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Jonny Jacobsen: The tweets about Scientology that got a comedian in hot water

[Argentinian actress Malena Pichot]

Our man in Paris, British journalist Jonny Jacobsen, has a report out of South America for us today…

The shockwaves from Alex Gibney’s 2015 documentary Going Clear are causing a few ripples in Argentina.

A senior Scientologist there has lodged a complaint with the anti-discrimination body INADI against actress and comedian Malena Pichot after she described Scientology as a “cult.”

The story broke Wednesday at Teleshow, part of Infobae, an Argentinian news website. Pichot told them she wasn’t sure when she was supposed to have done this.

“It may be many years ago. I write so many things on Twitter …” she told them. “It could have been anything.”


But a search of Pichot’s Twitter account offers a few clues. It shows that she watched Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s documentary on Scientology, soon after its release. And she was horrified by what it revealed.

In a first tweet in December 2015, in conversation with someone about another topic entirely, she signs off, saying: “Apologies, I was watching the Scientology documentary and I’m too scared to sleep now.”


Later the same day, she returns to the subject with a separate tweet.



“Don’t miss ‘Going Clear’ the HBO documentary on Scientology! It’s on Netflix! It’s a terrible cult and has a base in Argentina!”

Finally, last November she posted a screen grab of a senior Scientologist in a TV studio. “The worldwide cult in Argentina!” she wrote. “Stop fucking about, we have enough problems here!”


This is the tweet that seems to have triggered the legal action. The Scientologist in the picture is Gustavo Libardi, president of Scientology’s operations in Argentina. He is the one who filed the complaint with INADI, Teleshow reported.

Judging from the logo in the background of her tweet, this was a broadcast on Telemax Argentina, the channel where Scientology has a weekly half-hour show.

Pichot told Teleshow that she was trying to get more information from INADI (the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism). So are we — and we’ve reached out to Pichot too.

But if this is all there is to it, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps it is just a principled objection to the use of the term, “cult.” Or, as Hubbard wrote back in 1955:

The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly. — A Manual on the Dissemination of Material


So far, of course, all Libardi’s complaint has done is draw more attention to Pichot’s remarks. Not sure what that will do their stats this week.

Bunker regulars will need no introduction to Gibney’s Going Clear (based on Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name), but newcomers might want to check out Bunker proprietor Tony Ortega’s
extensive coverage elsewhere at the site.

— Jonny Jacobsen


Tom Cruise, Scientology, and the state of New Jersey

We noticed a funny mistake in a story this week about Tom Cruise and Scientology at E!Online.

We don’t usually read E!Online, but this story seemed somewhat ambitious and we thought we’d give it a try. The headline read, “Inside the inscrutably private life of Tom Cruise: How the movie star achieved exactly what he set out to do with sheer presence.”

What followed was a lengthy clip job, putting together a lot of different things that have been written about Cruise and Scientology over the years. You know the litany. Katie bolts. Tom hasn’t seen Suri. Tom sells his properties and looks like he’s moving to a penthouse in Clearwater (No link to the Bunker on that little scoop, unfortunately).

Anyway, the piece mentioned Tom’s recent sad news…

Sadly, on a very personal note, Cruise lost his beloved mother, Mary Lee South, last month when she died in her sleep at the age of 80 after being in ill health for some time. ‘People’ reported that Cruise and his three sisters attended a memorial in her honor at her local church of Scientology in New Jersey.

Hey, wait a minute. Tom Cruise and his sisters, attending a memorial, in a “local church” of Scientology — in New Jersey?

The passage linked to a previous E!online story that asserted the same thing — Tom and his sisters heading down to the local Scientology church in New Jersey to have some kind of funeral for their mother there. And that story in turn linked to its original source, a piece at People magazine that first broke the news of Mary Lee South’s death.

Here’s what that People magazine story said:

South, 80, died peacefully in her sleep last week. South, who coped with health issues in recent years, was given a memorial service at her local Church of Scientology this weekend. The 54-year-old star and his sisters Lee Ann DeVette, 57, Cass Mapother, 55, and Marian Henry, 52, all attended the memorial along with other family and friends.

Nothing about New Jersey. Only that the memorial had taken place in Mary’s “local” Scientology church.

The only thing we could see that might lead E!Online to insert that odd geographical detail is that the People story did mention New Jersey as the place where Tom’s mother was living when Tom went to New York to wait tables and try to break into the movie business. But that was decades ago.

In her last few years, Mary Lee South had actually been living in Sarasota, Florida, not New Jersey. In fact, we believe that one reason Cruise had been selling property and moving to Clearwater was that it wasn’t too far (just across Tampa Bay) from where his ailing mom was living. A construction worker told bar owner Clay Irwin, when he recently toured Tom’s unfinished Clearwater penthouse and before either of them had heard the news of Mary’s passing, that one of its bedrooms had been set aside for her.

If Tom and his sisters had a service for their mother in her “local church,” it could have been in any number of orgs and missions in the Tampa/Clearwater area. But one would think she would merit a special memorial at the Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology’s holiest location, in Clearwater.

Anyway, that odd mistake by E!Online had us wondering. Just what would your “local Scientology church” look like in New Jersey?

New Jersey is a state of some 9 million people, and yet according to Scientology’s own official website, its only “church” is the local mission in Elizabeth, which is an important town in Scientology history. It was in Elizabeth where the first Dianetics Foundation was established back in April 1950 in anticipation of the publication the next month of L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

According to Scientology’s official website, Elizabeth’s mission today is located at 523 Westfield Ave. And here’s what the place looks like:


What were you expecting, a giant tabernacle? In fact, 523 Westfield Ave. houses both a small Dianetics center as well as the offices of a dentist named Carlos Barragan. Here’s how he describes his practice:

Elizabeth Dental Care follows L. Ron Hubbard’s Administrative Technology to organize, improve and ensure the efficiency, quality of service and high level of ethics in his practice. This technology is used to help our communities to find clear solutions for daily living. Dr. Barragan is a member of “The Way to Happiness Foundation” and the “Citizen Commission on Human Rights.” These organizations help people to make the right choices and live a happy life with the resources that they have.

What a mighty thetan! But despite Barragan’s enthusiasm, it’s kind of hard to see Tom Cruise heading down to this dental office-slash-Dianetics storefront for a funeral.

Or anyone else for that matter. And yet this is the only Scientology org or mission in the entire state.

There is another Scientology property that was recently restored in Bay Head, New Jersey. It’s a house that Hubbard and his second wife, Sara Northrup, rented as he was writing Dianetics. It’s been turned into a museum for Scientologists. Could it be used for a memorial service? Sure, why not.


So what conclusion can we draw from the fact that the Church of Scientology’s only “church” in all of the state of New Jersey is a dental office working out of what looks like it was once a residential house?

Well, keep in mind that the church claims to have millions of members — we’ve heard everything from eight million to 20 million, and a few years ago, the church said in a television commercial that it was attracting 4.4 million new people each year.

We often point out that those numbers are pure fantasy, and that through several lines of evidence our best estimate is that Scientology reached its greatest extent with about 100,000 active members around the year 1990, and that they’re down to only about 20,000 people today.

And that might explain why, in a state of 9 million people, the only Dianetics center you’ll find is being run by a Peruvian dentist.

Something else to think about: Another group that Scientology is sometimes compared to, Jehovah’s Witnesses, also is supposed to (legitimately) have about 8 million members. And just a cursory look at the map shows that in New Jersey alone, there are more than 50 Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls around the state.

So keep that in mind the next time Scientology claims to have millions of followers: If that were the case, where are all the orgs and missions?


Bonus items from our tipsters

Jim Meskimen posted this photo of him with Will Smith back in the day — ah, it’s the ones that get away you never get over.



Countdown to Denver!


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


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,706 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,809 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,303 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,343 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,055 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 522 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,670 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,810 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,130 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,105 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 461 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,763 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 870 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,272 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,145 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 726 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,231 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,475 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,584 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on March 31, 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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