Scientology Spectacular: Commenters of the Year!

"M-A-R-C-O-T-A-I. They'll never figure out it's me with this fake Italian accent!"
"M-A-R-C-O-T-A-I. They'll never figure out it's me with this fake Italian accent!"

Here on this final day of 2011, we're replacing our usual Saturday morning celebration of the week's best comments with a special announcement.

Our IT department has done the math, we've run those numbers through our analyzers here in the underground bunker, and now we're ready to hand out awards for our Commenters of the Year!

To briefly recap our week of end-of-year celebrations, here's what we've done so far.

On Monday, we announced that "We Stand Tall" was chosen as the Video of the Year in our readers poll.

Tuesday, we revealed the poll's winner for Shoop of the Year: "Civilization Without Insanity," a tribute to the wackiness of the Squirrel Busters.

On Wednesday, poll results showed that you had chosen "The Money Machine," the new project by Tom Tobin and Joe Childs at the St. Petersburg Times as the Scientology Story of the Year.

On Friday, we revealed our 25 most-read Scientology stories of the year, and announced that the most popular story of all was our lengthy interview with Valeska Paris about being held against her will aboard Scientology's private cruise ship, the Freewinds.

In that post, we mentioned that our stories here at the Voice's Runnin' Scared blog on Scientology alone have generated more than 20,000 comments, and we are grateful to our readers for helping us build a commenting community that is so sharp and well spoken. And a kick in the pants.

And now, on to the awards...

Miss Congeniality

For bringing her good humor to our comments section without fail, even when dealing with her less-than-photographic memories of a past spent in the Sea Org, we bestow this award on Kate Bornstein.

The E.F. Hutton Memorial Award

When Jefferson Hawkins talks, people listen. The man whose "volcano" television commercials and other brainstorms helped propel Scientology to its greatest heights in the 1980s is now the wisest of former Scientologists. Read his book, people.

Tommy says, "Wait a minute, you mean Miles was just kidding?"
Tommy says, "Wait a minute, you mean Miles was just kidding?"

The Jonathan Swift Satire Award

We're calling a tie in this category. We really couldn't remember who made us chuckle more with their satirical barbs, so we're recognizing both OTVIIIisGrrr8! and Miles Biondo. Now, in the comments, if they don't both call us names and turn down their awards, we're taking them back!

Our Favorite Grouch

The cantankerous Dennis Erlich more than once tried to stop a commenting stream in its tracks with his harrumphs. But none was better than the day the big South Park story broke, a series of posts that proved to be among our most-read of the entire year. Dennis's reaction? "Duh. This is news to anybody?" We loved it, of course.

The 'No Way, Did You See Who Commented?' Award

Juliette says, "Hey, look at all those SPs!"
Juliette says, "Hey, look at all those SPs!"

Besides the aforementioned Jeff Hawkins and Kate Bornstein, we were repeatedly stunned to see who showed up in our comments, joining in our conversation. Just a thanks to these big names, and hoping to see more of you in the future: Andre Taboyoyon, Amy Scobee, Mat Pesch, Chuck Beatty, Patty Moher, Synthia Fagen, Mark Fisher, Barbara Graham, Alanzo, Patricia Curtis, Hartley Patterson, Geir Isene, Tory Christman, Marc Headley, Michael Fairman, Nancy Many, Skip Press, Brian Culkin, Mark Ebner, and more.

The Pardon Me While I Get My Lawyer on the Phone Award

Every time attorney Scott Pilutik shows up in our comments, I feel smarter. Honorable mention to Frolix8, former prosecutor, for his thoughts on the Lisa McPherson prosecution.

The Declaration of Independence Award

There were plenty of fierce Indies taking part in our comments and defending LRH from you infidels. But the fiercest was no doubt Margaret, and we hope she comes back soon.

Best Church Defender

This turns out to be something of a dog of an award. As regular readers know, few of the usual OSA bots bothered with us, and we were stuck with two church defenders most of the time, one of whom is most likely just a troll and not a Scientologist at all. And that leaves us with only Mark Miglio, who earnestly e-mails me just about every day with his words of wisdom. Can't we get Tommy Davis or something on a sock puppet at this site?

The Frankness Award

Not that anyone holds back in our comments, but there was something about LeeAnne Clark's utterances that fed our deep-seated alt-weekly cut-through-the-bullshit jones. And for that we are thankful.

John says, "That tip about Lubow was like, Oh my God!"
John says, "That tip about Lubow was like, Oh my God!"

The Tipster Award

We're giving this award to Scientia for not only being one of the most perceptive commenters at our site, but for also tipping us to a pretty major story this summer -- that a man running the Squirrel Busters operation in South Texas and calling himself "Dave Statter" was none other than Dave Lubow, church private eye. That checked out, and proved a devastating blow to the goon squad.

There are so many other great commenters who made our posts come alive, and I wish I had awards for all of them. I'll be looking for your bylines in 2012: Aa, Andie, Anon A, Anonamazing, AnonLady, Arthur, Barbara Snow, Been There, BennyShackleford, Bob Peterson, bobx, Brainslugged, candace6, ChaosConsumer, Chocolate Velvet, Claireswazey, CofS Exit Zone, Davescomm, Dean Fox, DeckardCain, DMSTCC, dodobird, DuckBenway, Endscientologynow, Freespirit, Gertrude, H. Jentzsch, Heather Grace, Helen7, hgc, I'drathernot, Jgg, juliusstahl, JustCallMeMary, KeeponLearning, Kris, Le Unc, LoyalOfficer, MarcAbian, MarthaWiggins, Michael Barger, Mighty Korgo of Teegeeack, Mimi the Great, Mirele, MissCabbage, Myriam Breitman, Natalie, NCSP, Old OT7, Old Timer, PamEllis, Paolo, Paul Jay Salerno, PodPeople, Radio Paul, Ron, Rpontopix, Sanddancer, Sandy4077, Schockenawd, scilonschools, SFF, ShellyMiscavige, Sid, sketto, Skwerl King, SP 'Onage, subsilentio, Suzanne, SuzyQ, The Scientologist, skydog, Theoracle, Thetan-X, TrueScientol, Tye Solaris, V for Vacation, Vistaril, wannabeclear, Warrior, WOLFNSHEEPSKIN, Xenu, xoxoxoxoxoxox, and many others.

Well, enough of the subjective. We now turn to our last two awards, which are based on hard data. It is time to congratulate the most frequent commenter of all here at Runnin' Scared, and the commenter who garnered the most "Likes"...


Most 'Liked' Commenter at the Village Voice

We don't know who he is. We have no idea if he's an old time critic, an ex, an anon, or just a bystander. We only know that MarkStark is a kickass commenter who is a major part of this website, and he racked up an impressive 4,477 "Likes" for his comments. And for that, we salute him. Or her. Or whatever.

Which brings us to the big announcement. Can I get a drum roll...

The 2011 Village Voice Commenter of the Year

With 1,055 comments -- which works out to about 4 comments for every single Scientology story we wrote this year -- Robin Landseadel (robinlandseadel) is the Voice's number one commenter for 2011!

Congratulations, Robin. I'd send you a book or something, but the last one got lost in the mail. (Erp.) Well, I hope you do accept my thanks for your dedication. The role of commenters this year has made this experiment in Scientology watching worth every minute.


We are not done yet.

Commenters, readers, ladies and gentlemen, Scientologists, ex-Scientologists, independent Scientologists, Free Zoners, old-time critics, Anons, Chanologists, freaks, geeks, plaintiffs, defendants, and the merely curious, I have an announcement that pains me somewhat to make.

You, my super-sharp, eagle-eyed audience -- you missed something.

Yes, right in front of your faces, I left a big, fat easter egg during the biggest, fattest most-read series of Scientology stories of the year.

At more than a quarter million pageviews, our Top 25 People Crippling Scientology series was a huge hit. And was commented on endlessly.

But not a single one of you solved the cute little puzzle I put right in front of your faces.

(Shakes head.) And you anons, in particular, are so damned clever. I never thought this would get by you.

So here's your chance. There are still a few hours left in 2011. Can you solve my puzzle?

Send me an e-mail with your solution to

The first one with the correct answer will win a drink on me.

UPDATE: PUZZLE SOLVED! See our new post about how the correct answer was sent to us Sunday evening, New Year's Day.

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

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


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


[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]


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


[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 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]


[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]


[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"]


[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"]


[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?]


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


["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]


[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]


[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"]


[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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