Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Scientology round up: Cruise, spoof and hackers

Here is a round-up of Scientology related disaster news and views. Of course, the latest round of PR disaster started when the Church of Scientology tried to remove Tom Cruise's (creepy?) celebration of Scientology video from the internet website gawker.com. Now a group of cyber-hackers, called Anonymous, have decided to retaliate against the Church. (Its not all gloomy for the Church - Will Smith recently became a Scientologist - nooo!!). So here is a collection of different Scientology related items in one post.

First a summary from a Newsweek article about Anomymous:
These are unfriendly times to be a Scientologist. In December, Germany's Interior Ministry moved to ban the organization, which has tax-exempt religious status in the United States. In January, St. Martin's Press published Andrew Morton's salacious unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise, which describes the star as its de facto second in command. The church responded with a 15-page statement, calling the book "a bigoted, defamatory assault replete with lies" and saying Cruise "is a Scientology parishioner and holds no official or unofficial position in the Church hierarchy." Jenna Hill Miscavige, a niece of church leader David Miscavige who left the fold in 2005, this week came out in support of Morton and slammed the organization for, among other things, its practice of "disconnection--essentially severing contact with family members seen as hostile to the group.
Anonymous was planning its attack for today (Sunday) and here is a bit more about them:

Now, a loose-knit consortium of hackers and activists calling itself "Anonymous" has declared "war" on the organization. In a creepy YouTube clip addressed to the "leaders of Scientology," a robotic voice announces "with the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who trust you as leaders has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed." (The clip has been viewed more than 2 million times since it was posted Jan. 21.)

The attack, says Anonymous, was spurred at least in part by what they consider to be the latest example of the church's secretive and litigious nature. Earlier this year, an internal 2004 church interview with Tom Cruise was leaked online. The actor, who called being a Scientologist a "blast," was seen railing against the practice of psychiatry and boasting, among other things, "we are the authorities of the mind ... we can bring peace and unite communities." The church attempted to have the videos taken down from the gossip site Gawker, claiming the material was copyrighted, selectively edited and that Cruise's performance was meant for private consumption. It's an argument that does have legal merit.
Read the full article here.

It has been tricky to deal with Scientology. I have been of the opinion that Scientology has perhaps been singled out unfairly (I have a soft spot for most UFO religions - c'mon...how can you not like Unarians and their Interplanetary Concave of Light celebration??). The German ban on Scientology, especially, seemed a bit extreme and raised the question of how do you really differentiate between cults and religions and who gets to decide that? Perhaps the focus should be on certain practices of a cult or a religion (why should mainstream religions escape that criticism?). I don't know if this was made pubic, but Germany should have provided a list of explicit complaints about Scientology. This can lead to explicit debate about specific practices - such as Disconnection or whether they prevent access to certain essential medicine, etc. Even then, one can ban certain practices and not necessarily the entire religion (for example, polygamy in the US for Mormons). If they don't comply, then impose a ban - but let them have freedom of practice of their religion.

That said, some of the concerns I had were answered in this excellent Point of Inquiry podcast interview with a former Scientology member, Tory Christman. I really liked the questions that the host of the show, D.J. Grothe, raised, especially about the reasons for singling out Scientology. I don't think all of the questions were answered, but still, the interview provided a good snapshot of the organization and reasons to be worried about it. Here is the interview: Anti-Science Scientology?

And now back to Tom Cruise video. Of course, within days it also generated spoofs. Here is one by Jerry O'Connell (but to appreciate it, please first see the original Tom Cruise video).

4 comments:

CogSci Librarian said...

Couple more links for you on this topic ...

Letter from California: Ch√Ęteau Scientology: (Reporting & Essays, from The New Yorker, Jan. 14, 2008)

and Tom Cat - Unmasked , a video spoof of the Scientology video @ Lolcats ‘n’ Funny Pictures / I Can Has Cheezburger?, in which Tom Cruise is a cat and speaking LOCcat.

Salman Hameed said...

And add to that a damning review of Tom Cruise's unauthorized biography:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/books/review/Calhoun-t.html

Here is a sampling:

"However shady Scientology may be, Morton’s language in “Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography” is extreme. He and his sources compare the church and its leadership to fascists, the Roman Empire, storm troopers, Machiavelli, Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” Napoleon, Stalinists and North Korea. He also repeatedly invokes Nazism, and quotes without censure the German Protestant Church’s comparison of Cruise to Joseph Goebbels.

Even if everything Morton says about Scientologists were true — that they make certain members have abortions, that they run around with Uzis and boxes of cash, that they threaten recruiters with torture if they don’t land celebrities — it doesn’t out-corrupt, say, the early Mormon Church as depicted in Fawn Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History.” And unlike “Tom Cruise,” that book managed to make its subject, Joseph Smith, seem three-dimensional even as it eviscerated his faith."

ungtss said...

Its not all gloomy for the Church - Will Smith recently became a Scientologist - nooo!!

Read the article. It doesn't say he became a scientologist. He says he thinks scientology is 98% the same as all other world religions. Never says he's one of them.

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