Title: Scientology from inside
out - (RVY)
Robert Vaughn Young: Scientology from inside out
"This is one of the most important articles ever written
on the subject of the cult. Nowhere else are these
points explained." - Jon Atack
Published in Quill, The Magazine of The Society for Professional
Journalists; November-December 1993. [pages 38-41, consisting of a
major story, a smaller story and four sidebars] Copyright 1993 by
Quill. Webbed with RVY's permission.
Scientology from inside out
A former insider reveals strategies for managing the news media
They say the first step in any recovery program is the admission,
so here it is: I handled public relations (PR) and the media for
L. Ron Hubbard and his Scientology empire for 20 years.
It is no accident that I avoid saying "Church of Scientology" --
the trademarked corporate name. The Scientology world is much
larger than merely the "Church" of Scientology (see sidebar
"Secular", p. 40). It is a labyrinth of corporate shells that,
like a hall of mirrors, was designed to baffle all but the
initiated. Add to that an arcane language and dedicated "PRs"
trained to divert and control inquiries, and it becomes obvious
why few outsiders have been able to comprehend the Scientology
hydra, let alone write about it. I hope this will make it easier.
From 1969 to 1989, I worked at every echelon of the organization,
from a small, new "mission" up to national and then international
level, including handling media in other countries and working at
Hubbard's personal literary agency. During my tenure, I handled
reporters from high school papers and from The New York Times. I
have appeared as a Scientology spokesman on radio talk shows and
national TV news, as well as in magazines, books, and even a
documentary film. I was a member of the Guardian's Office, the
pseudo-naval Sea Organization, and the glitzy Author Services
Inc., Hubbard's literary agency in downtown Hollywood.
When the FBI raided Church of Scientology Guardian offices in Los
Angeles and D.C. in 1977, I was the national spokesman, fielding
questions on that day and in the months to come.
When Hubbard's secret international headquarters at Gilman Hot
Springs near Hemet, California, was exposed in 1980, I went in to
convert the image of the facility overnight. I gave the Los
Angeles ABC-TV affiliate a tour of "Golden Era Productions," the
image it still has to this day (see sidebar "How to fool the
press", p. 41).
When Hubbard died in 1986, I was called to his secret California
ranch, arriving well before the authorities were called, to help
design and implement the strategy to control the media, as well as
to calm his followers.
For my training, I studied and had secret directives from Hubbard
and others on how to handle reporters, how to deal with police and
government agencies, how to create front groups, and how to
discredit or destroy a person or a group with Hubbard's "fair
I also trained other Scientology PRs on how to handle the media,
using material from Hubbard. This included how to respond to a
question without answering, how to divert the issue, how to tell
"an acceptable truth," how to stall for time, how to assume
various emotional states to control another, how to "attack the
attacker," how to take control of a conversation, how to introvert
a person and how to "get the message across" (especially in an age
of sound bites), how to help Scientology attorneys write
inflammatory legal papers so the PR could then safely use the
abusive phrases, and how to appear to be a religion.
This, in brief, is what a journalist faces when encountering a
trained and dedicated Scientology PR. The journalist wants a
story. The PR wants to kill the story, or at least control it.
While this is not particularly unusual, Scientology goes further
than most. Scientology stands ready and able to unleash an assault
on the journalist that can include private detectives and
lawsuits, making it little wonder that publications have grown
reluctant to write about the Hubbard empire. (See "Shudder into
silence," Quill, Nov./Dec., 1991.)
Since Scientologists know how the Fourth Estate operates, it's
time the journalist had a chance to learn some of the attitudes,
rules, tactics, and tricks known only to Scientology.
1. Your local fanatic.
Before taking with any Scientology PR or executive, a journalist
must know that he or she will be talking to a fanatic -- a person
seeking to save the world. This is exactly what Scientologists
believe they are doing.
Moreover, unless you stand ready to print a Scientology story
exactly as presented, you will be viewed as an enemy, an agent of
the American Medical Association (AMA), a mouthpiece of
psychiatry, or someone ready "to sell out the human race if his
editor told him to" -- in the words of a Hubbard policy letter of
August 14, 1963. (This is a key Scientology document. Ask a PR to
give you a copy. If he declines, it can be found in the green
policy volumes available in any Scientology bookstore.
2. You keeping notes?
Know that after your meeting (and after each encounter, including
phone calls) the PR will write a debrief This report will usually
be E-mailed to the PR's superior and up the command channel -- and
probably also into an intelligence area for filing. Therefore,
start your own notes of everything that transpires.
3. Image is everything.
Realize that when you are dealing with a PR or official of the
Church of Scientology, religious image is not only a vital PR
defense (the ecclesiastical equivalent of wrapping oneself in the
flag) but is also crucial for tax-exemption purposes and for court
cases. Thus the PR must be sure to demonstrate that Scientology is
"an applied religious philosophy." The PR will have many documents
to "prove the religious bona fides" of Scientology (but lack
anything to the contrary -- such as decisions or rulings -- of
which he may honestly not know).
4. The shell game.
When proving the bona fides, PRs make no distinction among the
many Scientology corporations. A Los Angeles organization will
parade the acceptance of Scientology in London or St. Louis. But
when needed, a complex labyrinth of corporations -- a veritable
hall of mirrors -- comes into play. Suddenly no two Scientology
organizations touch. Officials of one will act as if they barely
know the officials in another. The reason is, of course, the IRS
and the courts.
So try to find out which corporation you're talking to and how it
relates to the material you are being given. See if the PR or
official is willing to go on-record permeating the corporate
Trying to sort out the relations between the Church of Spiritual
Technology, World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, and the
Religious Technology Center is like trying to solve a Rubik's
Cube. Simply take the shortcut: find the unincorporated Sea
Organization (SO). Touted as a "fraternal" organization, the SO is
the highest inner circle of Scientology; it was the actual alter
ego of Hubbard, the hidden nexus that permeates all corporations.
Surprisingly, it has escaped scrutiny.
But asking the SO about the SO is like asking the CIA about the
CIA. The difference is the CIA must respond to Freedom of
Information Act requests.
5. Say what?
Politicians are notorious for responding to a question without
answering it; Scientology PRs practice the skill for hours on end.
The PR will drill how to answer simple questions about
Scientology, how to "no-answer" a question, how to stall for time,
and how to attack. (According to the original material, this
included shouting, banging the desk, pointing at the reporter, and
Thus a seemingly innocuous question such as "What is Scientology?"
has already been practiced extensively, and there is a ready
answer. More probing questions will produce "no answer." Therefore
a reporter can measure sensitivity by avoidance, and you will find
that once you understand this, it is quite easy to spot.
To deal with this, first realize that it is part of the PR's
training. Listen carefully to his or her answers. (Better yet,
tape the interview.) When the PR tries to avoid the question with
a non sequitur, repeat your question. Continue to repeat your
question until you actually get an answer. Ask the PR what drills
he or she did before your interview, and ask to see current
organization policies on handling the media. (Many are publicly
available in Scientology bookstores.)
6. A dead what?
Depending on your story angle, you can easily find yourself buried
by packs of documentation. Some are called "DA [dead agent]
packs." Hubbard took the phrase from Sun-tzu's "The Art of War,"
in which different types of agents are described. The "dead agent"
is the one who is caught in a lie. The "DA pack" is supposed to
counter a lie (thereby rendering the liar "dead" as a credible
source) and usually addresses a particular document, from a
newspaper article to a book. It is also used to discredit a person
or a group that may be a source of criticism of Scientology.
A DA pack can include anything from Hubbard's writings to a piece
of press to an affidavit obtained by a private investigator. The
purpose is to refute the targeted piece, person or group at
virtually any cost. If the article presents no clear-cut
falsehoods or errors but paints Scientology in an unfavorable
light, the DA becomes a general reply (usually an attack on the
source) that may be issued as a pamphlet, an ad, or an article.
Where possible, verify the claims or documentation. Contact the
targeted person, group, or author of the article. Also take note
of what is not refuted or challenged. In Scientology, omission can
be as good as admission.
You can ask to talk to the people who produced the DA pack, but
chances are you will not be allowed to, because they are not
trained to deal with the media. In Scientology, only trained PRs
are supposed to talk to the press. If an exception is made, it
will be only those that are proofed up or drilled or have a proven
track record of talking to the media about Scientology, and then
it is often with a PR present. (A recent example will be found in
the September issue of Premiere. The reporter was denied access to
Hollywood celebrities in Scientology.) If you can do it, find some
staff members who will talk to you. Find some field Scientologists
to interview. You'll learn more from them.
7. Go for the gold.
In Scientology, there is an exact chain of command. Each
organization has one. The public version is supposed to be posted
on a large wall of the organization. It should show the local
position of your PR What will not be shown is his or her chain of
The media are handled by the Office of Special Affairs, or OSA, in
the Church of Scientology. The OSA PR will have a senior on the PR
chain of command. If the PR is a local OSA staff member (meaning
the PR for a city or area), his or her senior will be at the
continental level (such as OSA United States, located in Los
Angeles) and then at the "int" or international level (OSA Int is
also in L.A.). After that, the chain of command jumps to the
Religious Technology Center (RTC). In highly unusual
circumstances, an RTC official will intervene to handle a
journalist, particularly if it is a crucial story for one reason
or another, because RTC monitors all OSA activity and is
ultimately responsible for any media on Scientology, whether good
RTC's chairman of the board is David Miscavige, who is now the
admitted head of the Church of Scientology. His latest
intervention will be found in the October issue of Premiere
magazine. For any story on Scientology, Miscavige is the one to be
interviewed. He lives on the Golden Era Productions property at
Gilman Hot Springs. The PR assigned to you will know how to get a
message to him. If all else fails, call Golden Era Productions.
The personnel there know how to reach him.
Scientology is in a state of siege with psychiatry, the media, and
anything else perceived as attacking Hubbard or the organization.
It has been that way since Hubbard named them as enemies decades
ago. Talk to a Scientology PR long enough, and you may begin to
sense something vaguely familiar about the attitude. walk through
a Scientology office, and the proliferation of photographs and
busts of Hubbard may strike a familiar chord.
Just substitute "Sea Organization" for "Party" in the following
passage, and the chilling parallel may be evident:
"Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent,
industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is
also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic
whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic
triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the
mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter
whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive
victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going
well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should
exist. The splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires
of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere
of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks one
goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner
Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In
his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a
member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war
news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war
is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for
purpose quite other than the declared ones; but such knowledge is
easily neutralized by the technique of double-think meanwhile no
Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief
that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously,
with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world." --George
Robert Vaughn Young is a free-lance writer in Newport Beach,
p. 39 - sidebar: Bibliography:
There will be no lack of material from Scientology about the
movement. But there are a number of works that the Scientologists
will not cite. Among them are:
* Los Angeles Times, June 2429, 1990. This is a six-part series
by Robert W. Welkos and Joel Sappell. It is the most
comprehensive series undertaken by a newspaper.
* Time Magazine, May 6, 1991, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and
Power," by Richard Behar.
* Jon Atack, "A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics, and
L. Ron Hubbard Exposed" (Carol Publishing Group" 1990). This
is the most definitive book available.
* Russell Miller, "The Bare Faced Messiah: The Story of L. Ron
Hubbard" (paperback, Sphere Books Ltd." 1987)
* Roy Wallis, "The Road To Total Freedom" (Columbia University
Press, 1976). Perhaps because this is a sociological study of
Scientology, this is a cold, calm, academic dissection of the
subject and Hubbard.
p. 39 - sidebar: PR Attack
I also trained other Scientology PRs how to handle the media,
using material from Hubbard. This included
* How to respond to a question without answering.
* How to divert the issue, how to tell "an acceptable truth."
* How to stall for time.
* How to easily assume various emotional states to control
* How to "attack the attacker."
* How to take control of a conversation, how to introvert a
person and how to "get the message across."
* How to help Scientology attorneys write inflammatory legal
papers so the PR could then safely use the abusive phrases.
* How to appear to be a religion."
-- Robert Vaughn Young.
p. 40 - sidebar: The Secular Side
Scientology actually has two sides: the religious and the secular.
Some may prefer to pursue just the secular side. For example:
* The Way to Happiness Foundation -- This was formed to manage
distribution of the Hubbard booklet by the same name that he
claimed is a "non religious moral code." Others say it is a
covert way of establishing Hubbard's presence.
* Author Services Inc. (ASI) -- This was established in the
early 1980s as a for profit "full service literary agency"
with offices on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard. The only catch
was that Hubbard was the only author. And every staff member
was in the Sea Organization.
* Bridge Publications, Inc. (BPI) -- BPI publishes Hubbard's
books and materials and distributes them to Churches of
Scientology as well as to commercial outlets. It is located
at the Scientology complex in Hollywood.
* Citizens Commission On Human Rights (CCHR) -- Coordinated out
of the Office of Special Affairs, CCHR is perhaps
Scientology's oldest effort in the field of social reform. It
does not overtly promulgate Scientology but its connection is
not denied. Its purpose is to expose the "crimes" of
* Sterling Management -- A large for profit management
consulting firm in Glendale, Calif., Sterling Management
holds "seminars" regularly in cities across the United
States. Its primary audience appears to be dentists. It says
that it is merely using the "administrative technology" of L.
Ron Hubbard to help businesses grow. Others say that it is a
covert way of bringing money and new people into Scientology.
The issue of the connection between the two is currently
under litigation in a Los Angeles Superior Court. It is still
in the pre-trial stage.
This is but the beginning. There are many more for-profit groups
that claim to use Hubbard technology. They are usually members of
the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE) which is
licensed by RTC to use Hubbard's name and materials. WISE issues a
directory of members, and other publications (such as the "Who,
What, Where" directory in Los Angeles) also promote businesses
that are Scientologically-oriented and staffed or run by
-- Robert Vaughn Young
p. 41 - sidebar: How To Fool The Press: A study in misinformation
In nearly 20 years of handling the media for Scientology and
Hubbard, I dealt with a lot of journalists. One of the most
challenging occurred in 1980, when the Riverside Press-Enterprise
broke a story by Dick Lyneis that Hubbard was secretly ensconced
at a nearby deserted resort called Gilman Hot Springs.
Since the FBI raid on Scientology offices in 1977, Hubbard had
been the target of an increasing number of process servers and
government investigators. His location had become one of
Scientology's best-kept secrets. When necessary, Hubbard could
move and he did.
But the headquarters of Scientology International in Gilman Hot
Springs could not move so easily. Although Hubbard claimed not to
be running the Church of Scientology, in fact he did. Here was the
seat of the Hubbard Holy Empire, 90 minutes east of Los Angeles.
Hubbard was not eager for attorneys, the media, or the Internal
Revenue Service to know this.
I was sent in to handle the situation.
As in Clearwater, Florida, Scientology had covertly bought the
Gilman Hot Springs property and secretly moved in. The phone book
listed it as the "Scottish Highland Quietude Club." Few driving by
were interested in the few people who occasionally walked between
By the time I arrived, Hubbard had disappeared. Most of the staff
he had deserted were terrified because the security he had
demanded had been blown. They knew his temper and they feared his
I toured the property and found a small film-making area and an
audio tape production unit, called Golden Era, which was supposed
to supply materials to the Church of Scientology. Both had been
shut down by Hubbard, but I saw my solution. It was, as he called
it, "an acceptable truth." I obtained L.A.'s approval for my plan.
Through that night and into the morning, the facility was
converted. I had the paper covering all the windows taken off.
Everything was cleaned. Equipment and desks were rearranged to
hide certain tasks and to create others. Tapes, films, scripts,
and costumes were dragged out and made obvious. Many international
management staff were sent off the base to reduce the number of
The next day, the "Scottish Highland Quietude Club" had become
Golden Era Studios. A media tour went without a hitch. The
tape-production area wasn't cranking yet, but I did get people
busy making costumes and booklets or doing artwork. We found a
makeshift studio that "just happened" to be working when the tour
came through. Asked about "international management," I said yes,
they did manage distribution of films and tapes, which did go to
churches worldwide. No one noticed I had avoided the question and
diverted attention to the film and tape production.
The news that night was perfect. The Riverside Press-Enterprise
story had been countered. Gilman was no longer considered the
headquarters of Scientology. It was just a bustling film and tape
facility that supplied the Church of Scientology.
When the flap died down, international management quietly moved
back in. Since then Golden ERA Productions has expanded
considerably. There are even guided public tours and PR glitz,
including an occasional VIP or Scientology celebrity tour of the
tape and film facilities. No one asks about the other function we
were able to quietly reinstall after the flap was handled., or the
other management organizations that were quietly added.
But they're there, just up the hill from the sound stage, not too
far from the spa where the hot springs no longer flow.
-- Robert Vaughn Young
p. 41 - sidebar: Experience talks
Some journalists who have been involved with stories about the
world of Scientology were willing to offer their advice on how to
approach the subject:
Robert Welkos, Los Angeles Times: "It helps to know their PRs, so
the reporter is not intimidated. On the organization, its a
hydra-headed monster. I tried to not let it baffle me. I decided
not to be concerned with how each piece fit into the big strategy.
You'll go nuts if you try to prove this or that is the most
important arm of Scientology. And be prepared [for] lot of contact
John Richardson, Premiere Magazine: "Really do your legwork first.
Research the history. And act from the start as if you are already
in a lawsuit by being straight, honest and keeping good notes and
records. When you get into the interview stage, there will be
attempts to trip you up and challenge what you do and say as well
as attempts to lay groundwork for a case against you. So watch
what you say."
Curtis Krueger, St. Petersburg Times: "Know the history. It's good
to read "Dianetics" to now the terminology and theory.... [I]t's a
good idea to read books, biographies of Hubbard to know the
controversy. It's important background. [On working with
Scientology]: Expect a lot of runaround, a lot of delaying to get
information. It requires a lot of patience. But if you persist,
you'll get it."
Bill Horn, American Lawyer: "The best tactic is to stick with
basic journalistic principles. Go back for fair comment. Take
heavy notes. I'd suggest tape.... If you have to interview, keep
in mind their tactic of suing so be prepared. And always research
before. I did a lot of calls before contact with the church."
Bill Press, Los Angeles radio and TV commentator: "Be prepared to
be harassed. They are very protective and aggressive towards
anyone who is writing any story on them. I was at their property
on a public sidewalk doing a stand-up, never even talked to anyone
in Scientology, returned to the TV station, 15 minutes later and
before I got there they were on the phone to the news director
demanding to know the context and wanting equal time. They're very
clever, very skilled at media harassment. I was not prepared for
that kind of harassment. I never ever received anything like that
from any other source. They're an untold story. They've scared a
lot of news off. They're getting away with murder. I say put on
your asbestos suit and charge."
-- Robert Vaughn Young
A lot has happenned since this article was written by Vaughn
The lawsuit by Scientology against TIME Magazine's 1991 article:
"The Thriving Cult of Money and Greed" was dismissed..
The Lawsuit against the Washington Post for it's article of
about me, was WON by the POST and Scientology ended up paying them
a half a million dollars for thier legal costs.
A liable suit by Bonnie
Woods in England for Scientology's Dead Agent
tactics results in a public apology to Ms. Woods and payment of damages.