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A new academic book takes apart Scientology and pop culture, and the apologists hate it

We have to apologize to University of Alberta Professor Stephen A. Kent. He sent us a copy of his newest book ages ago, and we simply haven’t had time to do more than leaf through it.

It’s an academic tome, and its title is Scientology in Popular Culture: Influences and Struggles for Legitimacy, and it’s a collection of chapters written by various scholars, including Susan Raine and Hugh Urban.

Kent himself is one of the hardest-working scholars in the Scientology field, and he’s amassed a legendary collection of Scientology materials, some of which we got access to when we were researching our own book about Paulette Cooper, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely.

Raine is one of Kent’s former graduate students, and we really liked a 2014 paper she put out about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s fiction and how it relates to Scientology.


Urban has done fantastic work explaining Scientology, and we’ve admired much of his work, particularly on Hubbard and the occult.

Urban’s chapter in the new book looks for ways in which Scientology concepts can be traced back to Hubbard’s pulp fiction — an idea we’ve explored on our own in the past.

Kent himself wrote three chapters, which number a total of thirteen, including Raine’s lengthy introduction, and they cover everything from Scientology’s obsession with celebrities to Hubbard’s interest in music.

But we just haven’t had time to dive into the chapters much, and for that we feel pretty terrible. But we thought we should bring it up after the book got a roughing up by Italian academic Massimo Introvigne in the journal of the apologist “new religious movements” group CESNUR, based in Turin.

Wow, this guy hates Steve Kent.

Now, keep in mind that it’s pretty normal for a professor-type like Kent to focus on one area of study and make it his life’s work. As we said, Kent has amassed an incredible library of Scientology research, he’s shepherded numerous other academics focusing on Scientology, and he’s a much-in-demand expert witness in court cases involving Scientology.

But here’s how Introvigne describes that career…

Rather than a study of Scientology and popular culture, [the book] is largely a summary of Kent’s decade-old anti-Scientology obsessions. Kent has become somewhat proverbial
among scholars of new religious movements for his obsessive crusade against the Church of Scientology.

Does Stephen Kent really have anything to apologize for after becoming such a noted world expert on the controversies and abuses of Scientology? Well, let’s take a look at who’s slamming him for it…


What’s this? Oh, it’s Massimo Introvigne appearing in a recent issue of Scientology’s propaganda magazine, Freedom. Here’s the first question and answer from that interview…


Can you give me a brief overview of your work as it relates to the Church of Scientology?

Massimo Introvigne: I’ve been researching new religious movements for the last 35 years. In the context of modern religions, the Church of Scientology is one of the most important. I’ve followed the activities of the Church for 25 or 30 years, and I helped publish a 100-page book on the Church by the American scholar Gordon Melton [The Church of Scientology (Studies in Contemporary Religions, series volume 1), Signature Books, 2000]. I was the general editor. I have also participated in conferences about Scientology; the last was one year ago in Antwerp, Belgium. Currently I am researching the religions that are impacting the lives of professional artists. That’s my reason for being here [in Los Angeles], to interview artists who are parishioners of the Church.

OK, we see you, Massimo.

And so he takes numerous shots at Kent, Raine, and other writers who appear in Scientology in Popular Culture, sounding offended that L. Ron Hubbard’s contributions to the arts would be seen through such a problematic prism.

And our favorite example of Introvigne being either dishonest or clueless (or both) was this passage when he slams Susan Raine’s chapter on the connections between Hubbard’s science fiction and Scientology…

Raine also imported from Kent a serious methodological problem. Like Kent, she mentions in her texts as if they were unquestionably by Hubbard statements only attributed to him in anti-Scientology sources. For instance, Raine “proves” Hubbard’s imperialistic attitudes with this rather impressive quote:

“All men shall be my slaves. All women shall succumb to my charms. All mankind shall grovel at my feet and not know why (17).”

One hopes that even Kent would teach his students to always check the notes. They would discover here that the only source for this quote is Bent Corydon’s aggressive anti-Hubbard book (Corydon 1987, 58).

See, what Introvigne is doing here is ridiculing Raine by saying that her professor, Kent, didn’t teach her how to source things properly. His example is a Hubbard quote which “only” appears, he says, in Bent Corydon’s book, L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman?

Well, that’s pretty rich, since Introvigne apparently has no idea what he’s talking about.

That quote from Hubbard is pretty well known, and we’d wager that many of our readers know that it doesn’t come just from Bent Corydon’s fine book, but from Hubbard’s own “Affirmations.”

It doesn’t surprise us that an apologist professor like Introvigne is either unfamiliar with, or, more likely, chooses to ignore the Affirmations. Also known as the “Admissions,” they consist of a bizarre set of statements that Hubbard wrote down around the year 1947 for the purpose, apparently, of self-hypnosis.

We published a portion of the Affirmations at the Voice in 2012 at the suggestion of Urban. He explained to us that the document was found among Hubbard’s papers by archivist Gerry Armstrong, and that the Church of Scientology never disputed its authenticity during its intense legal warfare with Gerry. Wrote Urban…

According to a mutual release and settlement agreement between the Church of Scientology of California and former member Gerald Armstrong in 1986, Armstrong agreed to return a number of confidential documents to the church, including all copies of Hubbard’s “Excalibur manuscript” and “all originals and copies of documents commonly known as the ‘Affirmations’ written by L. Ron Hubbard.” Here the church clearly indicates that the text was written by L. Ron Hubbard, and it is difficult to understand why the church would file suit to retain ownership of the text were it not an authentic document.

Now, Introvigne may not like what’s in the Affirmations, and he may not like that Bent Corydon quoted them in his 1987 book, but when he slams Susan Raine for quoting Hubbard’s statement accurately, he only gives up how desperately his own bias leads him to hate anything put out by Stephen Kent and his former students, no matter how legitimate.

In other words, Massimo’s sneering review of Kent’s book may just be the best indication of how good it really is.

Sure, it’s pricey because it’s an academic text. But get your college to stock one!


Miscavige on Film

Boing Boing yesterday pointed out that the villain in Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Ready Player One, bears a striking resemblance to Scientology leader David Miscavige…

One thing that stood out was how the villain of the movie, Nolan Sorrento (played by Ben Mendelsohn), seems to be a dead ringer for Scientology leader David Miscavige, complete with tight-fitting suit. They even have the same brash, gravelly voices (Mendelsohn is Australian and affected a North American accent in the movie). Coincidence?

We haven’t seen the movie, so we don’t know how close the resemblance is. But we reminded Boing Boing that the best portrayal of Miscavige on film was done some 14 years ago…


And here’s the proof!



Bonus items from our tipsters

Says our tipster: “I saw this going one way along a busy highway and decided to stop on the way back. Taking my life in my hands, as trucks rushed by, I managed to get you a quick pic of this billboard. For some perspective, it is set quite a distance from the highway, facing the wrong direction! I honestly don’t know how many people will notice it or be able to even read it… but as a long-term Bunker reader, I guess my eyes are fine tuned to all things Scientology!”



Make your plans now!

Wow, it’s already April! Our flight and hotel is booked — who’s going to join us in Chicago? Remember, Friday (June 22) is Fly Day, and Saturday night (June 23) Chicago Fire star Christian Stolte will be helping us present things on stage as we hold our event at an actual theater this year. It’s going to be a wild time. Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,081 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,684 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 227 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,290 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,064 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,838 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,184 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,678 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,718 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,430 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 956 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,045 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,185 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,505 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,480 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 836 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,138 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,244 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,647 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,519 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,101 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,606 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,850 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,959 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on April 11, 2018 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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | 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 non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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