Interview with Glen Stollery of ScienTOMogy.info
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Glen Stollery is a New Zealand website developer who created the site ScienTOMogy.info in mid 2005. The site, which is a parody of Tom Cruise and his involvement with the Church of Scientology, became the centre of controversy when it was served with a number of cease and desist orders initiated by the Church. On March 19, 2006, Glen issued a media release stating that his web hosting provider, YouTube, had removed videos of Tom Cruise which formed part of the site. The release suggested that YouTube had taken this action under external pressure from Cruise or Viacom.
Responding to a query by Wikinews reporters, YouTube stated "We have not received a DMCA notification letter from Viacom." The Church of Scientology was offered the opportunity to respond to the claims made by Stollery during the interview. No reply was received.
This exclusive interview deals with these issues and others relating to the website. It was conducted with Glen via email between March 21 and April 3, 2006.
Interview with Glen Stollery
- Wikinews: When did you become interested in Scientology, and Tom Cruise?
Cults have always interested me for years simply based on their mystery/ability to draw unwavering devotion to in some case absolutely ludicrous premises even from otherwise very intelligent people. As such for probably all of my adult life I've read books on persuasion, unconscious influence,
LGAT (large group awareness training) and for want of a better term "brain washing"; I've also always looked to improve myself in all areas I can so at the same time I would also read self improvement material. However, my interest in cults really peaked in 2003. I was a Tony Robbins advocate, and when attending an "unleash the power within" weekend live seminar I saw to my horror it had some striking makings of a LGAT/" /EST/ " type event, with cultish rituals such as 15-18 hour days with almost no breaks for food or even the bathroom, repetitive chanting, unconscious influence techniques, a charismatic leader, and strict guidelines that could even be seen as totalitarian.
From there I researched Robbins further, as well as other groups using similar practices such as Landmark Forum and Scientology, and although I do not believe Robbins is leading a destructive cult, I do believe he uses unconscious persuasion, building participants into a frenzy and subjecting them to intense peer pressure and group dynamics in an effort to sell additional products/services whilst they are in this heightened state. I read pro-Scientology material like Dianetics (as best as one can) and Clear Body, Clear Mind, and all of the church OT material, as well as many critic's books such as L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman, A Piece of Blue Sky, Bare-Faced Messiah, and of course all the critical websites I could find to really see inside the cult without going inside the cult.
It was when Tom Cruise began his very vocal promotion of Scientology and more specifically his fierce opposition to psychiatric medication that I decided I would act and create the site. The thought of young impressionable fans following any of his advice and dropping their meds or joining the cult make me sick to the pit of my stomach, so my theory was I could poke some fun through parody whilst at the same time getting across a few serious home truths about Scientology.
- Wikinews: How did you create the website, and how do you pay for it?
The website itself is very basic. There's no dynamic pages, shopping cart, or database to run so I simply quickly wrote up the HTML myself. As such the site cost nothing to build, though in October last year when Scientology's lawyers threatened me with the lawsuit and it was suddenly in every newspaper the site had just under 10 million hits in 3 weeks, and the gigabytes downloaded did cost me a bit. It was then I moved the videos to a third party provider and that's worked perfectly.
- Wikinews: Who all was involved in creating the website? Is everyone still involved?
Just me! Though I received and still do receive a huge amount of support through xenu.net and alt.religion.scientology, as dozens of critics have been threatened just as I was.
- Wikinews: Why did you create the website? what is the goal and reason for it?
The real tipping point for me was Tom Cruise's statements about psych meds. Scientology owns a front group specifically to oppose psych meds and psychiatrists called CCHR (Citizens Commission on Human Rights), staunchly opposing ALL medication of that genre. Cruise's numerous statements that no one should be using any psychiatric medication was not only ignorant but darn right dangerous. Life threatening in fact. Cruise stated that the opposed Brooke Shield's use of medication for post-partum depression, and that she was ignorant about the history of psychiatry - well he is most certainly ignorant of the circumstances of every medicated individual in the world, and as such his comments that people should get off the meds and take vitamins and exercise was absolutely outrageous.
I am not anti-Cruise... before he started this propaganda regime I would have proudly stated I was a Cruise fan! But c'mon let's be realistic here; no one can possibly argue that it isn't irresponsible for Tom Cruise to effectively tell every child and adult on prescribed medication for a "chemical imbalance" (a mental illness like depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, etc.) to suddenly stop their meds and start “exercising and taking vitamins.”
Think about how many people his statements could have (and from the over 1000 posts on my website has had) on those who are unwell? It was irresponsible, ignorant, and dangerous; and if my site pokes a little fun at him for doing that and possibly makes those people think twice before following his advice, then I'm happy.
- Wikinews: Why create a website that portrays a man as insane and defames his character?
If you take a close look at the site you'll see that I actually make little comment and let the videos speak for themselves. When people see Tom jumping on Oprah's couch declaring his undying love for a woman he just met, followed by his completely out of character argument with Matt Lauer about medication and Scientology (calling him glib, stating he was an expert in medicine as if he [had a] Ph.D., and then repeating himself over and over again), followed by his appearance on "60 Minutes" where he threatens to walk out when, then lying to a reporter at a press conference about alien's having any involvement in the tenets of Scientology... well, they soon work it out themselves!
- Wikinews: What is your opinion of Tom Cruise?
I believe he's a reasonably smart guy who unfortunately has been, for want of a better term; "brain-washed" into believing the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. I mean, he quotes him verbatim. All the "no such thing as a chemical imbalance" "psychiatry causing WWI and WWII" "electro-shocking children" "psychiatric industry producing a nation of drug addicts" - all comes from the writings of Scientology and the CCHR. And, of course he's entitled to his own opinion - he just shouldn't force it on everyone else and use his position as a household name more responsibly.
- Wikinews: On March 19 you claimed that your hosting provider removed videos from your website. What pressures have been put on your site and by whom?
Well, "coincidentally" the same day Viacom pulled the South Park episode about Scientology off-air reportedly due to Cruise's pressure to drop all promotion of MI3 if they didn't the site hosting all my videos pulled them citing "removed at the request of the owner".
- Wikinews: How do you know that Tom Cruise and/or Viacom were responsible for the removal of the videos?
Just like Viacom was saying "It wasn't Tom that make us pull South Park Trapped in the Closet it was because of respect for Mr. Hayes" obviously the videos were NOT pulled at my request. I received no notice, warning, or communication of any kind (sort of rude after pulling many, many millions of new viewers to their site!) nor are they even replying to requests as to what happened.
They even pulled original work that was created for us exclusively and we were the only copyright holders of! On the same day Viacom announced they were pulling South Park? Occam's Razor points directly at Cruise involvement here as well.
- Wikinews: Do you hold licenses for the videos being distributed on your website? If not, under what grounds are you distributing them?
Definitely not all of them! Many of the videos were on YouTube (the hosting company) already, so I simply linked to those files. Others were linked to directly from the copyright holders (like MSNBC, Access Hollywood, 60 Minutes, CNN, etc.) so again we didn't actually infringe on the copyright, simply pointed our site at their file. Others were snippets of video that were held under "fair use" for commentary purposes.
- Wikinews: You claim in a media release that those who inquired with YouTube were told that the videos were removed at the request of their owner. Do you find it possible that the copyright holders could have asked for them to be removed?
No, because as I mentioned ours were removed, and YouTube's policy is to remove the video and inform the user - not state that we requested their removal.
- Wikinews: You were sent a cease and desist order from the Scientologists, which you've chosen to dispute. Can you tell us the details about that order, like who sent that order? when was it sent? and what the primary order elements were?
It was sent from the Church's and RTC's (the company that actually owns all Scientology's trademarks) law firm "Moxon and Kobrin" and essentially said I must immediately cease and desist using the domain as it infringed on their trademark "Scientology" and was causing confusion as (they claim) my site was being mistaken for theirs, citing breach of the Lanham Act. I was told to immediately transfer ownership to them or face a USD $100,000 lawsuit.
- Wikinews: Did you get legal counsel? if so, what was it?
Yes. Originally I had a 'knee-jerk' reaction and told them "okay" and bought [the domain name] passionofcruise.info. Then I met with a trademark lawyer and a commercial lawyer specializing in suits like this and found that their claims were without any merit whatsoever.
- Wikinews: You've decided to challenge the validity of the cease and desist. Have you heard further from the Scientologists or their lawyers?
The local church called me for several weeks playing "good cop" - he never mentioned lawsuits or the like just kept wanting to meet with me to "chat about it" (I refused). But no, never heard from the law firm again.
- Wikinews: Have you considered bringing legal action against the Scientologists for harassment or intimidation? Have you consulted legal counsel about doing so?
No. I think they got their just desserts.
- "Tom Cruise parody site defiant in face of Scientology threats, demands its day in court" — Wikinews, October 29, 2005
- "Church of Scientology does not see humor in website dedicated to Tom Cruise" — Wikinews, September 25, 2005
- Glen Stollery. "Tom Cruise tries to have us shut down.... again!" — , March 19, 2006