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What it is like to investigate a criminal organisation,
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This review is from: The Church of Fear: Inside The Weird World of Scientology (Kindle Edition)
(Let me get one thing out of the way: I am not a neutral party, I'm part of the group that protested in England and I was in the background of the video taken from inside the Tottenham Court Rd shop for Mike Rinder's denial of David Miscavige being violent; my title refers to criminal convictions against the organisation itself, in France and in Canada.)
The main reason I recommend that people buy and read this book is to find out what it was like for John Sweeney to investigate this organisation. The information about previous lawsuits, about previous criminal behaviour and about behaviour which is presently the subject only of allegations (like David Miscavige's violence and his failing mental health) is present and correct, but it is not the new story. The story is the extents the scientology organisation would go to in order to stop John Sweeney from making a documentary at all. When John Sweeney cracked under pressure and lost his temper, the original documentary became about that event. This book is about the background for that event.
The BBC did know that the organisation would go far to stop any investigations, and they had indeed decided to see how bad the harassment would get. What makes this book interesting is that not only the private communications between the harassers and the person conveying the orders but also one of the main harassers who turned against the cult leader were available to John Sweeney for this book. An unintended side effect of this information from two sides is that harasser Tommy Davis appears to be almost a sympathetic character (do not, however, hesitate to seek out the audio recording of Tommy Davis boasting of how disconnection keeps victims in the cult, as he is threatening a doubting victim - search for: Tommy Davis recording disconnection).
Sweeney does make a serious effort to present evidence for and against the main thesis: that the scientology organisation is a brainwashing cult. "Brainwashing" is a foul word, but the usage is from the 1950s which fits the scientology organisation perfectly (read Hugh Urban The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion about how scientology never moved on from the 1950s). Sweeney repeatedly measures the information he gets presented from ex-members and from the organisation itself against the criteria for "brainwashing" and "cult." No conclusion is forced on the reader.
John Sweeney addresses many recent and serous allegations made against the organisation, and this in spite of the agenda being firmly about his behaviour. The organisation harassers appeared to be addressing only extremely narrow subjects :- Sweeney's repeated questions about "brainwashing" and "Xenu," and how Sweeney was a "bigot." There was a time where this tactic worked (Tommy Davis once brought a TV interview to a close over the questions about "Xenu") but as this books shows, by extensively quoting the allegations from Marc and Claire Headley, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Debbie Cook and from others, the days of controlling the agenda of journalists by shouting at them are over. Even this book, which is to all purposes about a journalist shouting back at them, gains immeasurably from describing why the organisation is interesting (hint: it's not because of "Xenu").
Journalistic integrity and objectivity, while not really mission critical is respected in a thoroughly droll fashion. The press releases and various responses made by the organisation are quoted extensively. The style and content of the denials are completely over the top; the effect is such a degree of loss of credibility that there is a danger that one puts down this book and is ready to believe anything that the organisation denies. As for what the organisation itself says about its harassers and about itself (such as UK spokesperson Graham "Graeme" Wilson) it is best left to the high court apology read to Bonnie Woods where the organisation recognised inventing lies in order to harass a critic.
Read this book to find out what are the topics that makes this organisation so fearful that they will spare no expense in order to harass reporters and what form this harassment took in one particular case.
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Initial post: 9 Jan 2013 02:09:38 GMT
Sally Marks says:
Great review. Sweeney has turned a negative into a positive and more than redeemed himself.
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