Dear President






By Harry and Martini

With reference to an article by Massimo Introvigne webbed by CESNUR, November 1998. As the owners of the website currently hosting the web pages Massimo Introvigne refers to in his article "Liar, Liar": Brainwashing, CESNUR and APA, we wish to comment on some of Introvigne's words supposedly addressed to us.

We do not want to go deeply into the issue raised by Miguel Martinez [1], or to express any position in the controversy about "brainwashing": the authors of those works have replied extensively to the director of CESNUR [2], and his long silence leads us to think he has some difficulty in refuting them.

As far as we are concerned, we simply gather and file articles and essays for those interested in the subject. A handy place where they can find critical information.

We are sorry to note that Dr. Introvigne, whom we see as a good monopolist of information and "objective" popularizer, failed to link our pages even if he often refers to an "anti-Cesnur" web site.
 
 
 

«Campaigns were launched aimed at discrediting CESNUR, its managing director and several prominent international scholars associated with its efforts» [3]
 

On the contrary, it is not new nor an idea of ours that CESNUR has been criticized for years by a number of different people and scholars.

If someone feels he has been "discredited" - as Introvigne claims - we will be glad to host his specifications or corrections, as we say elsewhere [4]. However, we have received nothing in this sense, nor have we been contacted by Mr. Introvigne since we opened our pages, 4 months ago.
 
 
 

«Kenneth Starr wannabes were unleashed to investigate my private and professional life as well as that of other CESNUR officers.»
 

This reference to Kenneth Starr by Massimo Introvigne is a little odd: well, Introvigne, who got about 90% of our attention, is not the President of the United States of America, he's just a far simpler Italian scholar of religious minorities.

Moreover it is not clear to us WHO "unleashed" the "Kenneth Starr" wannabes - would the author please be more precise?

Actually, our pages are a mere collection of texts, most of which have been publicly available for years, and quotes of Introvigne's works.

We invite CESNUR's managing director to point out what he feels are the results of "investigating" his private life. On our side, we point out that Introvigne is well known in our country and that he doesn't skimp on media interviews or on taking part in TV or radio shows, both on "new religions" matters and as a "vampire expert".
 
 
 

«No stone left unturned, and at considerable expense.»
 

We hope that a researcher such as Massimo Introvigne will have no difficulty in checking the costs of our web pages. To be exact, we have not paid more than 175 Euros, summing up running expenses and Net connections [5]. These expenses are equally shared by the publishers of the site.

Mr Martinez wrote his essay both in English and Italian. The rest of the work is the result of non professional translations, as we state in our opening notes [6]. We ourselves took care of the graphic work and uploading the files.

 
 

«An entire anti-CESNUR Web site, with hundreds of pages, was launched with great fanfare.»
 

Our Web site is mostly dedicated to the church of Scientology (let's say about 80%), so we reasonably conclude that we keep an eye on Introvigne's professional activities in our spare time.

We have not urged interviews nor called press conferences, we haven't bought entire libraries nor founded "study centres" to bring prestige to our arguments: we merely forwarded some e-mails and Usenet posts. We wonder: if all this is «great fanfare» to Mr. Introvigne, how does he sees the above mentioned activities we were not involved in?
 
 
 

«Although the results far outweighed the huge and expensive efforts it entailed.»
 

As we have seen there were no «huge and expensive efforts»; quantifying the embarrassment which led Introvigne to publish - in the CESNUR official Web site - his article in four different languages is none of our business.

As far as the discussion about "brainwashing" and the position of the American Psychological Association is concerned, an issue brought to light by the people at GRIS Roma [7] - to which we gave prominence - we have to point out how Introvigne shifted from a firm:
 
 

«[APA] concluded that the mind control theories, used in order to distinguish "cults" from religions, are not part of accepted psychological science.» [8]
 
 
To a far different:
 
 
«I've just claimed, in different circumstances, that the concept of "brainwashing" is hard to argue» [9]
 

In other words, the position taken by an authoritative organization such as APA, flaunted by Introvigne in several occasions [10], after the GRIS Roma refutation has turned to a mere personal opinion expressed by a very modest Massimo Introvigne, while "mind control/brainwashing" which seemed to be «not part of accepted psychological science» is now just «hard to argue».
 
 
 

«It is true that years of investigation have gathered a certain amount of gossip, often false and occasionally downright distasteful. You might learn, for example, from the anti-CESNUR Web site that an officer of the French chapter of CESNUR, a married man, has a "militant homosexual" as his associate and colleague.»
 
 
«Years of investigation» is an unlikely claim not supported by facts.

The definition «militant homosexual» is not something discovered by the "anti-CESNUR Web site" but is to be found in an article published by L'Evenement du jeudi ("Les cathos au secours des sectes", Serge Faubert, June 1996), quoted in Miguel Martinez' essay who already intervened on this issue [11].

Oddly enough just a few days after his allegation of "gossip" Introvigne himself didn't fail to inform his readers about George Moscone's homosexuality. Moscone was the mayor of San Francisco at the time of the Jonestown tragedy [12].

We have no prejudice about sexual choices. On the contrary Alleanza Cattolica, the group which lists Introvigne among its top executives, is openly intolerant towards homosexuals who are considered mentally ill people to be subjected to psychiatric treatement. [13]
 
 
 

«Those who would now like to revive the spectre of the great cult apologists "Conspiracy" []»
 

Frankly speaking, the idea we got while reading Introvigne's article is that he himself thinks he is a victim of a "considerably expensive international conspiracy". But it is known that some individuals prefer to claim a conspiracy against themselves rather than refuting documented criticism. They simply have no arguments.

Actors in this hypothetical international conspiracy would be Reverend Thomas Gandow (German), the "biographer" Miguel Martinez (Mexican origins) and the publishers of the "anti-CESNUR" web site (Italians). It is not quite clear whether the German and Belgian Parliaments are involved as well, nor the role played by the psychologists of GRIS Roma. However, as in most Introvigne's work, the disquieting presence of the "anti-cult movement" stereotype is hovering over the whole matter.

Was it maybe just a blunder made by an individual who, as we learn from the funny and documented "Cult Apologists FAQ" by the German critic Tilman Hausherr «has shown an ego of galactic proportions»? [14]

Why Introvigne doesn't reply to criticism in a sedate manner, instead of confusing the public with unlikely James Bond's type conspiracy theories?

 
 

«It is high time, therefore, that they cease shooting the messengers (or insulting them, or invading their privacy through pointless investigations of their private lives) and focus their efforts instead on formulating their own message, if indeed they have one.»
 
 
We ask CESNUR's managing director again to publicly underline the points where he has been «insulted», and how exactly our authors have «invaded [his] privacy through investigations of [his] private life». We'll be glad to immediately correct factual infringements, if there are any.

Regarding our "message formulation" we would like to remind him that we are not an organization nor a "center for studies" on anything: we simply gather and supply the public with critical information about the church of Scientology, and, as an appendix, about the odd organization managed by Massimo Introvigne.
 
 

Notes

[1] Dr. Miguel Martinez, author of the essay The Secret Story of a Cult Apologist.

[2] See: The Secret Agents of the Belgian Parliament - Miguel Martinez replies to Massimo Introvigne, November 19, 1998 and The Neverending Story - GRIS Rome's commentary on CESNUR's press release, 27-11-1998. 

[3] See the article "Liar, Liar": Brainwashing, CESNUR and APA, by Massimo Introvigne, November, 1998.

[4] See our opening notes.

[5] We purchased 20 megabytes from the web provider COM-IT. It cost us 300 Euros, taxes included, to which must be added 50 Euros for the phone connections and the Net access. In Italy, one hour of phone connection is about 0.75 Euros.

[6] See our opening notes

[7] See: CESNUR and "brainwashing" - with the contribution of the psychologists Alberto Amitrani and Raffaella Di Marzio, GRIS Roma - Group of Research and Information on Cults, Catholic organization recognized by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI).

[8] Religious Liberty in Western Europe. CESNUR's 1997 report from the press conference held on December 1, 1997 in Washington DC. With reference to the same issue, PierLuigi Zoccatelli, CESNUR researcher, in an article published in the Messaggero di S. Antonio, February, 1997, stated that:

«In Italy, already in 1981 the Constitutional Court established that "plagio" [undue psychological influence] does not exist, removing the relevant crime from our penal code. Today therefore, the crime of "plagio" does not exist any more in Italy, nor can its reintroduction even be imagined. A similar conclusion concerning first and second generation 'brainwashing" theories (the latter do away with the controversial label of "brainwashing" while keeping its substance under such names as "mental manipulation" or "mental destabilization") was reached in 1987 by the authoritative American Psychological Association, which called such theories "non-scientific"»

About the cancellation of plagio in Italy, see the clarifying article by Dr. Di Marzio, expert of GRIS Roma - Group of Research and Information on Cults, Catholic organization recognized by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI).

[9] When Scientology speaks Italian by Francesco Antonioli - taken from Avvenire, daily of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), Dec. 1 1998.

[10] For a global view, see "Brainwashing" in New Religious Movements by Alberto Amitrani and Raffaella Di Marzio, experts of GRIS Roma - Group of Research and Information on Cults, Catholic organization recognized by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI).

[11] Introvigne's Jonestown, by Miguel Martinez.

[12] See the article: La tragedia di Jonestown. 18.11.1978 - 18.11.1998: a vent'anni dai suicidi-omicidi del "Tempio del Popolo", by Massimo Introvigne.

[13] See: Chapter 19 of the The Secret Story of a Cult Apologist. Miguel Martinez quotes an example taken from Cristianità, official magazine of Alleanza Cattolica: «a Mr. Bruto Maria Bruti suggests psychiatric treatment as a solution for the homosexuality "vice"», and more. ("Homosexuality: vice or biological programming?", in Cristianità, July-August 1995).»

[14] Cult Apologists FAQ, by the German critic Tilman Hausherr, November 1998. 


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