mistake. I thought it was a scam of some kind, but when I dig into things a bit I discover that the domain seems to have been an anti-scientology forum at some point in the recent past.

Google "forums.whyweprotest.net gaiman"

My Google-fu does not include directly poking the Google Cache, but I did track down a comment on a cinema blog which purports to be the text of the page esalen links to. It includes some links to other sites that I don't have time to check out this morning.

It's a little hard to square Gaiman's public behavior with being an active CoS member, but the link above does list some verifiable sources -- specific CoS periodical references are given, which someone could look up if they had access. It makes the same claim that Gaiman's sisters are active members, and cites his name as appearing in in lists of auditors certified in 1988, several years after he's supposed to have been classified as an SP in '83.

There are also twice-removed rumors, e.g.: 'Or go to the Scientology Celebrity blog and search Neil Gaiman who is listed on the Scientologists blog with links and Scienos gushing over how the "tech" works so well for Neil, including this remark from Scieno Grahame when asked about Neil: "My answer is that I heard from a close relative of his that he (Neil Gaiman) is taking services at Flag."' So it wouldn't be easy to sort it out. I know I don't have the time (or the stomach).

So, maybe not so crazy. But it does seem to be a bit of tarring with the same brush.
posted by lodurr at 5:05 AM on October 29, 2009


Guess I won't be supporting him by reading his books any more.

Can I have your copies of his books, then? I love profiting from others' gullibility!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:14 AM on October 29, 2009


It's only gullibility if it's a scam.

If the info is just plain wrong, it's credulousness.

And if it's someone behaving in a way we'd regard as rash because they feel like they've found clay feet on an idol, then... well, I don't know a word for that. But there probably is one.
posted by lodurr at 5:41 AM on October 29, 2009


None of that comes even close to being proof. Show me scans of these supposed publications. Get someone reputable on record saying any of this. It all sounds like Alex Jones level woo-woo wittering at this point.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:41 AM on October 29, 2009


It's not Alex Jones level because there are actual references that someone could check, if they had the time and resources to do that check.

I.e., it's not woo until someone checks the documents. Which I don't personally have the time or resources to do. But I do think it's kind of odd to dismiss a claim because no one has yet checked the sources.
posted by lodurr at 7:07 AM on October 29, 2009


Okay, here's the same forum's thread from when David Gaiman died, starting from the page where they talk about Neil. It reads like conspiracy freaks to me. The proof offered is pretty shit and incoherently described.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:07 AM on October 29, 2009


Steve Bissette: according to Neil, this is all bullshit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:24 AM on October 29, 2009


Well, I would ask: Proof of what? When you take apart what's asserted, all that really remains standing is this:

1. Gaiman appears to have donated about $250K over the past several years.
2. He was listed as graduating from auditing courses in 1988, with the inference that the c. 1983 SP "declare" against him was no longer in force by that date.

The other stuff is what I was earlier going to call "breathless jumping to conclusions", but I'll go along with "reads like conspiracy freaks." Thing is, conspiracies often have just a bit of evidence that's real tucked in there. It's like the trees growing on cliff faces.

The claims I filtered out seem to be pretty verifiable/falsifiable.

So the next question I would ask is this: If either one of these claims is true, what do they mean?

That's what we can't know, but we do know Gaiman's public behavior, and we know that publicly he's a free-speech champion and has a lot of close perennial associates who've never spoken ill of him.

The claim of giving $$ is a bit disquieting, but given who he is and how much he's pulling in these days, and considering that the figure covers at least 2 years, that's a lot less than what they would get out of him if he's active. Shit, Will Smith gave them over $100K in a single year and he's not even a member.

It's also plausible that he's deemed it more politic to pay than to disassociate from his family. It would gall me to do it, but I might do the same.

So I guess where I come down on this is that I don't find the falsifiable/verifiable claims to be either incredible or damning, though I admit they do raise squicky twisties in my gut. I'd rather face the possibilities than just deny them.
posted by lodurr at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2009


Well, Lentrohamsanin, that pretty much totally invalidates my entire post! Could have saved myself the trouble with a preview.

Despire my tortured rationalizations, I'm relieved.

For the non-link-followers, Bissette emailed Gaiman and asked him point-blank about the account, and Gaiman said it was "horseshit." (Not clear whether "horseshit" is Gaiman or Bissette, but not sure it matters.)
posted by lodurr at 7:35 AM on October 29, 2009


1) Gaiman appears to have donated about $250K over the past several years.

Nope. We know that someone is claiming that "THE GAIMAN FAMILY USA" gave 250K. No scan of the page from Impact to to prove that this is real, and no proof that "THE GAIMAN FAMILY USA" is Neil Gaiman's family.

2. Claim made, with no scan to back it up. Given that this is someone claiming to have access to Scientology materials, rather than something more generally available and verifiable, I need to at least see physical scans before I'll grant the possibility that Neil was still taking courses in the mid 80s. Even then, pretty easy to shop.

These are extraordinary/slanderous claims that require a high level of proof before I'll credit them.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:37 AM on October 29, 2009


Ah, should've previewed myself!
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:38 AM on October 29, 2009


I favorited esalen's first ever comment to metafilter precisely because it felt so ... weird, so illustrative of why the CoS's intense secrecy is so problematic. And because I could see that it was going to give this thread new life

I've read very little of Neil Gaiman's work but, in my book, any friend of Terry Pratchett's is a man I'd happily buy a beer. But he was born into Scientology (a la Beck) and he has not overtly denounced it (apparently) ... and I'm sorry, but this kind of bugs me.

I'm not saying I'm proud of this attitude. It just is what it is. The CoS creeps me out, deeply, and as such, my impression of anyone connected with it is "colored". That said, who knows what kind of weird shit the Neil Gaimans and Beck Hansens of the world have had to go through in their lives, at dinner tables, at family birthdays ...? Add to that the kind of accusations that esalen is throwing around and one finds oneself rather confused about such competing issues as a man's privacy vs his duty to speak up (out) and tell the truth about some poisonous stuff he may (or may not) be aware of.

Ultimately, it all circles back to the so-called Church itself. Fuck you, CoS and the ugliness inherent in your greed, your secrecy, your paranoia and your batshitinsane cosmology.

It's just not funny anymore.
posted by philip-random at 9:22 AM on October 29, 2009


... and then, on review, it occurs to me that perhaps Gaiman's entire body of work, prolific as it is, is his speaking out. Perhaps I should shut the f*** up and get reading.
posted by philip-random at 9:25 AM on October 29, 2009


he was born into Scientology (a la Beck) and he has not overtly denounced it (apparently) ... and I'm sorry, but this kind of bugs me.

....Have you considered the possibility that the reason that he hasn't denounced it loudly is because he loved his father, who only just died this year, and didn't wanted to hurt his father's feelings?

Jesus, people. I have no great love for Scientology either, but it's not like anyone who's ever met a Scientologist in their life is branded with the mark of Cain or anything, or that whatever it is they do is secretly impregnated with Scientology pheremones that will seep into your brain and reprogram you.

The way some people are going on about this, y'all are sounding like Joe McCarthy and the HUAC going after Commies in the 1950's ("His brother went to a socialist meeting in 1936, but he's never actively denounced Communism himself -- he must be a Red!")

But hey, if you really think that the fact that Gaiman hasn't denounced Scientology vehemently enough for your taste, it's your loss, quite frankly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on October 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Even knowing the family link that Gaiman thing sounds extremely sketchy.

Things we do know for sure that Gaiman is involved with money raising activities for: AIDs awareness, gay rights, free speech organisations.

I dunno, maybe Tom Cruise does all of those too or it's all an elaborate cover, but I'm inclined to go with "horseshit".
posted by Artw at 9:37 AM on October 29, 2009


I sure hope it's all horseshit. I am loathe to support the "C"ofS, even at a tertiary level.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:42 AM on October 29, 2009


If your latest 'celeb' recruit is of the caliber of Peaches Geldof your cult is doomed...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:21 AM on October 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The SP Times has a multipart update on their Truth Rundown series, called Chased by Their Church. Part 1.
posted by scalefree at 11:36 PM on November 1, 2009


Part 2, What Happened in Vegas.
posted by scalefree at 11:43 PM on November 1, 2009


Sadly, the forcible pursuit and (re-)conversion scenario outlined in Scalefree's first link is not unusual with certain especially paranoid cults. I had a neighbor some years back whose brother was a high-ranking disciple of Lyndon Larouche. (Aside: who knew the Larouchites were Reichians?) He'd been trying to recruit/convert his siblings for years. One day while my neighbor was visiting his brother in Europe he was picked up by a dark car and taken to a flat where he was kep for several days while they harangued him regarding the pure and simple logic of Larouchian positions. They tag-teamed him told him about all their wonderful plans for the world -- how they'd "fix Africa", for example, by trucking fresh red meat to everyone in the entire country, so they'd have enough protein in their diet to think clearly. (He had a lot of fun jousting with them over that one, apparently.)

Fortunately for him they were Larouchites, and were feeding him plenty of protein the whole time, as befitted their dietary beliefs....

The short version of the story is that he wore them out.

Then there's the story of how he reduced two young Mormon missionaries to tears in less than 15 minutes with just some gentle questions about missing their families...but that's another story for another time. The guy would have been a brilliant interrogator.
posted by lodurr at 5:37 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Turns out there's actually several stories for each day.

Day 1:
Chased by their church
"I just want to get on with my life" after Scientology
From Scientology's files
L. Ron Hubbard on 'Leaving and leaves'
Who's who in this installment
Scientology glossary, lingo, acronyms
Scientology's Response

Day 2:
What happened in Vegas
How Scientology got to Bob Minton
Ex-officer says Scientology policy didn't match directive
Has Scientology been watching Pat Broeker for two decades?
Who's who in this installment
The Scientology response

Day 3:
Coming Tuesday
Don Jason's run

Once the No. 2 church officer in Clearwater, Don Jason ran and wound up in a locked cabin aboard the church cruise ship, the Freewinds. The story of an ingenious escape.
posted by scalefree at 2:08 PM on November 2, 2009


It is very impressive that the newspaper is running these stories. Traditionally the "C"oS initiates overwhelming legal action against newspapers that breathe word that they'll be doing a story.

This may be a sign the cult is in disarray and failing. Fingers crossed!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:26 PM on November 2, 2009




New book Blown for Good reveals details inside Scientology headquarters.
posted by scalefree at 3:25 PM on November 5, 2009




Get it while you can.
posted by scalefree at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2009


Bad-mouthing Miscavige, eh? That's gonna end in a world of hurt. It must suck being a Scientologist that has found value in the need to look inside and to put order to things; and yet knows the church leaders are evil men who are reaching the limits of their incompetence, and might even recognize that a lot of Hubbard's writings are pure lunacy.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:35 PM on November 6, 2009


And man, is that a poorly-constructed sentence. Sorry!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:36 PM on November 6, 2009


I'm still working through the posts & just wanted to say I'm still undecided on its authenticity. If it's a troll then my hat's off, my only real false note is they use Miscavige's name instead of his rank sometimes. Anywhere near him he must be called COB, for Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center. I'm not sure how universally it's observed & one could even argue that the author's breaking it is a form of rebellion in & of itself. So who knows. We'll have to wait for the cult to try finding them & see if they succeed.
posted by scalefree at 5:23 PM on November 6, 2009


This is why COB must GO! This is why David Miscavige, yes I will use his name, needs to step down or be pulled down.

Can I call em or can I call em?
posted by scalefree at 5:38 PM on November 6, 2009


This is why David Miscavige, yes I will use his name, needs to step down or be pulled down.

And since his last name could be a speech-impediment version of "miscarriage" I wouldn't be surprised if that is used behind his back.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:46 PM on November 7, 2009


"Young man, I knew your boss when he was still a small-time crook." -- L. Sprague de Camp, brushing-off a barker outside of a Scientology meeting hall c. 1967

[as related by Mike Resnick, who was standing behind him at the time.]
posted by lodurr at 4:47 AM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


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