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‘Are you 100 percent American?’ — ‘Ross & Carrie’ investigate joining Scientology

ONRClogoIn 1968, LIFE magazine published a lengthy investigation of Scientology that had been done in an enterprising way. Writer Alan Levy had decided to find out what Scientology was all about by joining it.

Levy went farther probably than any other journalist has in his pursuit, even though his effort is largely forgotten today. He had taken his first step in Manhattan, but eventually he went to England and reached Grade IV before he ended up at the home of L. Ron Hubbard himself, Saint Hill Manor, and gave up before moving on to Clear.

After Levy, the best example of someone joining Scientology to report on it was our friend Mark Ebner’s hilarious experience that he wrote up for Spy magazine in 1996.

We think of Levy from time to time when, every year, particularly in the fall, student journalists and a few professionals make their trips to the local org to take a personality test as if it had never been done before. Readers know that we generally find these forays superfluous. Inevitably, the writer finds that Scientology is weird based on their hour or two talking to staff members and getting the pitch to pay for courses.

 
RossAndCarrie

 
So, for that reason, we sat down with considerable skepticism as we hit play on the new podcast by Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy which has been getting a lot of attention this week. “Oh No, Ross and Carrie!” is a podcast in its fifth year, with the duo exploring fringe beliefs and pseudoscience by experiencing it for themselves. As they explain in the episode, they are always asked when they would be taking on Scientology.

Ross is associated with the Center for Inquiry and its Independent Investigations Group in Los Angeles. We go way back with both — we’ve noted numerous times that CFI-LA’s director Jim Underdown is a friend. We wrote about Jim and the IIG in Los Angeles as they debunked a psychic dog way back in like 1999 or something. It was Jim who invited us out to LA for what turned out to be the launch of our book tour last year, and we appeared with Paulette Cooper at the Center for Inquiry’s Steve Allen Theater to a standing-room-only crowd.

CFI is a smart group, and that shows in the podcast. While Ross and Carrie are having fun, they took their Scientology experience seriously and absorbed a lot. Sure, for many of our readers, the things they experienced won’t be new. We are aware of how the personality test works, and the kinds of courses that are pushed on new recruits. But along the way, the couple have some great observations, some of which confirm what a precarious state Scientology is in these days. At one point, Ross says, he was asked by a curious staff member, are you 100 percent American? As opposed to what, he wonders, and the two don’t quite seem to realize what that reflects — that today, most Scientology recruiting happens outside the United States.

And there’s all the pushiness you expect from staff members trying to make their weekly stats. It all feels pretty familiar. But Ross and Carrie hint in this initial episode that they got some considerable way into the Bridge, which we have to admit intrigues us. The two say that they did some auditor training, and Carrie says she went to the New Year’s Eve party, which we’ll hear about in upcoming episodes. We’re looking forward to it. The spirit of Alan Levy lives on, apparently.

Here’s episode one…

 
UPDATE: Great observation by Mike Rinder when he also listened to this podcast…

Remember, this is the MODEL Ideal Org where executives from all other Ideal Orgs are sent to learn “how to do it the right way.” It is staffed with 200 Sea Org Members. And if you listen to the hype from Scientology, they start 700 new people on services every week. It is rocketing. It is epic. Milestone. Unprecedented. Straight up and vertical. And they just about have LA cleared….

And then there is reality: Ross was the ONLY person on the intro course he did. The Supervisor worked with ONLY him. The Supervisor came into the course room for him alone.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 6, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated 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 L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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