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What Scientology can tell us about a 20th of January like no other

L. Ron Hubbard warned us that he was a garden-variety crackpot right from the start. Go ahead, take a look at the very first words in Hubbard’s 1950 manifesto, Dianetics. Here’s what it says:

“The creation of dianetics is a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch.”

How that didn’t prevent anyone from taking the rest of this book seriously is truly a mystery.

A penny-a-word pulp fiction hack hanging out in New Jersey with the woman he’d stolen away from an occult-obsessed rocket scientist friend in Pasadena (he ripped off the friend and bigamously married the gal), Hubbard had spent a few months jotting down a preposterous set of ideas, turning his well-documented and prodigious hypnotism skills into a parlor trick aimed at convincing rubes that they could recall what it had been like to get battered and bruised while they were fetuses in their mother’s wombs.


And Hubbard told them that his insight was as great a discovery as fire itself.

He knew the only way to pull off a shakedown like this was at full speed and without concerns for such concepts as “evidence” or “truth.” The bigger the claim, the bolder you have to tell it, and there were few bullshit artists like Ron — just ask any of his close friends (or read the letters they left behind).

Hubbard’s “charisma” is usually cited by reporters and academics that we swear must never have actually listened to a Hubbard lecture. That anyone didn’t see this swindler coming a mile away is one of the great enigmas of the 20th century. Because, and here’s the real mystery, so many people did take this guy seriously.

He lied to them. He denigrated them to their faces. He made it so obvious that he was knowingly ripping them off he literally told them that he was selling them a bridge. The Bridge to Total Freedom.

It’s simply incredible, if you stop to think about it.

But here’s the most amazing part. So many people in so many different places didn’t care about all of those obvious signs, but saw in L. Ron Hubbard what they wanted to see — mankind’s greatest friend, a genius scientist who had cracked the code to existence itself, even a messiah.

In some ways, Hubbard was a perfect crackpot prophet for America. He tapped into the deep mistrust many people in this country have for authority figures. And Hubbard thrashed them all — the medical establishment, the academics and their ivory towers, government officials at all levels and, most of all, the psychiatric profession.

Hubbard told you that your crummy life was the result of the crap your parents had done to you as a kid, to the bullshit your doctor was telling you about your condition, to the secret world government run by a tiny group of shadowy figures. You were being held down, and only Hubbard had unlocked the secret to making you the superman or superwoman that you had always known you could be. With his expensive therapy, he could make you great again.

And so you accepted his bullshit. And that’s when he had you. You became invested in it, rabid about it, and the more people told you that you were wrong and that Hubbard was a huckster, the more that the detested press attacked Hubbard and his ideas, the more it made you buy in even deeper.

And it was important that you did. Because Hubbard was a man consumed with a need for revenge. He saw enemies everywhere, but none enraged him like followers who turned their backs on him.

The result was a vicious organization, steeped in Hubbard’s paranoia, that prided itself on appealing only to the “able” and openly hating the less fortunate. It was a deeply homophobic organization, nearly all white, that saw in your hardships sure signs of your weakness.

Thankfully, L. Ron Hubbard and his toxic ideas only ever appealed to a small percentage of the public. Although he had unusual influence over his followers, he spent most of his later years on the run, hiding from process servers and government investigators. He died on January 24, 1986 in a remote California ranch with only a few trusted lieutenants around him. He hadn’t seen his own wife and children in more than six years.

Enough people recognized Hubbard for what he was that he never got near what he actually wanted — real political power over millions of lives. In 1966, he went to Rhodesia with the thought that he could actually charm his way into taking it over, but was summarily kicked out only a few months later.

What if Hubbard had taken over a country? What if someone like Hubbard, with no regard for facts, someone with only the barest grasp of the fields he claimed to be expert in — what if someone like that not only was given the seat of power in a small country somewhere, but was actually handed the most powerful political position on the planet?

What if?


New Zealand, David Miscavige is in you

As this story goes live at 7 am Eastern time here in New York, it will be 1 am on Saturday in Auckland, New Zealand. And that means we’re only about 13 hours away from Scientology leader David Miscavige’s big appearance for the grand opening of an “Ideal Org” in that fair city.

For our newer readers, we’ll provide a little context. Beginning around 2002 or 2003, Miscavige was faced with having to replace Scientology churches — called “orgs” — in three cities for various reasons: in Buffalo, New York; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Tampa, Florida. According to former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, Miscavige was also thinking about something he’d been told by Tom Cruise, who had been embarrassed to bring a friend to the Tampa facility because it was such a shithole. So Miscavige announced the “Ideal Org” program, and over the last fourteen years he’s been on a manic buying spree, purchasing historic buildings around the world and renovating them to replace more mundane orgs.

But New Zealand is special and here’s why. The Ideal Org program has mostly been about insanely intense fundraising. In places like Portland, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona, the local Scientologists were pressured for years to raise the money to buy a building and renovate it. It was all on the locals to make an Ideal Org happen, and for years Miscavige pitted the people of one city against another as they tried to find the cash for these expensive projects.

And so when it was announced several years ago that Auckland was getting an Ideal Org, Miscavige didn’t even try to pretend that the locals could pay for it. We remember seeing that announcement, and that the Auckland org would be paid for by the IAS itself (the International Association of Scientologists is a massive membership fund at Miscavige’s disposal; former executives tell us it has more than a billion in ready cash).

Why the largesse? Because New Zealand Scientologists are rarer than Hobbit holes in that country. But how could an entire English-language country not have an Ideal Org? You see Miscavige’s dilemma.

So, later today, we hope to begin getting reports from our correspondents on the scene as Miscavige deigns to appear and bestow on New Zealand the Ideal Org he was so generous as to pay for himself. Or rather, with the money of the whales who donate to the IAS.

We should begin hearing something after around 7pm here in New York, and please, if you’re on the scene, be polite and orderly.


Here’s an update from our man on the scene: “Despite the mocked up image of the ribbon on the front of the building, it appears the ceremony is going to be held in an internal courtyard. People are gathering and I saw some media complaining about being followed.”


“People are filing through the gateway into the internal courtyard, through heavy security.”


I’m sitting in a park opposite the gateway unto the courtyard. Approached by a couple of Scientologists who were friendly enough, asking if I was a public and coming in.

“Local security, as is typical Islander chaps (Auckland has the largest population of Pacific Islanders of any city in the world) are kicking back now and invited me to have a sandwich. Top blokes.”

“Ceremony started with a blare of trumpets and now I can hear a haka being performed inside. Haka are a traditional Maori challenge, typically performed at formal ceremonies. Haka are deeply meaningful to all Kiwis, despite ethnicity.”

“The woman in the red dress is some sort of handler, she’s the one I saw media complaint to earlier for following them. The chap in the black shirt wearing a wig and a gopro camera on his head tried to sneak into the event as is now being hassled along the street by the woman in red and two cameramen. I have heard several dozen scientologists speak so far, invariably with Australian accents. As far as I can determine there are no Kiwi scientologists in attendance.”



June will be here before you know it


HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.

[Thank you, Observer.]


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on January 20, 2017 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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. 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.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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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