Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I am not a Scientologist ...

... but I don't really get the outcry over The Atlantic's "sponsored content" relationship with the Church of Scientology [hat tip -- Stacy McCain], or for that matter the fear and loathing that both Scientology and "advertorials" inspire in some people.

Short version:

The Atlantic does the "sponsored content" thing. That is, it publishes advertisements that look like articles, in return for which the creators of those advertisements pay them. I don't see what the big hairy deal is ... but then, I've been known to do paid posting, etc. right here at KN@PPSTER. As long as there's disclosure of what it is, no biggie.

So anyway, yesterday one of those "sponsored content" pieces at The Atlantic was a Scientology piece, "David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year" (here's the piece at Scribd if you are interested), and all hell broke loose, resulting in ...

We have temporarily suspended this advertising campaign pending a review of our policies that govern sponsor content and subsequent comment threads.

... followed by an even more hair-shirtish statement later (there's a chronology of events at Slate).

I don't think that would have been The Atlantic's response to a similar reader/pundit tantrum over a sponsored piece from, just for example, Planned Parenthood or the Holy Roman Catholic Church or the Democratic National Committee.

Yeah, yeah, I've read the same horror stories about Scientology that you have (and I've read some of their literature, too, including Dianetics). At their worst, they make the church look ... well, no more weird and authoritarian than most churches, and considerably less authoritarian than the state-sanctioned psychology/psychiatry/"mental health" cult that they're famously at ongoing odds with.

Jesus on the cross, Buddha under the sacred fig tree, Xenu at the volcanoes, Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick. Auto da fe, Salem witch trial, the Meadows Massacre, "the hole" at Gold Base.

You say tomato, I say out tech, suppressive person, etc. Well, actually, I don't, but you know what I mean. Sometimes a cigar is just a Body Thetan.

The Atlantic might want to reconsider "sponsored content" if they find that it alienates their readers. But if they're going to accept it from religious or political groups, I don't see any real case for considering the Church of Scientology beyond the pale.

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