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Yaron Brook on Scientology

Not long after “Who Is Carl Barney?” appeared on ARI Watch the leadership of the Ayn Rand Institute doubled down associating themselves with their most generous donor.  ARI’s Annual Report for 2017 featured, to the left of its table of contents, a photograph of Barney along with a statement by him saying that ARI is fighting the good fight, followed by the attribution “Carl Barney, ARI contributor since 1985, on why he’s been a major contributor since the beginning.”  In February 2018 ARI uploaded a video of a talk he had given at OCON 2016, titled – believe it or not – “The Objectivist Ethics Applied to Life and Business.”  At OCON 2018, on July 3rd he was part of the Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership Panel. [1]

By that time the leadership of ARI must have known Barney’s true history, a history rather different from what he pretended to have. Yaron Brook knows of ARI Watch because he mentioned it on one of his podcasts. Mentioned it without mentioning it you might say. While discussing Trump’s belligerent attitude toward media criticism Mr. Brook says that he himself never gets upset when people criticize him. Why just:

“... go read, I’m not, I’m not gonna refer to the website, there’s a [raises voice] whole website dedicated to attacking me.  A whole website !  Just to attacking me !  Goes into great detail [Flings up right hand.]  I’m a, you know, on, on what kind of a monster I am.  You know, so what.  I’ve never talked about it, I’ve never gotten angry about it.  I’ve never written nasty letters about it.  The hell with it.”

You have to hear it to appreciate how upset he is. [2]

Mr. Brook is being a little narcissistic here. ARI Watch examines all of ARI’s output not just Mr. Brook’s, but because he is ARI’s spokesman he does get a lot of ink. He seems to think that a website dedicated to reviewing ARI is reprehensible and that being meticulous is a defect.

Perhaps he pines for the good old days when there was no Internet. Imagine what ARI would be getting away with today if the Internet did not exist. True, they use it to spread their lies and fallacies but at least you can talk back to them on webpages they don’t themselves control.

Another reason the leadership of ARI knows the truth about Barney is that Yaron Brook and most of the others are active on Twitter and they have received dozens of tweets about Barney along with a link to ARI Watch. The tweets, which the recipients suffer in silence, point out that Carl Barney was a Scientologist for at least 12 years and a top executive in the Church of Scientology for nine of them, during which he ran five Church missions. And he didn’t leave on his own, L. Ron Hubbard kicked him out for alleged financial improprieties. The tweets also point out that Barney’s current success and wealth depend on the poorly managed federal student loan program; the federal government is the source of 90% of his tuition revenue, which money he gets to keep even if a loan goes into default. The tweets point out that Barney’s switch to a nonprofit was a way to continue getting federal subsidies after a change in the law. That he lied to Patricia Cohen of the New York Times in her May 2016 interview. That Yaron Brook has no business giving lectures on integrity when he allows Barney on the board of the “Ayn Rand Institute” and when he in turn is on the board of Carl Barney’s “Center for Excellence in Higher Education.” [Update]

Finally, Andrew Bernstein, who was a member of ARI for many years, has stated that he had known of Barney’s Church of Scientology connection for “30 years.” Considering the date he was writing, that was since about 1990. [3]  Wouldn’t he have told others at ARI?

Either (1) ARI is ignorant of Carl Barney’s deceit about his past and of his current questionable business practices, or (2) ARI knew about these things all along but believed no one else did.  In either case, now – after the exposé here on ARI Watch – they know, and they know that you know.  You would expect a public explanation from them.

Set aside Barney’s cargo cult colleges for the moment and focus on his past. Why does the Ayn Rand Institute continue to associate itself with Carl Barney though aware of his long and extensive work for L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology?

Followers of ARI who hoped to find out when Yaron Brook answered a question about Scientology during his podcast of 26 April 2018 were sorely disappointed. He never mentioned Barney, at least not out loud. He begins by reading the question: [4]

“ ‘Is Scientology worse than Christianity and why did it start?’

“Wow, is it worse than Christianity? I don’t know. I have a pretty low opinion of Christianity, [5]  so I don’t know, I mean it’s worse than Christi— well is it?

“It’s an amazing fantasy, but I think what Scientology has going for it is that if you ignore the fantasy, if you ignore the aliens living inside your head and all of that stuff, which is just plain ... [crazy], a lot of what Scientology tries to do is psychology. So what they’re trying to do is provide you with a self help guide.”

I interrupt.  Hubbard himself explains what later became Scientology’s psychology in his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.  His “modern science” is a kind of behaviorism / materialism that takes the psyche out of psychology. He writes about people and their minds as if they were machines. Mr. Brook insinuates that Scientology is better than Christianity, but – we point out – it is difficult to imagine anything in Scientology that could compensate for its materialistic doctrine that man is a machine. He then describes Scientology as new, though – we point out – Dianetics came out in 1952 and the Church was incorporated a year or two later:

“And I think that’s what makes them popular, what makes them successful. They’re new, they’re different, and then they’re using a lot of the self-help techniques that have been developed over the last 50 years to try to get people to feel better about themselves and to feel better about the world in which they live. And the way they structure their system is course after course after course after course, to keep advancing, so there’s always an incentive to take the next course, which is gonna teach you even more. It’s like Tony Robbins, just couched in a religion, in this weird religious thing.”

Mr. Brook makes Scientology out to be as helpful as a Tony Robbins seminar (he seems to think they are beneficial) instead of a malevolent cult that has cheated many thousands of people. Has Tony Robbins ever held anyone in virtual bondage, working them frazzled? Tony Robbins is merely a vulgar self-help personality. Scientology – with its E-meters, auditing, and testing “clear” – is a racket.  The Church does not use popular self-help techniques, it uses the ideas and rituals developed by L. Ron Hubbard.

Mr. Brook continues with the second part of the question:

“Why did it start? I don’t know. There’s certainly a desire people have, people who don’t wanna think too deeply about their own life and about the world. Philosophy ... requires too much focus and too much energy and too much thinking. They’re looking for quick and easy answers ... and religion provides that. But Christianity, Judaism, Islam, they’re dull, everybody holds those, you want something new and sexy and different ... [Scientology] went after Hollywood stars in order to get that sex appeal. It got some Hollywood stars engaged. ... you could be hip, you could be cool, here was a cool thing to do, right, the cool kids went to Scientology. And all these cool actors, Travolta and ... Tom Cruise, they’re all into Scientology, it became the cool thing to do, right. So I think that’s why it started.

“Now, the story about how it got started was ...”

Mr. Brook repeats the story that L. Ron Hubbard founding Scientology because someone bet him that he couldn’t start a religion. There’s no evidence for the story. What is true is that on several occasions Hubbard said that the way to get rich is to start a religion. [6]

“Yeah, so I don’t really have that much to say about Scientology other than it’s wacko and it’s just another religion, but it’s a cool one, I guess, because the Hollywood stars embrace it.”

That concludes Mr. Brook’s answer, about as shallow an analysis as is possible. He himself doesn’t think too deeply about the world.

The important thing to observe is that Mr. Brook completely ignores the elephant in the ARI boardroom, Carl Barney. But Barney must have been in the background of Mr. Brook’s thoughts because, as we argued, Mr. Brook must know about Barney’s Church of Scientology past. Given this opportunity to speak about it on his radio show, why didn’t he ?

In a way perhaps he did. The purpose of Mr. Brook’s whitewash of Scientology might have been to excuse Carl Barney. The next time Mr. Brook opens himself up to uncensored questions, questions that he cannot choose himself, in a forum where the audience can respond with another question, ask him about Carl Barney. Ask Mr. Brook about Barney misrepresenting his past, about the complaints against his business practices both in lawsuits and from students on college review websites. Ask Mr. Brook what he was doing on the boards of Barney’s Center for Excellence in Higher Education and CollegeAmerica (one word).

Likewise for Barney. The next time he speaks of Objectivist ethics applied to life and business ask him about his past association with the Scientology racket. Ask him how he got the money to invest in real estate and then colleges. Ask him if his CEHE enrolls homeless bums so long as they can get a federal guaranteed loan.


UPDATE:  That was then, when Barney was ARI’s largest donor. Now, when Barney no longer donates to ARI, Mr. Brook has modified his views.  On his podcast of 24 October 2020, when again asked about Scientology it has inexplicably changed: [7]

“What is my opinion of Scientology?  Scientology is an irrational, mystical, cult that is based on a completely irrational premise, is completely detached from reality. ...

“Now, like all cults ... there’s some element of truth there. They have to have something to draw you in. ... But the good stuff is there to seduce you into the nuttiness, the craziness, the cultishness, the mindlessness of it, the mysticism of it. So there has to be something that draws you in, and that is the better elements within in. But – oh my God – anybody should be able to see the irrationality, the mysticism, the garbage, that it entails very early on. ... There’s some good stuff in Tony Robbins, there’s some good stuff in lots of self-help stuff, that doesn’t also rope you into a whole cult.”

In 2018 Mr. Brook whitewashed Scientology now he excoriates it.  Once Scientology was cool, now it is a cult.  You have to wonder what caused the about-face unless it was that the vein of Barney gold had played out.

1  Also The Objective Standard published two admiring interviews of Barney in its 2018 Spring and Winter issues, and promoted his Prometheus Foundation in an online article of 19 March 2019.  After the article you are reading now was placed online TOS published a defense of Barney. We review it in  Barney Tells His Story.

2  “Yaron’s News Briefing,” Episode 13, 4 January 2018 (starting at 41:49):

25 August 2019 on Twitter Mr. Brook referred to ARI Watch explicitly, in response to someone who had cited it, saying it was “a website dedicated to hatred of me.”  That’s all he says about ARI Watch. It isn’t true, and if it were, might there be a reason for people to dislike what he is doing? He ends his reply: “Go away.”

6 July 2020 on Twitter someone asked Mr. Brook a question concluding with a link to ARI Watch. He tweeted a reply then tweeted
““Sorry, but after noticing you tagged ... ariwatch, I will not respond to your questions.”
And under the ellipsis is  “the anti-semitic, anti-Ayn Rand.”  We criticize Israel and certain aspects of Jewish culture; that makes us anti-semitic in the eyes of Mr. Brook. Perhaps he thinks we are anti-Rand because we criticize him. If he thinks he represents Rand or that Rand is above criticism, he is wrong. Later he deleted both tweets.

The first version of “Who Is Carl Barney?” went online in April 2017 and the final version – containing the photographic evidence nailing the identity of the Co$ Barney to the ARI Barney – the following month.

Update  Barney stopped donating to ARI mid 2018. Brook left the board of CEHE sometime in 2018. ARI removed Barney from its board in March 2019 (Barney claims he left voluntarily). Barney continued to support The Objective Standard, at the time affiliated with ARI, and ARI continued to promote Barney’s Prometheus Foundation. Then in mid 2020 TOS broke with ARI, and ARI stopped promoting the Prometheus Foundation. Barney continued to support TOS and then with its editor Craig Biddle, set up Objective Standard Institute.  More at  OSI vs. ARI.

3  See  Andrew Bernstein’s Tribute to Carl Barney  on this website.

4  “Ask Me Anything”
by Yaron Brook, BlogTalkRadio, 26 April 2018.

“Uhs” and stuttered words are omitted, as are most false starts and “I means.”  Two verbal slips are silently corrected:  theirselves → themselves,  there → here.

5  Mr. Brook thinks Christians are anti-semitic, even more than Muslims. See his talk “Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Semitism” reviewed on this website.

6  The article  “ ‘The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion.’ ”  by Don Lindsay presents abundant evidence that Hubbard made the crack about how to get rich.
The most reliable quote is  I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is ! 

7  “Justice in Life & Business – Applying Objectivist Morality, Part 4”
Yaron Brook Show, YouTube 24 October 2020.