OK, fair enough. But Nicholson doesn’t bemoan Cruise’s choice of movie projects. She wants to place the blame on us — the Internet consumers who ruined Tom’s career because we thought we saw Tom jump on Oprah Winfrey’s couch back in 2005 and made fun of him for it.
Actually, if you watch video of Tom’s 2005 appearance on Oprah’s show, he does indeed jump on her couch — twice — but Nicholson tells us that GIFs made of the moment exaggerated Tom’s antics and made it look like Tom was jumping up and down on her couch, when that wasn’t the case.
There, do you feel chastened now?
Nicholson is clearly a Cruise fan, so maybe it’s understandable that she completely misses why that moment had such an effect at the time. But worse than that, Nicoholson amply demonstrates that she knows almost nothing about Scientology and Tom’s involvement in it, which is really why the man has lost so much of his luster over the last decade.
There are so many examples to cite, but first and foremost we’ll point out that Nicholson wrote a 5,000-word story about Tom Cruise and the Internet without, somehow, pointing out the single most important element in that saga — the nine-minute internal church video of Cruise talking about Scientology that surfaced in 2008. Actually recorded in 2004, a year before Tom jumped on Oprah’s couch, that remarkable video has done far more damage to Cruise’s credibility, and was directly responsible for mobilizing the Anonymous movement, changing the Internet itself and how we think of it forever.
In case you need a refresher…
Any story attempting to understand Tom Cruise and how his career was impacted by the Internet would not only have to talk about that devastating video, but also place it in some context. It’s true, as Nicholson points out, that Cruise had joined Scientology more than a decade earlier — it was his first wife, Mimi Rogers, who got him into it — but what has only become clear in recent years is that after Cruise married Nicole Kidman in 1990, and after she initially showed enthusiasm for the church, Nicole and Tom began to pull away from it. Former church officials tell us that by 1995 or so, Tom Cruise was virtually out of Scientology entirely, a fact Scientology managed to keep quiet until recently. Then, after Cruise and Kidman broke up in 2001, Scientology leader David Miscavige made a concerted effort to get Cruise back into the fold.
It became the job of Marty Rathbun — Miscavige’s top lieutenant and a highly regarded auditor — to turn Cruise back into a gung-ho Scientologist, and through 2003 and 2004 he succeeded mightily. (Cruise became such a loyal member, he was even letting Scientology ‘audition’ his girlfriends for him.) Cruise was not only a zealous Scientologist again and Miscavige’s best friend, he was ready, for the first time in his career, to talk publicly about Scientology. Miscavige was so thrilled, he had a special award made for his pal, the Freedom Medal of Valor. Miscavige had the nine-minute interview made, and he showed it as part of a 35-minute celebration of Cruise at the October 2004 International Association of Scientologists gala. Cruise was ready to become Miscavige’s emissary to the world.
That’s the crucial background to understand as Cruise fired his longtime publicist, Pat Kingsley, who had spent years making sure reporters didn’t ask Cruise about Scientology. Cruise replaced Kingsley with his sister, who couldn’t, as Nicholson points out, control the press the way Kingsley did. But Miscavige and Cruise wanted the actor to take the message of Scientology to the public.
And that’s when things backfired so badly. Ask Rathbun or Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesman: When Cruise was acting like a lunatic in his interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show a month after the Oprah adventure, he was carrying out David Miscavige’s program. Rathbun has told us it’s really Miscavige we’re watching as Cruise parrots Scientology mantras about the evils of psychiatry.
And there’s another reason why Tom Cruise’s suddenly strange behavior had such a huge effect at the time. In 1991, Scientology had sued Time magazine for $416 million over a cover story that called the church the “thriving cult of greed and power.” Time eventually got the lawsuit dismissed, but not before it spent millions in court. That sent a clear message to the rest of the media, and over the next 15 years there was a chilling effect that kept most mainstream media from going near Scientology stories.
Now, suddenly, Scientology’s poster boy, Tom Cruise, was bringing up that subject himself. The media jumped on a topic it had largely considered taboo because of the fears of their own attorneys. Sure, from the perspective of a fan, Tom simply jumped on a couch and had a weird argument with Matt Lauer. But those events opened the floodgates. In 2005, the LA Times, inspired by the kerfuffle, took a serious and hard look at the relationship between Tom Cruise and David Miscavige, and also uncovered startling facts about Scientology’s secretive International Base east of Los Angeles. Hoping to sway the Times while the story was still being prepared, Miscavige sent the newspaper this photograph…
We’re serious. Mike Rinder, who was Scientology’s top publicity man at the time, tells us Miscavige had that photo sent to the LA Times and he’s never really understood why. It was another major miscalculation, and it only amplified the impression that Cruise and Miscavige had a weird thing going on.
Another direct result of Tom’s 2005 antics and the ensuing media tsunami: It inspired Rolling Stone to ask one of its best journalists, Janet Reitman, to figure out what all the fuss was about. Starting from the ground up, she began learning about Scientology, which not only produced a terrific 2006 article for Rolling Stone, but eventually resulted in Reitman’s 2011 book, Inside Scientology.
In fact, the media obsession with Scientology has never really subsided since Tom Cruise made it safe again to write about it. John Sweeney’s BBC special, Scientology and Me, appeared in 2007, and then in early 2008 the infamous Tom Cruise video showed up, Anonymous took to the streets after Scientology tried to take it down, and another media frenzy began.
Again and again, it has been Tom Cruise himself who has fueled that interest. (You can practically chart the explosion in stories about Scientology to his life events.) And, as Lawrence Wright showed so skillfully in his 2013 book, Going Clear, Cruise and John Travolta and other celebrities have been pampered and pacified while they had to know that Scientology was accused of shocking allegations of abuse against its more prosaic members. (Wright was the first to reveal, in the New Yorker, that Cruise had benefited directly from the labor of Scientology’s ‘Sea Org’ workers, who are paid pennies an hour. We subsequently published photographic evidence of it.)
Why is Tom Cruise losing his mojo? Maybe because every time we learn more about Scientology’s prisons and forced abortions and ripping apart of families and spying and scorched-earth legal tactics, we can’t help wonder, why doesn’t Tom speak out? Why doesn’t he even ask where the missing wife of his best friend is? Why can’t Tom talk about what Jenna Miscavige Hill went through? Or Laura DeCrescenzo? Or Claire Headley?
Tom Cruise has ruined his own credibility and image through his connection to Scientology and his bizarre behavior on its behalf. Blaming Perez Hilton and Arianna Huffington and some nameless guy who made a GIF of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch is a nice try, but we’re not buying it.
Ryan Hamilton files his ninth federal lawsuit against Narconon
Las Vegas attorney Ryan Hamilton keeps putting more pressure on Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon. He’s filed his second federal fraud lawsuit against Narconon’s facility in Watsonville, California, and his ninth overall, with other suits in California, Nevada, and Colorado.
For years, Narconon was praised and endorsed by Scientology’s celebrities — Tom Cruise claimed that “We are the authorities in getting people off drugs.” But patient deaths, multiple government investigations, and dozens of lawsuits — including one filed last week by a prestigious credentialing organization that claims Narconon for years has conspired to misrepresent its certifications — has taken its toll on the network.
And now, there’s another federal fraud lawsuit. The details are much like the others, as attorney Hamilton zeroes in on the deceptions that are inherent in the Narconon business plan, and that we’ve detailed for years.
In this instance, we have another very recent case — it was just in January that Missouri resident Robin Jones was looking for a rehab facility for her son, James “Jimmy” Ramirez Jr.
She was referred by a generic website to “Redwood Cliffs,” the Narconon facility in Watsonville, California, which didn’t mention its connection to the Narconon network, but claimed to have a 76 percent success rate.
(We’ve seen Narconon facilities advertise up to 90 percent success rates — but an internal e-mail written by its legal affairs officer which we obtained last year showed that the network has no real scientific proof to back up those claims.)
The usual Narconon claims were made to Jones: that her son would get drug counseling at a facility staffed with a licensed physician. Based on those claims, Jones paid $35,500 up front for Jimmy’s treatment.
Once Jimmy was at the facility, instead of drug counseling he was given introductory Scientology training, and subjected to a sauna program Scientologists call the Purification Rundown.
Despite NNC [Narconon Redwood Cliffs] representations that Jimmy would receive counseling, at no point did staff ever speak to Jimmy about the specifics of his life or his drug use and its causes. In fact, no one at NNC ever spoke to Jimmy about his substance abuse at all.
NNC transferred Jimmy to from its facility near Watsonville, California to its facility near Lake Tahoe, California known as “Emerald Pines.”
Because he was not receiving anything resembling treatment and because he did not feel safe at NNC’s facility, Jimmy left NNC with a group of patients.
Jimmy and the other patients walked to town from the facility. They found lodging while they made travel plans to return to their respective home states.
NNC staff camped outside their hotel room, followed them around town, and repeatedly harassed Jimmy and the other patients.
Jimmy and the others were forced to ask local police to get NNC staff to leave them alone.
The lawsuit also names Narconon’s umbrella organization, Narconon International, and Scientology’s umbrella group for its “social betterment” programs, the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), which oversees Narconon International.
Here’s the complaint…
By our count, that’s nine federal fraud lawsuits Hamilton has filed against Narconon in California, Nevada, and Colorado.
Angelo Amato (San Diego)
Christy Estrada and Branden Chavez (San Diego)
Cathy and Michael Tarr (Nevada)
Harry and Lauren Geanacopulos (Nevada)
David, Stacy, and Jack Welch (Nevada)
Bryan and Nikki Mott (Colorado)
Charles and Tyler Matthys, and Linda Phillips (Colorado)
Kenneth and Jered Mowery (Watsonville, CA)
We asked our legal expert, Scott Pilutik, for his thoughts on the NAFC lawsuit that was filed Friday, and whether it will have some effect on the Hamilton and other Narconon lawsuits.
The NAFC/ACCFC lawsuit against Narconon is a pretty wonderful thing. Even if the complaint stopped 84 paragraphs in, those first 84 paragraphs naming the myriad Narconon entities, their DBAs, and their franchisors is an incalculable public service. I’m curious, though, how complete the list is, and whether it’s possible the NAFC/ACCFC came across any Narconon entity that wasn’t falsely asserting their endorsement/affiliation.
The implication that flows from the NAFC/ACCFC’s complaint is that not only are Narconon entities asserting non-existing/withdrawn/suspended licenses and certifications, but that they appear to flaunt trademark law in concert with a mannered unity (para. 253 calls it a “common purpose”). Narconons are franchises, supposedly barely affiliated with Scientology’s ostensibly religious entities much less each other, yet they all appear to be following an identical playbook.
Now if I’m, say, Ryan Hamilton, I’m probably thinking this lawsuit is extra wonderful. Most of the cases Hamilton is bringing allege fraud, and so the inquiry here, though not fraud per se, will focus on a concerted, knowing deception by the Narconon entities and their director parents. But perhaps even more useful is what I mentioned above — these various Narconon entities and corporate parents appear to be acting (too) harmoniously. Hamilton would likely be very interested in the factual record generated by the NAFC/ACCFC case, and obviously anything mentioned by the judge with respect to the entities sharing a common purpose.
Jillian Schlesinger on Sea Org control
Another fascinating video from Karen de la Carriere — Jillian Schlesinger talks about how Scientology keeps Sea Org members from learning about the outside world…
Posted by Tony Ortega on May 21, 2014 at 06:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43