Wednesday, 9 February 2011

New Yorker publishes major Scientology exposé

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Paul Haggis
A few weeks ago, I blogged on the news that New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright was working on a book based around the experiences of Hollywood director Paul Haggis, who left the Church of Scientology in 2009. That book, presumably, is still in the pipeline, but the wait is already over as the latest issue of the New Yorker features a lengthy (to give you an idea, the printout on my desk runs to 45 pages!) piece by Wright on Haggis and his defection from Scientology. As you can imagine, it's causing quite a stir – see this piece in the LA Times for some detail on the fallout, and the reaction from within Scientology. Away from Haggis's own testimony, the major revelation in the piece concerns allegations that the Church is engaged in human trafficking and child labour, which the FBI is apparently investigating.

As I say, it's something of an epic, so I'm still working my way through it myself (if you want a potted summary, see here). One observation I will make though, is that it's interesting how, as Scientology is so intertwined with Hollywood celebrity, it takes the testimony of an erstwhile celebrity member to make the world sit up and take notice of the abuses going on within the cult. Much of what we learn from Haggis, concerning, for instance, the behaviour of Scientology head David Miscavige and the goings-on at the international headquarters ("Gold Base") in California, has been said previously by non-celebrity defectors, such as former "Sea Org" employee Marc Headley, who I interviewed in New Humanist last year. Yet it takes the story of a major film director to really pique mass interest – I guess it's a reminder that Scientology is a ultimately a product of Hollywood, and that's the way the Hollywood works.
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