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What’s in that National Enquirer ‘World Exclusive’ about Scientology?

We couldn’t help being intrigued when the National Enquirer claimed that it had “bombshell” documents which were the “FBI’s secret Scientology files” and that they described what John Travolta and Tom Cruise were “hiding.”

Scientology watchers know that thousands of pages of FBI files about L. Ron Hubbard and the church with information going back to the 1940s have been freely available on the Internet for a long time, and that most of what they describe has already been thoroughly hashed over in books by Russell Miller, Jon Atack, Bent Corydon, Janet Reitman, and Lawrence Wright, not to mention in many websites such as Operation Clambake and the archives of Caroline Letkeman.

But the Enquirer seemed to claim that it had something new. Here’s how they describe it:

The U.S. government turned over thousands of pages of documents from its spy agency after THE ENQUIRER asked for the papers through a “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA) request. The stunning details contained in the damaging dossier could lead to new suspicion about the controversial religion, which counts Hollywood superstars Tom Cruise and John Travolta as two of its biggest members.


Well, that certainly sounded promising. So what did the Enquirer have? The newspaper seemed most excited about a murder investigation — a killing that took place inside a church of Scientology itself!

Um, well, the shooting death of William J. Fisk actually happened way back in 1963, and it had more to do with the affair he was carrying on with the wife of the man who shot him than the fact that they were Scientologists. And his death was mentioned in Paulette Cooper’s 1971 book, The Scandal of Scientology, so this is not really much of a new revelation.

in fact, the five FBI documents that the Enquirer showed on its pages are all quite old, have been on the Internet for a long time, and you can see them at these links…

Document #1: A page from a report about the death of William J. Fisk, who was shot to death at the Seattle org in 1963. Among his papers was a “Russian” brainwashing manual that most scholars believe was written by L. Ron Hubbard and presented to the government as if the Russians were trying to steal his secrets.

Document #2: A brief 1956 note that describes a 1951 newspaper story regarding Hubbard’s second wife, Sara Northrup, calling him “hopelessly insane.”

Document #3: A 1956 FBI letter that also mentions the fake Russian brainwashing textbook.

Document #4
: A letter from Hubbard to the FBI complaining that local psychiatrists might be dosing one of his followers with LSD — but the Enquirer is apparently trying to make it look like a reference to Scientology making use of the drug. Bizarre.

Document #5: A 1953 document which also describes the allegations made by Sara Northrup, that Hubbard was conducting “scientific torture experiments.”

All of these documents describe fascinating highlights from Scientology’s past, and we think it’s great that the public gets a chance to dive into them.

But as for the Enquirer’s claim that they made a FOIA request and the FBI actually turned these documents over to them? We’re going to say nuh-uh.

Besides the article’s breathless excitement about old FBI documents, there are some nice quotes from Jesse Prince, and some lines about church members being harassed with the things they say in supposedly confidential confessional session. So there’s that. And the pictures are pretty.

As long as we’re taking a look at the way Scientology is being treated by other outlets, we have to draw your attention to a piece we were discussing in the comments earlier. A “senior features writer” for a fashion website called Refinery29 has written a well researched story that does its best to imagine the situation if Scientology’s public relations about itself were actually based in reality. It’s quite a feat of speculative non-fiction, and we think you’ll find it a real hoot.

UPDATE: Amelia McDonnell-Parry has a skillful takedown of the Refinery29 piece. It’s really something.

Posted by Tony Ortega on November 20, 2014 at 14:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 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

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, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

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, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

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