The Brainwashers – How Dangerous is Scientology?

the brainwashers (german)View Online

This is a documentary film that appeared on the German television station ARD in January 2009.

On YouTube, you can switch on English subtitles by clicking the second icon in the row on the bottom left (the one that looks like an addressed envelope) and select ‘On’ in the box that pops up. To hide this box, click anywhere on the screen.

The film opens with footage of Tom Cruise promoting the film “Valkyrie”  in New York (it’s fascinating to see how he deflects and ignores direct questions about Scientology from the press). An anonymous protest is not far away.

In “Valkyrie”, Cruise played Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, a senior Army officer who attempted to kill Adolf Hitler by planting a bomb in a meeting room he used for conferences with the General Staff.

The documentary then cuts to an e-meter, and describes its role in Scientology as an interrogation tool. Initially, it’s hard to see the connection…

Then,  the voice over states that:

“Critics and ex-members find it insulting that Cruise, Scientology’s most public figure, is now playing the man who paid with his life for standing up to a totalitarian regime.

The German government and people are very wary about totalitarian Stauffenbergorganisations – and Scientology is widely perceived as being one such. For many Germans, Stauffenberg was a hero – and seeing his role played by a ‘senior’ Scientologist offends some very delicate sensibilities.

Next, the programme shows footage of  ‘events’ where Cruise and Miscavige speak to an adoring crowd. They observe, that the scenes,

“[..] are reminiscent of old propagandistic orations”.

When German media  draws  a comparison between Scientology ‘events’ and Nazi rallies you sit up and take notice.

A potted history of Scientology follows, which includes footage of  ex-Scientologist John Duigan (author of  The Complex) .

He describes being recruited in Stuttgart, his experience of Scientology Training Routines and auditing and the gradual transition from self-improvement to total control. The programme focuses on  the oppressive and controlling nature of Scientology, and the way in which the supposedly ‘objective’ e-meter is used to impose a  Scientology’s authority over the individual.

Refreshingly  (and against national stereotype) the programme-makers love the use of humour and mockery by Anonymous, and include footage from protests in New York, Clearwater and Berlin.

Against the background of a protest, the policy of “Fair Game” is described. This policy is then illustrated by extracts from John Sweeney’s BBC programme “Scientology and Me” showing attacks on Shawn Lonsdale, and the attempted intimidation of a German government official. There could not be a clearer contrast drawn between the behaviour of protesters and Scientologists.

The programme then takes pains to point out the difference between the claims that Scientology makes in public, and the beliefs and practices that it promotes in private  – specifically the claims that auditing can cure everything from drug addiction to cancer… at least as long as you can pay,are prepared to conform and don’t get sick…

Finally, the controlling mechanisms of Scientology ‘ethics’ and the RPF are examined (unsurprisingly, Germans are not fond of isolated and oppressive work camps, either) and German politicians are seen discussing the possibility of imposing a ban on the the Church of Scientology.

The programme closes with footage shot at the opening of “Valkyrie” in Berlin – but pays more attention to the Anonymous protesters than Cruise noting that,

The Anonymous movement has reached Germany. The fun partisans are here. They have perhaps found the best prescription for handling Scientology: Education and cheerful laughter.

The occasional combination of English –> German voice overs with German –> English subtitles can get confusing, but it’s well worth the effort for the insight this documentary gives into the influence of culture and history on attitudes towards Scientology.

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