Journalists and Me; Tony Ortega, Village Voice, July 2012

On July 28, 2012, Tony Ortega published an article in The Village Voice about John Brousseau, whom I had known in the Sea Org. Brousseau apparently mentioned me in an interview with Ortega, who added an aside about the L. Ron Hubbard biography project.

Knowing Hubbard’s track record for veracity, however, Brousseau still has fond memories of his time with the man.

“The dude was a regular guy. I’ve read everything about his life. He made mistakes, I get it. He definitely embellished things. And the church ran with it. Then Gerry Armstrong came along and said this shit is crap, and we’d do a lot better if we cut the crap and stuck to the truth — and he got hammered for it. Not by LRH, but he got hammered,” Brousseau says. (Armstrong had been a Sea Org member who had sailed on the Apollo with Hubbard; he had later been assigned the job of gathering documents for an authorized biography of Hubbard that a professional writer was being hired to produce. When Armstrong realized that original documents from Hubbard’s life contradicted so much of what Hubbard and the church said about him, he spoke up about it and was kicked out of the Sea Org. He took those documents with him, and was the subject of years of nasty litigation by the church. But his documents also formed the basis for books such as those by Miller and Atack.)

I posted a comment, but VV comments have all been removed. Following is the record I have, which might differ slightly from what appeared. It is very possible I included a quote from the very educational judgment in the Scientologists’ lawsuit against me that details the chain of custody of the documents that became the subject of the suit.

TO: Armstrong had been a Sea Org member who had sailed on the Apollo with Hubbard;

GA: Correct.

TO: he had later been assigned the job of gathering documents for an authorized biography of Hubbard that a professional writer was being hired to produce.

GA: Not really. I petitioned Hubbard to gather documents for an authorized biography of him, and for other purposes. Hubbard granted my petition, so I was never assigned, not that it matters.

Maybe ten months after Hubbard approved my petition, a professional writer, Omar V. Garrison, was contracted to produce the biography.

TO: When Armstrong realized that original documents from Hubbard’s life contradicted so much of what Hubbard and the church said about him, he spoke up about it and was kicked out of the Sea Org.

GA: Nope. When I realized that original documents from Hubbard’s life contradicted so much of what he and his Scientologist underlings said about him, I spoke up about it. In response, his key underlings, who were my immediate overlords, threatened me and brought me to consider escaping, but they did not kick me out of their cult. I accepted that Hubbard and Scientologists were not going to tell the truth and I blew, that is, escaped.

I was not kicked out of the Sea Org; I escaped. It is true that following my escape the Scientologists published a “Suppressive Person Declare” on me, which is their formalized kick-out from their cult. The SP declare is an available action in the Scientologists’ “noisy investigation” operations against people who might tell the truth about Scientology or L. Ron Hubbard.  I had spoken up, been threatened, and escaped, however, before Hubbard, et al. issued their SP Declare, or kicked me out.

Kicking me out after I’ve left is a bit of an impossibility, if you get my drift. The Scientologists like to say they kicked me out, perhaps because it makes them feel at cause in the matter, where they obsessively want to be, apparently.

TO: He took those documents with him,

GA: No. I wrote about this to your blog back in April. I actually submitted my comment twice, and saw it published. It was then deleted, fairly rapidly, let’s say within a minute. I’ve now posted this earlier comment on my own blog for ease of reference.1

Lawrence Wright got the same thing wrong in his New Yorker piece last year about Paul Haggis. I still haven’t convinced The New Yorker, et al. that it’s in their best interest, as well as everyone else’s, to correct their errors. I sure hope you don’t dig in your heels as hard as Condé Nast over such a small piece of ancient history.

There’s no excuse, because the Breckenridge decision is very clear, and was affirmed on appeal. The Scientologists’ whole war on me is brimming with divine irony, but that cannot be my fault.

TO: and was the subject of years of nasty litigation by the church.

GA: Yes, Scientology litigation is nasty. And on August 2, I will have been the subject of Scientology litigation for 30 years.

TO: But his documents also formed the basis for books such as those by Miller and Atack.

GA: The “Armstrong documents” certainly helped Miller, Atack, Corydon, and others. I did not, however, take these documents with me when I left the cult. When I needed them, which, history has shown, I did, Omar Garrison gave them to me.

God bless Omar (Farooq the Great, the krauts would grok) who had his own moment on his own Damascus Road, on his own way to murder Mohammed, and who was my friend.

Shortly after I posted my comment, Ortega emailed me:

Gerry, I was rushing to produce a 15,000-word story about John Brousseau, and along the way had about three minutes to quickly summarize something about you when JB mentioned your name.

I would have appreciated an email to me so I could fix that hurried paragraph, rather than public snit fit you pulled in my comments.

I have always stood up for you and tried to make people understand how you were treated so badly.

Tony

I emailed him back:

Dear Tony:

I get it. I think I have done my level best to get you, other media, the public, the Scientologists to understand my facts and words. There is no evidence that I have withheld them.

I would have appreciated some things too that didn’t happen.

You haven’t always stood up for me. Publishing something that I say so emphatically is needlessly untrue cannot possibly be standing up for me.

If you were to stand up for me, what would you do, and what would you say? It’s difficult to stand up for someone full time, but for three minutes every few months, that should be easy. If the three minutes aren’t fulfilled, then it isn’t reasonable to think that the rest of the time is all about standing up for me.

I hope you’ll go ahead and make the reasoned changes to your facts and profile about me.  That could almost be a game changer, believe me.

Gerry

He emailed:

I did make the changes, minutes after I read your message, you goof. Go look for yourself.

I’m not bitching that you found errors in my short little paragraph, I’m just wishing you hadn’t acted such a jerk and made it look like you needed to put on such a show for everyone. What the hell was that about?

Come on. You should know me better than to think that’s an effective approach.

The VV article now reads:

Knowing Hubbard’s track record for veracity, however, Brousseau still has fond memories of his time with the man.

“The dude was a regular guy. I’ve read everything about his life. He made mistakes, I get it. He definitely embellished things. And the church ran with it. Then Gerry Armstrong came along and said this shit is crap, and we’d do a lot better if we cut the crap and stuck to the truth — and he got hammered for it. Not by LRH, but he got hammered,” Brousseau says. (Armstrong had been a Sea Org member who had sailed on the Apollo with Hubbard; he had later gathered documents about Hubbard that a professional writer was later hired to turn into an authorized biography. When Armstrong realized that original documents from Hubbard’s life contradicted so much of what Hubbard and the church said about him, he spoke up about it and was punished by his superiors. He left Scientology, and was the subject of years of nasty litigation by the church. But the document’s he’d found formed the basis for books such as those by Miller and Atack.)2

I drafted a response to Ortega but didn’t send it.

Referring to a person, “goof” has two meanings. Merriam-Webster says: “a ridiculous stupid person.” And Urban Dictionary says: “a goof is a child molester in prison that likes young boys.they must be kept in protective custody. quite often murdered or beaten into comas.”

Correcting public statements about me publicly is not acting such a jerk. What I provided was an accurate, literary correction and elucidation of the facts. It was not a snit fit.

If I put on a show for everyone, then every person who comments publicly puts on a show for everyone. So does every writer who publishes anything. Here, however, the need to emphasize the facts and try to make them memorable for Ortega was magnified because he was repeating the same significant misrepresentations about me he had published, and I had corrected, just three months earlier.3 Here too, these are misrepresentations that serve the Scientologists’ inimical purposes. They are lies in the Scientologists’ black propaganda campaign that is decades-long and worldwide.

A professional journalist and editor producing a 15,000-word story for publication cannot but have a lot more than about three minutes to get his facts right. Using that as an excuse is insulting to any person’s intelligence. Here more so, because I had very recently made the litigated facts copiously clear. Smearing the victim of the misrepresentations as a goof and a jerk and his sincere correction effort as a public snit fit is, minimally, unprofessional. Telling the victim that his correction effort is not an “effective approach” is threatening.

Notes

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