Today In Quack History

L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics was published in 1950:

Dianetics was first published May 9, 1950 by Hermitage House, a New York-based publisher of psychiatric textbooks whose head, Arthur Ceppos, was also on the Board of Directors of the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation. Hubbard said that he wrote the book in only six weeks (though according to another Scientology source he wrote all 180,000 words in only three weeks).

The book became a nationwide bestseller, selling over 150,000 copies within a year. Due to the interest generated, a multitude of “Dianetics clubs” and similar organizations were formed for the purpose of applying Dianetics techniques. Hubbard himself established a nationwide network of Dianetic Research Foundations, offering Dianetics training and processing for a fee.Although it received a positive public response, Dianetics was strongly criticized by scientists and medical professionals for its scientific deficiencies. In response, Hubbard’s Dianetic Research Foundation issued a survey of “patients” to support his claims that Dianetics could achieve remarkable health benefits. See scientific evaluations of Dianetics for more on the scientific debate.

[…] According to Nielsen BookScan, Dianetics has sold 52,000 copies between 2001 and 2005. The book has been very aggressively marketed, for instance appearing as one of the twelve sponsors of the Goodwill Games under a $4 million agreement between Bridge Publications and Turner Broadcasting System. Bridge Publications also sponsors NASCAR racer and Scientologist Kenton Gray, who races as the “Dianetics Racing Team” and whose No. 27 Ford Taurus is decorated with Dianetics logos.Doubts have been expressed about whether the book’s continued sales have been manipulated by the Church of Scientology and its related organizations. According to a Los Angeles Times exposé published in 1990, “sales of Hubbard’s books apparently got an extra boost from Scientology followers and employees of the publishing firm [Bridge Publications]. Showing up at major book outlets like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, they purchased armloads of Hubbard’s works, according to former employees.”

He wrote 180,000 words in six weeks (or three weeks, depending on your source). If you ever wanted a technical definition of a hack, there it is. The Wikipedia link above for scientific evaluations of Dianetics is well worth the read. Even in the much touted “official neutral” tone, you can’t help but smell the stink of much deserved contempt. What really blows my mind is that people still believe this humbuggery, despite the naked, craven and unashamed marketing of the whole thing. Scientologists don’t even pretend they aren’t engaged in the most obvious pyramid scam ever, crassly advertising on NASCAR (imagine Jesus on the side of a car going 300 miles an hour. You can’t since everyone with one of those Christian fish seems to top out at about 25 mph) and fudging purchasing stats just for to garner the faintest pretext of credibility. “Dianetics is a number one bestseller, so it can’t all be bad!” Well, yeah, actually it can. The Da Vinci Code is a number one best seller and that was without its fans gobbling up armloads of books (on Dan brown’s dime) to artificially stack their ratings. And since when has the NYT bestseller list been the benchmark of credibility? All it measures is what crap is popular this week, and that it can be gamed so easily just proves it’s worthlessness.

And all of this is used as part of Scientology’s outreach method. Caveat Emptor is usually the preferred response to all this. Just chalk it up to the rubes being fleeced and sit back and smoke your cynical cigarette. But given how pliable people are to this sort of wish fulfillment Bullshit, it goes deeper than that. Even in the face of naked, sleazy marketing, enough people still want to be fooled that it validates these scumbags’ outlook. This mentality that it’s OK to take advantage of people just because they’re willing is deep rooted in our society. The Scientiologists, even more so than your garden verity Pope or Preacher are not motivated by a desire to help one another deal with the intrinsic absurdity and tragedy of life. A Scientologist’s faith grows out of a fetid pile of human fear of the unknown, fertilized by our exploitative economic structure and cultivated by a philosophy of capitalist greed and dressed up in the opulent rags of religion.

Who says you can’t get dangerous ideas from a book?