In cyberspace, everyone can hear you scream.


BBC Scientology and MeAnd some people are cynical enough to believe that that’s exactly what the Church of Scientology is counting on. They’re in the news again. Believe it or not, but a reporter for an investigative program on the BBC network called “Panorama” is actually claiming that people from Scientology have harassed him. I realize this accusation strains credulity, but that is what he is saying.

Could the BBC’s John Sweeney simply be trumping up these charges in order to explain his own rather embarrassing public outburst, which someone who is apparently connected with the Church of Scientology has uploaded to YouTube, along with other well-produced follow-up videos? I must admit, Mr. Sweeney does come off looking a bit shabby in these pieces. Perhaps he is overreacting to the concoctions of his own cynical mind.

And could it also be that the BBC’s televised response to the YouTube uploads, which claims that Mr. Sweeney “had been followed for several days by the Scientologist’s own documentary crew” in order to discredit him, is simply an attempt at damage control? Inquiring minds want to know.

Mr. Sweeney asserts:

While making our BBC Panorama film “Scientology and Me” I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a “bigot” by star Scientologists, brain-washed – that is how it felt to me – in a mock up of a Nazi-style torture chamber and chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers.

Back in Britain strangers have called on my neighbours, my mother-in-law’s house and someone spied on my wedding and fled the moment he was challenged.

But what if Mr. Sweeney is simply misinterpreting the kind intentions of the Church of Scientology? I mean, after all, it is a church. Should we not give them the benefit of the doubt and be slow to impute malice to what could actually turn out to be benevolent, even protective behavior?

When Scientologists “shouted at” him, maybe they were trying to say something like, “Hey! Be careful where you stand! There are a lot of pigeon droppings over there!” I, for one, would appreciate a warning like that.

And that whole “spying” thing is so Cold-War-John-le-Carré-let’s-get-over-it-already! I mean, really! These are church people, for crying out loud. If they were a little overly-curious about Mr. Sweeney’s whereabouts and what he might be saying to people on his cellphone, it was probably so that they could be more informed about him for when they went to the Lord in prayer for his needs.

As for his hotel being “invaded at night:” if I could count the times I’ve misinterpreted that kind of behavior―well, let’s just say it’s amazing the explanations people can come up with.

But, hey, who has time to deal with all the issues Mr. Sweeney raises? Maybe the real problem here is that he is simply taking Scientology too seriously.

I am reminded of some remarks that one of my favorite science fiction writers, Harlan Ellison, gave in an interview in the November-December 1978 issue of Wings, which billed itself as “The New Age Satire Magazine.” According to Ellison, he and other sci-fi writers were present with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard one night when he complained that he was tired of writing science fiction stories for a penny per word and wanted to get rich.

Ellison: […] And he said “This [expletive deleted]’s got to stop!” He says, “I gotta get money.” He says, “I want to get rich.”

Wings: He is also supposed to have said on that same night: “The question is not how to make a million dollars, but how to keep it.”

Ellison: Right. And somebody said, “Why don’t you invent a new religion? They’re always big.” We were clowning! You know, “Become Elmer Gantry! You’ll make a fortune!” He says, “I’m going to do it.” Sat down, stole a little bit from Freud, stole a little bit from Jung, a little bit from Alder, a little bit of encounter therapy, pre-Janov Primal Screaming, took all that [expletive deleted], threw it all together, invented a few new words, because he was a science fiction writer, you know, “engrams” and “regression”, all that [expletive deleted].

homerscream.jpgSee! Now, how could something like that have possibly mutated into a belligerent mind-control cult that sucks millions of dollars out of thousands of people, destroying families and leaving devastated lives in its wake? How could a healthy, all-American marriage of religious freedom and free enterprise possibly be construed as a cynical, malignant scam? Explain that one for me.

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