“Why, Reverend, come right on the show!”

dianetics.jpg
As Christopher Hitchens puts it:

Try this: Call a TV station and tell them that you know the Antichrist is already on earth and is an adult Jewish male. See how far you get. Then try the same thing and add that you are the Rev. Jim-Bob Vermin. “Why, Reverend, come right on the show!”

For years Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have been remarking on how easy it is for any raving imbecile to get an airing on radio or television if they claim to stand for some kind of religion. Not only do they get attention that isn’t warranted by their qualifications, but their opinions are also awarded a premium on the basis that pronouncements made in the name of religion are inherently deserving of more respect than other utterances.

It’s bad enough when representatives of mainstream religions are indulged, but when the privilege is extended to a notorious cult like Scientology, it really takes the cake.

I would have thought that most people have a basic awareness of what the Church of Scientology stands for, but even if you don’t, you only need to spend half an hour following the many external links on Wikipedia to get some idea of the movement’s megalomaniac fraud of a founder; how he cynically designed it to be a religion, a philosophy, or a business as required; the ludicrous gobbledygook that constitutes its doctrine; the financial scams the organisation is embroiled in; its brainwashing methods; it’s resort to kidnapping where brainwashing doesn’t suffice; the systematic bullying of ‘apostates’; and the organisation’s tenacious efforts to obstruct and control outside scrutiny.

So what’s going in Virginia Trioli’s head when she invites Cyrus Brooks*, Vice President of the Australian Church of Scientology, onto her program on ABC local radio, to explain the Church’s teachings regarding modern psychology? If this person wasn’t associated with a church, there is no way that he would have been allowed on the air to lay down his ratbag notions about such matters as the physical versus the psychological, symptoms versus underlying causes, the effects of various therapies according to ‘research’ he authoritatively invokes, as well his own ‘personal experience’.

The interview was related to the tragedy in Revesby, where a young woman allegedly killed her father and sister with a knife. The newspapers have been reporting that she had been denied treatment for a longstanding mental illness because of her parents’ Scientologist beliefs. Now, it’s only fair to allow a representative of the Church to respond to the specific allegation that the Church is responsible for this specific tragedy. But that’s not the same thing as giving them a platform to put their preposterous positions in general, or their pseudo-scientific theories about psychiatry in particular.

It was no surprise that an academic psychiatrist, Chris Tennant, and AMA President Rosanna Capolingua both felt obliged to rush on to the program and correct the disinformation. Most of us have been around long enough to know what Scientology is, but there will always be a generation of impressionable and well-meaning people who are ready to take the bait, and all the more so if there is the odd Tom Cruise or James Packer to impart a respectable veneer. Even if they don’t join the Church, they may be happy to play some minor part in spreading the notion that ‘psychology is just a great con’, an idea which, somewhere, some time, will stop someone from getting treatment that could save their life (or someone’s life).

More from Five Public Opinions.

*Media Watch fans might remember Cyrus from this August 2005 story about an anti-psychiatry letter writing campaign.

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paul frijters
paul frijters
14 years ago

James,
I sympathise, of course, but are you suggesting what I think you are suggesting which is that journalism should systematically shun opinions that are almost certainly wrong? You do realise that something like 80% of the world firmly believes in some kind of imaginary unproven (set of) friends that have purportedly beamed down particular views on all kinds of stuff, including most Australians? You’re not going to have much media left if you follow that line of argument. Do you for instance wish to stop Tony Abbott venting his religious teachings on abortion on open air? Or the pope from giving his Easter blessings and his opinions on tv?
We’ve once again hit the myth that the media is there to report the truth, as if that is what the population really wants or can handle. And once again a quick look at reality will tell you neither is remotely the case. Next you’ll start to say politicians should speak the truth ….. god forbid!

melaleuca
14 years ago

“Even if they dont join the Church, they may be happy to play some minor part in spreading the notion that psychology is just a great con, an idea which, somewhere, some time, will stop someone from getting treatment that could save their life (or someones life).”

Exactly. I’ve made the same point about the Church of Sigmund Freud over at Larvatus Prodeo on numerous occasions. Unfortunately the boutique left still take this particular coke-addled nutjob seriously.

skepticlawyer
14 years ago

There’ve been a number of cases in various jurisdictions about scientology, many of them highly critical of its internal administration and practices. Unfortunately, it’s always managed to fall over the line as a ‘legitimate religion’. AFAIK (and I’m happy to be corrected on this), it gets the same tax-exempt status in Australia as other far more mainstream faiths.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
14 years ago

The Church of Scientology is entitled to at least explain the context behind all this don’t you think? I don’t see what the big deal is. You are right – the main difference between Scientology and other religions is that the other religions have been around for a lot longer – so Scientology should not be treated any worse or better. if some death was blamed on Catholic church doctrine I think as a matter of journalistic enquiry some representative of the church should be able to put his side of the story.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
14 years ago

* spot on comment from Mel – there is a lot of nonsense out there, some in humanities departments such as Freudianism. If snakeoil were barred from even serious news there would be little left to discuss.

skepticlawyer
14 years ago

If snakeoil were barred from even serious news there would be little left to discuss.

And ain’t that the truth. There’s been a messy double murder, and the media have looked for something to latch onto. In this case, it’s Hubbard’s mob. The weirdnesses invoked after messy double murders are many and varied.

AV
AV
14 years ago

So whats going in Virginia Triolis head when she invites Cyrus Brooks*, Vice President of the Australian Church of Scientology, onto her program on ABC local radio, to explain the Churchs teachings regarding modern psychology?

Brooks was on breakfast with Fran Kelly earlier in the day, and I asked myself the same question then.

Now, its only fair to allow a representative of the Church to respond to the specific allegation that the Church is responsible for this specific tragedy. But thats not the same thing as giving them a platform to put their ludicrous positions in general, or their pseudo-scientific theories about pschiatry in particular.

A parallel case is the infamous ABC (that’s the US ABC) Nightline “debate” between Ray Comfort/Kirk Cameron and the Rational Response Squad, in which Comfort was going to provide “scientific proof” of God’s existence, without making any reference to the Bible. What did Comfort do? He launched into a sermon on the Ten Commandments. Comfort and Cameron had no intention of engaging in the debate in good faith: they just saw it as a golden opportunity to proselytise to a national audience.

AV
AV
14 years ago

Cheers for the link, btw.

Dave Bath
14 years ago

After looking through your list of links, it appears that the UNcyclopedia page on Scientology should be erased because it is too close to the truth, not just spoof.

Lazy Aussie
14 years ago

“Its bad enough when representatives of mainstream religions are indulged, but when the privilege is extended to a notorious cult like Scientology, it really takes the cake.”

Really? there’s a difference between this baloney and the rest of them?

Yobbo
Yobbo
14 years ago

I have to admit I am a little sympathetic to the Scientologists views on Psychology.

Psychotherapy, at least, is a huge crock of shit.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t genuinely mentally ill people, but the cast majority of people who “require therapy” are being sold just as much snake oil as scientologists are selling.

My sister is a social worker, and my Cousin a psychologist who works for Woodside petroleum. I’ve seen what they do and I feel embarassed that they are paid for it.

Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

Scientology is the only “religion” that I know of that requires payment of large amounts of $ to gain accesss to it’s teachings. Most other religions have ALL their teachings available free.

Scientology only woke up the the religion scam after Henry Bolte in Victoria had an inquiry and banned them.

Basically the legal definition of a religion is:
If you claim to be a religion and have some wacko ideas about how we got to be here then you are a religion. Fundamentally the definition of a religion is about a tax regime classification not theology.

Many sensible countries in the world ban scientology or watch it closely – most at least treat them with extreme caution.

At least as nutty but nowhere as dangerous is Falun Gong. Most people, and countries, are extremely tolerant of Falun Gong. Why? Because whilst a cult they are not money scamming criminals.

Scientology get loads of free publicity for their money making scam through interviews with Kate Ceberano and other “celebrities” without any scrutiny of scientology’s criminal record.

Yobbo
Yobbo
14 years ago

You can’t really ban Scientology just because they make people pay to learn about it. It’s a violation of free association.

You have to pay to join the Collingwood football club too, and that organisation also has some strange members and beliefs.

saint
14 years ago

One doesn’t even have to get the so-called “church” of Scientology to respond particularly when a Scientologist rep has already denied membership of the Revesby family in the “church”. I doubt they could deny their stance on psychiatric drugs given the world wide publicity thanks to their stooges.

Scientology is a total fraud. If you have to pay for their “teachings” then don’t come asking for tax breaks.

fairlane
14 years ago

One of those nuts, Richard E. Vatz, recently visited my blog accusing me of being “unethical” because I wrote a post about him.

Vatz is, well I don’t know what he is really other than to say he really really likes Thomas Szasz who is the man behind much of Scientology’s views on Psychiatry.

Szasz has many interesting views such as calling drug addiction a “victimless crime” and claiming that “Mental Illnesses” are a “Myth” because the mind is a “Construct” not an “Organ” and therefore it cannot be diseased.

In two thousand years, when Scientology is the dominating religion, the world will shudder looking back at how we once thought smoking crack was a bad idea.

derrida derider
derrida derider
14 years ago

Yobbo, I think there’d actually be a lot of sympathy in the population for banning the Collingwood football club. If it’s not a strange deluded cult then I don’t know what is.

Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

yobbo – I understand one of the wacko religious beliefs that Collingwood has is that one day they will win a premiership.

But a person can read and understand everything there is to know about Collingwood without even having to join the club. If they do join the club it is transparent what they get for their money.

As far as I know if you cease to be a Collingwood club member at sometime they do not hassle you or you family through the courts if you f’rinstance barrack for Geelong. (well maybe they should hassle you through the courts if its Geelong but say another club)

And as far as I know Collingwood does not get exempt status from taxation etc by claiming to be a religion. Although from what I can see they have a more legitimate claim than the criminal cult $cientology does.

Stewart Kelly
Stewart Kelly
14 years ago

“the main difference between Scientology and other religions is that the other religions have been around for a lot longer” – Jason Soon

From what I’ve read Scientology’s leadership is fully aware they’re running a scam. The leaderships of the Catholic and whatever else churches on the other hand are true believers in what they promote.

Legal Eagle
14 years ago

Yes, the Church of Scientology is regarded as a religion as far as Australian law is concerned: see Church of the New Faith v Commissioner for Pay-roll Tax (Vic) (1983) 154 CLR 120.

The Church of Scientology’s position on mental illness makes me very angry. There is a difference between being a bit down (probably does not need medication) and having a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, manic depression or chronic (probably needs medication).

We have a friend who suffers from manic depression. It’s not an invented disease. It has a devastating effect on his life. He needs medication. He has been hospitalised a few times. People like the Scientologists encourage our friend to feel even more guilty about his condition: as if it’s somehow his fault, or he can control it. Yes, he does have some cognitive measures in place to try to help him control the disease, but that’s not enough by itself.

I’ve got no problem with people believing that the world was populated by aliens if that’s what they want to believe. I do have a problem with people encouraging others to ignore health problems on spurious grounds.

epicurean
epicurean
14 years ago

Why has nobody mentioned the South Park episode which, plainly and accurately, detailed the idiocy? They even ran a strap below, in case anyone thought it was just typical S/P over-the-top, stating “This is what Scientologist REALLY believe”.
Nuff said.

Yobbo
Yobbo
14 years ago

“We have a friend who suffers from manic depression. Its not an invented disease. It has a devastating effect on his life. He needs medication.”

Legal Eagle, cases like your friend are a bit different than the people who go to see a “therapist” each year because they don’t like their job and/or they can’t get a stiffy.

It’s also a lot different than enforced “anger management counselling” imposed on people after court sentences who have no mental problems, “grief counselling” after bereavement, “trauma counselling” for people who have been through a traumatic experience, etc. etc.

“Counselling” is by and large a crock of shit. Psychiatric drug treatments are a completely different kettle of fish.