Our gratitude to the reader who passed along links to 38 minutes of footage shedding light on the Tom Cruise video described here. Context is important, as is wasting time late on Friday afternoons.
The clip at Gawker is a portion of a film extolling Tom Cruise’s accomplishments in alerting the world to the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard and the dangers of its archenemy—any guesses? Anyone? Mr. Lauer?—yes, modern psychiatry. The longer film screened at a 2004 awards ceremony, much as a film heralding the recipient of an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award would play at the Oscars. In context, the clip is bracketed by footage of David Miscavige—a Scientology bigwig wearing an enviably sharp evening suit—announcing the award and Cruise accepting it.
About four minutes into Part 1, when the narrator proclaims Cruise’s place in the church’s hierarchy, he assumes the tone of a ring announcer listing a boxer’s title belts. There is, he says, “Someone advancing Scientology on a fully epic scale … and he is Class 4! OT-7! Platinum Meritorious! And IAS Freedom Medal of Valor winner … Tom Cruise!” The most jarring moment of the tribute that follows—a paean to publicity, mostly, and one variously inspired by Barbara Walters segments and Cold War propaganda—concerns the “Detoxification Project” Scientologists arranged for Ground Zero rescue workers. Here, 50 seconds into Part 2, as the techno soundtrack wriggles and booms, we see the actor striding through the ruins of the World Trade Center while talking on his cell phone. The choicest bit might be at the 2:45 mark in Part 3: the sight of the star giving a “backstage briefing” to a reporter—that is, firmly instructing a guy leaving a junket that psychiatry is “crimes against humanity.” And there’s something to be said for the way that Cruise, giving the most elegant acceptance speech of his life three and half minutes through Part 5, addresses L. Ron Hubbard directly, turning his head and talking to what looks like a 15-foot-tall oil portrait.
The main thrill here is voyeuristic, but I’m trying to dignify the viewing experience by imagining that it offers are a few small lessons of social science, clues to the combination of total humility and absolute arrogance that can characterize all types of true believers.