FilmDrunk

Ranking The Church Of Scientology’s ‘Going Clear’ Response Videos, By Watchability

Yesterday I told you about the Church of Scientology’s attempts to discredit anyone, especially former Scientologists, who appeared in Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, in advance of its television premiere March 29th on HBO. The latest was an open letter to the Hollywood Reporter with a person-by-person takedown of every former Scientologist who appeared in the film or the Lawrence Wright book on which it was based. The letter included links to church-produced videos with awesome titles like “Mike Rinder: The Wife Beater,” “Marc Headley: The Soulless Sellout,” and “Sara Goldberg: The Home Wrecker.”

Stupidly, at the time, I hadn’t watched those videos. I since have, and I can report that they’re comedy gold. As BoingBoing described them, “Scientology Goes Full Tim & Eric.” Here, I rank them all, from least to most watchable.

7. Kathy Haggis Interview: Paul Haggis Lies

Charge Against The Church
Haggis is Going Clear‘s main source, who describes how he got involved, and how he thought it was insane when he finally found out what it was all about, with Xenu and thetans and the volcano and stuff. “(When he finally read Hubbard’s notes, Haggis says he thought, “Maybe it’s an insanity test? Maybe if you believe this, they kick you out?” No such luck.)”

Gist Of Church Response
Paul Haggis is a talentless con-artist who was only ever famous on the backs of other Scientologists.

Church Source
Paul Haggis’s sister, Kathy.

Sample Voiceover
“But Paul Haggis isn’t the king of the silver screen Alex Gibney would have you believe. Just ask his sister.”

Key Quote
“Paul had two movies back to back that did well, accidentally. Everything he did after that on his own has failed, and has continued to fail. Paul is a desperate man right now because his last film was declared by a UK paper as one of the worst films of the year.”

Video Review
This one gets docked major points for not even having a cool title. Should’ve gone with “Paul Haggis: Tinseltown Tool,” or “Paul Haggis: Seriously, Have You Even Seen Crash?” Still, you have to enjoy the professional-grade production of a movie where a woman reads her brother’s negative film reviews.

Surrealist Moment
The National Enquirer-style unflattering bikini picture in the opening news graphic.

 

6. Marc Headley: The Soulless Sellout

Charge Against the Church
Wrote an entire book about it. He doesn’t even appear in Going Clear, but the church made a video about him, I guess because Going Clear the book references Headley’s lawsuit against the church.

Gist of Church Response
If they weren’t being held against their will like they say, why’d they look so happy in these photographs? Also: That he’s an “admitted tabloid source” and was “caught selling stolen Church video equipment on eBay.”

Sample Voiceover
“Broke, bitter, and out for revenge, Marc and Claire Headley devised a plan to hit the jackpot, bringing his-and-her lawsuits against the church.”

Video Review
Snoooooze. This one’s just a series of legal decisions and people saying “well they sure looked like they were having fun!” Still, worth it for the “big reveal” (6:40) that Headley left the church because of illicit eBay activity. “He spites God to pad his PayPal account!”

Surrealist Moment
This action shot of Headley playing ping pong.

 

5. “Spanky” Taylor: The Drama Queen

Charge
Church made her work for 30 hours straight on little sleep, separated from her infant child, until she had to “rescue her neglected daughter from a urine-soaked crib.”

Gist Of Response
That was a long time ago, Spanky Taylor is just being dramatic.

Sample Voiceover
“At this point, she began a secret affair with one of her business clients, destroyed her marriage, and turned her two children against her husband.”

Key Quote
“Spanky Taylor is a Drama Queen, and where there isn’t Drama, she’ll create it.”

Source
Spanky’s ex-husband.

Video Review
Big points for casual dismissiveness in this video, but it’s not as petty as some of the others, and could use more shadowy stock B-roll.

Surrealist Moment
The random Guy Fawkes mask in the “who are these witnesses?” graphic.

 

 

4. Hana Whitfield: Can You Spare a Billion?

Charge
That L. Ron Hubbard was a tyrant, all the crazy sh*t he did in the Sea Org.

Gist Of Church Response
She’s crazy, a megalomaniac who wanted to control the church. Also, she tried to kill her own father or something.

Sample Voiceover
“Only after her failed billion dollar lawsuit and the bankruptcy of her criminal deprogramming group did the Church discover Hana Whitfield’s darkest secret of all. …Her conspiracy, with her mother and brother, to murder her father.”

Key Quote
“She folded up on it and didn’t actually execute it. She almost killed him. She was within seconds of doing so but did not.”

Source
Ex-Husband

Video Review
I enjoy that the big reveal was “she thought about killing someone and then didn’t.” Points for hypocrisy bringing up every time her lawsuit failed while making the thrust of the video a “crime” she was never charged for. They also mock her “billion-dollar lawsuit” even though they reportedly require Sea Org members to sign billion year contracts.

That said, it could’ve used more re-enactments. I mean no failed murder plot re-enactment? That’s just lazy.

Surrealist Element
The cell phone-screencap-style battery and connection graphic in the upper right corner. I assume this was deliberate? I’m not even sure what’s going on here.

 

3. Sara Goldberg: The Home Wrecker

Charge
“…was told by Scientology officials that she had to disown her son, Nick. Raised as a Scientologist, at 18 years old he began to stray from the church’s teachings. After years trying to “handle” her son, Goldberg faced a church trial where she was told to disconnect from him. She refused and left the church after 36 years.” [here and here]

Gist Of Church Response
Sara Goldberg is a home wrecker who wrecked her home by protecting her druggy sun and exploiting her sweet (Scientologist) daughter and special-needs grandchild.

Sample Voiceover
“But Sara Goldberg tore apart her family by joining with her drug-abusing son, who had been expelled by the church for his amoral activities.”

Key Quote
“When my son and daughter and grandchild lived in Sara’s house, for which she was charging rent, the son would sleep all day, get up, come over to the kitchen (in front of me), take food off the table, stuff it in his mouth, and then go out drinking.”

Source
Father-in-law (also ex-husband, daughter)

Video Review
A+ for pettiness. They literally interviewed the guy’s grandpa, who’s allegation is that “he just stops in to eat and then go out with his friends!”

Surrealist Moment
Random guy with a black eye. He sure doesn’t seem very trustworthy.

 

2. Mike Rinder: The Wife Beater

Charge Against the Church
That leader David Miscavige is a sociopath, that the church runs a prison-like punishment compound called “The Hole.”

Gist of Church Response
Don’t listen to Mike Rinder, he abandoned his family (who are still in the church) when he left the church. Then he got physical with them when they physically tried to prevent him from leaving. He also criticized their religion!

Sample Voiceover
“Mike Rinder failed as a family man, and on the job.”

Key Quote
“Mike, as a child was aloof, indifferent. Didn’t have many friends.” ; “I started hearing inside my ears my bones creaking!” (this second one because Mike Rinder was squeezing her arms, apparently)

Source
Rinder’s brother, ex-wife, daughter.

Video Review
While I truly enjoy the pettiness of including his brother talking about how Rinder didn’t have any friends when he was a little kid, the master stroke is that they seem to have spun Rinder attempting to leave while his family tries to physically prevent him from leaving as Rinder’s “cold blooded” “violent attack” on them. His ex-wife is also apparently “permanently disabled” from the encounter, which the video itself seemed to paint as him squeezing her arms. They also show him saying “really?” and call it “heartless mockery.” This one might not be as silly as the others, but it is a masterpiece of exaggeration.

Surrealist Element
I guess it’s not exactly “surreal” in this case, but this screencap is just beautiful:

 

1. Marty Rathbun: A Violent Sociopath

Charge Against The Church
Reportedly the church’s chief enforcer for years, Rathbun levied a number of charges, including that the church helped break up Tom Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman, and that he wiretapped Kidman’s phone at church head David Miscavige’s request. He also has filmed himself being ambushed by Scientologists.

Gist of Church Response
Rathbun’s characterization of Scientology as a violent cult is laughable, as he is a violent cult leader.

Sample Voiceover
“An unhinged leader of a small south-Texas cult, a man with a militia mentality and a long history of violence.”

Key Quote
“Rathbun’s punch hit my watch so hard that it broke the Titanium band!”

Video Review
This one is where the Church of Scientology really shines. There’s a seamless beauty to the way they use descriptions of Rathbun’s violence (which he reportedly undertook while working for the church) to discredit his allegations against the church. It’s actually kind of magnificent. It’d be like an SS officer coming out against Nazi-ism and the other Nazis making a video saying “You’re going to listen to this guy? He’s clearly anti-Semitic.”

And then there’s the video itself, which combines junior high-level reenactments with sound effects that would fit right in on Adam West’s Batman. It’s beautiful. If you watch one Church of Scientology smear video, let it be this one.

Surrealist Element
Everything, but especially the white silhouette punching another silhouette’s watch (who does that?) in front of whatever background that is.

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