Managed to get the last half of Panorama’s investigation into Scientology last night. It was profoundly disturbing. Much has been made of the rage that John Sweeney succumbed to during one of his many confrontations with Tommy Davis, a senior spokesman for Scientology in the States. Well i have to say that watching Sweeney’s explosion, especially after all that had gone before, completely drew me in – while he was no doubt wrong professionally to have lost it like that, after the barrage of intimidation, arrogance, horror, it was amazing he managed to hold out so long. I really don’t think i would have done. What finally caused the eruption was a sickening museum that Sweeney and his crew had been shown around – a museum that maintained that the horrors of the Holocaust were entirely the result of Psychiatrists (one of Scientology’s bêtes noires). But he’d been subjected to character assassination, personal confrontation (constantly being trailed by cars, his interviews being interrupted by people accusing him of unprofessionalism and of ‘listening to perverts’) and above all a total failure to have his perfectly reasonable questions get a fair hearing let alone a reasoned answer.
I couldn’t help feeling that his rage was to a large extent righteous and appropriate. Scientology’s techniques by themselves are sufficient to indicate seriously sinister intent – as Sweeney said more than once, you couldn’t see the Church of England doing these sorts of things to those who simply wanted to ask questions (well as a member of this denomination for better or worse, i would certainly hope not). Despite its lack of control, Sweeney was quite right to be angry – and it just reminded me that we should get more angry about these sorts of things. Here’s a pic i randomly came across.
Here is the BBC’s covering report on the whole episode – full of contrition for the way things had got out of control, but rightly unapologetic for what had (after all) been straightforward questions. [You can see the whole episode if you click on the programme’s official site, linked above, over the next few days.]