I think the big story today is the metaphorical bloodshed at the Scientology facility in Johannesburg. There are a couple of significant articles giving background and perspective here, which I strongly recommend reading. I think this situation is worth watching because it could be an example of a non-US organization of some size that may break away from the church, as the Haifa mission in Israel did last year.
Tony’s story giving lots of details about Tom Cruise’s lawsuit against Bauer Publications sketches in some great background, but since I do not think that Cruise is likely to prevail in that case, the story is not all that relevant to the cult.
Also, the City of Clearwater appears to be on its game in dealing with the cult’s late request for permits for the events scattered over the next several weeks. The city is offering to be flexible on some (though not all) of the items that Scientology would like done for the Flag building opening next weekend. The carrot being dangled in front of David Miscavage is that if he fails to play ball with the city right now, he will not get a permit for the IAS event, which is obviously far more significant. This seems to be a particularly smart way for the city to play its cards, because being willing to show some flexibility but to insist on other concessions from the called leads to a more desirable outcome to a lawsuit, which could carry an emergency order preventing the city from controlling the events in any way.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Tony’s story today featured details from the defamation suit that Tom Cruise filed against Bauer Media. In addition to looking at the deposition transcripts that were released yesterday by Radar Online, Tony also provided excerpts of e-mails from various Bauer employees as they develop the story and the packaging. It does not appear that there were any particular “smoking guns” among the employee e-mails.
My take: I had a friend some years ago I was a senior editor at one of these publications (which was not owned by Bauer Media). The picture that emerges from these e-mails is very consistent with what my friend has told me about how they develop stories, including how they work with publicists for the celebrities they cover to use the implied threat of a more negative story to get the celebrity to cooperate and provide unique details that would enable them to write a more positive story. I suspect that this is been going on with gossip publications for decades.
I continue to believe that this is unlikely to result in any money changing hands. Cruz faces an uphill battle because the assertion that he did not see his daughter for nearly four months in what would have to be a difficult time immediately following his divorce was substantially true. One commentor raised the point that the whole issue seems to be around the word “abandons” used on the cover, and that this word may hold special significance for Cruise because of how his father abandoned him in childhood.
Best of the comments:
- Ex-cultie Kevin Tighe (not the 1970s actor) reminisces about the daughter he lost to disconnection three years ago and challenges Cruise for implicitly supporting this.
- Jeff Hawkins weighs in with a well-informed perspective on why Scientologists are always so nasty and aggressive in how they handle stuff that makes them uncomfortable. This is not apparently just for the usual “confront and shatter” circumstances, but apparently for dealing with the media as well.
- Gerard Plourde gives some Genuine Lawyer(tm) perspective in response to my question yesterday about why AGP would voluntarily submit to a one-year restraining order to stay away from HGB to get the prosecution to drop a case they would have dropped already.
- Ze Moo makes the very relevant observation that the word “abandons” might be the real trigger for the suit, given Cruise’s abandonment by his biological father. On reading this comment, it certainly rings true as a possibility to consider.
- Johnny Tank, who posts the daily Alexa rankings for the cult, points out that scientology.org has dropped 11,366 ranking spots since he started collecting stats on October 14, just over three weeks ago. Given that the numbers seem to be propped up with Indian click farmers, that’s a bit of a plummet. Think: Wile E. Coyote off a cliff after the temporary suspension of gravity has been eliminated.
- TXCowgirl points out that the cult is now starting to evade the Craigslist campaign to flag their ads by posting on Backpage.com. An amusing detail is that Backpage.com is/was owned by Village Voice Media, the parent company of Tony’s former employer. The hilarious letters to the editor by Karin Pouw, the never-seen cult media person, frequently pointed out the affiliation between the Voice and Backpage, which has lots of escort service and other questionable advertisers, to “dead agent” Tony. Not that that did any good or anything, but…
- Noni Mause riffs rather elegantly on Cruise’s assertions about how Scientology is all misunderstood because it’s a “minority religion” and people are bigoted against them. A nicely elegant contrast in two short sentences.
- More good lulz from TruthIwant, who found a quote from Tom’s deposition that Tony somehow missed.
- Nice analysis from “Vistaril” of victim mentality in the cult that may apply to TC.
- MarionDee gives a great personal anecdote about her experience doing fact-checking of celebrity gossip for two different magazines, including one from Canada. We had to check to verify that movable type printing technologies had penetrated the deep forest cover in that quaint rural region of upstate New York before we decided to recommend this comment.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
Mike’s first post is strongly recommended. It’s a detailed recollection of a 1980s pogrom called the LatAm Strategy. Hubbard was in hiding and was paranoid that orgs were going to be hijacked by the executives running them, taking them independent and denying Hubbard the money. To fix this imagined problem, the Sea Org parachuted into the Latin American cult HQ and declared a bunch of management as SP’s. The intent was to terrorize the survivors into improving stats quickly. While the stats spiked, shortly after the Sea Org left, stats sank back into the swamp, lower than before they shot all the experienced staff. Mike thinks the return of the “LatAm strategy” is what happened this week in the Johannesburg org. Only problem was that the first go-round 30 years focused on shooting staff members. Apparently, somebody at Int Base forgot this minor distinction and decided to shoot a lot of the biggest donors and most loyal supporters of the org. Rule #1 of a successful business is: “don’t piss off your most loyal customers.”
Some of the comments are fairly interesting, including perspective from a 56-year Church member in South Africa who knew Hubbard personally, who resigned because his wife was one of the 18 people declared.
Mike’s second post links to the Tampa Bay Times article detailing the restrictions the city is placing on the events (see the discussion below), and delivers a few laughs about how Miscavige is likely to play this.
ESMB, WWP and OCMB
According to Aeger Primo, the forums were relatively quiet today.
- One article stands out. ESMB contributor “scooter” has a lengthy blog post about the history of Scientology in South Africa. This is a useful prelude to understanding some of the details of the current situation in South Africa.
- There’s also some more discussion about insurance fraud in Michigan on Reaching for the Tipping point.
- Some of the longtime critics get into the aesthetic side of cult activism in the thread on ESMB discussing Leah Remini’s performance this week on DWTS.
A number of other outlets picked up news of the “leaked” deposition in the Tom Cruise vs Bauer Publication suit, focusing on how Cruise is acknowledging that Scientology played a role in his divorce (see Tony’s post for the truth of the statement; he didn’t quite admit that). I have been accused of major “tl;dr” violations but not of flogging a dead horse… I don’t want to start now, so we move on.
The Tampa Bay Times reports new details of what the city is requiring from the cult in order to get a permit for the November 17 Flag building dedication (the former Super Power building). They have to get permits for the tents that were illegally constructed, and for the fence they built. The city won’t remove traffic signals for filming. The upshot is that the city is willing to be flexible on dates for the Flag building event for the cult, but if DM doesn’t play ball, he can forget about permits for the IAS event.