08 September 2016

An open letter to Mark "Marty" Rathbun

 Dear Mark:

I hope this finds you, Monique and your kid well. To introduce myself, I've been a watcher of the wacky world of Scientology since the early 1990s; on one hand I found some of the ideas plausible enough at one stage to dabble with a "Free Zone" group at one stage, but on the other hand I was very active in the initial phase of Project Chanology in 2008/9 and I've never had any illusions that the Church itself is a totalitarian organisation which is either an oversized abusive relationship or a mini-North Korea.

I've watched your progress with interest since 2009 since you emerged from your career as "enforcer" for Scientology's dictator David Miscavige, to your career as a spokesperson for the "Independent Scientology" movement, to your eventual break with the Indie community. I must say I have not been 100% sure what to make of your current phase of seeking to transcend the Scio/anti-Scio fight altogether. However, I must say that anyone who is extremely surprised by your family's decision to exit your lawsuit against Miscavige, or your critical reviews of Ron Miscavige and Louis Theroux's recent anti-Scientology works, has clearly not been paying attention to your regular blog posts over the last few years where you ponder the futility of getting involved in an endless fight with something (example). Very Zen, quite convincing. I totally understand why you are doing your best to end your involvement with the whole subject.

In this regard, I have been most distressed by some of the wild abuse recently thrown at you by anti-Scientology activists (let's say "Scientology critics" to be polite); not just the "TRAITOR, WHORE, JUDAS" stuff from the lunatic fringe, but the slightly more sophisticated stuff which suggests that, when you criticise Ron's book or Theroux's film for distorting the facts in the service of a good story, you are now "agreeing with David Miscavige" and are therefore no doubt in his pay once more.

There's another movement where telling the truth as one sees it gets a wave of abuse for "forwarding enemy lines" or accusations of being in the pay of the bad guys. It's called the Church of Scientology. In fact, it's a major hallmark of any toxic group that sticking with the group's story is more important than the truth. The story of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby clearly shows that "you are attached to what you attack"; or, as Nietzsche would have put it, if you battle monsters you risk becoming one yourself.

I think that Tony Ortega's "Underground Bunker" has done good service over the years exposing Scientology abuses, and I read it every day (not the comments, though...). But I've always thought he has an issue with you personally, for some reason, even at the time when you were working closely together. Now, it seems, he seems relieved to be able to "release the hounds" in your direction. One thing I find extremely interesting was that when he reviewed your book Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior, his main criticism was that you were "self-alibi'ing", to some degree - refusing to admit your share of moral responsibility for the abuses conducted by the Church while you were its enforcer. Now, at the end of your review of the Theroux movie, you note that the movie's depiction of Miscavige's abusive behaviour is actually closer to your own of the time. Ortega's response? "Good on Marty for 'fessing up"? No, you are now chided for agreeing with Miscavige, "forwarding enemy lines"! You really are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

(Interesting, parenthetically, that you criticise Ron Miscavige for trying to whitewash his own responsibilities for his son's development and behaviour in his memoir - which, in turn, is taken by the Bunkeroos as proof that you are now a traitor-judas-whore in the pay of Darth Midget. The acceptability of the argument seems to be based on whether the person making it is on the "good guys" or "bad guys" list at the time - a sure sign of toxic mob mentality.)

However, Ortega's insinuations and apparent interest in putting you down personally are nothing compared to the mob mentality whipped up in his comments section. Let me emphasise that honestly I don't blame Tony for this. This is a pretty standard feature of all groups or communities which band together against a common enemy. Groupthink and mob mentality are occupational hazards.

The Sci-critical satirist Jeffrey Augustine rightly compares the Church to the Stalinist USSR and North Korea. In the 1930s, the followers of Leon Trotsky were expelled from the global Communist movement for opposing Stalin's increasing tyranny. But sadly, history shows that the various Trotskyist movements globally often ended up becoming just as internally oppressive as the official Communist Parties they were supposed to oppose. The British "post-Trotskyist" radical Tony Cliff explained it like this: "if a man is locked in a room fighting a mad dog for long enough, eventually you won't be able to tell the difference".

The proper analogy to the Trotskyists, of course, would not be Ortega's bunker (who might be more like anti-Commie witchhunters) but the Independent Scientology movement, who of course cast you out a few years ago once you noticed that they were in fact building their own little scale-model replicas of the official Church's oppressive apparatus. And not just the fanatical "Milestone Two" mob, either. The critic who goes by the name "Alanzo" suggests that Mike Rinder and Karen de la Carriere - two ex-Scientologists whom I have the utmost respect for - ran something of an informal "Indie OSA" back in the day. I really crave to hear more details about this.

I certainly don't begrudge Tony Ortega of making a living by being a professional Scientology critic. That organisation needs to have its shenanigans dragged into daylight at all times and - despite my distress at his animus towards you - he does that job well. But I also suspect he rather likes being the Fearless Leader of an angry mob and has no not much interest in curbing some of the negative tendencies in his fan club. (ETA: apparently Ortega read the Riot Act on some Bunker denizens' more heated personal attacks on Rathbun - good on him.) Mentioning Alanzo above reminds me that, when he spoke out against some of the Bunker's more heated speculations about why you and Monique dropped the lawsuit, some people actually suggested he was an imposter sent by OSA. That is not a healthy way to approach difference of opinion.

The Bunker and the rest of the Scientology-critic community really has to check itself before it wrecks itself. We should all take a good look at ourselves and be honest if we see ourselves starting to act like OSA agents or Squirrel Busters. There is no need for paid Scientology agents infiltrating and destroying Scientology-critical movements when the natural process of groupthink/mob mentality will often lead to critics taking on those roles themselves, free of charge.

Once again, Mark, good luck to you and your family in whatever you choose to do in the future. Sufi masters say that the true sign of a beloved of God is that 1000 trustworthy witnesses will all declare him to be a lost heretic, so being "shot at by all sides" is probably a sign that you're on the right path.

Doloras LaPicho