Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Scientology: A Perspective

This one is an oldie but a goody. Back in October 2004, months before Tom Cruise assaulted the furniture on Oprah, mated with Joey from Dawson's Creek, called Matt Lauer glib for deigning to bring up anti-depressants and long before that kooky video that has been all the rage wherever it shows up, I wrote the following little piece about the Church of Scientology. I've made a few small alterations to the text, and changed a few of the references, but for the most part, it is the piece I wrote over 3 years ago. I've also written a short epilogue based on some of the above events.


I think by now most of you know that I really don't like Scientologist. No, scratch that... "don't like" is not a strong enough statement for my feelings on this cult. Despise and hate are both more apt descriptions of my feelings about Scientology and its membership.

I have a hard time respecting people who base their lives on the writings/teachings of a fourth rate science fiction writer and a con man, and people who have to pay increasing amounts of money for enlightenment. I have little respect for people who would willingly give up connections with family and friends if they were at all critical of the "church". At it's base, it is really just a giant pyramid scheme that is defrauding people and gathering incriminating information about them so that if they do decide to leave, there is ample ammunition to destroy them, and it isn't right.

I mean, historically the word "Scientology" was coined in 1907 as a synonym for pseudoscience, and yet, Hubbard was able to subvert the meaning of the word to his own ends.

Of course, the bread and butter for the Church of Scientology are the celebrities, because, let's face it, they are good ambassadors for the cult. As Ron Hubbard was to say in 1973, "Celebrities are very Special people and have a very distinct line of dissemination. They have comm[unication] lines that others do not have and many medias to get their dissemination through..." and when Diana Canova, a seven-year member of the church was able to break their hold on her, she spoke about the pressure to get other celebrities into the Church. When I find out an actor/actress I've enjoyed watching in the past is a Scientologist... it's like they die to me. I can't respect them after that. It tarnishes their work for me. There are many figurative tombstones now, aside from the obvious Cruise-Travolta-Alley ones, people like Jenna Elfman, the Mastersons(Hyde from That 70's Show and Francis from Malcolm in the Middle), the Ribisis, Isaac Hayes, Nancy Cartwright (Bart and various other characters from The Simpsons), Leah Remini, Will Smith and Beck. Of course, they also receive preferential treatment, and since they are the group's elite, the low level follower of the church(read POOR/middle class) get virtually no respect. Money is what talks in Scientology, nothing else.

And say what you will about a lot of religions, but generally speaking, they don't keep their scriptures hidden from their followers or the general public. If Scientology's message was so benign, so altruistic, then why both force adherents to put increasing amounts of money into the church to ascend up the hierarchy, and why have the lawyers on speed dial whenever even a bit of the higher-level teachings gets out of the church, or if moderate criticism is leveled at the church.

"The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly." Ron L. Hubbard - 1955. There is also this statement from Hubbard in 1967: "ENEMY SP(Suppressive Person) Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."

Then again, the creator of the church has made a lot of other interesting statements in the past like: "THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. The only way you can control anybody is to lie to them." and "MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MORE MONEY." and "Scientology is the only specific (cure) for radiation (atomic bomb) burns."

And of course, in short from Hubbard's own pen in 1953 about the group: "It is not a psycho-therapy nor a religion." He also stated that "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is," in 1949, so it seems like most of Western Europe was right in denying Scientology the right to religious tax benefits. (In other documentation, it seems that the only reason that they classify themselves as a church is for the accounting/tax benefits)


Of course in the years since I wrote this, I've also come to a few realizations.

For one, while it feels good to not be the only one who looks at the Church of Scientology in a negative way, I came to the conclusion that perhaps there is a scam of another variety going on here.

I mean, what is the easiest way to defuse criticisms that a secretive group is dangerous? One way would involve becoming more transparent, but since Scientology is a profit-oriented enterprise that makes much of its money from the slow dissemination of information to people who pay them a lot of money for that privilege, that wouldn't be in the best interests of those at the top. Or perhaps trying to counter each of those supposedly incorrect claims with well-reasoned arguments and evidence would help the Church win a battle like this, but again that doesn't seem like a tactic Scientology would use outside of a court room.

However, there is another way to go about fighting this: publicly change the image of the organization by having someone famous who held a prominent position in the group act in a certain way repeatedly in very public venues to make the stories about the behavior and personality rather than the negative aspects of the cult itself, because those that witnessed those events repeated would find themselves asking how can a religion so laughably kooky be dangerous and would find themselves discussing the events they had seen on television and on the internet rather than the underlying structure or criticisms of the "faith" which that person represents.

Therefore, it is my belief that Tom Cruise and Scientology are indeed working this particular angle and I have a very specific reason for this. You see, the Church of Scientology is right up there with the MPAA and the RIAA in terms of pursuing litigation, especially in matters of copyright and slander/libel, but at the moment, the group hasn't really put forth an effort to try to contain this most recent Tom Cruise video "leak" which is most prominently being shown Gawker. Sure, they've made requests to some of the major video sites to take down the most current Tom Cruise video, but they aren't really pushing it with Gawker. In fact, Gawker has noted that traffic to the Scientology site has increased tenfold since that video was released into the wild. Granted, some of that could have been generated in a recent Anonymous Denial of Service attack on the site, but I think at least some of that traffic was legitimate.

To put this whole thing into perspective, there was a video floating around the internet a couple years ago taken during a Scientology orientation, which the Church has been trying desperately to contain. Think about that... the video you are shown when you are thinking about joining their faith isn't to be seen by the general public and is actionable, but a video where one of the most prominent members of the church is talking in very specific high level jargon is somewhat OK in the organization's eyes? And I do believe the rumors that Tom Cruise threatened to not promote Mission Impossible III if another Viacom entity, Comedy Central, reaired the Church critical episode of South Park entitled "Trapped in the Closet" because that does seem to be in keeping with some of their earlier actions.

I mean, if someone wasn't familiar with the Church and some of the things they have done, simply based their perception of the group on the behavior of its wacky celebrity emissary, the work that groups like Operation Clambake or Anonymous are doing seem like a waste of time, so Cruise's antics act like a dampening field around Scientology, blunting attacks and taking oxygen away from more pressing attacks of the organization.

To me, it is almost akin to the Wizard of Oz. Pay no attention to the leaders behind the curtain, and instead, look only at the larger than life floating ego-filled head of a vocal celebrity idiot... because while we are all laughing, they can continue to operate virtually unfettered. And that is the scariest thought of all.


Arjan said...

One of the most clear views on scientology I've ever read and I join your view.
Alex over at R2K also wrote on scientology this week.
I've only once seen one of their 'churches' in Denmark (while on holiday) and never saw one in the Netherlands and I hope I never will, we got plenty of other f'ed up 'churches' overhere.

Mayren said...

Amen MC... Amen.

I am very for the activist group against Scientology. Called "Anonymous".
I would like to add the disclaimer that I do not condone the malicious acts the "Anonymous" group have perpatrated but I do condone peaceful protests and am actually thinking about joining the world wide protest scheduled in February.

MC said...

Arjan: It is a scary, scary organization indeed. In fact, they bought the largest and most successful anti-cult helpline when it was having some financial difficulties and made it so that if you had a relative that was stuck inside Scientology and called this particular organization, they would stone wall you. They are some cagey calculating bastards.

Mayren: I think they were sort of brave to protest in front of that place... because they can't wear masks when doing so in the state of Florida, so the Church can take a good long look at who they are outside of this action. I didn't support the DDOS attack myself either.

SamuraiFrog said...

Excellent post, and right on the money. There's a lot to say on scientology, and this may inspire me to write some of it up myself.

I hadn't thought about the idea that they're using Tom Cruise as a deflector, but scarily enough, it seems like it could easily be true. I wouldn't put this kind of crap past them at all.

MC said...

I think I would enjoy reading that.

Semaj said...

Great post MC! This pretty much sums up how I feel about Scientology. After watching some of the 'protest' videos against the church, I'm starting to believe they're more dangerous than we were led to believe.

Like SF, I think I'll do a follow up post too.

MC said...

Well, the more the merrier I say.

Megan said...

Good stuff, Matt.

MC said...