“Ruthless”, a Book by the Father of Scientology’s Leader and “20/20 -A Father’s Story”

RuthlessUS_UK

US edition (left) & UK edition (right)

Ruthless: My Son David Miscavige and Me (UK Edition) | Ron Miscavige with Dan Koon | Silvertail Books | 2016

This book is based upon the experiences of Ron Miscavige, the father of David who is presently the ‘leader’ of Scientology. In it he discusses how he took his family into Scientology, how his son rose to power, and how he eventually escaped from a guarded Scientology compound.

From an outsider’s point of view this is an essential text for the things which Ron Miscavige reveals but, overall, a frustrating read.

The problem is with Ron himself. He is what people who study literature call an ‘unreliable narrator’ – he’s telling the truth as he sees it. Unfortunately, in his version of reality, Scientology should be taken seriously, and there are valuable insights in its early teachings.

Also, he is still impressed by writers who were big names in the (now largely forgotten) ‘New Thought‘ movement (AVA “Higher Thought). A list of recommended books appears at the end of his volume and recommends early works by Hubbard and some antique fringe writers of the ‘New Thought’ movements.

I happen to have one of the ‘New Thought’ texts he recommends (and will be putting it online in my next post). It’s a crude wish-fulfilment fantasy which depends on magical thinking. It claims that, if you follow the author’s instructions, you will be able to acquire anything you want, as long as you wish for it hard enough.

I’m not being sarcastic here. That’s literally the argument presented. If you are looking for a book with philosophical depth, or for a critical analysis of Scientology itself, you won’t get much out of this one.

Consistency isn’t Ron’s strong point either. At the beginning of his book,  he describes how his son David was impressed by Scientology because it cured his Asthma. By the time we get to page 97 it is 1980. Ron and David are living on ‘Gold Base’  (a closed Scientology compound in Hemet California). David has to be taken to a local hospital for emergency treatment for… an Asthma attack. This strange contradiction is not explored – it’s just dropped in as part of the narrative.

An ‘Independent’ Perspective

dan koon

Dan Koon

These flaws are compounded by the fact that Ron’s ghost writer, Dan Koon, is an Independent Scientologist.

‘Indies’ are people who have left the official Church of Scientology, typically because they believe the present leadership has corrupted the founder’s teachings. However, they still believe that L Ron Hubbard’s ‘technology’ has value, and continue to practice and promote it.

From his point of view, Koon is scrupulously fair. Hubbard is presented as a man not a demi-god. It’s admitted that he could behave badly, and made mistakes. However, the habitual cruelty of his behaviour is glossed over, and his ideas are still taken seriously.

Also, you have to read carefully to separate the parts of the story that Ron personally witnessed from background material drawn from other sources and given a slight indie spin.

I think we can trust the reading public not to taken in by this. At this stage of Scientology’s decline, they have either dismissed Scientology out of hand, or know enough about it to know that it is nonsense. They are certainly not aware of the official/indie conflict, which will probably go over their heads. However, it’s wearing to have to have to read between the lines.

Conclusion

ron_miscavigeI wish Ron well. The story he presents of his own experiences is credible and corresponds with that of other writers. Either he is telling the truth, or he is part of the Mother or all conspiracy theories. His story is well worth putting on record. I just wish it had been done with a little more objectivity.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the book is provided inadvertently – an insight into the mind of a man who spent many years in Scientology (joining when Hubbard was still active) saw the chaos and abuse at the top, escaped from a guarded compound – and still thinks that there is something of value in the ‘philosophy’.

In conclusion, it’s a frustrating read for Scientology watchers and might puzzle the general public. Its greatest value is the fact that Ron’s name on the cover might persuade Scientologists to read a book which is critical of the CofS. That might be the first step in eroding the mindset that leads them to take Scientology itself seriously.
However, Judging from Ron’s list of ‘recommended books’, the sooner this happens the better.

“Ruthless” As Presented on US Television

The book was introduced to the US public with a feature on a TV current affairs programme, called 20/20 which tells much of the story- and also reveals Ron’s curious attitude towards Scientology itself. Despite everything, he still seems to still take it seriously.

This report also includes material that support Ron’s claims about Scientology’ aggressive approach towards critics and those who leave the church and Scientology’s practice of ‘Disconnection’.

20/20 A Father’s Story | Watch Online | Download as webm

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5 thoughts on ““Ruthless”, a Book by the Father of Scientology’s Leader and “20/20 -A Father’s Story”

  1. thanks, great review. I am reading this book. But you are correct in that ex Cult members (myself included) usually realize the error of the ways of Scientology.

    • My impression (as an outsider) is that most Scientologists do not so much believe, as constantly strive to suspend disbelief. This is one of the reasons why, in order to function at all, Scientology has to be so controlling.

      The doctrines are not credible and become more incredible the further you progress. It’s no coincidence that Scientology becomes more controlling as members get deeper into it. However, most Scientologists eventually lose the struggle. OT3 seems to be a major pinch point – a lot of Scientologists report that they just can’t take that seriously, and no amount of social pressure or threatening (e.g. disconnection) will persuade them to do so.

      I think that, in Hubbard’s time, most recruits left within a few years at most. Others, who began to rock the boat, were expelled. This was actually functional because there were always more potential recruits out there, who would bring in new enthusiasm and new money. Scientology had a hight turnover of members, and that was one of the reasons it was so profitable.

      Under Miscavige, recruitment has collapsed. The membership grows steadily older, their PR image of their ‘Church’ is toxic and the content of Scientology becomes more banal and dated. The Internet probably dealt the organisation a blow from which it will never recover.

      Consequently, the new regime has been forced to raise the bar and become even more controlling in order to keep the people they have. Public Scientologists know that they will be subject to harassment and disconnection at the drop of a hat, and the Sea Org suffer physical coercion – they live in secure facilities watched by guards who won’t let them out, and ‘recovery teams’ who will try to bring them back, should they escape.

      I think that, today, there who would have walked away in the early day are now ‘going through the motions’ instead. They no longer believe, and would like to be shot of the whole thing. However, they don’t want to fact the consequences of leaving, so they just pretend they are, and do the bare minimum required to keep the Church at bay. Membership is at an all-time low and it is also hollow. It Scientology needed all hands on deck to survive a major crisis, many nominal members would take the opportunity to abandon it altogether.

      Becoming more controlling has seriously weakened the organisation.

      The people who remain ‘true believers’ no matter what are a puzzle. My take is that, like Ron, many of them will have a superficial attitude towards the teachings of Scientology. They are not committed because they have carefully thought all of this out and are convinced. They are not committed because they have had compelling experiences at ever stage of their ‘training’.

      They are ‘true believers’ because, for various emotional reasons, they need the approval of a group of people and are exceptionally vulnerable to social pressure. In Scientology this is made all the more powerful by being exercised in the isolated social situation that membership brings about. At some point, they have invest so much emotional capital in membership that they cannot imagine ever backing out, even if it makes their day-to-day life miserable.

      Looked at in another way, it’s almost a coincidence that this small minority of ‘true believers’ are committed to Scientology. If another high-control group that offered a ‘mission’ and ‘comradeship’ had come along first, they would likely have joined that, and stuck with it. It’s not the content of Scientology that has captivated them – it’s the social/psychological techniques of persuasion that are built into it.

  2. Excellent response to my response! I still cannot fathom how, in my case, the family of my ex husband; including him; continue to stay involved. You explain a great deal; but they are so money hungry I would think that that alone would have led them to awaken.
    Still you are quite astute and I welcome your thoughts and the review. Bless you yours

    • Thank you.

      I would imagine that a large part of the reason is that they have been so socially isolated for so long that they can no longer imagine any other way to live. If they are not the kind of people who reflect upon their circumstances, social pressure does the rest. The fact that they are staying as a family is also significant. Questioning Scientology is taboo on every level starting with the most basic relationships.

      They are in a situation which the the sociologist Janja Lalich calls “Bounded Choice”, and I recommend her book of the same name.

      The only thing that might lead these people to question their commitment is an outside perspective – and Scientology is set up to prevent that in very many ways. Even if they did become disillusioned, they would have to cut their losses big time, and face retaliation from the ‘church’. It’s easier for such people to rationalise the bad things than it is to ask some basic questions.

      With recruitment effectively at an end, and many people still leaving, Scientology’s membership will increasing consist of people like this and ‘under the radar’ members. Now that the focus seems to be a short-sighted effort to maintain income by fleecing a declining membership more thoroughly, the organisation will last only as long as its oldest member.

      The actual practice of Scientology seem to have been sidelined long ago, and is only maintained at the entry level.

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