MORE

Scientology Oz-fest: Commenters of the Week!

This kangaroo is volunteering its time and no contract is implied
This kangaroo is volunteering its time and no contract is implied

Every Saturday, we say "what a week." But this time -- What a week! Right? With Scientology news breaking Down Under, and the countdown getting to single digits, and wacky stuff leaking in the UK -- the underground bunker was ringing with alarm bells all week long.

We started things Monday with #9 in our countdown, actor Jason Beghe, whose 2008 video denouncing the church is still a remarkable declaration of independence.

On Tuesday, a draft copy of a labor agency's report in Australia became news in that country, and we updated our earlier post about this investigation as, at this point, many of us watching these developments expected that the agency was about to lower the boom on Scientology's Down Under operations.

Tuesday afternoon we had a conversation with former high-ranking Scientology executive Marty Rathbun about his recent trip to Hamburg and Berlin.

Wednesday morning we revealed #8 in our countdown, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder. We asked him some tough questions, and he gave us some tough answers, setting off a huge commenting storm!

Thursday we started out the day by posting an interview we did with Ohio State University's Hugh Urban, author of the scholarly history, The Church of Scientology.

Many hours later, we got up in the middle of the night to find out what had finally been released officially by the Fair Work Ombudsman in Australia, and learned that Scientology had dodged a big bullet.

Later that morning, we revealed #7 in our countdown, Mark Bunker, better known to Anonymous as "Wise Beard Man."

Also on Friday, we shared with readers some new, jaw-dropping Scientology videos leaked from the UK. You really have to see these to believe them!

Finally, this roundup would have been done a lot sooner, but we had to scramble earlier today to report the news that Marty Rathbun had been arrested under questionable circumstances. The siege in South Texas continues!

And that was our week. Do I need a drink. But first, on to the awards!

Our countdown item about Jason Beghe brought out a lot of admiration for the outspoken actor and the videos he made with Mark Bunker. We liked in particular this comment by Heather Grace:

Watching the Bunker-Beghe videos, Jason seemed to have the tech at his fingertips, yet wasn't the slightest bit robotic. It was delightful to hear his thoughtful reflections on the tech and the church, expressed in Jason's utterly frank and unpretentious way. I learned a lot watching Jason, not the least that there were clearly some very intelligent people in Scientology and that I shouldn't draw false conclusions about scientologists being weak or needy. Kudos, Jason. For what we know of you and what we don't.

Our good friend Marcotai showed up to weigh in from a pro-church perspective, and took a swing at us with this shot at our countdown:

Jason Beghe at ninth position? LOL I would have listed him at 99th.

Which prompted this rather inspired comeback by SFF:

So there are 98 people who have done more damage to Scientology? Please tell.

We also enjoyed the always insightful observations of Beghe's fellow countdown resident, Jefferson Hawkins:

Jason tells it like it is -- he doesn't mince words. Miscavige hates Jason for the same reason he liked him when he was in -- for Miscavige, it's all about image and appearance. That's why he's obsessed with celebs. It doesn't matter if you beat people or abuse them or defraud them, it doesn't matter if things are falling apart around you, as long as you keep looking good in your own publications and events. If you want confirmation that the Church of Scientology is on its last legs, consider the fact that "Marcotai" is the best apologist they can muster these days. And all he can do, apparently, is "attack the attacker," spew venom at anyone who questions the Church, thus continuing to shred any last traces of credibility that the Church might have left.

After we talked with Marty Rathbun upon his return from Germany, and he blasted the U.S. media for not covering Scientology better, we liked this comeback by loyal reader Scott Pilutik:

I'm not usually one to defend the US mainstream media -- Like Marty, I too get pissy when they fail to cover the news in exactly the way I'd like -- but perhaps the US mainstream media is wary of the credibility and motives of the story's protagonist, Marty Rathbun. As whistleblowers go, Marty is problematic not for the stories he's told but for the stories he hasn't told. Marty apparently fails to understand how his lack of forthcomingness on important historical events undermines everything he says, even the stuff that can be corroborated. If the SP Times decided against publishing whatever Marty was trying to float, I'm far more willing to assume that Tobin and Childs had perfectly good reasons than Marty's chest-beating about their having no balls.

Our countdown item about Mike Rinder really got commenters going. We thought this comment by SFF does a good job representing the kind of questions raised about what Rinder said in the piece:

Mike Rinder seems to have an interesting take on what is legal and "the right way". Soliciting false statements in order to create phony charges against Graham Berry seems kind of illegal. As does libel. I don't know if the Scientologists in France convicted of interfering with a witness were OSA or not or whether destroying evidence around the Lisa McPherson case fell under OSA. It reminds me of the Nancy Many interview clip where she expresses that at the time she thought that it was legal to volunteer for an organization and steal / photocopy their personnel files.

Our interview with OSU professor Hugh Urban proved to be surprisingly popular with readers. We really enjoyed a long comment by Michael Barger, and we're pulling out just a portion of it here:

The book is a treasure trove of new research and insight. The people who need to read this most are journalists and professors of religious journalism because the media by and large get most things wrong about religion most of the time. The next group of people are politicians, government officials, clergymen, and heads of community organizations. They actually have to make everyday practical decisions about Scientology's legitimacy -- about whether to include or exclude Scientology from interfaith alliances and cooperation, whether to rent meeting space to Scientology groups, or whether to devote taxpayer funding to Narconon, Applied Scholastics, or The Way To Happiness, or have the Boy Scouts decorate a local community center with quotations from L. Ron Hubbard, as has actually happened at The Bridge Outreach Center in Harlingen Texas, which involves no fewer than five Scientology front groups. Hugh's is the most significant academic book published on Scientology since Roy Wallis' sociological study thirty-six years ago. It deserves to be widely read.

As for our story about the surprising news coming out of Australia, that the Fair Work Ombudsman's final report had none of the teeth in it that an earlier draft report had, I want to offer my own thanks to numerous sources who made sure I got that report as soon as possible in the wee hours of Friday morning. Although I snoozed for a few crucial hours and didn't get up until almost 3:30 am, several e-mails from tipsters were already waiting for me, and I was able to get our story about the final report up so soon, it not only beat every news organization in this country, we were second only to one news organization in Australia itself! Wow. Now that's a source network. Again, my great thanks to all the help I'm receiving from our great readers and loyal tipsters.

Now, as for comments on that story, we thought CofS Exit Zone best represented how many Scientology watchers were feeling:

Well damn. So glad i opted for bed last night, instead of staying up until the wee hours of the morning reading the finalized report. "Slavery" had such a delicious ring to it *sigh*.

This was a story about Scientology triumphing Down Under, and so let's also give Marcotai his due, as he crowed about the victory, and nearly spelled everything correctly:

The Australian anti religious extremist senator is desperately try to find new apostates for his class action lawsuit because his 8 "witnesses' were found to be unreliable (liars). So far he has recruited NONE and he is trying to find out the whereabouts of his 'pupil" Mr Saxton, the guy who ran away with the senator's and anonymous' donated money. The senator need your help. Could you lie for money? If the answer is yes, please contact him.

Our countdown piece about Mark Bunker broke loose a lot of admiration for Wise Beard Man. Again, CofS Exit Zone seemed representative:

Yet another fascinating history lesson! Nice to know Bunker's initial exposure to Scientology ran a lot deeper than his original "shore story" of his interest being piqued when he started receiving CofS magazines in the mail by mistake.

And how could we not highlight this apt tribute by An Anon:

Wise beard man. His words are wise. His face is beard.

Some readers privately expressed their thrill at seeing the following comment by Alanzo, who has apparently been little heard from lately:

It was Mark Bunker who first put Tory Christman on video to tell her story as an OT 7 in his "speaking freely" series, as well as the videos of Greg and Debra Barnes. He also worked with the Lisa McPherson Trust and continually documented Scientologists applying the business end of Scientology in interviews such as the one with OSA operative Mike McClaughry, and the infamous "What are Your Crimes?" videos. Mark Bunker got me the information that had been actively and energetically hidden from me as a Scientologist. Once I had that information, I was gone from Scientology and speaking out on my own, trying to get others the information they, too, needed about Scientology's secret war with the world. Scientology employs many elaborate schemes and techniques to hide information from their paying customers. Mark Bunker has continued to find new ways to break down those barriers and get Scientologists, and the public, the information they need to make informed decisions about Scientology.

Plus, Mark has a beard.

Alanzo

PS. Thanks Mark. Your work changed my life for the better.

And we also had to smile at this comment by Jgg:

I can't believe there are 6 people who have done more to damage to Co$ than Mark Bunker.

As for our post of videos leaked from the Birmingham org, and one incredible song and set of photos from a tropical fundraising event ("Birmingham in the house tonight!"), we got this scolding from Mike:

Again reducing yourself to making fun of people doing something that they believe in. These are not people dying to be in the spotlight. These are people that truly beleive their philosophy is worth supporting. And for that they get made fun of and riduculed...a nice example of your journalistic integrity Tony.

And we enjoyed this comeback by Scientia:

Again, this from the guy whose "church" uses the logo of a squirrel with an indie practitioner's head stuck on the top of it. Mike, your "church" openly mocks and ridicules people (Squirrel Busters, Freedom Magazine) yet I don't hear you complain about that. Why ever not?

Several people tried to convey how they felt watching the videos. We enjoyed this comment by Helen7

I'd rather have my teeth pulled than watch the misery of the scientologists in "video 1" again. My urge to vomit was increased dramatically by "video 2." Video 3 made me vacillate between belly-aching laughter and throwing up a little in my mouth.

Finally, our story about Marty Rathbun's arrest didn't seem to generate much sympathy for the former Scientology executive, and we thought this comment by Scott Pilutik summed up that point of view:

It's Howd (here, Moore) v Minton (here, Marty) all over again. The only difference/irony is that Marty should know better given which side of the fence he stood back then. This is Scientology's new leader? He can't even keep his TRs in. I'm not saying this charge isn't bullshit, but like everything else with Marty, it's difficult to know what the truth is when all the facts are coming from Marty, whose memory is notably self-serving.

Congratulations to all of our winners this week. I'm sure we're facing even more enturbulation on an epic scale in the coming seven days.

And remember, on Monday, after we reveal #6 in the countdown at 9 am, come back at noon, when we'll reveal the URL for our readers poll, where you'll be able to submit your own list of The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology. It may be Marcotai's ballot I'm most eager to see!


The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #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.

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] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] | [Commenters of the Week]

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?]

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]

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]

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

[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 dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested] [All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots] 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]


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >