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Friday, July 22, 2005

In Memory of Those Who Were Forced to Pretend They Cared About Hetch Hetchy

I guess it's Bay Guardian alumni week. For three years I was the lowliest person at the Guardian, the teenager whose job it was to write about punk rock concerts in between articles on how to find the best pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay and follow up whatever brain aneurysm awakened Bruce Brugmann that morning. Paul Krassner and David Johnston were on the other end of the food chain. And while David Johnston is following the Adventures of Turd Blossom for the NYT, Krassner has an article on Scientology in this week's NY Press:
In 1971, I announced in an ad the features that would be included in the 13th-anniversary issue of The Realist. Among them, "The Rise of Sirhan Sirhan in the Scientology Hierarchy." The Church of Scientology proceeded to sue me for libel; they wanted $750,000 for those nine words, the title of an article that I had not yet written.

What's relevant here is the paranoid mindset of Scientology, as revealed in this excerpt from their complaint:

"...Defendants have conspired between themselves and with other established religions, medical and political organizations and persons presently unknown to plaintiff. By subtle covert and pernicious techniques involving unscrupulous manipulation of all public communication media, defendants and their co-conspirators have conspired to deny plaintiff its right to exercise religious beliefs on an equal basis with the established religious organizations of this country."

I published their complaint in The Realist and told my attorney, James Wolpman (now an OSHA judge), that I wanted to fight the lawsuit in court on a First Amendment basis.

But when Scientology learned that (a) The Realist had no assets, and (b) that I was in the habit of publishing satirical articles, they offered to settle for $5,000. I turned 'em down. Then they offered to drop the suit altogether if I would publish an article by Chick Corea, a jazz pianist and member of Scientology. I explained that this was not how I made my editorial decisions, and again I refused to settle. They dropped the suit.
Truth or satire? Fuck if I know. But it sure makes Tom Cruise look like a dipshit for following them around like a lemming.