Rupert Murdoch and the Scientologists

What was Rupert Murdoch thinking?

The veteran media mogul launched an extraordinary attack on Scientology in July 2012, following the marriage breakdown of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

“Scientology back in news,” Murdoch tweeted. “Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Tom Cruise either No. 2 or 3 in hierarchy.”

In case anyone thought he didn’t mean it, the News Corp CEO published a second edition a few hours later: “Watch Katie Holmes and Scientology story develop,” he warned, “Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people.”

Those two tweets became big news at the time. Murdoch was calling the world’s most litigious religion a weird, wealthy, creepy cult.

In the US, Scientology had become a no-go zone for most media organisations. Murdoch’s archrivals at TimeWarner became bogged down in a costly decade-long legal battle after the Church of Scientology unsuccessfully sued TIME magazine over Richard Behar’s searing expose, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, published in 1991.

So why would Murdoch tempt fate and brazenly bait Scientology and its golden boy Cruise?

Murdoch wasn’t just a media proprietor; he also ran a movie studio, which could financially benefit from keeping one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars onside.

What wasn’t reported at the time was that Murdoch had a long history of going after Scientology. His views on what he called a “very weird cult” were formed more than 50 years previously, and can be found inside the fading pages of a muckraking Australian scandal sheet he published long before he became a global media player.

Truth’s pursuit of ‘Bunkumology’

In 1960, Rupert Murdoch bought his first big city newspaper, Sydney’s Daily Mirror. As part of the deal he also acquired the Mirror’s wayward sibling Truth, a newspaper that survived on a staple of scandal, crime and racing form. It also had built a reputation for exposing scam artists and charlatans.

After Murdoch purchased Truth, it started going after Scientology.

On Saturday December 2, 1961, Truth published a “special investigation” under the headline: Bunkumology — Cult of Experts at Smear Tactics.