Sunday night marked the release of HBO’s ‘Going Clear’, a scathing expose on the shady cult of Scientology.
Twitter was ablaze with opinion on the matter, with most users expressing outrage over the religion’s practices as the documentary trudged along.
As #GoingClear and #Scientology moved their way up the trending chart, the Church paid its own way into the conversation.
A barrage of promoted tweets from its official Twitter account and affiliated Freedom Magazine countered the Internet’s collective hate by attacking subjects in the film, filmmaker Alex Gibney, and others who have been outspoken about the truths of Scientology.
I love these promoted tweets so much. They are exactly how you’d imagine Scientology would tweet. pic.twitter.com/NtCkRRkifK
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) March 17, 2015
The promoted tweets incited further backlash, of course, considering their timing and how obviously Twitter marks them as paid content. Many users got an eerie feeling from the ads given their placement immediately after watching the documentary – kind of like that vibe you get when you’re craving chocolate milk and the Ovaltine page pops up on your Facebook immediately after.
I’m worried that I’ll get a call when this is over that just says “seven days.” #goingclear
— Vanessa Ramos (@thatRamosgirl) March 30, 2015
— Kevin Pereira (@Attack) March 30, 2015
Meanwhile, Canadian Oscar winner Paul Haggis — the film’s primary subject and former Scientology member of 35 years — received widespread praise for his role in outing the organization.
— rhonda talbot (@devilstrifecta) March 30, 2015
I would like to formally forgive Paul Haggis for Crash. #GoingClear
— Michelle Collins (@michcoll) March 30, 2015
So why is the Church of Scientology so focused on Twitter, anyway? As Ad Week intelligently points out, “the church’s decision to buy those ads on Twitter—even while the site is experiencing growing pains, and as Facebook emerges as a news-distribution competitor—shows the platform remains the digital world’s most influential public square in many people’s eyes.”
The significance of that observation is that communities and movements on Twitter have often spurred action offline.
By that account, the public has taken a strong, almost unequivocal stance against the Church. Will it be enough to end the cult?