By Miguel Martinez
We had thought Massimo Introvigne would have tried to cover the tracks of what is certainly one of the most embarrassing "studies" he ever wrote. So we were quite surprised to read his disciple, PierLuigi Zoccatelli, boasting on the CESNUR website that "anti-cult terrorism" is a "category whose time has come" and which
"has been now somewhat consecrated by the acceptance, peer review and publication of Introvigne's article 'Moral Panics and Anti-Cult Terrorism in Western Europe' in the journal 'Terrorism and Political Violence' (12:1, Spring 2000, pp. 47-59)."
For those who have not followed the story, a brief presentation is needed: Massimo Introvigne, a Turin patent lawyer, is the founder and director of CESNUR, the "Centre for Studies on New Religions". He is also a leader of a right-wing organization called "Alleanza Cattolica", whose avowed purpose is to create a "counter-revolutionary élite" and to restore the full glory of Medieval Christendom according to the teachings of Brazilian self-styled "prophet", Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, also known as "The Crusader of the XXth Century". Although admirers of the Inquisition, these people have rather understandably been accused of being a "cult" - by the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, among others - so they tend to take a very apologetic line towards other groups which have rightly or wrongly been subjected to similar accusations: such groups range from Opus Dei to Scientology.
Some time ago, we published documents drawn from various sources (mostly material of CESNUR and Alleanza Cattolica or from right-wing authors close to Introvigne) on the background of CESNUR.
Dr Introvigne and his followers - to whom we had offered unlimited space to reply - answered by launching a campaign of insults on the Usenet newsgroups (the episode became famous on the Usenet as the "Inflatable Doll campaign" when CESNUR invited me to leave them alone and play with inflatable dolls). He then explained that this was what he called a "participant observer" study on "Internet terrorism".. He was not joking: shortly after, he actually published a "study" which we analyse elsewhere.
In brief summary, the study provided nine examples of something called "anti-cult terrorism". One was a peaceful website which had given critical information on a "cult" of Japanese origin. The other eight were not anti-cult sites at all. Indeed, all they had in common was that each of them had expressed criticism of Massimo Introvigne, of Alleanza Cattolica or of CESNUR.
I don't like the word "terrorism"; however
the only act of "Internet terrorism" I am aware of in this context was
when CESNUR threatened my provider into closing down the Kelebek website,
in the late Spring of 1999.