Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology: 'The Print Reviews Have Been Really Positive'

Back in June, we put up one of the first reviews of Janet Reitman's terrific book, Inside Scientology. We were also first to interview her about it, and the first to report from her initial public appearances.

Were we enthusiastic? Look, we just couldn't get enough of Janet and her impact on Scientology watching. So sue us.

But now that it's been a while, we checked back in with the Brooklyn resident to see how the big publicity push has been going. Janet gave us some juicy quotes about how her book has been received, how well it's selling, and why the hell we haven't seen more of her on television promoting the best damn history of Scientology ever written.

After the jump, her thoughts on all that, as well as a giant collection of the things that have been written about her and her book since we did our best, in our own humble way, to launch her into orbit around Teegeeack.

Janet, how has the publicity tour been for you?

Really exhausting, but also fun.

And how is the book doing, sales-wise?

Extremely well! It made it on the New York Times bestseller list, and has been on the Times' ebook nonfiction bestseller list for six weeks; it's also #16 on the L.A. Times nonfiction hardcover bestseller list, its fifth week on the list. The book only came out six weeks ago, so that's pretty amazing. It's selling well in hardcover, but I gather it's done particularly well in Kindle and other ebook sales.

If the print reviews have been pretty positive, what has been your experience with radio and TV? It seems like you've done a lot of radio, but any big network TV appearances? Are TV networks still too chickenshit to do this stuff?

The print reviews have been really positive -- I think the book received two mediocre reviews to dozens of wonderful ones, honestly. The big TV appearances have been slow, which is frustrating, but I think a lot of it has had to do with the unbelievable news we've had this summer -- the economy and the debt ceiling was 24/7 for weeks, it seemed. And now it's Libya and the Republican primaries. I was scheduled to appear on the Today Show the day after the Casey Anthony verdict, so you know that was cancelled. It's just been very frustrating. I do believe that in Tampa, at a local station where I did a TV appearance, that segment was cancelled because of fear. But in terms of network or national cable news coverage, I think some of it has been simply timing. That said, get with it, guys! And especially Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert!

Now, let's take a look at the kinds of accolades the book has been receiving...

"The most complete picture of Scientology so far." -Garry Wills, New York Times Book Review -- where the book was an Editor's Choice

"[A] meticulously researched history and revealing exposé, a frightening portrait of a religion that many find not just controversial, but dangerous...Throughout the book, the author displays consummate journalistic skills. Her accumulation of evidence is particularly impressive and gives rise to one of the more memorable works of investigative nonfiction in recent years." -- Boston Globe

"Inside Scientology is a masterful piece of reporting....a compelling introduction to 'America's most secretive religion,' as the subtitle has it. Even for those who have no interest in parsing when cults become religions or why faith upends fact, Reitman tells a spellbinding story of a larger-than-life personality whose quirks, ticks and charisma shaped America's newest homegrown religious movement." --
Washington Post

"This book is fearless" -- Wall Street Journal

"Inside Scientology leaves no scandal unturned in the life of L. Ron Hubbard, underlings, celebrities and cult 'slaves' in this story of America's most secretive religion....It is a riveting read not only for its thorough research, and winning style, but because [Reitman] has left no greed undescribed in the 396 page-turner." -- Seattle Post Intelligencer

"Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman is an amazing book...a masterful telling of the church's history and the division among its members" -- Asbury Park Press

"Thoroughly engrossing page-turner on the shape-shifting Church of Scientology...A bizarre and complicated history told with masterful control." -- Kirkus Reviews starred review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2011: "Inside Scientology is journalist Janet Reitman's incredible book-length follow-up to the Rolling Stone cover story of the same name, a 2007 finalist for the National Magazine Award. ...'America's Most Secretive Religion' is perhaps best known for high-profile adherents like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but its tenets, processes, and internal organization form a story as surprising and captivating as that of any investigative work released this year. Reitman's extensive research -- including hundreds of interviews with devotees and defectors alike -- culminates in an expansive, page-turning survey of the origins, development, crises, beliefs, and scandals of this fascinating incorporated religion, all with a fair-minded approach that favors diligent curiosity over judgment at every turn. "It has been my goal to write the first objective modern history of the Church of Scientology," Reitman writes in the book's introduction, and to this end, Inside Scientology succeeds in spades. This book will remain the definitive study of the subject for a long time to come. -- Jason Kirk

"Reitman's analysis of Scientology's ability to survive scandal and mockery is compelling and persuasive." -- Seattle Times

And more reviews and interviews at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Los Angeles Times, Time, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate.com, the Tampa Tribune, Creative Loafing Tampa, the Jewish Journal, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Oregonian, The Forward, TheWrap.com, Reuters, The Revealer, and The Star-Tribune.

Whew. That's a lot of ink for Janet's book. You'd think maybe this silly stuff about J-Lo, Kelly Preston, and now the Smiths might get her a spot on television to talk about celebrities and Scientology. Just a suggestion.

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

See all of our recent Scientology coverage at the Voice

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard's organization:

The Larry Wollersheim Saga -- Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story -- How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection -- A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Robert Cipriano Case -- A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum -- The 'Crash' Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape -- 'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle'
The Aaron Saxton Accusation -- Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation -- Scientology's former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross -- Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked -- Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back -- Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack -- The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated -- The Michael Fairman SP Declaration
The Richard Leiby Operation -- Investigating a reporter's divorce to shut him up
The Hugh Urban Investigation -- An academic takes a harsh look at Scientology's past
Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh -- A precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian link
Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology -- A masterful telling of Scientology's history
The Western Spy Network Revealed? -- Marty Rathbun ups the ante on David Miscavige
Scientology's Enemies List -- Are You On It?
Inside Inside Scientology -- An interview with author Janet Reitman
Scientology and the Nation of Islam -- Holy Doctrinal Mashup, Batman!
Scientologists -- How Many of Them Are There, Anyway?
Roger Weller's Wild Ride -- Scientology When it was Hip
The Marc Headley Infiltration -- A Scientology Spying Operation Revealed
Placido Domingo Jr: Scientology's Retaliation is "Scary and Pathetic"
An Interview with Nancy Many, Former Scientology Spy
The Paulien Lombard Confession -- A Scientology Spy Comes Clean
The Deputy Benjamin Ring Hard Sell -- Scientology wants your 401K
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology -- the whole series!
The Squirrel Busters Busted -- Unmasking the Scientology PI in Charge

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

The book is really spectacular. I mean from front to back the book is amazing. A very well written book plus a very well printed copy using a brother tn460 the book is sure to have many readers and many buyers.

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Take note; after some investigative hearings with the IRS about the procedures and processes used to grant Scientology non-tax status it became evident that a higher power than the Director of the IRS / Goldberg made the decision or gave the order to grant full no--tax status for all Scientology related enterprises by default that would have had to have been the "then" President of the United States.... Bill Clinton.   Nice Job Bill!


Really on-point review of "Inside Scientology" from Patrick Lejtenyi of the Montreal Mirror:

If it weren’t for Tom Cruise, Janet Reitman’s book might never have been written.In 2005, the Rolling Stone contributing editor was back from an eight-month stint in Iraq when her editors, having seen the toothy little actor bouncing off Oprah’s couch, gave her the Scien­tology exposé assignment. Her 2006 article was engrossing, but the wealth of information she gathered demanded a book. Five years later, Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secre­tive Religion gives readers a clear-eyed look at the religion, its founder L. Ron Hubbard (“LRH” to his flock), the church and the bizarre reign of his successor David Miscavige.

As she traces Scientology’s history, Reitman exposes the lies upon lies that built Scientology up from nothing. Hubbard himself comes across as an oddball huckstering charlatan, whose boasted exploits about his war service, explorations and dabbling in the occult charmed and seduced a certain set of post-war artists and bohemians. That none of his tales were remotely true never seemed to bother his admirers.

Scientology has its roots in Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics, a kind of manifesto that cashed in on the self-improvement and technology craze of the post-war years. Reitman’s concise explanation of Dia­netics’s weirder claims, such as LRH’s theory of cellular memories—“engrams”—that inhibit an individual’s peace of mind, is certainly helpful in understanding why Hubbard was widely derided as a crank and his theory as gibberish by the medical establishment. The complete rejection of his work, she writes, turned Hubbard against psychiatry forever.

Hubbard’s travels, tax-dodging and personal life, as well as the expansion of his group of followers, many of them baby-boom seekers of the 60s, are entertainingly detailed in the book’s first half. She also charts the rise of the Sea Org, Hubbard’s elite group that accompanied him while sailing on a yacht avoiding authorities for years, and the Messengers, his teenage attendants who spoke for him to the crew. Recruited into the church by their parents, these teens would become the most ruthless enforcers of Hubbard’s increasingly erratic will. Among them was a young David Miscavige.

How this short but almost pathologically determined teenager came to control the church is a stunning story in itself, and is told with economy here. Miscavige was only 25 when he took over from an ailing and isolated Hubbard, but he wasted no time in asserting his authority. Through power plays, coups and threats, he, like Stalin destroying the Old Bolsheviks and Saturn devouring his children, methodically eliminated anyone considered a potential rival, including Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue. It’s a chilling account, and sets the scene for what’s to come.

Reitman spends four chapters on Lisa McPherson, a once bubbly but lost young woman who came to Scientology vulnerable and needing help. By all accounts she thrived, until she had a men­tal breakdown and was confined according to Scientology principles in an isolation room for 17 days. As her mind and body decayed, church officials refused her medical treatment until it was too late.

Her death became a cause célèbre for Scientology’s critics, but under Miscavige, who followed Hubbard’s theory that attack was by far the best defense, his army of lawyers delayed, obfuscated and dealed their way out of trouble. It was a typical tactic, writes Reitman: when the IRS finally awarded the church tax-exempt status, it was only after years of litigation by the church against the federal government, during which time thousands of suits were filed.

Scientology’s best-known adherent remains, of course, Cruise. Ironically, though, it’s Miscavige’s close personal friendship with the movie star that not only turned Cruise into a laughing stock, but also undermined Miscavige’s leadership. While his lifestyle became more extravagant, his cruelty towards his staff intensified, to the point where high-level defections became common. It’s Reitman’s interviews with these apostates—who’ve left the church if not Scientology—that makes this book such a fascinating read.


Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

I'd love to hear how the Scientologists in the ranks are reacting to the book, and whether everyday Scientologists, like even the young woman Scientologist who is heading to law school, if that young woman has read the book.  I hope  Janet's book spurs the young Scientologists  to do about the complaints.   It's the young Scientologists who need to know the history they haven't been told and have no idea about, and see if those young will do something about the scene at the top ranks of their movement.   - Chuck Beatty, ex Sea Org, 1975-2003, Pittsburgh


As to the reason why no major TV shows have yet touched the book, I've got to wonder if there has been much behind-the-scenes pressure to avoid the subject? It's been a forgone conclusion that the reason why Oprah Winfrey has for decades steadfastly refused to touch the subject of Scientology  --despite repeated pleas from numerous Scientology victims eager to tell their story-- is that having celebrities like Cruise and Travolta in her stable is a lot more important (for the show's ratings) than informing the public about a destructive cult.

Purely a business decision after all, when reporting on a topic can have negative financial consequences. Let's see if Reitman get's an interview scheduled on the Today Show, only to have it canceled at the last minute due to a Tom Cruise appearance.


Scientologists are hard lined trained professionals in lying and deflecting proper answers to legit questions. They buy the bullshit, believe the bullshit, spew and defend the bullshit that they are trained/brainwashed to KSW. They are trained to and no longer allowed to think and act as normal folk. Disconnection from family should be proof enough.

Anyone that reads the other boards knows that Marty has suppressed or let partial comments that come off as negative to the agenda. There is still a lot of Kool-aide being dispensed by Marty's posters, yet, I feel his blog is needed for helping with the exodus while Anons, critics and Ex's are suppressing fresh/new meat. askthescientologist.blogspot has a great read on Who Will Lead the "Independents"?"


Janet's many interviews just keep getting better and better. These  journalists and radio show hosts really did their homework, just like she did.


Reitman's book works because she had the foresight to deliberately attempt to make it unassailable, knowing full well that Scientology was going to man the harpoons. Consequently, Scientology's boilerplate talking points and criticisms of the book have been profoundly weak.

She covered an amazing amount of territory and did justice to each subtopic she covered, but especially Lisa McPherson, which account serves as probably the best cautionary tale of a dystopian world run by Scientologists clumsily misdiagnosing the human condition, substituting their delusional certainty for the scientific method at every turn.

Not that such a fear seems realistic--Hubbard egotistically sabotaged Scientology by prohibiting its evolution, which will prevent it from competing even in the self-help arena, much less the religion arena, where it's widely and properly regarded as a cult. And I guess that's my own minor quibble with the book, where Reitman expresses hope for the future of Scientology by viewing it through the eyes of a Natalie, a hopeful youngster from an obviously well-off family.

While I think it was admirable to decide to include so much of Natalie in the book as a Scientology best-case scenario, I also don't see any reason to view Natalie as anything but a distant outlier to the general rule, which has only ever seen the people most active and nearest to power in Scientology always employing ends-justifies-the-means rationales to consolidate power, attack critics, destroy families, surreptitiously seek coddling from government agencies (or alternatively, attack them), etc. etc.

What historical evidence has only ever shown is that Scientology ultimately and always rewards those who apply its highest and defining precept--Keep Scientology Working--above all else. And so KSW will always trump any other bland human betterment precept cited by Hubbard and delusionally clung to by what few Natalies remain in Scientology. It was a nice thought by Reitman that the Natalie view could somehow one-day prevail (Reitman doesn't directly suggest, but I'm inferring as much due to her ending the book with Natalie), but I don't see any reason how or why it ever would.


Tony Oretga says:

"You'd think maybe this silly stuff about J-Lo, Kelly Preston, and now the Smiths might get her a spot on television to talk about celebrities and Scientology. Just a suggestion."

Actually that's a great suggestion.  Hopefully her PR people are already on to it.

Every time one of the big Scn celebs goofs the floof, the stats on the websites critical of Scientology go up.  More and more people are being exposed to what is really going on behind all the gilded columns and over the top behavior of Scientologists practicing their religion.

Janet should be the "go to person" when TV shows want to talk about Scn celebrities or the latest Scn foot bullet.  She does it right.


One of the best things about Janet's book was her integration of the Tom Cruise and David Miscavige stories, about how Scientology uses celebrities, by targeting them, then shielding and stroking them. In that vein, the questions I would like the TV media to ask Tom, in relation to Janet's book would be:

Tom, in Janet Reitman's new book, INSIDE SCIENTOLGY, she mentions that you went all  'what-the-f' when you first read about Xenu the evil galactic overlord, a key figure in your religion (making quote fingers). And at that time you stayed away from Scientology for a while. What made you get back into it? What was it that Marty Rathbun said, the executive assigned to handle you, to bring you back into the fold?

And what do Xenu and his volcanoes mean to you now? Do you feel really safe with him in his mountain prison?

Also Tom, what do you think about your household servants monitoring you, and reporting back to Miscavige on your level of devotion to the cult? And how about the big show the employees have to put on, every time you show up at Goldbase?

Come on Tom, how out of the loop can you be? Read Reitman's book!

Do you think of yourself as the Jesus of Scientology or just the Pope?

Pam Ellis
Pam Ellis

I can't wait for Janet Reitman to make to the L.A. area.  She has several stops, but on Sept 18th, she will be giving a lecture and doing a book signing at the Center for Inquiry in Hollywood.  The book club that meets there once a month will be reading her book prior to her visit as well.I even got word from Executive Director Jim Underdown that active Sea Org members who want to get into the lecture will be able to get in for free (maybe with a limit if the Center is deluged with SO ;) as Sea Org members are paid so little.  The center is within walking distance of PAC Base/Big Blue and a quick Metro ride form HGB.  And this is perfect as the SO have time off Sunday mornings.  They can give the lecture a listen instead of going to the farmer's market in front of HGB.So OSA folks looking through this...please tell your buds in the SO about this.  It is so boring to only get fake journalists from Freedom Magazine at scientology related events at the Center for Inquiry.

barbara graham
barbara graham

The funny thing was, negative reviews were out on Amazon a week before the book was released. Apparently the culties are able to reach into the future, read the book, review it and get it posted before anyone else.

That is what's called Cause over MEST, baby! OT Powerzz at work! (or a fake review written by some mutt who didn't read it, and would not be allowed to read it! Think for yourself, you see.)

CofS Exit Zone
CofS Exit Zone

That's alot of ink indeed!

/SALUTE Ms. Reitman for such a fantastic book, it was well worth the wait!!!


I'm amazed that Bill Maher still hasn't invited her on his show. They seem like a perfect fit.


Your coverage and updates, Tony, are very much appreciated.  The above is good news, good to know.  Wait, it's only been 6 weeks?!  Fantastic print coverage then, and sales don't lie (unless it's scientology counting).

Disappointed as well as on the lack of TV coverage, and would enjoy a break from the dreadful drone of debt debacle, ugh.  And yes, realistically, dangle the celebrity carrots if it works.  So what was the Tampa TV station?  Surely not Fox 13.  BayNews9?   I'd guess there are a number of Floridian residents who would like to express their interest in seeing this interview, especially Tampa Bay area. 


I think the positioning of Natalie's story last was good, because by then it was clear to the reader, the wide variety of people's experiences, and that employees and Sea Org members have a different experience than the children of wealthy independent Scilons.

Natalie's narrow experience, and raw naivete, was highlighted by her explanation that it was the fault with the ex-members who didn't handle the situation using Ron-tech, like the situation of being beaten by the leader of the Church of Ron-tech:

"If the people who've come out and told the press these things were in a position to do something about it -- to change things. Instead, they stood there and watched. Why? It's so beyond what the church -- any church -- should stand for."

"If you know there's a problem, it's your responsibility to fix it -- that's what LRH says," she noted.

First of all, they didn't just stand there and watch, they sometimes participated, like Marty started slapping people around. Secondly, "what LRH says," is all over the place. He's the control freak who created the trap.

It was Miller who noted from interviewing so many exes, that they admit Scientology turns members into mini-Hubbards. It is time for Scilons to look at Hubbard, how he behaved, how Sciloontology "worked" in his own condemned family.

When Scilons get wrapped up in their "I'm a God creating my own reality" world they are shutting themselves off from the reality of how Scientology really works, and how it is sold. For kids who grow up in it, it is normal, the way things are done.

The hopeful note for me is that Natalie may get a clue, not that the cult is going to reform.


I think it's far more likely that Natalie will exit the Church of Scientology than become representative of it.


what timing!  today's news that Will Smith is "separating", following Marc Antony's lead.


   Barbara, truth means something wholly different to these jerks. If it positive about Scamology, it's true, if it's critical, LIES...LIES!        I bet you knew that, my response was directed at the lurkers. :)


I'm thinking scientology has serious competition this year from The New Cult in Town ... the Tea Party. 


And of course the problem is that they are ONLY supposed to handle it with Ron-tech.  They weren't allowed, according to Ron-tech, to report it to the police.  Scientologists learn that they are not supposed to report to the police in the wog world, they are supposed to report it to Ron-justice.  Of course, if you happen to get raped by someone more upstat than you, than not only are you wrong to report it, but Scientology will persuade you to cover it up, a la Jan Eastgate.


I agree, I think Natalie is far more likely to leave when she gets out from under her parents as I can't imagine, based on her bubbly world view, she'll take kindly to the regging when he parents aren't buffering her from that reality. It's not hard to find Independent Scientologists who get similarly doe-eyed about LRH's contradictory views on humanity, which get harder to reconcile when you're not permitted to speak with your family, so/but perhaps she winds up in that camp.

I've heard that heroin addiction is actually manageable if you're filthy rich and well taken care of--it's the stopping, starting, failing to eat properly, committing other crimes because you can't properly support your lifestyle, that winds up killing you more often than the heroin. To the extent that analogy is accurate, Natalie presently enjoys many luxuries but once they stop she'll likely come to realize that her warm fuzzy religion is a humorless and insatiable money-gorging beast.

So maybe, to think out loud for Janet Reitman for a moment, Natalie's view comes to prevail in the Independent community, and it's the Independent community that is truly Scientology's future. It's at least a more likely scenario than Natalie's view prevailing at INT. But it's still pretty unlikely as so many real-world structural hurdles exist before you even get to talk about competing ideologies, for starters the fact that there are no Independent Scientology tax-exempt entities, much less an impenetrable byzantine corporate web like that overseen by David Miscavige. Independent Scientology could only compete with organized Scientology by an IRS reversal or litigation and it's not hard to figure who'd be odds-on favorites in either scenario.

Add to this the fact that the Independent Scientology community is comprised entirely of ex-members of the *organized* Scientology community--the former has no recruiting mechanism, so would have to come to resemble the organized Scientology community far more than it presently does in order to compete. And this is a scenario that present-day organized Scientology would do everything in its power to prevent. So I'm not terribly optimistic about the Independent Scientology community--which, indeed, is presently having a deleterious effect on organized Scientology--ever becoming a viable competitor. At least a kinder gentler competitor anyway--it may be possible for Marty Luther Rathbun to once again to become what he ostensibly hates most and supplant Miscavige. But even this is unlikely because CST, RTC, et al. were structured and endorsed by the IRS to keep David Miscavige in power for as long as he wants to be there.


Aw, man! I hadn't heard about Will & Jada and when Tony mentioned the Smiths, I thought something (good) was up with Morrissey and Johnny Marr. :(


Lol.  That would be more funny if it wasn't true!


I agree. There is little hope for Natalie being able to be a free bird in Scientology as long as she has DC org staff as her friends keeping up with her daily updates. Just look at her Facebook friends list. It screams " OSA " when you see that John and Sylvia Stanard are on it.  


Tikk, your posts are so smart that I can't believe you were never a member of Scientology. I thought no person can reach the very high levels of your IQ without studying the tech.  Are you sure you can't levitate ashtrays?  Maybe you were an OTVIII in your past life on Marcab.

Now Trending

New York Concert Tickets

From the Vault