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

On April 20, 2012, Tony Ortega posted an article on the Village Voice site about David Love, “I Think I Have Scientology By The Balls,” which contains this bit about me:

Over the next several months, as he saw patients taken in under false pretenses, and saw some harmed, Love says he became determined to bring news of Narconon to the outside world.

“I contacted Bonnie Woods in England,” he says, referring to an ex-Scientologist who famously sued the church. “I had come across her website. Within an hour she got hold of Gerry Armstrong in Vancouver, and the both of them gave me advice on how to leave.”

Armstrong is also well known for how he left Scientology, taking with him thousands of documents, damning evidence that L. Ron Hubbard had lied about much of his history. Armstrong paid for it by being hunted down in a series of legal actions by the church, which keep him out of the United States to this day.

Love says that Armstrong put him in touch with an anti-cult group in Montreal, who in turn put him in contact with journalists at the CBC. 1

I posted the following in VV comments:

It is the Scientologists’ false claim, and their collaborators’ claim or assertion, of course, that when I left Scientology I took with me documents, which later damned Hubbard or some damned thing. Radical reductionism obviously is necessary in journalism, but the generation of an inaccurate snapshot is never necessary.

Here are the facts stated in the judgment following the trial in LA Superior Court in which the provenance of the damning documents was examined.

“In December of 1981 Defendant Armstrong made the decision to leave the Church of Scientology. In order to continue in his commitment to Hubbard and Mr. Garrison in the biography project, he copied a large quantity of documents, which Mr. Garrison had requested or which would be useful to him for the biography. Defendant Armstrong delivered all of this material to Mr. Garrison the date he left the SEA Organization and kept nothing in his possession.

“Thereafter, Defendant Armstrong maintained friendly relations with Hubbard’s representatives by returning to the Archives offices and discussing the various categories of materials. In fact on February 24, 1982, Defendant Armstrong wrote to Vaughn Young, regarding certain materials Mr. Young was unable to locate for Omar Garrison.

“After this letter was written, Defendant Armstrong went to the Archives office and located certain materials Mr. Garrison had wanted which Hubbard representatives claimed they could not locate. At the time Defendant Armstrong left the SEA Organization, he was disappointed with Scientology and Hubbard, and also felt deceived by them. However, Defendant Armstrong felt he had no enemies and felt no ill will toward anyone in the Organization or Hubbard, but still believed that a truthful biography should be written.

“After leaving the SEA Organization, Defendant Armstrong continued to assist Mr. Garrison with the Hubbard biography project. In the spring of 1982, Defendant Armstrong at Mr. Garrison’s request, transcribed some of his interview tapes, copied some of the documentation he had, and assembled several more binders of copied materials. Defendant Armstrong also set up shelves for Mr. Garrison for all the biography research materials, worked on a cross-reference systems, and continued to do library research for the biography.

“On February 18, 1982, the Church of Scientology International issued a “Suppressive Person Declare Gerry Armstrong,” which is an official Scientology document issued against individuals who are considered as enemies of the Organization. Said Suppressive Person Declare charged that Defendant Armstrong had taken an unauthorized leave and that he was spreading destructive rumors about Senior Scientologists.

“Defendant Armstrong was unaware of said Suppressive Person Declare until April of 1982. At that time a revised Declare Was issued on April 22, 1982. Said Declare charged Defendant Armstrong with 18 different “Crimes and High Crimes and Suppressive Acts Against the Church.” The charges included theft, juggling accounts, obtaining loans on money under false pretenses, promulgating false information about the Church, its founder, and members, and other untruthful allegations designed to make Defendant Armstrong an appropriate subject of the Scientology “Fair Game Doctrine.” Said Doctrine allows any suppressive person to be “tricked, cheated, lied to, sued, or destroyed.”

“The second declare was issued shortly after Defendant Armstrong attempted to sell photographs of his wedding on board Hubbard’s ship (in which Hubbard appears), and photographs belonging to some of his friends, which also included photos of L.R. Hubbard while in seclusion. Although Defendant Armstrong delivered the photographs to a Virgil Wilhite for sale, he never received payment or return of his friend’s photographs. When he became aware that the Church had these photographs, he went to the Organization to request their return. A loud and boisterous argument ensued, and he eventually was told to leave the premises and get an attorney.

“From his extensive knowledge of the covert and intelligence operations carried out by the Church of Scientology of California against its enemies (suppressive persons), Defendant Armstrong became terrified and feared that his life and the life of his wife were in danger, and he also feared he would be the target of costly and harassing lawsuits.

“In addition, Mr. Garrison became afraid for the security of the documents and believed that the intelligence network of the Church of Scientology would break and enter his home to retrieve them. Thus, Defendant Armstrong made copies of certain documents for Mr. Garrison and maintained them in a separate location.

“It was thereafter, in the summer of 1982, that Defendant Armstrong asked Mr. Garrison for copies of documents to use in his defense and sent the documents to his attorneys, Michael Flynn and Contos & Bunch.”

As a journalist, Tony, please don’t become so familiar with the people you’re writing about that you don’t bother to contact them, especially if you have their phone numbers, they do answer their phone, and you’ve spoken to them. I’ll deal with my talk last year at St. Tikhon’s University separately.

If I have to be well known for how I left Scientology, and how I left must be reduced to the bare minimum it, it is because I escaped. That is also the significant similarity between how I left the Sea Org and Scientology and how David Love left Narconon, we both escaped.

I took with me thousands of experiences and thousands of pieces of knowledge of Hubbard and his Scientologists lying about all sorts of things. But I did not take the subject damning documents. If David escaped from Narconon with damning documents, I don’t know. I acquired the subject Hubbard documents months after I had left Scientology, and if how I acquired them has to be reduced maximally, and still be accurate without mentioning Omar Garrison, you could say by great good fortune.

I posted my comment and Ortega removed it. I posted it again and he removed it again. I posted it a third time and he left it alone. Now, however, Village Voice has eliminated all the comments; so Ortega’s statement that I am well known for how I left Scientology, taking with me thousands of documents, stands openly uncorrected. If I am well known for doing what I didn’t do, it is because of statements like this that serve the Scientologists’ black PR purposes.

In the David Love matter, I had been very careful and explicit in cautioning him before he left Narconon Trois-Rivières about taking anything that did not belong to him. I did not even know at that time if he wasn’t a Scientology operative attempting to entrap me, as the Scientologists had attempted a number of times over the years. Love left Narconon in 2009, and by 2012 had filed complaints against the organization and made claims of possessing its documents.

My indication and correction of Ortega’s error, my provision of an official court document supporting my correction, my comment about accurate journalistic reduction, and my plea to Ortega to contact available people he was writing about, were appropriate and deserved. They could have been appreciated and taken to heart.