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Scientology Succession: Commenters of the Week!

"Finally, a country that treats its people right!"
"Finally, a country that treats its people right!"
[Image blatantly stolen from shoopers at WWP]

We had a feeling that this week leading up to Christmas would be pretty quiet around the underground bunker. And boy, were we wrong! What a crazy week, and it all started Sunday morning with our usual Sunday Funnies. But many readers noted that this week's funnies weren't really all that funny at all -- in fact, they were kind of heartbreaking, showing how Scientology still wants your child for complete indoctrination and manual labor.

Monday, however, we lightened the mood by reporting on our breakfast that morning with one of our heroes, Paulette Cooper. We related for the first time her story of being plucked out of a Nazi camp as a child by a mystery man -- a Belgian who spent the equivalent of about $2 million to save 22 kids from the camp. And this week, more than one newspaper in Belgium followed up on our story. Paulette is hoping that the coverage will help her identify her benefactor.

On Tuesday, we came back to the subject of "Sea Org Success" poster boy Denny Chang. Our new friends Melissa Paris and Ramana Dienes-Browning each told us that Denny must have joined the Sea Org at only 14 to 16 in order to be as experienced as he claims in the flier.

Wednesday, we looked at a minor scuffle in San Francisco between a protestor and an angry Scientologist. What really made it an interesting tale was not the fight itself, but the background of protester Tommy Gorman and his wife Jennifer, who filmed him getting roughed up.

Later that day, we chased a wild story: Marty Rathbun released a document suggesting that a Huffington Post religion blogger, Joe Grieboski, was a paid shill for Scientology. We confirmed it with a statement from Mike Rinder and then an e-mail from Grieboski himself.

On Thursday, we totally blew our deadline and did NOT give you our weekly roundup of church stats. What the heck? Well, let's just say the underground bunker went through a hurricane of change this week, and it was sort of a miracle that we managed to get through it and put things back together in time so that we only missed one assignment. We might tell you more about later, or we might just keep our mouths shut. The less our stalkers know about our real lives over here, the more chances this train is going to keep steaming along on rails.

And yesterday, we had a very special dispatch from the high seas, as the crew of the Apollo celebrated Christmas, including a play directed by Al Bornstein -- now Kate Bornstein, who doesn't remember a damn thing about it, which was just about the best response of all.

OK, now on to the awards....

When we first put up the mailers showing young Denny Chang and also a nameless child in a poster promoting lifetime membership in the International Association of Scientologists, many of our readers were repulsed. This comment by Mimi the Great summed up how many seemed to feel...

Seeing images of these kids is far more than disturbing, it is criminal. It astounds me that any organization would corrupt the pure innocence of a child,only to gain from them and essentially attempt to steal their souls.

The COS rigorously and shamelessly recruits and pressures children ...CHILDREN...to sign asinine contracts devoting their young lives into eternity and they do so out of pressure, fear of losing what they believe in or retribution by the only people they know. It is disgusting.

I can't help but think of Denny's potential and promise *sigh*

And then Natalie really blew us away with this glimpse into what it's actually like for a young Sea Org member who has signed a life away with a billion-year contract...

I remember being 18, in the Sea Org and married. My most pleasurable moments were when I would on occasion sneak up to my room and look out the window while listening to Natalie Merchant. It was the 80's. I still remember the feeling of looking out beyond the walls of the complex (Pac base in LA) and wanting so much to walk through a park or go swimming with friends. Things that a teenager would want to do.

I remember wishing I could spend the precious few hours off of post during an event reading in my room. Instead there was always some bossy Sea Org MAA (Master at arms, the equivalent of an ethics officer) checking rooms to make sure we all headed down to the buses.

At the time I would have probably sounded just like Denny as I along with the others wouldn't dare say a negative word. To do so would mean being punished. Today I'm a 41 year old mother of 3 who says what she thinks.

My hope for Denny is that he one day finds the freedom I have. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for being able to freely do something as simple as sitting and reading a book of my choosing. If I don't want to go somewhere, I don't go. I eat when and what I want. These are simple things that most Sea Org members don't experience.

And once again, Mat Pesch helps us understand the deprivations of the Sea Org...

These children, in many cases, work the same hours as the adults, meaning working with little or no sleep in not uncommon. The staff are briefed not to have the children walk outside the buildings late at night so that the police are not alerted to the violation of child labor laws.

I've also been on the RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force) where the youngest member was a 13 year old girl. At that time there were about 80 of us and we all slept on the floor of a large room. Each person had a 2' x 6' x 2 inch thick piece of foam to sleep on.

I could go on but I don't want to gross people out that might be eating.

Monday morning, during my breakfast with Paulette Cooper, she told me one of the things that struck her about ex-Scientologists was how difficult it could be to move on with their lives -- having that Sea Org stint on your resume can be tough, she pointed out. I asked readers to tell us about their own experiences getting back on their feet, and naturally, you didn't let us down. There was this great response from Marc Headley, for example...

"How to be Successful After Leaving Scientology" 1. Get as far away from Scilonville as you can. 2. Forgot everything you learned in Scientology and do what actually works, NOT what you were told would work. 3. Stop using Scientologese. 4. Clear from your mind what Scientology has told you the world would be like and experience it. 5. Succeed.

Another ex-Scientologist who has done well, Jefferson Hawkins, gave us his testimonial as well...

I've written my story in my book Counterfeit Dreams, including my recovery process, but to summarize: I was fortunate in that I worked in Scientology's marketing area for most of my time in the Church which forced me to learn real-world design, marketing and advertising skills. And I had been a graphic designer prior to Scientology. I also had to interact with the "outside world" on an ongoing basis while in Scientology, so was able to relate and communicate in the real world. David Miscavige used to harangue us that if we left we would be "flipping burgers at McDonalds." However I was able to leverage my skills to find a job right away, as Production Manager of a weekly magazine. And I have since been able to start my own highly successful graphic design studio. Marc Headley also had real-world skills as an audio-visual technician (and a lot of drive). Those who have only Scientology-related skills (auditing and training) have a harder time of it - but even so, I don't know anyone "flipping burgers" (not that there's anything wrong with that). The ex-Church members that I know are all doing well.

We also really appreciated this comment from Anonamazing...

I remember, about 10 years into my 16-year "career" at a local org, seeing a copy of Paulette's book that someone had delivered anonymously to the front desk--it had been unceremoniously dumped in the trash area. I was on MEST work, so happened across it. I was terrified of it, of course, since I was already in "lowers." I wish I'd taken it home then. Funny how deep the programming goes, such that if a Scilon even sees something like that, it loosens the bowels, causes panic, creates terror. In any event, the impact on my own career of the time I spent/wasted with the cult may not be incalculable, but it's significant. I'd say I'm taking home around half what I would have, had I not fallen for the con. Incidentally, once I began to escape, I'd already routed off full-time, and was working part-time. My full-time work was with a scilon private company--they terminated me once they discovered I was no longer in The Club, having made up some other excuses. It was a decent severance, though, so I didn't file anything. It was clearly a pre-emptive "disconnection." At the same time, my wife "disconnected" from me, and tried very hard to get the kids to do so as well. It worked on one of them, but not the other. PS, Tony, it's funny how not-funny the Sunday funnies are.

On Tuesday, we came back to the story of Denny Chang, Sea Org "success." We were grateful for this bit of inside information from Been away...

Hi, Tony, this Danny Chang is definitely a Taiwanese. I am sorry I do not know his family. But usually this kind of young girls or boys are second generation Scientologists from Taiwan. Their parents would agree them to join because they either don't like schools or the schools don't like them. If they have other siblings or brothers who will live a normal life in the society, it would be much easier for them to go joining. However, if he were the only son in his family, then he very possibly have gone through massive PTS handlings, in order to get his parents agree with what he wants to do. I am sure that he was recruited several years ago before he turns adult right now. He should have started from the EPF (Estate Project Force) at CLO ANZO(Sea Org Management Unit in Australia) and then EPF of CMO ANZO(Sea Org Supervising Management Unit in Australia, higher than CLO), after that he (if qualified) will be able to do jobs, get training, etc. to be an auditor.

Wednesday morning we learned about Tommy and Jennifer Gorman, and watched Tommy being assaulted by an angry Scientologist at the San Francisco org. We liked this response by the inimitable Kate Bornstein...

Damn. Church canon teaches Scientologists to be violent. I remember an OODs rant by the old man where he says that turning the other cheek is why Christianity is failing. He went on to say that Sea Org members need to make a lot of noise if anything/anyone gets in their way. Said he hoped none of us ever had a tombstone that read: Here lies the body of Captain Brown--He was quiet and peaceful as the ship went down.

And we had to give Rpontopix a nod for bringing up a an obvious (and devilish) point...

The only thing baffling to me is that Tommy didn't beat the shit out of him. It clearly would have been self defense, and fun on top of that.

Our old friend, Scientologist Mark Miglio, e-mailed me his response to this story, and I felt compelled to post it...

RAPE: My, my what a story, Tony! Whatever part of this story might be true -- will, or already has been -- addressed by the church Ethics Department -- I am sure.

I had no idea that these people could tell such incredible tales. My friends are all quite mild people and we don't have any sensational stories for your endeavor.

PNEUMONIA: The threat is real. Sorry, I can't be more forthcoming.

And we enjoyed Barbara Graham's response to Miglio...

Uh...the threat of pneumonia from reading OTIII is real???

And then HE says, "I had no idea that these people could tell such incredible tales..."

'Nuff said!

Wednesday afternoon, we worked furiously to keep on top of the breaking story about Huffington Post religion blogger Joe Grieboski, who turns out to be a Scientology shill. Reader subsilentio put Grieboski's future paths in perspective...

He's certainly not going to be getting any more OSA bucks at this point. The cult's puppets are no longer useful to them when the strings are visible.

I also expect any career this clown has as a journalist is over. Will anything that ever comes out of his mouth again not be suspect? You'll just have to wonder who's paying him now.

The cult calls this kind of person a "Dead Agent."

And we had to agree with Aa, the sharp researchers over at WhyWeProtest.net have been all over this story from the beginning...

The WWP folks have been doing a superb job of shaking the skeleton's out of this guy's deep, deep closet. Although Grieboski is apparently not a Scientologist himself -- a very convenient cover -- everything around him absolutely reeks of Scientology. Board members, contributors, professional associations, fund-raisers, meetings, speaking engagements; all roads lead directly or indirectly to Scientology, and any (mostly miniscule) involvement with other religious groups appears to be mere window dressing.

And yesterday, we had fun with Kate Bornstein and the 1970 Christmas celebration on the ship Apollo. I want to thank Chuck Beatty for speaking up and giving us this small glimmer of hope for Sea Org members this weekend...

The PTSD point Kate brings up is so interesting. I only joined Sea Org later, and see amongst the lists of names the people who stayed in for the coming years. So many quit, the ratio is about 90-95% quit rate if you go down this list. All my 27 years, even the RPF years I did in the end, each Christmas, we did cut ourselves slack, and it's true, the PTSD makes remembering the good day off, and Christmas is a guaranteed Sea Org day off, lucikly, just because of Hubbard's tradition on the Apollo, even today. They do get better chow, they do watch movies, get let out to go watch movies, and have skits and self created entertainment, every Sea Org unit if big enough, even today. Hubbard cut them a guaranteed day of slack, thankfully, on Christmas!

And with that, we wish you a day of slack as well. Tomorrow, we'll have our usual Sunday Funnies for you to look over as you're opening presents, and then on Monday, we start our year-end celebrations with the first of our poll results -- Scientology Video of the Year!


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] [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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