2015 | “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely | Tony Ortega | ISBN 9781511639378
Author’s blog “The Underground Bunker”: tonyortega.org
The Church of Scientology is the subject of many critical histories. The essential texts which cover the period up to the death of the organisation’s founder are, “A Piece of Blue Sky” (first published in 1991, and republished in an expanded form in 2013) and “Bare Faced Messiah“. These books remain definitive, and difficult to surpass
“The Unbreakable Miss Lovely” also deals with this period, but from a new perspective which adds considerable depth and a human dimension to the story.
Its subject is Scientology’s treatment of a journalist (Palette Cooper) who published a book critical of the Church entitled, “The Scandal of Scientology” in 1971.
After her book appeared, the Church of Scientology subjected her to an organised programme of persecution. This included a libellous (but anonymous) smear campaign, endless litigation, the tapping of her telephone, being ‘befriended’ by undercover agents and being framed for sending letters containing bomb threats.
After many years of legal action the Church succeeded in obtaining the copyright of her book and suppressed it. Nevertheless, you can download and read it here.
All of these operations (and more) were undertaken by the Church of Scientology’s ‘intelligence’ branch (which still exists and operates today, under a different name). While it was persecuting Cooper, the “Office of the Guardian”also infiltrated multiple US Government premises, where they copied (and planted) documents which they thought could be used to their advantage. This bizarre espionage story is extensively covered by Ortega, not least because it had unexpected consequences for the subject of his book.
You can learn a lot about the history of Scientology from Ortega’s scrupulously-researched account – it also contains new information and insights. He uses his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Church to explain why Scientologists behaved in the way that they did, and how they justified it. He also describes what was going on behind the scenes of Cooper’s persecution – including ‘undercover operations’ undertaken by the Church of Scientology of which she was completely unaware at the time.
However, Ortega’s achievement is to put an human face on to one of Scientology’s victims. He does not preach. He describes, with scrupulous accuracy, and in great detail what was done to a complex, real person over a period of many years, and how it affected her. Paradoxically, his writing has greater emotional power for its apparent detachment.
When people learn about Scientology’s bizarre ‘secret’ (but long since leaked) beliefs, it is difficult to take them seriously. Distracted by the likes of the strange (and often ridiculed) story of Xenu, they do not come across L Ron Hubbard’s other teachings – including those which require critics to be cruelly persecuted. They do not understand that Scientologists not only believe these things but also act upon them. Consequently, they see Scientologists as ridiculous – but not dangerous.
Here are a few examples of what L Ron Hubbard wrote on the subject of how to deal with critics and disaffected Scientologists:
If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace.
L. Ron Hubbard, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, 15 August 1960, Dept. of Govt. Affairs
And how to exploit the law:
The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.
L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual On The Dissemination of Material, 1955
There are more, similar ‘religious doctrines’ listed here. They demonstrate that the Church of Scientology sees revenge as a kind of sacrament – one which they are required to take.
Paulette Cooper’s experience is an example (and there are many more) of what Scientologist are prepared to do under the influence of their Church. They deliberately brought her to the point of suicide – and may well have succeeded if not for… [spoiler deleted].
Scientologists are entitled to their beliefs, but they are not entitled to behave like that. This is the central point that critics need to put across to the general public.
By the way… I deleted a spoiler above. This underlines the fact that the story of Paulette Cooper’s life and experiences with the Church of Scientology while true is also an absorbing narrative, complete with fascinating characters (some good, some bad) puzzles, disappointments and triumphs.
Is the Church of Scientology More Moderate Today?
Paulette Cooper was a particular target of Hubbard’s ire (and I can’t help but wonder if Hubbard’s well-documented misogyny was outraged by the fact that it was an attractive, independent, professional woman who was speaking out against his creation).
Now that L Ron Hubbard is dead, and the Church of Scientology is under the control of a new ‘leader’ (David Miscavige) surely it sees that, in the age of the Internet (when very little can be kept hidden) this kind of behaviour is counter-productive? The simple answer is no.
This is demonstrated by a court case which the Church is currently fighting. They have been accused of harassing a senior ex-member (Mark “Marty” Rathburn) and his wife (who has had no involvement with Scientology).
In one incident, the Church of Scientology sent a team of people with video cameras (some of them, bizarrely, attached to hats) to their victim’s home. They followed the Rathburn’s and taunted them. Video of these antics featured in the TV Programme “Scientologists at War“, which can be viewed /downloaded from the linked page.
The Church of Scientology has argued in court that this bizarre behaviour is protected under the US 1st amendment to the US constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.
So many years after Paulette Cooper’s experience, the doctrines of the Church still require critics and disaffected Scientologists to be mercilessly persecuted, and the authoritarian culture of the Church insures that this this is done.