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An L. Ron Hubbard island fantasy: The Scientology daydream you haven’t heard

Hubbard1956On Tuesday, we told you about new FDA documents which helped us fill in some gaps in Scientology history. The documents took us back to late 1957, when L. Ron Hubbard hatched a scheme to force the country’s psychiatrists and psychologists to take a “loyalty oath” he’d dreamed up, with hopes of rooting out disloyal shrinks and then sending their names to Vice President Richard Nixon for persecution.

Nixon didn’t like being named in Hubbard’s plot, and he sicced the Secret Service on Scientology, which prompted Hubbard in 1960 to tell his followers not to vote for Nixon in that year’s presidential election. And hey, Nixon lost in a squeaker! And you thought postulates weren’t effective.

Anyway, Lauren Wolf, Lawrence Wright’s research assistant on his book Going Clear, an associate producer on Alex Gibney’s film version, and a friend to the Underground Bunker, thought we’d like to see some additional documents from that era that she had dug up and that have never been made public before. And wow, they are fun, and now we want to take another run at that period. We think you’ll like the results.

We’ll start by going back to April 13, 1957, just shy of seven years since the publication of Dianetics and the start of Hubbard’s subsequent adventures in space piracy. On that day, Hubbard gave a remarkable lecture in London that our readers who go back to our Village Voice days may remember with fondness. The lecture recounts a tall tale about Hubbard and a friend putting down a revolt by the country’s nuclear scientists, preventing them from overthrowing the US government with A-bombs, and was a highlight when a version of the lecture with filmed recreations was shown at the 2012 Hubbard Birthday Event in Clearwater, Florida.

In the lecture, Hubbard claimed that on November 15, 1945 he and pal Johny Arwine barged their way into a meeting of the world’s top atomic weapons scientists at Caltech in Pasadena. Hubbard said that he and Arwine gave the scientists a good talking to about preventing global thermonuclear war. And they were just in time, because the scientists were planning to mutiny until Hubbard shot down their plans. Here, watch it again for yourself…

 

 
At the 2012 event, bemulleted official Hubbard biographer Dan Sherman then told a very strange and really difficult to understand subsequent chapter to the story, and implied that Richard Nixon had been the “henchman” to the scientists. (We think he meant to say that it was Nixon who actually punished the scientists, but Sherman says everything backwards, and he writes all of Scientology leader David Miscavige’s speeches, which is why Miscavige sounds bizarre as well. Anyway…)

Here’s what Sherman said happened after Hubbard put down the scientist revolt: “Specifically and summarily, a full 64 were stripped of security clearances, thus effectively ending their careers in government research departments. Well, for another telling footnote, the henchman was none other than future American president and Watergate villain, Richard Nixon.” See what we mean? Totally unclear. Oh, there was one more detail by Sherman which of course makes no sense. He said that what tripped up these scientists was that they believed in a bizarre plot to prevent the US from dropping the bomb on human beings in Japan. (So they were pacifists? But they were threatening to blow up the government just a few sentences ago, weren’t they? Ah, Sherman logic.) Here’s what he said…

How is it, LRH asks, did these brilliant minds come to believe America would never actually drop the bomb? How is it they swallowed the story that went something like this: The government was to build a grandstand where Hitler and the Japanese emperor would sit, whereupon, as LRH described it, “They were going to press a button, they were going to have an atom bomb go off, and they were going to say, ‘See what we’re going to do to you’.” To which he adds, “And these dopes fell for that. These so-called great brains fell for that story.”

What Sherman appeared to be saying was that the Caltech scientists had wanted to hold some kind of demonstration of the A-bomb’s destructive power, with Hitler and Emperor Hirohito in a grandstand, which would cause them to surrender so the bomb wouldn’t have to be used. But because the government nixed that idea and bombed Japan, the scientists were going to take their revenge by using the threat of A-bombs to overthrow the government, but then L. Ron Hubbard and Johny Arwine intervened, and Richard Nixon (who in 1945 wasn’t even a congressman yet) punished the scientists by taking away their clearances.

Wow, that’s a whopper. And when we first presented this material in 2012, we found that some of Hubbard’s admirers still ardently want this tall tale to be true. The notorious Hubbard apologist Margaret Lake, a researcher who toils away at tearing down histories like Jon Atack’s Piece of Blue Sky and Russell Miller’s Bare-Faced Messiah and Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, reacted to our publication of Hubbard’s Caltech yarn by saying that it probably was true, because Robert Heinlein said so.

It turns out that Heinlein did buy his friend Hubbard’s malarkey from time to time, and in at least one letter, referred to his pal’s brave deed “having organized Caltech.” And if Heinlein bought it, it must be true. Or at least that’s what Margaret suggested.

But it turns out that there’s a lot of evidence that buries Hubbard’s mythmaking. First, Hubbard went on to include his story in the book All About Radiation, a copy of which ended up in the hands of Linus Pauling, the great American chemist and one of the people Hubbard claimed had taken part in the revolt. You can see in a couple of letters by Pauling that this mystified him — he knew that nothing like Hubbard described had ever taken place, and Pauling even asked others to make sure that he wasn’t missing something.

He wasn’t. And we know this because the scientist uprising did happen — well, after a fashion — but in a completely different place and under very different circumstances, and without the presence of L. Ron Hubbard or Johny Arwine.

 
Leo_Szilard

[Leó Szilárd testifying before Congress]

 
It was Lauren Wolf who tracked it down for us. In 1945, one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee production facility manufacturing materials for the first atomic bomb was a physicist named Leó Szilárd. On July 17, he sent a petition addressed to President Truman that had been signed by 70 of his colleagues at Oak Ridge and at the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago. The petition urged Truman to consider the moral ramifications of using a nuclear weapon against the Japanese. At least when the Germans were in the war, Szilárd wrote, the Americans had been rushing to develop an atomic bomb with the threat that the Germans might drop one on the US first. Now, with the Germans defeated, that possibility no longer existed, but the momentum of their work seemed to be pushing towards a massacre in Japan without sufficient reflection on the country’s “moral responsibilities.” Although the petition doesn’t spell it out, some of the scientists apparently believed that one way of making sure Truman understood the power of the bomb was to have him witness a detonation. (Not, as Hubbard had it, a demonstration of the bomb for Hitler — who was already dead — and Emperor Hirohito.) But not only was Szilárd’s petition ignored, there was a backlash against the scientists who signed it, and soon most of them had been kicked out of weapons work.

This, clearly, is the event that Hubbard referred to twelve years later in 1957, and tried to take credit for, moving it from Tennessee and Chicago to the Athenaeum faculty club at Caltech, and including people like Linus Pauling and J. Robert Oppenheimer, who actually had nothing to do with the Szilárd petition. According to his April 13, 1957 lecture, Hubbard had prevented these disloyal scientists from trying to overthrow the government with their A-bombs.

But just a few months later, Hubbard was talking about the disgraced “64” in a completely different way, as Lauren Wolf showed us in previously unpublished documents.

On January 2, 1958 — just a couple of days after Hubbard revealed his bizarre “loyalty oath” scheme to root out commie shrinks — Hubbard wrote a letter to Edward Uhler Condon, a prominent nuclear physicist at Washington University in St. Louis.

“My dear Doctor Condon,” Hubbard began, “I have read your address before the American Physical Society November 29 in St. Louis. It was a beautiful and appealing address.”

Hubbard was referring to Condon’s remarkable speech, still referenced today, in which he discussed the way that McCarthyite pogroms had decimated America’s scientific ranks, and it was about time for all the red-baiting nonsense to stop. A few weeks before, on October 4, the Soviets had launched the Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and it was a rude wake-up call for the United States.

 
Edward_Condon

[Edward U. Condon]

 
“During the last two months there has come about a general public awareness that America is not automatically and effortlessly and unquestionably the leader of the world in science and technology,” Condon told the banquet-goers of the American Physical Society. “It comes as no surprise to those who have known of dozens of cases of scientists who have been hounded out of jobs by silly disloyalty charges, and kept out of all professional employment by blacklisting.”

Condon described numerous cases of prominent American scientists being hauled before review boards to have their credentials stripped from them — including Condon himself — and he complained that it was only hurting the country.

Although Condon didn’t specifically refer to the 70 scientists who had signed the Szilárd petition, Hubbard assumed that Condon was definitely thinking of them when on January 2 Hubbard wrote his letter.

“Few of us in science today are escaping claw marks and I have had seven years of my share. America has often tried to kill those who have helped her,” Hubbard continued, and we know you probably have to pause there to wipe off your keyboard and dry your eyes.

Oh, it gets better.

“Thus I am emboldened to propose an idea,” Hubbard sallied forth. “Sixty-four or more scientists who contributed well to U.S. defense have been ousted from government. There are more than this number who have been dismayed and rejected…Therefore I propose seriously that we form an ‘Outcasts Club.'”

Hubbard did seem serious. He asked Condon to find the names and addresses of the “64” and send them to him because, you know, Condon was a top guy in the science club and probably had the same decoder ring as all the guys who worked at Oak Ridge back in the war, right? (We kid.)

Anyway, just a few months earlier Hubbard had told his rapt followers in London that he and Johny Arwine had put down a scientist revolt that was bent on overthrowing the government. But now he was trying to convince an actual nuclear physicist that he was a persecuted scientist himself, and wanted to throw in with the uprooted scholars to form an Outcasts Club. But it gets even better. Here’s the rest of his letter…

I’ve taken my share of hammering in my own line but I own my own association and have weathered the storm. Further, I have contacts. The president of Cuba is being approached to set aside land, several people will provide funds. An international university could be built which has many sources of revenue and in which a scientist could spend more than half his time on pure research…

Concerning myself, I am a member of The American Rocketry Society, The Explorers Club, was an engineering major at George Washington University in the 30’s who transferred to research in the mind. You may be familiar, I could flatter myself, with my work in Dianetics and Scientology since I have many friends amongst your colleagues.

I would be very happy to have your views on this roughly sketched idea and would appreciate receiving the names and addresses so that I could write them about this. I could get them from the press but you may have an easier compilation.

It’s real calm in Cuba.

Sincerely,
L. Ron Hubbard
C.E., Ph.D.

(Full letter available here.) We imagine that Condon had barely got over wondering about the sanity of his correspondent when, just two days later, he received a second letter…

I have now another source for the list of 64 scientists dismissed from the government so will not need it from you. Cuba or no Cuba, I think the “Outcasts Club” a good idea. What do you think?

Well, it’s a shame that Hubbard didn’t ditch Scientology for his atomic scientist club. The next year, everything had changed. Cuba was no longer calm, with Fidel Castro taking control at the beginning of January. Hubbard meanwhile stayed one step ahead of the process servers by absconding to England in 1959, where he flourished, at least for a few years, at his new estate in East Grinstead, Saint Hill Manor.

Still craving acceptance as a legitimate scientist, Hubbard there convinced some local newspapers shortly after he arrived that he had developed ways of growing giant vegetables with radiation. He was also photographed using a Scientology E-meter on a tomato.

 
Tomato3

 
Clearly, he was a mad genius.

 
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Live-Stream of Dublin anti-Scientology conference

It’s Day Two of Pete Griffith’s latest conference in Dublin. We’re counting on our commenters to give the play by play as this video goes live at 7 am Eastern time…

 


Live streaming video by Ustream

 
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Bonus photos from our tipsters

Here’s an idea of the line for tonight’s showing of Going Clear at the Wilma Theater in Missoula, Montana for the Big Sky Film Festival. It was a rare sellout, we’re told. Nice!

 
GoingClearMontana

 
You live in Barcelona, one of the most beautiful, most cultured cities in the entire world. And you spend your time…on Scientology staff. Oh FFS.

 
SciBarcelona2

 
A local Chamber of Commerce mixer at a Scientology school? Sure, why not.

 
DelphiLA

 
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on February 7, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.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 Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

 

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