I was interviewed for the first issue of a fanzine called Next Stop Nowhere. Dave from Newest Industries wanted to ask a few questions about Scientology and about XENU TV. A lot of people ask me these or similar questions, so I’m adding this to the site as “A Beginner’s Guide to XENU TV.”
Q: To start with, could you give us a brief synopsis of Scientology from your perspective – including what the fundamental principles are, plus when and why you got involved with speaking out against it? When did you first start filming the cult’s activities, and when was XenuTV.com initially set up? What problems have you encountered since setting the website up, if any?
I was introduced to Scientology back in the 1980’s by “60 Minutes.” They did two terrific reports, in 1980 and 1985, which showed the impact this organization had on the small town of Clearwater, Florida. It was a very chilling story which showed a sleepy beach community, made up primarily of retirees, being invaded and occupied by a paramilitary organization disguised as a church.
Those are harsh words but when you look at the actions Scientology took upon entering Clearwater, they are accurate. Scientology files uncovered in FBI raids in Los Angeles and Washington provided a detailed look at the covert operations Scientology ran to target their enemies and destroy them, including attacks on the mayor of the city, Gabe Cazares.
This was a fascinating story. How could a religion setup a mayor with a phony hit-and run accident? How could a religion setup journalist Paulette Cooper in a phony UN bomb threat which cost her her job, her friends and almost her freedom? Luckily the FBI raids happened before she was to stand trial and the whole sordid Scientology plan called “Operation Freakout” was uncovered and exposed.
What kind of religion behaved this way? The answer was a phony religion created by a science fiction writer to enrich his own coffers. “MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MORE MONEY,” were the exact words in Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, 9 March 1972, MS OEC 384
Scientology was just one of many cults being covered by news magazine shows back in the 70’s and 80’s. The Moonies, the Children of God, the Garbage-Eaters, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and Hare Krishnas all were examined closely by the media at the time. That is not the case anymore.
I was fascinated by the stories but they had no impact on my life in a small, Midwest town and as the media interest died down, my interest in finding out more stopped.
That was to change in 1998 when I moved into a home in the Loz Feliz hills in Los Angeles which had been rented before me by a Scientologist. She apparently split without giving Scientology a forwarding address because I kept getting Scientology magazines delivered to my door.
In reading the magazines, I was struck by just how much gibberish was involved in even an ad for a strange device called an e-meter. Engrams? Enturbulate? Wog World? Thetan? What the hell are these people talking about? And why are they wearing navy uniforms?
By then I had been living in L.A. for over a decade and had passed the Scientology properties without giving them much thought. However, where once my interest in the subject was piqued by a TV broadcast and would fade when the reports died down, now there was a miraculous thing called the internet.
I started doing research and was stunned by what I uncovered. Court documents, confessions from former members and info on the super secret upper levels of Scientology which were said by Hubbard to kill you through pneumonia if you weren’t properly prepared before being exposed to them.
I took the chance and you know what? I survived. I learned all about the evil intergalactic overlord named Xenu. He stuffed us into volcanoes 75 million years ago and blew us all up with hydrogen bombs far more powerful then those we have today.
That was pretty remarkable stuff. I visited the Celebrity Center and took the personality test, played with an e-meter and had my own screening of their Orientation film. I was cracking up by the end of the video when the narrator/host says “You can walk out that door and never mention Scientology again…but you might as well take a gun and blow your brains out.”
I thought there had to be another option. I let them know this was not for me and starting digging deeper into the subject, hunting down several books on Scientology and poring through the archives at FACTnet.
Scientology just got weirder and weirder but they also became much scarier for me as well for now I had a far greater understanding of the horrific lengths they would go to shut people up. I started participating in the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.
At first I was a lurker, then I adopted the nickname Ben Wog. A wog in Scientology terms is a person outside the church. It was a dismissive term meant to show that we were lower on the totem pole than a mighty Scientologist. Before too long, I gave myself a doctorate in honor of Hubbard’s phony doctorate and became Dr. Benjamin Wog.
One day, CBS ran another piece on Scientology. This one concerned the takeover of the Cult Awareness Network. When once, people could contact CAN to find help when a loved one entered into a destructive group, now the phones were answered by Scientologists.
What a great story. I thought others who hadn’t seen it might be interested. I asked a couple of critics if they’d like to host the video on their websites. Two European critics agreed and with my relatively rare at the time video-capture card, I started encoding video for the web.
I kept my name out of it and was too scared to show my face at a picket when critics came to LA in 1998. I was very impressed though with those who stood up to Scientology. They had bigger balls than I did.
Around that time, Bob Minton, a retired international banker and very active critic of Scientology, took over the stewardship of FACTnet alongside Stacy Brooks, a former Scientologist who had been interviewed for the CAN story. They made an announcement on a.r.s to that effect. I e-mailed them and offered my help with any video needs and they immediately called me back, excited by the idea.
They invited me to attend a Cult Awareness conference on the east coast and I agreed. As the plane touched down I was acutely aware of how my life was about to change and it was pretty scary but I met Bob and Stacy and a lot of other wonderful critics of Scientology, many of them former members, and had a great time.
Bob thrust his miniDV camera in my hand and allowed me to videotape everything. All the behind the scenes action, all the lectures and panels. No concern that I might be a plant. At the end of the event Bob supplied me with a camera and editing equipment.
I traveled to Clearwater for the first time in ‘99 to videotape a transit board hearing. At a Clearwater picket, critics had paid for messages to be displayed on the side of city buses: “Think for Yourself, Leave Scientology.” Scientology threatened the transportation department and those signs were taken down within hours.
While there, I got my first taste of Scientology harassment. A male caller phoned my hotel room and said he was from the front desk and asked when I was checking out. I told him, hung up and then began thinking about the call. In all my visits to the front desk, I had never seen a man working in the office.
I went downstairs and, sure enough, the gal at the desk said there was no man working there. However, a man just called and gave her my checkout time, then told her to book me a cab, refusing to give her a name but saying he would be there to meet me.
Suspecting an attempted kidnapping, I called the local police and explained the situation. The next day I got a police escort to the airport as I left town.
I next videotaped a picket on L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday in L.A. That footage has never been edited or shown on the web but hopefully it will get that put up sometime soon. It’s part of hundreds of hours I’ve shot which have never been seen.
A portion of that event has been on the net. On the second day of the picket, I met a Scientology security guard who I’ve nicknamed “Buddy.” I accidentally bumped into him and he tried to have me charged with battery.
The very next day, two Scientologists showed up at my house to picket me after first spreading flyers around my neighborhood, smearing my name. I grabbed my camera and went out and videotaped my conversation with them and that was when I decided I needed to start my own website.
Everything prior to that had been sent to other critics to be put on their sites but since Scientology now knew who I was, I saw no need to hide and so I created my site XENU TV.
The intent was to give a few dozen regulars on a.r.s. a chance to see other critics in action and document the activities of a few prominent critics. I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested but an odd thing happened. Scientologists started acting like Scientologists in front of my camera.
I’d go to shoot a little five minute piece at street fair and I would be surrounded by goons calling me a drunken, wife-beating, child-molester…even though they had never met me before. Since I dared to criticize Scientology, Hubbard had taught them that I had to be a criminal, so they repeatedly asked “What are your crimes?”
Here for the first time, people could see Scientologists in action and it wasn’t pretty. But it was often quite funny as these people, who had joined the group to be free and “think for themselves,” showed themselves to be pretty indoctrinated into a weird group-think.
The actions of the Scientologists made the site grow in popularity. Several became favorites including Buddy and Dan Murnan, one of the two men who picketed my house. They would pop up from time to time just as though they were Kramer making a wacky entrance into Seinfeld’s apartment.
They became stars! All of it unintended. Much of it pretty fascinating to see.
While I thought management of Scientology was corrupt, these people weren’t my enemy. I felt I would get along great with most of them once they snapped out of their Hubbard created reality so I tried never to be abrasive.
Later, I found that to be true as one woman I had met repeatedly at Scientology events left the group and became an outspoken critic of Scientology. I liked Tory Christman when she was in and I like her now that she’s out. We’re good friends, and when I won my first Emmy award last year for my work in TV news, she was my guest for the event.
My understanding of Scientology and Scientologists has grown over the years. I used to think you had to be screwy to join something like this. After meeting so many former members and reading and studying vast amounts of material, I’ve come to understand better the process that sucks people into such groups.
Scientology is expert at finding a person’s weak spot, in Scientology terms, their “ruin.” They hone in and exploit that weakness.
At first, Scientology is a series of self-help courses. No matter what your problem, Scientology claims they have an answer for it.
Its tentacles reach out to society through various front groups; fighting psychiatry, pushing drug and literacy programs and targeting professionals such as dentists and chiropractors with business management courses.
All roads lead back to the Org. Scientology is looking for new members (raw meat in their not-so-subtle terms) and uses subterfuge to find them. It once used free personality tests, now it’s free stress tests. They try hard to get people in the door and fight hard to keep them in.
The early Scientology courses seem innocent enough but they are laying the groundwork for what’s to come by training you how to think and behave the Scientology way. They teach you to command and to be commanded all at the same time.
You are love-bombed by neatly dressed, attractive people who smile and talk about how wonderful life is inside the group, how they are working hard to save the planet, doing positive things with their lives and welcoming you to join with them. In a moment of need, you may well turn to them.
They start to introduce you to loaded language, which are terms only members of the group understand. It is one key element of how cults separate their members from society. You’re persuaded not to watch TV, listen to the radio or watch TV. Journalists are “Merchants of Chaos” not to be trusted.
If your former friends and family speak negatively about the group, they become “potential trouble sources.” You are urged to handle them before it gets worse and they become “Suppressive Persons.” Should that happen, you have to sever any contact with them.
The Scientology act of “disconnection” breaks up families and is one of the abuses which cause critics to speak out about the group.
There’s also an element of bait-and-switch to the religion. The early courses are centered around you. They aim to help you communicate better, produce more at work, have a better marriage, get along better with your kids. It’s you…you…you.
You spend all your time doing auditing, using the e-meter to find past moments of pain and distress in your life. These are stored in your reactive (subconscious) mind as tiny recordings called engrams. You go back through your entire life, erasing these engrams, finding all the earlier, similar incidents in this life and your past lives.
Once you have erased them all, you’ve reach the exalted state of Clear. You are no longer being held back. You can move forward in life, making great gains.
That is, until you reach the upper levels of Scientology where you discover it stops being about you altogether. Then you find out that invisible clumps of dead space aliens have attached themselves to you, causing you even more problems than before. In fact, now that you know this, your very life is in peril. It is imperative that you continue to move up the bridge
You are sold a bill of goods when you enter the group. They put you on the Bridge to Total Freedom, which is Hubbard’s name for the increasingly expensive courses. You are forbidden to know what lays ahead. You are just told that the next level will answer your questions and doubts. Then the next level. And the next.
Before you know it, you have been indoctrinated to believe whatever Hubbard says or you leave quietly and don’t make waves knowing how others have been treated before you.
Hubbard built a very brilliant mind-control factory. One little tactic is to force you to write a success story (or “win” in Hubbard-speak) after every course. You cant move on until you do so. It forces you to sit down and think, “Well, I guess I did learn how to do this” and then commit that win to paper.
If you can’t think of a win, you have to pay to take the course again. This helps you come up with an answer.
Should you decide to leave, management pulls out those wins and says, “Look at all you’ve gained so far. Don’t throw it all away.”
There are many such traps built into the organization.
Q: Do you think that, due to celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta being involved, the majority of every day people still see it as a harmless “Wacky Hollywood thing”, and don’t understand the dangerous cult
aspects of Scientology?
To most people, Scientology remains just that wacky Hollywood religion. The old “Hey, if John Travolta swears by it, it can’t be too bad” worked for years but with Tom Cruise’s meltdown the reverse has happened.
Thanks to Tom firing his publicist and putting his Scientology sister in her place, attacking Brooke Shields and adding the phrase “you’re glib” to our daily language, the focus is back on the nuttiness of the group.
South Park showed a timid media that you can take on Scientology and not get sued, opening the floodgate for new stories. Some reports are superficial and silly such as the practice of silent births. Some are more important, such as the death of Scientologist Elli Perkins. Elli refused to get her son psychiatric treatment because of Hubbard’s teachings and wound up being stabbed to death by the boy.
Still, Hubbard knew that celebrities were the key to bringing in vast numbers of new recruits. In the 50’s, Hubbard put out a hit-list of people he wanted recruited. It included Jack Benny, Ed Sullivan, Danny Kaye and Walt Disney. They had no success getting any of them but Hubbard kept trying and in the 70’s they finally hit paydirt with John Travolta.
Nowadays, they have a massive network inside showbiz. They hold workshops for newly arrived actors at the “Celebrity Center.” Every night of the week, fresh new faces in town can learn how to break into showbiz, get an agent, land that commercial, or work in soaps at a $20 seminar fronted by a name actor like Juliet Lewis or Giovanni Ribisi.
The networks are full of the next generation of Scientologists ready to strike it big. Jenna Elfman has faded? No problem. Jason Lee is coming on strong. He hasn’t been a spokesman for Scientology yet but may be called into action sometime down the road.
A few years back. Travolta was the voice of Scientology and Cruise was silent. Now the roles have reversed. Others will likely be called to “strike an effective blow” for Scientology down the line.
As long as these celebrities continue to pour big bucks into the organization and influence a young crew of energized, enthusiastic volunteers to staff the Orgs, the group will survive.
Q: Why, with all the evidence we have, and with countries all around the world actively banning Scientology, has the United States government not come down on the cult like a ton of bricks? Surely, with Bush being a fundamental Christian, he of all people would view Scientology as “against God”? I’m also interested as to why you think the British government has not done anything about Scientology either?
There was a great hue and cry about cults in the late 70’s. The brave congressman Leo J. Ryan lost his life in Guyana trying to help the people following Jim Jones. The horrors of the mass suicide/slaughter made people sit up and listen. For a little while.
Each Sunday, 60 Minutes presents three shocking stories that make you wonder, “How can this be allowed to happen in the US?” By Monday morning, people are back at work and life continues as normal.
Unfortunately, the problem is best summed up by retired police Lt. Ray Emmons who investigated Scientology for 20 years in Clearwater. They went to the state authorities, they went to federal authorities. Everywhere they went, they were asked, “Is Scientology going to come after me?”
No one is willing to take them on. There is no upside for politicians. They know they will see dirt dug up on them by Scientology’s PI’s and have their careers destroyed. This is after all, a group that brought the IRS to its knees with lawsuits in the 1990’s.
The British took them on in the 60’s and other countries such as Australia and Greece did as well but those days are over. Germany is the only country trying to protect its citizens from Scientology fraud and abuse.
It is much easier for people to look the other way.
Q: Could you tell us about the Lisa McPherson Trust? Why was it set up, why (and how) was it brought down and also, as we go into 2007, do you see any hope at all for the town of Clearwater, Florida?
Bob Minton started the LMT in 1999. He and Stacy asked me to be part of it and I leaped at the opportunity, moving to Clearwater at the end on 1999. We opened our doors the first week of January 2000 and were chased out of town before 2001 ended, hounded by lawsuits from Scientology on a regular basis.
We set out to reform Scientology and were foolhardy enough to think it was possible. We were tilting at windmills but, boy, am I glad I did it. It was a fascinating experience.
We set up office right next door to Scientology. We felt it was important to be in the belly of the beast. This is where people needed help the most. Members who wanted to leave could have access to us. The public could have questions answered.
Unfortunately, Scientology has over 100 cameras trained on the streets of Clearwater and they were making sure no one was dashing to us for help. And the locals were often too frightened to sneak into our back door.
An Italian restaurant was next door to us. The paper printed that the restaurant was nice enough to send us a complimentary bottle of wine and some brushetta on our opening day. That restaurant was banned by Scientology, it’s business dried up and it eventually folded.
We were constantly tied up with legal matters. Our phones were being flooded with calls. Some were from people seeking help. We’ve since found out from people who have left Scientology that many were calls placed by Scientologists under orders to tie up our phone lines.
Many thought we were just there to picket which was not the case at all. We did an occasional picket to let off steam and to let citizens know that someone was standing up to the group. We always got tons of supportive car-honks at each picket but most citizens were afraid to show their faces.
We kept the city government from caving entirely to Scientology. We drew uncomfortable attention to the cozy relationship that had developed between the organization and the newly elected city officials. We pointed out when Scientology went too far, committed fraud or abused its members.
The city government wasn’t especially happy about it. They had fought Scientology for 20 years and had given up. They wanted people to ignore the gorilla downtown. As soon as we shut our doors, all pretenses stopped and politicians openly started courting Scientology’s dollars, holding fundraisers in Scientology’s Fort Harrison Hotel. That never would have happened if we had been there.
In the end, Bob Minton spent close to $10 million of his own money to help people with Scientology, including $2 million for the LMT. We actually had to buy a building because Scientology would go to everyone we planned to lease from and scare them off. Another $2.5 million went to the Lisa McPherson civil case and $2.5 million was spent on a theatrical film which was doomed before a single frame was shot.
The Lisa case and the LMT became entwined. Scientology was hitting Bob with lawsuit after lawsuit. He decided to settle with them to get out of the mess. He and Stacy Brooks sat down with them to negotiate as they had successfully done while in charge of FACTnet a few years earlier.
This time, as they sat down to negotiate, Scientology, plopped another $10 million suit on Bob for “assisting” Gerry Armstrong break a gag order. They also outlined a RICO suit they were planning to file for another $30 million. Scientology may not have won these suits in court but they would surely cost Bob another fortune to defend.
In the end, Scientology did as Hubbard instructed, which is to use the courts to harass and destroy.
Being human, Bob made mistakes and the attorney he funded in the Lisa case made mistakes. Scientology exploits mistakes and uses them to destroy. The Lisa case wound up being settled for an undisclosed amount and the information about Lisa’s tragic end continues to be available on the net.
Bob and Stacy remain my friends and I’m better for having known them.
Q: Do you think we’re past the most “difficult” part when it comes to bringing down Scientology? If the figures are anything to go by (they say 8 million, it’s more like a few hundred thousand – and apparently only a couple of thousand in the UK) it really does seem to be on its way out already. is this really the case, and what needs to be done next to rid the world of this disease for good? Do you think it helps having people like L. Ron Hubbard’s great grandson speaking out against Scientology?
I don’t think there’s any chance of “bringing down” Scientology. While at the LMT, I was hoping we could at least get their tax exempt status revoked. It didn’t happen.
The good news is that Hubbard never foresaw the Internet. It will do what politicians and the traditional media haven’t been willing to do, informing millions about the fraud and abuse of Scientology with just a quick keystroke.
In the past Scientology had to scare one journalist into silence. They can’t do that anymore as people everywhere have access to the information Scientology once kept secret. Everywhere, that is, except in a Scientologist’s home where net-nanny software kicks Scientologists off their computers if they dare to type in a forbidden word such as Xenu. But the Scientologists can’t block their members from every computer connection.
In the 80’s, a former member recorded cassette tapes of his experiences which were secreted around to disgruntled Scientologists one by one.
Now people are sharing their stories on-line. Tory Christman can make contact with millions of people on the web. More and more people call her everyday to say they are leaving Scientology.
I get e-mails everyday from people thanking me for making my videos available, saying they left because of them or they helped convince a loved one to leave the group.
YouTube and other video-sharing services are spreading the news to even greater numbers of people. At this point, my 4th of July video, featuring three Scientologists surrounding me and calling me names, has been seen by 152,333 people since being uploaded last April 8th on GoogleVideo. That doesn’t include hits on my site, the 1,410,498 views on YouTube or any of the other many sites which have shared this video with their audiences.
That’s a huge win for XENU TV and for those who would like to see Scientology’s fraud and abuse brought to an end.
Scientology will survive. You can’t kill an ideology. I’m not making a direct comparison to these groups but there are still neo-Nazis, there are still KKK members. You can’t force people to stop believing what they want to believe.
There will be people who continue to believe Hubbard was a genius no matter how much documentation you present to them, showing he lied about every aspect of his life. If he lied about being blind and crippled and healing himself with Dianetics, why should you believe him when he says you are covered with BTs?
But you have that right. And I have no intention of stopping you from believing that. I’m only offering a warning to look before you leap.
Or if you’re in the group and feeling that things haven’t been adding up, there’s a place for you to turn and hear from others who have left and reconnected with the real world. Maybe a little dose of reality will break the Hubbard spell and bring them out of what Tory calls “the Truman Show.”
You have the right to believe in Hubbard. You have the right to believe in engrams. You have the right to believe in Xenu and the space aliens. That will never go away.
I have the right to giggle about it and warn people that Scientology is not telling you the full truth, that it will bleed you dry financially and it could break up your family.