News & Politics

Scientology and the Emerald Isle, Baghdad-by-the-Bay, and More in Our Thursday Stats Roundup


Mike Rinder, the former Church of Scientology spokesman, appeared on Irish national television last night as he prepares to take part in a debate about Scientology today.

We’ll look at Rinder’s Dublin TV performance and more as we round up this week’s high and low marks for the church.

Every Thursday at 2 pm, Scientology’s “orgs” collect their weekly stats to judge how things are going — and we do the same here every Thursday afternoon at Runnin’ Scared. So join us as we examine the church’s week here on “STATurday”!

Rinder’s visit to Ireland comes just a couple of months after we relayed the news that Scientology appears to be failing fast in that country, with revenues dropping 60 percent over the last couple of years.

And now, Rinder has been given a national platform to talk about the abuses of his old boss — church leader David Miscavige — and to talk about how the church continually follows and harasses him because he dares to criticize the organization publicly.

But we were also intrigued to see the show’s host ask Rinder about how he still finds value in L. Ron Hubbard’s “tech.” As we’ve written many times before, Rinder and Marty Rathbun are attempting to bring out of the church longtime members who may be fed up with Miscavige’s leadership, but who aren’t ready to leave everything about Scientology behind. Which explains the headline on Rathbun’s blog post this morning about Rinder’s Irish television appearance: “Scientology’s New International Spokesman.”

Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? While anons and other critics might rankle at Rinder’s pitch about the positive aspects of Scientology, anything that makes the indie movement smile is going to rub David Miscavige raw. But what really stood out to me in this episode is how the host made Scientology’s official response to Rinder sound so ridiculous. The church’s PR, at the moment, seems hopelessly out of touch. Rinder’s appearance, there is no doubt, was a huge downstat for the church.

Story #2: Taunting in San Francisco

At our sister paper, SF Weekly, Lauren Smiley has been keeping watch on the fascinating story of a Scientologist who is feeding information about the San Francisco “org” to members of Anonymous, who picket the org regularly. From the beginning, there was some question about the authenticity of the messages coming from the supposed Scientologist, who calls him or herself “EthicsTrouble.” But we asked our own experts about the internal church documents the person was smuggling out, and were told they appear to be genuine.

Well, after several weeks of silence, EthicsTrouble suddenly showed up again, this time in the form of a long, taunting jab at her fellow Scientologists. “I have proven your inability to just find one mole,” EthicsTrouble writes. “I did this because I saw no other way to get to you. To get you thinking, looking, questioning. Its time for us to see we made a mistake.”

Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? This may surprise some readers, but I have to say, this is the first communication from EthicsTrouble that strikes me as inauthentic. The sentiment is all wrong for a longtime Scientologist, even one coming out of the church. While the documents that have been smuggled out of the org seem genuine, this latest salvo from EthicsTrouble has only made me more wary of a hoax. For that reason, I’m going to have to give this a slight upstat for the church this week.

Story #3: Twin Cities Goes Ideal

We’ve been covering the “Ideal Org” push for some time now, as church leader David Miscavige replaces regular orgs around the country with new, larger, more lavish facilities, often in historic buildings. Over the weekend, the newest of the Ideal Orgs opened in St. Paul, and received some (fairly enturbulated) press there.

“Once upon a time, a science fiction author invented his own religion,” begins an article about the new facility in the Pioneer Press by Frederick Melo. (Heh.) But perhaps the best moment in the piece is when church spokeswoman Erin Banks described the new org as “dinosaur-sized.” (What was that we were saying about the church’s boneheaded PR?)

Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? With dwindling membership, this push for expensive new buildings makes no sense whatsoever, and even a shiny new building opening up can’t escape the creepy vibe in the local press. So, even with this push for positive PR, we’d have to give this a slight downstat for the church.


Story #4: Wise Beard Man Smeared Again!

Mark Bunker is reporting that he’s been slimed at Scientology’s puppet attack site, the “Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun Blog” (which actually targets Rathbun, and is not written by him).

“It has been years since I last had a Dead Agent page about me on Religious Freedom Watch but tonight I discovered that an Anti-Marty blog has a very amusing write up about me,” Bunker writes. He then quotes from the attack site, and says what really amused him was that the site used a photo of him making a funny face — which he himself had taken.

But we noticed something else in the dumb attack on Bunker:

He has specialized in attacking LRH and ridiculing the Scientology scriptures, going so far as to publish any copies of upper level materials he could get on the Internet.

Do you see what the attacker did there? He or she just acknowledged the authenticity of the upper-level materials that Bunker (and many others) have posted to the Internet, exposing Scientology’s weird (and expensive) beliefs. Seriously, who is the church paying to write this stuff?

Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Wow. Yet another disaster of bad PR. A clear downstat for a church that can’t seem to understand that a man like Bunker, who has a great sense of humor, can’t possibly be harmed by posting funny photos that he himself took.

Story #5: Scientology vs. South Park

Finally, we wanted to mention our own ongoing coverage of Scientology’s 2006 retaliatory investigation of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and their friends and employees. We’ve posted four stories since Marty Rathbun first leaked news of the investigation Sunday morning. (1. Rathbun’s leak. 2. Our own OSA document leak showing the extent of the spying. 3. Lloyd Kaufman confirms that he was pumped for info by Scientologist Eric Sherman. 4. Mark Ebner reminds us that he too was investigated by OSA for working on the South Park episode.) We expect several more stories will be coming.

These stories have been among the most-read we’ve ever published on Scientology, and news of the creepy South Park operation went around the globe as it was picked up by dozens of other news organizations.

Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? This may be Scientology’s biggest media downstat in a long time. The church looks creepy and intolerant, and a new audience will begin to understand what kind of methods are standard Scientology procedure with perceived enemies.

Overall, not a good week for the church of Scientology. Is that what Miscavige’s orgs will tell him today at 2 pm? Commenters?

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


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


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