Leah Remini’s new show, Scientology and the Aftermath on A&E, is a total hit and rightfully so. I did my own review of the first episode and if you haven’t seen that, I recommend you do so.
As a former Scientologist turned advocate, Leah is on a roll to bring the fight to Scientology’s doorstep against its long-running history of human rights abuses, criminal activities and emotional blackmail and she’s doing a fantastic job. Many people who have not been involved with Scientology in the past or have not been keeping tabs on its activities are tuning in and finding out for the first time just how awful this whole thing is. While that can certainly be viewed as sensational or “headline grabbing media” there are actually some more important reasons why this show is having the success it is and why it needs to be seen even more far and wide. If you have been following the first three episodes, I’m sure you understand what I mean and I heavily encourage you to share links to the show by whatever means with all of your friends, family and social contacts. Only someone with a heart of stone, or a Scientologist, would think there is nothing worth seeing in Scientology and the Aftermath.
Let’s go over the five main reasons I think this show is more important than most people realize:
(1) It’s exposing the crimes and bad behavior of Scientology to a very large audience
In 2008, when the internet activist collective known as Anonymous took on the Church of Scientology, international media headlines soon followed because of the thousands who gathered to protest outside Scientology’s doors. This was completely unpredicted and a truly monumental happening and Anonymous changed the entire focus on Scientology from a kooky religion founded by a sci-fi author to something much more sinister and even dangerous.
More books and media followed, becoming gradually bolder as more and more of the truth about Scientology became known and some of its most prominent ex-members spoke out.
In 2015, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief written by Pullitzer-prize winning author Lawrence Wright was published and then made into a documentary by Emmy and Academy award-winning director Alex Gibney. Again the spotlight of intense public scrutiny fell on Scientology’s doorstep and on its most prominent member, Tom Cruise. This time, not only were the abuses and human rights violations graphically displayed for all the world to see, but its tax exempt status was called into question like never before, with demands from the public to understand how the government could allow such a betrayal of public trust as to let Scientology amass billions of tax-free dollars while beating and torturing their own staff.
Because of the nature of celebrity media, Cruise was able to avoid any direct questions about the abuses that were highlighted in this documentary, even the ones that he himself had particpated in such as taking advantage of Scientology slave labor to build his own airplane hanger, upgrade his vehicles and wait on him hand and foot as his personal staff. I don’t really understand how it is that no one had the guts to confront him head-on about this sort of thing, since Cruise’s hands are dirty and he knows it, but that’s what happened.
Now coming in to 2017, we have Scientology under the microscope again and like with Gibney’s documentary, this is really being done the way it should be. In fact, while Going Clear is without a doubt the most powerful and hard-hitting documentary ever made about Scientology, it was only a precursor for what Leah’s show is now exposing. Given an eight-episode first season, Leah’s show is able to take the time to explore in much more detail not just what kind of violence occurred at Scientology’s International Sea Org Base in Hemet, California but what kind of authoritarian control Scientology wields over all its members down to its lowest levels.
In just the first three episodes, she’s been able to explain some of the fundamentals of how Scientology operates, how it puts its members on a sort of hamster wheel to nowhere, making them pay over and over and over again for the same services yet not delivering on any of its vaunted promises to achieve total spiritual freedom and cause over life. And more importantly, while she has exposed the nature of the financial fraud, she is also showing the personal toll Scientology takes on each of its members through its harmful policies of disconnection and how this has actually destroyed families and life-long friendships.
(2) It’s giving a voice to those who were victimized who wouldn’t otherwise be able to speak out
As anyone who is or has known a survivor of domestic abuse, speaking out against it is extremely difficult. Those who suffer at the hands of an oppressor often have a hard time just finding the strength and resolve necessary to break out of the pattern of abuse and start their lives over. Unfortunately, it’s a cycle we are all too familiar with.
Being a member of a destructive cult like Scientology is no different. Once a person escapes such a situation, the last thing they usually want to do is re-live it or talk about it again. Understandly, they want to put the pain behind them and move on. Yet for many, that is difficult if not impossible because their suffering has no outlet, no voice to make it understood. Where do you find not only a safe space to speak, but a platform from which the world can hear your words? Some of us make videos or write books or articles, but for many they don’t have the resources or the know-how to do this.
With Scientology and the Aftermath, Leah is providing that platform to voice what happened to them, to make it clear to the entire world that such abuses are not just unacceptable, but must be stopped. Whether dealing with an abusive spouse, a school bully or a destructive cult leader, often the only way to get them to stop is to expose their crimes for all the world to see and hopefully bring about some form of justice against the aggressors. At the very least, abusers hate to be shown for what they are and so speaking out in some fashion is the only way to bring an end to their reigns of terror.
Leah has made it possible for these victims to achieve a catharsis which may well have been impossible without her show. By broadcasting their stories across the airwaves and internet, she is empowering these people and giving them not just a medium to tell their stories, but a chance to stop the abuses once and for all for everyone. That is an opportunity very few get and this show must be ackowledged for doing this kind of work.
(3) It provides a fresh perspective on older stories of Scientology abuse
In some cases, Leah is featuring people who have spoken out before or who have their own platforms to speak their truth, whether a YouTube channel or blog or who have been on television or even in the Going Clear documentary. Do we really need to hear those stories again or see those people in a fresh new light? Well in a word, yes. And here’s why:
Context is everything and when you place these older stories in the context of Leah’s show, you are getting them in not only a new format but in the right context. Scientology and the Aftermath is not a random series of interviews with disgruntled former members who are lying because they all have axes to grind, as the Church of Scientology would have you believe. Not even close. It’s the honest story of Scientology’s dark side told across an eight-hour stretch, one segment leading to the next and to the next in a connected series of stories which build upon one another. So where you may have heard of one mother’s story of being disconnected from her son or daughter, when put in context with Mike Rinder’s story and Amy Scobbe’s story and all the rest of what you are going to see, these older bits suddenly aren’t so old and are certainly not at all irrelevant to the current narrative. They are all pieces in a puzzle which come together to give you the complete picture and you really don’t want to miss any of these parts.
(4) It’s factually presenting Scientology as it is really practiced and not how it falsely presents itself
As a central theme, Scientology and the Aftermath is focused on the destructive activities that the Church of Scientology engages in with its members to defraud them, control them and silence them by whatever means necessary if they dare to complain about any of this treatment. However, this show is not just the “Scientology Horror Story.” Leah and Mike Rinder have also taken a great deal of time to sit down with the producers and crew and lay out how Scientology works, what its framework is, what it is exactly that its members believe and why those members become so fervent in those beliefs. This is very important. One of the questions I’m asked most often on my YouTube channel is “How can anyone be so stupid as to fall for Scientology?” and this question really displays more about the ignorance of the person asking than it does about the ignorance of Scientologists.
Here’s the thing: Scientology is not practiced by a bunch of stupid ignoramises who didn’t have anything better to do but be swindled by believing in something as insanely stupid as Xenu the Galatic Overlord and his Crazy Train of Body Thetans. No one goes in thinking this and in fact, only about 5% of Scientologists ever get to the upepr levels where Xenu and all that other stuff is given to them. Almost every single person who joins Scientology does so because they are sold on the idea that it can help them with some very real problem or worry or emotional upheaval they have experienced in their life. Unless you are raised in it, this sort of thing is exactly the same reason people join almost any religion or self-help group or get counselling or therapy of any kind. It’s not their fault that they were lied to, defrauded and conned by people who are actually very good at their jobs when it comes to selling Scientology. Prior to the internet, very little was known about this group and none of the information that is now so widely available was so easily accessed.
And that is what Leah’s show is doing such a great job with. In the third episode, for example, she showed Scientology’s Bridge to Total Freedom with its various levels and abilities gained. To someone who is not suspicious of Scientology and is taking it in as something credible, those abilites gained sound really magnificent and something I’m sure almost anyone would want to achieve. For example, who wouldn’t want a little freedom and relief from the hostilities and suffering of life?
So not only is Scientology and the Aftermath horrifying us with its personal stories of abuse and tragedy, but it’s also factually educating the general public who don’t know anything about Scientology on why it has any appeal at all to its members and what it is they are actually doing Scientology for. I hope that this will give everyone out there more of a reality check on the fact that Scientologists are not stupid. They are misinformed, misguided and ultimately succumb to a mindset that is very dangerous and even fanatical. None of that happens overnight.
(5) It’s nullifying Scientology’s Fair Game tactics by effectively turning their “black PR” back on them.
When the Going Clear documentary was going to premiere at Sundance in 2015, the Church of Scientology took out a full page ad in the New York Times, deriding the film and its maker. That backfired hard on them when the Sundance premiere became a standing room only affair, mainly because it went from a small documentary made by an award-winning filmmaker which might get a couple of airings on HBO to a New York Times featured piece which suddenly everyone was curious about and was willing to wait in line for hours to see. That was just one of many Scientology foot bullets that they fired in an effort to do away with the documentary, which went on to become a critical and public success the likes of which HBO had not seen in almost a decade.
Now Leah and the A&E promotional team have taken this to a whole new level. In the first promo pieces for the show, before it even aired, Leah read on camera, segments of the letters that Scientology’s lawyers were sending to A&E in a vain effort to get A&E to not even air the show. She started by asking “What is the Church of Scientology so afraid of?” and then literally read out loud the church’s pretty gross words about what a liar and bitter ex-Scientologist she is, how her career is over and how she needs to move on with her life, as well as denigrating the show itself for not telling the truth about Scientology. Then she ended it by throwing down the gauntlet with “When you stop fucking up people’s lives and families, I’ll stop too.”
Now that is about as masterful a use of PR as you can get, using Scientology’s own vicious words to promote the very thing they are trying to destroy. That has continued in every episode and I’m quite sure Leah has only just begun.
So in short, this show is succeeding and will continue to succeed over the course of its first season because it’s doing the job that so far no other television news, celebrity or reality show has done: tell the truth about Scientology in a hard-hitting, informative and entertaining manner without pulling any punches or really holding anything back.
There is a lot more to come, believe me. If you haven’t done so I highly recommend starting with episode 1. Watch it on demand or on the A&E website or wherever you can. This show is worth taking the trouble to see from start to finish. And just to be totally clear, neither A&E nor Leah nor anyone else is paying me a dime right now to say any of this or supporting my channel. Everything I’m telling you here I am doing on my own bat because I believe in this show and I believe in what Leah is doing.
Thank you for watching.