Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Scientology vs. South Park

Most people know by now that Isaac Hayes has quit working on South Park (he was the voice of Chef) because they did an episode making fun of Scientology. Comedy Central decided to pull the episode, and their reason for doing so is so ridiculous that no one in their right mind would buy it:

A Comedy Central spokesman said Friday that the network pulled the controversial episode to make room for two shows featuring Hayes.

“In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for,” the spokesman said.

Nonsense. Someone has pressured the network to get them to remove the show, that is obvious. The rumors are that Tom Cruise, the world’s most prominent scientologist, threatened the network that he wouldn’t do any publicity for Mission Impossible 3 this summer, and since Comedy Central and Paramount, the movie’s distributor, are both owned by Viacom, they caved in. Cruise’s spokesperson denies that, but does so rather artfully:

But Cruise’s representative, Arnold Robinson, told The Associated Press Friday that the mega-star made no such demands.

“Not true,” Robinson said. “I can tell you that he never said that.”

He never said that. Not “he didn’t try to get the episode cancelled”, just that he didn’t say that specifically, which means if one word of what he did say was different, it’s not technically a lie. This is a fairly serious matter, I think, given the history of Scientology using threats to intimidate individuals and media outlets from printing or showing any criticism at all of their little scam (and yes, that is precisely what it is).

Comments

  1. #1 Dave
    March 17, 2006

    So I take it that you will not see Mission Impossible this summer, so that you don’t give any money to Cruise, and by extension, his cult?

  2. #2 Matthew
    March 17, 2006

    This mus be a reairing. The episode already aired back in I think October. It was quite funny.

  3. #3 Matthew
    March 17, 2006

    So it sounds like they decided not to air the rerun at this time out of respect for Hayes. I highly doubt this is going to cause they to stop being absolutely brutal towards religion.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    March 17, 2006

    Dave wrote:

    So I take it that you will not see Mission Impossible this summer, so that you don’t give any money to Cruise, and by extension, his cult?

    I have no interest in seeing that movie, but that has nothing to do with Scientology. I’ve said before that I do not make decisions on what movies to see or what albums to buy, etc, based on the views of the performers. If Tom Cruise makes a movie I’m interested in seeing (and it’s been a long time since he’s done so), I’ll go see it. I don’t see movies to make a political statement, I go to be entertained.

  5. #5 steve s
    March 17, 2006

    Apparently Hayes doesn’t know that every tribulation he visits upon Matt and Trey, will be visited upon him tenfold, no doubt beginning in upcoming weeks, Wednesday nights.

  6. #6 Clark Goble
    March 17, 2006

    Yeah, I can’t wait to see Wednesday’s episode. I loved their response too.

    So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!

    Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu.

    It really does make Cruise and Hayes (and all Scientologists) look bad. Heck, I laughed like mad during all their satire of Mormons, including one episode that ridiculed the origins of Mormonism. Every other Mormon I know of thought it was a crack up as well. Certainly the Scientologists are thin skinned.

  7. #7 chrisberez
    March 18, 2006

    The catholics pulled the same crap with the “Bloody Mary” episode. Matt and Trey have to be pulling their hair out over Cowerdly Central’s tactics of late. Thank goodness for DVD.

    Also, while I destest cruise my decision is the same as Ed’s regarding MI:3. I simply have no interest, although I’ll add that I have no interest because I think the movie looks incredibly stupid, and I hated the first two in the franchise.

  8. #8 Treban
    March 18, 2006

    Watching Mission Impossible was painfull, being a fan of the series. Just can’t do the sequels. But I have to agree that if the miraculous in fact happened and Cruise made a movie with merit – I would watch it. The same is true of many scientologists in film – even though as a “religion” scientology seems to encourage a ridiculously secretive and militantly protective mentality. Hell, I even occasionaly read L. Ron Hubbard’s fiction. His “Mission Earth” dektalogy is a blast.

  9. #9 EAllusion
    March 18, 2006

    We seem to read an awful lot of the same blogs Clark. I also thought Stone and Parker’s reponse was too funny.

    However, I would like to point out one small thing. The part of the South Park episode that describes the history of Xenu and scientologist beliefs is particularly irksome to scientologists. My understanding is scientologists aren’t supposed to have this information revealed to them until they are ready for it. While this may not be a perfect analogy, it is similar to if South Park described and made fun of LDS temple content.

    If that were to have happened, you can bet more Mormons would’ve been up in arms. What people get thinskinned about can be confusing if you’re an outsider.

  10. #10 EAllusion
    March 18, 2006

    Also while I’m on the subject, Isaac Hayes is a big fat hypocrite.

  11. #11 Dave S.
    March 18, 2006

    Ed writes:

    The rumors are that Tom Cruise, the world’s most prominent scientologist, threatened the network that he wouldn’t do any publicity for Mission Impossible 3 this summer, and since Comedy Central and Paramount, the movie’s distributor, are both owned by Viacom, they caved in.

    This tactic worked very well for George Clooney. Back in 1996 he was getting hammered by Hard Copy paparazzi. So he simply said if they kept it up, he’d boycott this and home company Paramount’s “other show” as well (meaning Entertainment Tonight). Since ET depends on the good will of the stars they cover, Paramount caved.

  12. #12 ericnh
    March 18, 2006

    If you can’t stand the heat, Isaac…

    You can tell South Park does its homework, judging by the reaction. I had no idea how wacky the LDS was until I saw that episode, and it compelled me to read up on Mormons for myself. Same with the Scientology episode. I know now to stay far away from those people.

  13. #13 Ginger Yellow
    March 19, 2006

    To be more fair to Hayes than he probably deserves, he’s got a bit of an excuse. Any Scientologist criticising the religion at all (or, presumably, participating in something criticising the church) is considered apostate, and if they do not return to the fold they are totally cut off from their families.

    From the huge Rolling Stone article published recently:

    Rinder [head PR guy for the "church"]says disconnection is a policy of last resort. “The first step is always to try to handle the situation,” he says. A “handling” generally refers to persuading a wayward member to return to the church in order to maintain contact with his family. The parent of someone who’s apostatized might call his child and ask him to “handle” a problem by essentially recanting. “They’ll ask them to make some amends, show they can be trusted . . . something to make up the damage,” says Davis. Those amends might range from volunteering in a literacy program to taking a public advocacy role — campaigning against psychiatry, for example.
    But some people, the officials admit, refuse to be handled. What happens to them? “Then I guess not believing in Scientology means more to them than not seeing their family,” Davis says.

    Of course, this only demonstrates how nasty Scientology is, and how foolish Hayes was in signing up to it.

  14. #14 Clark Goble
    March 19, 2006

    EAllusion, it’s interesting as when I heard the L. Ron Hubbard odd science fiction stuff some friends and I called up the local Scientology study center. They weren’t very happy about it.

    Contrast this with Mormons who while South Park certainly put things in the worst portrayal possible were generally positive to things. I suspect most blogging Mormons were already pretty familiar with the history. (Which in my mind isn’t particularly unusual among religious origins – certain not much odder than how the origins of general Christianity sounds to non-Christians)

  15. #15 EAllusion
    March 20, 2006

    Clark -

    I’m not sure I made my point. Suppose instead of the episode on Mormons South Park did, they instead did an episode where they did a mock version of the endowment ceremony. Do you think the Mormon reaction would’ve been the same? They probably would’ve been more upset, right?

    I’m saying that the Xenu stuff is a little more similar to that. It’s esoteric knoweledge that should not be discussed in public. Members aren’t supposed to know about it until they are “ready” for it.

    I think you need to take that into consideration when comparing the reactions of the members.

  16. #16 Jim Lippard
    March 20, 2006

    The Xenu story isn’t told in the Operating Thetan materials until OT III, but Hubbard also made reference to it in other places. Hubbard claimed that anyone who reads OT III who hasn’t gone through the appropriate preparations will get sick and die, but that’s clearly false.

    The real reason to keep OT III’s content secret is because if they were up front about it, they wouldn’t be able to get as many members through the lower levels to extract money from them.

    BTW, industry sources have apparently confirmed the Tom Cruise intervention account:
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/TV/03/20/leisure.southpark.reut/index.html

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    March 20, 2006

    EAillusion wrote:

    I’m saying that the Xenu stuff is a little more similar to that. It’s esoteric knoweledge that should not be discussed in public. Members aren’t supposed to know about it until they are “ready” for it.

    I think you need to take that into consideration when comparing the reactions of the members.

    Is that somehow supposed to make the reaction of the Scientologists more rational?

  18. #18 EAllusion
    March 20, 2006

    Quote:


    The real reason to keep OT III’s content secret is because if they were up front about it, they wouldn’t be able to get as many members

    It’s probably a little more complex than this. Scientology developed a system of keeping members waiting for more and more secrets of the universe and means to personal improvement via progression through levels. It’s like strangely similar to playing a roleplaying game that appears like it was made up as people moved along. So you end up with esoteric knowledge you have to progress to so you can get more esoteric knowledge that you can progress to and so on. This creates a strong premium on keeping this knowledge under wraps. Otherwise, if members on higher levels were sharing what’s going on to lower levels, they might lost their motivation to find out “what’s next”. So you can easily see Hubbard making such that members who achieve these levels are not, in any circumstances, to share it to lower levels. So a culture of secrecy surrounding these progressions developed. Not only does this culture fostered by Hubbard develop, but members come up with their own “faith-friendly” reasons in addition to Hubbard’s for why it has to be this way which they earnestly believe.

    Additionally, as you suggest if you heard this story before you were already “into” Scientology for a bit, you might consider the whole shebang looneytunes and not invest any further in it, financially and otherwise. Sometimes absurdity is best taken in small doses until you build up a tolerance. I likely disagree with you in that I think it’s about more than just making money. Just having people belong to your religion seems to matter, especially when people in charge believe it themselves.

    Ed Brayton –

    No, it’s not. It’s suppose to make their reactions more understandable to Clark.

    Clark is contrasting the Mormon response to the South Park episode on Mormons to the Scientologist response to the episode on Scientologists. The thing is the Scientologist episode contains a section that is much more likely to be irksome to scientologists than the Mormon episode to Mormons.

    However, there is an analogy available to us. In LDS culture, they have ceremonies that are meant to be kept secret by members who go through them where esoteric knowledge is revealed about life, the universe and everything :p. How much of it should be kept secret is a belief that varies among individual members, but virtually everyone agrees some of it should remain a topic not for discussion outside of the temple. (There is a cliche’ in LDS culture that it isn’t secet; It’s sacred). It often considered profoundly offensive by LDS to in any way openly talk about these ceremonies, much less mock them. If South Park did an episode on Mormons where they performed an endowment ceremony in a mocking fashion, many LDS would be very, very angry with the show. Any Mormons working for it would almost certainly feel pressure to quit. Damning editorials would be written about religious bigotry for sure.

    I’m saying that revealing the Xenu story, while probably not as as severe as that, does come a little closer to that situation. So Clark’s comparing of reactions between Mormons and scientologists needs to be considered in that context. For lack of a better word, what happened in the “All about Mormons” episode is less blasphemous than the Scientologist episode.

    Make sense?

  19. #19 sidewinder
    March 20, 2006

    There is no question that scientology overall is more uptight than Mormonism, call it a difference in PR style. But EA did hit the nail on the head. To have a fair comparison, Southpark would have needed to poke fun at the temple ceremony. Though it wouldn’t test for the exact same thing, it would also have been interesting to see the reaction had the Scientology episode toned it down a little. It might have been just as bad, I don’t know.

    But the Xenu story does have an incredibly close parallel to temple content. A good friend of mine lived in the sea org for a couple years and knew Hubbard. He had apostacized and left, partially due to hearing this story too soon, yet we were friends quite a while before he related the story to me.

    “The Xenu story isn’t told in the Operating Thetan materials until OT III, but Hubbard also made reference to it in other places. ”

    This is true. His inspiring work, “A Brief History of Man” is pretty revealing. But it doesn’t refer to Xenu or give away much of the narrative. But keep in mind, part of what’s in the Mormon temple ceremony is also in other places, such as the Book of Abraham/Moses. Heck, the infamous Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley claimed that the ENTIRE temple ceremony could be found in the Book of Mormon, encrypted of course.

    And of course, just try to mention temple content on any LDS message board and it’s instant banning and the post deleted.

    So I guess my position is, when hitting hard below the belt, no question Mormons are as sensitive as Scientologists(though less vindictive). For lesser infractions, I’m undecided.

    Ways Hayes pressured into his decision at all? I could imagine a Catholic or Mormon in his position letting it slide personally, but after being approached by a leader, taking the opportunity to look like a hero to the community.

  20. #20 sidewinder
    March 20, 2006

    Oh, I forgot to mention. One other important difference. The slam on Mormonism came close to being “all in good fun.” The slam on scientology was without mercy. The Mormon episode tried to point some good things, stan’s bigotry etc., families etc.. I don’t remember anything positively portrayed in the scientology episode.

  21. #21 Clark Goble
    March 21, 2006

    Sidewinder and EAllusion, I agree with you. (I even made a post about it on M*) You are right as well that the Scientology episode was a bit meanspirited. Say what you will about their treatment of Mormonism, but they do seem to have a soft spot for it. (Thus perhaps why there are fairly frequent Mormon jokes on the show) As I understand one of them had a Mormon girl friend back in High School. So Mormons get the brunt of a lot of jokes, but in a way that is kind of like a skeptic who kind of likes us. You could see that in the ending to the LDS Origins episode. (Not to mention their ongoing joke that only Mormons are in heaven – with some surprisingly accurate depictions of Mormon culture and phrases)

  22. #22 Ed Brayton
    March 21, 2006

    I would say that the South Park creators really do have it in for Mormonism. If you don’t believe me, go rent a movie they made called Orgasmo (rent it anyway, because it’s extremely funny). It’s about a Mormon missionary who ends up playing the lead in a porno movie.

  23. #23 386sx
    March 22, 2006

    Most people know by now that Isaac Hayes has quit working on South Park…

    According to Roger Friedman:

    “Isaac Hayes did not quit ‘South Park.’ My sources say that someone quit it for him.”

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