Pod people: The tea party + Scientology

I’ve been wondering whether the tea party has somewhat replaced religious conservatives in some of the 2012 presidential election coverage, but maybe it’s too soon to tell. After all, if someone like former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee gets the nomination, we probably will see quite a bit of religion coverage.

In GetReligion’s latest podcast, we discuss a recent story about how Iowa’s tea party found religion, raising questions about whether the national tea party movement finds room for social issues or whether that has been pushed aside for fiscal priorities.

Reporters don’t necessarily have to choose either the tea party or religious conservatives, since they might feel similarly about fiscal issues, but the tea party seems to be snagging many of the early headlines. Part of that may be the nature of the media: always looking for something new to cover so reporters can break new ground. The other part of the coverage focus might just be due to the state of the economy.

On the Democratic side, it’s hard to see anything new out of President Obama’s religious background, though false Muslim rumors may continue. Among some of the potential candidates on the Republican side, we could see a candidate coming forward who is Mormon, Catholic or evangelical, so it’ll be interesting to see how much interest groups (and then journalists) focus on religion.

Back to the podcast, we also talked about that massive New Yorker piece on Scientology–really, go read it if you haven’t had a chance. Todd points out that the magazine devoted a word for every self-described Scientology in America–25,000.

My hunch is that journalists love to cover Scientology because of the celebrity draw and its secretive nature. It’s kind of the perfect combination for journalists hungry to uncover juicy details, though because of the limitations, much of the coverage tends to come from people who have left Scientology. Remember that Esquire piece that complained that journalists need to re-focus their energy towards the Catholic Church? Here’s a comment from Nicole Neroulias:

I was hoping GetReligion would comment on this story, and am glad you also singled out that odd Esquire response. As I commented over at [Belief] Beat, it doesn’t pass the smell test–the argument is that we shouldn’t bother investigating abuses and allegations of wrongdoing because the group is small?! (Plus, any Catholic or religion reporter can vouch for the fact that the Catholic Church has gotten plenty of journalistic scrutiny in the past decade… And, it’s not a zero sum game.)

What she said.

If you’re checking in our podcasts, I assume you must be audio people. Be sure to check out the NPR interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross for the author Lawrence Wright’s background work on the piece and The New Yorker‘s mp3 where the author talks about the uniqueness of covering Scientology. Generally, what do you think about the audio pieces that go with a piece: do they enhance the story, feel journalistically narcissistic or something else? What do you look for in audio pieces?

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  • Ira Rifkin

    GR posts keep insisting that reporters love to cover Scientology because of its Hollywood connection, secrecy and – not mentioned as often – certified beyond-the-mainstream-religious-pale.

    I’m not sure about that.

    But I am sure that editors generally hate Scientology stories because the organization is so quick to harass and sue, and because of the massive reporter hours such stories consume to legally insulate them. That’s why we’ve seen relatively few quality Scientology investigations over the years, given the wealth of material.

    So more power to the papers/magazines that have plowed this field! It takes deep commitment.

  • Meepla Burk

    I liked all the interviews and podcasts surrounding Wright’s article. Wright is brilliant, speaks well and is a thoughtful journalist. He spent 10 months on that one article, and it shows.

    As you mentioned in your podcast interview, Wright got to the foundation [of fraud] in Hubbard’s therapy/religion, in that Hubbard was never blind or paralyzed, therefore how could he have discovered healing through Dianetics?

    Aside from their star members, secrecy, and outrageous prices, Scientology is more popular among journalists now, because of the many years it was off-limits. For years, editors wouldn’t allow staff to write about it and many book publishers refused to touch it.

    Wiki Paulette Cooper
    First author to write a book about them, and how they framed her for bomb threats and tried to drive her insane.

    Richard Behar, author of 1991 TIME cover story: SCIENTOLOGY: THE THRIVING CULT OF GREED AND POWER.

    Time magazine was hit with so many law suits, they spent millions defending the story, and won. Back at Scientology headquarters, they celebrated, because the lawsuit cost so much for TIME to defend, and afterwards magazines wouldn’t touch the subject for years.

    Scientology had a way of CRUSHING opponents, especially ex-members who dared speak out.

    Even though Scientology is a fake religion, my interest in studying its history of fraud, operation, teachings, and abuses, has expanded my understanding of the larger topics of both human nature and religion, including the religion in which I was raised, a major Christian sect.

    So, it is not just about 25,000 members in the U.S. when they claim there are at least 3 million in the U.S. Scientology is fascinating for most of us, for the same reason Wright mentioned.

    [Paraphrased] How do intelligent people like Haggis get involved in the level of repressive crazy that is Scientology?

    I know people who have taken just one course and were absolutely repelled by the whole thing. The hip hip hurray they made the class say to Hubbard’s portrait. Who is he? Stalin? The weird people on staff, kind of zombie-like. The amount of trust they were supposed to place in this, and relinquish their natural impulses to do what Scientology says, while opening their life savings to pay for increasingly expensive courses. They knew immediately something major was wrong, and sensed that these people were just after money.

    How is it some people know right away, and others take 34 years to wake up. How is it so many members fail to read the well-documented history of their founder, Hubbard. And more recently with the web. How can a member fail to be curious about the over 1500 people who have told their stories of being abused, or drained of money, in pursuit of a non-existent CLEAR, and non-existent SUPER POWERS?

    Do you realize their Super Power building in Clearwater will feature astronaut training equipment! They advertise it to members.

    Doesn’t that seem more than a little quirky to you?

    That’s why Scientology is fascinating too. It is so odd.

  • Meepla Burk

    I thought of something else, why Scientology is so fascinating…

    In no other religion or belief system, can an adult go in believing it is tools for living:

    1. Learning to communicate better
    2. Having better relationships
    3. Being more successful
    4. Overcoming past traumas

    Only to find out that at the upper levels, OT1 through VIII, it is something completely different:

    1. Removing clusters of dead space alien souls, that were blasted out of volcanoes 75 million years ago, by Xenu the evil galactic overlord.

    That is the biggest bait and switch in religious history. The disparity between what Scientology says it is, and what it ACTUALLY becomes, is pure fraud and deception.

    And they blackmail people with the information in their private confessionals, when it suits their purpose.

  • Ira Rifkin

    Another reason why the preponderance of editors (and I believe reporters) prefer to steer clear of Scientology: the organized anti-Scientology forces can be just as – shall we say – insistent as Scientology pr/legal staffers.

    For the record: I’m an ex-religion reporter with some experience with all this in Los Angeles and San Francisco who also attended some entry level Scientology classes in the sixties.

  • sharkattacksteve

    Meepla Burk thank you for your truly outstanding comments. I invite you to come over to the YouTube Chanology vids sometime, there’s a scilon by the name of vaLLarrr I’d love to see you debate.

  • Milo

    Like a few other sites congratulating themselves on the denigration of a religion, everything was discussed except the religion. Because he could only find x-ray evidence of an injury, the author of the New Yorker piece concluded it never happened and therefore the whole subject was invalid. Where is the data about the subject?

    Ask even the star of the piece: Scientology works. It does what it says it will do. It is man’s foremost mental and spiritual technology; anyone who actually looks can see that. Paul’s testimony is that he went over his head on stuff he had no reality on. Up to that point he attests its workability. Yet that is a basic: the data promulgated is only true for you if you have seen it for yourself. Well, since it is based on observations that practically anyone can make.

    Even the detractors who know about it admit the above; the solution then would be to find out for oneself. Scientology.org had loads of the actual data. It’s the road out so of course those who wish to keep the lid on will decry it.

  • Bobjohnson

    Sorry Milo but your story about Paul going over his head does ring true. Shouldn’t his auditors have caught the fact that he was having doubts and that scientology wasn’t working for him? I thought that was what the were there for. Apparently their E-Meters are faulty or the Tech is faulty. I imagine the case is that they both are.

    Hubbard said that he came up with dianetics while healing himself from injuries incurred during the war.
    The record shows that Hubbard was never injured during WW-II.

    That being said, no injuries, no dianetics, they are all falsehoods. I won’t even get into those stolen valor medals of Hubbards, because that disgusts me more than the fake religion.