Tony Ortega’s Road to Redemption

Despite his obvious and often unhinged bias against Scientology, Tony Ortega sometimes displays enough intellectual honesty to redeem himself as a journalist who wants to be taken seriously.

I’ve been reading and re-reading his recent series of articles on the unlicensed mental care facility set up by Scientologists in the back woods of Tennessee. And despite his manipulative use of terms like “hellhole” and “house of horrors” to describe the facility, which were clearly used to cloud his readers’ judgment, Tony Ortega also provided one glimmer of legitimate journalism when he allowed the brother of one of the people living there to express his viewpoint.

I scoured the Internet for the reporting on this story and almost every story I found was pretty much a cut and paste job of the Courier’s original story. But in the most valuable article in his series, Tony Ortega actually called family members and spoke to them. And then he reported what they had to say – even when what they had to say went against his own bias against Scientology.

Tony Ortega displays the objectivity that this community needs when he interviews the Scientologist whose sister was staying there, and in doing so, he points the way to his own redemption as a journalist.

After reporting that the young man who made the call to 911 had his cell phone on him at all times, Tony then interviewed the Scientologist brother of one of the women that the family had placed there:

We heard a very different story when we talked to the older brother of the woman who was rescued in Tennessee. She too was brought home to California, and she’s now being housed at a mental hospital. And her brother — we’ll call him Ed — is very unhappy about it.

Ed is a Scientologist who works at a drug rehab center which used to be part of Scientology’s Narconon network. The clinic cut ties with Narconon and Ed assures us that the clinic no longer uses Scientology methods.

But Ed himself is still a church member, and he’s angry about Marc Vallieres being criminally charged and his Life Center for a New Tomorrow being shut down.

“My sister was OK when she was there, and now she’s in a mental hospital in San Jose. She hasn’t had a shower in two weeks. Her condition is horrible*,” Ed tells us.

“Whatever Marc is doing is a godsend. I’m on the other side of this issue,” he says. “My sister’s in a hospital where they don’t let her go through the food line, they don’t let her have any utensils. She has a rash on her face. She’s gained 40 pounds since she was with Marc. Marc is a lifesaver. I wish he was still open so I can put her there again.”

We asked him what kind of treatment his sister was receiving at Vallieres’ facility — was he aware that the baby watch had been used there? Ed says that Vallieres was doing “CCH 1” with her because she was “Type 3” — Scientology’s jargon for psychotic — “so she was in a quiet environment,” Ed says.

We learned about CCH 1, one of the “control, communication, havingness” exercises that are common to Scientology, from former church official Claire Headley in our “Up the Bridge” series: “In CCH 1 the two people sit opposite each other and one says ‘give me that hand,’ to the other, over and over.”

And the point of the exercise, and of keeping her in a quiet environment?
“They’re trying to eliminate the multiple thetans that were making her life hard to live,” Ed says.

(When Scientologists reach the “OT 3” auditing level, after several years of indoctrination and several hundred thousand dollars in costs, they learn that we are not individual beings, but that each of us is infested with hundreds or thousands of unseen souls — “body thetans” — which came to Earth some 75 million years ago in a galactic genocide.)

“I’ve been there multiple times. She was clean and she had clean clothes on. Sure, Marc’s place isn’t the best. But people there, they are hard on the place. They break windows and beat on the walls. Yes, she’s at a hospital now. But is her life good? No. Is she vibrant? No. At least in Tennessee she could go outside, breathe fresh air and have good nutritious meals,” Ed says. “I would say Marc is a saint.”

We asked him if he knew what Vallieres was going to do after his facility was closed down.
“I don’t think the place was shut down, but he decided to leave the state,” Ed says, but he declined to tell us where Vallieres was going.

We reminded Ed that his sister was found by sheriff’s deputies in a squalid cabin that had been padlocked from the outside.

“Sure, that’s what the sheriff says. Maybe they were locked inside for a few minutes to keep them from running around. The sheriff has nothing to say. They torture people daily,” he responds.
We asked him if his sister had been diagnosed as either bipolar or schizophrenic, and he said that she’d been diagnosed with both. But he’s angry that she is being held in a hospital and he can’t get her out.

“The side effects of the medications they put her on? It’s horrible. She’s a ward of the county and we can’t get her out of there. We need more places like Marc’s,” he says.

Is this brother’s intention to harm his sister by leaving her under Vallieres’ care? Does he have specific and very real-world experience when he compares the treatment his sister has received in standard psych wards vs Marc Vallieres facility?

Why have Exes, such as Chris Shelton, completely flipped from not trusting psych’s at all to now never questioning anything they say or do?

My point: Tony Ortega’s reporting here allows those questions to be asked.

This is the road that Tony Ortega can take out the demagogic hellhole of his Underground Bunker, and up into the light of objective journalism. But it will require his recognition of the right of a Scientologist to exist, and to treat the way they see things for their own lives, and from their own perspective, objectively. He has done that here with a brother who loves and who struggles to take care of his own sister.

This is Tony Ortega’s road to redemption.

And for Ex-Scientologists who have completely flipped and who now refuse to recognize anything good or even real in who they used to be as a Scientologist, it might just be the road to redemption for us all.

33 thoughts on “Tony Ortega’s Road to Redemption”

  1. I might classify two types of “Old Timers” in scn. One type would be people who spent twenty, thirty or even more years in scn as staff or sea org members. Another type of Old Timer would be those who participated on scn blogs since “way back when” which is only since, maybe, the late 1990’s early 2000’s. Others, of course, became internet scn critics earlier.

    There is another split in classification which would be people like myself who experienced scn before Miscavige took over or the demarcation line might be the mission massacre as some people call it when the sea org ramped up. I split in 1982 or 1983 and never looked back. I think the debate about the pros and cons of scn will continue until the last scn-ist enters the void.

  2. I’m writing this as if Alanzo is just a moderator and not being spoken to directly. Marty often did that on his blog and let the comments go back and forth about him as if he simply wrote the topic and went away.

    Alanzo has mentioned the idea of “Who you really were as a Scientologist”. I didn’t get much significance from that, not much different than who I was as a high school student, a hippy and so on, with the exception that in scn I was looking inward. I reviewed the “Michelle Sterling . . . ” topic and got this sentence from Alanzo and one or two others from him which kind of clarifies it for me. “But the hysteria of Anti-Scientologists can not be maintained in the face of skeptical questioning.”

    That’s still a point of discussion, but the search and destroy mentality can go to extremes, and sometimes spills over into hostility towards others who don’t go along with it.

  3. btw Alanzo – Thank you for allowing me to hone my writing skills on your blog. It also lets me preserve my thoughts on scn for the fact based novel I’m writing. I think I’ll title it “Life After Scientology” unless someone else has already thought of that. Maybe I’ll go with “Serenity After Scientology”.

    Also btw – Do you have any blog topics coming up relating to Mary Aiken’s book “The Cyber Effect”? I was thinking that there would be something in there that cross referenced the post scn internet. Yesterday on Mike’s blog people were discussing hypnotism. There is always something interesting going on on the post scn internet.

    (my purpose on your blog is merely to provide comic relief)

  4. Yeah, I was impressed that he allowed the brother to give his own story – including stuff about body thetans etc. – but I was much more amazed that the brother felt he could tell that story to the King Lord of All SPs. The brother will be in serious ethics trouble for that, won’t he?

  5. CCH1, “Control, Communication and Havingness, process #1” is a simple procedure (“process” in scio-speak) designed to allow a mentally well person to be able to become aware of automatic reactions in their life. There are four CCH processes, 1 through 4, and my experience was that most people benefitted, some not so much, some greatly.

    Ed mentioned body thetans, which might be his own misunderstanding about CCH1, and Tony latched onto it that the place in Tennessee was exorcising body thetans.

    There is insufficient information to determine if the sister was experiencing any measurable benefit. “A squalid cabin” is a generality and interpretive.

    • Quite.

      I didn’t even want to get into Tony Ortega’s ignorance of Scientology technology.

      I was trying to be positive. 🙂

      But it is a great example of the intellectually dishonest, negative onslaught these Anti-Scientologists are waging. Not one Ex-Scientologist mentioned that CCH 1 has nothing to do with body thetans. And Tony obviously didn’t know this, either.

      Or maybe he did, but it sounded so ridiculous that he decided to go with it rather than report what he knew to be the truth about Scientology.

      This is something Tony Ortega needs to overcome in himself if he is to be considered seriously as a journalist “working the Scientology beat”, as he calls it.

      • Alanzo, you said, in reply to Richard this:

        “Or maybe he did, but it sounded so ridiculous that he decided to go with it rather than report what he knew to be the truth about Scientology.”

        So my question is to you Alanzo, what is “the truth about Scientology”?

        • Well Gib, besides “There are no clears or OTs”, in this case it’s “CCH1 does not audit body thetans” like Tony Ortega said.

          Did I get that right?

          • I think Tony worked the body thetan idea in just to make sure his readers didn’t forget how “crazy” scientology is.

          • no sorry, actually, you didn’t get it right, Ed, the brother said that. Tony just put in parenthesis explaining body thetans.

            • Yes. Ed the brother said it and Tony did not correct him, either because Tony didn’t know the correct thing or because he didn’t want to be accurate because in this case he would end up defending scientology by making it look less kooky.

              But did I get the part about no OTs and clears right?

  6. “Does he have specific and very real-world experience when he compares the treatment his sister has received in standard psych wards vs Marc Vallieres facility?”

    As a scientologist he has no ability to compare the two forms of treatment, he has no objectivity on the subject.
    Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder are not “psychological” disorders, they are medical neurological disorders. Many people live with great courage, balancing the terrible side effects of the medications (with rapid weight gain frequently a side effect) against the torture that their brain imposes on them.
    Don’t know California mental health laws, but I assume they are comparable to where I live. Patients have rights. They can be held against their will only if they are a threat to themselves or others. She can probably check herself out. They cannot be forced to take medications, even if psychotic. They can refuse to shower, which can make them look pretty bad. They cannot be padlocked in a room.
    Usually, after some sleep and medication the cloud of psychosis lifts. Generally within a week patients are discharged to living situations, followed up by case workers. Some stay on meds, others do not and risk relapse. Their choice.
    Imagine being psychotic and then being told that your body is crawling with half-aware creatures. Driven deeper and deeper into a psychotic world. I hope her sadistic brother never gets control of her body again. He belongs in jail for abuse.
    The option of auditing BTs for someone who is psychotic makes the same sense as auditing a woman with breast cancer. Oh right, Scientology does that too.

    • I have questions that I could not find an answer to in Tony’s reporting. Was she a Scientologist, along with her brother? If she was, Eileen, would you still think that her brother was a “sadist”?

      There was a time when that backwoods Tennessee “hellhole”, as Tony describes it, was licensed by the state. Don’t you think that puts a different light on things? Like, are the conditions that are being reported here really the way Tony Ortega reports them?

      Also, with all the reporting of “FELONY FALSE IMPRISONMENT” going on about this place, all those charged got simple probation.

      Does that change your mind about the reported conditions at all?

      The brother said she was a “ward of the state”.

      What does that mean, exactly, in this case?

      • Ward of the state means she arrived (somewhere) probably psychotic, perhaps suicidal, unable to communicate her decisions in a rational manner, with no family member to make decisions for her. A facility (like an ER) can hold a person involuntarily for about 48 hours.

        After that, she must either decide to stay voluntarily or be released. If she is still thought to be an imminent danger (and it must be imminent) a judge comes to the facility.
        He/she places a little American flag on a conference table and a hearing is held. The patient speaks, the doctor speaks, the judge decides.

        If it appears that the person will need long term help finding housing, work etc then the state may take on that responsibility, assigning a social worker or caseworker. Or if the family is deemed to present a danger to the person the state may deny the family the right to make decisions for that patient. That only occurs in extreme situations, and usually only when the patient requests that the family not be allowed control.

      • Probably that she requested that her family not be given control over her health care decisions when she is unable to make the decisions for herself. A judge actually comes to the facility, puts a little American flag on a conference room table and hears arguments.

    • You refer to all “scientologists” as as mentally disabled retards. How can anyone take you seriously? What do you think of Republicans? Or Democrats? Al is being very patient with you!

        • I did have a basic skeptical question, though.

          Eileen- you said that bipolar and schizophrenia is a biological disease.

          If that’s the case, there should be physical evidence for this.

          How, exactly, are bipolar and schizophrenic neurological systems different from normal ones? Is there evidence of a difference in chemistry or some other physical evidence?

        • Absent any fact-checking, anyone can say anything they want. I feel you are very pateint with your fact-checking. Compared to me, at any rate.

  7. “Marc is a lifesaver. I wish he was still open so I can put her there again.”
    Put her there. Like a plant that gets moved around. Kind of says it all.

    • You have a strong view of this brother. You see him as “sadistic”.

      I don’t see him that way.

      You don’t think his criticisms of the standard psych care he has witnessed for his sister are legitimate?

      Can you see any acceptable scenario where a Scientology-based facility becomes licensed by the state to take care of people like his sister?

      • Can you see an acceptable scenario where Scientology theories should be used to treat a biologically based disease?
        Would you leave someone you loved in a remote location, unable to protect herself or even leave?
        Would your standard of judgement be “at least she was clean”? Those scios, they are very clean.
        Read Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper” it describes the probable experience of this woman.
        I only worry that he will get control of her again.

        • If some people choose not to stay on their meds which are used to treat this biologically-based disease, and you are fine with that, why are you so adamantly opposed to using Scientology along with no meds?

          By the way, Scientology treatment includes lots of very highly nutritious foods, exercise, fresh air and sunshine, too. It’s not just a Lisa McPherson scenario where everyone dies in the end.

          In fact, the Lisa McPherson incident happened only once. And I know of no other time since the infamous Introspection Rundown was released 40 years ago where it happened again. Do you?

          • Because Scientology processing is likely to drive people deeper into psychosis. It is like throwing gasoline on the fire. And the hypnotic effect of these processes often trigger hallucinations and dissociative states in people who are not psychotic, so imagine the torturous experience of these vulnerable people.

        • Again, that is exactly her situation now. She is kept in a location, unable to leave, shower, go through the cafeteria line. She is being kept locked up. I worked in psychiatry for 13 years, once upon a time, and I think that by the standards of those years, today’s handling of people incarcerated in mental hospitals is assembly-line psychiatry at its worst in some ways. There are some safeguards of patients that didn’t exist back in the 1970s when I worked there, but overall there is little attempt to do any differential diagnosis. People are automatically medicated adter one interview, in the assumption it is all “biologically based”. What unthinkingness!

            • Gib – First of all, the whole issue of severe mental illness is an emotionally loaded topic. Vallieres’ version of his operation (on Tony’s May 11 topic) is that it’s “Happy Valley”. Tony’s version is that it’s a Hellhole”. Who knows? Vallieres may very well have been promoting to scn-ists that his camp in the woods would help people rid themselves of BTs. The whole thing is anything but true investigative reporting. Tabloid news.

    • How is that any different from what is happening to her now? She is “put into a mental hospital” and kept leashed and controlled and medicated at the behest of her new wardens.

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