When I talked to David Edgar Love by Skype at his Montreal apartment Wednesday evening, he sounded exhausted — he’d had only an hour of sleep in the past two days.
“I’m pretty tired. I was up until about 5 this morning, then I had mnql1 wake me up at 6 and had that radio interview,” he says, crediting his good friend and translator, mnql1, just one of many members of Anonymous who have supported Love over the last two and a half years as he’s waged a one-man war against Scientology’s Narconon drug treatment center in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
Sunday evening, news began to leak that one of Love’s numerous complaints about the treatment center to Canadian authorities was paying off: Quebec health officials ordered the facility closed immediately, even as Narconon appeals the government’s finding that it failed miserably in an attempt to get certification for its unscientific methods of treating drug addiction.
Since the news broke, Love has been talking to Canadian journalists as they scrambled to get details on the sudden closing, which came with no advance public word from health officials.
After more than two years of telling his own story of witnessing fraud and abuse at the center, and relentlessly pursuing Canadian authorities with more than 3,700 pages of documents he had amassed about the facility, Love was still in some shock that his work had suddenly, and so spectacularly, paid off.
“We weren’t expecting this,” he admitted.
Canadian media is well aware of Love’s story, however, and CBC radio quickly put together a lengthy interview with him which laid out the basics of his story.
Love himself went into the addiction center for a methadone habit in December 2008 and finished the program in May 2009. He was then recruited with four other graduates to be new staff members. With access to the center’s records, however, he could see that its claims of an 80 percent record were false, and that the opposite was true — about an 80 percent failure rate. He also realized that Narconon was not just a Scientology enterprise but one that was trying to turn patients into Scientologists through its bizarre “training routines” which required, in part, talking to ashtrays (something even Tom Cruise has done in his own church training). And although Love had come through the program all right, he witnessed others who were being harmed by the unscientific treatment, which combines weeks of 4.5-hour daily stints in a sauna with huge doses of niacin and other vitamins.
In October 2009, Love left the center with reams of documents and then began the lengthy process of trying to get authorities to pay attention to what was going on there. He filed a labor complaint which has been settled; he complained about the center’s only doctor to the Quebec College of Physicians, which then banned the doctor from the facility. Love has another complaint that is being considered seriously by Quebec’s Human Rights Commission; he is pursuing another action with the Canada Competition Bureau, which prosecutes cases of false advertising; and he also went to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, which has now shut the center down.
The ministry’s Health and Social Services Agency, under a new law, requires addiction treatment centers to file for certification, and the Narconon facility did so last June. A committee of experts considered that application after making visits to the center in February. After weighing the recommendations of those experts, the agency decided not to grant a certificate, and met with Narconon officials on April 10, instructing them to relocate their patients “as quickly as possible because of the risks to health and safety,” the agency wrote in a public statement. Translated from the French, it goes on to say…
The organization can no longer admit new residents and has ceased all admissions. Narconon has been cooperative and has complied with the relocation order in a timely manner.
The last residents left the center yesterday.
The relocation was requested because of certain procedures that may represent a health risk, for example the sudation method that is combined with the massive intake of vitamins, as well as the lack of an agreement with any doctors…
The report identified many corrective measures that need to be applied to the operation of the organization and to its program. Of the fifty-five criteria required for certification, forty-six were found to require various types of corrections and twenty-six of these criteria were deemed high-risk factors. Mr. [Mark] Lacour, [the agency’s Director of Social Services] adds: “The recommendations are mainly related to the organization’s approach, which is not scientifically recognized in Quebec.”
We were curious if experts on Narconon were as stunned as we were that Love’s complaints had produced such a result.
“Getting a Narconon shut down is an unprecedented accomplishment,” says David Touretzky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who for years has collected information about Narconon and warned the public about its unscientific methods. “Some
Narconon franchises have closed or relocated for business reasons, but getting one shuttered by a government agency is nearly impossible. David Love has been working on this for years; he richly deserves a victory lap.”
But Touretzky also pointed out that Narconon’s methods have been known — to those who care to do the research — for a long time. “I run the Stop-Narconon.org web site and have been receiving a stream of horror stories from Narconon victims or their anguished parents for years now. With Trois-Rivières shut down, some of their clients will be moved to these other Narconons. All of these sites employ the same misleading tactics to sucker people in, and practice the same brand of dangerous quackery. All of them need to be closed.”
Last year, longtime Scientology journalist Mark Ebner, with editor Walter Armstrong, produced a lengthy investigative report about Narconon at Maer Roshan’s recovery news website, The Fix, which showed that Narconon’s unscientific methods, misstatements about its effectiveness, and evidence of harming patients has produced a lengthy and voluminous track record of calamity since it was started by a prison inmate in 1966: “Unsuspecting clients pay as much as $30,000 for ‘treatment’ consisting of a bizarre detox process that poses serious health hazards, followed by indoctrination in Scientology masked as drug rehabilitation,” the duo wrote.
An in-depth investigation by The Fix found that very little about the Narconon program stands up to scrutiny — scientific, statistical, or any other kind. Its widely publicized 76 percent (or higher) success rate is almost certainly wildly exaggerated (most recovery centers would be thrilled to see recovery rates of 20 percent). Many of the studies cited by Narconon to substantiate its claims were self-funded. Some were conducted by Scientologists; others are misleadingly presented. A 1981 Swedish study — funded by Narconon — found that only 23 percent of clients had completed the program, of whom 6.6 percent said they’d remained drug-free for a year. Yet by spinning the data like a top, the group promotes the study as proof of a 76 percent recovery rate. Paul Schofield, a former Scientologist who worked for Narconon in Australia from 2002 to 2008, told The Fix, “The success rate they promote is simply fraudulent. None of the claims that Narconon is an effective program have been independently verified.”
As shown in their article and at Touretzky’s website, this information about Narconon has been around for years. But getting government officials to do something about it is another matter. For quite a while, we’ve been somewhat awestruck by David Love’s boundless energy and determination, and the way he repeatedly, and patiently, pushed Canadian authorities through what seemed a glacial process.
So, I asked him, how did he manage to do it?
“I had to give them a little bit of information at a time, a little at a time,” he says. Eventually, he turned over about 3,700 pages of documents that he’d managed to either smuggle out of the center or research and write on his own. But it also helped, he says, that he had seen the problems at the center with his own eyes.
“I guess I was just in a unique position — I had worked there,” he says.
It was his daughter who convinced him to come to the center — she had gone through the program herself and had been recruited to its staff after graduating. (Love says this is the standard procedure; rather than run the center with medical personnel or addiction experts, the staff is made up of former addicts working for only about $2.50 an hour.)
On May 1, 2009, Love finished the program and then was recruited as an employee. It was then, he says, “I went through books and realized it was all Scientology. And I started checking the actual success rate and realized it was fraudulent.”
In a story published last night, the Montreal Gazette‘s Catherine Solyom described how Narconon’s treatment slides into Scientology training…
The first step, [Love] says, is always in one of the withdrawal rooms on the ground floor, where each patient spends the first three to 12 days. No physician is seen before or during drug withdrawal.
Then come the personality and IQ tests, performed at regular intervals on patients, and the interrogation by an Ethics Officer to make sure a patient, or “student” as Narconon calls them, is not an undercover reporter.
Once cleared, the student can then begin the “Purification Rundown,” 4.5-to-five-hour-long sessions in the sauna, in conjunction with massive doses of niacin. L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author and the founder of the Church of Scientology, believed that drug residues are stored in the body’s fatty tissues, causing the addict’s cravings when they are partially released later on.
But they can be flushed out through a regimen of exercise, sauna and high doses of vitamins, particularly niacin, Hubbard believed. According to Love, students got doses of niacin that far exceeded Health Canada’s recommended maximum of 500 mg a day.
In high doses, niacin is toxic to the liver, Love said. “And many (Narconon) patients already have compromised livers because of their alcoholism, and some have Hepatitis C.”
Hospitalizations were common, Love says. And the more he learned about the place, the more he and his daughter were souring on it.
In June 2009, he says she told him, “Dad, I know you’re strong enough now to stand on your own. Please, kick some ass.” She then left suddenly, abandoning thousands of dollars in furnishings at her apartment.
“I woke up Father’s Day morning, and she was gone,” he remembers. “Here I was, alone in Quebec. I couldn’t speak French. It was horrible.” (She’s now in British Columbia where Love’s three other children and four grandchildren live — with one more grandchild on the way. “I’ve been able to fly back to see them on occasion, thanks to Anonymous,” he says.)
Over the next several months, as he saw patients taken in under false pretenses, and saw some harmed, Love says he became determined to bring news of Narconon to the outside world.
“I contacted Bonnie Woods in England,” he says, referring to an ex-Scientologist who famously sued the church. “I had come across her website. Within an hour she got hold of Gerry Armstrong in Vancouver, and the both of them gave me advice on how to leave.”
Armstrong is also well known for how he left Scientology, taking with him thousands of documents, damning evidence that L. Ron Hubbard had lied about much of his history. Armstrong paid for it by being hunted down in a series of legal actions by the church, which keep him out of the United States to this day.
Love says that Armstrong put him in touch with an anti-cult group in Montreal, who in turn put him in contact with journalists at the CBC.
By the time Love left the Narconon facility on October 28, 2009, he was escorted by federal agents, who hid him in a hotel room for a few days.
“All I took was big garbage bags of documents when I left. All I could carry,” he says.
He went back several days later to pick up some things, but Love says that today he lives a very simple life in a small bachelor apartment in Montreal, about an hour and a half from Trois-Rivières. He works at a marketing center to pay the bills (he’s currently on leave), but what has sustained him, he says, is the help he started receiving from members of Anonymous after news of his effort to fight the Narconon center began to spread on the Internet. When word of his limited resources became known, people simply began sending him checks to help him keep going.
“I wouldn’t have survived without Anonymous,” he says.
I asked him what else provided his stamina over the last three years, and he gave credit to his father.
“He arrived from Ireland when he was a little boy, when he was 7 or 8 years old. He landed in New York, on a White Star ship. Then he traveled over to British Columbia. He was a successful businessman, and he taught me a lot of lessons,” Love says. A diabetic, his father died at only 39 years of age, when David was only 8.
“It was pretty devastating,” Love says. But he never forgot something his father told him: “Dave, never start something if you’re not going to finish it well, and never give up if it’s for what’s good and what’s right.” Over the years, Love says it’s stayed with him.
“I guess I just moved forward with that in my heart and soul. I hate seeing people taken advantage of and abused.”
Love hasn’t had an easy time of it himself — he’s had nine major surgeries, which left him with titanium screws and plates in his back. He succumbed to drug addictions through the pain medications for his condition.
“I’ve been through some tough times. I guess I’m just an old guy who cares,” he says. On May 30, he turns 60 years old. “But I feel 45!”
Certainly, over the last three years, he’s showed the perseverance of a younger man.
On Sunday, at about 6:20 pm, Love received an e-mail from one of his inside sources at the treatment center — the employees had learned that they were all being let go, and the patients were being moved. His source told him that one of the center’s leaders actually uttered the words, “David Love has finally won.”
“Within half an hour I’d received two other messages,” he says. He started putting the word out that the facility was actually shutting down.
But that closing doesn’t mean that he’s done with the Trois-Rivières center, or with Narconon in general. He’s still passionate about an ongoing investigation by Quebec’s Human Rights Commission, which he says is taking his complaints very seriously.
“The Human Rights Commission can drag them into court — there’s a very strong court precedent from 1988,” he says. “I made the case to them that while in a treatment center, a patient is disabled, and if you exploit them, the Commission has jurisdiction. It’s a very serious matter.”
And it’s in that complaint, he says, that he is attempting to get Scientology itself, and not just its front group, Narconon, on the hot seat.
“That’s where I named the church, [Scientology leader] David Miscavige, ABLE, everybody. They’re in deep shit over this one,” he says. Representatives of the church repeatedly made visits to the Trois-Rivières facility. “They were all there administering and directing things at Narconon. So I think I have Scientology by the balls.”
Wednesday, a story appeared in a local paper, Le Nouvelliste, about employees let go from the Trois-Rivières facility who complained that they hadn’t been paid for weeks, and that the center had been taking patients it shouldn’t have. Said one former employee: “There were several instances of attempted suicide during the past few months. By law, immediate medical assistance should have been provided, but management decided to keep these persons without calling for an ambulance.”
Love heard from another complainant (“There are five of us now,” he says) that an investigator at the Commission on Human Rights intends to interview the former staff members who spoke to Le Nouvelliste.
In the documentation he’s presented to Canadian authorities, Love is careful to point out the structure of Scientology as it was described in the church’s agreement with the IRS in 1993. That structure shows that one of Scientology’s entities — the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) — controls Narconon. And even though Narconon and ABLE try to play down their connection to the church, that connection cannot be denied.
For example, just a few weeks ago, here’s church leader David Miscavige, on Scientology’s holiest night of the year — L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday — extolling the supposed expansion of Narconon as just another of Scientology’s outreach efforts…
As Ebner pointed out, however, Narconon plays down its connection to Scientology in websites made to look like any other addiction center, and with generic URLs…
Narconon sites are wreathed with generic clip-art images of smiling families and clean-cut doctors in lab coats and stethoscopes; they feature scientific-looking manifestos and additional links to obscure, decades-old academic journals and come packed with glowing reviews. “I matured more in the few months that I was at Narconon than I did in the previous five years,” exclaims “A.S.” on the website drugrehab.net.
That bait-and-switch strategy to lure in unsuspecting parents (who perhaps don’t bother to enter “Narconon” in a Google search and don’t comprehend the connection to Miscavige’s church) resulted in another nightmare story just last week. The CBC featured a tale of a distraught mother who had paid thousands of dollars for her son to get treatment at the Trois-Rivières center, only to find to her horror that it was actually a front for Scientology.
While some of the Trois-Rivières patients may just get moved to other centers, Love says he’s not satisfied only closing down the Quebec facility. He’s turning his attention to Narconon’s flagship center in Oklahoma.
“I’m going down there to meet Colin Henderson, my friend who was in Narconon down there,” he says. “I’m going to go down there and shut it down. I don’t care what it takes.”
KD Wentworth, ‘Writers of the Future’ Judge, 1951-2012
After Sunday night’s big Writers of the Future gala, it was Rachel Denk who pointed it out to us — where was KD Wentworth, the writers’ contest chief judge and editor of the annual anthology? Well, sadly, now we know the answer, as word went out Wednesday that Wentworth had passed away of cancer and pneumonia at only the age of 61.
In recent weeks, we’ve very sincerely pointed out serious problems with the writers and illustrators contest and its connection to Scientology, but we’re just as sincere that the judges and winners of Writers of the Future are of the highest caliber in the science fiction and fantasy fields. Wentworth was a winner of the contest in 1988.
Locus magazine’s website paid tribute to her accomplishments in a brief obit:
Kathy Diane Wentworth was born January 27, 1951 in Tulsa OK, and entered the field by winning the Writer’s of the Future contest in 1988, and went on to publish nine novels and over 50 short stories. Her novels include Black on Black (1999), Moonspeaker (1994), and The Imperium Game (1994). Her short fiction appeared in such magazines as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy. Three of her short stories were Nebula finalists: “Tall One” (1998), “Burning Bright” (1996), and “Born Again” (2005).
Wentworth became a judge for Writers of the Future in 2000 and later served as coordinating judge and taught their workshop with Tim Powers.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master Still Not About Scientology
The New York Times had a fun piece this week from its man in Hollywood, Michael Cieply, who gave us a few more, tantalizing clues about Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, The Master.
For a couple of years now, movie websites have been reporting that Anderson’s next movie (his last was 2007’s There Will Be Blood) was based on a script very dear to him, and that seemed to be a thinly-disguised telling of Scientology’s origins. When Philip Seymour Hoffman was hired to play the post-War veteran who starts a cult, his resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard just seemed to confirm it.
Anderson and his stars have discounted the idea that the film is a telling of Hubbard publishing Dianetics and starting Scientology in the early 1950s. But now comes Cieply, with some additional parallels between the religion and the film…
In a version of the script that circulated as Mr. Anderson sought financing, Lancaster Dodd is described as being in his mid-40s; Hubbard was in his early 40s during the matching years. Both share a love of boats, and a near-paranoid suspicion of the American Medical Association. Hubbard’s followers hope to become “clear”; the Master’s followers work toward “optimum.” Psychological exploration by and with either involves ruthless interrogation. Both wrote their ultimate secrets in a book that is said to kill its readers or drive them mad. They are obsessed with motorcycles. Their tantrums are monumental. Each has a wife named Mary Sue.
Mary Sue! Well, that’s some coincidence. We can hardly wait to judge for ourselves — the film is now slated for October.
Scientology on the High Seas
In November the Voice obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard’s previously unpublished “Orders of the Day,” which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the yacht Apollo. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we’re looking at what was happening the week of April 15 through 21 during those years.
This week, the Commodore bellyaches about food and security…
April 18: LRH reveals that he’s got a secret stash, and there’s another shore story to memorize…
The members of the ship’s company who do not do their duties with initiative and skill are letting down their fellow crew members.
If a member of the company is goofing or has failed to inform himself of and do his duties he is letting YOU down.
Take food. Throwing sides of beef on a dirty deck in the frig to rot, as some did at Cagliari, deprived the whole crew of good food. When 28 days emergency stores were falsely reported and only 4 days existed, every person aboard was put at risk.
Goofing up a port deprives the whole crew of that port and their liberty.
It isn’t letting me down, particularly. I have my own tin cans stowed away and I can single hand nearly any situation. All it does is make me work a bit harder and makes me seem to snarl when I don’t want to.
Such goof ups and oversights and failures to notice by crew members are an act of betrayal of their fellows.
The ship will not feel wholly secure and friendly until crew members begin to demand directly to others that they pull their weight.
The beginnings of a true group start when the group members themselves demand of each other a high performance level, initiative and responsibility in their actions. Without that, a group never really forms and remains without pride.
The harbour recognized the ship but not the flag or name and were curious. So you better know why so you can explain it.
The Hubbard Exploration Co Ltd was the original owner. It was a British Company. Because of currency restrictions the ships were sold to me, then to Operation and Transport Corporation of Panama, a Panama Company so the flag and name had to be changed.
We run student cruises and came from Cadiz and will eventually be returning there. We cruise on the coasts of the Western Med.
April 17: Loose lips sink ships!
Mail and telex security and personal mail still must maintain security. Now and then an incompetent or false report wipes out security.
The object is to make it difficult for an enemy to predict location and activity. We have had several severe upsets traceable to lack of security.
The keynote is to make counter-actions difficult while still communicating.
It is easy to get slack, particularly if one never has had to handle one of these attacks head on.
You don’t name ports or derail plans in personal letters or org telexes. You carefully obscure them — Halifax becomes “our last port”. “We intend to go to the Seychelles” becomes “we’ll soon be in warmer climes.”
Lloyd’s Weekly Shipping Register was rumored to carry us port to port. This is false. We are never listed as we’re a yacht. But there are at least six other commercial Apollos.
Embassies do get our crew lists as they get them of all ships and they do report. But this is a tangled bureaucratic line.
Now and then you hear “But Associated Press has an office in this city so why any security…” That’s goofy think. It supposes they are efficient.
Scn orgs have taken to advertising the SO. This is silly. The SO is not their product.
We are the organization three feet behind the head of Scn orgs. We succeed if we are least noticed.
These are the policies regulating security.
Paperback American Heritage Dictionaries have arrived! ON SALE AT THE BOOKSTORE Stbd Tweendecks NOW during FAO Lines Hours. YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO BE WITHOUT ONE.
Was that our Al?
Bonus 1970s Awesomeness
While L. Ron Hubbard was moving HQ from the yacht Apollo to the Florida coast, Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with its tales of “OT Phenomena.” Those church members who had reached the higher levels of spiritual training shared their stories of superhuman powers with fellow dupes — er, enthusiasts. This excerpt is from Issue 29, February 1975…
Several months ago my friend’s baby was very ill with pneumonia and in Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. She called me up and asked me to take a peek and see if anything could be done to help him. I perceived that another friend (OT) of mine had already done so (he had) and the baby’s mother confirmed that.
Then she mentioned another infant, down the hall from her son, in intensive care whose mother was very worried. He just wasn’t making it. So, I asked her to describe the infant and his location to aid my exterior perception. A few words from her and I was describing the room and baby to her. I got the right one. He was hooked up to all kinds of hospital machinery and failing — as well as terrified and exhausted.
So I scanned the body, gave him some physical energy and located a pinhead sized hole in his heart which was too small for the doctors to locate. I mocked up a missing anchor point, covered the hole with a screen-like field of energy and instructed the body to grow the hole closed. It did almost immediately.
Then I turned my attention to the thetan. He was overwhelmed by his environment, desperately wanting to keep the body and sitting on a chain of ARC Breaks and a whole line of abortion incidents. So I rolled up my thetanish sleeves and dug in. I cleaned him all up, felt mass blow and, as I was doing this over the phone with my friend, had confirmation of charge blowing and the being coming up tone. Neither of us were physically at the hospital, and she’s not OT yet on the Grade Chart.
Then I filled up the room with energy, repaired havingness and then told him about Scientology. He had a heavy purpose to remain a Catholic so I just acknowledged him and said goodbye — it’s there when you decide you’re ready for it.
Then I finished my phone conversation and rang off. She went back to the hospital later that afternoon and called me to tell me when she got back the infant I had handled had — in the nurse’s words — made a miraculous recovery, was out of intensive care and coming up fast in the regular ward. A matter of an hour or so. I knew the recovery was no “heaven-sent” miracle.
What’s an OT ability if it isn’t used? By the way, her son is well and going strong now too. — Diann Caudill
Again with the remote surgery by phone. Why do we even have hospitals anymore when OT 8s can do your angioplasty from the comfort of their own homes? I guess us wogs just don’t deserve it or something.
Well, thanks for getting through another collection of items here at Scientology Watching Central. Make sure to check our Facebook author page for upcoming schedules and behind-the-scenes goings on.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.