The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 17: Jefferson Hawkins

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 17: Jefferson Hawkins

On August 5, we started a countdown that will give credit -- or blame -- to the people who have contributed most to the sad current state of Scientology. From its greatest expansion in the 1980s, the church is a shell of what it once was and is mired in countless controversies around the world. Some of that was self-inflicted, and some of it has come from outside. Join us now as we continue on our investigation of those people most responsible...

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology

#17: Jefferson Hawkins


Last year, Jeff Hawkins sent me a copy of his book, Counterfeit Dreams, and I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much. I really didn't know about Hawkins' more than 30 years in Scientology, and had no idea what he had done for the organization.

Now, after reading the book, it's difficult to think about Scientology's amazing expansion in the 1980s without thinking of Jeff Hawkins.

In Counterfeit Dreams, Hawkins skillfully narrates his journey as he went from an eager young joiner learning how to produce church publications during Scientology's hippie days in the late '60s, to becoming Scientology's marketing architect during the greatest period of its expansion.

What I wrote about the book last year:

It was Hawkins and his ideas for television ads (the "volcano" TV spot, for example) that propelled Dianetics to meteoric heights, leading many to wonder if Scientologists themselves weren't just buying up the books by the truckload to make sure it topped the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Hawkins assured me that such deception wasn't needed. Through his TV ads and a slick print marketing scheme, books were flying off shelves, even as Scientology faced a terrifying future -- would the movement survive its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who died in January, 1986?

Here's what Marty Rathbun had to say about that marketing effort:

What Jeff accomplished by getting Dianetics onto bestseller lists in the Eighties is in my opinion the central reason there was any expansion of Scientology for the four short years after Hubbard's death. As has been well reported in the past year, after the down turn of 1990, International Scientology statistics have been down ever since.

And if Hawkins convinces you utterly that he was the most enthusiastic, energetic and useful kind of smart executive that the church needed as it navigated troubled waters, he is just as convincing that his disaffection was a significant blow to the organization, and a sign that innovation and creativity were becoming less welcome.

Again, from my previous review of his book:

Like others who have come forward, Hawkins details the physical abuse he witnessed at the hands of [Scientology leader David] Miscavige, the orders that were impossible to fulfill, the constant threats of punishment, and the hopelessness that Scientologists feel when they are forcibly separated from family but feel that they can't under any circumstance, leave the organization.

I couldn't help reading Counterfeit Dreams as a serious blow to Scientology. If the organization is driving away people like Jeff Hawkins, it's hard to see how it could ever regain its momentum and begin to expand again.

Check out this portion of Hawkins' interview with Mark Bunker, part of Bunker's upcoming documentary, "Knowledge Report." Hawkins explains the us-versus-them psychology of Scientology:

Another reason why Hawkins is a key defector is that he had such a personal knowledge of the actual vital signs of the church's health. There may be no one with a more authoritative knowledge of Scientology's actual membership numbers.

"I have an advantage here because I used to work for Scientology's Central Marketing Unit, and had access to all of the actual lists and statistics," he wrote at his blog last year. And he explained how he came up with an overall number of worldwide members: "I know that event attendance internationally was somewhere in the region of 25,000 to 35,000. The International 'Bodies in the Shop' (people actually in the orgs that week for service) was 16,000 to 18,000. IAS was struggling to get 40,000 members. Based on this and a lot of other information I was privy to, I estimate the actual number of Scientologists at a maximum of 40,000. That's on the high side."

For me, Hawkins's estimate is more solid than anything else we have -- whether it's government surveys on the low end, or Scientology's claims of "millions" on the upper end.

And knowing that Scientology's worldwide membership could barely fill a baseball stadium -- that may be one of the most devastating pieces of information to come out in the last few years.

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. | @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]


[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 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]


["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]


[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]


[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] 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"]


[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]

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