Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)
March 30, 2015 8:59 AM - Subscribe

An in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology by HBO based on Lawrence Wright's nonfiction book published in 2013.

Of course, with expected pushback from the Church prior to the film's release.
posted by auggy (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was actually kind of let down. I had gleefully looked forward to this for weeks, but they didn't mention a lot of the things that I thought were pretty standard, well documented and not on the lurid scale: Lisa McPherson, no mention of the fact that Tommy Davis is the son of Anne Archer -- or the fact that Davis has been "disappeared," apparently -- or the whole deal about Shelly Miscavige not being seen since 2007. NO KATIE HOLMES WHATSOEVER. Glad they covered the Nazanin Boniadi stuff, though.

Here's an article on subjects that didn't make the doc.

But now I do definitely want to read the book. Lawrence Wright clearly (ugh) took great pains to lay everything out in as low-key, documentable manner as possible.

Things I didn't know:
How much LRH looked like Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master
How much those IAS meetings looked like the episode of Vice when they go to North Korea with Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters
How e-meters actually worked
How much Scientology sounded SOOOOOOO much like EMDR (except that EMDR actually works)

David Miscavige looks like the guy I dated very briefly in college who admitted that he ranked all of his high school classmates on whether or not they were at his level... except for the black people.
posted by St. Hubbins at 11:22 AM on March 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've been wondering how much of what was left out was due to the simple constraints of time and a coherent narrative, and how much was avoided on advice of the 160 lawyers HBO employed to look over the film.

But in any case it was nice to see and hear some of the people involved, after reading the book, which is highly recommended.
posted by rewil at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Honestly, CO$ should be kissing the ground in thanksgiving, given how much damning material is out there.
posted by echolalia67 at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The thing I don't get is why all those people in the early days were so gung-ho given that LRH is like the biggest creepiest creep in the entire world. I kept trying to imagine if he could be one of those people with mysterious personal charisma and it's just an unfathomable idea. He is such an obvious freakshow.
posted by something something at 7:02 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just watched it. Just started the book a couple days ago - only about 50 pages in.

I feel like the film covered mostly things I'd read before, but really hit them home with a new urgency and authenticity via the interviews with the higher-ups who've now left.

The biggest problem is that the IRS caved and gave them tax exemption. I think if that could be reversed this tragedy could hopefully be ended, but in the film Wright brings up a good point, which is that the IRS is hardly the organization that's equipped to decide what's a religion and what's not.

Even only 50 pages into the book, the extent to which LRH was a complete and total bullshitter is amazing. He bullshitted his way into the Navy in WWII, only to be essentially fired by about three commanders who all rated him a bullshitter and unfit for independent command of anything. Then somehow he got put in charge of a submarine-hunting ship, and the first thing he does is open fire ...on a log.

(I've seen several comments that the book has way more "WTF" than the film, so I'm eager to read the rest.)
posted by dnash at 9:10 PM on March 30, 2015


The thing I don't get is why all those people in the early days were so gung-ho given that LRH is like the biggest creepiest creep in the entire world.

I call it the Serge Gainsbourg Factor. I haven't read the book of Going Clear, but Under the Banner of Heaven draws very clear portraits of the similarly-adored early founders of the LDS Church, and it seems charisma defies all objective understanding.
posted by psoas at 3:53 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been on a Scientology research kick lately because of the documentary, and man there's a lot of horrifying stuff about them. The documentary feels pretty neutered compared to what I know of the book (I haven't read it yet, but I need to now); but it still has quite a bit of power because of all the personal testimony. Like the mom discussing how she found her baby covered with urine and FLIES? Wow.

Seriously, Miscavige creeps me out SO MUCH. He seems like a slick corporate Caligula. His smile is broad but he has the cold, dead eyes of a sociopath.

And Hubbard! Jesus! I don't know why all those young, dumb kids back in the '60s were so ga-ga about the guy. He has this broad, liverish mouth filled with rotting teeth... I could barely stand to look at him, even though it was only film footage.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just finished watching this. I already knew a fair bit about Hubbard and Scientology, but...sheesh.

It's so awful that the IRS caved in 1993. They could have ended Scientology right there. Instead, they handed them a massive blank check, which allowed them to consolidate enough power to become virtually untouchable.

Hubbard was certainly mentally ill, and Miscavige is certainly a sociopath.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:11 PM on March 31, 2015


I was shocked that Tom Cruise is taller than Miscavige. So Miscavige must be very wee indeed.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:43 PM on March 31, 2015


Count me among the "let down" folks as well. I'm sure for the uninitiated (err, as in "didn't really know much about Scientology other than it's vaguely culty") it was a real eye-opener, but for anyone who had read much of anything online, it was nothing new, apart from some more recent high-profile defectors.

I really wish they had hammered home about how OTIII "The Wall of Fire" was literally just a cheesy Sci-Fi script that had been somehow co-opted into a sacred text explaining the origin of Everything. They hit on it for a bit, but I was hoping for a more drawn out scenario: "This is what I've been waiting for for the past 5 years, this is it! Whaaaaaaaa?!?!?!" Then again, I suppose no amount of hyperbole and "can you believe this shit?" would have satisfied me.

And yeah, man do the IRS come across as some spineless losers. They cave in just to quash a bunch of nuisance suits? WTF?

the IRS is hardly the organization that's equipped to decide what's a religion and what's not.
They need not have. All they (apparently) needed to demonstrate was that the money was being used for the personal benefit of various higher-ups within the (ahem) church.

I guess overall it lacked any real "punch" that I was hoping for. No real "nail in the coffin." Some interesting and compelling new personal stories, but nothing we didn't really know already, and no big finish.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:56 AM on April 1, 2015


I don't think this was intended for people who know a lot about Scientology. I'm someone who's only occasionally read about it and I was horrified by pretty much the whole thing. Especially devastating was what it does to families.

One thing I was wondering - the Sea Org members they interviewed who'd left - I wonder what they ended up doing for work. It seems like they'd all spent their adult lives working for the Church, so what did they do once they left??

Miscavige is certainly a sociopath.

He is terrifying. The irony is that, in the movie, he would be played by Tom Cruise.
posted by lunasol at 8:16 PM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


There was a lot damning throughout this doc. I too thought it couldn't have gone into more detail without becoming much longer. One of the things, for example, that stands out during the section with the 'Squirrel Busters' was that the $cientologists had rented a nearby house to surveil Marty Rathbun's wife. Yeah, they've got the money and the cult-like drones to maintain a continued harassment campaign against someone, and that's pretty scary. This documentary is chock full of things that are chilling when you realize the implications.
posted by Catblack at 8:31 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read the book, and agree that this documentary was missing some of the weirder and more sinister stories from it. The book, though, did not include what Paul Haggis mentions in one of the interviews in the documentary: the existence of sites like whoispaulhaggis.com (and all of the sister sites listed in the right column) that are just bizarrely transparent attempts to discredit Scientology critics. I can't imagine how to make those sites look less reputable. Seeing those sites reflects so much more poorly on the CoS than it does on any of those people, and yet they keep them up and pay for them to show up in Google ads.
posted by almostmanda at 7:43 AM on April 2, 2015


I really hope Sara Goldberg's daughter comes around. That part was especially sad.
posted by sallybrown at 4:07 PM on April 4, 2015


Saturday Night Live has unexpectedly chimed in with an utterly scathing parody of "We Stand Tall".
posted by Catblack at 4:53 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


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