An unethical "study"  

Introvigne's study is a largely anecdotal report on nine websites whom he accuses of "anti-cult terrorism". Though five of these websites are not "anticult" at all, eight out of nine have one element in common: at one time or another, they published material critical of Dr Introvigne and CESNUR, and at least three are currently being threatened by Dr Introvigne's lawyers. This raises the following questions: 
  • Is it ethical for a scholar to present a study devoted entirely to "proving" that any form of disagreement with him is "extreme terrorism"? 
  • Can a scholar study people he is at the same time threatening through his lawyers and whose freedom of expression he is trying to suppress? 
  • Is it proper for such a study to be funded using public money, including the money of those who may not agree with the very peculiar world view of the scholar in question? 
  • Massimo Introvigne refuses to speak to us, he has never answered our e-mails, and even his lawyer does not answer mail addressed to her. Is it possible to do research on people towards whom one feels such uncontrollable hostility? 

"Terrorism" is a word which was laughed off the scene of serious studies at least two decades ago, even in reference to cases of physical violence against innocent passers by. After all, it is not always easy to decide whether the terrorist is the kamikaze with the bomb in his belt, or the aeroplane pilot with the bomb under his seat.

The word "terrorist" may have lost any real meaning, but like other examples of loaded words, it has a very practical function: once a community has decided to label a certain person as a terrorist, any discussion with that person must cease at once. A terrorist must either be locked up or shot dead; indeed failure to do so becomes complicity by omission.