Each Thursday at 2 pm, Scientology workers madly dash to finish up their work before turning in their weekly statistics.
We like to do the same thing here at the Voice, and on Thursday afternoons add up the wins and losses for the church around the world.
We took last week off in order to highlight our special Thanksgiving tribute to Paulette Cooper and the 40th anniversary of her book, The Scandal of Scientology.
This week is also unusual. Instead of a variety of stories from around the globe, Scientology watching this week, across several continents, was rocked by a single blast.
Its name was Valeska.
Monday morning at 5 am, I heard from our good friend Steve Cannane, a journalist at Australia’s ABC network, that he was breaking a big story — that for 12 years, Valeska Paris had been held against her will on the Scientology cruise ship, Freewinds.
Born in Switzerland to Scientologist parents, she joined the Sea Org in the UK at only 14 years of age. At the age of 17, the church demanded that she disconnect from her mother, who had changed her mind about Scientology and had denounced it on French television. In order to keep her disconnected from her mother, Valeska says, church leader David Miscavige then moved her to the Freewinds in 1996 when she was 18 years old. She was stuck there until 2007, when she was put in the RPF, Scientology’s prison detail, in Australia. There she met her husband, former Australian rugby star Chris Guider, and they now have a boy, Declan, and another child on the way. They have both left Scientology and have both appeared on television with Steve Cannane.
A few hours after Steve’s e-mail arrived, we posted our first story about Valeska, with Steve’s video report. I added a postscript — if Valeska was on the Freewinds until 2007, that means she must have been on the ship for the notorious Tom Cruise birthday party in 2004.
Steve’s story started getting picked up by numerous Australian news organizations throughout the day. And that night, a nice piece by Australia’s A Current Affair showed up, and it too made the connection between Valeska, the Freewinds, and the infamous Cruise party.
Late that night, Valeska and I connected through Skype, and we talked for about an hour and a half. There were so many questions I had for her, and she patiently explained things, including arcane Sea Org terms. I posted the lengthy story the next morning, with her memories of Tom Cruise’s visit, her family background, and what it was like to be forced to separate from her family.
Meanwhile, the story jumped another ocean. Tuesday evening, the Swiss newspaper Le Matin wrote about the Genevan-born young woman who had been held on Scientology’s ship. And since then, additional stories have showed up in Ireland and the UK.
Then, yesterday, Eric Pfeiffer at Yahoo News wrote about Valeska for its news blog The Sideshow. I notified Eric that we had done a lengthy interview with Valeska, and he kindly added a link to our story. (Oh, how I love when that happens. Journalistic cooperation!)
This morning, we added even more to the story with an interview with Valeska’s sister, Melissa Paris, who had her own story of family separation and escape from Scientology. And we expect that the Paris family saga will continue to be picked up by more news organizations.
Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? As Synthia Fagen remarked to me, this one feels like a tsunami. This is some of the worst Downstat publicity that Scientology has had since, oh, last week when it was being ridiculed for its attempts at hip hop. Or the week before, for its greed. Or the week before that for its hapless X Factor contestant who wouldn’t talk about her connection to the church…
Well, you get the idea. It’s been a rough month for Scientology. But this story about the Freewinds? That barge has sprung a serious leak. And something tells me it’s going to be taking on water for some time.
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
#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.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin’ Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing “disconnection”]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
[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]
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
[“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
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]
[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 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]