Writing about Scientology

The writer is of course not me but Janet Reitman who wrote Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. Given Scientology’s record for aggressively filling lawsuits alledging copyright infringement and libel against journalists who are critical of its practices, I wonder how much more scrutiny Reitman’s book got from the author herself, her publisher (Houghton Mifflin), as well as other intermediaries (like the publisher’s errors and omissions insurer) than an average nonfiction book, or even the average nonfiction book on living persons/subsisting organizations that are not of Scientology’s ligitious caliber.

As Reitman writes of Scientology,

Indeed, harassment by lawsuit was not simply a matter of practice; it was a matter of doctrine. The purpose of a lawsuit, L. Ron Hubbard [the founder of Scientology] wrote in 1955, was “to harass and discourage rather than to win,” and defending oneself against legal charges was “untenable,” he added. “The only way to defend anything is to ATTACK, and if you ever forget that, then you will lose every battle you are ever engaged in, whether it is in terms of personal conversation, public debate, or a court of law.” (Location 3878-3881)

In the face of this “doctrine” and the recognition that whatever is the merit of a lawsuit, defending oneself against it is incredibly costly, I wonder how much was edited out of Reitman’s original drafts with the aim of being ironclad against any potential ligitation. I wonder how much was lost in such editing.

And even though this is a trite sentiment expressed in the most cliché of ways, I’m going to say it anyway: I admire the author and her publisher for the courage they show in tackling such a project. Imagine having a case like that of author Paulette Cooper (who was the target of a Scientology’s operation to have her imprisoned/committed to a mental asylum in retaliation for a critical piece she wrote on the church) as a grim reminder of the potential devastating consquences for writing and publishing such a book as Inside Scientoology in mind and still proceeding with the project. How admirable! So perhaps it’s a stretch to compare Cooper and Reitman to war correspondents like Anne Garrels and journalists like Anna Politkovskaya, but it is not a stretch that breaks the similarities.

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