A friend of mine wrote this a while back and has graciously allowed me to reprint it, but I think it has some bearing on my postmodernism series:
I posted … yesterday about my morbid fascination with FAIR and the FAIR message boards. They’re like my personal nightmare—a bizarro world of “scholarship” particularly disturbing to an academic.
My area of scholarly expertise is cultural theory, so I’ve been half trying to rationalize my FAIR time-wastage as “research.” And actually the use of postmodern theories in mormon apologetics, albeit in confused and contradictory ways is kind of interesting. Trixie replied to my posts yesterday, and I spent last night following up on some of her suggestions.
I ended up reading an essay by Juliann Reynolds on the FAIR website that summarizes an argument I’d caught traces of the FAIR boards (an assertion that critics of mormonism are really backward, old-fashioned, conservatives with hopelessly dated paradigms, while mormon apologists comprise an exciting postmodern vanguard). It was a good example of the problematic way certain concepts were being used, and more importantly it led me to the source for this argument—an essay by sociologist Massimo Introvigne (also found on the FAIR site).
Massimo Introvigne turns out to be quite a guy.
FAIR has at least two of his essays on their website, and Signature books has published one of his many, many works. He’s affiliated with the Mormon Social Science Association and was also the organizer, under the auspices of his own Center for Study of New Religions, of a conference in 2002 at both BYU and the U of U on “New Religions.” He seems to be really thick with LDS scholars in general.
I did some quick Googling and turned up his neo-fascist politics. He’s one of the leaders of “Alleanza Cattolica,” the Italian branch of “Tradition, Family and Property” a really ugly right-wing Catholic organization that originated in Brazil. Besides the usual anti-gay polemics, anti-feminist rhetoric and theocratic agenda, “Alleanza Cattolica” has also supported General Pinochet in his attempts to dodge responsibility for mass murder. That should give you sort of an idea where they’re coming from.
There’s also some controversy concerning his credentials as a sociologist as well as the scholarly legitimacy of the Centre for Study of New Religions. CESNUR is supposedly an objective and independent academic organization, but since they’ve also acted on the behalf of Scientology and Reverend Moon, CESNUR is listed as cult apologists on the Apologetics Index and covered extensively on the Rick Ross website.
This is a description of Introvigne and CESNUR by Miguel Martinez, one of his critics:
“CESNUR is supposedly an objective resource on cults established by the sociologist Massimo Introvigne. Actually, Introvigne does not have a degree in sociology, but is a patent lawyer; nor is CESNUR an objective resource: the organization is intimately linked to another organisation called “Alleanza Cattolica”. The ideology of the latter is entirely based on the teachings of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, a Brazilian extremist and self-styled “prophet”, founder of a “crusade” against agrarian reform and “Communism” which openly calls for the implementation of a world-wide “Christian” regime based on Medieval hierarchy and repression. This “crusade” is called Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). …while waiting for the Kingdom to come, this organization is happy to work together with the US “New Right.” … often accused of being a cult, T.F.P. in 1985 started promoting the notions that CESNUR currently promotes—that there is a worldwide “anti-cult conspiracy”, manipulated by “psychiatrists and Communists”.
This last business of an “anti-cult conspiracy” is really interesting too. Introvigne has written about what he terms “anti-cult cyberterrorists.” In his definition these terrorists are “apostates”—people who have left a religion which they now term “a cult”—-who publish criticisms of their former religion the internet.
Politically Introvigne comes off like a really scary right wing Opus Dei nut-job. And as an intellectual he seems like near charlatan: hundreds of “publications” and very little academic credibility. What I’ve read of his work so far is pretty thin: lots of “theory talk” and plenty of name-dropping—a kind of Nibley manque.
(I was quite amused to find that a person posting as “Gadianton” on a mormon philosophy blog concurs with my opinion: “Anyway, I think with her [Juliann Reynolds] commitment to Introvigne Massimo, her primary source, the biggest issue is identifying the so-called “mormon conservatives” like “David Bohn” who take a “postmodern” view on history. I emailed Massimo about this, and he really couldn’t answer my question. Further, his response suggested he hasn’t spent 5 minutes studying derrida or any of the others. I’m no expert, but i can tell when someone knows less about this than I do…”
So my question is how did Introvigne hook up with the Mormons? Even though his politics wouldn’t ultimately be a problem, and con-job “scholarship” is an honored tradition at FAIR, he still seems like far too shady a wack job for “lds endorsement.”
And how long before “anti-cult terrorist” becomes the new FAIR catchword for exmormons?