Church of Scientology Representatives Now Bullying Film Critics

Church of Scientology Representatives Now Bullying Film Critics

By this point, it’s no secret that the Church of Scientology doesn’t take too well to criticism. They respond to any suggestion that their practices seem a bit shady with litigation, accusations of religious bigotry and PR statements claiming that its most fervent detractors are merely vengeful ex-members. So it wasn’t too surprising that the Church mounted a strong campaign against Alex Gibney’s new documentary "Going Clear," launching a Twitter account and taking out full-page advertisements in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times to denounce the film. But Scientology’s reps aren’t just knocking the film on social media and via the press: they’re contacting the people reviewing the film.

Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey writes that mere hours after he published his Sundance review of the film on January 27, Flavorwire’s editorial director Elizabeth Spiers received an email from Scientology Director of Public Affairs Karin Pouw:

The above article concerning "Going Clear," Alex Gibney’s film, was posted without contacting the Church for comment. As a result, your article reflects the film which is filled with bald faced lies. I ask that you include a statement from the Church in your article. There is another side to the story which has to be told. Do not be the mouthpiece for Alex Gibney’s propaganda.

Bailey goes on to describe the email’s comparison of critics’ "Going Clear" coverage to the Rolling Stone/UVA debacle (something the CoS has done on Twitter and in print). He also notes that "pretty much every critic who wrote about ‘Going Clear’ got" the email (Indiewire included), and that the Church of Scientology doesn’t seem to realize that critics don’t usually try to interview people for reviews.

But what’s interesting about this tactic — aside from the fact that it somehow doesn’t include the phrase, “Actually, it’s about ethics in Scientology journalism” — is how neatly it comports with the film’s portrayal of the Church as a hive of shady, paranoid control freaks. The assumption is that they merely have to email film writers, chastise them for not doing something that’s never been done in the history of film criticism, and get them to run their “Rolling Stone, though!” response with the unblinking acceptance of an OT I — or, perhaps more accurately, of an outlet terrified of the notoriously litigious organization. (HBO announced they’d lawyered up all the way back in November.)

Bailey contacted Alex Gibney, who responded that “Anytime someone writes something — film criticism or social criticism — about Scientology, the CoS counter-attacks by smearing critics." They’ve also made sure that their new anti-"Going Clear" webpage is the top result for any search about the film, from "Alex Gibney" to "Alex Gibney Flavorwire" to "Alex Gibney Indiewire."

Needless to say, this is pretty creepy stuff, and another example of how the Church of Scientology views every bit of criticism directed their way as a threat to their whole organization and religion. I imagine this practice is going to continue at least up to the HBO premiere of "Going Clear," if not well past. It’s hard to say whether or not they realize that their campaign against the film is going to be the best publicity that Alex Gibney and company could ever hope for, if also a hassle for critics and filmmakers and (this is no small thing) a nightmare for the ex-CoS members who dared to speak out against the Church’s practices. But then, they don’t seem terribly aware that attacking everyone who criticizes you doesn’t do a lot of good for your image.

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I think critics who reviewed Errol Morris’ "Tabloid" got similar e-mails from Joyce McKinney.


This Scientologist hasn’t heard of Godwin’s Law. And in the very first comment as well, that has to be a record!


Yes AK is clearly a Scientology troll and an anti-semite as well. Careful AK, your Thetans are showing.


Scientology is a cult, a totally fabricated "religion" and they have a well earned reputation for shady dealings, especially with anyone who tells the truth about them. And cult members stay within a cult for many reasons, not all of them positive.


Uh, AK, you might want to think about some anger management here as your comparison of a documentary on the habits of a church to the atrocities resulting from Hitler’s propaganda machine, is too far out there for me to comprehend. Or are you playing devil’s advocate? Just to let you know, I don’t think Alex Gibney and co-workers are planning on starting a cult or movement with this film as did HItler, nor do I detect a nefarious plot to eliminate scientology members.


If I wanted to make a documentary about the Mormons,JW,UNIFICATION CHURCH,Scientology, and any other religious cult I would want the movie to have both sides because you would see how brainwashed people get with religion. Scientologist are crazy but the ones that get out are even sadder because they wasted there lives. Going up a bridge to no where and they have no freedoms. The Sea Org live sheltered lives and are lied to by there superiors. The people that told there stories about how bad Scientology is, I always ask why did you join ????? Both Marty Rathbun and Mark Rinder lost there families and they must of seen something positive or they wouldn’t have stayed in Scientology for 30 plus years. LRH is in hell somewhere laughing that his religion is still so infamous.

Body theatans are the worst!

This will all be such great theater; batshit crazy Scientologists vs the W.O.Gs


looks like Ak has gone to ground … Ironic that an article about Scientology trolling gets trolled withinin seconds… By a scientologist much lolz but damage done they got in first— sigh

The Dark Avenger

Hey, AK, unlike the Jews of Hitlers’ time and today, Scientologists are well-known for their lies and crimes they perpetrate, like the scam of Narcqnon’ which is s snare to get drug addicts free from their addictions, only to replace it with becoming a Scientologist instead due to their air-and-switch tactics that have been documented in legal filings against Narcqnon time and time again.


@PB. Gibney tried to get the other side’s views, but they refused by setting up unrealistic demands, which means that the other side wasn’t engaging in "good faith." So, PB, professional documentary filmmaker, what do you do? Well, you go with the source material–Wright’s "Going Clear" and you get as many people who did have a relationship with the subject to go on screen. And as so-called professional documentary fillmmaker, you know that their is more than one way to make a documentary. That you’re accusing the film of being "propaganda" smells of you being a Scientologist.


The sane people of this world have been waiting a very long time for someone to expose this insane cult! My hat is off to you Mr. Gibney. Most intelligent people are well aware of these froot loops.


Um. Millions of Jews. Hitler killed MILLIONS of Jews. As a relative of holocaust survivors, I am having some difficulty understanding your comparison. Having read up on scientology quite a bit, I would sooner compare David Miscavage to Hitler than Alex Gibney…although truthfully, despite my opinions of Miscavage, neither of them belong in the same sentence as Hitler.

Andy Porter

Hello AK! Lets see how your argument works if we turn it around a little bit…Let’s start by doing a documentary on Hitler and the Nazi Party. Should we get "both sides of the story"? Are we supposed to interview Hitler himself and include a bit about how he treats his dogs well, or plays the piano?? This idea that "there are always two sides is silly. There MAY be 2 sides, but they are NOT always equal sides! I spent more than 2 decades in the Church of Scientology. And I did get some gain out of some of it. But the church has lost any sense of humanity, or caring or helping. It is all about glitzy PR (like the Super Bowl ads yesterday) or extracting/extorting donations and buying huge new buildings (which are mostly empty). The Leader of Scientology, David Miscavige is a mirror image of Dick Cheney: mean, petty, spiteful and self absorbed. Okay, maybe that’s demeaning to Dick, but not by much! The ruthless system of management and "handling" situations used by Miscavige and his minions is cruel and unusual. There is an old Russian proverb: The fish rots from the head" and this applies most directly to the Church of Scientology.

diana Hubbard

Standard $cientologist operating procedure: "I’m not a Scientologist but…" Followed by a list of things nobody but a Scientologist could say without laughing. I think we’ve spotted our second Scientologist of the day with PB.


There is no way in hell the American tax payers should be subsidizing an organization like Scientology. They need to have their books reviewed and "audited" immediately if not sooner.


I am no scientologist. I’m a documentary filmmaker. In my professional opinion, AK is correct. A true documentary documents all sides. A propaganda film depicts only the filmmakers opinion on the subject.


Amazing delusions from AK.

So – criticism of Scientology is but a short step away from the gas chambers.



And there we see it; a fatuous trio of self-pity, self-loathing and self-righteousness from the freaky sci-fi cult.

SPecial Person

AK, you say that Mr. Gibney should have gotten both sides. How should he have gone about doing such a thing? Do you realize that according to the Scientology Ethics System Scientologists would be risking their eternity if they were to publicly acknowledge the truth of the allegations that were made in the documentary? Even if a Scientologist agreed with the allegations in the movie he would be under extreme pressure to denounce the allegations as false. Failure to do so could result in his family being torn apart by the Scientology policy on Disconnection.


AK, your comparison might hold more water if Scientology were actually a religion and not a business.


Wow, a Godwin in the first comment Scientology set a new world récord.


My understanding is that Gibney did make attmepts to talk to the CoS, but it, according to Gibney, made all sort of onerous and unreasonable requests. That even seems to be standard CoS operating procedures. CoS is neither a church nor a relogion, but merely sophisticated form of racketeering. As a small "c" chritian even I recoginize that aspecta of my faith are forms of fraud. But Scientology needs some sunlight and I’m glad that Gibney’s film is providing the exposure. CoS is so adamant about attacking its critics because it has nothing really to defend.

Abradolf Lincler

did you just compare this documentary to hitler? thats hilariously misguided


AK, no one cares about Scientology, just another crack-pot organization


AK – that might be a good argument if this article were about the film itself. You can certainly question whether it’s fair of Alex Gibney to show one side and not show the other (if, in fact, that’s what he did. I don’t believe that’s entirely true). But this article is about the Church sending emails to the editors of film critics, demanding a voice be heard or else! It’s not the standard practice of film critics to contact the filmmakers or the subjects of the film to get their take on it before writing a review (good or bad). It’s not an article, it’s an opinion of a movie. And the Church bringing up the Rolling Stone thing is just a scare tactic because there is absolutely no parallel between a blog’s review of a movie and a magazine that’s praised for their journalism completely botching a story. Apples and oranges.


Don’t even think about comparing a documentary about a ridiculous sci-fi based thought system created by an associate of Aleister Crowley to Hitler’s persecution of Jews.


AK – Surely you and the rest of your Scientology friends have better and more productive things to do with your lives than stalk websites and make these absurd comments.


I can spot the Scientologist already!


No actually… the bottom line is that if you’re going to interview a church such as Christianity you go and ask both sides of the members of that faith.

If wanted to do a documentary on the Jewish religion and if I were hitler Id probably just want to create a film that shows how ugly and disgusting jews are and not care about any of the positives of the Jewish faith. Its as simple as that.

If you want to create controversy than by all means just show one side of the tale.

This is exactly what Hitler did when he wanted to get Germany against the jews. He created films that just showed how terrible jews were. And then eventually everyone got on board and everyone was ok with gassing 100s of thousands of jews.

This is the same story repeated in history just with a different religion.

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