Panorama recently tried to do a documentary on whether Scientology still uses questionable practices on its adherents and critics. As they were making it, it inadvertently turned into a documentary about how Scientology relentlessly stalks investigative journalists who try to report upon it.
Cringe as blank-eyed cultists descend upon John Sweeney & crew, like sinister government agents upon a UFO contactee. It’s one of the creepiest things I’ve watched for a while. The whole thing is (currently) available on the BBC website, though some folk have kindly posted it to YouTube too:
Especially worthy of note is Scientology Media Control Operative, Tommy Davis, a man with dark glasses surgically implanted on his face to conceal the fact that he has no eyes. Tommy is the co-star in the bafflingly-unsuccessful Scientological media counterstrike to the BBC programme, a clip of the BBC man finally losing control and shouting at Tommy (after a week of Agent Tommy and his goons following them incessantly and gatecrashing all their interviews). What’s funny about the clip is that, though the ‘Church’ claim it shows Sweeney being unreasonable, it also quite clearly shows Tommy continuing the soulless tirade which triggered Sweeney’s raised voice, and seemingly oblivious to the British man attempting to shout sense in his face.
Anyway, of course, all this merely served to give Panorama probably the biggest ratings boost in its history and make the Scientologists look like a bunch of very paranoid bunnies indeed.
The Scientologists’ counter-documentary is on their website. (YouTube too.) Ironically, its extensive use of CCTV footage—not to mention their seeming ignorance of the notion that journalism sometimes includes ‘criticism’ and ‘hearing other points of view’—merely serves to bolster their position as fucking paranoid.
If you’re not already tired of the whole thing, you can read the BBC/John Sweeney take on it in The Sun (“Sorry for shouting… you creepy weirdos”), and The Guardian (“Panorama backs Sweeney episode”).
It isn’t the first time that the tentacles of Scientology have reached out to smother an incisive news documentary. When South Park threatened them, for example the dark priests of Hubbard mobilised celebrity maddy Tom Cruise. By jumping on sofas and threatening not to promote Top Gun 3, the top Scientologist spokes-celebrity, apparently persuaded Paramount (who own Comedy Central) to not repeat the episode.
The bit explaining Scientology’s ‘Genesis Myth’ is only a minute or so long, and worth a watch even if you don’t like South Park. (Yes, it is what Scientologists actually believe. They also believe that your brain may explode if you absorb these secrets without the proper training. You have been warned.)
Frankly, if you’re looking for a freaky, buzzword-infused alternative religion promising to expand your mind and empty your wallet, you could at least choose one with its tongue firmly in its cheek.