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Ron Miscavige shakes off Scientology smears, rockets to #1 in ebooks

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Your proprietor left his underground lair recently to make a kitty litter run, and found himself in one of those cavernous wholesale warehouses where you have to buy everything in bulk. And while passing by pallets of industrial-sized boxes of breakfast cereal and five-gallon drums of peanut butter, we saw it. On a table overladen with self-help volumes and coloring books, there was a stack of Ron Miscavige’s Ruthless about 20 copies high.

Scientology is so screwed.

You probably already heard the news. Like Leah Remini’s book Troublemaker before it, Ron Miscavige’s Scientology memoir has rocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It’s the most popular non-fiction ebook in the land, and, combined with its hardback sales, it’s the #7 most popular book overall.

And if you go to Costco to stock up on kitty litter today, you’ll probably find a copy of the book waiting for you.

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There was a time when it was extremely difficult to get a book about Scientology published at all, let alone get it to the top of the bestseller list. For decades, Scientology was very effective at suing books out of existence, or with the result of making it very hard to find a copy.

We’ve been waiting for Ron’s book for some time, and we admit thinking, more than a year ago, that David Miscavige and his Scientology attorneys would find some way to keep this book from coming to market. Instead, Scientology followed the usual L. Ron Hubbard playbook, throwing a lot of smears at Ron in a concerted online campaign. But that campaign has gotten very little traction. People want to hear Ron’s story, and they’re curious about what a “ruthless” dictator his son is.

It’s a remarkable time to be a Scientology watcher, isn’t it?

Across the country and around the world, people are purchasing Ron’s book and reading about what it was like to be in the Sea Org under David Miscavige. Ruthless has some really eye-opening passages about that. But it’s a relatively short book, and people are ripping through it quickly. We figure there are a lot of newbies out there who are salivating for even more about the Church of Scientology and its odd practices and controversies. And we’re here to help.

Ruthless provides a compelling portrait of Scientology’s current leader, David Miscavige. But despite referring to Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard as a “con man,” Ron Miscavige’s book largely glosses over Hubbard’s history. And if you want to understand Scientology, you have to understand Hubbard.

We urge anyone who has a passion for learning about Scientology to read Russell Miller’s 1987 biography of L. Ron Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah. Books about Scientology come and go, but for us this is still the all-time classic. Miller, a British journalist, is the real deal, and his book will have you turning pages and shaking your head in amazement. As Russell told us when we saw him last year in London, he is still mystified that anyone would want to have anything to do with Scientology after learning what a mythmaker Hubbard was about himself.

Once you’ve had a taste for Hubbard’s early years, read up on Scientology’s early history with Jon Atack’s 1990 book A Piece of Blue Sky. Atack not only aided Miller in putting together Bare-Faced Messiah, he also had been a Scientologist himself, and provides one of the best tellings of how the organization was born and developed. Jon has a new edition of his book out, which contains passages that his original publisher had been obliged to take out as a result of Scientology’s relentless legal action.

For a great book that puts it all together — Hubbard’s biography, Scientology’s development and its more current crises, and its involvement in Hollywood — you can’t go wrong with Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear. Like Miller and Atack before him, Wright spoke to hundreds of key people for this mesmerizing narrative about where Scientology’s obsession with celebrity had taken it. And Alex Gibney used Wright’s book as a launching point for his 2015 Emmy-winning documentary of the same name. Two years before Wright’s book came out, Rolling Stone writer Janet Reitman published Inside Scientology, which we recommend for its detailed telling of the Lisa McPherson disaster, as well as terrific reporting on what was going on at Scientology’s secretive “Int Base.” Wright and Reitman both made it look easy, but it can be a real hassle to be a journalist covering Scientology. For more on that, pick up John Sweeney’s funny and terrifying account of what he went through to report on Scientology for the BBC, Church of Fear.

When Reitman and Wright, both national magazine journalists, were published by major houses, you knew a big corner had been turned in American media. But don’t ignore the smaller books, even the ones that have been self-published.

In the few years before Reitman’s book appeared, a number of volumes by recent Scientology defectors came out, and you should really get your hands on them. Jefferson Hawkins, for example, was the former head of Scientology marketing, and had come up with that “volcano” commercial in the 1980s that seemed to play on television constantly. His Counterfeit Dreams is a masterful telling of a Scientologist’s struggles, and it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. We also learned a lot from the accounts by Amy Scobee and Nancy Many and John Duignan, and more recent defector Chris Shelton has provided an entertaining guide to Scientology’s basic and more arcane concepts with his book Scientology: A to Xenu. But maybe the best self-published book we’ve ever read is the gripping Blown for Good by Marc Headley. If you’ve met Marc, you know he’s a great storyteller, and it shows in this amazing 2009 book about his escape from Int Base.

As for more recent books by Scientology defectors, Leah Remini’s Troublemaker received a rare distinction this week…

 
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Remini expressed her glee at her book becoming a question on Jeopardy.

Before Ron Miscavige wrote about his son, his granddaughter, Jenna Miscavige Hill, wrote her own memoir about escaping Scientology. Beyond Belief provides a vivid picture of how families get ripped apart in the church, and we admired Jenna for calling out her uncle, David Miscavige, as a coward.

And lastly, we’ll humbly recommend our own book about Scientology, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, which traced its rather incredible efforts to destroy one of the first journalists to take it on, the indefatigable, and unbreakable, Paulette Cooper.

We hope, if you have picked up Ron Miscavige’s book, that you’ll dive into some of these others, and also become a regular here at the Underground Bunker. David Miscavige and Scientology are heading into some very troubled waters, and we’ll make sure you have a front row seat to watch what happens next.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 14, 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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