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Thread: Book Review - Sweeney

  1. #1
    Silver Meritorious Patron This is NOT OK !!!!'s Avatar
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    Default Book Review - Sweeney

    I just completed John Sweeney's book.

    It's epic and belongs in every Ex's library.

    Some minor complaints - the Kindle version I purchased does not have the greatest layout. The paragraphs are a little bunched up, no references to footnotes (although they exist at the end) so it comes off as a wall of text. It was disconcerting at first and I was about 20% of the way through before I realized what the book was really all about.

    It's a first person narrative of his own experience dealing with the cult - a straight ahead, blow-by-blow account of what happened to him, his crew and BBC during the research, production, airing, post airing of the Panorama special. There's lot's of new detail that fleshes out and adds context to the story of the shout-fest between Tommy and John.

    The biggest lutz of all in the book are the text messaging product officering from DM to Tommy and Rinder happening in real-time during their interactions with Sweeney. For this alone, the book's a must read and will be a source of amusement for year's to come here on ESMB.

    Sweeney organizes his narrative around the framework of Lifton's and Singer's criteria of what constitutes a cult. It's spot on.

    Finally, Sweeney tackles CCHR head-on and provides some analysis of how warped Scientology's take on Psychiatry is. This part is very good and in my opinion deserves a book of its own.

    5 stars out of 5 stars for Sweeney!

    It only cost $5.00 to read it on your computer.

    What are you waiting for?
    I’m not saying that everyone who is in Scientology is stupid, but I will say that I was purposefully blind for a long time. Paul Haggis

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    God, I didn't think my review was that bad.

    Sorry, John Sweeney, your book rocked!
    I’m not saying that everyone who is in Scientology is stupid, but I will say that I was purposefully blind for a long time. Paul Haggis

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    Thanks TINO. I too read the book on my Kindle. At first I thought the book was pretty much a description of what eventually got filmed, some of which I'd seen before in vids here and there. Some of the book was also an apologia for his outburst with/at/to Tommy Davis, what Sweeney calls "going tomato". It was by way of a memoir rather than an in-depth investigative book, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

    The leaked email exchange between Lou Stuckenbrock and MR and TD was impressive. The heat those guys (and everyone else in the SO) took. I found myself almost pitying them.

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    ..

    Dunno if this has been posted here already but, just in case:


    <derail> Adelaide 40° !!!!

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    I like John Sweeney and wish him well with his new book.
    "Life constantly changes. Some of the changes we like, some we hate, but it keeps changing."

    - Bo Lozoff

    "Dream more, learn more, care more and be more.”

    - Dolly Parton

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    [QUOTE=Infinite;764714
    <derail> Adelaide 40° !!!![/QUOTE]

    0 C here now, on the way to -10 C tonight!
    I’m not saying that everyone who is in Scientology is stupid, but I will say that I was purposefully blind for a long time. Paul Haggis

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    Quote Originally Posted by This is NOT OK !!!! View Post
    God, I didn't think my review was that bad.

    Sorry, John Sweeney, your book rocked!
    What are you referring to? Did someone say your review was bad? Or are you saying that because you just read it and think it's not good?

    I like it
    ~ Mary McConnell, my nom de plume
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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    Quote Originally Posted by This is NOT OK !!!! View Post
    0 C here now, on the way to -10 C tonight!

    Are you in Canada, Minnesota or somewhere similar?

    It's about that in the UK, where I am, too right now (though I'm in one of the, ahem, supposedly milder parts I'm still sitting here with my coat on).
    "Life constantly changes. Some of the changes we like, some we hate, but it keeps changing."

    - Bo Lozoff

    "Dream more, learn more, care more and be more.”

    - Dolly Parton

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    Default Re: Book Review - Sweeney

    Quote Originally Posted by AnonyMary View Post
    What are you referring to? Did someone say your review was bad? Or are you saying that because you just read it and think it's not good?

    I like it
    I started the thread after waiting around for a few days for someone else to do it. Then there was no response for quite a few hours and I was a bit surprised to have no response, so I bumped it.

    Another interesting aspect of the book is Sweeney's analysis of Rinder's decompression - new material there.
    I’m not saying that everyone who is in Scientology is stupid, but I will say that I was purposefully blind for a long time. Paul Haggis

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    Default My Book Review, 'The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology'

    The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology

    A book review

    John Sweeney has done some extraordinary things, but he comes across as a very ordinary bloke. Not a celebrity, despite the fact that he regularly appears in front of camera. When it comes to being harassed by private investigators and subjected to a hate campaign in ‘Freedom Magazine’, John Sweeney is you, or me. It could happen to any of us... but few of us could put the experience into words as well as he did.

    Does that make a good book?

    Yes.

    Does it make this book the one that will finally bring about the collapse of the Scientology scam?

    No.

    Now, perhaps I was guilty of a misconception. I thought the book was going to be a book about Scientology, and it isn’t. It’s a book about John Sweeney and Scientology, and that’s a somewhat different story. It’s not the story of a bigamist con-man who wrote science fiction, washed out of the navy, dabbled with Satanism, started a cult, got declared persona non grata (or equivalent) in a dozen countries, went a bit mad and ended up in hiding after treasonous acts against his own government. Perhaps the story of L Ron Hubbard is known well enough nowadays, anyway.

    Instead, what we have here is a written record – a thorough and useful one – about the clash between the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ and the Hubbardites. The events described happened quite recently, in terms of the lifespan of the cult, but 2007 seems like ancient history when considered in the light of the things that have followed. It’s still worth a read, but the potential purchaser should keep in mind that Sweeney’s book doesn’t tell the full Scientology story. (Who else could bring out a book detailing Scientology’s misfortunes during the last decade, and not mention Anonymous, Senator Nick Xenophon, Wally Hanks or Rex Fowler?)

    Around halfway into the book, we’re deep into Sweeney’s fateful visit to the USA, and the pace slows. He re-lives the days of interviews and the harassment in between. I was gripped with foreboding as I read those chapters. We know what’s going to happen – indeed, who doesn’t? The cult is going to chalk up a rare PR ‘win’ against the documentary-makers, when Sweeney loses it, bull-baited by the pros...

    Sweeney withholds nothing: he tells the whole excruciating tale... but the reader doesn’t get the sense that he’s trying to justify or explain away what happened. He admits wrongdoing, and apologizes again. Just as he did at the time of the Exploding Tomato Incident, in ‘Scientology and Me’ when it aired on May 14th 2007, and again in the BBC’s ‘Secrets of Scientology’ in September 2010.

    John: you need to come up to Present Time: that whole shemozzle is nothing but history now. It happened, you apologized (then, and now, and more than a few times in between) and then a whole bunch of other stuff happened. Life went on. And we, the British public, love you all the more because you represent the ordinary bloke in all of us. Sure, you lost it. And who wouldn’t?

    Your bosses at the BBC forgave you, too. The Panorama documentary went ahead (with huge viewing figures) and then the BBC gave you another big bite at the cherry in 2010. That’s significant because of the way in which the BBC is funded: its programming reflects the people that it serves... and its politics reflect the demographic of the British Isles. (So what does that mean? It means that the UK doesn’t like the Scientology UFO cult. Not one little bit.)

    Most of the people who hold the Scientology cult to account only get one good lick in. Paulette Cooper. Russell Miller. Time Magazine. Debbie Cook... even though they’ve all been proven right, their actions against the Cult of Greed tend to be hit and run affairs.

    Not John Sweeney, though. He came back. Twice more. Another hard-hitting documentary, and now a book as well.

    Yes, the book is centred upon Exploding Tomato Day, but I think we can forgive that. A key point is that the full story about Scientology has become too big for any one book, now. There’s the laughable discrepancies between the ‘Church’ version and the truth about the buffoon that created Scientology... there’s the violent nature of Scientology’s current Calligula, David Miscavige... there’s the foolishness of celebrity Hubbard apologists... there’s the crimes that have been committed to ‘defend’ Scientology... there’s the amusing belief system and the increasingly unhinged behaviour of the higher OTs... the past frauds and the current extortion... the Ideal Org scam. And more: Scientology reporters have almost too much juicy material to cover.

    Sweeney, it seems, decided to centre the book on his own experiences, perhaps judging that others such as Janet Reitman have already done a very good job in other areas, or perhaps simply choosing not to spread himself thin by talking a little bit about everything.

    The end result is probably a little bit disappointing for any long-term cult watcher. A regular of ESMB will find relatively little that’s new to her. ‘The Church of Fear: Inside The Weird World of Scientology’ might have been a sensational book, a few years ago – back when the text messages between Miscavige and Rinder/Davis were freshly leaked, for example. The inclusion of those messages is still important, and certainly makes the book a lot more interesting. The bad guys’ message traffic speaks volumes about the instability of the cult’s officers... and particularly their antipope, David Miscavige.

    What an insight into cult attempts to shore up an aura of respectability! Most interesting of all is how ‘Church’ executives actually believe their tactics to be working. They don’t seem able to get past literal meanings. Everything is black and white, and the sheer number of affirmations made when the cult’s celebrity victims are wheeled out to say good things about Hubbard appear to have been more important than the (actually quite negative) impression that the reporter acquired. Scientology’s management by stats is seen to be purely quantitative, and they remain mystified by the qualitative. The result is that the ‘Church’ seems cold, inhumane and (yes, John...) alien.

    “Bobby got Sweeney talking so much that he told bobby he is an alcoholic and does himself abuse alcohol and that’s it is a problem for him. Bobby told him how narconon cld help him with that.”

    Seriously: a reporter proposes a ‘for instance’ as part of the interview process, and the cultists think they’ve found his ruin. It leaves you wondering what the weather is like, on their planet.

    Those who work to dismantle Scientology will be encouraged by the thought that neither Tommy Davis nor Mike Rinder are around to repeat their ‘handling’ of Sweeney or anybody like him in the future. Rinder, in fact, comes clean about the whole business (he did that for the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ expose in 2010: it’s nice to see it in print, but it’s not new).

    So what do we have? Mostly a text-based version of BBC Panorama’s ‘Scientology and Me’, with some backstory about the process of filming the two documentaries. There is a fleeting mention of Debbie Cook’s email and some similar recent events, but other things are excluded. Sweeney virtually ignores Scientology’s Rudolph Hess, Marty Rathbun, perhaps choosing not to pass comment... but the exclusion speaks volumes. Equally, though, he doesn’t comment on the wave of global protests that began less than a year after his run-in with the cult. Curious! It's like writing a history of the United Kingdom, and failing to mention Queen Elizabeth II.

    ‘A Space Alien Cathedral’ is one of the best titles for a book chapter ever. It should make for a big finish to the book... but what was Sweeney really doing out in the desert near Trementina Base? I’m afraid it was nothing but a cheap shot. Taking the piss out of Scientology’s wacko beliefs is easy.

    Yes, the culties have a secret vault that’s atom bomb proof, and designed to be found from space... but again, that isn’t news. Neither is it a cathedral, John: just a store room, built for the sole purpose of regging the ‘faithful’ out of a few more millions. It doesn’t even contain up-to-date LRH editions.

    So, if the cult had a secret agenda in constructing (or at least, declaring the completion of) Trementina Base... what about John Sweeney’s motive in visiting? To deliver a stunning expose of a cult facility that proves to the world that Scientology isn’t a self-help system, but rather a 1950s UFO cult?

    No: John Sweeney went there because he’s got a book to sell. Or at least, that’s the way it seems. Maybe it backfired because the cult has no confront anymore... or maybe because the poor, lonely fool who’s guarding the gate didn’t want to get sent to the RPF because he said the wrong thing... but the result is a non-story. As an ending, it fizzles.

    Except, of course, that this story isn’t over. If there’s one thing I know about Scientology, it’s this: they pull it in. They’re too dumb to stay quiet and let Sweeney bumble off on his merry way, to report on something else. It’s virtually guaranteed that they’re going to take another pop at him: because it’s what they do. Not just corrupt, but sinister and dangerous too.

    Round 3 goes to Sweeney, although it wasn’t the most exciting ever... but I look forward to Round 4.
    You don't have to worry about squirrels
    unless you are a nut.
    [Miscavige’s bunker mentality]

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