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The curious saga of the Tom Cruise book

There is a new book about Tom Cruise, the American movie actor. Normally this information would not elicit even a groan from me. I simply have no interest in Cruise, movies, Hollywood and the pampered, pathetic world of the modern celebrity. But this new book, on the other hand, seems to be much more interesting then its subject matter.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian bookstores have been denied access to sell the book, not because of any government ban, but because the US distributor has decided that it will not sell the book outside the US or Canada. The distributor, Ingram International, will fulfill existing orders, but will not accept any more orders.

This is a very curious story. What is not said but is left implied is that the most controversial aspect of the Tom Cruise story is his adherence to the Church of Scientology. It seems that the Church came to some sort of legal arrangement with the distributor.

US-based Ingram International, described on its website as “the world’s largest wholesale distributor of book product”, sent an email to its Australian customers this morning citing unspecified legal reasons for not being able to distribute the book outside the US and Canada.

“Although I recently e-mailed stating Ingram’s ability to offer the book to international customers, the position has now changed that we will not sell it outside of the US and Canada,” Asia, Australia and New Zealand sales representative Jonathan Tuseth wrote in the email.

If so, it seems to be hardly worthwhile- anyone who wants to read the book, anywhere in the world, can do so by ordering through Amazon.com.

However it is another sad retreat from the old position of ‘publish and be damned’. The publishers of Salmond Rushdie’s book showed some courage in the face of Muslim rage in 1989, but now publishers seem to be willing to retreat at the first hint of a lawsuit.

This is just the sort of case that an aspiring young political figure with a passion for freedom should take up as a rallying cry for liberty, freedom and rationality. Do not hold your breath.

15 comments to The curious saga of the Tom Cruise book

  • guy herbert

    If the Church of Scientology, or Mr Cruise himself, merely bought off the publisher, then I don’t think there’s a problem for believers in liberty. If it had been the case (though there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that it was) that there were threats of legal or other action to cause the publisher to withdraw, then that would perhaps be a cause.

    There’s also the more interesting and more general question of grey markets. If it is legal to own the goods in Australia, then should the manufacturer (if, say, bought off, or in an attempt to control prices) be able to enforce conditions of resale preventing it being sold to someone there by a third party?

    Maybe the book was just too boring. I can’t get much excited about Scientology myself. The mythology of and moral teachings of Pastafarianism are more cogent. But, offences against the intellect notwithstanding, I’ve never heard of anyone being murdered or tortured in the name of L Ron Hubbard. So as religions go, it is pretty benign.

  • John

    The story I read in “The Australian” was that some NSW booksellers had decided not to stock the book while others are planning to sell it.

  • So as religions go, it is pretty benign.

    Hmmm… while it might not kill people, it does appear to have a pretty nasty and cavalier attitude towards identifying the weak points in peoples characters and using those to lever eye wateringly large sums of money out of them in the quest to get their “theatons” under control.

    I think the South Park movie on Scientology (and also Mormon’s) should be show to school children as an important cautionary tale, especially the explanation about how the galactic emperor (I forget the name) rounded up billions of people, froze them, transported them in space ships that looked like DC8s with rocket engines and dropped them into volcanoes on earth before blowing up the volcanoes with nuclear bombs.

    The resulting theatons attached themselves to the primitive humans and are the cause of all mental problems…

    As the South Park segment said in large letters at the bottom of the screen: SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE THIS!!!

  • Alan Furman

    The definitive source of honest information on the Scientology cult is:

    http://xenu.net(Link)

  • I seriously doubt that any government had anything directly to do with the decision to limit direct distribution to the US and Canada.

    A more believable scenario is that the scientologists made the publisher aware that under the libel laws of countries outside the US and Canada, it would be much easier for the church to bring, and win, an action in court. Something the scientologists would have no hesitation in doing.

    Simply google the term “fair game” in terms of its usage by scientology members – fairly chilling. In fact, it’s rather disturbing to review a compilation of the terms they use, and the underlying meaning and philosophy those phrases represent.

    Not very nice people. In some ways, just a different variation of whack job than the run of the mill jihadi, in that they’re so willing to blindly give themselves over to something that, to the outside observer, is quite obviously and seriously flawed.

  • TomG

    Quote in yesterday’s AP news (could sum it all up):

    “It’s rough and tumble, and it’s wild and woolly and it’s a blast,” he says. “It’s a blast. It really is fun, because … there is nothing better than … going out there and fighting the fight and, suddenly you see, things are better.”
    “Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it’s not like anyone else; as you drive past, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you’re the only one that can really help.”

  • Related to “publish and be damned”, from the current issue of Interzone:

    Robert Ronson, author of a children’s sf novel called Olympic Mind Games — set at the 2012 London Olympics — was sternly told by the Olympics 2012 committee that he wasn’t allowed to use the O-word, nor such protected terms as ‘London 2012′ or even just ’2012.’ What’s more, they complained, ‘there is no such thing as Olympic mind games’. Ronson ignored this bluster and seems to have got away with it.

  • RAB

    Oh you can bet your boots the distributor has been lent on. Scientology has lawyers and private eyes on perminent contract.
    For those of you who want to know what the fruit loop believes, or just in need of a laugh…

  • Sunfish

    There’s also the more interesting and more general question of grey markets. If it is legal to own the goods in Australia, then should the manufacturer (if, say, bought off, or in an attempt to control prices) be able to enforce conditions of resale preventing it being sold to someone there by a third party?

    In the US, the publisher has nothing to say. There’s actually been litigation on this point and US courts have recognized a concept called the “first sale” doctrine.

    Basically, once you buy an item, you own it. If it contains IP, the copyright holder still can’t prevent you from re-selling the book or at least not the one that you actually bought.

    As for Australia, I’m painfully ignorant of the laws there but I would suspect that their libel laws allow civil suits or even maybe criminal charges where truth is not a complete defense. That’s a rant for another time, but if the judge can’t tell the plaintiff “Either prove that he’s lying and knew better when he published, or GTFO of my court” then that country has a problem.

    Strictly IMHO. I hate to bash Australia. If it weren’t for the gun laws I’d have moved there long ago.

  • Ryan Frank

    Don’t be too sure about the ‘at least they don’t kill people’ part. True, they don’t go cutting off the heads of the unbelievers, but they have some very nutty views on how to treat drug addictions, and people have died in thier ‘detox’ centers. Also, not murder, but google ‘Operation Freak Out’ sometime…

  • renminbi

    A vile organization. My late first wife went to a recruitment event out of curiosity and asked some questions. A number of these dickheads then turned around and kept glaring at her. Thanks RAB, very funny- well maybe that’s not the word.

  • Russ Goble

    I don’t know, an organization that files a libel lawsuit anyone says anything remotely negative about the organization seems that they are using the rules put in place by the state to very much limit your liberty. There may be a place for libel laws but this church’s use of them is very much not what people intended for them.

    Also, if youtube pulls the Tom Cruise video, Gawker has it here and is refusing to pull it despite the threat of the lawsuit. Anyone who thinks it’s benign needs to see this and if you conclude that Tom Cruise is anything other than a closet authoritarian, well, you have a very forgiving outlook on things. The guy (who happens to be the primary bankroller of the church) is a special kind of crazy.

    http://gawker.com/5002269/the-cruise-indoctrination-video-scientology-tried-to-suppress

  • Daveon

    Tom Cruise is anything other than a closet authoritarian

    I don’t think that’s a closet he has a problem being out of.

    If you catch my drift.

  • mike

    Having watched the video, what immediately strikes me is that the interviewer’s questions are cut out – so we don’t know what questions Mr Cruise is responding to. I think that is not unimportant to making a judgement.

    However, my overriding impression is that the subject being discussed is the idea of moral responsibility. Where does he say the state should be used to force people to live life in the way he approves?

    Aside from the ‘theaton’ stuff, I get the sense that people generally ridicule scientologists as crazy ‘authoritarians’ merely because they hold certain propositions to be true whilst refusing to entertain others. For example, on Brooke Shields’ use of psychiatry, Cruise was asked by an interviewer whether he thought psychiatry could work for some people – or in other words, he was asked whether he had any doubt about the ‘evil’ of psychiatry. The fact that he answered ‘no’ seems to me not so much evidence that he is an ‘authoritarian’, but rather that he holds certain propositions about psychiatry to be true – which is to say he has a belief about it. What, if anything, is inherently authoritarian about that?

  • As regards the video that RAB refers to at
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQXLuWz6OqU

    … this has been replaced with the following notice:

    This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Church of Scientology International

    Remember, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t meant they’re not out to get you ….