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Prevention Magazine's Investigation

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Date: Sun, 11 Feb 1996 19:06:01 -0500

This e-mail documents my recollections of a 1974-75 inquiry into Scientology conducted on behalf of the advertising department of Prevention Magazine. I did not retain any of the files, and am reconstructing the sequence of events from memory.


When I went to work at Rodale in 1974, they were running a 1/2- page ad for Dianetics in Prevention (a much smaller publication in those days). Because the magazine advocated certain health practices, it was concerned about its advertising acceptability standards. These standards were primarily concerned with the ingredients to be found in vitamins and other health-related products, but the publishers were aware of the reliance its readers placed on the integrity of the publication. I worked in the ad sales department answering reader complaints. One woman wrote in to object about the book; I recalled hearing unsavory things about L.Ron Hubbard from my friends who were science fiction fans ("when fsf writers go bad" kinds of anecdotes). I told our ad manager I thought the Scientologists were questionable -- a cult, a pyramid scheme, something unsavory -- but I wasn't sure what. The ad manager consulted Rodale Press's attorney, who told me to order _Dianetics_ and see what kind of follow up I got.

I did, and what's more I read the thing, too. The book struck me as (1) patently ridiculous and (2) likely to play to the insecurities of those who didn't get along well with their parents. All that language about person after person recovering memories about being a mistreated fetus...

I received follow-up after follow-up from a young man whose name, I think, was Lee -- he was obviously not intellectually equipped to handle the correspondence, and was obviously working hard to make his quota of responses. I remember thinking at the time that he always sounded exhausted. Out of simple curiosity, I ordered the LP was Hubbard's hot project at the time. Either the LP or the group was named "Power of Source." It was embarrassing to listen to -- in my judgment, not even as good as your basic junior high school garage band. Moreover, the cover was a snapshot-quality photo of Hubbard and the band in what appeared to be a makeshift studio, Hubbard himself wearing producer's earphones and a slack- jawed expression that lowered his apparent IQ by at least 30 points. I was at the time an advertising professional with some background in the music industry; it was obvious to me that this was not a professionally produced recording. "By their works shall ye know them" -- it spoke volumes to me about the caliber of the people involved with L. Ron Hubbard, as well as of Hubbard's own critical judgment and evaluation skills if he would be willing to attach his name to this amateurish effort the Scientologists were touting as a breakthough in modern music. (Of course, I never thought much of his science fiction, either.)

Some library research led to the go-round Paul Krassner had with them, and I wrote for and requested some transcripts of Federal ?trials?hearings? I bundled up the whole thing -- summary of the book and my correspondence with Lee, Krassner coverage and the transcripts, and sent it off to Rodale's lawyer, who pronounced himself appalled and recommended that Rodale Press not accept any additional advertising. The very real moral outrage of the attorney was comforting in the extreme. The advertising director of Prevention concurred with the attorney's recommendation and we declined any further advertising, a decision the Scientologists accepted without comment at the time. I left Rodale Press some fifteen years ago and am not aware of their current policy regarding the acceptability of advertising for the Church of Scientology.

I have always found the products of the Scientologists to be amateurish, risible, pathetic -- although I notice considerable more professionalism in their marketing communications efforts. Speaking from personal opinion, I cannot reconcile the concepts of "church/Section 501(c)(3) organization" and "trade secrets." I find their teachings, at any level, to be profoundly silly.


Laura Blanchard

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