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How SeaWorld Is Like Scientology

hargrove-040115If you’ve seen how SeaWorld is responding to John Hargrove’s new book Beneath the Surface, it’s hard to miss the similarities with Scientology’s dirty tricks campaigns as portrayed in the HBO documentary Going Clear. SeaWorld is operating right out of the Scientology playbook.

Having failed to meaningfully address any of Hargrove’s charges on the company’s treatment of orcas at the company’s marine circuses, SeaWorld has moved on to a classic smear campaign. Yesterday, it released a 5-year-old home video of the former trainer sitting at a table with a bottle of wine, laughing and using the N-word liberally as he talks to a woman about a group of black men who apparently threw a rock at her.

SeaWorld is operating right out of the Scientology playbook.SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs tells the Orlando Sentinel that the company received the video “from an internal whistleblower,” and adds, “We are offended by John’s behavior and language.”

Like suddenly they’re the guardians of the public morals.

There’s probably more to come. According to Hargrove’s attorney, Steve Berman, the former trainer received a “threatening letter” last week from Eric Davis, the editor of awesomeocean.com, which has close ties to SeaWorld. Davis wrote:

“Hey John, Just your friendly AwesomeOcean guy Eric here! Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that some journalist [sic] are digging DEEP into your past. They have some crazy stuff that is ready to drop when your book drops.”

However embarrassing any of this may be to Hargrove, it’s completely irrelevant to the question of how SeaWorld treats its captive animals.

Nor should we be surprised that this is the best the company can come up with in the face of increasingly serious charges about how it treats them.

In his interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last week, Hargrove described SeaWorld as having a “cult-like mentality” in its dealing with employees.

And when it comes to cult-like behavior, nobody does it better than Scientology. They’ve been doing it since the 1960s when L. Ron Hubbard declared that anyone seen as a potential threat to the organization:

“… may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”

Rather than honestly addressing the issues being raised about the treatment of its captive orcas and other animals, SeaWorld has apparently decided to go down the same road. Does the company really think that dishing dirt on the private lives of its former trainers will be the magic key to reviving its sagging audience numbers?