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.
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