Narcissism and exploitation: how John Travolta was discarded when his movie flopped


(Update) (Update II)

Former top Scientology executive Marty Rathbun testifies to some remarkable inside information about the makings of the 2000 mega-flop Battlefield Earth in this interview with Mark Bunker [below]. We knew the movie was based on a sci-fi novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and that it was a pet project by John Travolta – himself a long time Scientologist. We also knew the movie flopped in almost every category and is widely considered to be one of the worst movies of all time (though I’d still say it’s a decent B-movie). We didn’t know, however, about the close involvement of David Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology.

According to Rathbun, Miscavige micro-managed the entire production and provided day-to-day instructions to the production team. More interestingly, Miscavige was so ecstatic about the result after a pre-release screening that he called Travolta up right afterwards and praised him lavishly for making a great deed for Scientology, that “the old man” (Hubbard) would have been be proud etc.

Then within days of its release, the movie flopped. How did Miscavige react to this? By defending its greatness? By admitting to faults in his personal involvement? No, says Rathbun, as soon as the failure was a fact, Miscavige immediately distanced himself from it. As if he’d had nothing to do with it. Instead Miscavige invented a narrative where it was all Travolta’s fault; because what killed the movie was its “cheesy” special effects, and this was due to Travolta taking too much salary. Travolta fell completely out favor and was humiliated and derided behind his back by Miscavige.

Before commenting further on this, it should be noted that the source, Marty Rathbun, has a complex history in- and outside of the church. He himself used to be one of the top, most hardcore executives within Scientology, before defecting and co-founding the “independent” movement of former church members who still practice Scientology.

Rathbun’s interview (he also speaks about it here):

There are several aspects of narcissism going on here. Perhaps the most obvious one is Miscavige’s unscrupulous exploitation of John Travolta. As long as Travolta was seen as an asset – to Scientology and indirectly to Miscavige himself – Miscavige hailed him to the skies (idealization). But then as the movie flopped, Miscavige immediately discarded him (devaluation). Narcissists don’t see other poeple as human beings with real personalities and emotions, but as extensions of themselves – as sources of supply for their narcissism. The moment a person seizes to be an adequate source of narcissistic supply he by all practical means seizes to exist to the narcissist. He is discarded, forgotten and replaced with a new source.

Another aspect is the way Miscavige distances himself from the movie fiasco despite clearly being involved with it (“for months”, according to Rathbun). One would think that a backstop of cognitive dissonance would force most normal people to face internally at least some of the fallout from such a personal failure. But for a narcissist, blame is impossible because he is by design faultless. Narcissists operate through a split persona – a False Self – which is special, perfect and can do no wrong. Blame is therefore either unwarranted, or deflected away – to the accuser or to someone else (Travolta). This is called blameshifting.

Sam Vaknin theorizes that the narcissist’s unwillingness to accept blame goes even further: that whatever he’s blamed for was the making not really by him – but by his False Self. Because even though his False Self dominates him and subjugates his True Self, it is still an alien part of him. And since he is not in control of his own actions, he cannot be blamed and may detach from them at will.

Vaknin puts it this way (emphasis added):

The narcissist just does not know what he’s doing. Divorced from his true self and unable to emphasize and understand what it’s like to be someone else […] the narcissist is in a constant dream-like state. He experiences his life like a movie autonomously unfolding, guided by a sublime or even divine director. The narcissist is a mere spectator. Mildly interested, greatly entertained at times – but a spectator. He does not feel that he owns his life and his actions. The narcissist therefore emotionally cannot understand why he should be punished. And when he is, he feels grossly wronged.


There are numerous other instances where people, including high executives (even entire portions of Scientology’s upper management) within Scientology has fallen out of favor and simply disappeared from the public eye – seemingly discarded – at the hands of Miscavige. One destination for these “unpersons” is The Hole, which is a Gulag prison-like facility at a LA-based Scientology base. Here people are put away for years for harsh interrogations and correction under abominable conditions (“handling” in Orwellian Scientology jargon).

Even Miscavige’s own wife Shelly is one of those disappeared persons and hasn’t been seen in public since 2007. Her absence was actually at center in the recent defection by actress Leah Remini, who dared ask questions about her whereabouts. There’s even rumors that the church is about to “trot her out” to kill off speculations about her that started because of this. Just bizarre.

In a comment to yet another, recent story about the passing of a writer for one of Scientology’s propaganda magazines – Freedom Magazine – former church member and outspoken critic Jefferson Hawkins puts it in this dark but precise way:

A sad story. But don’t expect a glowing obituary in Freedom Magazine. Scientology uses and discards people, and when they die, they are ignored and erased. Veteran Sea Org Members, when they get old or ill, are simply shunted off to some low-rent fleabag senior center or offloaded to their families. Sea Org members who die are simply erased from history and forgotten. […]

Update: For a satirical angle on the subject I recommend this “Shelly Miscavige is NOT missing! “ campaign staged on (as it looks) Hollywood Blvd by two “Sea Org” members…

Update II: Mike Rinder (who worked closely with David Miscavige for years) has written a piece about how associates to Miscavige inevitably become cowed and/or ill. He also compiles an eerie list of top Scientology executive who’ve disappeared one way over the other over the years — basically the who’s who of Scientology management for the last 2+ decades:


It should be noted also that even though “the Hole” mentioned earlier is a somewhat extreme manifestation (seemingly invented by Miscavige), punishment and abuse is very much a feature of Scientology that Hubbard himself put into place. For instance, there’s the RPFRehabilitation Project Force – a harsh program where underachieving or disobedient Sea Org members are put pseudo-voluntarily to “rehabilitate” through hard manual labor under social isolation. Ordinary practitioners, even celebrities, who question authority or speak critically are interrogated and forced to confessions through “security checking”, which can go on for months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s testimony that abuse were common from early on even under Hubbard’s direct supervision.

Overall there’s ample reason to believe that Hubbard were as malignantly narcissistic as Miscavige is. Put another way; Scientology seems to be designed for the likes of Miscavige to thrive and to be able to rise to power. He is a feature of the organization, not a bug. A feature that likely will lead to its collapse.


Topless protests? Helena Bergström did that on the big screen in 1992…


Activist group FEMEN organized a protest in the Stockholm Mosque a few days back where they flashed their bodies in protest of oppression and bigotry.

This sounds familiar…

bergstrom_helena34 In the 1992 movie Änglagård (House of Angels), charming big-city girl Fanny (Helena Bergström) visits a small village in rural Sweden to attend a relative’s funeral. She ends up staying for the summer and soon finds out that her outward style and personality is not appreciated by the villagers. In one particular scene, when Fanny’s buying her groceries in the village store, she faces some of the envy and prejudice right up front. Frustrated, she rips her shirt off in front of everyone and states darkly that “I believe it’s gotten way too hot in here”, before storming out of the store. Seemingly her way, as a last resort, to liberate herself from the suffocating narrow-mindedness she found herself caught up in.

A “call for freedom” indeed, as one of the FEMEN spokespersons described their action in the mosque.

The wonderful bliss of submission

IAS is one of the central organizations of Scientology. A group of Scientologists from Victoria, Australia are so thrilled to be members that they sing, dance, rap and Elvis-impersonate about it.

– All right, all right, they’re good people. But as members of an abusive cult, some ridicule is due. I’m sure Scientologists don’t mind. Oh, wait.

Update. Video down. Not surprising. Scientology is extremely protective of their materials and blocks content everywhere relentlessly. In today’s internet-era however, that’s a losing game. So, to spite their efforts, here are two more brainwash-themed songs. The first one if from nearby — Denmark. The second video is an old Band Aid-inspired Scientology production from 1990. In it, the top exec’s of the time can be seen in several pass-by shots; of which the majority have now left, went missing or become outspoken critics of the church (Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, to take two).

Today in cognitive dissonance: Swedish law and the Quran

Swedish Mosques claims adherence to Swedish law while simultaneously asserting that the laws of the Quran – permitting e.g. polygamy and mild physical violence against “disobedient” wifes – are immutable and ever valid.

Glad we sorted that out.

This is, to be fair, a solid improvement from an earlier investigation, conducted with hidden cameras, which revealed that nine out of ten Imams actively defended illegal activities, including polygamy and physical violence, and dissuaded women from reporting such crimes to the authorities. The latest investigation indicates that those revelations did initiate debate in the Muslim community, which is positive. The prospect of a centralized or at least regulated Swedish Imam education, to counter those in extremist countries like Saudi Arabia, is yet another positive sign.

Ateisten inför Gud

Youtube-ateisten Scott, aka Theoretical Bullshit, gör en utmärkt utläggning kring det hypotetiska scenariot att Gud trots allt finns och att han därmed, såsom ateist, har “haft fel”. Har själv försökt resonera att även om ett sådant scenario skulle vara rätt häpnadsväckande så skulle jag inte ha några principiella problem med det. Det handlar inte om vad som är rätt eller fel i absolut mening, utan om vad som kan stödjas med argument och resonemang. Skulle Gud uppenbara sig en dag och göra sin existens trovärdig bortom önsketänkande och vidskeplighet så grattis till honom — då han har min röst. Men tills dess får han finna sig i att vara en sagofigur.
Scott är inne på samma spår men förklarar det hela långt bättre:

Cafferty: Varför är kyrkobesökande personer mer benägna att stödja tortyr?

Detta frågar Jack Cafferty sina tittare, med hänvisning till en undersökning som visar att ju oftare en person går i kyrkan, desto mer benägen är denne att stödja tortyr som förhörsmetod. Allra värst var det bland Evangelikaner. Personer utan religiös anknytning ska vara den grupp som visar minst stöd för tortyr.

Till bakgrunden hör givetvis tortyr-debatten i USA om vad som definieras som tortyr och om det i så fall använts under Bush-administrationen. Barack Obama deklassificerade nyligen dokument som visade att Waterboarding de facto auktoriserats och använts vid hundratals tillfällen.

Man kan alltid diskutera sådana här undersökningar och särskilt dess slutsatser, men det råder ingen tvekan om att frågorna som väcks skrapar på ytan av något betydligt större — psykologin bakom tro och religionsutövande.

Senaste skörden dokumentärer

iousa1I.O.U.S.A. (2008) (30 min Byte-Sized version)
Det är ingen ljus bild av USAs statsfinanser som målas upp. Landets f.d. Comptroller General (ingen aning om hur den titeln översätts) David Walker gick ut i media redan förra hösten, bl a i CBS 60 Minutes, och försökte varna för vad han kallade en “fiscal cancer”; budgetunderskott, handelsunderskott, växande utlandsskulder och ohållbara statliga program som Medicare och Medicaid. Dokumentären utreder bakgrunden till detta i större detalj, och det är svårt att inte tappa hakan inför dom enorma summorna pengar. Visst strävar man efter en viss skrämseleffekt…men, jag är rädd för att det finns fog för det. Omdöme: USAs totala skuld sägs vara $53 triljoner ($, enough said.

2007-08-22t16_27_14-07_001Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008)
Vad bättre än lite oskyld bibelpropaganda? Ben Stein åker världen runt för att avslöja en påstådd komplott bland evolutionsförespråkare i vetenskapsvärlden. Filmen tycks ha som enda poäng att genom olika klassiska propagandatekniker skapa diffusa antydningar och associationer. Talar aldrig i klarspråk, varken om frågeställningar eller om svar. Man redogör inte ens för vad som egentligen menas med Intelligent Design. Ben Stein är plågsamt tillgjord och måste ha fått bra betalt för att sälja ut sitt intellekt på det här sättet. Omdöme: Ingen intelligens tillåten indeed.

religulous1Bill Maher’s Religulous (2008)
Upplägget är likt det i Expelled — Maher reser runt och studerar religionsutövande i olika delar av världen. Maher är dock, till skillnad från Stein, helt uppriktig med var han själv står (rabiat ateist) och vart han vill komma. Gillar Maher starkt som komiker från hans show Realtime på HBO, inte minst hans inlägg om just religion, men formatet i den här dokumentären fungerar dåligt. För många korta och sönderredigerade intevjuer med oförberedda och/eller okunniga personer. Frågorna som ställs är måhända djärva och provocerande men de skapar sällan fördjupning. Omdöme: Visst underhållningsvärde men låg halt av substans.

consumingkids1Köpgalna barn (2008) (Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood) Svt Play.
Skrämmande inblick i den sanslöst oetiska kommersiella exploateringen av barns outvecklade psyken. Dokumentären visar hur industrin bakom barnreklam med i princip alla tills buds stående medel — forskning, experiment, förföljelse — används för att så ofta och så effektivt som möjligt tränga in och etablera budskap i barns hjärnor, i vad som enklast kan liknas vid mentala övergrepp. “Reklam för 3-åringar behöver vara långsammare och innehålla mer runda former”. Knyter till stor del an med Edward Bernays Freud-inspirerade filosofier kring PR under 20-talet och framåt. Ett ominöst tecken på var vi står i dagens samhälle. Omdöme: Starkt, relevant och tidsenligt.

Tack till TEM-funderingar (tips till I.O.U.S.A.) och Anders B Westin (tips till Köpgalna Barn).