I have been hearing so much about this new documentary from HBO – “Going Clear” – and I must watch it!

Here are some *notes on the scandal* from Salon…

Scientology and Hollywood: Tom Cruise, John Travolta and the new “Going Clear” shockers (3/26/15, here)

“Going Clear” and the outlandish connections between two self-serving, big-money industries: church and the movies

“Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief” is not the first attempt to tell the real story of L. Ron Hubbard’s church. The documentary follows not just Orth’s Vanity Fair story and multiple exposés in the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times) but also the book of the same name, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright.

But the HBO doc may end up being the most wide-reaching. On HBO, the story reaches millions of premium-paying customers in just two hours—more than a book or a cover story could do in that time. And it’s fantastically made—a clearly written, beautifully rendered story of misdirected energy, bad science, megalomaniacs, and the many good intentions on the way to hell. The two hours of the documentary are gripping, as each of the documentary’s eight ex-Scientologists share more and more details about their time in the organization. The church has made much of how the film is smearing Scientology, but if anything, the documentary could stand to be more gruesome. “Going Clear” the film is very careful about presenting just the most verifiable, most comprehensible facts—even though Scientology itself often defies comprehension. So, for example, deaths connected to the church are left out, as are potentially confusing details like exactly how and where church members lived within the organization (it seems that churchgoers disappearing for days at a time would not have raised significant alarm).

Still, it’s odd: In many ways, “Going Clear” is a collection of alleged abuses that have been reported on many times in the past; it’s revealing little to no new information on the church. Instead, it’s really an exercise in effective packaging. The focus is less on the human capital lost in service to Scientology and more on its finances. Hubbard managed to work his anti-tax rhetoric into not just his private conversations with fellow believers but also his handwritten scripture of Xenu, the overlord that froze people and sent them into space some 75 million years ago. How did Xenu lure his subjects into the chambers where they were then cryogenically frozen? Oh, by making them come in to pay their taxes.

What’s particularly galling about Scientology is that it lives at the intersection of two billion-dollar industries—the industry of self-serving “religion,” dominated by the church, and the equally self-serving industry of Hollywood. This is the real test of “Going Clear”—not the general public, which seems at least vaguely skeptical of Scientology; not journalists, who have long been critical; not even the government, who would have preferred to collected on those billion dollars in unpaid back taxes. It’s Hollywood, where the church has a significant foothold and continues to draw new members. “Going Clear” hones in on the stories of John Travolta and Tom Cruise, the two most public faces of the church of Scientology, and makes the case for not just why actors like these two might have joined, but then the mechanics through which they ended up staying.

In the years between the first rumors of abuses within the church and “Going Clear,” though, it’s not like either Cruise or Travolta have found themselves out of jobs. Nor have any of the people on this lengthy list, including Elisabeth Moss, Juliette Lewis and Laura Prepon. We have all been living in and contributing to a world where Scientology is normalized, even as mounting evidence suggests that it might routinely destroy people’s lives. There’s far too much money to be made—for Scientologists and Hollywood insiders alike—to be distracted by something as inconvenient as the truth. Unlike the Scientologists, though, we do not have a readily available set of preprogrammed beliefs to assuage our doubts.

Article in full here. Thoughts?


(pictured: image from Salon)

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