I think it’s okay to have mixed feelings about Elisabeth Moss, for whatever record. Some of you will never support a Scientologist or their work, and that’s your right. Some people will give certain Scientologists the benefit of the doubt, or support some of the work in various ways and that’s your right too. I think many people are perfectly capable of appreciating The Handmaid’s Tale as a spectacular piece of art and a great piece of feminist/reproductive rights agitprop AND side-eyeing the sh-t out of Elisabeth Moss’s belief in Scientology. The conversation around this isn’t going away – Moss’s profile has been raised with THT, and her Scientology-life has come under closer scrutiny and she’s even had to make a few public comments about it.
So it’s interesting that a major trade paper like The Hollywood Reporter would give Moss the “Tom Cruise treatment.” By that I mean… Tom Cruise’s connection to CoS is now widely discussed at every level. Moss’s connection has, historically, not been that widely discussed. This weekend, THR published a piece about how Moss’s behavior on Emmy night was by-the-books Scientology. Moss openly cursed on stage, and crudely flipped the bird several times. This is all apparently some kind of under-the-radar Scientology thing about the “tone scale.” From THR:
On the surface, the profanity is nothing more than an actress at the top of her game failing to self-censor during the most exciting moment of her career. But according to Tiziano Lugli, a former friend of Moss’ inside the Church of Scientology, who quit the controversial religion seven years ago, the profanity has a specific purpose. It’s related to something in Scientology known as “the tone scale.”
“Scientologists are urged to communicate with ‘average people,’ and to do so effectively you have to ‘go down the tone scale.’ So they all use ‘f–k, f–k, f–k’ every time they talk. It’s fascinating,” Lugli explains. “The quote-unquote philosophy behind it is you match the tone level in order to communicate on the same level of the people with whom you’re communicating. If you’re too ‘high-tone,’ people will not understand you.”
Not everyone requires swearing. Journalists and gay people, for example, are classified as “1.1″ on the scale, which signifies “covert hostility,” according to Lugli. “That means I have to communicate just slightly above you — which can be anger or hostility. That’s where you get Tom Cruise telling Matt Lauer he’s being ‘glib,’” he explains. (The Church of Scientology and a rep for Moss declined to comment, but the church has denied animosity toward gay people.)
The swearing begins at the highest levels of Scientology and trickles down, Lugli says. He vividly recalls a speech given in the early 2000s by Scientology leader David Miscavige at Gold Base, a church headquarters in Riverside County, California.
“Within the briefing, Miscavige was talking about how Flag [the Clearwater, Florida headquarters] is superior and should be in charge of other Orgs,” Lugli recalls. “He said, ‘Class V Orgs are f–king DBs, which stands for ‘degraded beings.’ He was like ‘f–king this’ and ‘f–king that’ the whole time.” Video of the address began to circulate internally. Cruise, the religion’s most famous adherent, studied it intently, Lugli says, wanting “to emulate what power sounds like. So he started swearing. It started there. A culture of ‘f–k f–k f–k.’” In a 2004 Rolling Stone profile, Cruise swears repeatedly.
But according to Tony Ortega, the journalist behind the influential Scientology whistleblower blog The Underground Bunker, the practice traces all the way back to the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. “There’s no question that Scientology has this kind of throwback, hard-smoking, curse-language culture that dates to Hubbard being a Navy guy,” Ortega explains.
“Cursing in Scientology is almost a sacrament,” he continues. “The Sea Org [a clergy class with a nautical heritage] sets the tone for all Scientology — and it’s literally sailors. It’s a paramilitary organization that runs Scientology. And the one thing you notice when you run into ex-Sea Org members is they all curse like sailors.”
Ortega says Scientologists are taught to believe that Earth is “a prison planet that they’re trying to save and there’s no point in being polite about it.”
I watched some of the HBO documentary on Scientology and I really didn’t know about this, the “tone scale” and the cursing and what it all means to them. It’s very… weird. Disconcerting, even. I curse a lot (you should see my emails to CB) and I would hate to think that I was participating in some kind of tone scale or whatever. It’s sort of hard to follow the CoS-logic on this one: so a Scientologist will curse more when he or she is around non-Scientologists, because the Scientologist believes that the non-CoSbots are degraded beings? Or is it about blending in with the Normals? Something. I don’t really get it. THR also quotes Ortega as saying that he doesn’t even believe that Moss is all that involved with CoS because she was raised in CoS by her parents, who “are not particularly strong Scientologists” and “Elisabeth Moss does not hang out with many other Scientologists. And if you look at her course completions list, I don’t know that she’s the most gung-ho Scientologist.”
Photos courtesy of WENN, Instagram.