The Hysterical Histrionics of Tony Ortega

hystericalIn my race to lose friends and influence fewer people, I have to write one more post about the breathless and distorted interpretations of Scientology experiences by Tony Ortega.

Yesterday, Tony Ortega wrote a blog post entitled “Even the local Scientology mission is hiding a horror show of abuse: Kelly Jordan tells her tale”.

The story was comprised on a private Facebook conversation that Kelly Jordan had with Tony Ortega, as a newly out Ex-Scientologist who spent 14 years working at the Clearwater Mission.

Here’s the conversation Tony had with her which revealed for us a “horror show of abuse”.

“I was on staff at the Clearwater mission for 14 years and it was pretty horrible. I left in 2008. I live in Sarasota now, I have a very good life. Mostly I just feel really stupid for sticking around so long. During my time in Scientology there was quite a bit of what I would consider to be emotional abuse, not to mention financial instability in the extreme.

How about the rest of your family? Were they in and did they get out?

No, I moved to Florida from Texas and got in right after that. All my family was still in Texas, and so for all those years I barely saw them, I guess because we were in Clearwater.

When you say ‘Clearwater,’ we tend to think of the Flag Land Base. But Clearwater also has a mission, about four miles east of the Fort Harrison Hotel and the rest of the Flag compound.

Yep. It’s been there since the ’80s.

We suppose it exists because Flag isn’t for beginners.

No, Flag is not for beginners. The Captain of Flag asked the mission holder, Ann Manierre, to start the mission in 1986, I think. It was very successful in the 80’s. But in the last several years, not so much. There were only 5 or so staff when I was there.

How about a typical day?

Arrive in the morning for study time. Break at noon for lunch, which was eaten during a meeting. Greet public at 12:45, work until 5, eat dinner at our desks while meeting, then work until 1030 or so, depending. Sometimes later, especially on Wednesdays. For the last few years we closed at 5pm on weekends. But we worked 7 days.

And for what pay?

“What pay” is right. Anywhere from nothing to $300 a week. Basically, we had a Sea Org schedule.

A Sea Org schedule, at a mission?

Yes, we started at 9 am and went until 10:30 or 11:30 at night, seven days a week and then eventually we closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. We were supposed to have study time in the mornings, but since I was either “PTS” or “suppressive” repeatedly over all those years because it was so hard to get the stats up, I really didn’t have very much study time. I had no life. There were five Flag terminals [officials from the nearby Flag Land Base] coming and going from the mission all the time. If we didn’t do some kind of fundraising correctly for them then they would basically sit in the mission until we did it. The ED, Ann Manierre, is erratic. One day everything would be amazing and the next day the world was ending and it was all my fault. I never knew what I was walking into. You see why I feel so bad about staying so long? But I was married to a Scientologist and I didn’t want to lose him. Also, he supported me, so what choice did I have? There was a certain amount of glory being that close to Flag. My husband and I were Cornerstone members of the Super Power Building, and there was stature connected with that.

How much did that cost you?

Super Power Cornerstone I think was $100,000. Plus he was a patron of the IAS, which was $40,000 at the time. And that was before 9/11. My husband was in a tech industry, and then the stock market crashed and he had to declare bankruptcy at some point after that.

Are you still married to him?

No, but we are still friends because I left the mission on good terms, I was not declared or anything.

How high on the Bridge did you get?

That’s the big joke, I only got to ARC Straightwire. And Student Hat on the training side. In 14 years. When you are constantly in ethics trouble for absolutely no reason, you don’t make it very far up the Bridge. Since I’ve left Scientology I’ve now been at my job for five years and I’ve had two promotions and my boss loves me. So if you compare the two, it makes no sense.

When was the last time you were sec-checked? What was it for? The reason for being in ethics trouble, in other words.

I was only sec-checked [interrogated] once because we only had one auditor who didn’t have time for staff. So I did Lower Conditions over and over. Each time was different. Down stats. Not meeting quota. I can’t even remember. Such trivial stuff.

So describe for us what the last eight years have been like as you’ve adjusted to life after Scientology.

At first it was hard because I was super broke and my credit score was low and I had nothing. I literally lived in a one-room studio for $500 a month which my mother helped pay. It was humiliating. And the reason I left (even though I had wanted to leave for years) is that I got so sick I couldn’t get out of bed for a month. So eventually I got a part time job and a bigger place, and a full time job. Now I am happily remarried, have a great job, an excellent credit score and financial stability. At first when I left, it was very difficult for me to function; I always felt like Ann was watching me — I could hear her in my head, criticizing me. I couldn’t just sit and relax, I had to always be doing something because that was expected of me for so long. It took years for me to sort of become a real person again. I mean, I joined staff one year out of college. I had no life experience. When I left I had no real life job experience. It was not easy. It was even hard not to talk with my speech not being littered with Scientology terminology – I had done it for so long.

And what got you in to begin with after you moved to Florida?

I met a guy in Austin and we moved to Clearwater to be closer to his family and they were all Scientologists. His mom took me to the mission.

So you recently reached out to Sylvia and Tim?

Yes, I was on your site and saw an article about Sylvia, and I messaged her just to say I was happy for them. I didn’t know them well but I always liked them.

Have you reached out to other ex-members? Have you run into any former friends criticizing you for leaving the church?

No, I just sort of vanished. And I’m not in an area where there are any Scientologists.

Do you know anyone who is still there? Do you know if things have changed at all?

I just know Ann and her husband Carter are still there. Everyone else that was there with me is gone. Last I heard there was only Ann, Carter who audits, and a part time supervisor.

When you were working so many hours for so little pay, how did you live? And how did you come up with such large donations?

Before I was married I rented a room, it was tight. My husband had a very good job.

What else do you want readers to know about your experience?

I still can’t believe I wasted all those years but I had to put it behind me. I’m really not gullible but when you’re young, it is easy to think you really are saving the world. They have a very crafty way of getting you in with the basic stuff and then before you realize it, if you want to leave, you could lose all your connections. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t in, and I had to start my life over from scratch. But if there there is anyone who wants to leave, they absolutely should. Life out here is real. In there it isn’t.”

In my experience as an ex-staff member in 3 missions in Scientology for 7.5 years, this is a very typical story of a dedicated, loyal, and good person living a life that they felt was selfless and charitable in the pursuit of helping others.

Yes, like many religious callings, it was a difficult life. And the control measures that Scientology uses on its staff to keep them working at this difficult job can certainly be abhorrent.

But is this really a “HORROR SHOW OF ABUSE”?

What about women who have been kidnapped by men and kept in their basements as sex slaves for years? If Kelly’s staff story is a HORROR SHOW OF ABUSE, then what are those stories?

This is another example of what I’ve been talking about which is so destructive to the mental states of Ex-Scientologists. Calling this a HORROR SHOW OF ABUSE is a cognitive distortion which is toxic to the mental health of people who went through Scientology. It lacks perspective. It catastrophizes a set of experiences. And this leads to overly negative interpretations that can cause anxiety and depression if you read Tony Ortega every day and don’t spot his hysterical histrionics.

Maybe his Pledgie button is not getting enough love. Maybe his booksales are low.

Can someone ask Tony Ortega to tone down the hysterics a little?

This kind of hysterical reporting does not do anyone any good. And over time, does a lot of harm to people who are already dealing with losing their religion. They don’t need that amped up into a nuclear annihilation, followed by a zombie apocalypse, followed by a daily dose of implanted nocebos for the rest of their lives.

Talk about installed phobias!