Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fair Game: The Incredible Untold Story of Scientology in Australia, by Steve Cannane

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Fair Game by ABC journalist Steve Cannane is an exceptionally well researched investigation into Scientology's history in Australia. Jaw dropping and scary!

Much has been written and reported in recent years that is highly critical of the Church of Scientology. As author and journalist Steve Cannane explains in Fair Game, the floodgates really started to open with the rise of the Internet. In fact, it was Julian Assange who was an early pioneer in exposing Scientology online. With such an avalanche of critical material available on Scientology, is there a need for more?

For Australians, most definitely yes. While Fair Game covers a fair amount of material already well known, its main aim is to provide a history of Scientology in Australia. Much of this story has not been heard before, or has been forgotten over time. For example, the reader is probably not aware that the first government inquiry in Scientology, The Anderson Report, was conducted by the State of Victoria. Why an inquiry in Australia, when Scientology emanated from the mind of L. Ron Hubbard, an American science-fiction writer? Because by the 1960s Scientology had a firm footing in Australia. Bizarrely enough, many Australians would go on to play high level roles in its organisation.

There's plenty to blow your mind in Fair Game: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's marriage under Scientology, James Packer's dabbling in Dianetics, the punishing boot camps and the way members  were brainwashed and families destroyed. The most astonishing section is an interview Cannane did with a journalist who met L. Ron Hubbard in the mid Seventies. Hubbard confessed to the journalist  how he liked the challenge of conning intelligent people into thinking Scientology was a real religion, but came to hate them once they were converted. He also intimated that he led a lonely life, walled up in this falsehood that had become Scientology. He was trapped in the lie as his very livelihood depended on it.

L. Ron Hubbard remains one of the stranger characters of the twentieth century. What is even more amazing is that his brainchild still lives on, that so many find his philosophy appealing and that it rakes in millions and millions of dollars. Fair Game does an excellent job of explaining some of this mystery.

Fair Game: The Incredible Untold Story of Scientology in Australia, by Steve Cannane. Published by ABC books. ISBN: 9780733331329 RRP $32.99

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