Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Megalomaniac: A Religion Is Born

It is no secret that Scientology is an extensively rooted practice in L.A. Increasingly, and under the radar, Scientology continues to build its' presence and influence in one of the most powerful cities in the U.S. Their freak flag keeps waving (aka Tom Cruise) in an effort to boost good PR, but as John Cook at Radar points out "after an embarrassing string of high-profile defections and leaked videos, Scientology is now under attack from a facelss cabal of online activists." Will Scientology be declared a cult, as Germany did this past year, or will it rise as a legitimate religion, thanks to their long list of celeb believers? When the line is drawn, where do you stand?

Radar has done its homework. L.A. is nothing like Clearwater, but there are resemblances. Clearwater is the Scientologists' established 'spiritual mecca', denoted as such thanks to a landing (yes, landing) by L. Ron Hubbard back in 1975. The pulp fiction writer and subsequent cult leader led his followers on an eight-year sea voyage throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, finally settling on the coast of Florida and establishing a small town designated to the fine art of achieving a scientologist's wet dream, the ultimate spiritual state and financially costly highest level. On the day that John Cook of Radar visits, something is clearly wrong, as the streets are empty and soon enough, they've got scientologist photogs following them every step of the way. John is informed that 110 cameras survey the downtown area in addition to the new 'friends' now tagging along. Clearwater is prepared for its enemies.

Back in L.A., scientology is rapidly taking root, if not already cultivating its chronic infestation. Unbeknownst to many, scientologists are buying up real estate around town, networking contacts and turning many Hollywood power players into devoted followers. An example of what this means is provided by Alexander, a former vice president of Universal Studios, who defected, and says that in his former life, 'he was so consumed with Scientology that he carried around a Church-issued beeper that alerted him whenever his minders decided he required counseling.' Around Hollywood, you can spot a Scientologist fairly easily, as they generally wear an issued uniform of khaki pants and a plain navy blue tee, shuffling to the next building with downcast eyes. Driving in front of the Hollywood Scientology buildings and dorms, nary a person can be seen. The dorms almost look deserted, but the contrary is true, they are meant to be inconspicuous. They are, and frighteningly so, as covert operations like, "Operation Freakout" are manifesting in the media. Lives are at stake. Hubbard famously "promulgated what he called the "fair game" policy, whereby anyone judged to be an antagoinist "may be deprived of property, or injured and tricked, sued or lied to, or destroyed." A statement later withdrawn because it was "bad PR."

This crazy city of L.A. is filled to the brim of what appears to be a heady concoction of subversive activity a la Scientology. Aside from this, I have a hard time believing that extensive paranoia, described earlier and aptly reported in Cult Friction, is the result of true spiritual freedom and a sound mind. Even John Cook, our unsuspecting reporter, who came to L.A. to watch Scientologist protestors unload their opinion, gets a snapshot of the fear they effect, just read his article. The stories of harassment continue to float to the surface, but I hear nothing from the streets of L.A.; the idea that Scientology is so powerful around town that nary a person will talk for fear of disappering one day is effectively disturbing. I worry about a group who puts so much energy into 'saving' the locals, yet does not openly reveal itself; I'm sentient but apprehensive; should I be paranoid of them? Looks like Anonymous already went there.

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