In the 1960s and 70s, author Paulette Cooper became a target for extreme retaliation after publishing a critical book about Scientology. Her terrifying experiences exposed the lengths the organization would go to silence and destroy its critics. Scientology subjected Cooper to nearly 20 years of surveillance, lawsuits, death threats, and other tactics aimed at ruining her life. The campaign against Cooper became one of the most notorious examples of Scientology’s culture of paranoia and harassment against those it sees as enemies.
Who is Paulette Cooper?
Before becoming a target, Paulette Cooper had a successful career as a columnist and author in New York. In 1969, she first learned about Scientology and began researching L. Ron Hubbard. Cooper became convinced the organization was a scam preying on vulnerable people. After infiltrating a Scientology center, she decided to expose its practices. In November 1971, Cooper published The Scandal of Scientology, heavily criticizing the organization. At the time, Cooper did not realize her life was about to become a nightmare.
Scientology’s Campaign Against Paulette Cooper
The Church of Scientology engaged in a targeted campaign against Paulette Cooper, an American author and journalist critical of the organization. This campaign, known as Operation Freakout, aimed to discredit and harass Cooper due to her outspoken views against Scientology. In 1981, Cooper filed a federal lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, seeking $25 million in damages. She alleged that in 1969, the organization orchestrated a plot to ruin her life, known as Operation Freakout, leading to her persecution and harassment.
After a prolonged period of harassment, Paulette Cooper reached a settlement with the Church of Scientology in 1985. As part of the settlement terms, she agreed not to discuss the details publicly. The campaign against Paulette Cooper sheds light on the controversial and aggressive tactics employed by the Church of Scientology to silence critics and maintain its public image.
AFFIDAVIT OF PAULETTE COOPER (State of New York, County of New York): https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Krasel/aff/aff_pc85.html
The Aftermath for Cooper and Scientology
In 1977, the FBI finally uncovered Scientology’s “Operation Freakout” campaign against Cooper, leading to the conviction of nine Scientology agents. L. Ron Hubbard himself had given written approval for tactics to destroy Cooper. While Scientology continued litigation against Cooper into the 1990s, many of her critical works remained in print, and she became a respected expert on Scientology’s abuses.
Cooper’s refusal to be silenced helped turn the tide against Scientology’s harassment and laid the groundwork for other critics. Her story powerfully demonstrates Scientology’s institutional paranoia and lack of ethics when dealing with critics and former members. While Scientology claimed the campaign against Cooper was the work of rogue agents, later accounts by other defectors have exposed a widespread culture of intimidation within the organization. Cooper’s bravery in enduring Scientology’s retaliation played a major role in exposing its scorched earth policies toward critics.
“The Scandal of Scientoloy,” by Paulette Cooper available online in its entirety here: https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library/Shelf/cooper/index.html