Once again, Google has gone to bat for someone we’ve written about here at the Underground Bunker, and once again, it’s for very sneaky reasons.
We told you previously about how billionaire Scientologist Bob Duggan used a complaint to Google about images he didn’t own in order to torpedo a not very flattering story we’d written about him. Thanks to your help, our story about that attempt to censor us quickly became one of the top Google results under Bob Duggan’s name. Whoops — Duggan probably didn’t see that coming.
Now, another huckster by the name of Per Wickstrom has convinced Google to bury a story we wrote about him involving a young woman who died at one of his Scientology-style rehab clinics in Michigan. And the reason this time is even more fatuous.
On July 31, 2013 we reported that a woman named Amber Bullins had died in 2012 at Tranquility Detox, part of a cluster of facilities in Michigan associated with Wickstrom. She had originally been sent to one of Wickstrom’s Scientology-style rehab clinics, Best Drug Rehabilitation in Manistee, Michigan. But like other patients, Amber was first diverted to Wickstrom’s medical detox to dry her out — Tranquillity Detox in Battle Creek.
Wickstrom was once an employee in Scientology’s rehab system, Narconon, before breaking away on his own. Some of his facilities still have formal ties with Narconon, others just use Narconon materials. We’ve written previously about how things have gone horribly wrong at Wickstrom’s facilities.
Two days after Amber Bullins arrived at Tranquillity Detox to dry out, she was found dead, apparently from an overdose of drugs. We’re told that attorneys for her parents filed notice that they were preparing to sue the facility, but then never did, suggesting that some kind of deal was worked out.
Here’s more about what we said about Wickstrom and his Michigan operation in that story…
Complaints are being raised about the Michigan centers that are similar to what we’ve seen in litigation about Narconon in other parts of the country — that Wickstrom, for example, operates numerous generic-looking websites that appear to offer impartial advice but actually are set up to drive people to his Narconon-based centers, and that the connection between the centers and Scientology is not mentioned until patients arrive and then are put through Scientology training rather than drug counseling.
Per Wickstrom, meanwhile, is no stranger to litigation — earlier this year, Best Drug Rehabilitation sued several people for daring to post anonymous criticisms of the rehab center at the Ripoff Report website. Five of those suits were recently settled, and their complaints were posted on a new website, NarcononReviews.net, that is aiming to be a comprehensive destination for Narconon news around the country.
Wickstrom, in other words, has a history of trying to stifle information about the problems at his facilities.
In this case, Best Drug’s attorneys filed a complaint with Google not about the story we had written, but about a video that appeared in the story.
At the end of our story on Amber Bullins and Wickstrom, we had embedded a video that Wickstrom himself had produced and published at his own website showing him blowing smoke up the skirt of Cathy Rigby about his businesses. (Wickstrom is a constant self-promoter.)
The complaint to Google said that we had published, without Per’s permission, his video on our website.
That isn’t true. We simply embedded a video that Wickstrom himself had published to YouTube.
But Google, without contacting us, did Wickstrom’s bidding, and has now de-indexed that story we wrote about Wickstrom and Amber Bullins so that it takes some doing to find it.
So, as in the case of Bob Duggan’s attempt to bury our story, we’ve written this new piece about Per Wickstrom’s attempt to bury this news, and to be careful, we asked talented Portland cartoonist Chad Essley to do a fun illustration of Per, so that he can’t complain about a photo or video attached to this story.
We don’t think Per Wickstrom should be able to bury the news with the help of Google. We’d appreciate it if you shared, Tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, and otherwise publicized this story so that if you search for “Per Wickstrom” in Google, he is reminded that Amber Bullins went to him for help, and ended up dead.
We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.
Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…
August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, Hong Kong restaurant (1238 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge) 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)
Sept 15: Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus, Walter Cronkite Theater, 5:30 pm
Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio
Sept 24: Minneapolis
Sept 27: Portland
Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists
Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 25: Melbourne
Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 30: Perth
Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4)
Posted by Tony Ortega on August 17, 2015 at 07:00
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield