Monday, April 28, 2008

Scientology and the News Media

Dana asked:

I'm asking this in a completely neutral way. I have enjoyed learning about the religion from your perspective and I think it's only fair that you be treated with respect, not as an enemy of sorts. I can actually see why people become Scientologists and do not assume they've signed over their brains (or minds of any sort) when they do so.

But my question is -- even if I were interested in becoming a Scientologist myself, my understanding is that I would automatically be disqualified from doing so and labeled an SP because of my profession. I'm a journalist, and because of that I have been told that I am a "merchant of chaos".

I see where that idea comes from, but the fact is that I could go to just about any church or mosque or coven and be welcomed if I were a believer. At none of those places would it be assumed that I have an automatic desire to damage the faith through doing my job.

So if you could, could you explain why this is a good (or even bad) policy or why I should give up a good, honorable profession to better myself as a human being.

I know that Scientologists have some very valid reasons for hating the media overall, but it's also true that some of your celebrities, such as Tom Cruise, have used to tell the world about their own positive experiences using the tech, and that has helped your religion gain membership. Thanks!

Hey Dana,

I'm not sure where you got the idea that Scientologists regard journalists as SPs or "Merchants of Chaos". Isn't Greta Van Susteren a journalist? I work with a guy whose wife is a journalist, she's a nice lady, I have read some of her work and I don't have a problem with it. Scientologists who are celebrities deal with journalists all the time. I don't know who gave you that data but it is completely false. "Suppressive Person" is not a label that is applied casually. Nobody in Scientology "hates" the media.

I think there is no doubt that there are certain individuals in the media who are not nice people and who are there to make a buck, not to report facts or cause some improvement in society by their stories. You can probably name some of them yourself. In fact, I'm sure you can if this is your field.

I personally am not a fan of the mainstream media as it exists today, not just because of Scientology, but because of the way the average media handles "news". I don't know if you saw the movie "Lions for Lambs", but there are some very cogent points made about the current state of the media and their tendency to just follow public opinion rather than stand up for what is right or true.

At the very end of the movie is a scene where the college student is considering what his professor told him regarding doing something to change the state of the country and he is half watching the news. It's a CNN sort of channel and there's a piece about a female pop singer and her pop singer husband getting divorced. This piece is getting all the attention, meanwhile along the bottom of the screen is the ticker-tape talking about a new offensive in Afghanistan. To me that really nailed the main-stream media.

The news has become entertainment. The unpleasant realities are words flowing along the bottom so you can ignore them if you want. What is important is eyeballs and advertising dollars. Meryl Streep plays the journalist in the movie and by the end she is realizing what has happened to the ideals she had when she became an journalist. (As an aside, it's a great movie. I highly recommend it, especially to a journalist. The basic message of the movie is "do something about it!")

A great movie that, for me, says how the media should be is Good Night, and Good Luck. Edward R. Murrow stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy and helped bring down an evil man. He did it with facts and truth. The bread and butter of the news media should be facts and truth and sadly I see far to little of that in modern journalism.

Finally, if you haven't seen it already, is the classic movie Network. When it came out it was part fiction and part fantasy, but now, what that movie portrays, has become fact.

I do think there are good, honest journalists around. I would just like to see them as the norm rather than the exception. Most of the journalists I respect are independents and talk about things out of the mainstream, things that the mainstream media ignore.

Now to get to your point about a journalist taking services at a Church. People are only allowed to take services in a Scientology Church if they are there because they want to improve themselves. If a person is there to "investigate" then they are there for a different purpose than personal spiritual improvement, so it ain't gonna work. If a person wants to "investigate" Scientology they can buy a few books and read them or they can come in to see the Director of Special Affairs at a Church who is there to answer questions from the press.

If a member of the press is interested in personal spiritual gain and is honestly seeking it then there are no barriers to them.

I hope that answered your questions and I hope you enjoy my movie suggestions :)


Stephen said...

Extremely well communicated Graeme.

In my experience you have demonstrated where the line is drawn perfectly.

While many people who are trying to cause harm or serve their own ends will generalize and spread the false ideas that a particular group doesn't like another group as a general rule (in this case Scientology doesn't like media people) automatically because they are a journalist or something similar... it is usually false when actually looked at closely and can be seen to be clearly over-generalized just to cause harm.

Obviously there are a multitude of cases like this visible in the media every single day - especially between different religious groups where a small number of people are trying to create tension, conflict and in some cases even war.

I applaud both Dana, for taking the time to actually investigate and find out for herself (instead of just blindly accepting what she heard) and you, for giving clear reasoning with actual proof elements one can follow up on to learn the truth for themselves.

If this was done by people in both your positions in all cases of this sort (where some person or group over-generalizes in an attempt to harm) we would all be a lot better off and this world a much saner place.

Well done both of you.


Ontario Emperor said...

Re Dana's statement "the fact is that I could go to just about any church or mosque or coven and be welcomed if I were a believer. At none of those places would it be assumed that I have an automatic desire to damage the faith through doing my job."

While Dana could probably do this, there are some professions that disqualify you from various religious movements. Pig farmers aren't necessarily welcome in the more orthodox Jewish congregations, for example.

SomethingNice said...

On movies about the media: I would also add "A Face in the Crowd", one of the greatest films ever made. It is still years ahead of its time. How many of us, in Patricia Neal's place, could abandon the attraction of the type of media which Andy Griffith's character represents? Do we cling to the (attractive, appealing) monster we've created (it _needs_ us to live), or do we walk away to make something better? It is an issue everyone still faces today.

Grahame said...

Thanks somethingnice,

I took a look at "A Face in the Crowd" on IMDB. It looks good. I've added it to my queue on Netflix.