Scientology Flameout: Commenters of the Week!
We're sitting here in the underground bunker, looking back on what was another amazing week of Scientology watching. More and more tips are coming in, things are breaking overseas, and the cats are mewing for their breakfast. We're on sensory overload here, but let's pause to look back on the week that was.
Marcotai conquers entheta!
On Monday, we continued our big countdown with #15, naming Andreas Heldal-Lund and other old time critics who have spent years publicizing Scientology's secrets and abuses on their websites.
Later that night, just after midnight, we posted a story about Scientology's wacky New Yorker parody in its Freedom magazine. After we got some sleep, we talked to former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder the next morning to update the post with some perspective on Freedom's bizarre complaints about Lawrence Wright's article.
Tuesday morning, we revealed a story that we'd been working on for months -- Tommy Davis had been secretly recorded putting the strong arm on a young man named Shane Clark, threatening to declare him a suppressive person if he didn't quit his job. What a loving church this is!
The next day we revealed #14 in our countdown, Tory Christman and quite a few other noisy ex-Scientologists.
Later that day, we posted a rather bizarre development: after we appeared on a Kansas City radio show, the station received a complaint letter from local Scientologists, and the package of materials they sent over included what appeared to be an internal document that had been accidentally included. We posted that letter, which indicated that OSA International -- the Office of Special Affairs, Scientology's intelligence and covert operations wing -- is "handling" the Village Voice! Fun times.
On Thursday, we put up something we'd been considering for a few days -- last weekend an Australian newspaper had reported that any day now a federal ombudsman may demand that Scientology pay millions in back pay and taxes for its workers, who often work for pennies an hour. As Mike Rinder told us, such a decision would likely bankrupt the church in that country.
And finally, yesterday, we honored Janet Reitman and other journalists in our countdown for their amazing work over the years.
Whew. That was some busy week. But you, our readers and commenters, were busy too! So let's get on to the awards...
After we recognized "Operation Clambake" operator Andreas Heldal-Lund and other old time critics like Jeff Jacobsen and Bob Minton, loyal reader Scott Pilutik helped put this entry in context:
For a number of reasons, Scientology had a far easier time waging war on critics in this mid to late 90s period. The Internet had not yet decimated their membership numbers; laws concerning the Internet were far less settled and Scientology was better able to manipulate that uncertainty as well as law enforcement; and most importantly there were far fewer critics and OSA could afford to pay them the attention each merited. The appearance of Anonymous in 2008 greatly increased the number of critics at the same time the Internet was taking a visible toll on Scientology. But the critics named above didn't have the luxury of strength in numbers and all had to endure no small amount of cult harassment because of it.
And we were touched by this concise tribute by Guest123:
Bob Minton woke me, Andreas Heldal-Lund educated me, and Kristi Wachter continues to protect me. Thank you all for your courage standing up for what is right against the evil cult of scientology.
We also were moved by this remembrance of Ida Camburn by Barbara Graham:
Cool. What a walk down memory lane! I sure miss Ida as she was, making ham salad and famous Snickerdoodles, opening her home to critics targeting Gold Base, hosting amazing gatherings where I met Andreas and other visiting SPs, telling stories of the old days when she single-handedly got Narconon uprooted from a SoCal community before they could get a toe hold. She was our Mother Suppressive, and I am very glad she lived long enough to see the rise of Anonymous. I remember one raid at Gold, we had anons from San Diego, Orange County, Las Vegas, LA, San Francisco and Seattle. After the raid we met at the casino for dinner. My friend and I picked her up. The casino restaurant has semi-private tables; when we brought her in, everyone at the table applauded her. She was so very happy that, at a point in her life when she was having to back off, this new generation was picking up the standard. As one anon wrote after she was gone, "RIP, Ida. We got this." It still brings a tear to my eyes. She knew it, /b/rothers. She knew we'd take it the rest of the way, and she was proud of all of you.
The Freedom magazine parody of the The New Yorker seemed beyond the pale, and our readers agreed with us. We enjoyed this observation by Mirele:
When people read about this and other Scientology activities, the first thing that should come to mind is that all the private investigators and stupid videos were paid out by a "church" with tax-exempt dollars. The next thought that should arise will hopefully be, "Why? Why is this outfit getting a tax break to harass and vilify people?"
Our story about Tommy Davis caught on tape intimidating a young man who was facing losing contact with his family, elicited a lot of great responses. Once again, Scott Pilutik was on point:
So many favorite moments, but this one ... "We're talking about the bigger picture of the connection. If it really is that you need another job, I'll help you find another job," Feshbach says. "We do that all the time. Do you see what I mean?" ... is particularly telling. How else to read this except to infer that Feshbach and Davis similarly extort and tortiously interfere with employment contracts "all the time," using the ex-member's family as leverage?
Arielle, meanwhile, objected to the way Tommy Davis kept evoking Jewish people in his analogies...
Another point -- I'm getting tired of the constant comparisons the Church of Scientology draws between itself and the Jews. We are nothing alike. I would also appreciate it if Scientology's leaders would stop hijacking the issue of the Holocaust. Nobody is trying to kill Scientologists for believing in Xenu, nobody is sending them to any concentration camps or ovens. Tommy Davis' analogies are over the top idiotic and quite distasteful. And by the way -- as a Jew I resent the fact that Scientology tries to re-write the history by claiming that psychiatrists were behind the Holocaust. I'm pretty sure that neither Freud nor Viktor Frankl were the perpetrators of the Holocaust, but rather its victims.
Several people lauded Shane Clark for sticking up for himself during his meeting with Davis. We liked this comment by Gertrude:
Those audiotapes are gold. I totally support Shane's logic. Basically he said, to the highest Church spokesman, "I know you're quoting church policy, but I disagree with the policy." AWESOME!!! Because their disconnection policy is insane.
On the other hand, Mike defended Davis from a pro-church perspective:
This is an article about nothing. Tommy Davis DID NOT say that "disconnection" does not exist (note: I am a scientologist, I do not work for OSA nor am I here on behalf of any church, I am representing my own opinion). [Shane] knew what he was getting into. He is not some innocent who got himself involved in something he did not know about. He knowingly put his relationship with his family at risk. The COS is giving him every opportunity to re-cant, to handle the situation. And [Shane] is willing to knowingly forsake his own family just because he is getting a paycheck from an avowed enemy of what his family firmly believes in. Why isn't he being called to task?
And we also enjoyed this comeback to Mike's statement from Heather Grace:
You've mischaracterised the dilemma. It's not a choice between his family and his job. It's a choice between his family and his integrity. And not in a trivial sense. Worse, it's even -- your family or your freedom. Because what Tommy and the church want is the power to choose who he can and can't be in relationship with. His family would actually suffer no damage from being connected to him. It's only the church that is manufacturing a problem.
Referring to our countdown item with Tory Christman and other "noisy ex-Scientologist," another noisy ex, Jefferson Hawkins, left this tribute:
Tony, a great list of those who have had the guts to leave and to speak out -- headed, appropriately, by Tory. I knew Tory both inside and outside the Church -- her big heart and big smile and unstoppable drive make her a treasure. I count many of those on your list as my friends, and as a group, they have provided extensive and valuable inside information about the abuses, fraud and criminality in the Church of Scientology. Chuck Beatty was the first person I contacted after I left the Church, and he has done much, behind the scenes, to connect former Scientologists with each other and with the media. Nancy Many, a longtime friend, inspired me to write my own book. I second the motion to add Mick Wenlock to the list -- he maintained the "Ex-Sea Org" group for years which enabled hundreds of former Sea Org members to connect up for the first time in history and begin sharing their stories. I would also add "Just Bill," an anonymous former Scientologist who has spent the last few years sharing his incisive views on Scientology on his blog, "Ask The Scientologist."
After we revealed the internal Scientology document which suggests the Office of Special Affairs is now "handling" the Voice, we couldn't help getting a kick out of this response from Patty Moher:
Tony, we all welcome you to the ranks of Merchant of Chaos! Per Scientology, you are now keeping company with some of the worst mankind has ever produced. The fact that OSA Int is "handling" you means that you now have even more great Scn footbulletry to report on! You lucky Destroyer of all Mankind! It's not fair that you can have so much fun. On a more serious note: Shred everything of a personal nature, and if and when they approach you, get the pix, and laugh at them for the retards they are.
In regards to our story about Scientology's possible imminent bankruptcy in Australia, pro-church cut-and-paster Marcotai put down the scissors long enough to get off this zinger:
Also forcing Church staff members to accept a pay that is not established by LRH policy, is simply ridiculous and in any case staff members following church policy will eventually give the extra cash back by buying books or else and then donating them to the Church. Mike Rinder's considerations are stupid and it's clear that he is not anymore clear-headed, hatred and revenge blind people's minds, see also the bigot Australian Senator and his puppet journalist. Actually, it may be good for Scientology orgs, because this will end silly demands by very few greedy apostates in the future, as they can't demand money spent or donated by themselves.
We were also intrigued by this message from IanMacfarlane, who gave us food for thought on the way donations might work here in the U.S.:
The manner in which Scientology gets around minimum wage and tax laws is as follows (from how they operate here in Clearwater, Florida, USA): Pay your workers a good or very good salary. Then have them "donate" most of that salary to the church. The donation is a tax deduction. The salary is a business expense and reduces the profit for the taxable business that is associated with the church. The "donation" is not taxable because that goes to the church. The business, which is a taxable operation run by the church does not make a profit because of the high salaries, so it pays no taxes. The young lady who died in church care some years ago was a high school graduate with few skills, yet she made over $100,000 per year at her modest job with the printing or publishing arm of the Church of Scientology and "donated" some $96,000 of it back to the church each year while living in their dormitory and eating at their cafeteria (according to stories in the St. Petersburg Times). Sounds like a tax scam to me.
And finally, in our countdown item honoring Janet Reitman and other journalists, we couldn't help being moved by this lengthy message by MarkStark:
All these people are special, but here is my ode to my three favorites:
Paulette Cooper was born in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and after growing up in the land of the free, this fascist cult set out to victimize and destroy her, when all she did was use her intelligence and sense of social responsibility to write a book about them to warn and inform people, at a time there was nothing of length or depth written about them. I believe Hubbard thought the truth she wrote and secrets she revealed would devastate the cult's business, causing it to collapse.
After seeing the Tom Cruise video, which was the catalyst for my reading and protest, and first real awareness that Scientology was something other than an expensive self-help business disguised as a religion, I downloaded and read Russell Miller's book Barefaced Messiah free online. As I began to read this story of Hubbard, his parents, relatives, schoolmates, all about his childhood and school years to his death, it was riveting, absolutely fascinating and writing of the finest quality. The title was probably one of the reasons the book wasn't a bigger success.
Bryan Seymour is unflappable. I don't know whether it is natural, from experience, or what, but he sees through their every manipulation, intimidation, piece of "tech" and lie they throw at him, as well as pointing out the bizarre nature of their behavior. He is one of the few people who handles Tommy Davis and other spokesliars perfectly. He has a wry sense of humor, and doesn't tip toe around celebrities, or bother with any fake respect for the cult's "religious" status. He is a total professional and American TV journalists should learn from how he approaches and deals with Scientology.
There you have it -- many great comments from our loyal readers, for which we are very grateful. And get your keyboards ready, because we have plenty more coming your way, even on this holiday weekend. Tomorrow, we've got a sweet little item that came together late yesterday with several interviews, and on Monday morning at 9 am, look for #12 on our countdown to pop up -- it should be another swell one.
Now, it's off to feed the cats and crank up the music mix here in the underground bunker. Watch the skies!
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#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
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
Tommy Davis, Scientology spokesman, secretly recorded discussing 'disconnection'
Scientology internal document says its Office of Special Affairs will 'handle' the Village Voice