Following two posts on Nullifidian’s blog (here and here), and a bit on BBC News 24 this morning, I couldn’t help but start to feel sorry for John Sweeney. In a nutshell, this guy is a BBC reporter who has been looking into the ridiculous cult which calls itself the Church of Scientology. From Nullifidian’s site:
John Sweeney investigates the Church of Scientology, endorsed by some major Hollywood celebrities, but which continues to face the criticism that it is less of a religion and more of a cult. Some former members claim the Church uses a mind control technique to put opponents at a psychological disadvantage. During the course of his investigation, Sweeney is shouted at, spied on, visited in his hotel at midnight and chased around the streets of LA by strangers in hire cars.
Sadly, Sweeney is far from a “good” investigative journalist. I suspect he planned to use this Scientology thing to get a “big break” into the real world of hardcore investigators. When faced with fairly obvious methods, Sweeney falls for them and hands the Scientologist Cultists a few (albeit minor) PR victories. In typical Cult fashion, the Scientologists have pounced on any apparent weakness shown by Sweeney and a video clip of him loosing it (after goading it should be added) has been getting lots of hits on YouTube.
Obviously, being PR-Aware, the Scientology Cultists got the clip to YouTube long before Panorama could go out. This seems to me like an organisation which has realised it is going to look bad in the court of public opinion and is trying to discredit it’s “opponent” in advance. Does this surprise anyone?
In a rather lame return shot, the BBC news today showed the clip with it’s surrounding footage. While it does explain why Sweeney lost it (a bit), it still shows him in a bad light. He is not fast witted enough to respond to the Cults comments – even when they are so blatantly nonsensical it screams for a retort – and does not appear confident in himself enough to resist their tricks and PR traps. Not the best example of Panorama’s investigative style of journalism. In one instance the cult official Sweeney is talking to rages at him for “disrespecting” his (Scientologist’s) faith. Sweeney’s only response is “I am a British citizen and we have the right to freedom of speech.” Lame and inaccurate.
Part of me feels the BBC, and Sweeney, viewed Scientology as a sort of “club” cult which would be an easy target. This may be the case in the UK, but it overlooks the years of practice and experience the cult has had in the UK, where much more aggressive organisations have attacked it.
On a more generalist note, why draw the line at Scientology? Why is it, that the nonsense claims of L Ron Hubbard are any more nonsense than the Church of Latter Day Saints, the New Testament, The Koran, The Old Testament (etc). They are all nonsensical woo cults. Is Scientology viewed as a legitimate target “religion” (it is not a “religion” in the UK, fortunately) simply because it is new? Which impartial judge gets to choose between one being true and the other false?
[tags]Scientology, John Sweeney, BBC reporter, YouTube, L Ron Hubbard, Brainwashed, Nutters, Cult, Woo, Idiots, Panorama, Society, Mind Control, Insane, Cultists, Religion, Philosophy, Fiction[/tags]