Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet. He was kind enough to send us a new post.
It was great to see you again in London, Jon. And thanks again for sending along a new piece. We talked a little about this subject at the Old Mitre Pub the other day, but we’re glad to see you go into it at length…
JON: Former members often tell me that when they were in the cult, I was considered extraordinarily dangerous: a bête noir, indeed. Thirty years on, I should be used to this thought, but when I look in the mirror I don’t see a fiend with horns and a tail. Instead, I see a usually smiling and generally genial man who has always been puzzled by the fear and loathing of Scientologists.
At Toronto, my friend Gerry Armstrong took me to task from the stage for averring that I am not at war with Scientologists and never have been. I am not out to destroy anyone. My aim has always been to help those who have been taken over by Scientology, if I possibly can. I accept Gerry’s point of view – that Miscavige and co. are at war with me – but if I felt hostile towards Scientologists, I would find some other outlet. I do not and I never have.
I may sound off occasionally about those who harassed my family, but whoever asks my forgiveness will very probably receive it. This has nothing to do with sanctity on my part (sadly, far from it). It is a practical decision. I really have understood that we are all connected and that hatred always breeds more hatred and eats the person who feels it alive. I probably wouldn’t be very forgiving if you hurt my kids, but that is a different matter. I was deceived by Ron Hubbard and I have empathy for anyone else who fell for his silly ideas. I simply don’t have the constitution for those hateful “down tone” behaviours that characterise the Guardian’s Office of Special Affairs and so many believers.
When I interviewed the “World’s First Real Clear,” John McMaster, three decades ago, he told me he had vehemently disagreed with the progressively aggressive policies that Hubbard issued about so-called “Suppressive People” back in the 60s. John detested “Disconnection” and “Fair Game.” He remonstrated with Hubbard to no effect. In Scientology terms, his argument was that disconnection is no more nor less than “non-confront;” and, as Hubbard said, “The first step of handling anything is gaining an ability to face it.” (Scientology: a New Slant on Life).
Of course, it can be helpful to take time out when tempers flare, but relationships are not helped by long-term or frequent silence. John believed that the only way to deal with “suppression” (or “disagreement” as we non-Scientologists sometimes call it) is to face it and heal it. As we know, Hubbard was more interested in “shattering” suppression, but offered no “technology” beyond harassment, which quite evidently has not worked (thirty years on and I still haven’t shattered). McMaster felt that Scientology would fail until methods to heal “Suppressives” were developed. Hubbard seems to have believed that Suppressives are permanently so, and he had no idea what to do about it. So, it wouldn’t matter how clear the universe became, there would always be a war between good and evil.
Some of the Gnostic sects were keen on this, and Hubbard even had members of the Sea Org surveyed to find out whether they had been “Soldiers of Light” or “Soldiers of Darkness” while his little flotilla was still at sea. It is worthy of note that he promoted the Dark ones and demoted those who clung to the Light.
A few weeks after I left, I was in the supermarket. I turned to see my former landlady, who had turned toward me at the very same moment. I smiled and was about to say, “Hi, Cedar” when she leapt from the ground – like a character in an animation – and scarpered just as fast as she could. Now, I was one OT level higher than she, but this was the first time I realized my newfound power: Scientologists were scared of me! Maybe leaving Scientology had finally conferred supernatural powers on me? Or maybe phobia induction is a bad idea if you truly want to “confront” the world.
A couple of weeks before, I was just a chap who had rented an apartment from her, with whom she had been on friendly terms. With the rumour of my defection, I had transformed into a very devil.
“Phobia induction” is a great way to bind a group together, but it is not a way to make a great group. Moonies are told that if they leave True Father’s service, not only will they burn in Hell, but so will their parents, and, indeed, all of their ancestors; quite a risk to take!
Lapsed Krishnas become “deadly demons” and will have to restart their incarnations all over again; and it takes 84,000 lives from bug to human. When I was leaving Scientology, the threat was newly bruited that we would “lose” our “immortality.”
As Hubbard said – in 8.8008 – “all logic is based upon the somewhat idiotic circumstance that a being that is immortal is trying to survive.” It is a ridiculous notion that an eternal soul can lose its immortality (I know I put it down here, somewhere…). But I spoke to people who did not share my and Hubbard’s amusement at this idea; indeed, they were terrified.
Hubbard derided “Heaven” as an implant station much like Busch Gardens in Pasadena once was (some years after reading the Heaven Bulletin, I visited Pasadena and found that they had indeed paved paradise and put up a parking lot). Hubbard derided Heaven, which meant that he couldn’t keep us down with Hell. The best he could offer was the loss of our immortality (which is, by the way, the whole purpose of Hinduism and Buddhism, who regard reincarnation with the “fear of eternal return”); go figure.
Early on, I realized that experienced Scientologists find it ever harder to communicate with unbelievers. Indeed, a couple of weeks after joining, I moved into a flat with a very enthusiastic Scientologist. Asked if he had any aversions, he grinned and said “Wogs!” I had never heard Hubbard’s perverse use of this racist term (forget “worthy oriental gentlemen”; growing up in England, at exactly the time that Hubbard adopted the term, I know that it was a synonym for the n-word). I quietly responded that I had close friends who were charming and intelligent Indians. He laughed, but it was a statement of phobia, or repulsion.
Although I was not a staff member, I was shoved out among the streetwalkers of Moseley with a clipboard to lure strangers into the Franchise (I was too naïve to realize that many of the women on those streets were also recruiting). The staff pulled the door closed quickly, once I was outside. I did not see even one of them out “body routing” during the eight months I was at the Franchise (and yes, the term “Mission” was still interchangeable, which other “religion” runs on the McDonalds model?). This was before the franchises were devastated into submission by “senior management” (a/k/a Ron Hubbard, who really did organize that conference in October 1982 – unless of course he had lost his OT powers by then).
I have seen the same pattern throughout the world, which is why my little leaflet was so successful at closing down both the East Grinstead centre and the Chichester Mission – the new recruit would scurry back inside and ask if the description of OT III was true, be lied to but then told that he or she must now have a Class VIII auditor at double the cost. By this time, I knew that no OT III would ever deign to talk to “wogs.” They simply don’t have the “confront” even though the purported “end phenomenon” of OT III is “freedom from overwhelm.” Believe me, I’ve overwhelmed some OT IIIs in my time!
Hubbard called Scientology the science of communication. He insisted that communication is the basis of Scientology. He even said, “More communication not less is the answer.” But he didn’t really mean it. Not only are Scientologists inveigled into “disconnecting,” they also must not talk about their problems (their “case”), their criticisms (“missed withholds”) or Scientology’s teaching (“verbal technology”). I know that I keep saying it, but a guaranteed outcome of the lowly Release Grade 0 is the “ability to communicate with anyone freely on any subject.” Any subject except Scientology, your problems, your doubts and fears and as long as it is not with the 17,500,000 Suppressives out there (if Hubbard’s 2.5 percent of the population is to be believed).
In the counter-cult world you will often hear about phobia induction and even guilt induction, but I wonder about the induction of repulsion. Disgust is one of six basic human emotions recognised by social scientists (though it failed to make it to the “Tone Scale”). The manipulation of disgust, or repulsion, unifies people without the need to consult their intelligence.
In every genocide, the perpetrators regard the victims as vermin. Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews as rats and they were commonly called “fleas.” One allied commander told his troops that they need not worry about killing the Japanese, because they were “monkeys.” Hubbard called those who refused to toe his line, or pay tithes, “squirrels.” If you want your followers to tear someone to shreds, first dehumanise them.
Even in Scientology, I had no difficulty reading hostile texts – except for Kaufman, in case I was ‘exposed’ to OT III. So it came as a surprise that repulsion and phobia usually make it impossible for believers to even glance at my writings. My friend Jesse Prince said that it took him years before he could read Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky. Now, he recommends three readings (and please do buy a new copy, each time).
It gladdens my heart whenever someone tells me that my work has helped them to break the conditioning of the Scientology mind-set. But it breaks my heart to know that many people do not even dare to touch my work for fear of contagion. Every now and then, some “independent” Scientologist rails against me, with embarrassing fervour, even when they haven’t actually read my work. I suppose that they are simply expressing the dreadful fear that their beliefs may be wrong, and that their immortality is about to dissipate.
Hubbard said “A man is as dead as he can’t communicate. He is as alive as he can communicate.” How little “self-determinism” is left to someone who dare not even hear criticism, let alone consider it. If we are to be self-determined, we must be brave enough to consider opinions – and evidence – that diametrically opposes our own beliefs without fear or repulsion.
John Stuart Mill, that beacon of good sense, should have the last word, from his vital essay, On Liberty: “…if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensible to imagine them and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skillful devil’s advocate can conjure up.” And so say all of us.
More than once, we’ve heard Scientology’s private investigator shenanigans described in a certain way. For the folks who were in Going Clear, for example, Scientology’s familiar “noisy” investigations and harassment tends to come and go, and it really stepped up early this year as the film was coming out. When that happens, we’ve heard people say that it’s because David Miscavige has suddenly turned his attention on you, “like the Eye of Sauron.”
It’s an apt analogy. You might go months or years with no attention, and then suddenly people you know are calling, saying that they’ve been contacted by private eyes asking about you. When that happens, you know that Miscavige has suddenly turned his gaze in your direction, yelling at his underlings and demanding to know why you haven’t yet been “handled.” You know that you’re in for weeks or months of sliming by his minions as they spread slander about you and put everyone who knows you on edge.
We’re telling you this because it appears the Eye of Sauron has turned our way again. Last night we got a call about someone pretty remotely connected to us getting hit up by Scientology’s private investigators for information.
Here we go again.
As we weather the storm yet again, we thought we’d put the word out in a more public way to our friends and family — get ready for a call or a visit — and we thought we’d ask our readers: What is it, do you think, that made Miscavige look our way? Was it…
1. ‘Going Clear’ winning three Emmys?
2. Reminding the public that Shelly Miscavige has been banished for a full ten years?
3. This picture?
4. Our Cat White coverage?
5. Or something else?
Tell us what you think.
Freedom, where are you?
We just noticed that the September issue of Scientology’s propaganda magazine Freedom is still up, and we’re more than half way into October. What gives?
In July 2014, Freedom was relaunched after having gone dark for about a year. Before that, Freedom had been coming out about once a year and was super funny. It took wild shots at targets like Lawrence Wright and The New Yorker, Marty Rathbun and his “Posse of Lunatics,” Anderson Cooper, and the St. Pete Times.
But then, with the July 2014 issue, Freedom re-emerged with a serious (and boring) outlook, and with a whole new staff that had been hired in Los Angeles. With editor Jennifer Lankheim in Los Angeles and John Sugg in Florida, the magazine took earnest looks at issues like the country’s crumbling infrastructure and poorly performing schools.
Lately, however, Freedom‘s Denver-based reporter, Dan Luzadder, has been tailing Lawrence Wright around the country, and when he showed up at our talk in Denver, he told us he was going to prove that Wright “did no research” for his book Going Clear. (That’s funny, because we’ve personally spoken to something like a hundred people who were interviewed by Wright for his book, which was in fact one of the most heavily researched we’ve ever read.)
Is Freedom going to revert to its attack-dog days, and is that why it’s late for October? Well, we suppose we’ll find out sooner or later.
Moviepilot gets punked with Jennifer Lawrence hoax
We saw a number of people yesterday sharing an article at Moviepilot titled “These 8 Xenuphobic Celebrities Boldly Spoke Out Against Scientology.”
It was the usual predictable stuff about Leah Remini and others who have left the church. But the final item claimed that Jennifer Lawrence had turned down an opportunity to audition as Tom Cruise’s new girlfriend. It linked to a hoax article at the fake news site World News Daily Report, which claimed that Lawrence had been approached at a charity event by David Miscavige and Kendrick Moxon.
The thought of Miscavige and Moxon cruising actresses at a Hollywood event was pretty hilarious, we have to admit, but it’s not something Moviepilot should have been peddling as an actual story. (Moviepilot even used a photo of Lawrence in its graphic for the story.)
Let’s keep vigilant for the fake stuff, folks.
Jenna and Bodhi are at it again
We just can’t bear to watch these two. We’ll let our readers tell us what this one is all about…
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)…
Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour)
Oct 25: Melbourne, The Wheeler Centre, 3 pm, free but reservations recommended (with Steve Cannane)
Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)
Oct 30: Perth, Collins Street Centre, Collins St and Shaftesbury St, South Perth, 7 pm
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), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29)
Posted by Tony Ortega on October 17, 2015 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com 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…
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