Go Back to Where Ya Came From, or “Cure from the Common Cult”

The Radio from Hell Show, a local morning show on Salt Lake City’s X96, had guest Vincent D’onofrio on today.  You may remember D’onofrio’s colorful antics as the dude that goes psycho and blows his head off in Full Metal Jacket, yes?  Well, now he wants your money.  Alright, that’s not fair.  D’onofrio doesn’t want your money for himself; he was here in SLC to plug the “Utah Meth Cops Project” and its “Ride for a Hero” fundraiser, to which he has attached his quasi-iconic status.

I love these celebrity causes.  When a face that I trust from TV tells me to write a check, brother, I usually don’t ask questions.  But it just so happens that I had heard of this particular project before…as a Scientologist health care camp.  And before I get into the claims that this Utah Meth Cop Project makes I need to explain the amazing story behind this detox clinic, its precursor NarConon, its ties to Scientology, and why it’s all nothing more than a common and familiar cult.

Aaaand GO!

NarConon

In 1966 one William Benitez, a former Arizona playmate…er, sorry…former Arizona inmate, founded a drug treatment regime based on ideas from L. Ron Hubbard’s book “Clear Body, Clear Mind.”  He called the program NarConon.  Riding the coattails of Narcotics Anonymous, a slightly more legitimate organization that was established in the 1940’s, Benitez was all too happy for the 2 groups to be confused with eachother as Narcotics Anonymous’ good name added an air of legitimacy to the then unknown NarConon.  To clarify, the 2 organizations are NOT affiliated with eachother.  So what exactly does the NarConon regime call for?  What are the revolutionary ideas that Monsignor Hubbard brought us about addiction recovery?  Let’s see, according to Narconon.org, the Hubbard Detoxification Protocol consists of 6 tidy bullet points:

1. Moderate exercise

2. Appropriate amount of sleep

3. Regular trips to the sauna

4. Plenty of liquids

5. Healthy diet

6. Vitamin and mineral supplementation

WOW ! *yawn*

Not exactly a paradigm-shift.  That advice sounds a lot like what my doctor keeps begging me to do, but its from Scientology so it’s more galactically significant and futuristic, right?  THANKS L. Ron!

Ok, so it doesn’t sound evil, actually, it just sounds like decent advice for maintaining general good health.  So WHY THE HELL would you need to go to a camp or clinic to follow basic health tips?    Why spend so much money to go to a clinic to drink water and take vitamins, when you could easily do it from your couch while watching TV?  The truth is that reason people had to go to them is because, as it was soon discovered, NARCONON WAS A SCIENTOLOGY RECRUITMENT PROGRAM.

Oddly enough, to this day NarConon fails to mention on its website or its publications that they are affiliated with Scientology despite the fact that this information has been exposed by news agencies in cities all across the U.S., including the Fox affiliate here in Salt Lake City, at a regular pace for the last 40 years. 

Okay, so they’re wacky alien worshippers who suck people in by presenting successful-looking representatives who dispense engaging testimonials.  So what!?  They wouldn’t be the only game in this town to market that product.  The real question is, does what they offer work?  According to their own website, not really.  I mean, the adjectives hint at cure, but overall they are throwing some pretty low quality evidence out there.  NarConon’s “research studies” list the patients as “clients” suggesting that they were in-house, and therefore practically in-valid or at LEAST in-conclusive, studies.  When I investigated the actual research facility where the studies were conducted, Downtown Medical P.C. , I found out that Downtown Medical P.C. is a non-medical treatment center run by none other than…drum roll, please…the Mormon Church!  Just kidding.  It’s run by the Scientologists.  In fact, according to my buddy, Wikipedia, it was commissioned by Tom Cruise himself to “treat” (translation: “recruit”) WTC rescue workers in the aftermath of 9/11.  NOT kidding.

Bogus treatments aside, even the ailments that they were treating were a bit suspect.  The symptoms they “cured” were ALL self-reported, and mostly subjective.  Even the “mental acuity” and “nervousness” attested to in the studies were not empirically validated by the researchers in any way…no baseline, no way to show an effect.

In fact, there is little reason to conduct a study at all, considering that from a scientific standpoint, the notions underpinning their methods are utterly implausible…but more on that later.

The worst news is that after all their “research” the Scientologists at Downtown Medical concluded that their method of detoxification was not only effective, but safe.  I mean, yeah you’d think a fake treatment for an imagined illness WOULD be safe.  And they certainly did say that it was safe…but I find that troubling, because C. Everett Coop, former United States Surgeon General, had this to say about Hubbard Detox:

“It’s dangerous.”

He went on to say:

“I don’t think L. Ron Hubbard has credibility in the scientific world. The author’s suggestions about detoxification can be detrimental to [one’s] health.”

Other medical professionals from the U.S. and Sweden have found that the program involves the ingestion of hepatoxic levels of niacin.  Now I’m no scienstician, but that sounds pretty bad.  Adding inefficacy to injury, addiction specialists at home and in Berlin have found NarConon’s abyssmal success rate to be “as effective as no treatment.”

So here are my tidy bullet points, presented to you now as “opinion” due to the litigious nature of the parent organization, Scientology:

1. The treatment is nothing novel, proprietary or spectacular, nothing that requires a NarConon membership.

2. NarConon hides their true identity.

3. The supporting research is poorly conducted and the published results are misleading or fraudulent.

4. They use “treatment” as a stage for recruitment into a religion which is notorious for ostracizing its members from their friends and family and who takes money in exchange for enlightenment.

CULT

CULT

CULT

Meth Cops uses the Hubbard Detoxification Protocol, is based largely on the NarConon model and is affiliated, by their own admission, with the Church of Scientology.

Back to our story:

Utah  Meth  Cops

I caught an episode of the Reasonable Doubts podcast  a while back that discussed this detoxification regimen, which consists primarily of giving cops pep talks and then sticking them in a sauna for a spell, and to my embarassment Utah was at the heart of the bullshit once again.  It seems that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff thinks that Utah Meth Cops is a swell idea, and he spent Utah tax dollars to send Utah cops to what will turn out to have been a Scientology camp in Florida to test the effects of the program.  Now I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry; Utah politicians care not for the 1st Amendment.  It’s perfectly fine to mix church and state liberally here…just don’t say the word “liberally,” or you’ll be told to leave America.  The proudly Mormon public official was so impressed by the Hubbard Detox method that, according to local news agencies, he has procured over $300,000 of public money to fund Utah Meth Cops.  Apparently Mark Shurtleff is a goddamned genius, because he saw an effect where even Utah State University’s Roger Coulombe Jr. PhD, did not see one.  According to naysayer Coulombe, a Professor of Toxicology at USU, the premise of Meth Cops is “preposterous.”

 Yeah, well…uh…he’s just a scientists, right Mark?  Ok, I didn’t talk to Mark Shurtleff directly -because his office ignored my email- but I DID consult his Twitter account, where I was directed to Utah-Detox.org, which explained the project in about as clear of language as I expected.  Here’s a rundown according to that website:

THE PROBLEM

Utah officers were among the first in the nation to be exposed to toxic methamphetamine labortories, as if there weren’t enough reasons to be sheepish when telling people you’re from Utah.  The claim is that in the 80’s and 90’s officers were not dressed in protective gear and were thus exposed to harmful chemicals, which I do not doubt.  In “An Open Letter from Attorney General Mark Shurtleff,” this elected official makes the bold claim that this exposure has caused “ill effects” and ties these effects DIRECTLY to meth lab exposure, though toxicologists never have.  Of course, a project that would rid a person of these toxic chemicals would certainly be able to IDENTIFY the “toxins” specifically and the ailments that they cause, right?  Mmmm, well…other than citing headaches and acid reflux (both of which have other known causes) all they really say here on this site is that contact with the unnamed chemical toxins can “make you sick,” and that prolonged exposure leads to CANCER.  While the meaning behind technical medical jargon like “make you sick” flies right over the heads of slack-jawed idiots like me, cancer is a word I DO understand.  It’s very scary, and politicians LOVE scary.

But wait, if cancer is the only ailment they’ve named specifically, and their treatment is supposed to address the ailments caused by exposure, then does this mean that their treatment can prevent or cure cancer?  Are they actually claiming that they can prevent or treat cancer?  It sure looks that way.  But the American Cancer Society – you know, the experts – says that detox methods are not effective for the treatment of cancer, and they have published article after article defending that position.

THE RESULTS

Utah-Detox.org cited some research to give the appearance of scientific support and efficacy.  Participants of the initial trial OF 3 PEOPLE  engaged in moderate exercise, a vegetable-based diet, and a few trips to a day spa.  They reported the following miracles: a sense of overall better health, more energy and greater clarity of mind.  Oh, and one guy grew an extra penis.  I could be mistaken about that last one.

Gee, ya don’t say?  A “sense” of better health!  Clarity of mind!  More energy!  More penises!  I can get all but maybe one of those effects by doing situps or buying a new pair of shoes.  Hell, I get “more energy” and “clarity of mind” when I use stimulants like caffiene, or ADD medication (but only by prescription, kids) which is, ironically, chemically similar to the very methamphetamines that this program is trying to purge.

MY CONCLUSION

No one needs Utah Meth Cops,

least of all Utah’s meth cops.

 

Now let’s make a further mockery of what was already a big pile of bullshit anyway:

So, to paraphrase everyone:

Vincent D’onofrio and Mark Shurtleff, “Scientology, er, oops, we mean UTAH METH COPS, will cleanse your toxins!

Expert Toxicologists, “Not a chance in hell.

Vincent D’onofrio and Mark Shurtleff, “We’ll prevent cancer!

American Cancer Society, “No damn way.

Vincent D’onofrio and Mark Shurtleff,It’s safe!

United States Surgeon General, “Negative.

 

FUCK I’m sick of typing D’onofrio.

THE REPUGNANT

The bottom line is this: Men In Black was an awesome movie, and if you’re gonna sell us Crap-O-La Crunch Cereal, go ahead and hire D’onofrio, a face we’ll recognize from a beloved classic.  He’s an actor.  Whoring themselves out to the highest bidder is just what actors do.  But don’t drag our civil servants into the mix.  It’s bad enough that these cops have to risk their lives trying in vain to keep meth out of our hands, do you have to add insult to injury by exploiting their status to get us to make donations, or to trick them into thinking that you are helping them?

And Attorney Generals should sure as shit know better than to use tax dollars to send people to religious gatherings.  IN FACT, the State of Utah, in a rare act of sanity, STOPPED the practice of sending convicted drug offenders to NarConon after they discovered in 2000 that it was a Scientology front, presumably because using the law to compel someone to engage in a religious activity is a violation of Constitutional Amendment 1, or perhaps because there’s only room for one cult ’round h’yuh.  At the very least, an attorney general should know how to tell the difference between compelling evidence and pure, unmitigated con-artistry.  But apparently that is a little too much to hope for.

You’d think that one of the few radio stations with liberal tendencies would try not to let bullshit artists walk all over their listeners and bilk them out of the $96 they just earned for properly naming all 10 top’o the hour songs, or whatever the hell “listen to us all day” gimmick they run nowadays.  The station KNOW for a fact that when they endorse a product or cause, that their listeners are more inclined to buy or become involved with it.  In fact, that is the very premise that radio is built upon.  That’s why Gina Barberi is paid good money to promote the local laser hair removal clinic.  Advertisers in SLC KNOW that if Kerry, Bill, or Gina tell their listeners that something is the Bee’s knees, sales and participation goes up.  That’s a fact.  So when they kiss D’Onofrio’s ass, and rile their listenership into contributing to his cause, they are responsible for an increase in activity.  They need to do their homework.  Clearly, they did not. 

But then again this is the same station that ran an ad from local skate shop owner, Salty Peaks’ Denis Nazari (whom I have spoken to at length and who I am VERY comfortable calling “batshit crazy” – and marginally literate) giving him a mouthpiece with which to spout bigoted, xenophobic conspiracy theories about a Northern American Union and a Mexican Invasion.  I really SHOULDN’T be surprised and disappointed, but I SO am.

For what it’s worth, I did attempt to call in and really stick it to D’Onofrio, but alas, the interview was wrapping up as my call got through, and they didn’t get me on air, although I suspect that I might have if I hadn’t told the engineer WHY I was calling.  Supporting this suspicion is the fact that, to date, I have recieved NO reply from anyone at X96 regarding this issue, despite having sent multiple emails.  Whatever.

THE FINAL SOLUTION

D’onofrio, it’s ok to be an actor without a cause.  Really.

Shurtleff,  please return to your former political obscurity, as you have proven yourself absolutely worthless.

Meth Cops, Utah-Detox.org, et al, it is time to stop obscuring your identity.  Scientology is still stinky cerebral diarrhea no matter what flowery name you call it by, and no matter what public heroes you try to attach to it.

…and YOU, Radio From Hell…you know where to go.*

*See title

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3 Responses to “Go Back to Where Ya Came From, or “Cure from the Common Cult””

  1. Unless you are personally aware that Vincent D”Onofrio was aware of any ties between it and the Scientology cult, then you are equally guilty of speaking without any foundation!

    I have never heard that Vincent D’Onofrio was a scientologist, nor has he openly espoused the cult to my knowledge. Nor have you proven any knowledge on his part throughout your ranting and denigrating of Mr. D;Onofrio’s character.

    Since many of the activities of this cult are conducted sub rosa, then it isn’t surprising that many caring people might be fooled into promoting what they think is a good cause.

    I think that you owe an apology to Mr. D’Onofrio and save your venom for those celebrities who not only admit to being scientologist, but openly try to lure others into this cult.

  2. Thank you for the comment Xeresa. I will agree with you that the Scientologists conduct themselves in a secretive manner, and that this can make it difficult to see through their ploys and plots.

    As far as Mr. D’Onofrio goes, I suppose I should have mentioned that in his interview on the radio show he explicitly mentioned that he WAS, in fact, aware that the Meth Cops detox program was based on a Scientology program. D’Onofrio also stated that he himself was NOT a Scientologist.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass what he believes in his personal life…I really don’t And D’Onofrio is asking for donations, NOT tax money as Mark Shurtleff has done, so I don’t even care if he knew that it was based on Scoentology. What I care about, and *THIS IS WHY I WOULD NEVER APOLOGIZE*, is that D’Onofrio is backing this program THAT DOESN’T WORK, and that is a covert op. If it was a scientology-based program, but it worked, and it didn’t seek to convert people in subversive, secretive ways, then I’d say “go for it.” But this is not the case. In fact, it would take D’Onofrio approximately 5-10 minutes on Google to find enough links to make him curious and skeptical about the Meth Cop’s intentions, efficacy, and methodology. If he bothered to consult, I dunno…ACTUAL medical professionals about this issue, he’d find out that the entire program is built on a faulty premise of implausible and dubious scientific claims in the first place.

    D’Onofrio isn’t a researcher, and I don’t expect him to be in the lab conducting clinical trials on Hubbard Detox efficacy. But if he is going to put his face to something to help it sell, then he damn well had better make sure it isn’t doing harm or scamming people. D’Onfrio owes UTAHN’s an apology.

  3. Great article – you have a real knack for the research and exposition of quackery, which is a noble endeavor.

    I’m consistently perplexed by people’s reluctance to look for evidence for or against their opinions; it is almost as though people like not having good reasons for holding this conviction or that. Aside from the interesting history, the medical / health claims are themselves scientifically untenable. And similarly nocuous convictions are widespread when one considers homeopathy, or althermanive medicine. A friend of mine, for instance, believes wholeheartedly that colloidal silver has groundbreaking medical applications. And the evidence marshaled for these applications is invariably anecdotal, usually in the medium of audio casset tapes made by the producers of the coloidal silver product. In these cases, if your attention isn’t caught by a waving red flag at your periphry, you are missing something imperative for critical inquiry. Here, as with D’onofrio’s and Scientology’s ether, science proper has the potential to fill our lungs the fresh air of candid doubt and intellectual honesty.

    The diminishment of observer bias, wish- thinking, and deliberate falsification are primary goals of any good scientific research. There is no coincidence that the best debunkers and quack police are themselves either trained in the scientific tradition, or otherwise educated and well-read on scientific methodologies. Since these thinkers have provided us with priceless knowledge and refreshing wit, I feel inclined to name names: Michael Shermer (well-rounded scientific comontator and skeptic); Steven Barrett (Professional psychiatrist who runs the important website, Quackwatch); Carl Sagan (well known astronomer and debunker of everything from faith-healing to alien landings); and Sam Harris (neuroscientist and debunker of religious bullshit) to name a few.

    The anecdote to scientology, religion, UFO claims, most homeopathy and much, much more psudothought is not only exposure and scrupulous reasoning, but also extensive criticism and humiliation. My hope is that one day it will simply be too humiliating and laughable to publicly condone such quackery. Idiots like D’Onofrio, Kevin Trudeau, and Lee Strobel should be so relentlessly laughed at that they are pushed to the margins of society. For this to happen, I think that it must become cool / hip to be critical and skeptical (this is certainly happening already, as seen with the popularity of the “new athiests” and podcasts like Point of Inquiry). Scientologists and faith-heads need to become symbols of a time past – a time when the most abject nonsense was accepted with unflinching docility. But I fear that this is wishfull thinking too, for some will probably always put faith – that paradox of thought – into the faintest possibilities.

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