Dear The Church of Scientology,
How are you today? I am fine myself. The reason I am writing is that, on Tuesday, I was handed a leaflet by one of your people in the Tottenham Court Road. My curiosity piqued, on Saturday I looked in at your main HQ in Blackfriars. I’m afraid that, despite trying to be as open-minded as possible, I wasn’t convinced. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll explain why.
You see, The Church of Scientology, when it comes to criticism, you come across a little bit like a bad writer when the reviews come in. Do you know what I mean? Rather than actually address the criticism, you tend to either attack the critic or claim “religious persecution.” While you may think this is acceptable, to everyone outside your organisation it looks somewhat paranoid. The fact that you’re so ready to respond to criticism but not to address it directly does raise the suspicion that there may be some truth in it. As has been pointed out in the comments below, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is truth in these arguments, but one cannot help wondering.
So, before I go any further, let me say that I am not going to persecute you for your religious beliefs. This, in part, is because you’re quite cagey and conflicting in your accounts of what they actually are. What I am going to do is point out where you are going wrong. So, without further ado, here are my suggestions.
Unfortunately, The Church of Scientology, you do not seem to understand this. When someone questions your beliefs, your church or your founders, you shout that it’s “religious persecution” even when it clearly isn’t. Now, to be fair, it might be argued that some anti-Scientology groups do attack your beliefs themselves – we’ve all seen that South Park episode, I’m sure, and it wasn’t exactly even-handed. But such attacks are normally based around concepts like Xenu, which you claim not to believe in anyway.
While you deny that a policy of “attacking the attacker” exists, the fact is that when you’re criticised, you have a tendency to badmouth the critic. This is a very poor debating technique, even creationists know that. If someone is untrustworthy, point out the faults with their argument. Blow away the sand their castle is built upon. If you choose to strike at the person making the complaint, as I said above, it looks like they might be right.
If I may quote from my own upcoming self-help work, Awesometastics, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, someone else will do it for you.” The problem, The Church of Scientology, is that you don’t seem to have a sense of humour. The only time the average person sees a scientologist laughing is either at the expense of someone who has criticised the church or while gushing about how great Scientology is. This makes you look, if I may dip into the vernacular, kind of like dicks. Mean-spirited. Having a sense of humour at your own expense is not a sign of weakness – I’d say it’s exactly the opposite. It shows that you’re secure in yourselves.
But more to the point, many of your detractors do use humour. That South Park episode was pretty funny, and so are some of the articles about you on Encyclopedia Dramatica. Why not take them on at their own game? Come on, you must have some comedy writers among your number, give them a shot. If you can get people laughing with you, not at you, you’ll win!
Along those lines, you need to be less uptight about what people say. Again, it makes you look bad when you overreact. Just ignore them, they’ll get bored and go away. Don’t – I repeat – do not throw lawsuits around like confetti. That looks even worse. That makes you look like a big bully who likes squashing the little guy. Have you heard of a case known as the McLibel trial? That, briefly, was a case in which two activists handed out some leaflets levelling accusations at McDonalds, who sued for libel and won. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, because McDonalds was forced to admit that while the allegations against them were not true, they weren’t entirely pure as the driven snow. Plus they looked like litigious jerks. Not that I’m saying you have skeletons in the closet, but you know, just be careful is all. Sometimes you just have to let it go.
Tom Cruise is a crazy sandwich with a side of pickled wrong. Stop using him as your celebrity figurehead. Everyone’s thinking “Scientology = nutjob” when they see him. There must be loads of celebrities you could use instead. I mean, don’t you have the guys from My Name is Earl? They’re great! You could do a skit with them. Something along the lines of, I don’t know, “How’s the list going, Earl?” “Well, Randy, Karma’s pretty good, but now I’ve discovered Dianetics!” Something like that. I don’t know, I’m not a professional writer.
Your understanding of the online world seems a little shaky. I’ve noticed this in your dealings with the group known as “Anonymous.” You only seem able to deal with them if you think of them as a conventional organisation. I’ve seen your Religious Freedom Watch website, you seem to feel that you have to paint them as some sort of grand conspiracy rather than a bunch of people with a common interest and Internet access. As if you can take the leader out and the rest will follow. It doesn’t work like that.
On the subject of your Religious Freedom Watch website, it really is very obvious that you own that. I mean, one look at the forums will show that the only religion that people are interested in defending on there is, in fact, yours. And the fact that there are only threads denouncing those who attack Scientology, with every post written in the same style, shows that you need to spend more time lurking on actual forums. Where are the misspellings? The inexplicable usernames? The funny signatures? The threads devoted to useless crap? It’s a blatant deception, The Church of Scientology. I’m not so much angry with you as… disappointed. I just think you’d look better if you either didn’t lie so obviously or, better still, didn’t lie at all. While we’re on the subject…
You deny the allegations of child abuse. You deny that L. Ron Hubbard demanded that people who turned against the church be killed using “Auditing Method R2-45,” i.e. shooting them with a handgun, claiming that this was a joke (and might I say that I don’t think that’s in very good taste). You deny that you pursue the policy that anyone who criticises you is “fair game.” You deny that you’re a cult. The thing is, The Church of Scientology, it can’t be denied that you do some pretty sinister things. I saw that Panorama documentary (you know, the one where John Sweeney lost his temper), and you were very blatantly sending people to follow him around in cars. What was the deal there?
And there was “Operation Snow White” in which you were caught performing illegal activities, which for reasons of space I will not go into here. And “Operation Freakout.” And that business with Noah Lottick. And Lisa McPherson. And the National Association for Mental Health in Britain. In these cases and others like them, you tend to deny any wrongdoing but – here’s the fly in the ointment – you also tend to act in a shifty, evasive and unhelpful fashion. It looks like you have something to hide. I am trying to be nice to you here, The Church of Scientology, but you really are not helping yourselves.
This is particularly relevant when you claim religious persecution, as I suggested above that you should not. But if you absolutely must claim religious persecution, it really doesn’t help your case if you’re going around acting like a less professional version of the Men in Black.
This is more of a nitpick than anything else, but when I visited your Church, the videos you had showing were in American English. The facts and figures they quoted referred to the USA, not Britain. It’s not as if you couldn’t afford to put new videos together for the British market. It just seems a little disrespectful to me. Not to mention the fact that I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe psychiatry did kill more people than the Spanish-American War, but I know nothing about the Spanish-American War.”
L. Ron Hubbard, in pretty well every non-Scientology source, comes across as a deeply unpleasant man. Racist, homophobic, egotistical, lying, fraudulent, bullying and generally something like the Used Car Salesman From Hell. Come on, Battlefield Earth featured a race of kimono-wearing, kowtowing aliens known as the “Chinkos.” Makes Jar-Jar Binks look like… something that isn’t a racist alien caricature.
Now look, I appreciate that by attacking Hubbard, I myself am indulging in an ad-hominem argument. But I really fucking hated that film, and an apology from yourselves would go a long way to rectifying that.
Now, I don’t know how you’ll take this. You may ignore it. You may attack it. You may laugh at it on one of your websites, possibly with a series of eerily similarly-worded replies. You may even start investigating me for past crimes (you could probably get me on fare dodging, forging signatures and trespassing if that helps) and start publicly laying into me. I suspect you won’t. I suspect you won’t even see this. But if you do, don’t dismiss it. Seriously. I’m trying to help you out here, many wouldn’t. Just think about it, okay?