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I would have loved to see some fisticuffs ...

May 18, 2007 ~ 12:27 p.m.

So, let me get this straight: Genteel English reporter John Sweeney loses his temper after having leading scientologist Tom Davis in his face, denouncing him for what must have been the seventh time throughout the course of Sweeney's investigation, and it's Sweeney who's the nutcase and should apologize?

The footage of Sweeney hollering at Davis has predictably made it on to YouTube and the fallout is as expected. One viewer of the video wrote, "Surely this is a joke right? How can a mentally unbalanced man like this be a BBC reporter? This kinda makes you wonder if he is not dreaming up what he reports or if TV actually reports truth! Man I'm done with the BBC."

I was done with the BBC a while ago. The BBC is a biased left-wing institution that never misses a chance to criticize America or Israel in its reporting. So you must take anything from them with a grain of salt. But this does not mean that they are incapable of putting out a quality product, and to give credit where credit is due, that issue of Panorama was excellent and they clearly did their homework with regard to Scientology. Perhaps if people had seen the whole show, instead of just the part where Sweeney blows a gasket, they'd understand the frustration that had been building inside him.

It wasn't enough that Sweeney had been harassed and shouted at by Davis, simply for asking critical questions which is a journalist's job. It also wasn't enough that Sweeney had been followed around by other scientologists as he went about his business. But then he witnessed Scientology's "Psychiatry: Industry of Death" exhibition. In this exhibition, psychiatry is regarded as a Nazi tool to convince Jews that they were mad. Sweeney, quite rightly, was appalled and considered this a trivialization of the Holocaust. So when Davis confronts him yet again over his attitude, Sweeney explodes and lets him have it.

As Sweeney himself put it after wrapping up his harrowing experience with the scientologists: "It was like an animal reaction to a series of images and pressures. I felt they were trying to control my mind. I can't wait to get back to Zimbabwe: hiding in the backs of cars from Robert Mugabe's goons is a damn sight easier."

The scientologists, crafty as they admittedly are, made a counter-documentary in which Sweeney is seen as the aggressor. Luckily, however, Sweeney—who did apologize immediately after his bout of temper and again later on—was not found in breach of any violations by the BBC and will be kept on as a reporter. Strike another rare victory for common sense.

I see it this way: Tom Davis and other scientologists agreed to be interviewed. Yet, when Sweeney dared to ask critical questions, used the word "cult" in their presence and interviewed several critics of scientology, he was accused by Davis and his gang of thetans of having no intention of presenting a balanced viewpoint. Of course, one has to wonder what the Church of Scientology considers "balanced" when they seek to ruin anyone who dares to criticize them.

Well, I, for one, am not afraid. Britain, and a dozen other countries, are right to refuse this psuedo-scientific load of horseshit status as a religion. If someone were to tell me they were a Scientologist, my reaction would likely be to look at them as if they were from outer space. Then again, given their beliefs, that's exactly what they'd want.

But is the point that Scientologists are cultish, loopy basketcases? No. Those of us with healthy brains already knew that. The point is, John Sweeney, award-winning reporter, was not wrong to lose his temper. Yes, it was unprofessional. But get a load of the shitheads he had to deal with and suddenly you can no longer find fault with him.

– M.E.M.

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