Tag Archives: Russell Miller

Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller

Russell Miller’s book is finally going to be published in the U.S. apparently.  An interview with Miller was posted on Tony Ortega’s blog this morning.  I read the book last year.  I actually thought I had read it back in the eighties when it was published.  After all, I helped direct and coordinate the abusive litigation tactics that drove his U.S. publisher into dropping the project.  When I read the book, I recognized that in fact I had never read it all those years back.  It was lingering cult delusion that made me think I had.  In the eighties I had only read summaries and ‘dead agent’ packs compiled by Office of Special Affairs.  Even in the past couple years I have referred to Miller as a propagandist; that was before actually having read the book.  What I found remarkable about the thorough read I did was how balanced and even-handed Miller was about L. Ron Hubbard. It is not a wholesale condemnation.  While I don’t attest to the accuracy of all his facts, for the most part the book covers a lot of irrefutable history pretty accurately.

As Miller noted in his interview, the nature of the legal attacks upon the book, similar to the defenses in Rathbun v. Miscavige incidentally, revolve around strained (read invented) intellectual property rights theories.  If the book were inherently dishonest there would have been claims based on defamation theories.  But as we have noted previously, to Scientology the purpose of the suit is to not to win, but instead to harass.

Mr. Miller makes reference to a profanity-laced Scientology outburst about the book during the legal proceedings.  The actual quotation is interesting.  It is a quotation from the deposition of Norman F. Starkey, then executor of the estate of L. Ron Hubbard.  It appears in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York Opinion:

2. Norman Starkey, the Executor of Hubbard’s estate who licensed plaintiff to exploit the Hubbard copyrights stated in his deposition: “That scum bag book is full of bullshit, man, and you know it. It is full of bullshit…. goddam, fucking bullshit.” (Gready Aff.Exh. A, p. 94.)

If you think that language is strong, you should have heard Miscavige’s reaction to Starkey nearly blowing millions of dollars of litigation fees on that one infantile, albeit honest, outburst.  One of the most remarkable feats in the litigation was overcoming that clear evidence that the real  Scientology complaint about Miller’s book was that it did not like the facts being aired, and not that it was suffering any harm by having copyrighted works quoted. But, again as Miller notes the U.S. legal system has some flaws, and Scientology has perfected the ruthless, if expensive, exploitation of them.

As to the man in the red sports car following Mr. Miller in Los Angeles, that in fact was the infamous Eugene M. Ingram.  Ingram made so much Scientology money by his aggressive, noisy investigative tactics that he bought himself two shiny new sports cars (a Mitsubishi 3000GT and a Lotus Esprit), one with gold-plated mag hubs.  In his inimitable style he wore loud, flashy Hawaiian shirts during his stake outs with those bright low riders.  When I reported on the flap of Ingram being so easily and regularly made because of his audacious ways, David Miscavige ordered that Ingram be encouraged to be even more loud and noticeable, ‘it’s supposed to be a noisy investigation, isn’t it?’  Incidentally, that is what ‘ensuring the orthodox practice of the scriptures’ that Scientology lawyers are paid so much to repeat interminably is all about.

I apologize publicly to Mr. Miller for my involvement in the investigative tactics designed to shudder him into silence, and the unlawful abuse of legal process to block publication in the United States and cost his publishers inordinate sums in other countries.

I encourage people to purchase his book once available and read it.  Not just because it will make me feel a bit better about my own efforts to suppress it, but because I believe it is essential reading for anyone involved with Scientology.

‘Going Clear’ Muddies the Water

To true-believer Scientologists, Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear will be an extreme test of faith.   To independent-minded Scientologists the book will be a test of how well they understand Scientology and correspondingly how well they differentiate the technology of Scientology from personage of its original author.

This is so because the majority of the book is little more than a compendium of greatest shots by L. Ron Hubbard’s many erstwhile enemies.   There is no balance, but for the occasional gratuitous, condescending nods to L. Ron Hubbard’s power of imagination.

Having read a number of Wright’s previous works, I anticipated much more from the Pulitzer prize winning author.   I never wrote a review of Janet Reitman’s  Inside Scientology because I considered it a rather dry, overly academic history of Scientology.  While it was more comprehensive and balanced than any previous outsider look at the subject, I found it to be rather turgid, impersonal and careful.  It, like all books by outsiders who haven’t experienced that which they write about, lacked the vital subjective component that truth requires.  Note, some level of subjective experience is essence in covering a subject (religion/philosophy/spirituality) that is  by academic and scientific standards wholly subjective. Having seen how Wright made the entire Middle East vs. Western culture divide personal, and understandable in his The Looming Tower – from both the Middle Eastern and Western perspective – I believed he might do the same for the sorely misunderstood subjects of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.

Instead Wright spent 2/3rd of his book regurgitating what several before him had already done: indicted, convicted and sentenced L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology to death.  It was sad to see a gifted author  with an advance allowing him two years to investigate squander it by essentially cutting and pasting from a twenty-seven year old biography penned by British Author Russell Miller (Bare-Faced Messiah).    About the only thing Wright added was to make it more salacious and one-sided by sprinkling it with the death bed accusations of a former Hubbard wife (which incidentally conflicted with her earlier shrill, divorce-court accounts given to Miller) and giving it a far less charitable and objective slant than even Miller – who did little to mask his hatred for Scientology – did in 1986.

The rest of the book is a disjointed account of the post-Hubbard years in Scientology, the bulk of which had been reported long ago on this blog and extensively by other media outlets.

Despite having a formidable team of researchers and fact checkers, next to no critical examination of credibility of sources was done.  If someone had something lurid to say about L. Ron Hubbard, regardless of how improbable, it was stated as authoritative fact.  By way of example, had the Wright team took me up on my pre-publication offer to review their facts ahead of time, they would not have published these inventions that I personally know to be manufactured or grossly inaccurate:

–          Tom Cruise was being audited by Marty Rathbun at the Gold base in 2002.

–          Marty Rathbun (or anyone for that matter) was serving as Nicole Kidman’s ethics officer in 2002.

–          Marty Rathbun was auditing Penelope Cruz.

–          There was no ‘convincing evidence proving the facts were wrong or the reporter was biased’ presented in the Scientology vs. Time magazine case.

–          Church funds were used to purchase assault rifles and explosive devices for the perimeter of international headquarters.

–          A campaign was run to blackmail attorney Charles O’Reilly.

–          O’Reilly’s house was bugged and his office was infiltrated.

–          Most Sea Org members at the Int Base did not know their own geographical location.

–          Miscavige attempted to get damning taped admissions from Mary Sue Hubbard so her husband could turn her in to the justice department.

–          L. Ron Hubbard demanded a divorce from Mary Sue Hubbard and she refused.

This is a partial list containing only items that Wright was either informed were false or reasonably should have known were false.   Granted, the verifiable allegations condemning Hubbard and Scientology in the book are legion.  And I recognize that the list of inaccuracies doesn’t put a dent on Wright’s conviction of both the founder and Scientology.  But, they highlight the velocity of the rush to judgment Wright was apparently engaged in.

Ultimately, Wright is guilty of what journalists  and critics have accused Hubbard and the church of Scientology of, not without justification, for decades.  To wit, rather than tackling the issues taken with the subject, Scientology policy calls for attacking the credibility of the one raising the issue.  Thus, we see over 400 pages of a book promising to answer the question ‘what makes Scientology so appealing to so many?’, never even attempting to explain what Scientology is and does.   Instead, Wright takes one esoteric teaching that Scientology asserts could not possibly be understood by someone not well-steeped in Scientology practice, and pretends that is all there is to a subject consisting of some 50 million other words.  With that straw dog firmly in place, Wright proceeds to burn hundreds of pages reciting the accusations of avowed enemies of L. Ron Hubbard.

By way of comparison, by the time one reads The Looming Tower (The book that Wright won the Pulitzer prize for) and Going Clear, there is little chance the reader will fear Osama Bin Laden more than he will fear L. Ron Hubbard.  While the former is journalism at its highest attainment, giving the reader an understanding of a figure made nearly impossible to understand by popular media culture, the latter can be characterized, at best in my opinion, as piling on.

While the church of Scientology can be partially credited with the result by its easily discreditable insistence on portraying L. Ron Hubbard as God, Wright had access to dozens of Scientologists unaffiliated with the church who gave far more measured, rational and credible accounts of what Scientology is capable of achieving in de-radicalized hands.

Wright chose to simply ignore the latter and shoot the sluggish, fat fish the former  placed in a barrel before him.   Good work if you can get it.   But, do not delude yourself that Going Clear is any insightful, definitive, and least of all, balanced look at either L. Ron Hubbard or Scientology.

Now that the big guns have issued, I can settle down to attempting to deliver something more along that line.