In this programme, we follow two reporters who infiltrated their local Scientology organisation (in Montreal, Canada) wearing hidden cameras. They paid for courses and obtained their Scientology ‘identity card’ which certified them as members in good standing.
This enabled them to gather extensive footage showing the reality of early Scientology ‘training’, and the way in which new members are pressured to increase their commitment until it becomes total.
Also (and this is where the programme differs from previous similar efforts) it includes footage of fund-raising presentations, and many of the other techniques now used by the Church to extract cash donations from members for reasons other than Scientology training.
Since it was broadcast (in 2011) increasing emphasis has been placed on this kind of fund-raising effort. Many Scientologists have left the Church, disillusioned with the way in which constant hard sell demands for money have become more important to the organisation than Scientology practice.
In 2011 Scientology was raising money for the renovation of a building in Montreal that they had bought in 2007 for $4 million. It was to be transformed into an ‘Ideal Org’. As of March 2014 it is empty, and its condition deteriorating due to lack of maintenance. The Church is still raising money for it.
The programme opens with ‘teaser’ extracts and a potted history of Scientology from two presenters. The ‘hidden camera’ footage begins with ‘teaser’ scenes from a speech by a fund raiser (for Montreal’s $4 million ‘ideal org’) then follows the recruitment procedure (a video, followed by a ‘personality test’) inter-cut with comment by an ex-Scientologist.
One recruit is told that their test indicted that “[…]you are totally insensitive and heartless”. This deficit can, of course, be remedied by paying for a Scientology course…
In part two, the infiltrators attended a “Dianetic Seminar” and were discomforted by the extremely repetitive nature of the ‘drills’, which they were required to repeat to the point of mental exhaustion. At this point, Professor Stephen Kent (a Sociologist and leading expert on the Church of Scientology) comments on the psychologically manipulative nature of this kind of ‘training’. Coverage includes footage of a 10 year-old girl describing the euphoria she feels after auditing to other participants.
The reporters then turn to an extensive interview with an ex-Scientology who ‘studied’ in Los Angeles – and experience she now characterises as “indoctrination”. After 6 years of involvement she felt disillusioned and trapped, and finally managed to escape.
After requests for interviews with the Church of Scientology were refused, the programme sent reporters to Scientology’s headquarters – Clearwater in Florida. Immediately, they dusted off the hidden cameras, and walked into a local org to sample the recruitment procedure there (which began with a ‘demonstration’ of the e-meter).
Later, filming openly, they showed the buses, constantly ferrying members of the Sea Org from building to building and detailed allegations made against the current leader of Scientology, David Miscavige (ranging from violence against workers to human trafficking).
Requests for an official interview were again declined, however, the film crew were soon confronted by a person they characterised as a “spokesperson for Scientology” on Pat Harney, their “Public Affairs Director”. Demonstrating that the film crews’ movements were now being followed, Harney made an aggressive re-appearance complaining about the earlier secret filming. the journalist gave better than he got. The crew was then ‘handled’ with security guards, and argumentative operatives.
The programme moves on to the concessions granted to Scientology by the government of Canada, and especially the state of Quebec, which recognises it as a non-profit organisation and recognising it as a “religious corporation” (with carries considerable tax benefits).
The scene shifts to the opening of the Quebec City Ideal Org, in 2010, and a discussion with a (masked) protester about the financial involvement Quebec’s celebrity Scientologist, France D’Amour, claiming that she has spent between $300,000 and $500,000 on Scientology courses and services, and donated $40,000 in 2007 towards the (still unopened) Montreal Ideal Org.
The use of this celebrity to promote the ideology of Scientology – especially its paranoid hostility towards psychiatry and psychiatrists, is illustrated.
Next, they examine the Scientology front groups beginning with WISE (a group teaching ‘management’ techniques indistinguishable from Scientology). A WISE lecturer is recorded in the trusty hidden camera explicitly denying that they have anything to do with Scientology, and this denial is taken apart by Professor Stephen Kent and others.
The programme closes with statements about the human cost of Scientology, from the two ex-members interviewed earlier.