Scientology's Worst Abuses against a Journalist Revealed

By Lippard, Jim | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Scientology's Worst Abuses against a Journalist Revealed


Lippard, Jim, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


A review of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy Paulette Cooper by Tony Ortega.

London: Silvertail Books, 2015. 398 pp. $17.95 ISBN: 1511639377

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Paulette Cooper was harassed, tricked, sued, and lied to, but was not destroyed. The Church of Scientology's "fair game" policy, originally written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1965 and elaborated in a series of policy letters over subsequent years, stated that "suppressive persons"--defined as anyone interfering with the Church's activities--are "fair game" for "any action" taken against them, including being "deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. [Such persons] May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." (1)

Paulette Cooper wrote an article for the December 1969 issue of the British magazine Queen titled "The Tragi-Farce of Scientology." (2) The Church of Scientology responded by suing her in Great Britain in 1970. When she turned her article into a 1971 book entitled The Scandal of Scientology, they sued her again. And again. Repeatedly.

Scientology harassed Cooper over the telephone, put her telephone number on bathroom walls, distributed fliers to her neighbors accusing her of prostitution, and monitored her movements and telephone calls. They broke into her psychiatrist's office and copied records of her college counseling sessions. They gained access to her apartment and copied embarrassing passages out of her teenage diary and delivered them to her adoptive father's office. They moved undercover operatives into her apartment building, who then befriended her and continually kept the Church updated on her behavior and emotional state. They framed her for bomb threats against Scientology in an attempt to have her imprisoned or committed to a mental institution. Because they used stationery with her fingerprints and her typewriter to create a threatening note, she was indicted and under threat of prosecution for years. The Church planned "Operation Freakout" to frame her again for bomb threats, this time against the Embassy of a Middle Eastern country--plans that were not carried out before Scientology itself was raided by the FBI in 1977 and Cooper was finally cleared of the charges that had been hanging over her.

Most of the above details are parts of a fairly well-known narrative of Cooper's battles with Scientology, which make her the poster child for "fair game" abuses against a critical journalist. The story has been told many times with varying levels of detail, in most books about the history of Scientology written in the past four decades. (3) But the story has, until now, been incomplete.

Journalist and blogger Tony Ortega, former editor-in-chief of the Village Voice and current executive editor of The Raw Story, has written a new book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, which is a comprehensive account of Paulette Cooper's story. By tracking down sources no previous investigator had interviewed, digging into neglected documents, and with some help from individuals who have left Scientology as well as from his subject, Ortega has written the definitive account of the lengths to which Scientology went in its ultimately failed attempts to destroy Paulette Cooper.

Ortega was ideally suited to write this book. His blog, The Underground Bunker, (4) is the most popular blog on Scientology. His daily posts document its decline, and he has cultivated numerous sources that include former senior officials in Scientology and even sources still inside the organization. Ortega followed Cooper's path tracking down the sources she used to write her book and interviewing people who had been in her life--friends, family, and Scientologists operating covertly, such as Nancy Many and Len Zinberg, both of whom have now left the Church. Many's own book revealed her refusal to break into Cooper's psychiatrist's office for Scientology's Guardian Office (their covert operations and dirty tricks unit). …

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