L. Ron Hubbard in his Own Words: Mr. Charisma?
In March, we brought you excerpts from this year's big LRH Birthday Event held in Clearwater, Florida. We'd been sent a copy of the three-hour presentation, and pulled out what we felt were the best portions to share with you.
In the time since, we're kind of surprised that a full version of the video hasn't leaked to the Internet by now. So we thought we'd break off a couple more segments for your enjoyment.
In particular, we enjoyed the short films that Golden Era Productions made that bring old Hubbard lectures to life.
As we said last time, the message in each seems to be the same: L. Ron Hubbard never met anyone on his own intellectual level.
In this first example, above, you'll see Ron school a bunch of fresh-faced college graduates who had been sent to him as ensigns during the short time that Hubbard commanded ships during the Second World War. Hubbard, who quit George Washington University after failing physics, sure seems to enjoy ridiculing their book learning, doesn't he? (Scientology, by the way, is largely about reading Hubbard's books and summarizing them.)
If Hubbard found the college boys from Iowa lacking, just wait until you see the awesome respect he had for police in this next segment.
As Hubbard tells us in this tall tale, he joined the LA police department because he wanted to find out what police were so "scared of."
Note how Ron manages to end on an up note -- that people are essentially good -- after, that is, explaining what a bunch of dumbasses they are. You have to love that kind of sleight of hand.
As we watched these segments for the first time in March, we couldn't help thinking about last year's two excellent histories of the church, Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology and Hugh Urban's The Church of Scientology. In each, we're told that Hubbard grew Scientology because of his undeniable charisma.
Now I have to wonder, did either of them actually listen to any of Hubbard's lectures? That's charisma? Hubbard comes off more like a know-it-all and teller of preposterous and self-serving tales, doesn't he? Where's the charm? I guess you had to be there, or something.
There are a few other fun portions still worth seeing in the Birthday Event. Maybe we'll share those in a future post.
Trailer of The Master Designed to Dampen Scientology Talk?
For a couple of years now Scientology watchers have been eagerly anticipating the release of Paul Thomas Anderson's next movie, The Master, which is about a post-WWII cult started up by a war veteran named Lancaster Dodd, played by a very L. Ron Hubbard-looking Philip Seymour Hoffman. Anderson and his actors, however, have tried to downplay the connection between Hoffman's cult and Hubbard's church.
Yesterday, we got our first peek at footage from the film, and it's a gripping scene of Joaquin Phoenix as navy vet Freddie Quell, apparently talking to a military officer questioning Quell about his wayward behavior.
We saw a lot of chatter on the 'Nets yesterday that this was a peek at the Scientology content of the movie. But the fact is, there isn't any to be seen, at least in this trailer. Anderson has (purposefully?) chosen what appears to be a sequence early in the film, when Freddie Quell, coming home from the war, has yet to get swept up in Dodd's cult.
If Anderson wanted to choose a scene that keeps us guessing about how much The Master portrays Scientology's early days, well, he's done masterful job.
UPDATE: Roger Friedman says a full screening leaves no doubt the movie is about Scientology's early years. Though I have to say, it's unclear from Roger's piece whether he was actually in Cannes for this screening or heard about it from others.
Hy Levy, 1952-2012
Marty Rathbun reported yesterday some terrible news. Just a few months after he was the centerpiece of the Tampa Bay Times's latest great expose on Scientology, former church registrar Hy Levy has died of cancer.
Levy made millions for Scientology by convincing church members to max out their credit cards and mortgage their homes. After 16 years of 12-hour days, he estimated that he'd brought in more then $200 million to the church, and then walked away with a severance check for $500. He admitted that he'd been so dedicated to his job, his mother's illness and dying was something he considered a "distraction."
He obviously regretted that feeling later. And I'm regretting that I missed my own opportunity. Levy, after the series in the Times, offered to talk to me about things he'd said that didn't make it into the excellent report by Joe Childs and Tom Tobin. I was eager to talk to Hy, but I stupidly put it off, assuming that I had more time. Wow, do I regret that now.
At least, however, we have, thanks to the Tampa Bay Times, Levy's devastating words about how focused on money Scientology is. Watch it again. It's powerful stuff.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a 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 hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was 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.