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Going Clear: Analytical Essay

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‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief’ is a documentary film released in 2015 regarding Scientology, directed by Alex Gibney and produced by HBO. The film is based on the book ‘Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief’ by Lawrence Wright released in 2013. The documentary starts out when the church was set up by L Ron Hubbard. Hubbard’s immense fame and success came with his book ‘Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health’ released in 1950. Sara Northrup, Hubbard’s second wife, said in the film that Hubbard told her repeatedly that the only real way to make any money was through religion and that he slowly began to think of himself as a god figure. Hubbard’s vision of utopia appealed to the public in the late 1960s and thus the Church was established in Hollywood in 1969. After Hubbard’s death in 1986, David Miscavige became leader. Miscavige appears to be a domineering and ruthless figure. The interviewees recalled and told grim stories about the physical and mental abuse that even senior Church members had endured. Also, if anyone outside the Church decide to criticise or attacks it, whether it be journalists or former Scientologists, it usually results in harassment by the church members.

The sources here are the eight former members of the Church of Scientology, who all shared their experience in the church. The writer and filmmakers then, through the book and film, are able to get through to the public audiences to alert and educate the masses on Scientology. Other than that, the writer and filmmakers are also trying to open the eyes of Scientologist to the truth behind their religion, although it will most likely be disregarded.

The message that the filmmakers are trying to send to the public is to be aware of how one could be easily manipulated into doing ridiculous things and how some people are easily influenced regardless of warnings and obvious signs. Even after many ex- Scientologists decide to reveal the truth behind the church and its practice, members of the church only dismiss them as “suppressive persons” and do not take their words and warnings into consideration. The direct effects of Hubbard’s book of ‘Dianetics’ on the religion and the member’s thoughts and actions are comparable to hypodermic syringe model, in which a media stimulus is followed by a straightforward audience repose or complete acceptance (Laughey, 2007).

The film effectively communicates its message of deception and persuasion to its audience. The church of Scientology persuades the general public to join for significant benefits, as well as a mean for “a civilisation without insanity, without criminals and without war” (Lewis, 2009). Despite shocking revelations by former Scientologists as they describe the systematic history of abuse and betrayal by church officials, including the current leadership of the church, the church still manages to persuade its members into having complete faith and devotion towards the church. The church also deceives its members on the benefits and the need to be “clear”. In the successful deception of its members, the church gains more support, manpower and funds that benefits the church.

Media are persuasive in focusing public attention on specific events, issues and persons in determining the importance of people attached to public matters (Shaw, 1979). The filmmakers not only aim to expose the church, but to educate the audience. The public audience, who start off intrigued as interested by the concept of the church of Scientology, gradually start to question the aim of the church as well as the actions by the members of said church. As the former members of the Church of Scientology, whose most prominent adherents include A-list Hollywood celebrities, talk on how the church cultivates true believers and detailing their experiences and what they are willing to do in the name of religion, the audience start to understand the hidden truth behind the censorship by the church. When it is revealed that the church request and reinforce their member to cut all ties



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