"War is a serious game, where we can compromise our own reputation and that of our country. If we have any sense, we should test ourselves out first, to see whether we are suited or not for this kind of job."
By Miguel Martínez
"Dear Martinez […] Not everybody can play with inflatable dolls. How many do you have? […] Why don't you spend your time in a more pleasant fashion? After all, I don't think it's fun to call other people imbeciles (unless they pay you, but in that case yours is truly a dirty job). There must be other outlets for frustrated anti-Semites and those who have been defeated by life, even in Imola." (the whole post)
This is only one of about one hundred similar messages, which came out in various Italian and foreign newsgroups under the name religiosus@my-dejanews. This writer, in a message dated April 9th, 1999, on alt.support.ex-cult, the same anonymous author stated that
" We wrote before that Religiosus is a collective name and that messages under this name are posted by a number of different people, in different countries, all somewhat sympathetic to CESNUR views (but not necessarily members of CESNUR)."
"Not necessarily members…". The style also shows that nine times out of ten, the person who signs himself as "Religiosus" is the same person. Besides messages signed Religiosus, other messages have also been posted with different signatures, but the style again shows the same hand behind most (the full story, written by somebody who knows Internet a lot better than I do). On April 9th, Religiosus went well beyond inflatable dolls. He spammed Italy's newsgroups with false messages attributed to me, containing attacks on religion in general, Christianity and the Jews. Of course these false messages (see here), as we have seen, allowed Religiosus to call me a "frustrated anti-Semite."
In reply to this forgery, I asked CESNUR
to officially distance itself from its over-zealous supporter, something
CESNUR has not yet done. I therefore hold CESNUR morally, if not legally,
responsible for the insults and, above all, for the forgery. This forgery
had a follow-up: on April 24th, an even more diffamatory forgery
came out, where the following incredible expressions were attributed to
"Who says it isn't the Jews who are manoeuvring Scientology, the Jehovah's Witnesses and CESNUR too? […] The problem today is not violence against Jews, it is violence BY Jews against their opponents." (the whole post)
I have no love for law courts, and I would never think of suing anybody who criticises me openly, however loudly. But of course only a judge can discover the name and surname of the person who created such a serious forgery.
Seven simple questions
CESNUR can reply to each of these statements, by saying they are either true or false, and in the latter case, by explaining why.
They are quite simple questions. It is
only when one doesn't want to answer that they become difficult. And polemics
However, running away from discussion easily leads to childish - if not actually criminal activities, such as forging electronic messages, or at the very least to a nervous breakdown.
Since I don't want Dr Introvigne to suffer
from a nervous breakdown, I take the liberty of teaching him a few rules
of the fine art of polemics. Of course, if he learns them, he may well
use them against me. However I am not at all certain he will learn.
I once called Introvigne "President" and not "Director" of CESNUR. This is an obvious mistake and I admitted it immediately.
On the other hand, the controversy between me and CESNUR started when Introvigne claimed that a court of law in France had established that I had made false statements. To put it very politely, this was an enormous mistake on the part of the Turin lawyer. Who has not however yet admitted it.
A good polemicist must also avoid making misleading statements.I had written that Introvigne was the President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. It was not false, but it was misleading. Quite rightly, he immediately let it be known that he was president only of the Italian branch of this society.
Now let us take the example of a misleading statement made by Introvigne. Speaking on a Catholic TV station, during a programme on cults, he said that Rick Ross - cult critic and former deprogrammer - was a "convicted jewellery thief." This statement is true, but it is also misleading, since the onlooker will be left with the impression that Ross either stole jewels while deprogramming someone, or that he is a professional thief who in his free time kidnaps people.
Actually, many years ago during a stormy
adolescence, Ross was convicted
for a theft. This experience led him to commit himself to social issues,
and hence to working with cult victims. The fact is important, but for
quite different reasons from what those listening to Introvigne would be
led to think.
According to the French Catholic magazine, Golias, Introvigne writes for the French Communist paper L'Humanité. Introvigne also writes for Cristianità, the organ of the Italian right-wing group Alleanza Cattolica. Now, I could make use of the first fact to damage Introvigne's reputation among anti-Communists throughout the world. However, I don't do so, because I am not interested at all in Introvigne's reputation. What I do want to do is understand what his aims are. And nothing shows that these aims have anything to do with the political Left. There is a relationship with the Communist Party, but this relationship is quite meaningless.
On the other hand, Introvigne has been a militant of Alleanza Cattolica for over a quarter of a century. Ever since his early youth, he has followed the line of this organisation without the slightest deviation, and this same organisation is deeply involved in virtually every activity of CESNUR in Italy. This appears to be a much more meaningful relationship. And this relationship can also be explained within the framework of a reasoned and plausible hypothesis.
Now, how do CESNUR and its friends engage in polemics? I first wish to say that I understand their problem. On the one hand, there is CESNUR, which claims to hold the scientific truth in the matter of cults. And hence claims to be able to tell governments, judges, media, tax officials and social workers of every kind what to do. This is why it is important for all of society to be able to thoroughly assess the reliability of CESNUR. On the other hand, there is an individual - Miguel Martinez - who has submitted some documents which cast doubt on this reliability. Martinez is simply an independent professional, who lays no claim to teaching any truth to the world. He is like a postman bringing a telegram saying we have been cheated. It hardly matters whether the postman is a good family man or an alcoholic. What does matter is whether the contents of the telegram are true or not.
So if CESNUR does not want to answer the seven simple questions I posed, it can only keep silent. Or else attack the postman. Now, it's exactly against the postman - that is, Miguel Martinez - that the friends of CESNUR have launched three accusations. First, Martinez is supposed to have written years ago one article in an "extremist" magazine. Second, Martinez is supposed to use pseudonyms. Third, Martinez is supposed to have been expelled from an Italian cult-critic organisation, ARIS. As we shall see, two of these accusations are false and the third is insignificant, but they were enough to start a daily campaign of attacks on the newsgroups.
in alt.support.ex-cult), in his usual scholarly style, sums up the accusations
against me, speaking of
"one Miguel Martinez, now exposed on Italian NGs as a clown hiding under a variety of Internet aliases and (under his own name) as a former writer for the anti-semitic magazine' Orion' together with Robert Faurisson, the father of all Holocaust negationists."
I shall deal with the "pseudonyms" later on. "Together with", plus the use of the plural, makes one think of a series of articles written jointly.
The reality is quite different. Orion is a small "alternative" magazine. Authors include Right wing extremists, but also Left wing extremists, science-fiction fans, neo-pagans, Muslims and even members and friends of Alleanza Cattolica, who engage in free and fierce polemics with each other. Orion has also published articles by such diverse authors as Sub-Commander Marcos and Noam Chomsky.
Back in 1993 a single article signed Miguel Martinez was published; this article, picked up from a bullettin published by cult critics, was about the anti-Communist cult of the Korean, Sun Myung Moon. The only reference in this article to the Second World War was a mention of the fact that one of Moon's associates was a convicted war criminal. Now, according to the friends of CESNUR, at some indefinite date, Orion is also supposed to have published an article by the controversial Frenchman, Robert Faurisson. I have no idea whether this is true or not, and of course the whole matter would be of interest only if this article came out before 1993, or if there was the slightest affinity in content between the articles. Because, what does CESNUR's accusation mean: does mentioning the links between the Latin American death squads and "Reverend" Moon mean practising anti-Semitism? If this accusation cannot be fitted into a logical framework, it will be exactly like accusing Introvigne of having sent the tanks rolling into Prague simply because he writes about "new religions" in L'Humanité.
I have nothing whatsoever against extremists, whether they be of the anti-US variety (like Orion) or of the pro-US variety (like Alleanza Cattolica). I have repeatedly said that I see nothing wrong in Introvigne being a right-wing extremist. What I do find dubious is when an extremist group - of any kind - sets up a "study centre" which claims to be scientifically objective. It is reminiscent of the Creation Science study centres set up by evangelicals keen on scientifically proving the world was created 6000 years ago.
A second accusation against me involves
my disagreement with ARIS, a non denominational
Italian cult critic association. Here is how Religiosus, in his usual scientific
style, explains the event:
"Dear Miguel Martinez […] You are so ignorant that even the most ramshackle Italian anti-cult movement, ARIS, has expelled you with a big kick on your butt for having said who knows what idiocy about Islam. I have a friend in ARIS who told me that the kick was painful, with an official press release, and that you are still crying over the pain. Ai, Miguel, que dolor!" (the whole post)
Certain details immediately show that Religiosus did not learn the story from a "friend in ARIS", as he threateningly says, but from a message I wrote on the discussion group on "new religions", NUREL, where Massimo Introvigne too writes. In any case, I was not expelled from ARIS at all; I did not even belong to the group. To be exact, I sent them a fax explaining that I no longer intended to work together with them. This fax actually took ARIS by surprise. My opinions are different from those of ARIS. But here we are speaking about facts, and concerning these facts, ARIS too agrees with me.
How to Use Evidence
Another important rule for proper polemics is this: never make any accusation which does enjoy the support of a plausible theory, but is lacking in proof.
Let us take as an example an accusation I never made: "CESNUR is financed by Scientology." Such a statement might be supported by indirect evidence (CESNUR organises extremely expensive conferences) and a plausible theory could be set up to support it as well: CESNUR does legitimise Scientology as a religion and this does imply a vast number of privileges for this US transnational corporation. However I have no proof that Scientology pays CESNUR, so I shall never make a statement to that effect. In other words, one must never make accusations even when one does have evidence and a plausible theory, but no proof. On the other hand, the friends of CESNUR launch accusations even when all three are missing.
Let us take what, at least according to them, is an accusation. I am supposed to use several pseudonyms on Internet: Martini, Martinelli and Harry, three names which appear in a site called "Allarme Scientology" and sometimes on newsgroups (this accusation sounds a little strange, coming as it does from somebody who calls himself Religiosus). In this case, there is one piece of evidence: the names Martinez, Martini and Martinelli sound rather similar.
However there is no supporting theory at
all. Why should anybody write publicly under his own name about highly
controversial issues, and then use a pseudonym to write about less
controversial matters? I know I am neither Martini nor Martinelli nor Harry.
However, I am not asking anyone to take my word for it. There is very clear
proof of what I say: Martini, Martinelli and Harry are all three experts
on Scientology, a subject they have been dealing with for years, on their
Anybody who knows the cult and cult critic scene in Italy is perfectly
aware that I am no expert on Scientology. Also, a quick look at the texts
written by each clearly shows we are all different people. But here
is how a CESNUR friend who signs himself "Lancillotto" ("Lancelot") reacts
when asked to consider these arguments:
"Sorry, nobody believes you. You are triple, as long as the money keeps pouring in."
A phrase which - in Italian - contains what some people assure us is Introvigne's favourite pun.
Martini, Martinelli and Harry are excellent
people, and I have no problem in being associated with them. In fact, this
accusation works, not because it is offensive, but exactly because it
is false. The mechanism is childish but effective: "You are Eskimo!"
"No, I have nothing against Eskimos, but I don't happen to be one!" "Liar!
You see he denies being an Eskimo?" Writing, as he himself claims, from
the CESNUR conference on spiritualism in Turin, an imitator of Religiosus
calls me "Miguel Bugiardez," something we can translate as "Miguel the
Liar." The statement made by the Cesnurians becomes defamatory - from a
legal point of view as well - since it means they call me a liar whenever
I deny it.
The expression, "as long as the money keeps pouring in" is another kind of statement one should avoid when engaging in polemics between adults. The CESNUR friend is stating as a fact that somebody is paying me. Of course, everything is possible. We have seen how one can even play with the hypothesis that Scientology pays CESNUR. But "Lancillotto" makes his statement without any supporting theory at all: who is supposed to be paying for me? The Belgian parliament? The psychiatrists? International communism?
Without any supporting hypothesis, the
friends of CESNUR have at least presented a small piece of evidence: the
fact that the CESNUR Critical Page has an elegant lay-out. This is what
Religiosus means when, in another message, he says
the following about me:
"Struck by sudden richness, he set up an imposing anti-CESNUR website; an anti-Scientology site had blazed the trail for this site."
Similar statements have been made in the past by Introvigne (see here). Now it is obviously no sense to set up a site critical towards Scientology (something which notoriously involves some risk) only in order to open some pages, on that same site, which criticise CESNUR. It should also be remembered that the pages critical towards CESNUR were removed in March, and that the site has gone back to dealing with Scientology only. After a period of total suspension, I had to find a new home for this "critical page", a home which only now has become final. I agree that my "critical page" is pretty. The technical difference between this page, created by Harry, and the rest of the Kelebek site, created by me, is painfully obvious.
Anyhow, scientific research - something
CESNUR often speaks of - is based on the possibility of repeating experiments
and changing one's mind on the basis of evidence. I therefore invite Dr
Introvigne to call up a dozen or so different webmasters. He will notice
that they will all say that the costs are quite low. Of course, this does
not prove I don't receive money. Perhaps I pocket the sums I get
from the Communist psychiatrists. But until Introvigne can discover where
I hide the receipts, this will be a secret between me and Freud.
Why it's Important to Keep Calm
Another important piece of advice. Never
get hysterical. One will end up by appearing ridiculous. In a post on NUREL
(March 24th, 1999), Massimo Introvigne comments a message of
mine in which I had only mentioned CESNUR en passant and in quite
neutral terms. Here is how his reply starts:
"While I normally do not respond to nonsense about CESNUR (serious researches should be able to recognize trash when they see it) a recent posting by a professional anti-cultist is more nonsensical than usual."
And now let's listen to Religiosus (see here):
"Martinez is a professional anti-cultist." (in the same last Religiosus post)
Actually, I am a professional interpreter, and in any case my vision of the "cult" issue is very far from that of, say Margaret Singer, the "cult enemy" par excellence.
But here is another
outburst of the same author:
"Dear Miguel, as a case of multiple personality disorder (MPD) you are just second rate. So far, you have emanated Harry, Martini, Martinelli and Martinovsky plus the short-lived Andrea Vinci. Imagine, in America there are cases of MPD with fifty or sixty different personalities, each with its own different features, competences, names (and probably ways of posting on NGs). Admit it. You're a failure, you are tortured by envy when Zoccatelli [a prominent militant of both CESNUR and Alleanza Cattolica] is interviewed by the national media and nobody cares about you."
Another suggestion for CESNUR - mention personal matters only when these mean something. I hope Introvigne has a happy family life, but this is no business of mine and as a matter of fact I have never mentioned it. Now here is what the friends of CESNUR have to say in the same post about my private life:
"After all, cases of MPD are not so frequent in and around Imola and this summer on the beach even a mental dissociation case like you with only five personalities (but try to emanate some more in the meantime) can pick up some German girl (or a Muslim girl, if you prefer). Of course you run the risk of falling into an identity crisis at the crucial moment and forgetting your name. A beastly summer lies ahead of you. Send our greetings to Faurisson."
This is an example of a losing strategy. The author is obviously utterly unable to control his hatred. He goes on stating as a fact the usual hypothesis about pseudonyms. Finally, ever since the early days of the Palaeolithic, hurling insults based on sex or on mental health has always been a clear sign of when the offending party has lost its capacity for arguing. In other words, Religiosus ends up looking stupid and makes the whole institution he represents appear ridiculous.
I have no time to follow newsgroups. I
found out about this whole story thanks to a friend of mine who forwarded
me Religiosus' messages, together with a forged message
signed "Demetrio Martinovskj" and attributed to me. I quote the full message,
to show the incredibly low level touched by the "friends of CESNUR":
"Today, Zoccatelli of CESNUR overwhelmed us with his words on the main dailies and radio and TV news programmes of Italy, speaking about the Satanist episodes at Lecco of April 6th. Odd, no apologetics: Introvigne, you must reprimand your colleague!
This forgery was written by somebody who knew where Introvigne and Zoccatelli had just spent their holidays. The reference (perfectly meaningless, of course) to a "Christian, pro-Jewish religion" of course was studied to offend religious people in general, Christians and Jews in a single blow. The forger shows such an intense affection for PierLuigi Zoccatelli that he is even unable to accuse him (as I supposedly should do) of being apologetic towards cults. "Martinovskj" merely says that Zoccatelli is famous and is a "tireless traveller": hardly a criticism.
This is quite obviously a criminal offence,
since the message was studied for the sole purpose of defaming me and promoting
CESNUR. So I hope it will be possible to track down the real author of
this message. In any case, this forgery was not a very intelligent move,
since I had not written on CESNUR for several months, and indeed I was
starting to work on quite different issues. Let sleeping dogs lie… perhaps
they counted on my missing what was going on in the newsgroups, but inevitably,
sooner or later, somebody would have started forwarding me their messages.
First of all, I would like to reassure Religiosus, and above all Lancillotto - who prudently hides behind the name of Arthur's bravest knight. CESNUR knows my name and address, and I am not one bit afraid of them; why should they be afraid of me?
As soon as I replied on the Newsgroups,
the anonymous defamer changed his strategy. From a group of sympathisers,
if not member, of CESNUR, "Religiosus" suddenly became a joke:
"This is how the Religiosus game is played: to post as 'Religiosus' from dejanews, from any computer, all that is needed is to know the password, and this password has been sent to dozens of people ('cult apologists', 'cult members', some more sporting anti-cultist and simple practical jokers), each being asked to continue the chain."
This prudent statement in view of legal liability comes a little too late. It fully contradicts a statement made just 4 days before - on March 5th - by Religiosus on it.cultura.newage:
"Religiosus is a collective nom de plume used by several different people with the same password, who employ different computers (hence the different IP addresses, if you want to amuse yourselves by looking for them) and who share certain ideas and who are in touch with CESNUR."
In other words, they share the same ideas and are directly in touch with Massimo Introvigne's organisation. In any case, the majority of Religiosus' messages has the same style, and is anything but playful. Here is a typical example:
"If you move around the Web, you will see that CESNUR is the constant target for insults from anti-cultists, and CESNUR never replies with the same tone."
True enough - as we have seen, the tone of the friends of CESNUR is very different indeed from mine, at least.
As soon as they realised the risks they were making the reputation of CESNUR run, Religiosus disappeared, and insults began to dwindle, thus showing that the supposed "chain mail" was actually under some form of control. There is very clearly one main Religiosus, surrounded by a few colleagues whom, perhaps, he gave the password to (this does not free him of course from his liabilities).
Some friends suggested that Religiosus is forced to hide his identity, because he is actually Massimo Introvigne himself. This is their reasoning. I shall also say why I do not accept their hypothesis. Religiosus is somebody directly involved, who has totally lost his self-control because of the criticism I have moved to CESNUR's methods. Just imagine - for over one month, this person has been writing two or three messages of insults every single day against one person, that is me. Also imagine - the over one hundred messages he has sent so far are simply based on nothing. I am sure that even the most generous reader will agree that the author of these messages is a seriously disturbed individual. Now, I do not believe that Introvigne is mentally disturbed, or that he is so stupid: not even the Legionaries of Christ would allow somebody like Religiosus to teach for three days a year in one of their institutions (this is why Introvigne can use the title of "professor").
My friends claim that Religiosus employs many of Introvigne's most typical expressions. However, it is also true that everybody in CESNUR tends to speak and write like the founder. These friends also point out that Religiosus usually mails from a TIN ISP in Turin, using Netscape 3.02 on a Macintosh computer. Just as Massimo Introvigne does in his public messages. I do not see this to be compelling proof.My friends also note that Religiosus posts both in Italian and in English; but the messages in English were clearly written by an Italian who (like Introvigne) knows English quite well. Not proof enough for my scientific mind. However, there is one decisive point, which proves that Introvigne cannot be Religiosus: Introvigne has repeatedly written that he does not engage in polemics on newsgroups. And of course I take his word for it. At least until the opposite is proven.