In late January, news media across the world picked up on a phenomenal development on the Internet. A virtual civil rights movement had arisen from a most unlikely source: Internet gamers.
It all kicked off when an in-house video of Tom Cruise preaching to members of his faith, the controversial Church of Scientology, was leaked onto the Youtube internet video sharing site. Indeed, Cruise is a frightening spectacle and his incoherent rant include such gems as “The Scientologist are the only people who can really help at the scene of an accident” and “We are the only people with the solution to drug addiction and mental health.”
It is not improbable that the Scientology public relations division placed the video on Youtube themselves, under the misapprehension that it might result in a badly needed new influx of recruits; it would certainly be very difficult for anyone outside of the highly security-conscious organization to get hold of the piece. Whatever route it took, it got there, and received almost a million viewings before the church woke up to what was going on and had its legal team pull the damaging piece.
The fallout from the saga was severely damaging to the image the Scientology movement likes to portray, but because the piece had been posted, it was in essence public property. Scandal hungry TV and radio networks were not slow in using excerpts during news broadcasts and weaving it into ‘Hollywood Watch’ programs.
Comedians, always on the lookout for new material, began building in often hilarious ‘Cruise the preacher’ parodies to their shows. This was the kind of viral marketing that would give corporate CEOs nightmares. If that wasn’t bad enough however, the Youtube broadcast and its subsequent cancellation spiked the ire of a shadowy association called Anonymous.