On October 24, 2016, I emailed a letter to HarperCollins Publishers Australia Pty Ltd and Steve Cannane to complain about how he dealt with me in Fair Game: the Incredible Untold Story of Scientology in Australia. I identified fact errors and defamatory statements about me, and I included a number of fact errors and spelling or semantic mistakes that are not directly related to me, but which caught my eye in a quick read through the book. On November 7, 2016, I posted my complaint letter and an explanatory note: http://gerryarmstrong.ca/speaking-up-about-fair-game/
On December 17, 2016, I received a response from Cannane to my October 24, 2016 letter:
From: Steve Cannane [mailto:[ ]
Sent: Saturday, December 17, 2016 10:01 AM
Sorry it has taken a while to get back to you. I have been very busy with work. It also took me a while to go through your list and check my sources.
I was a bit surprised you sent that email to my publisher given we were already corresponding about proposed corrections that you were planning to send me. I can understand you contacting them afterwards if you’re weren’t happy with the changes I was planning to make, but beforehand seems a bit much.
Also the tone of your email was pretty mean spirited Gerry. It seemed like you were trying to undermine my credibility to my publisher because I didn’t get you to fact check the book. You couldn’t even find a positive thing to say about the book! Even though I uncovered new documents, spoke to people who hadn’t gone on the record before and revealed stories that you didn’t even know despite your extensive knowledge.
I did show the book, or passages of the book, to a select few people. I did not think to show it to you, because to be honest, I don’t know you. I met you at Toronto and briefly corresponded with you over email. I couldn’t risk letting any of it get out pre-publication as you would understand. Your actions since tell me I made the right decision. What you publish on your website shows me you lack discretion. I could only afford to show it to people I could trust.
The idea you put forward in your email that I am “forwarding the Scientologists’ black PR” is absurd, and undermines the credibility of your criticisms of the book. The way you put it in your email it’s as if the two people who I did trust to pre-read my book are somehow agents of this black PR. This is crazy talk.
Gerry, I have no idea what it’s like to walk in your shoes and to have been targeted in the awful way that you have been. But can I suggest you step back and try and see that not everyone has evil intentions against you? Can you try and realise that not everyone sees the perceived slights that you do?
Where I have made mistakes, I will correct them, and I thank you for pointing them out. Much of what you have listed in your email is either contestable or your opinion. I have responded to your list with some notes below.
A – You are right Gerry, a spelling mistake by me. I will get it corrected.
B – Why are you making this passage about yourself Gerry? Your story is a minor part of the book. What I am referring to here is the people whose stories I was telling that related to allegations of abuse and were happy to have them tested. What you say does not disprove the point I am making here.
C – I will check this with the people I have spoken to who were on the RPF in Australia and if you are right I will correct it.
D – This is an impressive list of hot and humid climates that Hubbard visited. But how do they compare to Brisbane? I have been in England for 8 months and I can tell you I am not used to the cold. I was brought up in a hot climate and doubt I will ever get used to it. I don’t think that was an unfair thing for me to write.
E – If the Polk was a transport ship taking him to the Philippines isn’t he still serving on it? I don’t see what is wrong here.
F – Did the YP-422 see active duty under Hubbard’s command? I am happy to correct this if I am wrong.
Yes I wrote that Hubbard lost command after the Cape Lookout incident and I was careful not to draw a direct causal link, in case there were other factors at play, but you seem to be sure that it was not because of this. If so why did he lose command? If you are telling me it wasn’t because of the incident, then that suggests you know why.
Re the magnetic deposit, I’m not sure how you say that was “probably wrong”. Both Owen and Miller – good sources – say the implication was clear from Fletcher’s report that the PC-815 had fought a two-day battle with a magnetic deposit. Why would Fletcher mention the magnetic deposit in the context of his view that there was no submarine in the area, if he was not suggesting this? Jon Atack reaches the same conclusion here http://tonyortega.org/2016/09/10/laying-to-rest-the-obfuscations-of-l-fletcher-prouty-scientologys-conspiracist-for-hire/
Laying to rest the obfuscations of L. Fletcher Prouty …
Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more …
I consider Atack, Miller and Owen to be excellent sources.
G — I am not sure what your point is here
H — Prouty was named as Hubbard’s authorised biographer in the Sunday Times in November 1987
It’s listed on Amazon with an ISBN number – though I believe never published.
Publisher: Bridge Pubns (Aug. 1990)
I — Sounds weird? That’s your opinion Gerry. The main point here is that Hubbard wrote the statement for the Sunday Times that said he broke up black magic in the US. It’s not the case that is relevant here, it’s that he wrote it! You seem to be making this about yourself again. Jon’s book is a completely legitimate source for this.
You may be right that the notes have inconsistencies, but that does not mean they are wrong. It’s more highly footnoted than most Scientology books. They are there as a guide for people to find the evidence themselves, and they can from what I have put in my end notes. I am a journalist, not an academic. I’d rather the book be out there and people reading it, than me spending another 6 months finessing the endnotes so they are consistent.
J — If the case went to trial in 1984, I don’t have a problem with calling it the 1984 court case. That’s when it was in court wasn’t it? You obviously have a different view on this.
K — Gerry I don’t read this implication at all. The important fact was you were a member of the Sea Org, so dedicated to Scientology and Hubbard, but you fell out of favour with the hierarchy when you wrote the report.
If it’s a case of reports rather than a report, I am happy to add an s.
‘Fell out of favour’ may not in your mind adequately summarise what happened to you. But it’s not wrong. I had to quickly summarise your role. This page is about the Affirmations, the chapter is about Hubbard and his war record, do you think I really should get bogged down in the minutiae of your story? Or press on and tell the reader about Hubbard?
Isn’t ‘contradiction’ correct? Weren’t you showing the differences between the truth and reality? By one dictionary definition, a contradiction is ‘an assertion of the contrary or the opposite’. Isn’t that accurate?
L — I don’t see the implication that you see in this and I think you’re going completely over the top in comparing it to black propaganda attacks from Scientologists. I don’t run the argument that you stole the documents – on the contrary I mention that you were unsuccessfully sued – which suggests doesn’t it, that you didn’t steal them? How could this sentence create the false impression you say it does? I don’t say you sent the documents to your lawyer because you fell out of favour with the Scientology hierarchy.
This passage in my book is about Hubbard and the Affirmations. If I go into the nitty gritty of your court case as you lay it out in the email, it becomes about you and your case, which is not the story I am telling. You must understand I am using shorthand here to describe in part what happened.
I understand that you would be sensitive to how this chain of events was laid out. If you think there’s a way I can better express it in a sentence or two, by altering certain words or including certain information, let me know and I will consider it.
I take your point re “what the church saw” and that maybe ‘what it claimed’ would have be better, but really this seems a bit pedantic. The key point once again was that they ‘unsuccessfully sued’. You were vindicated!! Do you really think the reader, having read about all the other underhand and illegal activities the Church of Scientology was up to, then sees you were ‘unsuccessfully sued’ by them would somehow think that you had acted inappropriately? It defies logic Gerry. They would understand exactly what they were up to – they were using the legal system to try and intimidate and punish you. How can you not see this?
M — Re the issue of url’s I include some but not others, I noticed in my research that sometimes urls become obsolete after a certain amount of time. Yes I’m guilty of inconsistency with putting some urls and not others but I’m sure if people want to find them, they can.
N — Re you being an archivist for Hubbard or Scientology, I think its fair to say both. The Church of Scientology paid you didn’t they?
0 – you are right, I will correct this
P — Re the RPF I will change this so it does not look like you were a member of the RPF at the time
Re being named as a source of leads and information. This does not make it sound like you were a fact checker at all. It is what it is. You were named as one of 19 former Scientologists who gave me leads and information. This is what you did Gerry and I was grateful for the information you gave me. Jon is the person I thank in the book for fact checking. You are once again seeing things that are not there.
Q — Miller in Bare Faced Messiah says they were uniformed. I am happy to check with people who were in Clearwater at the time to see if this was true.
R — Maybe you are right about this Gerry, perhaps I should’ve written ‘said’, or ‘wrote’ rather than ‘believed’.
S — I don’t recall where I got that information on DeSapio, if I had cited every single source for every single piece of information, the book would be the size of a piano.
T – you are right I will correct the spelling of Wolfe.
U – Maybe I should’ve put anti-social personalities in inverted commas – however it is strongly implied in this sentence that this is Hubbard’s belief. I am not sure why you have to bring Nazi comparisons into this Gerry, it doesn’t really do your argument any credit.
V — I will look this up, but if I am wrong I am happy to amend.
W — Terri told me this, when I checked with her she said “in a nutshell it was for defending him”. In your notes it says you were joined by Terri on the last couple of days of you being locked up – does this mean that what she said is right? Or were you not on the RPF at the time?
X — yes you are right I will insert that word.
Y — I can see plenty of references to “Bay area” – while what you say may be the more usual term, I don’t think what I have written is wrong.
Z — Yes I have spelt this name wrong, I will correct it.
AA, BB, and CC I will check all these with the legal team
DD — Jon Atack told me that the GO was autonomous from the Church of Scientology you obviously disagree.
On December 18, I emailed Cannane and cced HarperCollins:
From: Gerry Armstrong <email@example.com>
Date: Sunday, 18 December 2016 at 21:15
To: Steve Cannane <[ ] >
Subject: RE: responses
Thank you for your response to my piece.
I sent it to your publisher not to undermine your credibility with HarperCollins, but because of the company’s responsibility as publisher. I would think your publisher would want to do what it sensibly can to save your credibility or reinforce it. I have a legitimate relationship with both HarperCollins and you.
It will take some time to prepare a reply to your various points that to me remain unresolved. But for now, can you please identify whatever it is that is published on my website that you say shows you that I lack discretion.
Discretion is an issue in all journalism, and here actions and inactions are being pinned to its claimed absence.
Your publisher could also get the wrong idea you’re proffering, that I communicated because you didn’t get me to fact check the book. There is no such suggestion in what I wrote, and it was not in any way a function or duty I wanted, or regretted not having.
It is, however, regrettable that you did not ask me to fact check the passages about me. I am the wrong person to fact check your book. I am the right person to fact check your facts about me.
It is true that when I read through the book I noted some misspellings, typos and fact errors that an editor or fact checker might have caught, and that many of these did not relate directly to me or my history. In fact, I noted in my October 24 letter to HarperCollins: “Some items concern me personally, some concern L. Ron Hubbard’s or Scientology’s history, and some items are just typos or similar that caught my eye and I thought the publisher and the author would appreciate knowing about.” I only noted errors that did not concern me because they appeared to me when reading the book to comment on errors that did concern me.
The reason you give for not sending me the passages about me to check — that I might therefore publish the book you weren’t sending me, or you couldn’t risk letting any of it get out pre-publication — does not wash journalistically. Your actual fact checkers also never checked your facts about me with me.
I will deal with the journalistic question of not checking facts because the facts being fact-checked might get out when I deal with the rest of your response. For now, as I mentioned, I would be grateful if you would point me to what on my site, or sites, shows you that I lack discretion. That information would facilitate a fuller, more clarifying reply from me.
On December 19, I received a reply email from Cannane:
From: Steve Cannane [mailto:[ ]
Sent: December 19, 2016 5:17 AM
To: Gerry Armstrong
Subject: Re: responses
What I am talking about re discretion is publishing people’s email correspondence online.
Now I’m not getting all high and mighty about this, I have published people’s emails without their consent when I have believed there has been a public interest in doing so. All of us have our own boundaries where we draw the line on this. I may be wrong but you seem to be pretty liberal when it comes to disclosing other people’s emails. When it came to trusting people pre publication I had to be sure about the people I could show it to. I trusted Tony and Jon. That was my judgement call and I think it was a good one.
To back up my point once again you copy your response (and therefore my email) on to my publisher. As far as I’m concerned this was personal correspondence between you and I. This shows a lack of discretion. It doesn’t particularly bother me because I stand by what I have said, but it’s just not the done thing.
As I said to before, I believed I was working from good sources on all the stories in my book. If I have got anything wrong, I am happy to correct it. I will deal with that after I get your responses.
On December 19, I emailed Cannane and cced HarperCollins:
From: Gerry Armstrong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, 19 December 2016 at 21:47
To: Steve Cannane <[ ] >
Subject: RE: responses
Again, I never asked to see your book pre-publication, nor did I even think of fact-checking your book. I did not want to be your fact checker. If done conscientiously, fact-checking your book would have taken a lot of time and effort. I was not complaining about your not sending me your draft or manuscript. I was not even complaining that you didn’t check your facts about me with me. I complained that while not checking your facts about me with me, for whatever reason, you got facts about me wrong. Now, unfortunately, I can add complaints about fatuous excuses and browbeating.
It is true that you got some facts wrong that were not about me, and I noticed and noted some in my review. That does not mean or suggest, however, that I wanted to fact check your book or was fact checking your book.
Your claim is that you didn’t check your facts about me with me because you did not know me and did not trust me. Even if you actually didn’t know me, and even if I actually was untrustworthy, however, these are spurious reasons. It defies journalistic logic. People a journalist is writing about but doesn’t know should be people about and with whom he scrupulously checks his facts. A journalist can’t avoid checking with people he’s writing about because they might be untrustworthy. He still has to be fair to them. Assuming untrustworthiness also evidences a decisive bias from the outset. Now you’ve heaped on bias confirmation.
The facts are that you knew me, and you knew that my facts could be trusted. The trustworthiness of my facts is relevant. My trustworthiness regarding some risk that I might publish whatever you could have sent me to fact check is not relevant. The “risk” has never been identified, and, from all information available, is invented.
You wrote that I would understand that you couldn’t risk letting any of it get out pre-publication, but that is not true. I do not understand; at least in the sense that I accept what you’re saying about risk. It seems to me, if there really was such a risk – that if you checked your facts about me with me something might get out — you would not have to contrive the idea that I wanted to see or possess your book pre-publication, or that you would have to send me the whole book for me to be able to check the facts about me.
I would never have tried to control what you published; but you knew my facts were accurate enough and articulated well enough to at least merit an opportunity to provide them. After that, you could have still chosen to publish whatever you want, even untruths or faulty facts.
I am certain that you have communicated your opinions and fact claims about me to others. I can prove to everyone with our pre-publication email correspondence, Harper-Collins included, that you knew me, and knew my facts could be trusted. So you can see how such can become a matter of public interest.
Surely you would agree that I did not publish any of our pre-publication correspondence before you made your not knowing me and not trusting me your reasons for not checking your facts about me with me. The subject facts are published in a globally promoted and sold book by one of the world’s largest publishing companies.
There are a number of journalism questions that have developed from my relationship with you, which are matters of public interest and deserve analysis. For example, when does a journalist know a person he is writing about well enough to create an ethical requirement to check his facts about that person with that person? If the subject is available, of course, which I was.
Among the emails you say I disclosed on my site or sites, can you identify any that concern pre-publication fact-checking or other pre-publication matters, or that expose, disclose or even discuss a writer’s pre-publication manuscript, draft, book or article?
I asked if you could identify whatever it is that is published on my website that you say shows you that I lack discretion. You wrote that my lack of discretion is shown by my publishing people’s email correspondence online. Can you please identify what email correspondence you are referring to.
Although there is a personal component in the correspondence between you and me, from at least the point when you wrote about me and HarperCollins published about me a professional relationship was created. My communications to your publisher do not reveal indiscretion but do demonstrate a problem in our professional relationship. I don’t think you should say you stand by what you have said when you have already acknowledged errors in what you have said. I don’t believe that it’s just not the done thing for a person aggrieved by a publication to communicate to the publisher, to complain to the publisher, to look to the publisher for correction of errors. The publisher might be too big to give a fig, but it would not be indiscrete of an aggrieved person to communicate his grievances to that gargantuan publisher, as well as the publisher’s writer.
On December 21, 2016, I received an email from Cannane:
From: Steve Cannane [mailto: [ ]
Sent: December 21, 2016 5:11 AM
To: Gerry Armstrong
Subject: Re: responses
I think we’ve both made our respective points clear to each other. I’m currently busy covering terrorism attacks in Europe and child sexual abuse and don’t have time to have a debate about the definition of discretion.
Come back to me with responses to my responses to your list and then I will tell you what alterations I am willing to make.
If I have any further questions I will them come back to you.
Cannane and I have not corresponded since. There is a clear public interest in my relationship with him, his fact checkers Tony Ortega and Jon Atack, Cannane’s major Fair Game contributor Mike Rinder, HarperCollins, government entities and the Scientologists, and in good and fake investigative journalism, and other social or theological issues, which, for understanding’s sake, compels this matter’s and these emails’ publication.
Since Cannane says essentially that he didn’t trust me with what he was writing and would publish about me, and that he knew I could post email correspondence, and since he had emailed back and forth with me prior to publication, he should have been extra-careful to write and publish the truth and give me an opportunity to read and comment on what he was writing about me, rather than use his bogus mistrust to fudge facts, justify his poor journalism and protect an antisocial agenda.