Scientology: your questions unanswered

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The Independent Culture
The Scientologists want to teach the world to sing. They're advertising on television at length - 60 seconds - and in a very particular style: a combination of 1970s Coca-Cola, early-1980s US second-string TV (more Knot's Landing than Dynasty) and American local and religious TV. It's rather dated. And it's also extremely indirect about what Scientology offers, but very clear about its racial inclusiveness. All customers welcome.

It fields a variety of people ("Family of Man"), one by one, back-lit against a swirly, marbly, bad-wallpaper background. Everyone has one word to say - "trust". We get a pale 15-year-old Afro-American (Michael Jackson before he overdid it), a young Barry Manilow type, a dark black girl, a long-haired possibly South American boy, lots of Chinese people, a fair few Indians, a couple of Barbies, etc.

Despite the apparent variety, this absolutely isn't a representative group of naturally occurring types. Everyone is considerably neater, cleaner, cuter and more user-friendly than is entirely normal. And an interesting extra element is that a number of the participants bear that look of having been stolen away by the fairies.

We then move to another increasingly common device, the camera roving along a row of happy, engaged and unconcerned people (cf cK1, etc). Here the event looks to be the on-stage finale of a pyramid-selling convention. And as the all-purpose soft-rock backing track swells towards something modestly anthemic, a south-London voice-over (it must've been re-voiced) says: "On the day when we can fully trust each other there will be peace on earth." This incontrovertible (and operationally meaningless) sentiment gives no clue - no hostage to fortune - about the Scientologists.

But the ad also offers a brochure, a book called What is Scientology?, with a Watchtower-ish bright mountain cover and a telephone sales number - which, should readers of the IoS care to find practical wisdom for a happier and more fulfilling life, is 01342 324571.