Tony Ortega is a investigative journalist who has written extensively on the subject of Scientology in (almost) daily blog posts over a period of years. These began in the Village Voice. In 2012 he resigned his position as editor of the Voice to “[…] pursue a book proposal about Scientology in its time of crisis”. He continues to post daily on his own site The Underground Bunker.
It will tell the story of the extraordinary persecution of fellow Journalist Paulette Cooper by the Church of Scientology’s ‘secret police’ after her critical book, “The Scandal of Scientology” was published in 1971.| Read Online | Download as .pdf .
Ortega’s book, “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely” will be published by Silvertail books in May 2015. Much has changed for the Church of Scientology in the intervening years
The Unbreakable Miss Lovely
Publicity material for Tony Ortega’s books states:
In the early seventies, Paulette Cooper, the daughter of Jewish parents who were killed in the Holocaust, wrote a scathing book about the Church of Scientology. As a creative and ambitious journalist, working in a man’s world, she thought the world should know more about the church.
She was not surprised when the church’s lawyers put up a fight. But the church unleashed on Paulette one of the most sinister campaigns against a single person the free world has ever known. She was harassed, stalked, followed, sued 19 times, had people sent undercover to befriend her, was entrapped by private investigators in the pay of Scientology and was even framed by the church as an alleged letter bomber.
But the church had also begun a systematic infiltration of the US government and when the FBI finally raided the church, it found documentation of the campaign against Paulette (dubbed ‘Operation Freakout’) including the church’s goal; to have Paulette ‘incarcerated in a mental institution or jail or at least to hit her so hard that she drops her attacks.’ Several senior members of the church went to prison, including the wife of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
After fifteen years, Paulette was paid an out-of-court settlement by the church, but in many ways she never fully recovered, especially after the ruinous impact the campaign had on her personal life.
The Unbreakable Miss Lovely is a deeply moving and shocking story of the bravery of one woman in the face of a truly terrifying ordeal, uncovering the darkest side of one of the most notorious organisations in the world.
Paulette Cooper has written briefly about her experience. While all authors who have written critically about the Church of Scientology – and their publishers – have been subjected to some degree of legal and extra-legal persecution by the Church. Paulette Cooper’s experience was probably the most extreme because she was one of the first published critics. I personally suspect that Hubbard’s misogyny may also have motivated him to single an attractive woman out for special treatment.
Scientology and the Publishing Industry Today
In 2013 Roger Tagholm, writing for the industry website, “Publishing Perspectives”, gave some insights into the present attitudes of publishers towards the Church of Scientology
In What Happens When Publishing Takes On Scientology Tagholm describes:
- Why the UK branch of the publishing company Transworld abandoned publication of Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief (Transworld UK must have kicked themselves when they heard the news that a major documentary film by Alex Gibney, based upon the book, was being made by HBO – TV première March 16th 2015)
- How UK bookshops were “warned off selling John Duignan’s The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology, published by Merlin Publishing in Ireland.”
This makes it all the more remarkable that Tony Ortega’s upcoming book, “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely” will be published by a small UK company Silvertail Books (which Tagholm describes as, “[…] simply one man, former agent Humfrey Hunter, plus freelancers”).
Incredibly, Silvertail Books also publishes a new edition of Russell Miler’s “Bare Faced Messiah“and “The Church of Fear” (2013) by John Sweeney.
- Bare Faced Messiah is an essential text by Russell Miller (dating from 1987). It unflinchingly describes the early history of the Church of Scientology. While this book was successfully published in the UK, the first edition was effectively suppressed in the US by the Church of Scientology for many years due to a controversial legal decision.
- “The Church of Fear” is based on Sweeney’s experiences with the Church of Scientology when he prepared two documentary programmes for the BBC’s “Panorama” – “Scientology and Me” (2007) and the follow-up “The Secrets of Scientology” (2010). He also discusses his experiences in informal personal appearances. During these programmes Sweeney and his film crew were under constant surveillance by the Church, which worked hard to disrupt the making of his programmes and to personally provoke him.
This is because the world has changed a great deal since “The Scandal of Scientology” was published in 1971.
- The Church of Scientology has relied on protracted libel actions to suppress publication of books. However, since the suppression of “Going Clear”, the passage into English law of The Defamation Act 2013 has made it much harder to successfully sue for libel in the UK. Thanks to the Defamation act, the new edition of “Bare Faced Messiah” contains several passages that were removed in 1987 for fear of libel action.
- The Church of Scientology (and their front group, Narconon) are currently the subject of multiple legal actions mounted by victims.
- The membership of the Church of Scientology has contracted significantly since 1971 under their new leader David Miscavige. Although they still wield massive financial resources, they now seem to lack the organisational ability to fight on so several fronts.
The Church of Scientology, which once intimidated huge multinational publishing companies, will be able to do nothing but bluster.
It is fitting that Tony Ortega’s “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely” will bring to the public attention the courage and fortitude of the first journalist to write about their abuses – Paulette Cooper.