Tom Cruise is again being criticized for his association with Scientology, but he’s not alone this time. Jon Stewart has earned a fair share of that criticism as well. The sudden swell in scrutiny over Cruise and his Scientology connections stems from the unwritten “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” rule in the form of what topics are considered off limits.
Before a celebrity, or politician, appears on any talk show, their publicity agents submit a list of taboo topics, and if the show’s producers want that guest to appear and continue appearing in future segments, the host is expected to comply. In this case, Jon Stewart was prohibited from asking anything related to Scientology by Tom’s representatives and Stewart is now earning scorn for that, particularly from Scientology documentarian Alex Gibney.
“What a missed opportunity,” Gibney wrote in his column. “For once, someone with intelligence, rhetorical skill and insight could have confronted Cruise about the engine of cruelty that drives his chosen religion and reminded the world that the smiling movie star sits idly by, effectively endorsing a longstanding and ongoing pattern of human rights abuses.”
Gibney argues that, while it seems addressing the topic of Scientology may simply be a matter of criticizing one man’s religion, Cruise himself has made it into an issue with wider impact on society by making himself the de facto recruiter for Scientology, an institution many consider to be little more than a highly successful brainwashing cult.
“Some may ask, ‘Why should Jon Stewart or anyone else raise the issue of Cruise’s religion? Isn’t that a private matter?’ In this case, no. Through Scientology’s tax exemption, we all subsidize the church’s documented cruel and unusual punishments of its adherents and critics. Yet what’s left of the church’s credibility remains because Tom Cruise — the movie star with the hundred-million-dollar smile — is the religion’s most powerful pitch man and recruiting tool. Tom Cruise is not just a believer; he’s essentially part of the church’s power structure.”
Alex Gibney isn’t alone in his belief that Tom Cruise should be held accountable, or at least asked to explain more deeply his affiliations with Scientology. The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert also feels Scientology should be addressed through public interviews with Mr. Cruise.
“Part of the problem is the byzantine structure of the entertainment industry. The Daily Show is broadcast on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom. Viacom also owns Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the Mission Impossible franchise.”
Meanwhile, Alex Gibney takes it one step further, insisting that the audience, viewers of these talk shows, are also responsible for putting Tom Cruise and other celebrities in the proverbial hot seat. He may have a point.
“We should insist that celebrities play by the rules the rest of us do,” Gibney wrote. “And we need to be willing to encourage those who can to ask uncomfortable questions on our behalf.”
Alex Gibney is the director and writer for Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
[Featured image: Tom Cruise and Jon Stewart courtesy of Comedy Central/The Daily Show]