Scientology Cartoon Tops Reddit: We Talk to its Creator, Abbey Neslen, 18


A “rage comic” created by an 18-year-old college sophomore in Bozeman, Montana has grabbed the attention of Reddit users tonight.

At more than 100,000 views, the cartoon, titled “What the Church of Scientology did to my family” is a quick success, and has generated more than 900 comments at this point, just a few hours after it was posted by its creator, Abbey Neslen.

After the jump, we’ll show you the cartoon, and a short interview we did with Abbey tonight.

The cartoon explains itself very well, but some of our readers may not be able to see the image on whatever device they’re reading this on. So here’s a brief rundown: Abbey describes how much she enjoyed hanging out with her brother, who was 12 years older. But after her brother went away to UCLA, he suddenly stopped communicating with Abbey and her mother. She later heard from her brother’s father that her brother had joined the Church of Scientology and would be cutting off all ties to her — a policy of “disconnection” that we’ve written about frequently here at the Voice. Eventually, her brother returned to the family, but she describes him as a broken young man, his dreams of one day teaching physics shattered by his time in the church. Now, he works at a kiosk in the local mall.

(The images themselves are common memes at Reddit. It’s the story that really counts, and it’s the story that is making this a popular item on a night that it’s competing with Woody Harrelson being a jackass.)

“Honestly, I’d never made a rage comic before. I’d been a redditor for a while and I really admired the activism that could come from it. When I saw on the front page there was an article about how Scientology had been labelled a business in France, I knew I had to get my story out,” Abbey told me by e-mail tonight, referring to yesterday’s decision by France’s Court of Appeal to uphold Scientology’s convictions for fraud there.

Abbey tells me that she’s a sophomore at Montana State University majoring in film. We engaged in a little q & a over e-mail…

Is your brother’s father still a Scientologist?

I can only assume so. A little bit after my brother moved in with us, he tried contacting me to get back in contact with my brother, but he has since stopped all contact as far as I know.

Have you talked to your brother much about his time in the church? Was he ever on staff or was he just what they call a “public”?

Mostly just explaining to me what Scientology was at all, since I was about 16 at the time and had no idea what it was beyond having heard it thrown around in the media. He was just a public, but I believe his father was involved to a greater extent than he was.

You’re about the age that Scientology likes to recruit new members. Thinking about what sorts of ideas or appeals you might be susceptible to, what do you think might have made your brother vulnerable, and why are you different?

I have grown up with a great deal of mistrust for religious organizations, honestly. Growing up my mother faced oppression from the Catholic church for something as trivial as being born left handed. Only when she got away from that could she comes to terms with herself. My brother fell to another of the evils of these organizations wherein they money monger until you are no longer useful to them. By watching all this happen from an ‘outside perspective’ I feel like I’ve learned a great deal from what these sorts of people are capable of, and how to avoid it.

My brother’s relationship with his father is much different than mine, as well. My brother felt a great deal of need to please his father, I think because he and my mother had divorced and that was always pretty hard on him. I never really knew my father, so I think that factors into it.

It looked like you got some good advice from Reddit users tonight, such as a recommendation to give your brother a copy of Steve Hassan’s book Combating Cult Mind Control. You also generated a ton of comments. What are you thinking about how this experience has unfolded?

Yeah, I really appreciated all their great input. I had no idea this was all going to generate so much attention. I have actually begun to read [Hassan’s book], someone generously donated a digital copy to me, and it’s definitely eye-opening. I would so far recommend this to anyone who’s had a similar experience, personally or otherwise.

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


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