Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Scientology and Its Aftermath, part 2: “Fair Game” (A&E, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I switched to Arts & Entertainment for the second episode in actress and former Scientologist Leah Remini’s exposé of the church, this time profiling Mike Rinder, the church’s former enforcer of its “fair game” policy. The “fair game” policy was created by L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, as a part of his elaborate “ethics” scheme in which everybody in the world was ranked according to their usefulness or faithful servitude to Scientology. In 1967 Hubbard sent out a letter headed “Penalties for Lower Conditions” (available online at which explains that people in the lowest “ethics” condition, “Enemy,” “may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” Hubbard formally revoked the “fair game” policy a year later but, according to the former Scientologists interviewed in this program, the church still acts on the policy — it just no longer calls it that. Rinder said in the program he got disillusioned with the church when he had to cover up for David Miscavige, current head of Scientology, who took over the church after Hubbard’s death in 1986 and who seems to have established his own personal craziness as part of it (sort of like Stalin after Lenin), including physically attacking Scientologists who displease him in some way. Rinder had been assigned to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), Scientology’s internal discipline regime, and was living in an un-insulated trailer on the grounds of Scientology’s worldwide headquarters in Hemet, California (though they also have a setup in Clearwater, Florida that houses the Sea Org — Scientology’s main governing body, whose name is a relic of the time in the late 1960’s when Hubbard decided to evade the growing scrutiny of the British government of his operations there by relocating to a ship called the Apollo, which except when it needed provisions would be kept in international waters and therefore no government would have jurisdiction over it) when he was assigned to stop a documentary critical of Scientology being filmed by a British journalist named John Sweeney.

He gave an interview to Sweeney in which he said the accusations that Miscavige physically attacked people were “ridiculous,” but the task of defending a psycho against a journalist who was on to the truth about him was too much for Rinder. He describes his walkout in dramatic terms — he just walked out of the Scientology building, bought a ticket on the London Underground and turned up at the doorstep of one of his few non-Scientologist friends and asked for help — but the real tragedy was he left his entire family, including a dying mother as well as his wife and their three kids, behind in the church — and naturally the church used them as weapons to try, not necessarily to get him back, but at least to shut up. He relocated to Clearwater, remarried, had a son with his new wife (lucky kid; at least he’ll be spared the horrors of growing up in Scientology), got a job with a car dealership — and got regularly picketed by Scientologists carrying signs accusing him of being a drug addict, a child molester, and everything else they could think of. Rinder also discovered that the Church of Scientology had literally bugged his home through a camera concealed in a birdhouse that was photographing his property 24/7, and he found that under Florida law, unless the picketers actually came on his property, they weren’t breaking the law and there was nothing he could do about them. What’s fascinating about this show is that the conditioned response of the Church of Scientology to any criticism, from defectors, journalists or anyone else, is to unleash a nasty barrage of attacks — sort of like Donald Trump (they should feel right at home in TrumpAmerica!) — as writer Melanie McFarland wrote about this show (, “Including excerpts of these letters in the telecast is the network’s way of covering its backside from a legal perspective, a stipulation probably required by the church. Doing so also has precisely the opposite effect of what the Church of Scientology intended, in that they further solidify any outrage a person might feel at hearing allegations of physical, psychological and sexual abuse recounted in Remini’s series. … Knowing that Remini’s series has so vociferously riled up the church has to have goosed the curiosity of the A&E audience far more than if it had done the minimal disavowal and left it at that. Which (insert uninhibited, maniacal laugh track here) would never happen.”