Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter provided a curtain-raiser for season two of Leah Remini's A&E series with a couple of interesting articles. Seth Abramovitch wrote a new profile of Leah, and Gary Baum posted a disturbing story about how information critical of Per Wickstrom's Narconon-style rehabs in Michigan was the subject of de-indexing requests made to search engines like Google through the use of what appear to be bogus court documents.
We were getting a lot of questions about that article, and we thought we'd break it down a little to help people understand what's at issue. And also, it turns out that we were involved in the article's backstory.
You see, last September we heard from a very helpful reader who keeps a close watch on the Lumen database for us. Formerly known as "chillingeffects.org," the Lumen database is a place that keeps track of takedown requests that are made to Google, and on occasion our tipster finds evidence of, for example, someone like Bob Duggan or one of his agents requesting that Google "de-index" one of our stories.
Instead of confronting us directly about our stories, these complainants go to Google, hoping that the search giant will make it tougher for Internet users to find our stories.
Hollywood Reporter: Scientology Anti-Drug Program: Fabricated Court Orders Suggest Attempt to Silence Critics
Nearly a decade after Scientology prompted a high-profile internet protest movement — sparked when the church attempted to remove a damaging YouTube video of member Tom Cruise speaking about the religion — comes the discovery of a new covert campaign to subvert online criticism of the organization's social work. A series of forged court orders were submitted to Google (and possibly to Yahoo and Bing as well) in 2016 in an attempt to convince the search giant to expunge links to written objections to Scientology's controversial anti-drug program Narconon. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment when asked whether it is investigating the issue, which involves the bogus signatures of judges from multiple states...
The fabricated court orders were brought to THR's attention by Eugene Volokh, a noted UCLA legal scholar who specializes in free speech and religious freedom law. He discovered them while researching online content removal requests in a digital Harvard archive of takedown legal notices, provided in part by Google.
2017-08-10, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
This week I did an interview with Kay Rowe, a followup to a podcast we did a few weeks ago. We talk about illness and medical care in the Sea Org, what happens when people mysteriously disappear with cancer and why Sea Org members are so mistreated when it comes to personal and medical care.
This week I did an interview with Kay Rowe, a follow up to a podcast we did a few weeks ago. We talk about illness and medical care in the Sea Org, what happens when people mysteriously disappear with cancer and why Sea Org members are so mistreated when it comes to personal and medical care.
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Actress Leah Remini is continuing her fight against the Church of Scientology as she questions why people continue to support the religion, including actress Elisabeth Moss.
As ex-Scientologist Remini called for the FBI to conduct a federal investigation into the religion in a profile published on Wednesday, she slammed the group as 'abusive', saying it's 'destroying families'.
Remini recently accepted a Television Critics Association (TCA) award for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming for her docuseries, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath - and Moss reportedly walked out during her speech.
Gary Baum (Hollywood Reporter), who has written a lot about Scientology, has the story:
Someone appears to be trying to scrub warnings about the church's controversial Narconon program from the internet.
Nearly a decade after Scientology prompted a high-profile internet protest movement — sparked when the church attempted to remove a damaging YouTube video of member Tom Cruise speaking about the religion — comes the discovery of a new covert campaign to subvert online criticism of the organization's social work. A series of forged court orders were submitted to Google … in 2016 in an attempt to convince the search giant to expunge links to written objections to Scientology's controversial anti-drug program Narconon….
Collectively, the material seeks to mend the standing of unbranded Narconon facilities in Michigan and their owner, a prominent Scientologist named Per Wickstrom, whose reputations have been battered by statements on a number of dedicated websites and message boards critical of the church and the program, including WhyWeProtest.net and Exscn.net, as well as the general consumer watchdog service RipoffReport.com….
2017-08-10, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
While Miscavige is busy telling scientologists to watch his 1993IRS Event (see earlier post today When the Going Gets Tough...) in order to combat the new tidal wave of negative publicity flooding his dinghy, he is also rolling out a new external PR line.
The cry from scientology has been that The Aftermath is just a means for Leah Remini to "make money" (they cleverly called it "Leah Remini; After Cash") — but that line is kind of dead in the water as Leah is now filming Kevin Can Wait. Even Miscavige knows that a network sitcom is a far more lucrative gig than any form of "reality TV." So the money line went in the shitter.
So, he has trotted out a new attack.
2017-08-10, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
See previous blog post Scientology's Aftermath.
this is the second new PR spin to tumble out of Scientology in the last 24 hours.
Responding to an article in Rolling Stone, headlined Leah Remini Wants Federal Investigation Into Scientology, Dear Leader Miscavige offered up further butt hurt whining:
In this video series, I'm taking on Scientology academic apologists by deconstructing the book Scientology by James R. Lewis, chapter by chapter. In this video, I look at Chapter 2, written by William Sims Bainbridge and titled "The Cultural Context of Scientology."
2016-08-10, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
A Special Correspondent familiar with Santa Barbara sent this to me along with some notes about the people involved.
That's some real bare bones contributing. The list has shrunk since the last one. Yay!
All Steve Manseau does is email stuff like invitations to poorly attended OT Committee meetings.
Bob and Trish Duggan are the proud new owners of a pretty spectacular 142-acre parcel in California near Los Gatos, and we can't wait to find out what they plan to do with it.
The Duggans are Scientology's richest couple, and our readers are very familiar with them. In January, we wrote about the Duggans receiving their latest trophy for their donations to the International Association of Scientologists. A new "status" had to be invented for them because they've given so much more than anyone else in church history. This time, they were dubbed "Diamond Invictus," and we estimated that it was for donating about $70 million — and that's not counting the millions more the couple has given for numerous Scientology building projects around the world.
But Bob and Trish can afford it. According to Forbes, Bob is worth $3.2 billion and is the 638th richest man in the world. He built that fortune largely on the spectacular stock market success of a cancer drug he helped bring to market.
Thanks to former Scientologist Tiziano Lugli, we have a world exclusive for you today here at the Underground Bunker. It's a previously unreleased video made by the Church of Scientology and intended only to be seen by members. It's a short segment that's part of a larger, hour-and-a-half grand opening celebration, and it captures Tom Cruise helping to open the new Madrid church in 2004, with the actor charming the locals by giving a 7-minute speech about what Scientology means to him — in Spanish!
The date was September 18, 2004, and on hand were not only local dignitaries but also some of Scientology's most significant figures. Sitting next to Scientology leader David Miscavige in the front row of the audience, for example, is his wife Shelly, who vanished about a year later and, after briefly being seen in the summer of 2007, has not been seen in public since — a disappearance Cruise has never said anything about.
Cruise himself was at his most gung-ho in his long career as a church member. After he's introduced by the president of the new church, Maria Gutierrez, Cruise eschews the stairs and leaps up onto the speaker's platform in a single bound (Tom does all his own stunts).
2015-08-10, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Fortunately, someone from the church sends me a "good news" email (from email@example.com) to keep me abreast of the latest stories released by scientology.
The latest is worthy of comment for a few reasons.
Here it is, the big news from Tokyo....
On Sundays, we enjoy sharing with you the best Scientology fundraising fliers that have been forwarded to us during the week by our excellent tipsters. We have another great collection of items for you this morning.
For some reason, this week we're seeing more Sea Org people in their dress uniforms. We don't know if that means they're getting ready to go down with the ship or something, but it's awful fun to see L. Ron Hubbard's pretend navy looking so snappy.
One of our favorite things about Sunday Funnies is that we are always amazed at how much our commenters pull out of these items — many times, it's stuff we didn't notice at all. So please, have at it, and let's all get another peek at the current state of Scientology's fundraising madness...
2014-08-10, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
As I listened to Sylvia Stanard respond to a question about the scientology view of psychiatry at the Chauquatua conference (see at 1:19;45), I could not help but be amazed a the "spin" she sought to put on this.
She claims that the church is only opposed to the "mind altering drugs, ECT and abuses in the field of mental health."
An "acceptable truth" — along with so many others she delivered that day — but you have to wonder why when addressing a sophisticated audience of "thinkers and seekers" she didn't tell them the real truth? Why NOT explain the REAL beliefs of the church? No self-respecting Christian would try to mealy-mouth the virgin birth? A Christian Scientist would not try to claim they are NOT opposed to blood transfusions. Every religion (and even more so, every cult) has unprovable beliefs. She claimed that OT III was just "taken from someone's auditing notes" and is not part of "published" scientology. And that disconnection doesn't apply if someone is just "critical" or "leaves the church" it is only used when, for example, a woman is in an abusive relationship. And many more examples.
Lori Hodgson, Silicon ValleyCalifornian is the Poster girl of the Toxic, Evil enforcement of disconnection. She has lost her Children to Scientology Inc who have been manipulated by the Church to disconnect (SHUN) her. This is part one of 5-6 videos telling her story.
You will learn how her teen age son was locked in a cabin, kidnapped and held against will with no cell phone for several days including Thanksgiving Day. Lori shares some surreal stories and blows the lid open on the ridiculous LIE the "Church" spout ~~
"There is no disconnection."
Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and on Saturdays he's helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
Last week, we asked Jon to help us understand Gerry Armstrong's past — which is one of the most complex in Scientology history. Jon explained that Gerry had been a young Sea Org member who discovered an amazing trove of original documents that L. Ron Hubbard had amassed over many years. He saved the collection of documents from the shredder, and then got permission to begin archiving it. But the contents of that archive shocked Armstrong: it tended to undercut every claim Hubbard had made about his history, and threatened to seriously harm the reputation of the man who had created Scientology.
Disillusioned by what he had found, Armstrong nevertheless was committed to helping Omar Garrison, a writer who had been hired to pen an official biography of Hubbard. And he was still committed to that project when everything went sour. Years of litigation ensued, and that litigation is complex. In order to tell it, Jon brought in an expert to help us get through this next portion of the Armstrong saga.
Officials of Narconon Arrowhead plan to seek a new license for their medical detox center that is based on the teachings of the Church of Scientology.
The facility lost its temporary state certification to conduct detox services, a spokesman for the state's substance abuse agency said Friday.
The Narconon Arrowhead facility in McAlester did not meet the state's requirements to obtain full certification to conduct medical detox services, said Jeffrey Desmukes, a spokesman for the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department.
2013-08-10, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Update from last night's graduation. While the adoring crowds no doubt were screaming and jumping to their feet like a room full of jack-in-the-boxes on steroids, this is becoming pretty boringly mundane. The false "exuberance" is no doubt now being enforced on all present. "You will be impressed, or else...." Even our Special On The Ground Correspondent seems to have become bored with it all. You know how it goes, when Voldemort was a far off, unseen figure he was pretty scary. When you see him for the first time he is pretty scary. But after a while, he sort of becomes old hat.
So, here is the report, with my comments in [square brackets and itals].
A "Scientology Volunteer Force" appeared at the cleanup operation in Birmingham City Centre this morning, purporting to be there to help sweep up. In reality, they stayed for around ten minutes – just long enough to convince members of the public to come back to their centre and "learn more" about the organisation.
According to cleanup helper @BrumProtestor, the five volunteers, who wore the sect's trademark yellow jackets, each left with a member of the public in the direction of their nearby recruitment office.
The controversial sect routinely send "Volunteer Ministers" to recruit members in the immediate aftermath of disasters. They arrive bearing supplies, food and water, then begin offering medically dubious "therapies" known as "assists" to people suffering from extreme shock.
2011-08-10, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
Some (mostly annoying) Scientology updates today while we wait for tomorrow's big reveal in our countdown:
In the suburbs of London (and in nearby Birmingham), where rioting has reached end-times proportions, Scientology's "Volunteer Ministers" have been spotted in their yellow jackets, handing out church propaganda. From the website Political Scrapbook:
A "Scientology Volunteer Force" appeared at the cleanup operation in Birmingham City Centre this morning, purporting to be there to help sweep up. In reality, they stayed for around ten minutes - just long enough to convince members of the public to come back to their centre and "learn more" about the organisation. According to cleanup helper @BrumProtestor, the five volunteers, who wore the sect's trademark yellow jackets, each left with a member of the public in the direction of their nearby recruitment office.
The story illustrates the importance of understanding intellectual property provisions in contracts. The city was apparently unaware that it did not own the software, and that ending its contract with Robotic could make it difficult to run the garage that the city had paid for. For highly specialized applications like this one, it can be difficult or even impossible to find another vendor who can provide software. Open source, which would solve these problems, is almost out of the question in these specialized situations.
The entire episode also illustrates a more pedestrian point: big construction projects featuring new technology often take longer than expected and come in over budget. This was the case with the automated parking garage, which was completed three years late and cost far more than expected. This set the stage for a bad working relationship between the city and Robotic from the start, one that never seems to have improved.
Gerhard Haag, the German-born founder of Robotic Parking, has faced his share of adversity. Back in Germany he was accused of 20 crimes, which he claims were attempts to persecute him for his belief in Scientology (when he came to the US, Haag moved to Clearwater, Florida, where Scientology has its spiritual headquarters; Robotic Parking is now based in the city). He also faced accusations early in the building process that neither he nor his company were qualified to do the work.
1987-08-10, Richard Haworth, Letters, St. Petersburg Times
Let's see if we can come to some agreement on deportment here. I could write a response pointing out how this column and the earlier article on downtown Clearwater belie your professed interest in helping downtown Clearwater. I could even suggest that I conduct a coupon survey of your readers and the readers of the two other daily papers in the area to determine who they think is really on the St. Petersburg Times enemies list.
But I won't. Instead, let's you and I agree that these verbal fisticuffs might not be the best use of your ink, paper and staff time, and that maybe you could do better to spend your time emphasizing the positive aspects of the downtown (of which there are plenty).