Another Ex-Scientologist Publishes Damning Tell-All
Regular publishers won't touch these books -- even though some of them are actually very well written -- so the authors have had to go the self-published route.
Last year's killer I-escaped-from-Scientology narrative was put out by Marc Headley. His Blown for Good made for a gripping read, about a low-level grunt who spent years at Scientology's secret HQ in the California desert until he finally made a mad dash for freedom.
This year, we can report that Headley's book has been equaled. In Counterfeit Dreams, ex-Scientologist Jefferson Hawkins not only provides his own dramatic tale of getting sucked into and ultimately escaping from Scientology, but Hawkins was no low-level scrub.
He, maybe more than any other single person, may be the reason Scientology ever became as popular as it did, with L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics setting sales records in the 1980s.
It was Hawkins and his ideas for television ads (the "volcano" TV spot, for example) that propelled Dianetics to meteoric heights, leading many to wonder if Scientologists themselves weren't just buying up the books by the truckload to make sure it topped the New York Times Bestsellers List.
But that wasn't the case, Hawkins tells the Voice:
"Yes, the 'boom' in the late 1980s was driven by the book sales, and those were real sales, caused by TV advertising, good book distribution and an aggressive PR machine. They tried to get me to organize Scientologists to go out and buy books to artificially jack up the sales (as they did when Battlefield Earth was released) but I refused to play that game. After we had been running an aggressive advertising and PR campaign for about 4 years, we had built it up to between 10,000 and 30,000 books being sold weekly through US bookstores - something that would have been impossible by 'getting Scientologists to buy copies.'"
Hawkins' impressive book takes a reader through his introduction to Scientology in 1967 to his defection in 2003. Along the way, he became the marketing genius that helped Scientology grow to unprecedented heights -- only to watch it go into serious decline under David Miscavige, the Scientology leader who took over after Hubbard's death in 1986.
Like others who have come forward, Hawkins details the physical abuse he witnessed at the hands of Miscavige, the orders that were impossible to fulfill, the constant threats of punishment, and the hopelessness that Scientologists feel when they are forcibly separated from family but feel that they can't under any circumstance, leave the organization.
But what struck us was Hawkins' claim that it only took a slick PR campaign to drive huge sales of Dianetics and make big gains in membership to Hubbard's weird cabal (which doesn't say much for the intelligence of the American public). Scientology today seems to be in a major rut, attacked on all sides and ridiculed even by mainstream news organizations that once carefully steered clear of the subject. Despite that present condition, would it only take another slick PR campaign to make Scientology resurgent again?
"Sure, that action could be duplicated at any time. While it's true that Scientology is very unpopular and even ridiculed today, the same was true in the 1980s and it was overcome to some degree with advertising and PR," Hawkins says.