The Tangled Web of Tommy Davis
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive” – Sir Walter Scott
For anyone who missed them, there were three great media stories about the Church of Scientology’s abuses and human rights violations. This morning, it was Matt Lauer’s interview with Christie King Colbran on the Today Show. Christie did a great job describing her experiences, and the current threatening atmosphere of the Church.
Christie was also the subject of a major New York Times article on the 6th, “Defectors Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse” by Laurie Goodstein.
And there was an excellent, in-depth program on Scientology on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners, “Scientology: The Ex-Files.”
Each of these gave Church spokesman Tommy Davis another opportunity to demonstrate his complete incompetence. I can’t believe Tommy is still being trotted out as the Church spokesman, but then who else do they have? Rinder blew, and Heber Jentzsch has disappeared.
Tommy tries to push the Church line that big buildings and renovations are what is important, and that these things demonstrate “expansion.” He proudly gave the New York Times a tour of the interminable Superpower Building:
“’This is a representation of our success,’ said the church’s spokesman, Tommy Davis, showing off the building’s cavernous atrium, still to be clad in Italian marble, at the climax of a daylong tour of the church’s Clearwater empire. ‘This is a result of our expansion. It’s pinch-yourself material.’”
“Pinch-yourself material?” Really? Maybe someone should pinch Tommy Davis and get him to wake up from his delusional dream. What matters is not buildings, Tommy, it’s people. And on that subject, he was deliberately evasive.
“The church is vague about its membership numbers. In 11 hours with a reporter over two days, Mr. Davis, the church’s spokesman, gave the numbers of Sea Org members (8,000), of Scientologists in the Tampa-Clearwater area (12,000) and of L. Ron Hubbard’s books printed in the last two and a half years (67 million). But asked about the church’s membership, Mr. Davis said, ‘I couldn’t tell you an exact figure, but it’s certainly, it’s most definitely in the millions in the U.S. and millions abroad.’
“He said he did not know how to account for the findings in the American Religious Identification Survey that the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008.”
It’s interesting that later in the interview, Tommy stated “One can’t be a Scientologist and not be part of the church.” Well then, maybe he should tell that to the people who compile these fanciful totals of numbers of Scientologists. Are you trying to tell us, Tommy, that the Church that keeps statistics on everything, that can give us down to the inch how many square feet of renovated buildings were done last year, cannot tell us the total number of Church members? No, they know exactly how many active members they have, believe me. And it’s in the five-figure “order of magnitude,” not the seven-figure.
And I loved his response on ABC’s Four Corners program to the heart-wrenching story of Liz Anderson, who hasn’t seen her eldest child, Fiona Peachey, since 2005.
“TOMMY DAVIS: Well, let me put it this way. Considering just in the last couple of days and on my last trip to Clearwater, I saw Miss Peachey walking down the street. I believe, come to think of it, the street that she was walking down I saw two or three pay phones that she most capably could’ve stopped, picked up the phone and called whomever she wished to speak with. So if she wanted to speak to her mother, I am sure she’s perfectly capable of doing so.”
Really, dude? Pay phone? Why don’t you hop in your DeLorean and jump on up here to the future. In 2010, believe it or not, people don’t use pay phones (and there are none, by the way, on the walk from the Fort Harrison to the Bank Building or the West Coast Building). Nowadays, people have cell phones. Except of course, if you are a Sea Org Member, where they are forbidden. And, as anyone who has been in the Sea Org knows, if you are caught talking with your family on a pay phone, without a Master-at-Arms or Security Guard present and covertly listening in, you are toast.
Tommy Davis is the master of blathering Doublespeak.
“QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: But once you expel someone from the church, you tell that person’s family inside the church to have nothing to do with them?
“TOMMY DAVIS: No, that is not the case. What… specifically what you’re referring to is if somebody is expelled from the church, anybody who insists on continuing to be connected to somebody who’s been expelled from the church would be told that as long as they maintain that connection they’re not welcome in the church because the church… any organisation and particularly a church, like other churches, has a right to not welcome in its… in its ranks people who are supporting or connected to people who are attacking the church and mean the church harm.”
Oh, let me get this straight, Tommy. You don’t tell the person’s family to have nothing to do with them, you tell the person’s family that if they do have anything to do with them, they’ll be expelled from the Church. I get it.
And there’s plenty more of Tommy’s Doublespeak. Recruiting underage children becomes “not discriminating against people by virtue of age.” The Rehabilitation Project Force becomes “a private religious retreat.”
And when a private investigator was caught, on camera, tailing Marc Headley and an ABC reporter, Tommy has this gem of a response: “I couldn’t comment on that. I couldn’t comment. I mean, I couldn’t be able to… I wouldn’t tell. I wouldn’t know how to answer that. I have no knowledge on it, so I don’t know how to answer it.”
There’s not much Tommy does know how to answer. And I don’t think either he or the Church realize the damage he is doing to the Church’s reputation by his incompetence. Those being interviewed tell heartbreaking stories of abuse, coercion, and disconnection. They come across as honest human beings who have suffered tragic experiences. And the normal human response to anyone telling stories like this would be concern, empathy, and a desire to right the wrongs they have suffered.
But the Church, in the person of Tommy Davis, exhibits no empathy for these people. He calls them liars, all of them. He denies any and all wrongdoing on the part of the Church. He comes across as arrogant, cold and deceitful. And as he is the spokesman, that is what people think of the Church of Scientology.
And unfortunately, it’s an accurate perception.