Sunday, July 01, 2007

Panorama - What Happened Next

It would appear that we are due a Panoramic return to Scientology. A follow-up to the Scientology And Me episode is in the pipeline, though has been rescheduled, one assumes, to make way for a show on our PM nouveau Mr Gordon Brown. The What Happened Next episode, will likely focus in part on the Panorama Exposed documentary. For those who didn't see it, the Church of Scientology created a documentary as a counterpoint to the Panorama episode. The film focused on the alleged breaking of a variety of Ofcom rules in the BBC's re-examination of the self-help organisation. It was produced in tandem with the Panorama episode itself which was largely to its detriment as it covered a great deal of subject matter that never appeared in the programme. The documentary featured a number of interviews with people who could, under no circumstance, have seen footage from the Panorama episode itself. Lafayette understands that at least one of the talking heads had only seen the footage of Sweeney ranting, and answered a series of questions regarding hypothetical scenarios. Hardly valid criticism, therefore, of the documentary itself.

Also, some of its accusations were rather absurd. They accused Sweeney et al of pulling the wool over the BBC-viewing public's eyes in the filming and refilming of Sweeney entering a building, as though using take 1 over take 3 in some way constitutes a material change in the information being presented. They make quite a success at undermining "doorstepping", of turning up at someone's house or office unannounced in order to get an interview with someone, but again the doorstepping filmed didn't make it into the Panorama. This blogger has in the past accused the Church of Scientology of spending too much energy focusing on the details (perhaps a symptom of the word-based, and to that extent detail-based, thinking encouraged by Scholastic tech and word clearing (one can understand all the words but miss the concept)). This "winning the battle and losing the war" symptom is manifest in the Exposed documentary.

What the programme-makers seem to misunderstand is that the use of security footage and quite transparently manipulated interviewees only furthers the image that Scientology is a disproportionately defensive cult. As an exercise in damage limitation the documentary fails. One is left wondering what the details of the unacceptable agreement between the BBC and the Church of Scientology was. One is left wondering exactly why Tommy and co spent a day providing interview subjects for Sweeney only to pull the permissions for their use in the final programme. One is left wondering why the Church of Scientology accused Sweeney of bias when they, and not the BBC, made it impossible for him to represent the views of scientologists and the Church itself. One is left wondering why the organisation spent so much energy chasing, following and filming Sweeney in order to prove that they do not do that sort of thing.

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