Alex Gibney, the director who brought us this year's shocking Scientology documentary “Going Clear,” is disappointed with Jon Stewart for failing to ask Tom Cruise about the controversial religion during the “Mission: Impossible” star recent “Daily Show” appearance. In fact, he's pretty disappointed with the media overall.
“What a missed opportunity,” Gibney writes in a new piece for The Hollywood Reporter. “For once, someone with intelligence, rhetorical skill and insight could have confronted Cruise about the engine of cruelty that drives his chosen religion and reminded the world that the smiling movie star sits idly by, effectively endorsing a longstanding and ongoing pattern of human rights abuses.”
Among other offenses, the documentary charges the church with forcing members to “disconnect” from friends and family, illegal surveillance, engaging in physical abuse and waging campaigns of harassment against those deemed to be enemies of the religion. Cruise specifically is depicted as Scientology's most important and influential celebrity adherent, and the film further suggests that the megawatt star has knowledge of at least a portion of the church's aforementioned human rights abuses.
Though he uses Cruise's “Daily Show” interview as a jumping off point, Gibney's piece is really a critique of the entrenched system of American celebrity worship that sees media outlets and late-night talk shows cutting deals with studios and TV networks to remain silent on sensitive issues in order to secure an interview with an A-list star.
“It takes hard work and lots of resources to manufacture celebrities. And once they produce profits, investors don”t want to see their products tarnished,” Gibney writes. “So deals are made. In the case of Cruise, according to recent reports, shows were offered a choice: If you want Cruise on, you must agree not to mention Scientology or the film 'Going Clear.' (Insiders at 'The Daily Show' say no such deal was made there despite the coincidence that Comedy Central and Paramount, which made and released 'Rogue Nation,' are both owned by Viacom.) These were the same kinds of deals made for Lance Armstrong (if you want him on your cover, don”t mention doping), Bill Cosby (instead of running the claims of a woman accusing him of rape, how about an exclusive interview with Bill?) and many others.”
Gibney casts the net even wider by suggesting that the church's tax-exempt status (alleged in the documentary to have been won through a campaign of harassment waged against the IRS) means that its alleged abuses are effectively subsidized by our tax dollars, making tough questions directed at Cruise — “the religion”s most powerful pitch man and recruiting tool” — a matter of public interest:
“As audience members we can do our part. While we crave the entertainment that celebrities offer (['Going Clear' author] Lawrence Wright has famously said that the worship of celebrity is the real American religion) we can”t let star power blind us to abuse,” he writes. “We should insist that celebrities play by the rules the rest of us do. And we need to be willing to encourage those who can to ask uncomfortable questions on our behalf.”
You can read the full piece here.