I don’t know any Scientologists that I’m aware of and my only connection to L. Ron Hubbard is having read his bad science fiction novel Battlefield Earth back in the ’80s and later—primarily out of morbid curiosity—watching the even worse film adaptation starring Scientologist John Travolta.
However, like my colleague Kira Davis, I’ve been riveted by A&E’s show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath but for several episodes I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I think I’ve figured it out now.
If you haven’t seen the show, you should. Here’s the synopsis from A&E:
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath gives a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them.
Leah Remini, along with high level former Scientology executives and Church members, explores individual accounts from ex-Church members and their families through meetings and interviews with Leah. Each episode features stories from former members whose lives have been affected by the Church’s harmful practices, even well after they left the organization. Along with a team of former high-ranking Scientology insiders who understand the inner workings and policies of the organization, Leah gives the victims a chance to be heard.
Last night while watching episode 7 it dawned on me why I am so involved with this show: What Leah Remini is doing is the most Andrew Breitbart-esque thing I have seen anyone do since his untimely passing. Like Andrew did with the Democrat-media complex, Remini is throwing down the gauntlet and challenging a corrupt institution to prove her wrong.
I only met Andrew Breitbart a couple of times, both of which were in chaotic and noisy environments, so I can’t claim to have been his friend or to have really known him personally. Still, he is one of relatively few people I would consider to be personally inspiring to me.
Those of you who attend a lot of conservative events may have seen a typographical portrait of him on the back of a t-shirt or, more likely, stuck to a blogger’s laptop. I’m the one who created that. I was compelled to do some sort of tribute to him after he died and that was the result.
The phrases that make up the portrait are all Andrew’s own words (along with a few words that describe him). If you take out the media and political context, it is very easy to imagine similar statements coming from Leah Remini about the Church of Scientology.
- “You bullsh*t artists. You hateful bastards. How dare you impugn these people’s reputation?”
- “I want my legacy to be that they know that they screwed with the wrong guy.”
- “You have a right to think freely and not to be a slave to an ideology.”
- “I retweet it to remind them that I know exactly who they are.”
- “They’re a bunch of totalitarian freaks.”
I have no idea what Remini’s politics are. Maybe when you publicly pick a fight with a global cult that has virtually unlimited resources, there isn’t even room for politics in your life. Whether she knows it or not though, Remini’s fight is the same fight for liberty and truth that Andrew Breitbart fought, just on a different front. She is in effect saying to a the cult of Scientology, “I’m going to follow the facts where they lead and if you don’t like it, f*** you. Bring it on. Accuse me of whatever you want, I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m just going to take what you throw at me and use it to show everyone who you are and why you need to be taken down.”
She is executing her takedown just like Andrew would, by telling stories. Data and analysis don’t change people’s minds anywhere near as well as good storytelling.
Scientology is responding with the same sort of tactics the institutional left used against Andrew. According to the people whose stories Remini is telling, anyone who leaves Scientology or speaks ill of it is declared to be a “suppressive person” and is considered “fair game.” Scientologists then use any and all means to intimidate, discredit, or personally destroy those people. They employ private investigators to dig up dirt. They falsely accuse them of crimes. They follow them with cameras in order to capture embarrassing video. It is like an even more fanatical version of the Saul Alinsky tactics employed by far left progressives.
Remember when “Joe the Plumber” tripped up candidate Obama into being honest about wealth redistribution? In just a few days the media investigated the background of a private citizen more thoroughly than they ever did Obama’s. How about when the New York Times crowdsourced their sleazy fishing expedition into Sarah Palin’s emails from when she was Governor of Alaska? Have you ever heard of a black conservative who hasn’t been smeared as an “Uncle Tom?” Or a scientist skeptical about man’s role in climate change who hasn’t been accused of being in the pocket of Big Oil? Racism, sexism, misogyny, are all part of the litany against those who have a different opinion. It’s all the same though. Speak out against progressive orthodoxy and you will be smeared or destroyed. The more effectively you speak out, the more weapons they will bring to bear, not to refute what you say but to silence you from saying it.
Scientologists raise it to a whole new sinister level because they are a religion and private organization bound by fewer rules. They tear apart families. They quite literally hold people prisoner. Remini’s show details episodes of physical, mental, and sexual abuse—even forced abortions. “They’re a bunch of totalitarian freaks” quite literally. They use evil methods to rob people of their freedom. You can argue that people enter into Scientology of their own free will but that doesn’t justify the violation of their human rights.
Leah Remini is fighting back in the spirit of what I believe Andrew Breitbart meant when he first declared #WAR.
I can’t help but think Andrew would be a huge fan of what she is doing. He might even be helping her if he was still with us.
I would not be surprised at all if at some point during the series we hear Leah defiantly ask, “APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT?”