Some thoughts on the Reed Slatkin affair

08 May 2001

Bedford McIntosh <plocktonSPAM_ME_NOT@deltanet.com>

I'm not sure we can overestimate the impact the Reed Slatkin affair is having. Not only in the public arena, but within Scientology and with Scientologists. Let me suggest what comes to my mind:

First, the most obvious: Every mention I have seen of Reed Slatkin mentions that he is a Scientologist and that many of his alleged victims are fellow Scientologists. Justifiably or not, what impression does this give the neutral reader about the ethics of a Scientologist? (Even years after the fact, what does the word "Keating" bring to mind?) Does it create, rightly or wrongly, an impression of gullibility (or perhaps greed) among Scientologists?

Second, a lot of Scientologists -- those who had investments with Slatkin -- apparently have just became a lot poorer. What impact will this have on Church income? A few hundred folks may not seem like a lot, but I suspect that this scandal disproportionately affects wealthier Scientologists, those who would normally plump down cash for a couple of intensives. (This impact is especially great if one suspects -- as most here do -- that the number of actual 'on course' members is far far lower than the '8 million members' number that is tossed around by the Church, but is instead closer to 100,000 or even less.)

Third, while I have seen nothing that says the COS had any money invested directly with Slatkin, it may have had an unwitting role in promoting him. Someone like Slatkin (a donor of at least $500,000) would likely be well known to the higher ups like Rinder and DM. By simply moving in that circle he would inevitably obtain a certain amount of credibility with others. If that happened, what will those who met Reed within that circle think about whoever made the introductions? In fact, what would it indicate if the Church DIDN'T have any money invested? Or even worse, if it used to have money invested but pulled out before the scheme collapsed?

Can one imagine a scenario where some of Reed's shenanigans came out in a session? What would the Church do under those circumstances? (And if it didn't come out in a session, why didn't it?) Another potential problem area: if the COS has dissuaded, or tries to dissuade, members from bringing suit (the original suit was from a non- member). These are members who at some point will probably conclude that their only hope is to join in a lawsuit. What will they think of those, if any, who told them to keep it within the Church?

Fourth, what does the Church do with a gift that came from ill-gotten gains, if that turns out to be the case? Money that may have been swindled from members? What happens if the members start asking for their share back?

Fifth, while those holding the bag at the end may number a few hundred, many more were probably investors with Slatkin at some point along the way. Investment "opportunities" seemingly move throughout the Scientology membership by word of mouth. How many times do these things have to tank before folks begin to suspect that they are getting bad advice? And, as Scientologists, aren't they more able to evaluate data and understand people? Can they not help but wonder whether the tech is failing them? If the tech works 100% of the time when properly used, how could so many mis-apply it at once?

Sixth, Tory always talks about the "crack in the Truman Show" that happened for her. Well, that just happened all at once for a lot of Scientologists in a big way. (Was Slatkin an OT?) In spite of what I believe is a general aversion to the media by members ("too much bashing") there is no way this news has not permeated the membership, and probably staff as well. I suspect there is a lot of introspection going on right now. Keith's suggestion that there might be an exodus to the LMT may be fanciful but, to borrow a phrase from more traditional religions, a lot of members are having their faith tested right now. (How long will it be before we start hearing the claim that Slatkin was an FBI, IRS, German Intelligence, or Interpol infiltrator?)

Finally, and on a different note, while this terrible publicity for the COS may provide a certain level of satisfaction among critics ("Hey Mary, if you really think Bob did something bad in Nigeria, what do you think about your fellow church member, Reed Slatkin? Are you going to start a 'slatkin_watch.org?'") I think we must also remember that a lot of people, many of whom we would probably like if we knew them in a different context, are apparently going to lose a lot of money. If so, they are victims. There is little joy to be found in that.


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