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‘Streisand Effect’: Scientology Imploding?

Posted on | January 16, 2013 | 26 Comments

One of the principles of the New Media age is that attempts to suppress the truth tend to backfire, generating greater interest in the hidden truth. The so-called “Streisand Effect” may now be invoked in the wake of Monday’s debacle in which The Atlantic published a ludicrously over-the-top “advertorial” for Scientology and was forced to remove it and apologize after reader complaints. (More at MediaGazer.)

It was widely speculated that Scientology’s motive in buying the “sponsored content” at The Atlantic was to hold back a wave of negative coverage. In 2011, Janet Reitman published Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion, and now Lawrence Wright has published Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The niece of Scientology’s leader is about to publish Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape. But the attention created by the “sponsored content” controversy has now provided a hook for journalists to report more about the internal divisions inside the Scientology cult. Alex Klein at BuzzFeed:

The Church of Scientology International (CSI) headquarters in Los Angeles says that it has built 34 of these cathedrals worldwide since 2003, with 60 more underway. . . .
Across the country, donors and high-ranking executives say that the aggressive fundraising and construction scheme is used to enrich the central church at the expense of the rank-and- file, helping to grow the Scientology war chest to over a billion dollars. Two former members, Mike Rinder and Mark Elliott, went so far as to call the project a “real-estate scam.” To some of these defectors, the structures are metaphors for the religion itself: garish on the outside, empty on the inside. The irony is that the very expansion that Scientology lauds as its renaissance is actually a symbol of internal dissent and decline. . . .

Read the whole thing, because Klein makes an important point:

Back in the ’70s, the famously litigious church had time to fight publicly with the novelist William S. Burroughs, himself a Scientology defector — or, in the ’90s, with Time magazine. Today, going after every Cruise-bashing blog post would be impossible.

Exactly. There was a time when the cult could sue a few critics and thereby intimidate everybody else. But the Internet makes it impossible to silence the truth, and the truth is not Scientology’s friend.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!




  • V the K

    Hey, Hollywood, I respect your first amendment rights and everything, but you don’t really *need* to join the Church of Scientology. Maybe we should outlaw that.

  • Finrod Felagund

    I always spell it $cientology, or abbreviated, Co$.

  • M. Thompson

    Loonies do as loonies are.

  • K-Bob

    Well, we should start in easy. Like banning high-capacity church sanctuaries.

  • K-Bob

    It’s hard to believe this stupid concept ever got beyond Elrond Hubbard’s living room.

  • Proof

    That’s what you get when you’re not content to write sci-fi for five cents a word.

  • McGehee

    Two former members, Mike Rinder and Mark Elliott, went so far as to call the project a “real-estate scam.”

    L.-Ron-stein’s monster a scam!!!??? My whole concept of Scientology has been shaken. I need to go lie down.

  • 20thCenturyVole

    Q: What was the name of the Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy film that had a venal star-fucker of a pseudo-religion called “Mind Head”?

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    The last few minutes of The Master are worth the price of admission in pure creepiness and the most brutal put down of L. Ron Hubbard.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Bowfinger. It also had everyone’s favorite party girl, Rollergirl in it, sans skates.

  • pishabh

    I’m sure that Babs loves her name referenced along with Scientology

  • Steve Skubinna

    I still suspect that it was the result of a bar bet between Hubbard and John W. Campbell.

  • Steve Skubinna

    Yeah, and the film Battlefield Earth sucked ass.

    There, I said it, make of that what you will. This is the hill I will die on.

  • Randy_Rager

    So did the book. As far as I can tell, so did all his other books.

  • CitizenEgg

    I recall reading an account of a conversation between Heinlein and other sci-fi writers of the time talking about crazy Ron’s tax evasion scheme. Wish to heck I could remember if it was in one of his collections or a magazine article.

  • Lee Reynolds

    Scientology makes Occupy look good in comparison. Scientology is to Occupy as intravenous Speedballs are to abusing cough syrup.

    In order to really understand Scientology, you have to understand the psychology of L. Ron Hubbard,
    the guy who dreamt it up. Hubbard was a complete sociopath. He dreamed, and I mean this quite literally, of making everyone else his slave. He craved the admiration of others, which is typical trait for sociopathic personalities. He wanted people to worship and admire him. Everything the man ever did was designed to either part a fool from his money, enslave said fool, or make said fool worship him as a demi-god, preferably all of the above.

    Scientology was created to achieve these ends. Hubbard
    is long dead, but the evil empire he created shambles on.

    Scientology has the almost singular distinction of having
    absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. There is
    absolutely nothing it does that is good. Nothing, zip, nada.
    Everything about Scientology is either an outright lie, or a small truth used to hide a much larger canard. Not just any lies however, but lies crafted and told to manipulate someone into joining the cult, giving up all of their money to the cult, and then working for the cult as slave labor in its “Sea Org” division.

    How do I know all this? Because 20 odd years ago, when I was young and naive, I got involved in it. Talk about a wake up call. I learned that there is true evil in this world and that Scientology is one of the best examples of it to be found anywhere.

    The best way to deal with Scientology is the same as with any other evil group: shine a bright light upon them and keep it there. Tell the truth about them at every opportunity, because sunlight truly is the best disinfectant.

  • Steve Skubinna

    Okay, but the book sucked less ass than did the film. I looked on the book as an attempt to recreate the Golden Age of SF writing, and as such it was okay – it did fall short of the standard, if you want Golden Age cheese, set by E.E. “Doc” Smith.

  • Michael Gebert

    In the anti-Scientology community, there’s a common term: footbullets. It means, whenever Scientology overreacts to publicity, they nearly always shoot themselves in the foot and make it worse than if they’d ignored it. This is a pretty classic example.

  • Thane_Eichenauer

    I don’t see how the Streisand effect has anything to do with the Atlantic pulling a paid article.

  • BeaversBrother

    I think Obama needs to issue, oh, say, 23 Executive Orders banning Scientology. Heck, if he’s intent on going after one amendment he should be primed to take on another.

  • TomJB

    I was SO disappointed that MST3K wasn’t around any more when that came out because it was just SCREAMING for that parody, and that was from watching the commercials. Fortunately, the guys didn’t go away altogether and have a web site where you synch the DVD up with their audio and play it on a computer. Hilarious! Search for rifftrax. Only bad part it is involves buying a copy of that movie, though its likely in the 1.99 bin these days

  • Steve Skubinna

    Actually that’s how I got it, from a bin in a video store going out of business. Yep, it was $1.99. And it was bad – so bad that after watching it I immediately watched it again.

    Sort of like wishing the massive train wreck you just saw had a replay button. The badness was AWESOME!

  • Steve Skubinna

    What it has done is highlight the article and drawn attention towards it. And being the Internet, it’s not going away however much The Atlantic points at squirrels.

  • Capt Jack

    Ron’s record speaks for itself.

    Read up on Jack Parson and Aleister Crowley’s take on the man on the web.

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