Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ridiculous Scientology propaganda

Like there's any other kind. An LA reporter's coverage of a new Scientology-sponsored "museum" chronicling the "evils" of the cult's favorite whipping post, psychiatry, details just how absurd Scientology is: Andrew Gumbel's encounter with the Scientology publicist, who wanted to debate psychiatry while the reporter just wanted to discuss the structure of the museum, is particularly illuminating. All Scientologists assume they have to defend their beliefs, and have a persecution complex which adds to their sense of having misunderstood and suppressed insights into the human mind, much like conservatives' complaints about the "liberal media." What they overlook, however, is that most people just don't care about Scientology, or consider it an absurd lunatic fringe institution. But, as illustrates (and Scientology has tried to shut the site down), Scientology is more than a group of harmless wackos. They bleed their followers dry, restrict access to information that is critical of their views (all while claiming to support "religious freedom"), and have an absolutist philosophy with absolutely no proof to back it up.'s creator has had some highly entertaining, and unintentionally illuminating, email exchanges with inarticulately irate Scientologists, who accuse him of being a former mental patient, on Prozac or illegal drugs (which have no distinction in the Scientological mind), all of which, he tells them, are false. He frequently challenges them to find inaccuracies in his assertions, and not one provides a convincing argument.
According to the Scientology "museum," psychiatry is to blame for everything from Nazism (a surefire way to establish animosity toward anything is to link it to the Nazis) to school shootings to 9/11. Yes, according to Scientology, suicide bombers are engineered by psychiatric drugs, but provide no proof that the 9/11 hijackers were even on any of these drugs, and I find it hard to believe that they would be. And although Hitler used eugenic theory to justify his "Final Solution," the concept that psychiatry in and of itself leads to Hitler-level evil is unfounded. Hitler also misinterpreted Nietzche's theory of the "ubermensch" to justify the extermination of "undesirables," does that mean Nietzche is evil (although one may disagree with his assertions, such as his unenlightened views of women)? And if psychiatry was a tool of the Nazis, how do we explain the high number of Jewish psychiatrists, including Freud, the father of psychoanalysis? Why would Hitler use the teachings of a Jew, and he deemed the writings of Jews as "decadent," to justify their termination? Hitler is far too complex to be narrowed into one field of blame for his behavior, and his rise to power was allowed by fierce German nationalism in the face of the devastation wrought by World War I, not by psychiatrists.
But, as Gumbel points out, psychiatry is an easy target, with the questionable past practices of electroshock and lobotomies and questionable present practices of psychiatric drugs. But it's one thing to say that the field has made mistakes that need to be corrected through further research and more competent practitioners, and quite another to say that the field in and of itself is evil and beyond rescue. Psychiatry, unlike the pseudoscience of Dianetics, the cornerstone of Scientology, has evolved since its inception (whether for better or worse is open to debate). As an article on makes clear, Dianetics has not been tested by its adherents (though L. Ron Hubbard claimed to have tested it), does not stand up to scientific scrutiny (the "examples" Hubbard uses of "engrams" are ridiculous, in my opinion) and any criticism of the theory is suppressed by the Scientology elite. Psychiatrists, like members of all scientific communities, constantly disagree and debate theories within their field. That's how practices and the field itself evolve.

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