This is a fun one: New York Times staffer Michael Cieply reporting on an ad in his own newspaper.
Cieply reports that the Church of Scientology has taken out a full page ad in the Times to slam Alex Gibney, whose documentary about Scientology, Going Clear, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25.
You just knew Scientology was going to make this fun, didn’t you?
As soon as we have the ad itself, we’ll add it to this piece (we have it now, see below), but here’s what Cieply says about it…
On Friday, the Church of Scientology is expected to strike out at the movie — which its members and leaders have not yet seen — with full-page newspaper advertisements in The New York Times and elsewhere detailing what it says are journalistic lapses by Mr. Gibney.
In a pointed reference to a much-challenged magazine article about a campus rape at the University of Virginia, the ads ask whether the movie, called “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” is “a Rolling Stone/UVA Redux.”
In its ad and in an interview with representatives, the church said Mr. Gibney had rejected its 12 requests for an opportunity to address accusations, while asking instead for interviews with the church leader, David Miscavige, and celebrity adherents that include Tom Cruise, John Travolta and others.
In a statement, Mr. Gibney on Thursday said he had “requested interviews with various people — including current church members and officials — who could shed light on specific incidents discussed in the film.” All of those asked, he added, “either declined, did not respond or set unreasonable conditions.”
Well, that’s such classic Scientology we could practically dictate that ad in our sleep. Of course they’re going to say that Gibney didn’t respond to the church’s questions. That’s the same thing Scientology has always said, after Lawrence Wright’s book, and Janet Reitman’s book, and the exposes in the Tampa Bay Times. And it always rings false.
Of course, this ad blitz is only going to make people more curious to see the film. HBO has been handed a gift on a silver platter.
Scientology, when are you going to buy a clue?
Another part of Cieply’s story made us smile:
Speaking on Tuesday, several church representatives said the refusal to disclose the film’s assertions was unusual and unfair. “In my 40 years of experience, this has never happened,” said Anthony Michael Glassman, a lawyer who has represented Scientology in media-related cases.
Ah, Glassman. For years, he’s been assigned to your proprietor, watching everything we do. And when we help out a documentary crew, it’s Glassman’s job to send letters about what a pitiful excuse for a journalist we are. You have to figure that’s easy money.
Poor Glassman doesn’t know what’s in the movie. Hey, Tony, buy a ticket!
On the more serious side, it’s irritating to see Scientology attorney Monique Yingling do her best Tommy Davis impression as she tries to mitigate Scientology’s toxic policy of “disconnection”…
Monique E. Yingling, a lawyer for the church, said shunning was practiced by a number of religions, has been upheld as legally permissible by courts and, in the case of Scientology, is reserved for those who have started “attacking the religion.”
It would be nice if the New York Times, instead of simply peddling Yingling’s obfuscations, countered it with some actual evidence of how cruelly Scientology uses leverage to split up families in disgusting ways. “Shunning” just doesn’t capture it. “Disconnection” is political and destructive. What, for example, had Cindy Plahuta done wrong when Scientology instructed her daughter to cut off all ties with her? What about Lori Hodgson? What did she do to deserve to lose all contact with her children? Derek Bloch lost all contact with his family simply because he posted anonymously about his frustrations to a web forum with no intention of harming his loved ones. Why did he have to pay that price, Ms. Yingling?
We expect that Mr. Gibney’s films will explain in stark terms why Ms. Yingling is full of it.
UPDATE: By the way, when 900 authors took out a full-page ad in the Times in August to decry the practices of Amazon against their publisher, Hachette Books, the newspaper also ran a story about that controversy, and revealed that the authors had paid $104,000 for their full-page screed. Now, that was a Sunday, which might cost a little more, who knows. But it gives us some ballpark for what Scientology paid (and we hope the Times was savvy enough to jack up the rates when they saw moneybags Miscavige coming through the door). We have a feeling additional copies of the ad will show up in USA Today and elsewhere, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Scientology ends up paying more than a million for this salvo at Gibney. What’s money when you have whales like Bob Duggan to foot the bill?
UPDATE: And here’s the ad, on page A11 of this morning’s New York Times…
Here’s what it says…
Is Alex Gibney’s Upcoming HBO “Documentary” a Rolling Stone/UVA Redux?
Rolling Stone has been widely criticized for not checking the facts on its recent reporting on the University of Virginia. National Public Radio reported, “…[T]he editor [of Rolling Stone] now admits the magazine never confirmed several details central to the story.”
Now HBO is planning to air a documentary about the Church of Scientology, and like Rolling Stone, HBO is not confirming facts central to its film. Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
Twelve times Alex Gibney and HBO have refused the Church’s requests for questions, assertions and statements about Scientology that will be included in the film so that we can comment on the “facts.”
Mr. Gibney and HBO documentary chief Sheila Nevins have rejected multiple requests to meet with executives of the Church, including those with individual firsthand information.
Mr. Gibney confirmed that the foundation for his film is a book by Lawrence Wright. As he stated with respect to an earlier project, “I trusted Larry [Wright]. I wasn’t looking for holes in his story.” In fact, a little homework and due diligence on this project would have revealed the following holes:
— Primary sources for the Wright book have not had any involvement with or firsthand knowledge of the Church for approximately 10 to 30 years.
— The book’s sources include individuals who admitted committing and suborning perjury and obstructing justice; are known associates of a cyber-terrorism hacking group; and in recent deposition testimony admitted to lying under penalty of perjury and have admitted lying to the media. Two of the sources made a claim in a lawsuit that was so outlandish it was not only thrown out of a federal court, but so frivolous the couple was ordered to pay $40,000 in costs to the Church.
— The book’s sources also include individuals who left the Church after admitting to such things as malfeasance that cost the Church significant amounts of money; violent outbursts; and initiating sexual relationships with those they were purportedly counseling in the role of Church minister.
— Not only is the credibility of these sources utterly lacking, each one was expelled from Scientology for malfeasance, lying, and conduct unbecoming a Church member.
Given those facts, the Church asked Mr. Gibney to share statements and allegations being made about it and its leadership so the Church could comment on their accuracy — or lack thereof — as well as provide evidence to support what it was saying. Mr. Gibney refused.
Mr. Gibney’s film has been in the works in secret for two years. He and HBO never bothered to tell the Church it was even being made until recently.
Hasn’t Mr. Gibney or Ms. Nevins learned anything from what occurred with Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia reporting?
As Edward Kosner wrote in the Wall Street Journal, reflecting on the Rolling Stone controversy, “Desperate times call for disciplined journalism.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The Church of Scientology is committed to free speech. However, free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information. We have all seen what happens when facts are not checked or those being reported on are not given a chance to respond. The Church is taking a resolute stand against such actions — both on its own behalf and for others who either cannot or will not do so.
Presented as a Public Service by the Church of Scientology International — made possible by members of the Church of Scientology.
And here’s a look at part of the web page they’ve set up about Gibney at Freedom magazine’s site…
Yes, they have letters from Karin Pouw! Oh, they are a laugh riot. We’ll excerpt some later today.
UPDATE — STATEMENT FROM ALEX GIBNEY: Mr. Gibney has responded to our request for a statement about Scientology’s newspaper ad. Here’s what he sent us…
“What I find so fascinating, from having studied the church for more than two years, is how eerily predictable it is. It’s almost as though all the voices from the church were channeling the views of a single individual…”
(For those new to the subject, what Gibney is referring to there in a sly way is that Scientology, originally built around the ideas of a single person, L. Ron Hubbard, now is under the thrall of its current leader, David Miscavige, who is really behind all of the statements put out by spokespeople, and letters put out by its lawyers. Clever.)
UPDATE: KARIN POUW’S LETTERS to GIBNEY AND HBO: We’ve pulled some of the best parts of the letters that Scientology has posted at the website of its propaganda magazine, Freedom. We now get to see what Gibney has been dealing with over the last couple of months. (And we’ve highlighted some phrases in bold for their humor value.)
Dear Mr. Gibney:
Are you joking?
In the letter you sent me, you state that your work “examines Scientology, building on the foundation laid by Lawrence Wright” in his book. You told the New York Times of your “interest” in Wright’s description of Scientology as a “prison of belief.” You have also been quoted as saying, “Every time somebody tweets a positive note about WikiLeaks they rain hell on them. I guess that is their way of trying to stamp out criticism, but it’s not what you would expect of a transparency organization. It’s the tactics of Scientology.” These statements and others you have made demonstrate a pre-set tainted and bigoted view—certainly not one of an objective individual.
Your letter has not provided sufficient information for me to determine anything other than your documentary is yet another predetermined vision of my Church blinded by bigotry and bias that relies on the same handful of bitter, discredited sources.
So, since you are just coming to me now for the first time, please tell me:
Who are your on-the-record sources?
What is being said about my Church?
I will expect to hear back from you soon.
Dear Mr. Gibney:
We would like to know when you began working on this documentary. As we understand it, you have been working on it for approximately two years, which is why it is inexcusable to only now contact the Church with a disingenuous request to respond to unspecified allegations from anonymous sources.
As for your letter and statements:
“For your information, my film focuses on a group of individuals who were once members of Scientology and have since left the church.”
Please list them out exactly. We know about this self-proclaimed “posse” of lunatics that has been spreading the same stale lies and myths about the Church in an orchestrated campaign for five years. They are littered throughout Wright’s book. We have many materials that demonstrate these witnesses are utterly unreliable and frequently change their stories over time. You have an obligation to tell your audience about the uncontroverted facts affecting these sources’ credibility. The same goes with the new sources you claim you have—please provide their names and allow us to respond.
“Various questions have been raised about the administration of the church,”
We cannot answer ambiguous charges. Please provide specific allegations, per your journalistic duties.
Your sources are unqualified and know nothing about the Church today given most of them were dismissed by the Church a decade or more ago.
“I believe that some of these questions can be answered only by David Miscavige.”
Give us the questions and we will determine who can answer them. It is impossible that only Mr. Miscavige can answer them. In fact, it’s a ridiculous assertion. Please provide the questions and the Church will provide timely responses.
Dear Mr. Gibney:
This letter follows my letter to you of November 14, 2014—which you never answered—asking you to provide questions and allegations. You have a responsibility to your viewing audience to uphold the journalistic standards of the profession.
You have been relying exclusively for two years on former members to talk about my Church. Relying only on a single point of view—in this case, anti-Scientologists, some of whom have been out of the Church for as long as 30 years—makes your film no more accurate than Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia debacle.
This whole concocted story started with Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun, discredited sources for you and Lawrence Wright. Wright’s book is a compendium of lies threaded together with the psychotic ramblings of a bunch of obsessed anti-Scientologists kicked out of the Church years ago. The book itself is nothing less than an example of corrupt, unethical journalism. Compared to Wright’s book, Rolling Stone’s debacle is Pulitzer-worthy.
We’re not going to guess at each of the sources you are using. Regardless, if you claim to not be using all of the sources in Wright’s book (because they are so heavily discredited), it means that you are even more dishonest than we already think.
How can you base a documentary on a book where virtually all of the sources of those allegations can not only be shown to simply have an ‘axe to grind,’ but to be complete liars? Did your marching orders from HBO include overlooking Lawrence Wright’s blatant falsehoods in his book, his lack of honesty, his absent journalistic integrity and his violations of basic journalistic ethics? How can you make a film about a book exposed as a fraud because it included so many discredited sources? Now do you want to see the documents that prove this? Do you want to see the judicial rulings that prove this? Or do you want to ignore them entirely?
Make no mistake, I definitely want to push you into a corner. I have repeatedly told you that I will answer allegations and provide you documentary proof they are false. I absolutely intend on having you on record as being offered these documents and either ignoring them or having seen them. And if, after having seen them, you ignore these materials, then I will also have a record of that.
I reiterate again: meet with us and we will present you the information.
President, HBO Documentary Films
Re: HBO documentary on Scientology, pure anti-Scientology propaganda
Dear Ms. Nevins:
HBO commissioned Alex to produce a “documentary” on Scientology. For two years Mr. Gibney avoided and even hid from the Church the fact that he was producing one.
As an example of Alex Gibney’s bias, one of his anti-Scientology sources, Mike Rinder, is his Facebook friend. Rinder was kicked out of the Church for severe malfeasance as an external affairs officer. We later learned he was part of a trio involved in the subornation of perjury, not to mention a documented wife abuser.
So let’s get this straight:
— HBO commissions a documentary based on a book by Lawrence Wright, who has this entire posse of anti-Scientologists that he used as sources on his Facebook page as friends.
— The filmmaker of HBO’s documentary, Alex Gibney, not only has Mike Rinder as a Facebook friend but follows him and others of this anti-Scientology posse, the sources, on Twitter.
— HBO is reportedly flying these and other zealots into Sundance to promote the film, and paying for their hotel and accommodations, according to rumors on the internet. Is this true?
For all intents and purposes Alex Gibney is now part of the social group of anti-Scientologists who provided the source material for Wright’s article, his book and now Gibney’s HBO film.
My colleagues and I insist on meeting with HBO to present you documented evidence that discredits the sources and the story being told. I will give you information you do not have. It also is information Mr. Gibney is obliged to see and present unless he wants to openly admit that he doesn’t have a molecule of journalistic integrity.
Dear Mr. Gibney:
I am writing you again as I have yet to receive a reply from you. Instead of answering my correspondence, you turned it over to your attorney to answer.
Sources in Wright’s book—who are your sources as well—have criminal and arrest records, have suborned perjury, have been found not to be credible by courts of law and have admitted to lying about their “personal experiences” to the media. Marty Rathbun, their self-appointed leader who boasts of being a source for your film, just this week under oath referred to Mr. Miscavige as “Hitler,” “Stalin” and “the Ayatollah Khomeini”—certainly not “personal experience” but disgusting hyperbole from a crazed individual obsessed with the leader of the religion.
Mea Maxima Culpa dealt with numerous concluded legal cases. By contrast, we have won each and every legal case brought by your sources. In fact, at least five of them have state and/or federal court rulings against them.
Your analogy with the Catholic Church pedophile issue is offensive. You wanted the Pope to justify why priests committing crimes remained in the Church so long. Yet with us, you want Mr. Miscavige to answer for why he cleaned house by removing individuals who have confessed to crimes, are admitted liars, committed financial malfeasance, stole from the Church, committed acts of violence and engaged in other unacceptable behaviour. If anything, it’s the opposite.
Your sources were dismissed for cause and expelled. Why aren’t you asking them to defend their behaviour?
Using the courts and the media, these zealots claim as their goal to reinterpret the religion and take over the Church. So you absolutely are asking us to defend the Church’s tenets and faith.
In summary, do you want all the information you need in order to do a fair and complete job, or would you rather look foolish by putting out a documentary that places all its bets on admitted liars with transparent agendas willing to say anything on camera? If you proceed in this manner, I assure you we will expose your journalistic dishonesty and ineptitude. We have volumes of materials and dozens of individuals ready to meet with you who can provide you the information you need. Unless you have a stake in this bigoted agenda, then you owe it to yourself to get the true data. And you have a duty to be honest to your “audience.”
We are not seeking special treatment, only equal treatment. What are you afraid of? We will be in New York after the holidays and will contact you.
Re: HBO documentary on Scientology
Dear Mr. Gibney:
I am writing to you as once again you refuse to answer my letters and refer all my communications to your attorney.
You avoided the Church for two years and still refuse to provide us an opportunity to respond to allegations you will make in your film. Yet you have no problem with HBO picking up the entire travel and accommodations tab to send a professional anti-Scientologist like Mike Rinder to Sundance for your screenings. Of note, Rinder admitted that in a sworn deposition just yesterday. Two weeks ago we also deposed another of Wright’s principal sources, Marty Rathbun. Both depositions, under oath, contain incontrovertible evidence about the bias of your sources, not to mention their monetary incentives, which in accordance with journalistic standards you must disclose to viewers and film critics.
Furthermore, your attorneys stated my “correspondence are simply bluster” for not providing you the relevant court documents that undermine allegations made in your film. Balderdash. I have evidence—documents and court judicial rulings I told you I would present to you when we meet.
Moreover, you really don’t want to be caught in the same position as you were on the Armstrong documentary where, after initially completing the documentary, Armstrong confessed and you openly admitted that you felt like you were “part of an elaborate con.” Have you learned nothing?
We will be in New York next week to meet. We come with facts, judicial decisions and documents (you know, documents—as in that word documentary). And unlike Rinder, you don’t have to pay our airfare and accommodations. We aren’t in bed with you or Facebook friends.
Thanks to commenter Nottrue for this classic…
Your proprietor talks The Unbreakable Miss Lovely
Hey, we got to talk to one of our favorite media people, Allison Hope Weiner…
9 days until Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief opens at the Sundance Film Festival at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 25 in Park City, Utah
Posted by Tony Ortega on January 15, 2015 at 20:15
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