Memorable headlines: Scientology as a “ruthless global scam”

by andybechtel

Copy editors at newspapers spend a great deal of time and energy on writing headlines. And for good reason — headlines attract attention, and some live on decades after they are written. This is the fifth in a series of posts on memorable headlines.

time-pg1THE HEADLINE: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power: Ruined lives. Lost fortunes. Federal crimes. Scientology poses as a religion but really is a ruthless global scam — and aiming for the mainstream.

THE PUBLICATION: Time magazine

THE STORY: In 1991, Time magazine published a lengthy article on the Church of Scientology. The story accused the church of being a money-hungry organization that uses Mafia-like tactics.

ITS SIGNIFICANCE: In the days before the World Wide Web, information about Scientology was difficult to find, and the church regularly obstructed efforts by reporters to write stories about it.

Time’s award-winning story presented a view of the church’s operations to a national audience. “Ruthless global scam” became a shorthand for Scientology’s critics, and journalists such as Kurt Loder of MTV have referred to it in reports on the church.

The article led to a $416 million libel lawsuit from Scientology. The lawsuit was dismissed, and the “ruthless global scam” label lives on in search terms on Google.

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