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Yaron Brook on Scientology

Not long after “Who Is Carl Barney?” appeared on ARI Watch the leadership of the Ayn Rand Institute doubled down associating themselves with their most generous donor.  ARI’s Annual Report for 2017 prominently displayed a photograph of Barney along with a statement by him.  In February 2018 ARI uploaded a video of a talk he had given at OCON 2016, titled – believe it or not – “The Objectivist Ethics Applied to Life and Business.”  On 3 July 2018 he was part of the Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership Panel at OCON 2018. [1]

By that time the leadership of ARI probably knew Barney’s true history, a history rather different from the history he pretends to have. Yaron Brook has read at least some of ARI Watch because he mentioned the website on one of his podcasts, mentioned it without mentioning it you might say. While discussing Trump’s belligerent attitude toward media criticism Mr. Brook says that he himself never gets upset when people criticize him. Why just:

“... go read, I’m not, I’m not gonna refer to the website, there’s a [raises voice] whole website dedicated to attacking me.  A whole website !  Just to attacking me !  Goes into great detail [Flings up right hand.]  I’m a, you know, on, on what kind of a monster I am.  You know, so what.  I’ve never talked about it, I’ve never gotten angry about it.  I’ve never written nasty letters about it.  The hell with it.”

LOL.  You have to hear it to appreciate how upset he is. [2]

Mr. Brook is a little narcissistic here. ARI Watch examines all of ARI’s output not just Mr. Brook’s, but because he is ARI’s chief spokesman he does get a lot of ink. He seems to think that a website dedicated to watching ARI is reprehensible just for existing and that being meticulous is somehow a defect.

Perhaps he pines for the good old days. Imagine what ARI would be getting away with if the Internet did not exist. True, they use the Internet to spread their lies but at least you can talk back to them on webpages they don’t themselves control.

Another reason the leadership of ARI knows the truth about Barney is that Yaron Brook and most of the others are active on Twitter and they have received dozens of tweets about Barney along with a link to ARI Watch. The tweets, which the recipients suffer in silence, point out that Carl Barney was a Scientologist for at least 12 years and a top executive in the Church of Scientology for nine of them, during which he ran five Church missions. And he didn’t leave on his own, L. Ron Hubbard kicked him out for alleged financial improprieties (if true the pot called the kettle black). The tweets also point out that Barney’s success and wealth depend on the poorly managed federal student loan program – the federal government is the source of 90% of his tuition revenue, which money he can keep even if a loan goes into default. The tweets point out that changing to a nonprofit was Barney’s way to continue getting federal subsidies after a change in the law. That he lied to Patricia Cohen of the New York Times in her May 2016 interview. That Yaron Brook has no business giving lectures on integrity when he allows Barney on the board of the “Ayn Rand Institute” and when he is on the board of Carl Barney’s “Center for Excellence in Higher Education.”  (Update: Mr. Brook left the board of CEHE in 2018 and Mr. Barney silently disappeared from the ARI website’s list of board members in March 2019. Mr. Barney continues to be associated with ARI affiliate The Objective Standard.)

Now either (1) ARI had been ignorant of Carl Barney’s deceit about his past and of his current questionable business practices, and only found out after reading ARI Watch, or (2) ARI knew about these things all along but believed no one else did.  In either case (1) Now they know, (2) Now they know you know.  In either case you would expect some sort of public statement from them.

Why does the Ayn Rand Institute continue to associate itself with Carl Barney though aware, for example, of his long and extensive work for L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology?

Followers of ARI who hoped to find out when Yaron Brook answered a question about Scientology during his BlogTalkRadio show of 26 April 2018, titled “Ask Me Anything,” were disappointed. He never mentioned Barney, at least not out loud. He begins by reading the question: [3]

“ ‘Is Scientology worse than Christianity and why did it start?’

“Wow, is it worse than Christianity? I don’t know. I have a pretty low opinion of Christianity, [4]  so I don’t know, I mean it’s worse than Christi— well is it?

“It’s an amazing fantasy, but I think what Scientology has going for it is that if you ignore the fantasy, if you ignore the aliens living inside your head and all of that stuff, which is just plain ... [crazy], a lot of what Scientology tries to do is psychology. So what they’re trying to do is provide you with a self help guide.”

I interrupt.  Hubbard himself explains what later became Scientology’s psychology in his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.  His “modern science” is a kind of behaviorism / materialism that takes the psyche out of psychology. He writes about people and their minds as if they were machines. Mr. Brook insinuates that Scientology is better than Christianity, but – we point out – “man is a machine” is completely foreign to Christianity.

“And I think that’s what makes them popular, what makes them successful. They’re new, they’re different, and then they’re using a lot of the self-help techniques that have been developed over the last 50 years to try to get people to feel better about themselves and to feel better about the world in which they live. And the way they structure their system is course after course after course after course, to keep advancing, so there’s always an incentive to take the next course, which is gonna teach you even more. It’s like Tony Robbins, just couched in a religion, in this weird religious thing.”

Mr. Brook makes Scientology out to be as helpful as a Tony Robbins ® seminar instead of a malevolent cult that has cheated many thousands of people. Has Tony Robbins ever held anyone in virtual bondage, working them frazzled? Tony Robbins is merely a vulgar self-help personality. Scientology – with its E-meters, auditing, and testing “clear” – is a racket.  In its heyday it was a cult near the level of the Moonies and today it’s not much better.

Mr. Brook continues with the second part of the question:

“Why did it start? I don’t know. There’s certainly a desire people have, people who don’t wanna think too deeply about their own life and about the world. Philosophy ... requires too much focus and too much energy and too much thinking. They’re looking for quick and easy answers ... and religion provides that. But Christianity, Judaism, Islam, they’re dull, everybody holds those, you want something new and sexy and different ... [Scientology] went after Hollywood stars in order to get that sex appeal. It got some Hollywood stars engaged. ... you could be hip, you could be cool, here was a cool thing to do, right, the cool kids went to Scientology. And all these cool actors, Travolta and ... Tom Cruise, they’re all into Scientology, it became the cool thing to do, right. So I think that’s why it started.

“Now, the story about how it got started was ...”

Mr. Brook repeats the story about L. Ron Hubbard founding Scientology because someone bet him that he couldn’t start a religion. There’s no evidence for the story. What is true is that on several occasions Hubbard said that the way to get rich is to start a religion. [5]

“Yeah, so I don’t really have that much to say about Scientology other than it’s wacko and it’s just another religion, but it’s a cool one, I guess, because the Hollywood stars embrace it.”

That’s concludes Mr. Brook’s answer, about as shallow an analysis as is possible. He himself doesn’t think too deeply about the world.

The important thing to observe is that Mr. Brook completely ignores the elephant in the ARI boardroom, Carl Barney. But Barney almost certainly was in the background of Mr. Brook’s thoughts because, as we argued, Mr. Brook almost certainly knows about Barney’s Church of Scientology past. Given this opportunity to speak about it on his radio show, why didn’t he ?

In a way perhaps he did. The purpose of Mr. Brook’s whitewash of Scientology might have been to excuse Carl Barney. The next time Mr. Brook opens himself up to uncensored questions, questions that he cannot choose himself, in a forum where the audience can respond with another question, ask him about Carl Barney. Ask Mr. Brook about Barney misrepresenting his past, about the complaints against his business practices both in lawsuits and from students on college review websites. Ask Mr. Brook what he was doing on the board of Barney’s “Center for Excellence in Higher Education.”

Likewise for Barney. The next time he speaks of Objectivist ethics applied to life and business ask him about his past association with the Scientology racket. Ask him how he got the money to invest in real estate and then colleges. Ask him if his CEHE enrolls homeless bums so long as they can get a federal guaranteed loan.

1  Also The Objective Standard published two admiring interviews of Barney in its 2018 Spring and Winter issues, and promoted his Prometheus Fund in an online article of 19 March 2019.

2  “Yaron’s News Briefing,” Episode 13, 4 January 2018 (starting at 41:50):

The first version of “Who Is Carl Barney?” went online in April 2017 and the final version – containing the photographic evidence nailing the identity of the Co$ Barney to the ARI Barney – the following month.

3  “Uhs” and stuttered words are omitted, as are most false starts and “I means.”  Two verbal slips are silently corrected:  theirselves ==> themselves,  there ==> here.

4  Mr. Brook thinks Christians are anti-semitic, even more than Muslims. See his talk “Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Semitism” reviewed on this website.

5  The article  “ ‘The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion.’ ”  by Don Lindsay presents abundant evidence that Hubbard made the crack about how to get rich.
The most reliable quote is  I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is !