Many consider the Church of Scientology to be one of the world’s most fascinating and bizarre religious traditions. The church’s Hollywood presence and secretive practices make it intriguing. In addition to its peculiar practices and high-profile members, Scientology’s litigiousness and aggression against former members raises eyebrows.
Typically, churches don’t make a habit out of suing people who say bad things about them. When they engage in media interviews, they usually maintain composure and professionalism. Scientology doesn’t. And neither does Donald Trump.
Scientology’s former-spokesperson, Mike Rinder, did an interview in which he described the church’s public relations strategy. Rinder left the church and now speaks about the church’s deception, abuse, and greed. In the interview, he revealed that the church’s approach is, “Always attack. Never defend.” He also said the church believes lying is justified if it serves the greater good. Actress and ex-Scientologist, Leah Remini, echoed these claims in her autobiography, Troublemaker.
Donald Trump’s tweets and performances in the Republican primaries show a man who never defends his behavior and frequently attacks those who disagree with him. Furthermore, the birther movement he spearheaded is evidence that honesty is something he sacrifices when it serves his agenda.
Trump’s fondness for suing people and organizations that speak out against him is legendary. Threatening lawsuits is one of his favorite strategies, and it’s a page right out of the Church of Scientology’s playbook. Trump and Scientology both have teams of lawyers ready to intimidate their opponents knowing that the process could bankrupt most individuals.
The “always attack, never defend” strategy is fantastic for reality TV cast members. I should know. I’m a professor emeritus in trashy television (not my proudest accomplishment, but it’s true). The absolute worst thing you can do when appearing on a reality show is to get in a defensive position. During my seven seasons on MTV, I realized that the way to maintain control in the house and in the game is to always be ready to attack.
I would not behave this way in real life, but within the parameters of reality television it is effective. Donald Trump is a great reality TV personality. Yuuuge! But the line between where his TV persona ends and where his real personality begins doesn’t seem to exist.
The very traits that make Trump a compelling television personality, are also the things resembling the Church of Scientology’s tactics. You could argue that if Scientology were a person, it would be Donald Trump, and I’m not sure who should be more offended by that comparison.