Reporter's notebook: Scientology's latest intimidation attempt is sadly familiar - 2016-03-10
This isn't the kind of story that we prefer to write, as our longtime readers can attest. But sometimes, circumstances arise which are hard to ignore. To explain what we mean, we first want to talk a little about Scientology's goofy propaganda magazine, Freedom.
We've been watching closely as the nearly 50-year old propaganda organ of the Church of Scientology went through a lot of changes in recent times. For several years, Freedom operated as a cartoonish attack dog, with issues coming out about once a year that were dedicated to smearing journalists like Anderson Cooper, the Tampa Bay Times team, and Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker. It had also taken on former church executives who dared to speak out about Scientology. In 2013, a final issue in this vein had been put out attacking the "Posse of Lunatics," Scientology's description for a group made up of the church's former top executive strata, including Marty Rathbun, Mike Rinder, and Amy Scobee.
Then, Freedom went dark. It resurfaced in 2014 with a new look and approach. Scientology leader David Miscavige had put together a completely new crew, with former Tampa Weekly Planet editor John Sugg holding down things in Florida and one of Sugg's former Weekly Planet staff writers, Jennifer Lankheim, working out of Los Angeles as the editor of Freedom's "International" edition. For more than a year, Freedom went legit, with monthly issues and earnest if dull stories about serious topics, and with enough anti-psychiatry pieces and articles extolling new Scientology buildings to leave no question who the magazine was serving.