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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
More about Battlefield Earth
Two readers emailed yesterday, both taking issue with my assertion -- made in "Pulp affection," an Ideas essay that originally appeared as a Brainiac post -- that L. Ron Hubbard's novel "Battlefield Earth" has nothing to do with Scientology.
Here's what I wrote:
Unlike the symbolically loaded Narnia books of C.S. Lewis, for example, religious apologetics are nowhere in evidence in "Battlefield."
Bill S. writes:
I agree that the universal disdain for the book is unwarranted (and partly a result of the film adaptation's utter awfulness), but I disagree that the book has nothing to do with Scientology. In the last act of the book, as Johnny is meeting with the heads of all of the non-Psychlo species in the Universe, he learns the twisted history of the Psychlos, who were deceived by an evil overlord race called the "Catrists." Psychlo - Catrist... Psychiatrists?
Bill directs our attention to a Wikipedia entry on "Battlefield Earth," which argues that the battle between the noble Psychlos and the evil Catrists reflects Hubbard's -- and Scientology's -- animus towards psychology and psychiatry. (Think of Tom Cruise's crusade against anti-depressant meds, for example.)
Meanwhile, a much less sympathetic reader, Tim M., writes:
This is simply not true. In fact, the article on the novel "Battlefield Earth" at Wikipedia.org has a section that specifically deals with the Pro-Scientology themes in the novel. While it's perfectly understandable that casual readers of "Battlefield Earth" may not be aware of these themes and parallels, it is disingenuous to state they aren't in evidence.
It's amusing that Wikipedia is being cited, by Tim M., as an infallible source of proven fact. (If I claimed that Count Chocula was not a real person, would this Wikipedia entry prove me wrong?) Also, the Catrist/psychiatrist parallel seems like a bit of a stretch; I'm more convinced by Charles Manson's theory that "Revolution 9" parallels Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation. (Those locusts with "hair as the hair of women" -- definitely the Beatles.) I've added a footnote to the Wikipedia entry pointing out that the Catrist=psychiatrist theory is just a theory.
However, since I'm one of those casual readers of "Battlefield," as opposed to a paranoid/vigilant reader, I'm willing to admit that I might be -- not disingenuous, but merely wrong.
Here's my retraction: It's remotely possible that "Battlefield" does obscurely reference one of Hubbard's/Scientology's hangups, in one short episode near the very end of the book, despite the fact that Hubbard claimed otherwise. If this is the case, however, it's unlikely that casual readers like Mitt Romney and myself could figure it out.