We have so much for you today, we hardly know where to begin. On Sundays, we bring you the latest wacky Scientology fliers and mailers and other things that our worldwide tipster network has brought us during the week. And today is special — tonight, Scientology is holding its annual posh gala for science fiction writers and illustrators, and like last year, we’re going to live-blog the ceremony as it streams on the ‘net!
Please check back here later today for our live-blog entry, which we’ll post at around 7:30 PM Eastern/4:30 PM Pacific (12:30 AM London/9:30 AM Sydney) to get the conversation started. The event itself begins at 9:30 PM Eastern/6:30 PM Pacific (2:30 AM London/11:30 AM Sydney).
As for this morning, we have a great collection of weird stuff for you. Let’s start with the Writers of the Future contest itself…
On Friday, we announced that it was time again for the annual contest, and reminded everyone that a year ago, we’d proved definitively a direct link between the contest and Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of people in its notorious office-prison, “The Hole.”
At that time, we heard from a few past winners who told us they were unconcerned about the church’s ownership of the contest because there seemed to be a strong “firewall” between it and Scientology itself.
But Rachel Denk, who administered the contest for many years, told us that in recent years, she’s seen more and more indications that the wall between the two is crumbling. And then, this week, some of our readers pointed out that photographs of the week’s festivities had been posted at the website of Author Services Inc. — the church entity that owns and runs the contest. One photo in particular caught our eye…
Here’s how Author Services described the action in this photo: “Dave Wolverton and Tim Powers gave preparatory lectures on the types, kinds, and value of research — as applied to writing science fiction and fantasy…Writers also discussed a few essays on writing by L. Ron Hubbard that they’d been assigned the night before, breaking into pairs (Tim likes to call them their writing ‘twins’) to discuss how they could apply his teachings to their own work.”
We couldn’t help noticing that each of the contest winners has a certain book sitting in front of them in the photo. Here’s a slightly larger view…
Do you recognize the book? We did. It’s from the RON: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA series that church members have been impoverishing themselves to put copies of in every library on earth. In particular, it’s this volume, about Hubbard’s career as a writer…
As we’ve seen in previous editions of Sunday Funnies, the Ron Encyclopedia is something that the Church of Scientology is not only counting on for “dissemination,” but also for influencing “opinion leaders” around the world.
And hey, maybe these sci-fi geeks will ask for the whole set to take home to influence friends and family!
While all that pomp and circumstance is taking place in Hollywood, in other parts of the Scientology galaxy things are a bit less posh. Mike Rinder, at his new blog, has been posting a series of items about how the church’s “Ideal Orgs” have fallen on hard times and are struggling to raise money or bring in new people.
In cities around the world, church leader David Miscavige is tasking the locals with raising huge sums of money so they can purchase historic buildings and turn them into hi-tech showplaces. But in most cases, the “orgs” those buildings are replacing weren’t full anyway, and as lavish as the new facilities are, they aren’t pulling in members of the public. The situation has gotten so bad, in places like Johannesburg, Rinder showed, the big new buildings have become ghostly quiet.
But Rinder has really focused on Buffalo, New York, and for good reason. Buffalo opened as one of the first Ideal Orgs back in 2003, and it was rededicated last year — but only now, ten years after it first opened up, is the org doing its “non-existence campaign.” That’s Scientology-speak for “make people aware that you’re here” — a PR push, in other words. And Rinder has shown just how surprisingly hamfisted that campaign is. It centers on trying to sell limited-edition, leather-bound copies of Dianetics at $500 each to parishioners who have already been hit up endlessly for donations.
But of all the things Rinder has posted, we really enjoyed this video, which was taken by someone who happened to see inside the Buffalo org’s windows to witness a promotional video being made — note the two Scientology Buffalo gals dancing with their leather-bound books…
Speaking of dancing and cavorting for Scientology, we were thrilled to see the following video over at Possibly Helpful Advice. It’s another example of orgs forming regional “alliances” — which we interpret simply as a sign of desperation. In this case, a southwest US alliance centered on Phoenix, Arizona, and it features our favorite fundraiser of all time, Dede from Phoenix!
Next up on our Sunday Funnies cavalcade is Hugh Urban’s review of Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear, which appeared at Reason yesterday. Longtime readers will remember Urban, an Ohio State University professor of religious studies who produced a fine academic history of Scientology a couple of years ago.
Urban generally has praise for Wright’s book, saying that it’s a “more balanced, thoughtful, and empathetic” treatment of the church than Janet Reitman’s 2011 book, Inside Scientology. We found Urban’s two big criticisms of Wright’s book rather puzzling, however.
Urban is an academic who relied primarily for his book on historic court documents — many of them involving ex-Scientologists suing the church — and he also wrote about the Anonymous movement, people who never had any involvement in the church. But he thinks Wright relied too much on eyewitnesses who spent decades in the church and who, Urban doesn’t point out, all back each other up with consistent stories. Knowing Wright’s book, we can tell you that he never, as Urban says, takes any ex-Scientologist’s story at face value, but instead works hard to verify and corroborate their accounts. (Discounting the eyewitness accounts of ex-church members is a classic religious studies professor thing to do, unfortunately.)
But worse than that, Urban then chides Wright for focusing too much on celebrities — a criticism that Wright himself probably would simply shrug off since he’s written a bestseller, not an academic book few will see — and then, incredibly, Urban utters these words…
Wright perpetuates the most common stereotype of Scientology and also obscures the lived reality of the vast majority of ordinary Scientologists. What is it like to be a non-celebrity Scientologist in Cincinnati or Akron, someone who never “goes Clear” and neither knows nor cares about the Xenu story? What is it like to grow up as a child in the Sea Org, which Wright himself tells us is the true inner core of the church? These and many others aspects of this complex movement remain to be explored and understood. We can only hope that another writer as thoughtful, even-handed, and eloquent as Wright takes up these other chapters in the long, strange story of Scientology.
Our jaw literally dropped open as we read those words. Could Urban seriously be ignorant of the fact that not three weeks after Wright’s book came out, another major book about Scientology was published by William Morrow, the memoir of Jenna Miscavige Hill, who did, indeed, grow up as a child in the Sea Org? And that other books, perhaps not with major publishers, have addressed the other things Urban says have gone unwritten? Vance Woodward, for example, who spent 22 years in Scientology without “going Clear” or learning the Xenu story, and who wrote a rollicking, hilarious, and very personal account of what it’s like to be a nobody in Scientology’s byzantine bureaucracy?
We find it stunning that Urban, who proclaims to be an expert — indeed, he pimped his own title as a “major book” in the review’s first paragraph — can be so ignorant of what’s going on in Scientology publishing.
Maybe he ought to pay a little more attention to a certain blog and keep better informed. Just a thought.
And now, for this week’s collection of mailers and fliers. We love this one from Scotland, where church members are ready to kick some English ass…
Texas, the first clear “country”?
Why make money in retail when you can run around in circles at the LA Org?
We only wish we could have attended this seminar Thursday night. The hair alone would have been worth it.
And finally, we’ll post this video made by the Plymouth, England org. Now, the Anons who first posted it naturally acted like their ears bled after hearing it, but we found this to be a very clever tune and well performed. If only all Scientology promotionals had a sense of humor like this piece.
Thanks again to all of our great tipsters. Keep those mailers and fliers coming! And remember to check back tonight as we watch the Writers of the Future gala!
Posted by Tony Ortega on April 14, 2013 at 07:00