The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: K. Paul Johnson <>
Subject: Re: Maneck's AOL slander of me, trb, Juan Cole, etc....
Date: Wednesday, December 30, 1998 10:09 AM
Dear Sue and Pat,
It seems to me that part of what Fred calls "the Baha'i
technique" is in fact far broader.  It's the technique of all
defenders of some religious orthodoxy or another in response to
criticism of their beliefs or organization.  And you're engaging
in it here.  Some principles by which it can be discerned:
1. Show scornful contempt for all criticisms, and the individuals
making them.  This has the advantage of furthering
group solidarity and encouraging believers to regard criticism as
contemptible.  It also tells them "This will happen to you, too,
if you step out of line."  Unfortunately, it has the
disadvantage of saying to observers, "We true believers are a
bunch of hostile, sarcastic nasties who don't care at all what
people in the outside world think of us, since we're too busy
bashing critics to worry about the impression our tone or
attitude makes."  (See the Eckists or Scientologists or
fundamentalist Christians on Usenet for real virtuosity in
this regard.)
2. Personalize, personalize, personalize.  If you can
relentlessly focus attention on the individual(s) raising
difficult issues, you just might keep yourself and others
from facing the issues themselves.  Not facing the crucial issues 
is of utmost priority.
3. Polarize at all possible opportunities.  Never give an inch.
Don't acknowledge even a single point that an "enemy" makes, or
modify your vigilant tone for an instant.  Prove that you're a
"spiritual warrior" for the "true faith."  Kindness is weakness,
forbearance is never appropriate when God's on your side.
Some comments on your post in particular:
Sue ( wrote:
: Pat:
: You silly guy...telling the undisputed truth with the proofs to back it up
: can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered slander--even by
: Fred, who it seems, routinely, "goes there" in the *absence* of truth and
That's the most backhanded, hostile compliment I recall seeing in
a long time.  Let's see-- what you're saying is that "Fred
wouldn't consider your post slander" and topping it off with
sarcasm and personal invective.
: proofs. You must appreciate that to Fred calling for a Yes vote was a
: perfectly legitimate activity, especially, if one can incite others to
: really go after it (his *denunciation* of them was weak and lame).
But he did denounce them?  Do you really expect that someone who
has been repeatedly denounced by Baha'is opposing creation of a
newsgroup is going to be *equally* offended by lobbying *for* it?
If you expect nonpartisan evenhandedness from Fred, you should
also expect it from yourself and those who denounce him.  Do you?  Have you
ever seen it?  Don't blame him for lacking a virtue you're
conspicuously showing yourself to lack too.  (And, beating you to
the punch, I'm biased, we're all biased-- read the pro- and anti-
impeachment posts for a real love fest of people calling one
another partisan without admitting they themselves are.)
: it's just good politics!!! Whereas, calling for a No vote represents an
: afront to "Truth, Justice, and the American Way".
In fact, there is a huge moral difference involved.  A yes vote
makes possible a venue for discussion that a large number of
people have repeatedly said they want.  A no vote denies them
that option.  It's much worse to lobby against creation of a
forum for free discussion than to lobby for it, morally, although
technically both violate Netiquette.  
: If you are indeed "insignificant", which in my esteem is false, it is
: because Fred cannot figure out how to use your comments to contribute to the
: pathos of his self-appointed victim role and thereby, gain sympathy for his
: "cause".
I.e., everything Fred is saying about the Baha'i Faith can be
contemptuously dismissed because his "cause" is an entirely
personal and delusional victimhood.  Any kind of remark about
him or treatment of him is OK, since his victim role is
self-appointed, therefore *you're* not victimizing him.
 I'm afraid you're going to have to become way more extreme to land
: on Fred's website--perhaps denouncing your faith, criticizing the premises
: of it's institutions, or just saying he is so right about the extreme
: oppression that he suffers from the unjust censorship and slander of those
: sending "hate mail" and engaging in acts of subterfuge all aimed towards
: stifling his creativity and obstructing his freedom of conscience, or that
: you've experienced this too. These are just a few suggestions about how to
: win his favor.  Of course, sigh....having a PhD might give you that little
: extra push pro or con....seems to work both ways.
I'm on Fred's website, and dispute every single one of these
characterizations as applied to myself.  Moreover, most of them
don't apply to most of the people represented on his site.  You
have now moved on from contemptuous dismissal of Fred, to his
website, to the dozen or more people represented on it.  I won't
generalize and consider that "typical Baha'i partisanship" but rather
just say that *some* Baha'is consistently think that way.  IMO this
is to the detriment of the Faith.
: Under the circumstances, I think you've done just about all you can do
: unless Fred can find some use for you.
There are a hundred issues that are addressed on the site and
instead of dealing with any of them, you all are just using
sarcasm to bash Fred and all whose writings are on his site.  Not
good PR, but perhaps useful in scaring the already converted from
seriously thinking about the real issues.