“Did you hear what your brother did?” my friend asked, wearing a distasteful expression.
Although nothing Paul does surprises me anymore, I still cringe with embarrassment when the tales of his more appalling antics wend their way back to me, as they inevitably do.
People who once considered Paul a friend occasionally call or write to tell me their experiences with him. Taken collectively, they paint a picture of an individual who has in some way managed to take advantage of everyone he knows.
For example, a writer who knew Paul when he was starting out told me about the time back in 1977 that Paul rushed in, flushed with victory, to report that he had “figured out how to make it in the entertainment industry” which was to join Hollywood’s popular humanitarian groups in order to make more and better industry contacts.
Starting with Scientology, which is known world-over for its humanitarian activities, Paul has latched onto one such group after another over the years, using them however he could to advance his career – especially when he was out of work. He joined ecological groups, attended political fundraisers; wherever there were new contacts to be had or old ones to renew.
After the post-Oscars interest in him faded, and he once again found jobs difficult to land (probably aided by the fact that he reportedly took a 5 million dollar salary from United Artists without ever delivering a product), Paul suddenly began pushing another charity, this time one of his own devising. This charity, “Artists for Peace and Justice” appears specifically designed to attract artists with more power and connections than Paul has himself.
I would suggest it is no coincidence that the more Paul’s career declines, the more articles can be found (no doubt placed by his PR people) that push his involvement in this charity. APJ fundraisers are always at film festivals such as Toronto and Cannes making it possible for Paul, at little or no expense to himself, to get his face in front of the cameras and his name in the press for his “humanitarian activities” in spite of the fact that every film he has made since Crash has been a dud.
Even Paul’s well-publicized “daring” trip to earthquake-ravaged Haiti immediately following the disaster turned out to be not so selfless and more like the Paul I know, when the truth of how it was accomplished, and who actually facilitated his little adventure, found its way back to me via a Scientology Volunteer Minister who was involved in helping the Haiti recovery effort. I related this incident to Lawrence Wright when he wrote to me asking for an interview for his New Yorker article on Paul Haggis but Larry didn’t bother to investigate the matter and print the truth. I related this incident again to Freedom Magazine who summarized it best in a recent article:
Perhaps the incident that most fully illustrates Paul Haggis the hypocrite occurred after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, which the Church responded to by sending scores of Church Volunteer Ministers and Haitian-American doctors and nurses in a humanitarian mission to help the stricken country. Haggis had just created a public spectacle about leaving the Church and how much he hated everything it does. Then he selfishly exploited the ministers by piggybacking on their humanitarian efforts in Haiti, where he went for a photo op, by hitching a ride on a plane chartered for Church volunteers. Of course, no one knew who he was because he hadn’t been in a Church for years. Haggis no doubt thought it was funny, but he bumped a hard-working volunteer for his own comfort, proving how disingenuous his comments about the Church had been. Out of one side of his mouth he professed to hate the Church and its members, but out of the other he was happy to exploit them. This is nothing but disgusting. As his sister Kathy wrote to Lawrence Wright before publication of his New Yorker article:
“I don’t suppose Paul mentioned that, after he so publicly ‘resigned’ from the Church with his sweeping indictment that all who adhere are bigots, he surreptitiously stowed away on a Church-chartered flight from Haiti to Miami (one of the very few flights available) so that he could more quickly return to his comfortable life, after a mere 3-day visit. Many of the volunteer ministers on that plane (the “bigots,” you understand) had been slugging it out for weeks in impossible conditions, risking their lives to help others—average people, not multimillionaire celebrities. Once again, it seems Paul had no trouble using the Church if it suited his purposes. Of course, my Church had the grace to not even mention the irony of this to Paul, and ignored his actions.”
I have no problem with celebrities giving their time to help the less fortunate in whatever ways they choose, I heartily applaud it. I do have a problem with anyone who attempts to belittle the tremendous humanitarian work done by the Church of Scientology and the organizations it sponsors around the globe. These include such diverse efforts as The Way To Happiness campaign which helps crime-ravaged societies to restore common sense moral values; Criminon’s work in educating and reforming prisoners; Narconon’s work in helping drug addicts to recover; Youth For Human Rights and their campaigns to advance African literacy and assist in Ebola Recovery; and, my personal favorite, the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights which investigates and exposes psychiatric abuse worldwide.
When Paul Haggis criticizes Scientology, this is who and what he is attempting to make less of – the hundreds of thousands of truly selfless individuals who make up these social benefit organizations in North America, Central and South America, Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, Russia, India and the Middle-East, teaching children to read, criminals to regain their self-respect, drug addicts to live pro-survival lives, families to heal, and giving humanity a voice.
When Paul has done one percent of one percent of the hard work done on a daily basis by ONE of the volunteers of these organizations – away from the cameras – he can call himself a humanitarian. Until then, in my book, he will remain nothing more than an imaginative opportunist.