UK Media Blog

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Sweeney Snaps – Scientology & the BBC

Posted by Daniel on May 15, 2007

BBC/PAJohn Sweeney is well-known in journalistic circles for his bold-and-brash approach to his reports. Whether it’s drinking moonshine/knock-off vodka in Russia (and risking a serious liver disease doing so) or exposing knock-off paediatricians to the General Medical Council, he certainly does what he can to stretch his reporting to the limits, something which you can certainly admire the man for.

However, in a recent ‘documentary’ for the BBC, John Sweeney investigates Scientology and, despite his unblemished track record for the truth, he loses his cool in what he terms an ‘exploding tomato’ moment. Who wouldn’t end up shouting for all they’re worth, after being stalked relentlessly for days by the mad professor of Scientology in the USA, Tommy Davis. They filmed interviews and confrontations and made their own videos which they posted on YouTube as a counter stratagem.

Scientology is a religion like no other and I mean that in a negative sense. Whilst they don’t go round claiming holy war on everyone they see like some clichéd ‘Islamic extremist organisation’, they are clearly the blind leading the blind. What the hell do they think they’re doing, stalking a prominent British journalist?

I don’t say this in defence of John, rather, how stupid do you have to be? Surely if you stalk someone in a blacked-out car, block access to key churches and criticise the journalist in question, then your religion is going to be seen as some oppressive, flighty and insane organisation, intent on quashing negativity from the outside. Doesn’t it make sense to fluff the reporter as much as possible, with posh dinners and friendly meetings in order to make Scientology seem like the quaint, expensive social club that it is, rather than some fascist cult? They shot themselves in the foot twice over, not only by denying a perfect vision of the sci-fi fantasists’ way of doing things but they forgot the Golden Rule of news – bad news is good news (for the channel broadcasting it, at least). Panorama achieved a 19% (4.4m) share of the viewers for that time, a boon for the programme’s editors.

As for the BBC, I can understand Tommy’s concerns after the previous ‘neutral’ and ‘unbiased’ documentaries that have been coming out of the BBC News tosh factory of late. Anything from the BBC that claims to blow the whistle on something or investigate malpractice I take an instant disregard to. I’ve yet to see an episode of Panorama that genuinely allows the other side a chance to exercise their right-to-reply beyond being shouted at by a Paxman wannabe in a suit two sizes too big. Either that or a ‘serious reporter’ in the new style of poly-skilled female newsreaders who overcompensate with glasses way too big for her face…

Sweeney will undoubtedly get a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again but, thankfully, be back to bite the head off some other jumped-up figurehead or other. The pay-as-you-go religion, as Sweeney describes it, has a lot of lessons to learn if anyone is going to take them seriously but, with millions under their belt already, they’re laughing.

Taking a quick glance at ‘Sweeney Panorama’ search results on YouTube brings up a startling anti-BBC response. Do these stupid defenders of the faith need reminding that, as in Scientology, the BBC is an organisation of individuals with varying opinions and reactions? You can’t say he is representative of the BBC.

Still, I wonder who came off looking stupid here, the BBC’s irratic journalism or Scientology’s censorship tactics? BBC, one. Scientology, nil. The BBC wins over any whinging, money grabbing fabulists.



4 Responses to “Sweeney Snaps – Scientology & the BBC”

  1. CultWatch001 said

    Don’t fall in to the trap of discussing whether John Sweeney got annoyed and shouted, it is a non-issue.

    The real issues that need to be investigated are all possible breaches of the law by the self-styled “Church of Scientology”.

    Warning: To anybody who has not come across Scientology before, enter the following search terms into your favourite search engine: “Fair Game” and “Scientology”

    Finally, don’t ever buy a book on Dianetics(TM), walk away

  2. Eddie said

    Dear Sir,
    It is unfortunate that the BBC condones this level of tabloid journalism. Its continued growth will certainly garner for it a larger market share of those who would believe this caliber of reporting. Outside of the fact that the report violates Section 4 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, it shows that freedom of religion is not tolerated in the UK and is a disappearing social virtue.

  3. Serena said

    OK I didn’t even continue reading your post – I stopped after the ‘how stupid do you have to be’ comment you made. After John Sweeny accused numerous people of being “brain-washed” when asked back what being “brain-washed” meant his reply was “I am not an expert on brain-washing” – so I ask you how stupid does HE have to be to be to be accusing people of something he doesn’t even have a definition for?
    Great journalism – ask questions you don’t know the meaning of – I think not!!!!

  4. Chris said

    To Eddie…freedom of religion is great, but seeing as though Scientology is not a recognised religion in the UK, it does not have that freedom…and what about another thing – freedom of speech and freedom of the press?

    Surely the invasion of privacy and harrassment the scientology uses against its critics is illegal? I dont understand how ANYONE can condone that!

    Great Article!

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