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Tony Ortega’s Scientology Book Tour

Posted on Sep. 28, 2015 by | Comments (3)
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(Photo credit: Jim Veihdeffer)

Tony Ortega returned to his former stomping grounds in Phoenix on his book tour for The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy Paulette Cooper (see my review in eSkeptic) on September 15. Tony’s talk, sponsored by the Barrett Honors College Downtown Campus and held at the Walter Cronkite Theater, recounted his personal story of starting in journalism in the city where L. Ron Hubbard developed Scientology, and how he came to write about Scientology after first seeing their involvement in a lawsuit against then-Phoenix-based cult deprogrammer Rick Ross (see, for example, Tony’s December 19, 1996 New Times story, “What’s $2.995 Million Between Former Enemies?”). One story led to another, and further opportunities to write about Scientology arose after he moved to Los Angeles to write for New Times L.A.

New Times eventually acquired the Village Voice. Tony became its editor in 2007 and brought with him experience in bringing stories to an online format. His first foray into daily-updated content for the Voice was to pore through the archives and reprint interesting stories from the past, which he enjoyed but did not attract much readership. When he started writing daily about Scientology in 2011, however, readership exploded. He has written on the topic every day since then, first at the Voice and, beginning in late 2012, at his own blog, the Underground Bunker, where he has broken numerous stories about the Church of Scientology as it has continued to lose long-time members and leaders.

Tony first corresponded with Paulette Cooper, who as a young journalist in the 1970s wrote the first major critical book about Scientology, The Scandal of Scientology, when she wrote him a complimentary email about some of his writing. About the time he left the Voice, he had decided that Paulette’s story, although already told in some fashion in virtually every major story or book about Scientology, had not been told in the detail that it deserved.

His talk, entitled “Scientology’s Abuses: Then and Now,” told his own story and Paulette’s, and compared the methods of abuse through “noisy investigations” designed to intimidate and quieter, secretive investigations by private investigators designed to keep tabs on critics who are considered particularly threatening, including the daily monitoring of Hubbard’s former heir apparent, Pat Broeker, and of Ron Miscavige, Sr., the father of the head of the Church. Tony also elaborated a bit on an example of each directed at him–a visit to his mother by Scientology private investigators that he recounted for the first time in the Emmy-winning Alex Gibney documentary, “Going Clear” (noisy investigation), and an apparent attempt to hack his email as well as the email of ex-Scientology leader Mike Rinder by hackers hired by private investigator Eric Saldarriaga, who revealed after he was sentenced to prison earlier this year that one of his clients was the Church of Scientology. The main difference between Scientology’s abuses of old and those more recently is that Scientology’s Guardian Office used to recruit Scientology staff to engage in dirty tricks, and now they are more likely to use private investigators, perhaps hired by a Scientology-owned law firm, for more questionable activities.

Tony followed up his talk the next day with an appearance on the local PBS show “Horizon” to talk about blogging, followed by an evening with the Phoenix Area Skeptics Society‘s Skeptics in the Pub.

His book tour is self-managed and funded by his blog and its readers, and has regularly included talks to skeptical and humanist groups. Since Phoenix he has visited Cleveland, Minneapolis, and Portland, and upcoming dates include Seattle (9/28, with the Seattle Skeptics), Vancouver, BC (9/29), and four stops in Australia in October (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth).

 

 

Jim Lippard

Jim Lippard is a long-time skeptic who works in the information security field. He founded the Phoenix Skeptics in 1985, and has contributed to Skeptic, Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Skeptical Briefs, The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Joe Nickell’s book Psychic Sleuths, and Gordon Stein’s Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Read Jim’s full bio or his other posts on this blog.

3 Comments

  1. Eileen says:

    Interesting article about a fascinating topic. Sorry to be finicky about a good story but “poured through the archives” should be “pored through the archives” can’t help it, I’m a college prof.

    • Daniel Loxton says:

      Jim Lippard’s original draft was written “pore,” but a change was introduced during edits. I’ve now reverted to his original.

  2. Jim Veihdeffer says:

    Poor Jim…pour him another one for that mix up

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