Monday, June 22, 2009

Scientology: Investigative Report

The St. Petersburg Times is running a three-part series on Scientology, written by Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, based largely on new interviews with former high-ranking members of the "church."

Part 1, "Scientology: The Truth Rundown," ran yesterday. It focuses on the current head of the organization, David Miscavige, pictured above. Miscavige began his association with Scientology at age sixteen, worked his way up, and seized control after the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, died in 1986. The details of his dealings with the IRS to get tax-exempt status as a church are remarkable, as are the endless stories of him physically abusing his employees.

Part 2, "Scientology: Death in slow motion" ran this morning. It concentrates on Lisa McPherson, a member of the cult, who died after being held for seventeen days in a Scientology-owned hotel, where she was ostensibly being "treated" for a mental breakdown.

Part 3, "Scientology: No Escape From Reality," is scheduled to run tonight. You'll be able to find a link to it (if I forget to update this post) by visiting the newspaper's project home page. You can find videos of the interviews, written responses from Miscavige and other Scientologists, and links to earlier reports on that same page.

Update: Part 3 is up. It's now called "Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice."

Hat tip to Tony Ortega, whose post on the Village Voice blog Runnin' Scared is a good place to start. As Tony notes, this isn't a hatchet job -- while it's got an unambiguous perspective, it is a scrupulously reported piece where Miscavige and other current members of the organization are given ample space to respond to the story the defectors tell. [Added: Miscavige's quotes come from earlier work, evidently -- he did not consent to an interview for this series before press time. Pretty funny email on that here.]

Pretty creepy stuff, even if you already have some sense of what Scientology is all about.

[Added] Here is one of the videos from the project home page, a seven-minute summary of the whole effort, it appears.

(alt. video link)

[Added] Follow-up post.


Unknown said...

The article is total bullshit from start to finish. Anyone can make kooky allegations about a famous organization like the Church of Scientology, spout them to a newspaper while offering no proof, and then sit back and laugh as that newspaper passes the gossip along with zero fact-checking, and without even getting David Miscavige's side of the story. DM deserves to have his own three-part space in the paper to address these slanderous lies being told about him. I hope he sues the paper into oblivion.

(Of course, if he DOES sue for slander or libel, these same Scientology-hating bigots will automatically bleat like sheep about how "Scientology loves to sue people". There's no ethical or logical way out of the trap of disinfo these pathetic haters have constructed. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't.)

And endorsing that Village Voice nutcase Tony Ortega is further evidence that people like you just WANT to believe that Scientology is bad, and nothing can possibly dissuade you from clinging to that belief, like, you know, FACTS.

bjkeefe said...

Sorry, dropsy, I don't at all agree. This is not just "anyone" making allegations; the article series is based on interviews with four former members who held very senior positions, for decades. Additionally, if you watch the interview videos themselves, it's clear that these people haven't rejected the core beliefs of Scientology. Though I do not share those beliefs, this aspect only makes the people more credible, in my eyes.

Second, it's beyond dispute that the Church of Scientology is extremely litigious. This is exhaustively documented. Court records alone will convince anyone who remains in doubt, and there are countless stories from former members describing all manner harassment, including threats of lawsuits, also on record. Start here and here.

On a related note, the history of the Scientologists being so aggressive with lawyers in reaction to anything published about them says to me that the St. Pete Times fact-checked this article out the wazoo before publishing it.

Third, the written response from Miscavige is posted on the site for all to read. (Link on the project home page, direct link here.) Pay particular attention to the Editor's Note at the bottom. When one adds the reputation of the St. Pete Times to the long history of Miscavige not giving interviews, I am convinced he was given every opportunity to respond, declined to do so, and is now lying about the paper's attempts to get him to do an interview for these articles. It is well-known that two guiding principles of Scientology are attack, attack, attack and deny, deny, deny.

Fourth, the response from the CoS spokesman (linked here) is so out-and-out crazy that it only makes the stories told by the former members that much more believable.

Fifth, I lived in Los Angeles for a decade. I have had personal encounters with Scientologists. While some struck me as good, albeit misguided, people, the True Believers appeared to me to be nothing short of Kool-Aid drinking cultists. (This, of course, is my view of all people who believe any sort of religion or philosophy too zealously.)

Finally, as for FACTS, shouting that they exist is not nearly as convincing as actually, you know, offering some.