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How to read a tabloid magazine story about the Church of Scientology: A primer

Star2015Four years ago, we set out on this adventure to report about Scientology every day. And one of the results of that experiment is the amazing community that has built up around the Bunker. We set out to create a place where Scientology could be discussed, but without the wild rumors and mistaken myths that clog up so many other places. We wanted the facts, and we wanted them first.

But even with that facts-first approach we’ve cultivated here, it’s understandable that there was some excitement yesterday when Star magazine put out a new issue with the headline “Tom Leaving Scientology!” on its cover. While some counseled caution, others were ready to have a parade for Tom Cruise getting out of the church.

But does Star actually have any facts to back up its cover headline? Let’s take a closer look. First, let’s review how tabloid publications tend to put together their stories on Scientology. They start with a tiny germ of an idea — a quote from someone, often someone they don’t really want to check out very carefully or it would spoil the fun — and then ask that person to speculate about what it is they’ve heard. We’ve been on the other end of these conversations. We’ve had some small incremental piece of information, and the tabloid hacks on the other end of the line try to get us to say that what we’ve heard is actually indicative of something much bigger or even completely different. We don’t play that game. But others are happy to go along.

Let’s see what happened in this case.

As many publications have noticed, Tom Cruise has not exactly been a hands-on father to his daughter Suri, 9, his only biological issue. (He has two older children by adoption, Isabella, 22, and Connor, 20.) This has given rise to much speculation. We regularly field calls from reporters who ask us if Tom stays away from Suri because she’s been “declared” a “suppressive person,” in Scientology parlance. It’s not a bad question. But we don’t think that’s the case. After consulting with Mike Rinder, the former top international spokesman for Scientology and someone who knew David Miscavige as well as anyone, he agrees with us that Miscavige declaring Suri an SP is a remote possibility. More likely, Rinder points out, is that every time Tom is around Miscavige, the Scientology leader badmouths Katie Holmes and reinforces Tom’s reluctance to see his former wife and their child.

For whatever reason, Tom has not seen much of his daughter as she’s gone through some pretty crucial childhood years. Meanwhile, Tom has continued to give us reasons to believe that he’s still fully committed to Miscavige and the church, as we reported just a few months ago. (Also, it may be helpful to understand Tom’s deep commitment to David Miscavige and Scientology. If you haven’t already, you really should check out our two-part series about John Brousseau and his observations of Tom and Dave.)

Now, the new development: Cruise actually got together with his kid. If that’s true, well, good for him. Star then says it talked to an “insider.” (Uh-oh, this is tabloid parlance for someone who might actually be close to Tom, or could be a public relations person. Or someone who saw a Tom Cruise movie once. You just never know.)

The insider claims that Tom was devastated to realize how much of his daughter’s life he was missing out on. “When she speaks to him on the phone, it’s becoming more and more like she’s talking to a stranger.” Well, that’s heartbreaking, if it’s true, and we would hope that Tom would be affected and do something about it. Like, you know, visit her more often.

And here’s the thing. The “insider” clearly has no idea whether or not Tom is actually going to sever ties with Scientology, and Star itself hedges its bets, saying that Tom “may soon part ways with the cultlike religion.”

Cue the sad trombone: wah wah waaaaaaaah.

But now that you know you’ve been had, it’s too late — you’ve paid your money based on the salacious cover headline, and only now do you realize that Star magazine doesn’t have the slightest idea whether Tom Cruise is actually leaving Scientology. In fact, Star magazine doesn’t have the slightest idea what Scientology is. All they know is that it’s a word that sells copies, and they love teasing readers with the idea that Tom is on his way out. They count on you not remembering, for example, that they said the exact same thing three years ago….


So, to sum up. Given Star magazine’s clueless track record on this, and the lack of any new details to back up its headline, we’re going to say the likelihood of its being right about this is pretty low.

In fact, evidence we’ve seen from another tabloid reporter who actually does his homework, Chris White, tells us that Isabella Cruise, for example, is showing more attachment to her father and to Scientology than ever, and we’d say that the actual situation is the opposite to what Star is saying. Tom and his kids are circling the wagons after the release of Going Clear, and if anything, their ties to David Miscavige and Scientology are stronger than ever.

But “Tom Still a Clam!” doesn’t sell supermarket magazines, and we’ll assume that Star and others will continue to tell us that Tom is breaking away to try to win back Katie. It’s a romantic notion anyway.


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.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

July 17: Denver, The Secular Hub, 7 pm (with Chris Shelton)

July 20: Dallas, Times Ten Cellar, 7 pm (with Robert Wilonsky)

July 22: Houston, Fox and Hound, 11470 Westheimer Road, sponsored by Humanists of Houston

July 24: San Antonio, Folc Restaurant, 6 pm

July 25: Austin

July 29: Paris (with Jonny Jacobsen)

August 4: London, Conway Hall, (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Arizona State University

Sept 23: Cleveland

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle

Sept 30: Vancouver, BC


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 2, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to 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


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  • Short but really good new video from Chris Shelton
    A Summary of Scientology

    • Mockingbird

      That was a great video with a lot of the important points I myself discovered when leaving the cult . Chris tackles the sole source lie and reveals hypnotism as a component of Dianetics along with stolen abreactive therapy . He also states Scientology causes harm that eclipses any good it has done . I have seen zero scientific validation of any benefit . He uncovers the fraud the entire time point and stresses the abuses .

      I personally find all of the methods harmful no matter who they were plagiarized from. And I believe everything was plagiarized . I have found content from hypnotism , rhetoric , Crowley , Hitler , the OAHSPE, Marcus Aurelius , Confucius, and heard of many others . Jon Atack may have found dozens of other sources as has Arnie Lerma .

      All through Dianetics and Scientology is bits and pieces from Crowley and Hitler and many , many others .

      • eucliditis

        I would add NLP- neurolinguistic programming as a method incorporated into the cult

        • Mockingbird

          I have found that you are correct but there is an important qualifier : NLP by that name was made after Hubbard’s work BUT the techniques under the language of hypnotism were studied by Hubbard and definitely a cornerstone of Dianetics and Scientology.

          From Wikipedia :

          Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California,United States in the 1970s. Its creators claim a connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (“programming”) and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life.

          Bandler and Grinder claim that NLP methodology can “model” the skills
          of exceptional people, then those skills can be acquired by anyone. Bandler and Grinder also claim that NLP can treat problems such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, myopia, allergy, common cold,and learning disorders, often in a single session. NLP has been adopted by some hypnotherapists and in seminars marketed to business and to government.

          The balance of scientific evidence reveals NLP to be a largely discredited pseudoscience. Scientific reviews show it contains numerous factual errors, and fails to produce the results asserted by proponents.

          NLP shares similarities with Scientology

          André Muller Weitzenhoffer—a friend and peer of Milton Erickson—wrote,
          “Has NLP really abstracted and explicated the essence of successful
          therapy and provided everyone with the means to be another Whittaker,
          Virginia Satir, or Erickson?…[NLP’s] failure to do this is evident
          because today there is no multitude of their equals, not even another
          Whittaker, Virginia Satir, or Erickson. Ten years should have been
          sufficient time for this to happen. In this light, I cannot take NLP
          seriously…[NLP’s] contributions to our understanding and use of
          Ericksonian techniques are equally dubious. Patterns I and II are poorly written works that were an overambitious, pretentious effort to reduce hypnotism to a magic of words.” End quote

          To understand NLP as derived from hypnotism you should know a little about a man whose work NLP is largely modeled after . He is possibly the doctor who has attempted to do the most research that is studied currently on hypnotism by psychologists as he had a more traditional medical background than most hypnotists : Milton Erickson .

          Milton Hyland Erickson (5 December 1901 – 25 March 1980) was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association. He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating. He is also noted for influencing brief therapy, strategic family therapy, family systems therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming Again from Wikipedia

          I have found a brief study of key ideas in NLP is very good for unraveling Scientology as it is also a pseudoscience and harmful and based on similar techniques to many Hubbard used BUT the techniques are not hidden from the practitioners : they KNOW they are trying to covertly influence people while Scientologists are fooled regarding this .

          I have written on this :

          Burning Down Hell – How commands are hidden , varied and repeated in Scientology to control you as hypnotic implants

  • Pierrot

    *** RED X +–+ Reminder +–+ RED X *** Friday, 03 July 2015

    Good morning Night Owls and Early Birds,

    The week’s scores and RedX links:

    F5… Into the sunset by LCodalion enhanced by DodoTheLaser for RedX, flickred by Aeger Primo

  • anoni81b4u

    So, on the subject of the above tabloids. Does anyone know why lady gaga is getting fat ?

    • seriouslyWTF

      Wow. You really seem to be focused on tearing down women. Yesterday you claim Tom cruise can sleep with any woman he meets. Now you are calling Lady Gag fat? I picked my name, seriouslyWTF, because I found myself saying that every time I read one of Tony’s posts about scientoLOLogy. Now I seem to be saying it whenever I read one of your posts. Seriously WTF anon?

      • anoni81b4u

        Tearing down women? Seriously WTF, seriouslyWTF ?

      • anoni81b4u

        I would never let my wife go to prison for me … Like LRH did !

  • Adrien Marcel Drea

    problem is the ethics files ,videos and differents documents held by cult …no way out so easy

  • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

    Tom Cruise hasn’t seen Suri, because he’s not her biological father.
    Once Katie Holmes left, he realized he could just forget about both of them & has.

    • MarcabExpat

      Dox pls

    • Tony Ortega

      Answer one unsubstantiated rumor with another unsubstantiated rumor: Your Internets win!

  • guest

    I still love his movies.

  • Vinay Agarwala

    Tony, I really appreciate the effort you have put in the daily reporting of Scientology. The wonderful quality of your reporting comes through very nicely! It is a great gift and a talent you have.

  • chris

    What if this is this first PR move by TC to distance himself? Think what it would take – this rumor, followed by quietly firing everyone associated with him (maybe easier if he’s on a movie set in Atlanta?) … followed by more rumors that his adopted children are walking away from Scientology … followed by TC admitting to screening “Going Clear” and finally coming to his senses? The split will be very carefully orchestrated, but I’m thinking it might just be real.

    • indie8million

      From your lips to God’s ear.

  • indie8million

    Saw it today, was happy. Heard it was BS. Not so much.
    I wish he was smarter.