Last Sunday, on May 12, 2013, a popular newspaper in Argentina called Page/12 (Página/12) published three articles by Emilio Ruchansky on Narconon, Scientology, and it's founder, L. Ron Hubbard as well as it's involvement with the government of Buenos Aires (the capital of Argentina). Here are all three articles translated to English by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.
If it's "New Age," Macri will Pay for it
In Buenos Aires, a church convicted of fraud in France offers "anti-drug" courses whose content has no scientific basis. The courses are free because the Macri government pays for them. The church also has a treatment center that uses questionable methods.
By Emilio Ruchansky
By Emilio Ruchansky
Siria, an employee of the Church of Scientology, proudly confirms what a huge sign at the entrance to the local Scientology center says: "Yes, yes. We are giving courses about drugs sponsored by the government of Buenos Aires, so they are free." The seminar that began last April 5, offers a very particular viewpoint and is run by Gustavo Libardi, head of the Church of Scientology in Argentina. This "specialist" maintains that all drugs accumulate in body fat and that, if a person goes out and runs, this chemical residue is released by the burning of body fat and its effect is reactivated. This "dry trip," as Libardi calls it, "is very common among addicts," he says in a promotional video for the courses that was posted on the Internet. One of Scientology's own organizations, Narconon, operates a treatment center which uses methods that, in other countries, are considered fraudulent and unscientific, and which violate Argentina's Mental Health Act and the laws that regulate the practice of medicine.
The seminar consists of six sessions that last an hour and a half each and is entitled "The Truth About Drugs." It is given on Fridays at 6 p.m. at the church's building at 1050 Ayacucho Street in the Barrio Norte area. The entrance hall offers stress, personality, and ability tests and invitations to a film about "Dianetics," which is "The Modern Science of Mental Health" or the "spiritual healing technology" based on a book by the founder of Scientology, the controversial L. Ron Hubbard.
Lecturer Libardi's philosophy on the consumption of illegal drugs is derived from the manuals used by Narconon, one of the myriad sub-labels of this church. The videos say that "nothing is known about this," that there is no "stable data," and that there is only "confusion" because of a powerful group that says, "Hey, drugs aren't that bad," and leaves society in a state of "helplessness." The hegemonic model that Libardi adheres to is absolute prohibition. Accordingly, Libardi criticizes Argentina's Mental Health Act because, he says, it allows the national government to avoid providing "very expensive" treatment by just dispensing "more drugs".
"When you have specific data, you come out of confusion and start to take control. When there is confusion, others have control... This is what happens," adds the Head of Scientology in Argentina. Next comes the "data" — five or six points — because you don't need much more to understand the subject, according to Libardi. First, this so-called specialist resorts to classic stigmatization, even though he tries to mitigate the statement: "An addict is not a criminal, we are in total agreement, but he ends up committing criminal acts."
Among other "proven" data, this so-called specialist says that "one addict out of seven or ten manages to enter a rehab facility, but only one or one and a half out of ten get rehabilitated. So, in practice, if we add up the result, only 2 percent get rehabilitated." The effective solution is found in the materials distributed by Scientology, whose particular approach supposedly insures recovery for "6 or 8 of every 10" patients”. "And what is one of the lessons from the data?" he asks. At this point, he starts talking about the "dry trip."
"This is the situation in which a person has stopped using a drug for some time, say two or three months or four years and, one day, the person has the same effects as if drugged," he says. The explanation is supposedly physiological: "If I take a blood sample from a person who doesn't take drugs, I won't find anything. That's fine. But if I take a biopsy from body fat, something does appear, because drugs stay trapped in body fat. Later, if that person goes jogging, body fat is burned and passes into the bloodstream, and the person re-experiences the feeling of being drugged."
Asked about this, the Head of Toxicology at the Fernández Hospital replied that this theory is "nonsense." He explained that only marijuana remains lodged for a time in body fat, while cocaine, LSD and ecstasy leave traces in the blood that later disappear if the user doesn't continue taking them. "By no means can these remnants produce effects. There is something called a flashback, similar to the dry trip they talk about, in cases of LSD use, but the cause is still not clear, possibly triggered by marijuana use," says Carlos Damín.
The courses that Libardi gives are co-organized by Honoring Life (Honrando la Vida), an NGO headed by Gloria Martínez, who belongs to a conservative faction of Mothers Against the Paco (1). In July, last year, during the Congressional Committee hearings into decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use, Gloria Martínez stated that: "A paco addict has no freedom of choice and so can't be considered a holder of rights as the Mental Health Act does." On that occasion, Martínez was accompanied by the Federal Peronism member of parliament Eduardo Amadeo.
"Gloria is a person whose manners can be very violent. She's always with Javier Rodríguez, a journalist who works for Scientology and is also aggressive toward those who think differently. They're part of the lobby that opposes decriminalization and supports therapeutic communities, which we audit and denounce. At one point, she and other mothers against paco were offered the chance to audit Sedronar (the government's agency for drug treatment, prevention and enforcement) and they refused," says a member of Mothers Against Paco, who requested that her identity be concealed to avoid "more fights with Gloria."
In the same promotional video for the course, Martínez thanks the Government of the City of Buenos Aires for having "accepted the project" to sponsor the seminar. Página/12 contacted the Office for the Strengthening of Civil Society and an agency specializing in addictions, but they neither denied nor confirmed this sponsorship. The second of the two replied: "This kind of information is not generally disclosed." Both belong to the Ministry of Social Development for Buenos Aires, and they requested time for verification, but did not respond back.
|Gustavo Libardi, Gloria Martínez, and |
Deputy Mayor María Eugenia Vidal
In addition to courses, Scientology has a treatment center that operates under the sub-label Narconon. The person who answers the telephone there is Angel Antúnez. He says that the center has only one court-ordered patient, that treatment can last between 4 and 6 months, that the center's doors are closed, but visits are allowed on weekends, and patients may receive calls in the evening. What if a patient doesn't want to enter rehab? "Well, someone can bring him in for a consultation, and he stays over here. Then you can bring along a change of clothes. We have staff to keep him inside, if he resists."
A week later, the phone is answered by a person who says that his name is Pablo. He seems more knowledgeable: he denies that anyone can be admitted against their will because it violates the principles of the Mental Health Act. However, he does confirm other things that Antúnez said: treatment costs around 10 thousand pesos per month, including accommodation, food and detoxification without drugs: the withdrawal period is dealt with using vitamins. "It's an educational system. We don't have any psychologists. We don't use drugs because people then become addicted to those drugs," says Pablo. Neither the social networks plans [Obras Sociales] nor private health insurance [Medicinas Prepagas] are accepted.
Narconon Argentina is located in the municipality of San Isidro, at 984 Del Barco Centenera Street. Its Facebook page says that the treatment is based on a "natural-holistic approach to this problem" and promises "strict confidentiality." The official website, www.narconon.org, states that the effectiveness of the program is 86.5 percent, a violation of Argentina's law on medical practice, which prohibits "false advertising about the success of therapy," as Leonardo Gorbacz, the author of the Mental Health Act, points out. He goes on to make other remarks about the "offerings" of this organization.
"The website mentions that this is an educational program, and it talks about "students," not patients, but the home page is all about a treatment program. Article 4 of Argentina's Mental Health Act states that persons whose legal or illegal drug use is problematic have all the rights and guarantees established in this Act with respect to health services. This means that, in terms of Argentina's legislation, addictions are centrally a health issue, and thus no one can offer an "educational" treatment for addiction, unless it's complementary. Despite this, they offer in-patient treatment and detoxification," says Gorbacz.
Gorbacz considers it "serious" that Narconon states it has no interdisciplinary team in addition to the "educators," and he warns that prohibiting medication as a standard procedure is not correct, just as it would be wrong to set a rule whereby everyone must be medicated. "There are patients who may need medication and others who don't. It's impossible to presume beforehand that no one needs it." Gorbacz adds that persons whose drug use is problematic have the right to receive care based on scientific principles balanced with ethical principles.
"The only way to be sure is to have a health inspection to evaluate its treatment plan," says Gorbacz. The simple assertion that "students" will receive vitamins because alcohol and illegal drugs cause the user to lose them was also considered "nonsense" by Toxicologist Carlos Damín. According to Doctor Damín: "The body never loses vitamins, except in cases of severe kidney disease that aren't caused by the intake of substances or by an excess that the body eliminates."
1 Translator's Note: Paco is a toxic and highly addictive mixture of raw cocaine base cut with chemicals such as sulphuric acid and kerosene as well as glue, rat poison and crushed glass. Source
A Conviction in France
However much Tom Cruise and John Travolta, two Scientology celebrities, promote Narconon's methods as "the best" in comparison with other drug rehabilitation centers, the justice system in the United States, Canada, and France has ordered searches and even the shutdown of various Narconon centers that were under suspicion, in some cases proven, of "organized fraud" and also because of suspicious deaths at Narconon centers.
The French case, the most high profile story in recent times, began with former cult members who accused the Church of persuading them, in the late 1990s, to spend thousands of euros on personality tests, vitamin cures, sauna sessions and "purification packages" similar to those offered in Argentina. Finally, in 2009, a Paris court ruled these treatments fraudulent and convicted Scientology, sentencing it to pay 600,000 euros.
This sentence fell upon the two principal Scientology centers in France: the Celebrity Center and the Scientology bookstore. Both were put on trial for "the systematic use of personality tests with no scientific value for the sole purpose of selling services and products." The Celebrity Centre was fined 400,000 euros, the bookstore 200,000 euros. "For the first time, Scientology legal entities were convicted, not for excesses committed by individuals, but for the core operations of the organization," said Georges Fenech, who at that time was president of France's agency responsible for monitoring cults.
The Paris court ruled that Scientology's central claims were "spurious" and served to "rope in" members to extract large sums of money from them. Four French leaders of the church received fines and suspended prison sentences, including Alain Rosenberg, the cult's leader in France. Although Scientology is recognized as a religion in the United States and other countries, this is not true in France, where a 1995 parliamentary report described Scientology as "a dangerous cult."
There are Narconon rehab centers in countries such as England, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Spain and Nepal and their prices are usually very high. In the United States, according to the local press, there are 90 Narconon centers, which normally don't mention that they are part of Scientology. The American news network, NBC made public the complaint filed by family members of three persons who died in 2012 at a single Narconon center located in Oklahoma. Another center, in Georgia, was raided late last April by local authorities investigating fraud against families and insurers.
Also in 2012, but in Quebec, Canada, health authorities shut down a branch of Narconon at Trois-Rivières because of its controversial methods. Marc Lacour, director of the regional health agency, said that Narconon advertised an 80 percent success rate for its expensive treatment, which the agency ruled "dangerous" and in violation of many of the criteria regulating rehabilitation centers. Among the problems cited were the absence of medical supervision and the lack of a scientific basis for the program. Lacour said that patients were given an "unhealthy amount of vitamins."
Ron, The Founder
In 1990, Los Angeles Times reporters Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos published an extensive 25-article investigation chronicling the foundation and the expansion of the Church of Scientology in the United States. One of these articles contains an intimate glimpse of the church's founder, American science fiction writer Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, at age 74. Hubbard, the two journalists wrote, liked to surround himself with teenagers that he treated as servants and who prepared his shower and his clothes every day. "They would hand him a cigarette and follow in his footsteps with an ashtray," according to one account. He called them "messengers."
Before reinventing himself as a demigod for his disciples, Hubbard tried, unsuccessfully, to become a civil engineer. The official biographers don't attribute his withdrawal to low grades, but to the academic rejection of his studies of the human mind, which he wanted to disseminate. In his youth, officially, he traveled widely in the Orient, especially China, Japan and the Philippines; he read voraciously, especially the works of Sigmund Freud; he went on explorations to meet unknown peoples and tribes; and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Neither engineering nor the Navy were as significant in his life, both disciples and critics agree, as his extensive literary career: he published 138 novels and science fiction stories for popular magazines. In these pages he outlined his "Dianetics," a science that originally promised treatment for depression, asthma, and arthritis, and even a "cure" for homosexuality. In 1950, the American Psychiatric Association refused to classify Dianetics as a "science" of mental health. Before and after this rejection, Hubbard voiced anti-psychiatry rhetoric.
As can be gleaned from the articles by Sappell and Welkos, Hubbard was prone toward anger stemming from paranoia over things such as the smell of soap on his clothing. The reporters quoted Doreen Gillham, an ex-"messenger" who said that Hubbard used to smell his clothes, even though they were washed a dozen times in different buckets of water. "He went to the closet and proceeded to sniff all the shirts. He would tear them off the hangers and throw them down. We're talking 30 shirts on the floor. I picked up a shirt off the floor, smelled it and said, 'There is no soap on this shirt.' I didn't smell anything in any of them. He grudgingly put it on." He had the same attitude about dust. He saw dust everywhere.
Quentin, one of his four acknowledged children, was a homosexual and, since his father had no tolerance for this, Quentin had to move away from his family. The Los Angeles Times reporters explained that: "In 1976, Quentin parked on a deserted road in Las Vegas and piped the exhaust into his car. At the age of 22, he killed himself. When Hubbard was told of the suicide, 'he didn't cry or anything,' according to a former aide. His first reaction, she said, was to express concern over the possibility of publicity that could be used to discredit Scientology."
The image of his church was, former collaborators concur, one of Hubbard's chief concerns. Another was the "global conspiracies" to destroy Scientology. According to Hubbard, his enemies in 1967 were the Bank of England and other high financial circles, the newspapers they controlled, and mental health authorities, everywhere on the planet. He also thought that they would attempt to poison him. Guided by an "attack the attackers" philosophy, Hubbard's disciples infiltrated government offices in the mid-1970s, resulting in prison sentences for Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue, and ten other senior Scientology officials.
Hubbard then went on the run and, for a time, he lived on ships belonging to his Sea Org, as he called his Sea Organization, a new association that ran Scientology while its founder lived on a ship christened "The Apollo" in Greek waters. Hubbard died on January 24, 1986 in Creston, California. His church had already spread to every continent. There was an attempt to cremate the body, but blood and urine samples had to be taken first. Despite his rejection of all medication, analysis revealed traces of hydroxyzine, a sedative also used against allergies.
He left behind a 25-million-dollar estate, according to the most conservative estimates.
You can see the original Spanish articles in three parts here:
or you can read all of the articles here.