Live From Golgotha!

Watch a few Scientology documentaries on youtube and a lot of strange things pop in the suggested videos column. Also, there are treasures – albeit in this case an incomplete one: Harlan Ellison tells the late Robin Williams about being a high school kid who went to New York City and hung out with all the famous mid-century science fiction writers; the Most Contentious Man Alive was there at the Hydra Club when a religion was born:

Lester del Rey… a well-known writer…subsequently became del Rey Books….Lester, in his childhood, had been a stump minister…he had been a revivalist, he was a child evangelist. So, [L.] Ron [Hubbard] was complaining that he was breaking his ass writing and…he was never gonna get [financially ahead]…they were gonna find him slumped over the typewriter one day because there’s no annuity, there’s no insurance, and you can’t keep it up [writing] forever….these guys [writers] knew they had to do something and [Hubbard] said there’s gotta be a better way to make money, so Lester says, “start a religion!” [Laughter] That’s the way to do it, start a religion. And [Hubbard] said, “yeah, not a bad – now what kinda religion?” Well, one guy contributed Reich’s orgone box, another one came up with engrams, which were forgotten-lost memories or whatever it was and sure enough, [Hubbard] went and…cobbled up Dianetics and he wrote this book – has all of that stuff in it…

There the clip ends; I would very much like to hear the rest of their conversation.

Ellison was there, knows all the dirt, drops several names: del Rey, Hubbard, Algis Budrys, Harry Harrison, more, but doesn’t say exactly who contributed the specifics to LRH’s scheme beyond the initial idea. (Incidentally, it’s worth listening just to hear someone overwhelm Robin Williams with verbiage; I’m not sure Williams could have kept pace with Ellison even in his most cocaine-fueled Mork days.) Ellison tells a tangential but interesting anecdote about L. Sprague DeCamp who “looks like somebody out of a Louis Auchincloss novel” but was apparently spergy in the android Data extreme, uncomprehending of how humor worked. And on the Star Trek note, while listening I kept thinking of that DS9 episode (maybe its best) “Far Beyond The Stars,” in which the regular characters are reconstituted as midcentury science fiction writers – Chief O’Brien is an Asimov clone, Dax as a thinly veiled DC Fontana, etc – and trying to insert into my mental scene versions of young Ellison (no, not Wesley Crusher) and middle-aged LRH (guest starring Jeffrey Jones); but it just doesn’t work and it’s not fair to Sisko.

The other thing I’m reminded of with regard to del Rey’s at least half-sarcastic suggestion to LRH is the late Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, in which the central superconspiracy theory or, if you like, Unified Field conspiracy theory is also invented by agnostic nerds (with help of a computer) as a joke and is of course then taken seriously by the desperately credulous to predictably ugly and tragic results.

Co-opted Point, Counterco-opted Point

From BBC Panorama’s “Secrets of Scientology”:

Ex-Scientologists: The technique is to push your buttons. People have emotional buttons, they have things that set them off, and [Scientologists] study you for that….watch you very carefully. [Scientologists] compare notes, [find your weakness and] push your button next time….[to the Interviewer, John Sweeney] Yours was “bigot,” right?

John Sweeney: I am not a bigot.

[Clips play of Scientologists calling Sweeney a bigot]

John Sweeney: Calling me a bigot annoys me because I am not a bigot.

Ex-Scientologists: I understand that.

John Sweeney: Hold on a second–

Ex-Scientologists: But if I keep cutting you off like this I will actually drive you nuts. [cuts off Sweeney again and again]…every time you start to say something I cut you off, it’s another way of getting you – so that you become emotionally upset. It builds up like a dam: all these things you want to originate keep getting cut off, it builds up like a dam and finally explodes –

John Sweeney: It’s annoying– [cut off] I want to say something —

Ex-Scientologists: No! [crosstalk] Bigots are not allowed to talk!

Here’s the vid; quoted passage above begins at about 17m50s:

It’s normal that he flinches at that word: as a bourgie, educated member of the media elite, John Sweeney has been trained to believe being a bigot is the worst thing one can be, a zillion times worse than exploiter, robber, plutocrat, Big Liar, election stealer, torturer, torture enthusiast, war criminal, mass murderer (basically anything horrible but sexual assaultist and rapist) – not only the worst thing morally, but also potentially the most damaging to one’s career. Sweeney is genuinely horrified to be so accused and is indignant because he suspects his accusers operate in bad faith.

Heh.

It’s fashionable to say that the language and techniques of social justice have been co-opted by the right – in the example above, the religious right, kooky division – but I’ve been tweeting that it’s better to say they have been counterco-opted back from SJWs and therefore returned to their natural home. That social justice has been recently confirmed as corporate, and often cynical, neoliberal identitarianism, perhaps it’s now best however to say they’ve always been in the same illiberal home, moving as it were from room to room. Someone should burn it all down to the fucking ground.