Sunday, December 11, 2016

Scientology in the age of Donald Trump

A&E has a fascinating and entertaining documentary series called “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” which details the actress’s break from Scientology after spending decades within the church/corporation, and follows her as she listens to (fairly horrible) stories of other’s experiences.

It’s interesting not just because of what it reveals about Scientology and its adherents, but about human nature in general.

In the first episode we meet Amy Scobee, who’d been a member of the Sea Org (L. Ron Hubbard’s pseudo-Navy) and had been in charge of the church’s Celebrity Centre. At one point she talks about Scientology leader David Miscavige and his (alleged!) violent, abusive behavior. She explains the mental gymnastics she had to do to justify his actions in her own mind and says, exasperated, “I was rationalizing insanities…” She was able to do this because she believed that Scientology was saving her life and literally saving the world. As Leah Remini herself puts it, “[Scientology] is the belief that you can better your mind, but you’re also helping this planet be a better place.”

For that, you can rationalize anything.

It reminded me of something that the great RuPaul said in an interview, regarding his support for Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton essentially embodied everything that progressives claim to stand against. She was a warmongering neo-con Wall Street puppet who received millions of dollars in payments from repressive foreign governments. She has literally said that politicians should have “private” and “public” positions on issues.

To all of this, RuPaul said,

If you're a politician — not just in Washington but in business and industry, you have to be a politician — there are a lot of things that you have to do that you're not proud of. There are a lot of compromises you have to make because it means that you can get this other thing over here. And if you think that you can go to f*cking Washington and be rainbows and butterflies the whole time, you're living in a f*cking fantasy world. So now, having said that, think about what a female has to do with that: All of those compromises, all of that sh*t, double it by ten. And you get to understand who this woman is and how powerful, persuasive, brilliant, and resilient she is. Any female executive, anybody who has been put to the side — women, blacks, gays — for them to succeed in a white-male-dominated culture is an act of brilliance. Of resilience, of grit, of everything you can imagine. So, what do I think of Hillary? I think she's f*cking awesome. Is she in bed with Wall Street? G*ddammit, I should hope so! You've got to dance with the devil. So which of the horrible people do you want? That's more of the question. Do you want a pompous braggart who doesn't know anything about diplomacy? Or do you want a bad*ss b*tch who knows how to get sh*t done? That's really the question.

RuPaul’s “rationalizing insanities” went viral, meaning there were an awful lot of people who shared this belief that it’s okay to wallow in corruption as long as there’s a perception that you “[know] how to get sh*t done.”

This despite Clinton’s record as a public figure. Her callous, depraved destruction of Libya and the subsequent human rights catastrophe and her own unfeeling reaction to all that death and destruction should have been disqualifying on its own, I would think.

In the second episode of the program we learn that those who leave the church of Scientology are labeled “Suppressive Persons.” Remini says that the church tells them that a Suppressive Person is someone “who loves that people are in pain.” They’re told that they “don’t care about others.” They become enemies of the church and as such need to be attacked, shunned, discredited and destroyed. Mike Rinder was in Scientology from 1961 to 2007, and one of his jobs was to “discredit and destroy critics” of the church. The belief was that the ends justify the means because, again, Scientology is saving the world.

On December 9, the Washington Post sent out a tweet that read, “Mainstream media put out the call for pro-Trump columnists.” The response to that tweet was not unlike the tactics used by Scientology to protect itself. Here’s a sample:

There seems to be a lot of people out there who believe that any attempt to even understand the appeal of Trump is an attempt at normalizing hate. They aren’t interested. Trump supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables,” nothing more. To borrow a phrase that Remini uses to describe Scientologist attitudes toward Suppressive Persons, they are “evil, period—no gray area.”

At one point we see a poster, presumably put up in response to Rinder’s speaking out about the abuse he (claims he) suffered at the hands of Miscavige and the church. The poster says MIKE RINDER: A WALKING “HATE CRIME”. This isn’t far off from the attitudes that many people hold regarding Trump and his supporters. In fact, a Huffington Post contributor called voting for Trump a “hate crime.” A teacher in California suggested that Trump’s presidential election victory was an “act of terrorism.”

I don’t know how Trump is going to run the executive branch of the federal government. No one does. Maybe he’ll turn out to be as terrible as his critics suggest. But the idea that someone might choose to vote for him over the exceptionally flawed Democrat candidate isn’t beyond the realm of the rational. And I have no doubt that some of Trump’s voters were motivated by hatred. But all 62 million of them are not Suppressive Persons, and voting for him wasn’t a “hate crime.”

The attempts by Trump’s most extreme critics to other-ize Trump’s voters and dismiss their legitimate concerns about globalism, trade, the economy, spiking health care costs, international warmongering and so forth are surprisingly and, I think, dangerously cult-like. People of good faith can disagree about politics without one side being evil.

*And by the way, I know that there are Trump supporters who also engage in cultish love for him and his actions/platform, and who other-ize those who voted for Clinton. Does that make it okay that so-called liberals are doing it?

Also, I've written a couple of satirical mystery novels, The Misadventure of Dreama and the Rednecks and The Misadventure of the Busted Reboot that detail what happens when a Gen-X liberal and a Millennial redneck attempt to work together to solve crimes. THESE BOOKS ARE NECESSARY TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.

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