When I read L. Ron Hubbard, I’m reminded of the old saying about a thousand monkeys pounding on a thousand typewriters for a thousand years to produce the works of Shakespeare. Whatever else one may think of Hubbard, there’s one thing for sure: the man was prolific. From his adolescent (and racist) travel writings through his penny-a-word days all the way up to his “advanced research” before he went spinning off to another galaxy, he may have produced as many as fifty million words (a figure which includes the transcriptions of his numerous lectures).
Anyone who has had the misfortune to read (or be forced to read) much of this gargantuan output quickly becomes aware of how poorly written it all is. Behind every great writer is a great editor, even in the unique cases where the writer is himself the editor, and it is abundantly clear that Mr. Hubbard was not the sort of man inclined to engage in the introspection that self-editing requires. Make no mistake, Hubbard was clever and more than capable of turning a pretty phrase, or even a meaningful one, but his gigantic ego would never allow himself to consider the possibility that every turd he dropped out of his pen or mouth was not in fact a shining gold medallion of truth and inevitability. And editors? The quality of his writing tells us that no one dared to tell the Old Man that he needed to brush up on his Elements of Style, beginning with Rule No. 13: “Omit Needless Words” — not to mention basic grammatical concepts like run-on sentences and dangling participles.
One of the reasons people have difficulty understanding Scientology (beyond its purposeful opacity) is the sheer amount that Hubbard produced, and none of it particularly clear or well written. L. Ron Hubbard was a one man monkey pounding on a typewriter for sixty years, a scenario lacking in monkeys, typewriters and years to produce anything close to Shakespeare. Though it was enough time, apparently, to push the right buttons to get people to listen to him, and then use the force of his considerable personality to reel them in the rest of the way. As the years passed and he continued to pound out ream after ream of material, he managed to replace his personality with a cleverly devised system of slow indoctrination — and this is the true and evil genius of L. Ron Hubbard: his diabolical system of indoctrination.
But his writing? Terrible. Every once in a while he would say something nice, or touching — “But before you go, whisper this to your sons, and their sons: ‘The work was free. Keep it so.’” (Ha!) — but for the most part his writing was confusing where it was not harrying, bullying, or just plain ridiculous. Even a review of his supposedly greatest work Dianetics the Modern Science of Mental Health reveals a middling writer who would accept no criticism of his not-so-silver words, no matter how long-winded, contradictory or enervating those words might be. And to find out what I mean by enervating, see how long you’re able to keep cruising down this list of juicies before your eyes fall out of your head: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/L._Ron_Hubbard#Quotes
I recently came across the entire works of Hubbard (thanks Wikileaks!) and merrily began re-reading a bunch of his stuff. Ugh. I cannot tell you how tedious and boring his terrible writing quickly becomes, especially in combination with his obnoxious — even cruel — tone. And shouting! Great Xenu’s Balls, that man loved to shout. Whenever he had anything important to say, which unfortunately was often, he would make liberal use of the UPPER CASE. No wonder I hated reading him when I was a teenager. Teenagers hate being shouted at, and that is exactly what Scientologists do: Shout. A lot. Beginning with Hubbard’s upper case diatribes throughout his innumerable maunderings. To get a feel for his not-so-loving tone and predilection for screaming, read his hateful “Keeping Scientology Working Series”, where you’ll never believe green-colored Times New Roman could be so loud and mean.
If Hubbard hadn’t been such a megalomaniacal douchebag, his lack of literary greatness would have been tragic. Imagine spending all that time and effort — and words! — to produce very little of note. The few gems he did produce are the ones that get repeated over and over — simply because they are the only meaningful quotes, around ten or so, that he managed to write in a career spanning sixty years and fifty million words.
* Ron, Dime-Store Machiavelli image created by Observer. You can find more of Observer’s excellent “Truth about L. Ron Hubbard” series on the Facebook community page “Freedom of Speech: LRH”