Jesse Prince Back From the Brink; Scientology Petition Takes Off: It's The Thursday Stats Roundup!
There's been a lot of disturbing news for Scientology watchers to sift through lately -- what with mothers separated from their sons, and a woman stalked because she's trying to design a better ice-maker, it's been a weird and depressing week.
But last night, we were stunned by a rare helping of unadulterated joy: Jesse Prince announced that he's kicked cancer's ass!
After the jump, we'll see what Jesse had to say about it as we round up today's "Thursday 2pm Stats," when Scientology's orgs do their weekly accounting: just how did this week stack up for the church?
Jesse Prince fled the Int base in 1992 and didn't start speaking out about Scientology for six years. But then he had a lot to say: how he was once Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center, making him one of the most powerful people in Scientology, and was a witness as David Miscavige wrested control of the church following L. Ron Hubbard's death. As a critic, he faced fierce retaliation, including a Kafkaesque marijuana misdemeanor prosecution that was intended to derail his being a witness in the Lisa McPherson civil trial. Prince was also an influential speaker in Germany, but has been dealing with serious health issues lately.
We alluded, there at the end, to what he had heard was actually very serious: Prince has been fighting cancer that had spread to several parts of his body.
But then, last night, came this stunning news at Jesse's blog:
I'd had tumors on my tonsils, liver, kidney, spleen, chest, under my arms, and in my groin area. This is when I discovered that no one really expected me to live through the treatment...I had Stage Four cancer in my spinal and groin area. The next huge surprise came when my Dr. told me that the tumors were all gone! All areas came back clean. Just looking at the expression on my Oncologist's face as she told me showed me how shocked and delighted she was with the results herself....I have been fighting for my life for months and now I knew I'd be okay. As the weight of the battle began to melt I wept for the first time. I wept not in sadness or fear. I wept in gratitude for surviving and my life has new meaning.
He goes on to write that he has one remaining test to confirm remission in his spine, and he's still dealing with serious problems as a result of his fight, including a spinal fracture. But his spirits are so improved, he's talking about getting back to finishing a book.
Damn, Jesse, that is amazing news.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? I'm not cynical enough to think that anyone at the Church of Scientology wished Jesse ill or would be put out to hear that he's recovering so nicely. (Am I wrong? I'll surely hear about it in the comments.) What we have is obviously a huge upstat for Jesse himself and for the ex-Scientologist community as a whole, with a small downstat for the church -- if only because now Jesse will be able to finish his book.
Story #2: It's not paranoia if somebody's really after you
We reported back in April that former church executives Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder had been notified by their mobile phones carrier, T-Mobile, that someone had tried to hack into their records.
This weekend, Rathbun put up the documents to back up that claim.
Each of them received letters from T-Mobile with similar language:
We have concluded that an unknown person called a T-Mobile Customer Care representative, and through deceptive actions (often labeled "pretexting"), convinced the T-Mobile representative to provide the caller with access to your www.t-mobile.com account. The employee who was deceived into providing this information to the caller has been provided further education and discipline....We do not know the motive for seeking access to your account...
T-Mobile doesn't know the motive? Well, Rathbun and Rinder have little doubt who was behind the illegal attempt to get their phone records.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Another log on the fire for what's been a major conflagration of "fair game" reporting lately. The same people -- those who dare to criticize Scientology -- keep finding themselves followed, surveilled, slandered among neighbors or business colleagues, and generally made to feel hunted. Every bit of it proves to be a growing set of downstats for the church.
Story #3: Almblad explains himself.
He explained how he was involved as a Scientologist in an early 1980s movement to halt the takeover by David Miscavige, he was still trying to move up the upper-level end of Scientology's "Bridge" of spiritual steps as late as 2005, and after leaving the church now considers himself an independent Scientologist.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? If the basic story remains the same -- Scientology is aggressively trying to stop Almblad from bringing to market a clean-ice machine that could save lives in hospitals, simply because he hired church critic Mike Rinder -- Almblad's additional details add another layer to the story. Almblad had told me that he thinks the church wants to stop him and his technology regardless of Rinder's presence at his company. His essay this week might help explain why that is the case. Another significant downstat for the church, which looks ridiculous for its panicky attempts to keep Almblad from meeting with clients.
Bonus Downstat: Almblad's girlfriend, Susan Clickner, waded into the shark tank that is the forum at WhyWeProtest.net to answer additional questions after our story about her. Despite some caustic broadsides from the usual suspects, Clickner seems to have come through it quite well.
Story #4: Hey, Obama -- Dox or STFU
On Tuesday, we pointed out that Graham Berry's petition to the White House -- requesting that the Obama administration explain what happened to an FBI investigation into Scientology's abuses -- still faced a major hurdle of about 1,500 signatures with only 6 days to go.
Since then, signatures picked up considerably, and by early this morning (when I'm actually typing this in the underground bunker), fewer than 700 signatures were needed to bring the total to the required 5,000 by Monday's deadline.
While some over at WWP gave us a pat on the back for that sudden upsurge in votes, we'd like to point out that plenty of others have been publicizing the petition, including Rathbun, several times, at his blog. Who knows what lit the fire. We only know that success looks increasingly realistic, and we may actually get to see President Obama explain why so many complaints about Scientology's practices have not resulted in more government action.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? While it's tempting to call the simple gathering of so many signatures a big downstat for the church, we really won't know how this turns out for Scientology until Obama's administration speaks. And you can bet when that happens, we'll be ready with the call -- upstat or downstat!
Story #5: The Nation sort of endorses Janet Reitman
The Nation turned to New Haven religion writer Mark Oppenheimer for a lengthy (and very tardy) review of Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology and Hugh Urban's The Church of Scientology. Oppenheimer doesn't seem to like Reitman's book all that much, but sort of endorses it anyway.
Along the way, Oppenheimer does his usual thing and tells us Scientology really isn't that bad, and he asserts that there exists a species which no one else I know has actually spotted in the wild: the casual Scientologist. This happy person, who just samples a seminar here and picks up a book there, sounds like an asset to society. Gosh, what's all the fuss about?
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Somehow, Oppenheimer managed to get himself crosswise with a church attorney, but rest assured, Mr. Miscavige, Oppenheimer always manages to make Scientology sound like something enduring an unfair amount of noise and fury. Verdict? No question, despite numerous little slaps on the wrist, this article is an upstat for the church.
Bonus Downstat Michael Shermer, writing at Scientific American, offers a more glowing endorsement of the two books, and throws in an anecdote from Harlan Ellison, who says he witnessed the legendary moment when, the story goes, Hubbard and other writers discussed how they might make money inventing a religion. Hubbard's Dianetics soon followed.
Overall, it's mostly been a miserable week for David Miscavige's crew. And check back often, because we're working on several really big stories that we hope to have ready soon. The momentum here at the underground bunker is really palpable. So please, keep those tips coming!
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #1: L. Ron Hubbard #2: David Miscavige #3: Marty Rathbun #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"] [Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology] [Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?] [Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach] [Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties] In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview] The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley] [Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?] Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2] [A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession] [Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine] [Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice] [Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise] [Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church] [Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice] [Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense] [Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis] [Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"] Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo] [Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is Scientology"]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid] [Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post] [A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview] [Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams] [86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested] [All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots] [Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"] [Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"] [Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!] [Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam] [When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers] [Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.] [Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth] [Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family] [Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle] [Scientology High School, Dating and Super Powers!]
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.