LRH and the Rocky Mountain News – How Not to Promote a Book

rocky mountain news1983 | Sue Lindsay | Rocky Mountain News | Claimed Interview with L Ron Hubbard
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In  a previous post –  L Ron Hubbard’s Ghost (Writer) – I have described how Robert Vaughn Young, the Scientologist tasked with handling  Hubbard’s literary business, also wrote a number of  postal  ‘Interviews’ for him.

One of these interviews was published in a book (Dream Makers) by Charles Platt. In an introduction, Platt expressed scepticism that the manuscript (which he had received in the mail) had been written by Hubbard – and had good reason to suspect that it had really been produced by Robert Vaughn Young.

Platt published anyway –  possibly because  it could do no harm to the sales of a such specialised book (composed of  a number of interviews with Science-fiction authors) to include a rare exchange with a notorious recluse.

The second interview (and the subject of this post) was published in a newspaper called “Rocky Mountain News“. Like the interview in “Dream makers”, it was intended to promote Hubbard’s novel “Battlefield Earth” and his upcoming series “Mission Earth”. It was another failure.

Book Promotion LRH Style

In 1980, Sue Lindsay, a reporter for the “Rocky Mountain News” had  written a  five-part critical series about Scientology. In common with many reporters of the time,  she attempted to secure an interview with Hubbard – and was refused until September 1983 when,

[…] associates of Hubbard told Lindsay that he might consent to a written interview limited to discussion of his career as a writer in conjunction with the publication of his latest science fiction novel “Battlefield Earth”.

Lindsay had struck lucky – someone (either Hubbard or one of his “associates”) had noted that “Battlefield Earth” was set in Denver – the home of the “Rocky Mountain News” – and supposed that this would provide material for the interview – and perhaps predispose them to more friendly.

Hubbard expected to use the “Rocky Mountain News” article to obtain free publicity for his new novels – a tactic he had successfully used 30 years ago, when he persuaded the editor of “Astounding Science Fiction” to promote “Dianetics”.

Hubbard letter RMNHowever, times had changed. An interview with L Ron Hubbard, the Writer was only of interest to a tiny readership – SF fans and historians interested in  pulp science fiction. On the other hand, an interview with L Ron Hubbard, leader of a controversial cult and notorious recluse was a major scoop.

Lindsay ‘authenticated’  the interview through a complex process (described in the text) which involved a pen filled with specially formulated ink. Hubbard used this pen to write a Lindsay a letter which was to be examined by independent forensic experts.  When it arrived, it was found that the ink, and fingerprints found on the paper were consistent with Hubbard having written it.

Of course, this did not prove that the typewritten interview was produced by Hubbard – but neither Lindsay nor the newspaper cared about that. Publishing the interview was a price they had  to pay in order to obtain evidence that  suggested (contrary to rumour) that a notorious recluse was still alive.

To counterbalance the glowing image of Hubbard presented in the interview, the newspaper accompanied it with critical articles, bearing subheadings like “Scientology Keeps Controversy Swirling”. These included information about Hubbard’s life which was directly contrary to the Scientology version.

In summary, nobody was interested in Hubbard’s opinions or his new fiction (only a minority of readers were even aware that he had written SF 30 years ago). Readers bought the paper to follow the latest bizarre twist in the life of  the leader of a controversial cult.

The Censored Version

Shortly afterwards, the interview was republished byricky mountain sci version the Church of Scientology, and mailed to Church  members and staff .

The editorial material (which opens by describing Scientology as “controversial” and mentioning its conflicts with the FBI, the IRS, the FDA the AMA and “other federal agencies”) was probably not included in this version.

It is possible that the censored Scientology version was created by Hubbard’s “associates” to show him that ‘his’ interview had been published, while preventing him reading the accompanying critical material (which would have infuriated him, and led to their being punished).

To take just one example, the newspaper states that,

Hubbard attended George Washington University in Washington DC for two years, beginning in 1930, but didn’t receive a degree.

It is unlikely that the Church of Scientology would republish this (or any similar) statement as,

  • The Church of Scientology claims that Hubbard was one of the first nuclear scientists
  • Hubbard himself made this claim in a book “All About Radiation” – a text with canonical status in the Church

Once it had been shown to Hubbard, the ‘corrected’ version of the article would then have to be distributed to Scientologists to insure that they did not encounter the critical material either – hence the mass mailing.

If this supposition is correct, it suggests that Hubbard’s intermediaries were manipulating him by concealing any information that did not operate to their advantage.  As far as Hubbard knew, he had pulled off another publicity coup like the  that would ensure best-seller status for “Battlefield Earth”.  In reality, the “Rocky Mountain News” article was critical and potentially damaging. What else was he being lied to about.during this period?

If anyone has a copy of the censored publication, I would be extremely grateful to receive a scan. Contact me through the feedback page.


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