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Scientology Half-Cocked: Commenters of the Week!

Scientology Half-Cocked: Commenters of the Week!

It's been another blast of a week here at the underground bunker, where we keep an eye on all things Scientology related.

We started off the week by marveling at the "thrill" of Scientology fundraising in our regular weekend feature, Sunday Funnies.

On Monday, we collected a few dozen of the best Twitter reactions to Sunday night's 2-minute Scientology commercial during the broadcast of American Idol. As you can imagine, most of them could be boiled down to, "WTF?"

The next day, we marked the 24th of January as the day in 1986 that L. Ron Hubbard chose to discard his meat body and go voyaging among the stars in search of the big floating needle in the sky. One church theory has him returned to Earth by now as a five year old. Seen any ginger kindergartners looking for a lost pack of Kools? Let us know.

Wednesday saw our big investigative piece of the week: we tracked down a retired LA Sheriff's Office detective and a retired County Coroner investigator who had worked together on the 1985 death investigation of Scientology leader David Miscavige's mother-in-law, Flo Barnett. For the first time, Bob Havercroft and Debrah Kitchings explained how they handled the extremely strange details of Flo's demise by rifle.

On Thursday, we gave readers a sneak peek of next week's new Skeptic magazine, which has a couple of lengthy pieces about Scientology by Jim Lippard and editor Michael Shermer.

Friday morning is the time we rejoin L. Ron Hubbard on the deck of the Apollo, circa 1968 to 1971, when he was running Scientology from the yacht while it sailed the Mediterranean. We had more excerpts from his daily crew dispatches.

And soon after, we posted another piece, this time showing Scientology's latest attack on former church executive Marty Rathbun -- a 9-minute video. We pointed out that church leader David Miscavige is still fighting over 2009 allegations of violence in Scientology, when the rest of us have moved on to the church's extreme fundraising!

Whew. Another busy week. And do we have some doozies coming soon. But for now, let's go to the awards!

Our Sunday Funnies featured yet another sorry-looking flier from the San Diego Org. We got a chuckle from this jab from Schockenawd...

I don't live too far from the San Diego org. Even though I'm not a Scientologist, I do understand the importance of good filing, and I might be swayed to go help them file. But, I'm just not feeling it. Maybe if their flier had called it the Thrill of Filing.

Bob Peterson was one of many of us who were scratching our heads at a South Africa Org flier promoting the "thrill" of fundraising. ORLY?

The "Thrill" of fundraising?? I would rate that right up there with how I feel about snowmobiling. And that means sitting in a snow-filled ditch while being beaten with a stick.

We had a lot of fun gathering up Twitter reactions to the church's Sunday night advertising during American Idol. There was plenty of derision from our own readers, and we enjoyed this post by Gina Smith...

When even American Idol viewers are laughing at your promotions you know it's just time to give up and fade away quietly.

And we love it when readers educate us. A tip of the hat to John P....

AdAge, the trade publication for the advertising industry, said in October that the base rate for a 30-second spot on American Idol was $502,000, and that could climb to $640,000 the closer you get to the competition's final episode. A 2-minute spot, therefore, probably cost $2.5 million or even $3 million when you factor in the need to get prominent placement and the need to outbid people who already had rights to those slots.

(For advertising novices: given the popularity of the program, a lot of the commercial slots for American Idol were probably purchased by advertisers during the network "upfront" sales period last year. That's where the network unveils the new shows for the season and advertisers make major package buys of hundreds of millions of dollars across a network's entire schedule, to get the best price on the shows they want to be seen on. But even if an ad slot is purchased, someone can come along later and "outbid" you and take over your slot if they want to be on a particular program bad enough. So to get their ads onto the program, the Church of Scientology would have had to outbid the existing slot holders, probably by a goodly margin, in order to be able to buy such a premium slot with only a couple weeks notice.)

So on Tuesday, it was 26 years since L. Ron Hubbard left his body to continue his researches into even higher OT levels. Or so said David Miscavige to the crowd assembled at the Palladium in 1986, prompting this reply by JustCallMeMary...

That's some Astounding Science Fiction.

Heh. Meanwhile, Hubbard used our comment section to announce his return, in this post by LRH v2...

I'm back, and this Miscavige, wow that boy has really goofed the floof.

And we just couldn't stifle a laugh at this poke in the ribs by Ivy Mapother...

After watching the video, my only question is: Does David Miscavige still represent the Lollipop Guild or is the Sea Org thing a full-time gig? Either way, I can't help myself. I want to look down and salute.

The reactions to our big investigative piece of the week -- on Flo Barnett's 1985 death -- generated a lot of skepticism from readers about the official finding that Barnett killed herself with four shots from a rifle. But our interview with retired LA Sheriff's detective Bob Havercroft also convinced some that he'd done a thorough job. There was this reaction from NCSP, for example...

Thanks, Tony. It's great to have some new first-hand perspectives on the matter. I'm still not 100% convinced, but I am more inclined to believe the "official" version of events.

It's not really that difficult to imagine someone being able to shoot themselves multiple times; the gun is a semiautomatic, so it's not as if she would have had to reload in between shots, and if it happened very quickly, I can see how she might not have felt the effects of the chest shots enough to incapacitate her. Because of shock and adrenaline it can take a few seconds or even minutes for the body to feel the pain of a gunshot. It's bizarre for sure, but there's a Wikipedia article about "Multiple Gunshot Suicide" that has some links to medical lit on the subject.

Do I believe that the Church is indirectly culpable for her death by putting her under enormous and unnecessary stress during a difficult time? Absolutely. But I think it's likely that that's the extent of their involvement.

And we were also happy to see Dan Garvin weigh in (Dan's a former longtime Sea Org member and all around smart guy)...

Doesn't seem like a good murder for DM. If he was going to have somebody killed, there were people whose whose death would have been far more worth the risk of getting caught. The detective's scenario is unusual but not implausible. She'd shot herself three times and found herself not only alive but conscious. She would have been in great pain. The extreme, but terminal, effort and pain of carrying out the final shot probably seemed worth it.

But on the other hand, we also completely understood those who were still unconvinced. We liked this statement by LocalSP1...

Having had a couple of broken ribs in my lifetime and also being an avid .22 rifle shooter, you'll never convince me that she shot herself.

Our post Friday about the latest Squirrel Buster video about Marty Rathbun generated a lot of interesting responses. Every time we write about Rathbun, a lot of anger is unleashed by those who feel the former enforcer for Scientology hasn't done enough to atone for his acts. We understand that, but we also enjoyed this response from skydog...

In criminal law, the difference between a victim and a defendant is usually just a matter of time. When a person travels from California to Texas to engage in a pattern of harassment against an individual, they should not be heard to complain when they are spit upon or sprayed with a garden hose. When "reporter" Jim Lynch trespasses upon private property, he should not be heard complain that that the property owner threatens bodily harm upon him. When that same "reporter" violates the personal space of an individual by reaching into their car, he should not be heard to complain when a car door is slammed on him. Justice is supposed to be blind, not stupid.

Tony, you are correct in your claim that this film has no intended audience other than David Miscavige. The loyal cool aide drinking ronbots cannot be trusted to watch this. Watching a bunch of overweight, unkempt middle age men and women parading around Texas in undersized tee shirts behaving like juvenile delinquents might cause even the most zealous to pause before donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve a similar state of "enlightenment". The rest of the world is simply flabbergasted that the "producers" of this dribble have nothing better to do with their time and that the government has less important things to do other than revoke the tax exempt status of this criminal organization.

And we'll finish up by looking at what Jefferson Hawkins had to say on the matter. As I've said before, reading Jeff always makes me feel clearer on an issue...

Tony, I think you're right that this was made, really, for an audience of one -- David Miscavige. They won't show it to Scientologists (as they don't want to put any Scientologist's attention on Marty), and any non-Scientologist can see it for what it is -- a demented piece of cult crazy. Reminds me of the time we were preparing one of those picture books laying out what a "Suppressive Person" was and Miscavige had the illustrator make the face of the "SP" into a likeness of Pat Broeker. It was an inside joke, that is, for an audience of exactly one. You have to remember that Miscavige has the personality of a middle-school bully and the things that make him snigger are, frankly, crude, juvenile and heavy-handed.

An interesting contrast is to look at the interviews on the Anderson Cooper 360 program and the St. Petersburg Times videos, where people are talking about Miscavige's propensity for abuse and violence, and compare that with the faceless, nameless "people" who are accusing Marty of violence. These supposed interviews are so obviously scripted and (badly) acted that they are laughable. Those who accuse Miscavige have real names and faces. Those who accuse Marty have no names and no faces. Sure, Marty has his own history, but at least he is man enough to own up to it, and to apologize to many of those (including myself) he abused, either verbally or physically. Miscavige will never own up to his much worse behavior, he will continue to hide in his office and snigger at his own childish video productions.

Well, another excellent week of reactions from our readers. It's the thing that keeps us going. And this weekend, we're on high alert for some pretty big news. So keep checking back often as we stay glued to the monitors here in the underground bunker!


Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE

[All recent stories] | [What is Scientology?] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] [Commenters of the Week] | [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park] [This Week Aboard the Apollo] | [Sunday Funnies]

FEATURED INVESTIGATIONS

[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] [Paulette Cooper, Scientology's original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]

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 | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu

HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG

[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology's cruise ship] [Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room] [Melissa Paris, Valeska's sister: forced to marry at 16]

SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION

[Scientology targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in an investigation] [More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole] [Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe] [Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement] [Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]

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

[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here's Your Media Training Checksheet!] [Tom Cruise and X Factor's Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds] [X Factor's Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims] [Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay] ["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

[A review of Urban's scholarly history of the church] | [An interview with Hugh Urban]

EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT

["The Money Machine": another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation] [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]

OVERSEAS NEWS

[Scientology in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia -- and a visit by the Voice!] [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] [Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]

ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS

[Scientology chillin' with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB] [Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology's in-house rapper] [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] [Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]


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