There are a few sets of circumstances in which one ought to pick the side of the Church of Scientology in such cases as that organization finds itself in a conflict with another party. For instance, if Joseph Stalin were to come back to life and start molesting kulak children and the CoS releases a statement denouncing him on such grounds as this, it would be appropriate to take the Church's side on this one. In most other instances, though, it is safer to assume that the ridiculous cult is conducting itself in the manner of a ridiculous cult -- particularly if one need not even assume such a thing because the known facts of the instance in question already point to the CoS acting in such a manner.
Daily Mail blogger Don Surber headlines a recent post thusly: "Meet the editor who fears reporters." We are meant to begin his article with the impression that there exists some cowardly editor who is terrified of any journalistic scrutiny. What a hypocrite this fellow must be, sending out reporters to investigate others while being unwilling to provide assistance to reporters who are just trying to investigate him!
Surber is correct that St. Petersburg Times executive editor Neil Brown is indeed refusing to cooperate with three reporters who are currently attempting to obtain information about the newspaper's operations, and such a situation would indeed merit some degree of criticism on many occasions. This is not one of them, however, as the three reporters in question are not working in the capacity of journalists, but rather as investigators in the pay of the Church of Scientology, and the subject that they have recently been investigating in a capacity quite apart from journalism happens to itself be actual journalism: the newspaper's ongoing tendency to run articles on the inimitable, secretive, and extraordinarily resourceful religious movement that has headquartered itself in that paper's state and which has been involved in some ridiculously large number of incidents that most other organizations would try to avoid, largely out of tact.
Scientology's historical tendency to make creative use of a given legal environment in order to harass its opponents is orders of magnitude greater than that of most any global organization in existence. In Florida and particularly in its adopted home city of Clearwater, it has exhibited particular dynamism in its dealings with the local power structures, such as in forming alliances with large portions of the police force through, for instance, the hiring of off-duty officers to provide security. Most notably, it broke new ground in the realm of public relations strategy with Operation Snow White, its disco-era campaign to infiltrate the IRS and other federal agencies in order to make use of government infrastructure for its own purposes, a bid that resulted in Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's wife and other CoS employees being convicted on a variety of federal charges. The organization's unusually active engagement with disgruntled ex-members and other critics is well-documented and makes for interesting reading and viewing; if one types relevant search terms into any widget of the sort into which search terms are intended to be typed, one learns rather quickly why it is that the organization prompts such fervent criticism from any sane person who has looked into this unique phenomenon of modern life.
This, then, is the organization to which Surber would have the editor of the Times grant access to its methods, its specific routes of investigation, and information on those individuals from whom its reporters may have obtained information, lest that editor be mocked as some sort of cowardly and suspicious character who may very well be presiding over some unspecified journalistic wrongdoing. Surber criticizes the publication and Brown in particular with a large dose of intended wit:
The newspaper's reaction is to stonewall. It will not cooperate with its colleagues or anser [sic] questions about the expose on the church...
... Bad call. It makes it look as if the newspaper has something to hide...
... Brown should think this thing over again. Unless the newspaper has something to hide. Then by all means, Brown should crawl under his desk when these reporters knock on the door...
Read the last of these three excerpts again in the voice Stephen Colbert uses in portraying his eponymous character of a deranged and not particularly intelligent conservative commentator. Notice how perfectly this works.
It is crucial that the various mainstream news outlets be scrutinized and challenged on the quality of their respective output. Those efforts are undermined by bloggers such as Surber, who has here concocted an allegation cocktail without having bothered to include any actual ingredients other than unwarranted implications, having presumably chugged all the liquor before writing this empty bit of nonsense, itself based on nothing.
Surber to the contrary, there are plenty of reasons for any party to be disinclined to cooperate with hired agents of the Church of Scientology aside from potentially having "something to hide." For instance, the organization is a crazy fucking cult that harasses its detractors and is run by lunatics.
Incidentally, I challenge Surber to provide me with all of his personal and professional correspondence that may pertain to his views on race -- unless, of course, he has "something to hide." Hey, see what I did there?
[Further updates, including Surber's inane response to this article, may be seen at True/Slant]