Yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call from the news department at a Los Angeles TV station. They were interested in reporting on the Tom Cruise dinner tonight but only if they could get a representative from a major Jewish organization denouncing the dinner.
I said, good luck. You won’t find one. There’s no upside for a Jewish organization to take on the Wiesenthal Center over this and there’s no down side to the Jews on this.
Sure, Scientology has some distasteful views on psychiatry. Scientology blames the Holocaust on psychiatry. That’s weird, but many groups have weird views on the Holocaust, including Orthodox Jewish groups which blame the Holocaust on Reform Judaism and Zionism.
A dinner honoring Tom Cruise will bring in millions of dollars for the Wiesenthal Center and that’s the bottom line. Many individuals have passionately antagonistic views on Scientology and Tom Cruise but they don’t count for much with Jewish organizations because they don’t have money. Those who do have money to donate are not going to base their contributions on a Tom Cruise dinner.
Michael Barger emailed me a couple of weeks ago on this matter:
Noted Holocaust scholar Professor Deborah Lipstadt at Emory University in writing about Tom Cruise has put her finger on the problem when she quotes a major critic of Scientology, Ursula Caberta of the Government of Hamburg’s Scientology Working Group, about Cruise being the celebrity promoter of a totalitarian regime.
Tom Cruise is not just an actor who is a Scientologist. He is an ambassador for Scientology. All totalitarian systems have their celebrities to open doors for them.
Not many familiar about Scientology abuses are likely to be convinced by Rabbi Hier’s contention that it is possible to honor Cruise the humanitarian while not honoring Cruise the Scientology promoter.
Scientology itself will not be in agreement with Rabbi Hier because it will gleefully exploit SWC’s humanitarian award as legitimizing the cult. In its propaganda it trumpets: “Tom Cruise has disseminated LRH technology to 1.1 billion people of earth.” A Church of Scientology video interview “Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise, Scientologist” was leaked to the internet in January 2008. It has been viewed over 6.5 million times.
The Church of Scientology forced YouTube to remove the video and in so doing sparked the largest opposition the cult has seen in its sixty-year history. Outraged at this suppression of free speech on “their internet” thousands of college students around the world formed the Anonymous anti-Scientology movement and have been relentlessly protesting on the streets and the internet for the last three years. Their impact has been enormous in liberating people terrified of speaking out for fear of Scientology’s intelligence agency, the Office of Special Affairs (OSA).
There are other important Jewish dimensions. Foremost is the totalitarian cult’s 15-year-long persecution of Holocaust survivor Paulette Cooper. Shortly after her birth her family was sent to a concentration camp. Her parents were subsequently murdered in Auschwitz. Seventeen of twenty-two of her relatives died in the Holocaust.
Raised in a kosher home after being adopted by US parents, she graduated from Brandeis University. In accord with the best Jewish values of sympathy for the underdog and a passion for justice she wrote one of the first critical books about the cult, The Scandal of Scientology. Scientology conceived Operation Freak Out to silence her. It used covert agents to smear her with accusations of engaging in sexual perversions with her rabbi.
They stole stationery with her fingerprints and wrote bomb threats for which she was indicted and arrested. She faced a nightmare proving her innocence and was sued nineteen times by the cult. When the cult’s intelligence agency was plotting to smear her before she came to testify at hearings in Clearwater, FL, (Scientology’s self-proclaimed Mecca) one official wrote in a telex:
If you want legal docs, from here on we will provide. Then if she still declines to come we slap the writs on her before she reaches CW [Clearwater] as we don’t want to be seen publically [sic] being brutal to such a pathetic victim from a concentration camp.
Paulette’s reflection on her experience is here. An interview with Jewcy.com is here.
Why is a Jewish human rights organization honoring Cruise when Scientology’s human rights abuses will be hanging over the event?
Profesor Lipstadt has addressed two important issues: the cult’s shameless exploitation of the Holocaust against psychiatry and its campaign against the German government comparing Scientologists to Jews and the German government to Nazis.
She has called Scientology’s blaming psychiatrists for the Holocaust a “soft-core” form of Holocaust denial since it does not place blame where it truly belongs, on the shoulders of the Nazi regime.
Scientology’s campaign against the German government sent Rabbi Ignatz Bubis into a rage and dismayed Abraham Foxman at the Anti-Defmation League. Bubis was chairman (and later president) of the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (Central Council of Jews in Germany)
Scientology is engaged in a War on Psychiatry that aims at nothing less than the destruction of all mental heath professions and institutions, in which Jews have played a pioneering role from Freud through Otto Selz, murdered at Auschwitz, and Viktor Frankel, who survived, and many others.
Scientology may rightfully be considered a hate group and has been so named by American Psychiatric Association President, Dr. Nada Stotland:
There is no other medical specialty I know of that has its own particular, dedicated hate group.
Also relevant is the fact of opposition to Scientology in Israel. Benjamin Beit Hallahmi at Haifa University has written extensively on New Religious Movements and denies Scientology’s status as a religion.
Scientology in Israel is not considered a religion but rather a cult, and there has been an important investigative report from Friday Studio on Israeli TV (Part One; Part Two). There is also an organization called The Israeli Center for Victims of Cults. Their Scientology page is here.
Though Christian leaders have scarcely spoken out any more than Jewish leaders, Roman Catholic Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec has warned Catholics and criticized Scientology at his last two annual press lunches The Catholic Archbishop of St. Lucia has denounced invasion of the island by the Scientology front group, The Way To Happiness International.
Scientology in Itay has threatened to sue a women’s religious order, the Daughters of St. Paul, for publishing books by a former Scientologist who has returned to practice of her Catholic faith. Jesuit sociologist Fr. John Coleman has described Scientology as a “totalitarian cult.” Editor Randy Sly at Catholic Online has written extensively and been lambasted by Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis for promoting “religious hatred and violence.”
The best interpretation one can put on SWC’s decision is that it was made in naive ignorance. There is no indication that SWC has revisited its decision and so the event is most likely to proceed as planned. It will not be the first time that Mammon has triumphed over Moses in Hollywood.
As scandalous as the Wiesenthal-Cruise affair appears to many, one can hope that it will be the occasion for discussion of Scientology particularly within the Jewish community. Totalitarian regimes cannot abide the truth; they start to crumble when people speak out.
Michael Barger emails:
I appreciated your piece on the LA news people looking for a critical response from a major Jewish organization. Good luck, guys! lol
I also appreciate that you posted on the cult and Farrakhan. OSAbots must be high fiving right now: they have gotten Farrakhan to make Dianetics required training for NOI Muslims and Rabbi Hier to give Tom Cruise its Humanitarian Seal of Approval.
When the scandal first came to awareness about a month ago someone mentioned the Janice Prager, National Development Director of SWC, was the wife of Dennis Prager.
I googled to see if Dennis had said anything on Scientology, and found that he did. He had a long show with Professor Steve Kent and Heber Jensch, at the time the President of the Church of Scientology International. He was the official head of Scientology, Miscavige being the real power but having the title of Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center. He is known as “COB” and that is the way Cruise refers to him.
Steve Kent is one of the few sociology of religion scholars of New Religious Movements who is critical of the cult. He has been harrassed by agents from the Office of Special Affairs (OSA). He has great articles on the cult’s RPF Gulags and cult celebrities as deployable agents. He will be on a panel on Scientology at the May annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Honolulu. First time ever the APA has had a public panel though they have held at least one if not more discussions behind closed doors where they heard from ex-Scientologists.
Dennis’ show is about the death of Lisa McPherson, who had just died of shocking cult medical and psychiatric neglect. She has become a symbol for all Scientology-caused deaths. It was on her birthday on February 10, 2008, that Anonymous held the first of their global protests that have continued for three years.
What is interesting to note is that Steve Kent is still teaching, writing, and speaking. Heber Jensch has been disappeared by David Miscavige. When last seen he was condemned to “The Hole” – a Gulag for people Miscavige really, really hates and who are too indoctrinated, scared, or old to leave.