synopsis at: yahoo news
I found the film “My Scientology Movie” to be saddening. It evidences the degeneration of a once considerable talent, award-winning producer Simon Chinn. During my involvement in the movie’s creation I witnessed Chinn being sucked into the staged-news, infotainment vortex that seems to have consumed the erstwhile Fourth Estate. I will share a back story to the project to illustrate the concern.
In 2012 Chinn flew from the UK to my home in remote, South Texas. He and an associate producer spent an afternoon pitching my involvement in a proposed documentary. He said his film would break the cookie-cutter mold of Scientology projects to that date. That was, the lazy method of highlighting and rehashing what has been alleged before and doing some gratuitous baiting and button pushing of Scientologists to provoke aggressive responses. Chinn assured me the project would be closely supervised by him from beginning to end so that it would primarily serve as a vehicle to portray my insights into the philosophical basis of Scientology learned from practicing it for nearly thirty years within the organization and another several years outside of Church of Scientology control. He sold me on the idea of chronicling my evolution from fighting for the church, then against it and finally advocating that people transcend from fights about Scientology altogether.
Chinn effectively stalked me for the next two years while he secured funding for the project, repeatedly reiterating the purpose and nature of the planned work. That included sending Louis Theroux and the assistant producer to Texas the next year to spend two days beseeching me to stay committed to the project. Because of Chinn’s continual promotion of his previous serious documentary work and our original agreements, I wound up spending nearly one hundred hours on film explaining and demonstrating what Scientology is, its origins, its historical and philosophical context and its battles from both sides of the divide.
That extended filming was interrupted repeatedly by Theroux’s recurring attempts to use me as bait to incite the wrath of the Church of Scientology. When Theroux persisted with those efforts, his and director John Dower’s promises that none of that horseplay would make it into the film began to ring hollow. At that point I expressed my intention to cease work on the project.
Simon Chinn flew from London to Los Angeles to assuage my concerns and reassure me that his original representations would be fully honored, and that Theroux’s vanity theatrics would not make the cut in the movie. I informed Chinn, Dower and Theroux that the latter’s antics were not only unprofessional but they had already been performed twice by a BBC personality in the past couple of years. We discussed John Sweeny’s BBC Panorama ‘documentaries’ as consisting almost entirely of Sweeny attempting to poke sticks in Scientologists’ eyes to get them to react on camera. All three acted offended that I would compare their work to that of Mr. Sweeny whom they characterized as being more of a publicity hound than journalist. Chinn again warranted that that was not the purpose of his project and no hint of it would find its way into the film.
When nearly two years later I saw the product, “My Scientology Movie”, which clearly referred to being Louis Theroux’s personal movie, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Chinn had regressed into a tabloid hack, Mr. Theroux remained the ass clown Chinn had represented he would not be, and Mr. Dower was a rimless zero – a lackey assigned to pretend to ‘direct’ while he did nothing more than provide plausible deniability that ‘My Scientology Movie’ was something other than the latest unoriginal Theroux-shtick vehicle aimed at clowning with scientology.
More troubling was the promotional roll out and press junket behaviors of Chinn, Theroux and Dower. The three repeatedly flat out lied to the press on two scores. First, they represented that they genuinely undertook the mission of understanding the core of Scientology practice and its appeal and portraying it. The film does not even begin to attempt to do such. None of the dozens of hours I spent attempting to impart that understanding appeared. Significantly, my views on Scientology were as antagonistic to the subject as they had ever been during the filming. So, the mass editing cannot be written off as avoiding Scientology public relations or promotional pitches; clarity – no matter how non-partisan – could play no part in a movie purporting to bring clarity to the widely misunderstood subject. Second, they represented that they were stalked and harassed by scientology agents for doing nothing but attempting to carry out the mission they never even attempted to carry out.
In fact, I witnessed Theroux and Dower stalk and harass Scientologists repeatedly with no sign that the Scientologists were interested in the bait. Theroux went so far as to relocate to Los Angeles from London for an entire year, residing near to Scientology premises and regularly and loudly cavorting with Anti-Scientologists. When I pointed out to him his failure to provoke the Church of Scientology notwithstanding such extraordinary efforts, he acknowledged that that was his intent and that the effort had been made in vain.
The jiggery-pokery Theroux and Dower attempted in provoking Scientologists – and were called out for in real time as I witnessed it – was legion. For example, on my first of several visits to Los Angeles, they put me up in a motel that was less than a block from the office and apartment of Scientology leader David Miscavige. I chastised them for obviously attempting to use my unnaturally close proximity to bait scientology. Theroux’s response was his trademark impish smirk. Dower profusely apologized for Theroux’s obvious childish shenanigans. Over the next several months of filming sessions, Theroux repeatedly attempted to convince me to do drive bys and walk ups to scientology facilities. On each occasion I noted that such pranks violated Chinn’s original agreements – the provocation route had been done several times before by tabloid types posing as journalists and he expressly guaranteed this project was not going there. After I refused on a number of occasions, Theroux and Dower found other ‘talent’ who was willing to partner with Theroux during his spates of juvenile delinquency.
The Scientology encounters that Theroux himself initiated were so weak in terms of peculiar scientology behavior that he and Dower resorted to creating and acting out a scene where they discussed the possibility that scientology agents were following them. The basis for the suspicion they discussed in the film had already been admitted by them to me as no basis at all for suspicion. That admission of course was edited out of the film.
Late in the project I learned that Theroux and Dower had made gratuitous representations to Church of Scientology lawyers detailing my involvement in the film. There could be no other purpose to the correspondence I reviewed than to incite the Church of Scientology to look into what I was up to. Several years into the project Theroux and Dower finally got their wish. They were able to capture Scientologists filming and confronting me during my trips to Los Angeles. Theroux and Dower reacted with a mix of relief and glee. Chinn even referred to the confrontations and their fallout as the saving grace of an otherwise potentially failed project. He effectively stated to the press that every representation that he made to me over a four-year period about the purpose and substance of the film was false and fraudulent. He stated the film was salvaged by the Church of Scientology finally taking me as bait and my venting on Theroux on film for his having used me as bait. The latter was carefully edited to ensure that the truth of Theroux’s duplicity was not included, and instead paint me as somehow duplicitous.
In the light of these facts, I find it pathetic that media positions Theroux and Dower as exhibiting some level of bravery for having incurred the wrath of scientology. They never did incur such wrath despite years of attempting to through sophomoric capers.
All of the infotainment play-acting by Theroux diverts attention from perhaps the greatest fraud perpetrated by Theroux and company. The film centers on a purported re-creation of a scene where Scientology leader David Miscavige blows his top in a conference room. The ‘re-creation’ was in fact a creation. Even though they worked with me for a year on that scene, I was not able to submit a script for an actual past occurrence to ‘re-create’ that could pass Theroux’s standards for lurid and shocking theater. The ‘re-creation’ portrayed is an ad lib by actors who had been conditioned for months by Theroux to disdain and fear Scientology.
I did have input on the final scene. Upon reflection however, perhaps I had too much input. Viewing it as objectively as possible I see the final edit containing quite a bit of me projecting my own behavior on Miscavige. That my own personality would rub off on the principle actor is not surprising given the extraordinary amount of hours Theroux and Dower had him spend with me over a year-long period.
At the end of the day, My Scientology Movie brings nothing intelligent to public discussion on Scientology. If you have shallow, preconceived and perhaps bigoted notions about Scientology and are the type who loves laughing out loud at the misfortunes or perceived imperfections of others, then you may get a kick out of ‘My Scientology Movie.’ If you wish to learn anything about the subject the movie will be an utter waste of your time, as much as I consider that my participation in the project was a waste of my time.
I did not plan on reading Ron Miscavige’s book. Since Ron spent dozens of hours on the phone with me after leaving Scientology to share his observations and thoughts about his experience I did not think there was anything else to be learned from him. Then after his first sensational press junket, his publisher St Martins reached out to me as follows:
The only book to examine the origins of Scientology’s current leader, Ruthless: My Son David Miscavige, and Me (published by St. Martin’s Press on May 3, 2016) is the revealing story of David Miscavige’s childhood and his path to the head seat of the Church of Scientology as seen through the eyes of his father, Ron Miscavige.
If you are interested in receiving a copy of the book to share with your readers, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Christine Catarino | Associate Director, Marketing
ST. MARTIN’S PRESS | 175 Fifth Ave, 15th Fl., New York, NY 10010
So, I indulged Ms. Catarino and read the book. I also complied with her request that I share the book with my readers. Here is my review:
It is ironic that St. Martin’s Press reached out to me to publish a review of its much-publicized book Ruthless by Ron Miscavige with Dan Koon. I had offered to conduct a free-of-charge fact-check on the manuscript but Ron and St. Martin’s ignored it. As Ron was well aware, I was in a particularly authoritative position to spot errors. I spent more than two decades working closely with Ron’s son David, the target of the book. Thus, I had more first-hand experience with him than anyone who has left the Church of Scientology he leads. My motivation in offering the fact-check was to protect Ron from publishing defamations against his own son, and the deleterious emotional and spiritual effects that would ultimately have upon Ron himself.
After Ron left the Church in 2012 I spent dozens of hours helping him to better understand David. He had never been in a position to know much about what David did most of his days. He had a lot of questions about stories he was being told by disgruntled former members. I had a lot of answers. None of them appeared in Ruthless. Instead, Ron and Dan apparently favored tortured and recycled opinions and ‘facts’ attributed to others or no one at all.
Upon leaving the church, Ron told me of much peer pressure he received from the scientology disaffected crowd to spill the beans on his son. Ron wanted my opinion. I told him that for a father to write a scandalous tell-all (what the media and anti-scientologists wanted to see and the only thing an American publisher would pay for) would be ill-advised for several reasons. First, Ron had absolutely zero first-hand knowledge about the lurid rumor mill material the anti-scientologists and media yearned for. Second, I questioned the moral propriety of a father writing an expose’ on his son; regardless of who the father and son may be. Third, I noted that a father-son expose’ would contribute nothing to intelligent public discussion on scientology; in fact, it could only detract from it. Ron expressed agreement with my reasoning on the several occasions we spoke about the subject.
Ron informed me during our 2012 and 2013 discussions that he had two critical objectives in life. One was to receive some retirement compensation from the church of scientology. He told me he had sought counsel with the then go-to anti-Scientology lawyer and had been advised he had no legal basis to make such a demand or claim. I suggested that Ron phone directly to his son David to seek financial help. The second target Ron disclosed was to remain connected with his scientologist and non-scientologist family irrespective of the financial demands he planned to pursue. I told Ron that that was simple. Just don’t cavort with people who are actively attacking scientology. I said that given the fact that the church of scientology considered that I was one of the more influential anti-scientologists, he might even want to consider not communicating with me so often and so openly. I advised that to flaunt his anti-scientology allegiances would be tantamount to disconnecting from his scientologists family. Apparently, he took my advice on both scores. At least until he achieved the objective of obtaining a healthy retirement fund from David.
Ron then drifted deeper into the anti-scientology camp and I did not hear from him for a couple of years.
Having now read Ruthless I have a better sense why Ron and St. Martin’s declined my volunteerism. By the time I handed over my work product, there would not have been a book. I do not believe I have ever read a book more chock-full of hearsay, double hearsay, and anonymous hearsay than this one. A remarkable feat for an alleged first-hand account by a father about his son. The majority of sources for Ron’s published rumors leave a lot to be desired in terms of accurate memory, truthfulness and objectivity toward Ron’s son. For purposes of the review I’ll save readers the catalogue – but it is a lengthy one.
Absent the scandalous material Ron was told about his son, there is no material upon which to hang the rest of the book, the slant of its narrative and its message. Take all the passages prefaced with “he told me…”, “she said…”, “I heard…”, “others have claimed…”, “people have told me”, etc. out of the book and all that would be left is a pathetic self-apologia. It would be a hundred pages or more of justifying why Ron as David’s father bears no responsibility for how his son turned out. Ron repeatedly trashes his deceased wife to create an alibi for himself while assigning David’s first negative trait (his son allegedly complains too much) to her. Ron based that on an embarrassing and cowardly venting about his former wife’s alleged continuous fault-finding with Ron.
Nowhere does Ron even attempt to reconcile that indictment of David’s mother with his repeated references to her advising that David not be thrown headlong into scientology as Ron had insisted. That is important because David’s second unkindly trait (aggressiveness) according to Ron is passed off on scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Per Ron Miscavige, that was impressed upon David so indelibly because of his being an exceptionally devoted scientologist – something Ron admittedly encouraged and his wife purportedly warned against. Ron conveniently omits his role in consistently urging David’s path with the superior salesmanship abilities Ron claims to possess. These facts make Ruthless read like a bizarre, self-absorbed case of cognitive dissonance playing out with Ron. He condemns Hubbard for creating his son while devoting a lot of the book to defending Hubbard (a courtesy he does not deign to afford to his own son). His left hand types that Scientology made his son intimidating and aggressive, while his right hand types that a significant result Scientology had on himself was “I never again even had the urge to strike her” – speaking of his wife whom he habitually brutalized over the previous decade.
One particularly ruthless section of Ruthless serves to illustrate how the book is the worst possible realization of the three reasons I suggested (and Ron once agreed) for not writing it in the first place. That is where Ron performs a lengthy psychiatric evaluation to assert his son is a psychopath. He cites a book to support his theory, The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. Clearly, it is a book Ron has not read – yet another case of being told by others, in this case not disclosing the lack of first-hand knowledge. Ron’s book claims an altruistic purpose in attacking his own son. That is, he seeks the abolishment of the so-called Scientology ‘disconnection’ policy. In short, the doctrine holds that the only way to protect oneself from the fallout of a sociopath or toxic personality in one’s life is to cease all connection with him or her. Ironically, had Ron read The Sociopath Next Door he would have learned that such a policy is not only not unique to Scientology, it is the very same method of dealing with toxic types called for by Stout; a view she shares with most recognized experts on sociopathy. Specifically, “The best way to protect yourself from a sociopath is to avoid him, to refuse any kind of contact or communication.”
In light of the fact that Ron’s book repeatedly claims his motive is to abolish that same practice in Scientology, and that Ron understood that his continued association with the anti-scientology community would in itself result in disconnection from his scientologist family, the very heart of the work would appear to be insincere at best and more likely hypocritical if not fraudulent. Ron had a choice and he opted for disconnection, even after being counselled on how to avoid it.
Stout’s book undermines another fundamental premise preached throughout Ruthless. That is on the subject of where responsibility lies if in fact Ron’s son were the villain he paints him to be. The Sociopath Next Door examines several popular theories in currency about the causes of sociopathy (ranging from genetics to our economics system). The theory Stout gives most treatment to points the bony finger right between Ron Miscavige’s eyes. It lays responsibility at the absence of or abuse by parents or guardians. She cites the considerable viable evidence obtained during the 1980s and 90s flood of American adoptions of young Romanian children. Those children wound up having an extraordinarily large criminal and anti-social record. Studies determined the misfits all held only one thing in common. As infants and small children they had been orphaned as a result of anachronistic state birth control laws. None of the sociopathic children received the physical and emotional love and affection afforded most children in their early formative years by their parents. Most suffered privation and corporeal punishment.
Had Ron read the book that most definitely would have stood out to him for the following reason. In 1998 I coordinated locating a number of people particularly knowledgeable of David Miscavige. Reporters for the St Petersburg Times were working on a feature about his son and asked me to arrange those interviews. Ron and I spoke at length then about David and his upbringing. During the course of those talks Ron told me that he sometimes felt guilty because he regularly ‘beat the hell’ out of David when he was a small child. However, he then said with a measure of pride that since David became who he did he no longer regretted it. He was proud because he drew a connection to that habitual corporeal punishment to David later having survived Scientology’s most dire chapter possessing the toughness to lead the church through it and rise to the top.
Ron was doing what I witnessed him often do, take credit for the exemplary adult he asserted his son had become. When David’s resilience brought admiration Ron’s way, he sought to intensify it with such braggadocio. When the outside world was more recently piling on Scientology and his son for allegedly being too aggressive, Ron apparently contracted a case of selective amnesia. In either event, a fact check would have indicted Ron Miscavige, applying the very psychiatric standards he used to attempt to bury his own son.
On that same score, an anecdote is in order. In 1981 a then 19-year-old David, his wife Shelly and I drove from Los Angeles to New Orleans to watch his family’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles play in the Super Bowl. We met Ron, his other son Ron Jr, and David’s mother (the Ron-maligned Loretta) there. After a disappointing Eagles’ loss we went to a large buffet restaurant downtown. A group of victorious Oakland Raider’s fans chided us, noting that we were wearing Eagles t-shirts. Ron Miscavige started shouting profanities at the group of Oakland fans and approached them hostilely. He threatened to break their heads. I put a hand on Ron’s shoulder to prevent a brawl. He hit my hand away with a violent full swim move and kept marching. Only one thing stood between Ron and a fisticuffs that by the looks of him could have wound him up in the penitentiary for aggravated assault. His son David ran in front of him and looked him straight in the eye. “Cool it”, he said firmly. And Ron did. It wouldn’t be the last time David saved his old man from doing hard time in the big house. And that is yet another story Ron truncated and altered in Ruthless to vindicate himself while convicting his now-deceased wife and his son.
Ron Miscavige and his co-writer Koon have clearly taken to the anti-scientology agenda with some enthusiasm. It has created a Kafkaesque reality where Scientology (and by extension Ron’s son) has become in the words of former Scientology PR man Mike Rinder, “Fair Game.” He defined that in a podcast as meaning one “can do or say anything against Scientology” and get off scot free. A prime example were the authors’ responses to the Church pointing to a scandal involving Ron’s other son Ron Jr. The Church referred to law enforcement documents indicating Ron Jr. was a regular client of a human trafficking prostitution ring. Ron Sr.’s response was, “It’s a convoluted mind that comes up with this shit.” Mr. Koon said, “Dave can’t bring his father down, so the closest target is his brother. Dave doesn’t give a rat’s ass about any collateral damage to Scientology so long as his brother is squashed like a bug.”
Both Koon and Ron Sr. ignore the fact that their book invited such a response in as overt a fashion as possible throughout. One of Ron Sr.’s prime arguments for exonerating himself for how his son David allegedly turned out was to ask his readership to compare his villainous descriptions of David to his other son, Ron Jr. For example, after vilifying David’s supposed negative behavioral traits – including “perversions” (no particulars are supplied), he writes “Yet who can say for certain these tendencies were part of David’s makeup from birth or they were learned? Because none of my other children expresses these traits, I am inclined to think they were latent in him from birth.” (Incidentally, the genetic theory is the least useful of several according to Stout). He goes on to describe Ronnie as “the most considerate and thoughtful person you ever would want to meet.” Again relying on hearsay Ron Sr. offers Ron Jr. as comparative bait, “I don’t think Ronnie ever gave anyone reason to dislike him, and I have been told that, as adults, Ronnie and David couldn’t be more different.” The released documents that Ron and Dan wail about indicate that Ron was living with his son Ronnie when he was arrested for repeated solicitation of sexual favors from human chattel. The latter fact is conveniently omitted from the book, while Ron Sr. describes his visit to Ron Jr. and his wife as akin to boarding with Ozzie and Harriett.
Yet, the Church and Ron’s son David are vilified for accepting their comparative invitation. The anti-scientology camp Fair Game policy apparently holds that if you are a Scientologist you not only are deserving of being marginalized and defamed, but if you resist you commit yet another unforgiveable, heinous crime. I am not a fan of ad hominem attacks or counter-attacks. But, I am contemptuous of those who wield double standards in an attempt to leave a class of people defenseless against scandal-mongering.
Ruthless has mud-slinging opportunism written throughout it as does the history of its rollout. Ron Miscavige first hit the headlines with the LA Times’ revelation that a Scientology-hired private investigator had been instructed by David to let his father die if he observed him having a heart attack while on a stake out. Ron’s handlers milked the story for all it was worth while Ron and Koon got busy on manufacturing a hearsay-heavy manuscript. When Ron later told me that he was in the process of inking a deal with St Martins Press to publish a tell-all about his son, he went out of his way to inform me that his change of heart about attacking his son had nothing to do with the wide circulation of the scandalous PI story. I told him that was a good thing for him. Since he had acknowledged to me that Mike Rinder was part of his advisory team, I told Ron that I assumed that Mike informed him that the accusation about David instructing the private investigator is in fact “provable bullshit.” I waited several seconds for Ron’s reply, but there was silence. So I continued, informing Ron that Mike or I could tell him that in a combined fifty years of experience in directing Scientology investigative work, David Miscavige never once spoke to a private investigator. It was something he never would do and was far less likely to ever start doing the older he became. More silence from Ron.
Until many months later when he published his book and went on a marathon marketing tour. The entire prologue is a come-on promotional tease for the rest of the book, relying primarily on that big lie. It concludes with Ron Sr.’s feigned, wide-eyed wonder “And for a son to say that about his own father – just to let him die!? This book is the story of how that came about.” Well, what about a father profiting by writing this about his son and repeating it at countless media promotion stops, when the charge has been credibly debunked?
In summary, my view is that paradoxically Ruthless is an apropos title for the work of Ron Miscavige Sr.