Friday, February 18, 2011

More on Scientology

Further to my recent thoughts on Lawrence Wright's Scientology article, here is a piece in The Awl by Maria Bustillos entitled, "Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting--Plus, a Visit to the Celebrity Centre." Bustillo reminds those of us who haven't been paying attention, or who were too young to know, that others blazed the way for Wright's article. (What, you thought Scientology got its current reputation for no good reason?)

The St. Petersburg Times published a multipart series on the church as far back as 1979, while the Los Angeles Times published its own mulitpart exposé in 1990. Reporter Joel Sappell, who with Robert Welkos wrote the L.A. Times series, described the harassment he underwent while facing off against Scientology:
"During the course of our series," Sappell wrote in an email, "multiple private investigators rooted around in our past. I was falsely accused of aggravated assault (the alleged victim, it turned out, gave the LAPD a bogus name and address.) My dog—like the pets of others who'd drawn the ire of church leaders—was poisoned on the day that my partner and I wrote a front-page obituary of Hubbard that sharply contradicted the church's biography of their founder and the many claims he'd made about himself. That same morning, a blustery Boston attorney for the church had called us and shouted: 'If you want a f***ing war, you just got one!' That was a bit unnerving since we thought we already were in one."
Browse the comments, too, especially the one from "kenlayne" describing what it was like to live across from a major Scientology center in 2000. I can't vouch for its accuracy, of course, but it sounds about right to me.

(Thanks to LongReads for the pointer to Bustillo's piece.)

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