Scientology Counterattack: Commenters of the Week!

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Spake the hobbit-sized monarch: "No living man may hinder me!" And then, to everyone's surprise in the courtroom...
There's been so much enturbulation in the underground bunker lately, it's been hell on the cats, who just want to catch up on their sleep. So we installed one of those kitty hi-rises this week and it was an instant hit. The little carnivores are remaining more calm in their tiny carpeted condos while the circuits and monitors and klaxons are going off like gunfire as all hell breaks loose in the Scientology watching world.

The mayhem started early this week, and we had to scramble to post a notice in our usual Sunday Funnies that the Tampa Bay Times had uncorked another major investigation -- in this case, a devastating piece by Drew Harwell that showed how a Scientology front group had teamed up with the Nation of Islam to suck dry an ailing Florida charter school.

That afternoon we described Harwell's hard-hitting piece in more detail, and also reported a surprising new development out of Israel -- Scientology's attorneys now say that church leader David Miscavige was only fibbing when he told "donors" in October that the new Ideal Org in Jaffa was a gleaming, finished, and open-for-business "new Church of Scientology." In fact, video of the facility was faked, according to a pretty stunning court filing.

Monday morning we had a little fun with Miscavige's tendency to have himself photographed at Ideal Org openings in the exact same goofy pose.

Tuesday, our readers really seemed to like a piece looking at the way Scientology drives librarians crazy with their constant attempts to donate L. Ron Hubbard books that libraries don't really want. One librarian from the Detroit area came up with a pretty creative way to strike back.

Then, early Wednesday morning, the week's big bombshell: we broke news that Debbie Cook has filed a counterclaim against Scientology, and is attempting to add two additional church entities as parties, bringing the case closer to Miscavige himself. Could we help it that in our minds, the Bexar County Courthouse suddenly transformed into Pelennor Fields?

The next morning, we had a review of sorts after Nightline got around to the Debbie Cook story. We're happy that this important lawsuit is starting to get the attention it deserves, but we had some sharp criticisms for the way ABC reported the story like it was scared witless of the church.

Later on Thursday, we had some bonus afternoon awesomeness -- a Scientology video promoting an "ethics and prosperity" convention aboard the Freewinds. We apologized ahead of time to our readers for the IQ they would lose watching it.

Yesterday, we paired another visit to L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo with a heartwarming tale of OT superpowers in a 1970s issue of Advance! magazine. What fun!

OK, let's get to the awards -- and there are plenty of them this week. Our commenters really got the theta flowing and moved this entire website into OT territory. It was really something to behold.

Sunday, we provided a link to that morning's hot story -- Drew Harwell's expose in the Tampa Bay Times about a charter school being taken over by a Scientology front group that was pushing L. Ron Hubbard's supposedly secular "study tech" on kids. That prompted this helpful information from Jefferson Hawkins...

These Scientology schools routinely say that they have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the Church of Scientology. Yet if you go to Scientology's events or read their glossy magazines, you will see them going on and on about the fabulous success of "their" education programs. So which is it, Scientology? Are these your schools or not? You can't have it both ways. They also brag, in their magazines and events, about how the International Association of Scientologists "supports" these "LRH study tech schools" all over the world. Really, Scientology? Then why is this school going bankrupt, even with federal funding? I'll wager that if you did an audit of this school's books you would find no funds coming from the IAS to them. So, Scientology, where are those IAS donations really going? They don't go where you say they are going. So how about opening up the IAS books to public scrutiny? Finally, follow the money. Those payments to the "World Literacy Crusade" -- how much of that went to Applied Scholastics, and from there to the Church of Scientology coffers? Instead of "supporting" these Hubbard schools, is Scientology actually profiting from them? The story about kids being "disciplined" by having to mop the floors was disgusting. Here we see their real agenda coming to the fore - to export Scientology's culture of authoritarianism, unquestioning obediance and abuse to the society at large - starting with the most vulnerable. If you strip away all the window dressing, you see that Scientology's "Study Tech" teaches and enforces one thing: that if you disagree with what you are being taught it is something wrong with YOU -- "misunderstood words," "lack of mass," "out-ethics" and so on and you must therefore be corrected until you "get it." This is authoritarian education at its worst.

Meanwhile, this was one of our funniest Sunday Funnies ever, and we got a great laugh out of this reaction from Anon A...

Congrats to the Melbourne Org for coming up with the worst Austin Powers cosplay EVER.

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That afternoon, we provided more detail about Harwell's excellent piece, and were rewarded with this great bit of personal history from Patty Moher...

This is just classic Scientology behavior. Just look over the history of Scientology trying to infiltrate schools with their "study tech." They lie or use acceptable truths to get in the front door. Inevitably, they apply standard but useless LRH Tech and they fail, fail, fail. I once ran a Narconon and over several years managed to finagle over a quarter of a million dollars worth of grants for the Narconon program. The Guardians Office was running the Narconons during that time and demanded 10% of all the grant money. I tried to explain that this would be illegal because the grant money was allocated for certain things and 10% fee to the GO was not one of the approved line items. I was told that the solution would be for the money to come out of Staff Pay. Again I explained that this was illegal. They backed off but then sent down orders that all future grant money proposals had to include a 10 percent consultancy fee. LOL! You can be sure the cult is getting money from this latest scam. I'd love to see a copy of their actual budget. I'm sure with a little more research, we could dig out where the money is going.

Others noted the link between Scientology and the Nation of Islam, which was prominent in the charter school story. That motivated Rolotomasii to make this comment...

I am waving my Geek Flag here, but just imagine the space battle between the NOI Motherwheel vs. LRH's Marcabian Armada?? Could evil Lord Xenu and his fleet of intergalactic DC-9's (or is it 10's) beat the awesome power of the bow-tied minions of Elijah Mohammed and the awe inspiring strength of the Motherwheel? This thing makes the Death Star look like a wimp.

On Monday, we had some fun with Scientology's official photos from the scene of Ideal Org openings, which tend to show David Miscavige making the same exact goofy pose. Once again, the perspicacious John P was on the scene to give us his analysis...

Miscavige has only a few basic gestures, repeated like clockwork: a) straighten up stack of papers (which you shouldn't have on stage in the first place), b) move hands out to corners of podium and lean on them, c) with palms remaining on corners of podium, raise fingers an inch above podium, and d) take left hand off corner of podium prior to moving both hands back to position (a).

The reason for this wooden effect is that Miscavige hides behind the crazy pimped-out podium. Effective presenters are taught never to hide behind a podium (unless they're political leaders and the podium is a shield against bullets, missiles, etc). Effective presenters will walk around the stage, moving front to back depending on the emotion being conveyed, and side to side to include the entire audience, or to support a variety of camera angles.

What you see in the photos is the only one of Miscavige's four stage gestures that doesn't look bad in a still picture -- (a) makes him look inward focused and weak, like a bureaucrat tidying up the stack of papers instead of accomplishing anything useful; (b) leaning on the corners of the podium would make him look like he's not strong enough to stand on his own, and (c) looks just plain weird. So by process of elimination, only (d) is suitable for capturing in a still photo.

The quintessential example of a good presenter is the late Steve Jobs. He wears the same black mock turtleneck, Levi's 501's and New Balance running shoes on stage that he wore to work. The stage is minimalist and the PowerPoint's are spare. Jobs's words were simple and effective. The net result of Jobs's presentations was that many customers felt that they had a personal relationship with him, and that made hundreds of millions of people willing to pay premium prices for what he sells. Apple has great design, cool stores and effective advertising, but the personal presence of Steve Jobs was an equally important factor in Apple's success.

There is a correlation between the credibility of the leader's presentation style and the results they produce. The company Jobs founded and ran became the most valuable company in the world on several occasions, including in just the last few weeks. The cult run by Miscavige has headed nowhere but down under his administration when measured on almost any conceivable measure other than square feet of real estate owned per active cult member.

And we also dug this personal history from Dallas...

I was in the marketing department of CSI and worked on all of its magazines promotional fliers, posters, etc. What people don't realize is that every one of those shots above have more photoshop done than a Playboy centerfold. Every image of Miscavige is signed off by his office before it can be published in any piece. There is probably 10-100 man hours by a team to make them perfect. You will notice most of the backgrounds are blue which are to make his blue eyes pop (which was one of the most corrected feature). Other color corrections done were to his Bahamas tan as he could not be too pale in any picture, any lint or dandruff on his suit, etc. Now some may remember if they were at FLO in 2000. For one of the events, I think New Year's 2000, there were no good shots he liked for the cover of International Scientology News. So the production department was supposed to compile two images one that had just the right background and one that had just the right pose. Well as the team had been up for close to two weeks straight working on all the promotion for the releases for the event their wits were not fully about them. So what went to press was perfect a 4-armed man (they forgot to remove the arms of the previous pose). This was caught right before shipping so involved the entirety of the HGB building (500+) staff staying up for 2 days straight pulling off covers and rebinding with a corrected cover before they were shipped out to public. And there were probably 4 people removed from their positions for this one mistake.

On Tuesday, we looked at the way librarians are constantly bombarded by Scientology's efforts to get Hubbard's books on their shelves. Several readers -- former Scientologists -- admitted that there was also a program to confiscate books critical of the church. But then, we were fortunate enough to get this personal story from none other than Paulette Cooper...

The nerve is that while they push their books into libraries, they have a history of stealing books against them out of libraries. When my "Scandal of Scientology" came out, the New York Public Library ordered 50 copies. They told me in amazement that all 50 copies were stolen in the first hour it was put out,and the card catalog's card for the book was missing so no one could look it up. Years later, the LA Public library information division told me that whenever anyone wanted to read my book, they had to read it sitting next to the woman in charge and turn it into her if they wanted to go to the bathroom because so many copies had been stolen earlier.

And we have to thank O. Lallieberry for doing this bit of research...

I work for a major research university. I just checked our library catalog. No L. Ron, no LR, but then I was worried when I saw an entry for Ronald Hubbard. Turns out there is, or was, a legitimate researcher named Ronald Hubbard (poor guy), who edited a book on toxicology (no less) in 1983! Very definitely not our L-Ron, though.

We're giving a special award to this three-person exchange that showed up in our story about librarians. It's still making us break out in loud guffaws.

Atom: One time I walked into my local Barnes and Noble book store, and there was an entire display of L. Ron Hubbard's sci-fi books. I couldn't believe it. I didn't say anything, but the next day I went back to see if it was still there, and it was gone. I don't know if the store owners were pressured like the librarians to put the display up, or if $cientologist came into the store and did it themselves. Either way the display was taken down pretty quickly, and I haven't seen it since.

Marcotai: The answer is very simple, the demand of LRH books is very, very high.

NOTseriously: BWAHAHAHAHA! I just laughed so hard the neighbors called to see if I was ok. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Let me get up off the floor. The kids think I'm having a seizure. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry, all. I try to not feed the troll, but this is the funniest thing I've heard all year.

That Marcotai, what would we do without him?

Wednesday's big story was that Debbie Cook has countersued Scientology, and that she had appeared on Good Morning America and Nightline. In one response to her allegations, Scientology attorney Gary Soter told ABC, "The Hole does not exist" -- and please note the use of present tense. That statement also prompted this response from DodoTheLaser...

It's official now -- "The Hole does not exist." And licking bathroom floors are entirely volunteer activity, I am sure. There might be even signed affidavits on that available soon.

Our Wednesday post also included more than 20 pages of documents that had been either filed in the lawsuit by Cook's attorney Ray Jeffrey or sent to Cook by Scientology attorney George Spencer. We had to agree with this sentiment by Heather Grace

Ah, sunlight. Sweet sunlight. As you were, Mr Spencer.

Many readers seemed energized by the competence of Jeffrey, including Mirele..

This is what happens when you have reasonably competent legal representation--as opposed to DIY lawyering. I have to hand it to the Indies, they knew this was important and they ponied up the money to get Debbie and Wayne a lawyer. From the look of these interrogatories, it's clear he knows the right questions to ask. As for DM, he's probably just getting warmed up on today's slapathon, since someone obviously didn't "make it go right."

One of Spencer's letters, meanwhile, instructed Debbie Cook to preserve any records of people donating to her cause, which resulted in this act of defiance by jensting...

HEY! OSA!!

I DONATED TO DEBBIE COOK'S DEFENSE!!!

Do your best :)

Thursday morning, we explained why we were underwhelmed by Nightline's "exclusive" (cough, cough) coverage of the Cook lawsuit. In particular, we thought it was a shame that ABC didn't draw on its own past coverage to show that Cook is only the latest former Scientology executive to come forward with horror stories of "the Hole" at Int base. But some of you made it clear that ABC's reach far outweighed any criticisms we might have had for its reporting...

Said optimist...

I don't mind that they called their story "exclusive" since that word alone probably doubled the audience interested in watching the story. Perhaps a few curious audience members will find their way here when they google "Debbie Cook Scientology".

And this from Kim O'Brien...

I made my husband stay up last night to watch the interview. Poor bastard has heard me talking about this freak show for a year and trying to put up with me. Since I have been following all of this and knew a bit more behind the story ...I was bummed about the interview and the way it was done. My husband however ...freaked the fuck out . At 7am this morning ..instead of reading news before he went to work ...he read the Truth Rundown.

And from Quarkfire...

All I know is I was on the phone with my mother last night and she asked me if I had "ever heard of Scientology" and that "it's so scary." My mom kind of lives under the proverbial rock -- she's not exactly a news junkie. I mean, to have made its way through the walls of her rather limited and supermainstream bubble, it's really got to have saturated the World At Large.

But most of all, from Hdemollester...

Hi everyone. I'm new to this forum, this is my first comment. I watched Nightline last night, and was so shocked I just spent the entire night reading up on Scientology, which is how I found this site. I'm in the entertainment industry, and know a few people who are into Scientology. I've been invited to come to the Celebrity Center a few times, for dinners or events. I hadn't gone yet due more to schedule issue than anything else, but I probably would have relented eventually. Not now. No f-ing way. I just spent hours pouring over this entire site. The primer, the horrible stories of abuse, the whole Debbie Cook story. I read as many comments threads as I could, which taught me almost more than the articles themselves. I've read all the comments on this article, and while I understand your concerns about the half-assed job done by Nightline, let me assure you that from the perspective of this newbie, it did the job. It freaked me out enough to start looking into it, especially given the heavy concentration of Scientologists in my line of business, and the fact that I've clearly been a target of quiet but relentless recruitment. The first thing I did was google Debbie cook. Guess what comes up first? That's how I found my way here. If your concern is that the story wouldn't scare off fresh meat, trust me, have no fear. I really knew nothing about it other than what I'd been told by the few Scientologists I knew. But that had now changed. Not only me. I've been on the phone with friends and peers, and while a surprising number already knew enough about it to never set foot into one of their buildings, others were like me: kind of oblivious and possibly open to exploring. Trust me when I tell you that none of my circle will ever again be at risk for being plucked by this dangerous cult. And I can tell you right now that there are certain people in my industry with whom I will never work again. And I'm fortunate enough to be able to make that choice. What makes me angriest is that it was presented as a way to improve my life, increase my artistic abilities, and help others without all the typical religious dogma found in churches. In particular I have always disliked the blatant hatred towards gays you find in most churches, which as you can imagine, doesn't play well in my line of work. I was told this was different- welcoming, accepting of all, without the need to believe in the usual supernatural bullshit of Religions like Jesus and all that. Turns out that was all a lie- not only are they horribly homophobic, but they believe in freaking ALIENS! Next time I get invited to the Celebrity Center, you can be sure that I will tell them to tell their buddy Xenu to shove it up his 75-million year old alien ass.

Thank you, everyone, who pointed out how important it was for this story to appear on a national television network. We will reserve the right, however, to continue to bitch about Terry Moran saying that Scientology is "growing" or for Nightline to pretend that it's first on the scene. It's just how we roll.

Thursday, we provided some bonus afternoon coverage with a video that we warned readers would probably cost them points of IQ. It featured "Lieutennant [sic] Commander Sharron Weber" enticing Scientologists to spend a few grand for a cruise aboard the Freewinds for some "OT hatting" on "ethics and prosperity."

We felt CofS Exit Zone's pain...

"You need to be OT, to become OT." We interrupt this broadcast for a parade of facepalms

And cracked up when we saw Dan Courtney's reaction...

My girlfriend heard the part where I could avoid shrinkage and have great expansion, and immediately signed me up!

And we thought BroekerBroekerBroeker made a great point -- he's right, someone on the video does talk about the cruise itself as an example of "going exterior"...

My favorite bit that hasn't been mentioned? The penultimate Scientologist's redefinition of "going exterior" as "going on a Caribbean cruise." If they keep defining OT powers down, they might finally be able to show Jason Beghe that one fucking OT he's been demanding! Fully exterior (lying on a chaise lounge in Curaçao), at cause over MEST (drinking a daiquiri), able to fully project intention into another being (ordering another daiquiri from the waiter), and at cause over life (having drunk MANY daiquiris). Shit, I wanna go OT!

Yesterday morning, we made our weekly visit to the yacht Apollo, circa 1969-1971, and this time, L. Ron Hubbard was blustering about how he learned from an 80-billion-year-old civilization somewhere in the galaxy always to send two business agents to take over a new office. Or something. Anyway, we enjoyed this comeback by NoMoreVisitsPlease...

"To get anything done we always send two." This is why they always come in pairs to my house to try to "persuade" my husband to return to his course and start flowing money to the "church" once again. It won't work.

And finally, we'll finish up with this sharp observation of Hubbard's "orders" by Sid...

When reading this drivel, two things strike me: the craziness, and the verboseness. It's almost as if the author were a trained fantasist who was paid by the word. Oh, hang on...

There were so many other hilarious and smart and poignant comments this week. And there was Marcotai.

I can hardly wait to see what you all have for us in the coming days. We have a particularly great Sunday Funnies prepared for tomorrow morning, and then on Monday, a lengthy, moving story that we've been working on for weeks. Please come around at 8 am and see what we will reveal...



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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at tortega@villagevoice.com, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories, which tend to come out each and every morning at 8 am, but can suddenly appear at any time of the day. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, our Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.

New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories. As for our regular features, on Thursdays we do a roundup of world press, on Fridays we visit L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo circa 1969-1971, on Saturdays we celebrate the week's best comments, and on Sundays we publish Scientology's wacky and tacky advertising mailers that people send us.

As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.

Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.



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