french anthroposophists determined to proceed with their legal folly

The Steiner Waldorf School Federation in France is not backing down from its legal claims against Grégoire Perra, a former waldorf student, anthroposophist and Steiner school teacher. They are pursuing the proper course of action… proper, for a cult: they’re suing to protect themselves from a reputation as a cult. One could have hoped that, in order to spare themselves embarrassment, they would have realized that this is a genuinely bad idea, and that they would have backed off voluntarily, once they had given it some more thought. Even if they win, they lose. The desire to deprive people of their right to speak their minds — about their beliefs, their experiences or whatever they wish to — is unfortunately characteristic for a cultish mindset, and it is clear that anthroposophy in France is exactly the cult it claims not to be.

How the anthroposophical movement has come to believe they have something to gain from this, is beyond me. The actions of the French Steiner Waldorf Federation reflects badly on the entire movement. Other parts of the movement remain silent, and although this is hardly surprising, it is regrettable. It is unfortunate that the freedom this movement claims to espouse only applies to themselves, and rarely to detractors. It seems to me that even if there are people who agree that this behaviour — taking people to court instead of accepting free speech and engaging in debate — is wrong, they are too few, do not care enough or are not daring enough to protest.

One thing that could wake up the French Federation is that other anthroposophical organisations and individual anthroposophists object to their dragging the movement into the gutter. The might be the only thing — with one exception: huge amounts of bad press. In other words: public shaming. Hopefully, when the trial gets going, the French press will come to consciousness and sniff out the rotten anthroposophical carcass — and begin to unveil this movement. They might — if they do what they should, and I hope they will — not stop at the lawsuit and they may not be as balanced and knowledgeable in their criticism as Grégoire Perra is. They may cause a lot more PR damage than he could possibly do. I guess the French anthroposophical movement is too dumb — and too blind to the rest of the world — to realize this.

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Grégoire Perra has written a new blog post. In it he reveals the name of the lawyer chosen by the French Waldorf Federation to represent them in this court case; this is, apparently, a lawyer with a previous reputation for representing large corporations wanting to quash criticism. As Grégoire notes, it is remarkable that the Waldorf Federation has the financial means to proceed with this — as it must be excessively expensive (unless, I suspect, the lawyer is himself an anthroposophist). What is even more telling — regarding the movements moral standing — is that they are prepared to spend so much time and resources to silence criticism, to stop someone from talking about his experiences. I agree with Grégoire’s interpretation that it might be a symbolic move for them — that they are not only trying to eliminate him and the danger they must be perceiving he poses to them, but they’re attempting to dissuade anyone from ever again doing what he did. I don’t have to point out the inherent dangers: when future wrongs take place, which they inevitably will, there’s a risk nobody will be prepared to come forward, nobody will call attention to these things and nobody will dare to report anything either to authorities or the media. The waldorf movement wants a bubble of silence and secrecy around themselves, and are trying to create it by force.

Hopefully the mask falls off, and they reveal themselves for who they are. They have already revealed that they are thugs who, in their supreme intolerance, want to stop others from voicing their opinions, expressing their concerns and speaking about their experiences. It is my conviction, though, that once the mask falls, a lot more than that will be revealed. And it won’t necessarily be pretty or fun. The lawsuit brought by the Waldorf Federation ought to prompt French media to launch thorough investigations into the anthroposophical movement. Any organisation that tries to suppress criticism and free speech deserves attention — and scrutiny. To quote Grégoire:

Quoiqu’il advienne, tout ceci permet d’ores et déjà de faire en sorte que les masques tombent. Par le choix qu’elle a fait, par les sommes qu’elle investit et la rage que cette entreprise manifeste, par les personnes qu’elle choisit pour la représenter publiquement, la Fédération des Écoles Steiner-Waldorf aujourd’hui se dévoile, qu’elle le veuille ou non. C’est pourquoi les anthroposophes devraient tout bonnement avoir honte d’eux-mêmes et de ce que certains dirigeants font en leur nom. Que ce dévoilement puisse devenir un signe, un appel à la lucidité, pour tous ceux à qui le courage manque encore de sortir de l’entre-deux, qui savent des choses mais préfèrent les oublier ou ne pas les dire, qui ont peur des conséquences d’une prise de parole libre, ou qui préfèrent se réfugier dans le confortable compromis consistant à ne pas y regarder de trop près dès lors qu’il s’agit de porter un jugement sur ces écoles et cette « pédagogie » !

*

The text that caused the Steiner federation to sue Grégoire Perra can be found here. (Link to pdf-file at the end.) Here is a translation into english.

I have previously blogged about the case, e g, here.

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47 comments

  1. A reblogué ceci sur Blog de Grégoire Perra and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  2. Remarquable article ! Merci Alicia !
    Comme le disait les Tchèques “La vérité vaincra !”

  3. Yeah, so let’s review here…If you are not a cult, and somebody accuses you are being one (which might be some kind of libel or something, I dunno, I’m not a lawywer), and you move to redress it in court, this is, in fact, proof that were indeed a cult all along.

    Right.Gotcha.

    I’m thinking about dunking chairs and witches here.

    and that “in order to spare themselves embarrassment, they would have realized that this is a genuinely bad idea”.

    So people on the receiving end of a wrong, might want to avoid court, because it might result in further injury, further “embarrassment”.

    One may imagine many injured parties might feel that way, people assaulted in any manner might want avoid court because it might be a difficult experience for them.

    Or they might go through with it anyway, because they seek Jusitce.

    I don’t know the ins and outs of the French legal system. Do you have no faith in it? If the guy has done wrong, let the court make It’s judgement.

    I’m all for free speech, “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity” are great ideals, but surely there needs to be a perpetual striving for Truth and Justice as well, for everything to work though? People should take responsibility for their actions, right?

    I mean, what kind of a Law Student are you, actually?

    Because I’m not, I’m an just an Engineer, and I can see right through your nonsense.

  4. Si c’était si simple Victor…

  5. Victor : If one day you are dealing with justice, even for a minor matter, perhaps you realize the simplicity of your comment. You should know in fact, that a lawsuit is always a test for even the most solid. Expectation, which can take several years in France, is still anxiety. Many people even prefer not to testify (although he is not involved), rather than ending up in court. In addition, it involves significant costs of lawyer, which are not reimbursed. Finally, unfortunately, contrary to your assertion, the facts show that the outcome of a trial, at least in France, will be largely determined by whether or not you have a better lawyer that the party side. Sued someone, even if it is wrong, is a great way to silence all criticism, even justified. And if you have a lot of money, you can even hope that the person in front, which has not much will be doomed …

    Si un jour vous avez affaire à la justice, même pour une affaire mineure, peut-être réalisez-vous la naïveté de votre commentaire. Il faut savoir en effet, qu’une poursuite judiciaire est toujours une épreuve, même pour les personnes les plus solides. Son attente, qui peut parfois durer plusieurs années en France, est toujours anxiogène. Beaucoup de gens préfèrent même ne pas venir témoigner (alors qu’il ne sont pas en cause), plutôt que de se retrouver devant un tribunal. En outre, cela implique des frais important d’avocat, qui ne sont pas remboursés. Enfin, malheureusement, contrairement à ce que vous affirmez, la réalité des faits montre que l’issue d’un procès, du moins en France, sera dans une large mesure déterminée par le fait que vous ayez ou non un meilleur avocat que la partie adverse. Intenté un procès à quelqu’un, même si l’on a tort, est donc un excellent moyen pour faire taire toutes critiques, même justifiées. Et si l’on a beaucoup d’argent, on peut même espérer que la personne en face, qui n’en a pas autant, sera condamnée…

  6. ‘So people on the receiving end of a wrong’

    If you had spent any time whatsoever reading up on what has happened — and using your the tiny remaining parts of your brain to figure things out — you would have realized that there is no wrong. The ONLY thing that anthroposophical movement and the Steiner waldorf federation has been subjected to is relevant criticism. This is not a ‘wrong’ — it is a right. To oppose the free speech of others, and combat people who disagree with you with threats and lawsuits is indeed a method of dangerous cults. Grégoire has every right to express his opinions and write about his experiences — the anthroposophical movement can agree or disagree, but they don’t have the right to try to stop him. We do, after all, I hope, live in a free society (which, by the way, anthroposophists should be happy for too, being a minority belief system).

    As Grégoire says — it REALLY is that simple.

    ‘If the guy has done wrong, let the court make It’s judgement.’

    Here’s the problem — morally crippled movements, such as the anthroposophical, uses the threat of lawsuits to silence people. It is used as intimidation. Such a behaviour is, apparently, not alien to the anthroposophical movement, as we’ve seen before.

    Luckily, today, with the internet, the movement is getting the reputation it deserves — and this thanks to its own actions. Today, people will actually know when the movement tries to shut somebody up, because the news is spreading fast.

    Grégoire explained very well why even if the target of a frivolous lawsuit ends up winning it, it is still a huge strain on this person’s life. It has costs, financially, personally, emotionally; it can devour several years of this person’s life. This is what the movement counts on. They might hope to win, of course, but whether they do or not, they hope to crush the individual — reputation-wise, even if they win, they lose. But they will still have the satisfaction of trying to ruin a person — and to show their ‘strength’ to intimidate others: look, we’ll waste you, too, if we think we have to!

    It’s interesting to see how the so called spiritually enlightened treat their fellow humans. Like disposable objects, whose lives are expendable in the grand cosmic scheme. Very nice. Or, perhaps, for those who (unlike the French waldorf federation) are endowed with a basic sense of ethics and respect for freedom: despicable.

  7. What should be of concern re this movement is its public face: gentle, soft, benign, a force for good — a public image which the movement benefits from, and which makes it possible for them to ask for public money and support and so forth. What should be of concern is that this is not all there is — the question is if that image has any solid ground at all. When you see how the movement behaves — when it isn’t trying to attract customers but instead tries to suppress opinions — you must start to question whether the good reputation is deserved or if it is based on deception.

    For a movement that prides itself on its conception of man and its supposed humanism, these are important questions. What Grégoire has to go through now is, as far as I can tell, only one symptom of something gone fundamentally wrong.

  8. ‘Il semblerait que les charlatans et les sectes auront toujours le même réflèxe dès qu’on les critique : au lieu de sortir des preuves de leur bonne foi et le bien-fondé de leurs dires, ils vous collent tout de suite un procès au cul… ou au moins la menace d’un procès.’

    http://terrassecafe.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/la-federation-des-ecoles-steiner-waldorf-montre-son-vrai-visage-blog-de-gregoire-perra/

  9. Spartacus mode: Engaged.

  10. Bravo to Gregoire and to Alicia for these replies.!

    Victor, your replies reveal you as not the sharpest knife in the drawer. You wrote:

    ‘Yeah, so let’s review here…If you are not a cult, and somebody accuses you are being one (which might be some kind of libel or something, I dunno, I’m not a lawywer), and you move to redress it in court, this is, in fact, proof that were indeed a cult all along. ‘

    Basically yes. If you are not a cult then don’t act like one. When you sue someone who disagrees with you or criticizes you *just for disagreeing or just for criticizing* that is cult behavior.

    ‘So people on the receiving end of a wrong, might want to avoid court, because it might result in further injury, further “embarrassment”.’

    There hasn’t been any wrong, Victor. That’s the part that the narrow-minded cult devotees themselves seem to have trouble grasping. It’s okay if someone criticizes you. Honest, really. You won’t melt in the wind like the wicked witch of the west just because someone says something about you that you don’t like. WE’RE ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE YOU. Get it through your head.

    ‘One may imagine many injured parties might feel that way, people assaulted in any manner might want avoid court because it might be a difficult experience for them.’

    Free speech, free criticism, someone who doesn’t like your religion and says so – those things are not “assault,” Victor. Sorry. No. You don’t have redress – not morally – against someone who criticizes your religion. Again, try to understand this simple point: WE’RE ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE YOU.

    WITHOUT winding up in jail or with monetary penalties for it.

    I know that’s a bitter pill, but it’s the way a civilized society works. It is thuggish to sic lawyers on people who have simply said, publicly, that they do not like your religion and/or they do not like how your movement behaves.

    ‘I mean, what kind of a Law Student are you, actually?’

    You might wanna check that, hon, I don’t think she’s a law student.

  11. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Although I don’t endorse the French anthros’ apparent attempt at legal harrasment of Gregoire Perra, it’s remarkable how little interest his supporters here have in the wider truth of the situation, in spite of claims of being solely desirous of upholding democratic rights of free speech. Alicia’s claim that:

     “The ONLY thing that anthroposophical movement and the Steiner waldorf federation has been subjected to is relevant criticism.”

     is far from the truth. What has been ignored in this discussion is the history of the French state’s campaign against ‘cults’ (which included, to give an idea of how wide the net was thrown, Quakers and Bahai’s) through the nineties and noughties. The French anthroposophical movement  was caught in this net and attempts made by state and other agencies to dissolve and curtail parts of it (my vague recollection from brief reports I read at the time was that the anthros mounted a successful legal counter challenge). Gregoire will be familiar with this situation but others wishing to find out more can consult, for instance:

    Chapter 4, French Cult Controversy at the Turn of the New Millenium
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Z3dgkh2NrvgC&oi=fnd&pg=PA55&dq=french+anthroposophical+movement+state+cult&ots=KKLUgHW8ff&sig=mZLs7prmH3LHohDFafL-LOx2QcM

    And, from the Brahma Kumaris website (no doubt one of the ‘cults’ targeted in this manner):

    “”Brainwashing” Theories in European Parliamentary and Administrative Reports on “Cults” and “Sects” Author(s): James T. Richardson and Massimo Introvigne”

    http://www.brahmakumaris.info/download/Cult%20related/Brainwashing.pdf

    It seems likely that the French anthros’ apparent touchiness with regard to the term ‘cult’, and therefore probably Gregoire’s use of it, maybe connected with this history. In general, though (as I’ve said) I see this action by the French anthros as ill-advised, I think that the group  here doth protest too much.

  12. I do think readers should get familiar with the french anthroposophical movement’s previous attempts to silence critics. It’s a nasty history — Grégoire is but the latest.

    BUT — there are NO buts. Grégoire’s right to express his opinion and speak about his experiences is HIS right. This right is his INDIVIDUAL right, it is his personal right; it is not somehow dependent on what others have said or done before him. This is the right accorded to people in free and democratic societies, and it gives anyone the rights Diana mentioned:

    ‘No. You don’t have redress – not morally – against someone who criticizes your religion. Again, try to understand this simple point: WE’RE ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE YOU.’

    We’re allowed to think and say whatever we please about your beliefs, your practices and your movement and its behaviour. Grégoire has this right, too, REGARDLESS of the french state’s anti-cult activities. This is the whole point of this — and there are not buts. What I wrote applies:

    The ONLY thing that anthroposophical movement and the Steiner waldorf federation has been subjected to is relevant criticism.

    This is the whole truth as far as Grégoire’s case goes. There are NO buts. NONE whatsoever.

    I have, however, read parts of these french investigations into cults. Such government investigations into phenomena that constitute a danger to society and to citizens are not uncommon. This history is irrelevant to Grégoire’s case except for one thing — his case actually proves that anthroposophy in France is a danger to the individual, to free speech and to society and it shows that, indeed, the movement is rich enough to fund frivolous lawsuits to bring individuals down for voicing criticism. (One of the findings made by the cult commission was that anthroposophy is one of the wealthiest cults in France.)

    NO protests are ‘too much’ when an organisation, like the anthroposophical society, tries to destroy a person’s life — because this person exercised his rights in a free, open and democratic society.

    There are no buts to these rights and there are no protests that are too much — in fact, it is regrettable that we do not have the time and energ to protest MORE. And all anthroposophists around the world who still believe in freedom for the individual should join in. Unequivocally.

    *

    Diana is right, I’m not a student. However, you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand what freedoms a free and democratic society ought to entail. It suffices to be aware of what an infringement of these rights would mean to all of us.

    It’s not so much fun for anthroposophists, either, to live in a society where you can’t speak ill of — or even refuse to believe in — other worldviews or criticize the views of people you don’t agree with. The only society that is guaranteed to give anthroposophists the rights to practice their beliefs, to express their ideas, to form organisations, et c, is a secular, open and free democracy. But in such a society — which accords anthroposophy the freedoms it needs to thrive or even to exist — will also, by necessity, have to allow other people the right to disagree, to criticize, to talk about you and say things you might not like.

    That is how it works. It works to your advantage, but it won’t necessarily keep you happy all the time or in a fluffy and comfortable cocoon. Because you can’t control other people’s minds.

  13. So true what Alicia says and so important. Freedom of religion allows small and unpopular sects like anthroposophy to EXIST. They are fighting against their own interests in seeking legal redress against people who criticize them.

    That said, Ted has a point that the controversy needs to be seen in view of the French government’s sometimes less than tolerant attitude toward minority religions. It does make sense that if the government is going to prosecute cults for being cults, cults are, in turn, going to turn to the courts to stop people from calling them … cults.

    Of course, a simpler solution is not to act like a cult, harassing vocal ex-members or whistle blowers, and you will find fewer accusations of cultishness against you.

  14. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Alicia:

    “I have, however, read parts of these french investigations into cults. Such government investigations into phenomena that constitute a danger to society and to citizens are not uncommon.”

    Then it appears that you haven’t read enough. The situation is far from being one of merely ‘investigations into phenomena that constitute a danger to society and to citizens’. The academic paper, on the Brahma Kumaris website, summarises it:

    “Most scholars of new religious movements would subscribe to the conclusion of the Swiss federal report on Scientology that “the immense majority of these groups ["sects" or "cults"] represents neither a danger to their members nor to the State” (La Scientologie en Suisse 1998:132-33). Few scholars, on the other hand, would agree with the French (Assemblee Nationale 1996) or Belgian (Chambre des Representants de Belgique 1997) parliamentary reports that listed dozens of groups-from Mormons to Quakers and Baha’is-as “sects” or “cults” actually, or potentially, dangerous”

    Your endorsement of the French state’s view of itself is an endorsement of the restriction of the same freedoms that you are otherwise championing.

    “The only society that is guaranteed to give anthroposophists the rights to practice their beliefs, to express their ideas, to form organisations, et c, is a secular, open and free democracy.”

    Yes, this is the society that is being undermined by the French state’s aggressive prosecution of ‘cults’.

    Diana:

    “Of course, a simpler solution is not to act like a cult, harassing vocal ex-members or whistle blowers, and you will find fewer accusations of cultishness against you.”

    Except that the charge of ‘cultishness’ has been made by the French state, as part of an aggressive campaign against ‘cults’, using an inadequate, ‘brainwashing’, conception of the phenomenon.

  15. I’ve been reluctant to comment on this case out of a general sense that caution is advisable when discussing ongoing legal proceedings. However, I can’t resist trying to unpick some of the arguments flying around here.

    The behaviour of the anthroposophical movement when faced with criticism is allegedly characteristic of a cult. However, Gregoire himself only uses the word cult in the UNADFI report when referring to the First Class. I won’t comment on whether that’s justified.

    “Insidious indoctrination” is a recurrent theme in the report. If there is any indoctrination going on, it is clearly covert and therefore by definition insidious if one can also show that it is, at least in some cases, harmful. As to indoctrination, it would be difficult to argue that an anthroposophically based education does *not* imbue students with a particular outlook on the world. For it to be indoctrination, criticism of that worldview would be discouraged. We know what happens to people who criticise the movement.

    Reading Gregoire’s work (including his blog) I see no trace of malicious intent, one of the defining characteristics of defamation. Rather, I see the experiences of somebody who knows his subject well and offers his own interpretation of them in good faith. There is international public interest in his work, as evidenced by the multiple efforts over a short period of time to translate it into English. Public interest is one defence against a charge of defamation.

    Having said all that, I understand that French libel law is among the most illiberal in the world. We wish you well Gregoire.

  16. in reply to Diana:

    I’m not actually protesting against what you wrote Diana, but anyway, I want to point this out: Any organisation with any ethical standing at all would not retaliate against an individual for a perceived unfairness by somebody else or by the state. They may argue that the French state has taken a too repressive attitude towards religious organisations it has defined as cults — fair enough to argue that, and to seek to change this through democratic means (they could even seek and find co-operation with other groups in this… but, oops, some of these groups are not so nice, some are real nasty, so perhaps not) — but to attempt to deprive an individual of his voice in order to prove a a point… no no and no! It is illiberal, and, again, it shows an unethical willingness to sacrifice an individual for some supposedly higher good. If that is what they’re trying to do; if it really has anything to do with the political background rather than just being a case of them being pissed off at Grégoire and wanting to display power to dissuade him and others from saying anything more.

    It’s worth remembering that both lawsuits and — more often — threats thereof has occurred in several other countries, where the french state anti-cult efforts do not play any part. I learnt the other day about a case in the Netherlands — hardly a society known for repressive towards religious groups. There have been numerous threats in other countries — the UK, Sweden, Germany, et c. I’d say that this is how they choose to behave, when they feel like it and are able to do it.

    It might be worth pointing out that Massimo Introvigne is highly controversial.

  17. Bugger off, Ted. I’m sick and tired of anthroposophists who can’t stand up for a person’s freedom to speak his mind — but who instead (if they do not simply ignore that this vileness is happening) comes up with all sorts of other stuff to excuse and justify what can’t be excused or justifed.

    Grégoire’s right to criticize anthroposophy and talk about his experience within the anthroposophical movement is his independent right. It is HIS independent right. Period.

    I am not the least bit interested in hearing another word in this thread from ANY anthroposophists who do not unequivocally believe that critics have the right to express our opinions. I do not care for excuses.

  18. Ted Wrinch · ·

    “Bugger off, Ted”

    Sure, Alicia. You’ve made your postion on free speech, and other issues, abundantly clear. Bye.

  19. MarkH: ‘I’ve been reluctant to comment on this case out of a general sense that caution is advisable when discussing ongoing legal proceedings.’

    In many cases I would actually agree with you, Mark. I think this is the kind of case where this approach would be unhelpful, however; I basically saw no other decent option but to try to help raise some awareness that this is taking place, that the movement is treating a former member in this way. Of course, it’s not possible to know the outcome or all the details, but what is known is troubling enough.

    As for the definition of a cult and whether anthroposophy is a cult, well, let’s say — hypothetically — that anthroposophy does not meet the definition of a cult and is, thus, not a cult. Let’s say a person says anthroposophy is a cult. The worst accusation that could be made — in this hypothetical situation — is that this person is wrong. It should not be illegal to be wrong. If it were, the courts would be inundated with extremely stupid and wasteful lawsuits. Same applies to ‘indoctrination’ as applies to ‘cult’. Grégoire claims waldorf education indoctrinates children (I don’t even agree with him about everything!) and the waldorf movement claims it doesn’t. This is not a question for a court to sort out. (Sorry, I’m babbling. But so many people — not Mark, I know, I just take the opportunity to rile a bit — don’t seem to realize that some arguments should be resolved in open discussion and not in the courtroom.) Whether Grégoire has all the facts right, is entirely beside the point as far as his right to free expression goes.

    That said, there’s no question in my mind that the behaviour french anthroposophy shows is that of a cult.

  20. “Any organisation with any ethical standing at all would not retaliate against an individual for a perceived unfairness by somebody else or by the state. ”

    Oh, I completely agree. I was just acknowledging that a history of anti-cult fervor in France is part of the context. I don’t dispute that they are dead wrong to prosecute Gregoire. And you’re quite right that they seem to behave much the same regardless of the locale, so we can’t just say they’re somehow reacting to persecution. They perceive themselves as persecuted by, for instance, Peter Staudenmaier, or by you or me. They perceive themselves as persecuted by *anybody* who doesn’t like them and actually says so out loud. If you just go away quietly, you’re allowed not to like them, but if you have something to say about your experiences in anthroposophy that is not all butterflies and rainbows, you become by definition an enemy, and if you *keep on* saying it, why, to them it’s war. That is characteristic of how cults react to their detractors.

  21. Furthermore, “scholars of new religious movements” are themselves often criticized as being unduly sympathetic to (not objective in regards to) their subjects. I am not saying that is always the case. There is an ongoing tension between scholars studying groups that some would call “cults” and other lay critics of the same groups, who tend to be much more critical, partly because they tend to include more people who have had negative personal experiences with the groups in question. Sometimes, lay “cult busters” went way overboard – back in the 70′s, at least in the US, you had kidnappings etc. by family members trying to rescue loved ones they perceived as “lost to cults.” Sometimes they were probably right to do this and sometimes they obviously went too far, and violated the rights of the individuals who had joined the so-called cults. “Brainwashing” is notoriously difficult to define – kinda like pornography, some people are certain they know what it is when they see it, and yet sometimes, the ostensible cult victims were young people who had simply joined a group with an ideology that their parents perceived as radical or crazy, and maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t but people do have a right to join crazy radical groups.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty plain that sometimes academics are “soft” on certain groups. Academics themselves aren’t immune to the lures of cults. (Translate: some of them have kids in Waldorf, and aren’t too happy to hear some people think it’s a cult.)

    Ted is not entirely wrong in what he is saying, it’s just that his bias is to be receptive to the POV of the “scholars of new religious movements” who are sometimes overconcerned that nobody in a cult have their feelings hurt.

  22. Ted: ‘You’ve made your postion on free speech, and other issues, abundantly clear.’

    This is a blog, not a state. I have not deprived you of your right to free speech — you are very welcome to have your own blog, website, newspaper, et c, any venue you want. But you have no automatic right to derail threads on my blog. This goes as well for some of the other brightheads we’ve seen here recently.

    You see, here’s an important thing to note: Grégoire did not demand to have his text published by anthroposophical websites. He does not claim a right to free speech in anthroposophical publications. He claims the right to express himself on his own blog and in publications that want to publish his work. He has the right to do this without interference from anthroposophists and the state via the law.

    You have no right to free speech on this blog, or in the New York Times or, for that matter, Das Goetheanum. The owners and publishers decide who gets to publish what in the publication they own and are responsible for. That, by the way, is the reason you rarely see demented rants in the NYT. That’s how it works. Blogs are not different. Get your own, or your own website. Then you will decide who gets to comment. If anybody at all! It’s perfectly fine not to allow comments at all.

  23. Agreed, Diana. There is that controversy between the too-soft and the too-hard ‘leagues’. I’ve seen Eileen Barker criticized, too, presumably by the tough-on-cults. I do have the impression that the controversy around Introvigne is quite a bit more serious though. It was long ago that I read about it, however.

  24. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Alicia: “This is a blog, not a state.”

    Sure, but then the comments on your blog posts become more like talk amongst a special interest group, with a limited set of points of view. The value that you had as a forum, somewhere everyone interested in the subjects you post on could contribute, is diminished.

  25. Unless I’ve missed something, we don’t yet know exactly which words or phrases in Gregoire’s work the French Steiner Waldorf School Federation are objecting to. They will be required to be that specific.

    Regardless of the outcome, I do agree Alicia that the very fact this is happening deserves widespread publicity.

  26. I agree with you about that, Ted. I think maybe I am unnecessarily stingy right now, and I do feel very strongly about the basic issue at stake here.

    There’s always the problem of trying to keep a thread on track — I’m notoriously bad at this — and at the same time free. And also being able to keep track of everything that is happening (which has become increasingly difficult, even if it’s fun too). And to stop derailings before they happen. Once they have happened, everything is much more difficult. That’s why I work on my clairvoyance. No success so far.

    So, all right. I’ll go to bed, might wake up a better person, and you don’t have to bugger off.

  27. Correct, Mark. I’ve gotten a description of what they are objecting to, but no definite list or the arguments behind the objections. I have diffculty seeing anything in the article that would merit objecting with a lawsuit rather than arguments, however. Of course, the specifics will still be interesting.

  28. “Unless I’ve missed something, we don’t yet know exactly which words or phrases in Gregoire’s work the French Steiner Waldorf School Federation are objecting to.”

    Mark : C’est simple, c’est environ la moitié de l’article, sinon plus, qui a été jugé diffamatoire par la Fédération ! La moitié ! Ce qui montre bien que leur but est de supprimer son existence, pas d’en contester l’une ou l’autre des allégations…

    It’s simple, it’s about half of the article, if not more, which was found to be defamatory by the Federation! Half! Which shows that their goal is to remove its existence, not to challenge either the allegations …

  29. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Alicia: “So, all right. I’ll go to bed, might wake up a better person, and you don’t have to bugger off.”

    Ok. I understand and sympathise with the sometime stress of trying to manage a forum. I think you normally do very well (but my view is also that some ad-hoc, ‘derailment’ in discussions can be creative, throwing up unexpected, interesting or fruitful perspectives). Sleep well.

  30. Incroyable, Gregoire.

  31. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    Hi Alicia,

    Hope you feel better this morning and I must tell you that in the night here in California, I had a world-historical canineosophical revelation that I hope you will consult with Mr. Dog about. I suddenly saw this whole French situation as a “Man bites Dog” issue, which makes it quite novel and newsworthy, as opposed to the usual “Dog bites Man” issue, which is ho-hum boring and thus not newsworthy.

    Just off the top of my head, I thought of 3 “dog bites man” situations in the Steiner-Waldorf Critics Internet Universe over the past decade or so:
    [1] Dan Dugan and his PLANS group bringing legal action against various Waldorf institutions
    [2] the settlement made by the Steiner school in NYC about the firing of their first and only black woman teacher.
    [3] Pete K’s lawsuit against Highland Hall

    These cases belong to what I am calling “dog bites man” in the sense that you have individuals suing institutions — maybe I should bring in a David-Goliath metaphor as well. And especially when the cases are settled, they are largely forgotten because they inevitably recede into the background tapestry or scenery of the ongoing Steiner Critics Internet “stage play,” as it were.

    But the issue is reversed here and it’s the novelty that makes it so exciting because now we have an Steiner-Waldorf institution suing an individual. Or Goliath attempting to squash David.

    And it is this reversal that somehow makes it a “new ballgame,” and may require a rethinking of the usual strategy and tactics.

    Anyway, that was the canineosophical revelation I had, and I look forward to hearing Mr. Dog’s wise words and/or woofs about it.

  32. There’s nothing novel about this whatsoever, Tom. Anthroposophy and other cults have been trying to sue — or threaten — critics, individuals, groups, publishers of criticism, et c, off the map since the beginning of time. Or at least since the modern type of cult came into existance. I don’t see how you can come here and say this is somehow novel. This behaviour, suing and threaten to sue is OLD stuff for anthroposophy. On the other side, there is Plans lawsuit and that teacher in NY. Those are exceptions — and as far as I am aware, NO legal action has been brought against anthroposophists or their instiutions in order to deprive them of their right to their ideas and opinions and the right to express these beliefs.

    To correct one obvious error, too — Plans’ lawsuit is not a lawsuit against anthroposophical/waldorf institutions. As far as I understand,public school boards are taken to task.

    None of this is a fucking stage play, none of this is a joke. Unless you think trying to mess with people’s lives or to deny them their rights is fun — then, sure. Then it’s all a big joke, then it’s all a big play we’re all engaged in.

    And no — I don’t feel any better. I might actually turn off comments completely. Not that I don’t enjoy comments, I do, but it’s too much for me. I can’t moderate threads that go out of hand all the time because some people use this solely as an amusement park or a place to vent their delusions, confusions or psychiatric symptoms.

  33. I wouldn’t blame you at all, it’s been pretty out of control lately.

  34. It really began earlier than might be apparent for those who don’t read swedish. It began with a dude who posted enormously long rands (had found the solution to the riddle of life) and was highly offended that I told him I had to reply later because I didn’t have time. It went on for a while, long rants. But what Ted says isn’t exactly wrong — lots of good has come out of creatively derailed threads. Some of the best threads are at least slightly derailed. It is a complicated matter, though.

    *

    To return to the actual topic — french anthroposophists actually seem to think that half of what Grégoire has written, he should not be allowed to write. Mind-blowing. This is not a few details — it’s a lot. It can’t be interpreted in any other way than that they think what most of us say most of the time should be prohibited. That’s an attitude befitting the ‘philosophy of freedom’.

  35. ah, no, didn’t know about the Swedish dude.

  36. count yourself lucky. If I want to read some person who has found the solution to everything — paving the way towards it (supposedly, he never actually got to anywhere) in an obscure yet utterly banal way — because he has Thought Deeply about things for many years (no particular signs of extraordinary thinking were present), you might as well read some more Steiner, who is, frankly, more entertaining. And then being scolded for not wanting to think, because if you had thought, you would reach his conclusions, whatever they were, as the endless tomes didn’t lead us there! He was very disappointed that nobody wants to think. Or, in other words, engage with fluffy rants. Well, actually, you know the type, I’m sure. Old waldorf student.

  37. Hollywood Tomfortas · ·

    [...]

    So, I’ll get serious and direct now. From my perspective, I don’t see the suppression of free speech as the primary issue; rather I see it as a money issue — Gregoire has “damaged the brand” of Waldorf in France and the Federation is acting to protect their brand.

    [...]

    As for your over the top ranting about free speech, it just strikes me as maudlin and melodramatic (and unbecoming of your true melancholic temperament). Not to mention so racially based.

    [...]

    I mean really, Alicia, did the Federation issue a fatwa against Gregoire? Did they threaten to behead him? Does Gregoire need a 24/7 bodyguard? Does he have to relocate every few days to avoid the Islamic crazies who want to execute him?

    [...]

    Then again, what is the worst that could possibly happen to Gregoire if he loses the case? You already wrote that “even if they win they lose.” So this is turning out to be the greatest career move Gregoire’s ever made.

    [...]

    See, the problem with your mawkish, almost atavistic focus on free speech as the only issue makes it that much easier for the Federation to quash and/or squash him. I know the victim card is the only one you’ve got in your deck, but you’re over-playing it.

    [...]

    But with you up on your free speech high horse whining and wallowing in a pity-party, then you leave everything vague and that plays right into the Federation’s hands.

    [...]

    [Comment edited. Stuff about caucasians, arabs, among other things, removed. /alicia]

  38. The comment by Tom Mellett was edited and then published, after being held in moderation, solely for one reason. It shows very well how other people are just bricks in the games some anthroposophists play, human beings are just toys, there for their pleasure. No need to ever consider what the consequences are for others, how what you do might hurt people outside your own measly little cult.

    Once again apparent is an utter disrespect for the civil rights of other people. These rights traditionally include a lot more than only the freedom not to be beheaded. And I think most people, including most anthroposophists, would be better off for working to preserve those these rights.

  39. And yes I do know that een by publishing parts of the comment, and commenting on it, I give him satisfaction, I give him the amusement he’s seeking.

    But you have to wonder. Why is derailing discussion threads a national sports to some anthroposophists? So that nobody will talk about the actual topic, but fight instead about banalities or something irrelevant to the context? I suppose that, to anthroposophists, it’s much better if we don’t talk about or spread information about their attempts to stifle free speech.

  40. Ted Wrinch · ·

    Alicia: “It shows very well how other people are just bricks in the games some anthroposophists play…”

    Phew. I don’t endorse people being used as a means anywhere (and it maybe the case this happens frequently in anthro circles -I don’t know, but you must see that Mellett has problems all his own?) but have you taken a look at the wider society we live in?!!! God, the number of times I’ve been a pawn other people’s games, especially  in the economy  (six ‘redundancies’, the last three  in spite of providing some of the best services and products the companies had).

  41. Oh, so anthroposophists aren’t supposed to be a little better? Reading a lot of the stuff anthroposophists write, one might be led to assume that’s the intention of anthroposophy, to improve, to enhance, to develop. Turns out, it’s not working, then. Considering the vast amount of non-anthros one encounters, most of whom seem to have some kind of moral compass, and the smaller number of anthroposophists one encounters online, of whom not very few seem to be utterly bereft of any moral or human consideration — I wonder. Perhaps anthroposophy’s problem is attracting the wrong people, ‘problem’ people. But I doubt that’s all there is to it.

  42. Ted Wrinch · ·

    “Oh, so anthroposophists aren’t supposed to be a little better…”

    Yes.

    “Turns out, it’s not working, then. ”

    Maybe (you’ll have seen similar criticisms from Steiner in his own lifetime of the movement).

  43. Alicia,

    I wonder if the thing that upsets you the most about Mr. Perra having to have his day in court, is that he will have to provide simple proof of the things he claims. And the French federation will also have the opportunity, in a very public and open forum, of showing simply that what he says is not true, and furthermore, will have a chance to place before the court, and the larger spectating public, their own case, where they clearly articulate in very simple terms what they are actually about, what they try to do and cultivate, etc. Mr Perra’s feelings about Anthroposophy and Waldorf are in sympathy with your own publicly stated feelings,

    It’s going to be a moment of Truth for you, and you are frightened.

  44. Excuse me, Victor, but you are a gigantic prick.

    Even if Grégoire were wrong — he would have the right to say the things he says. That’s what free speech means. And that’s a very good thing for anthroposophists and waldorf folks and waldorf organisations, because they’re wrong pretty regulary. The number of times they’re caught telling conscious lies is so high you can’t possibly count it. If I had sued anthroposophists everytime they were wrong and everytime any anthroposophist said something

    Of course, Grégoire is not wrong. The facts he presents about anthroposophy are basically correct, as far as I can determine. And even if there was an error in detail — or even many errors or large errors — it’s not illegal to be wrong about anthroposophy, you know. It’s not even illegal to say that it is a silly and dumb belief system, if someone should fancy saying that.

    What they want to deprive Grégoire of is his right to write about his experience of being a part of that world. He makes arguments based on his experience and on his theoretical knowledge of anthroposophy. Anthroposophists may not agree with his conclusions or like his experiences — that is their right –, but that doesn’t mean they are untrue. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to talk about them. (B t w, I begin to wonder if you’ve actually read any of that article at all.)

    If you think the court is a place for truth — or Truth — you’re quite mistaken. What will be at issue is whether the contested statements constitute libel/defamation or not. I’m sorry to say, but truth is not necessarily a part of that determination. Let me give you a much simplified example, let’s say I write, here on the blog, that ‘Victor Morrow is a christmas tree’ (perhaps with a pretty picture of a tree, why not!). And you sue me. I think I can say with some confidence that saying that someone is a christmas tree is so not a question of anything prohibited (it takes a lot more to meet the definitions of either libel or defamation). We never get to the truth about it — clearly, I’m wrong, because you’re not a christmas tree — because, to put it simply, whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. Ok — here’s the thing, the truth *can* matter. It can matter, for example, when someone writess something that is, per se, defamatory, truth and/or public interest can be a factor that makes it ok nonetheless. If Grégoire has said something that *is* defamatory, *then* truth will be his way of justifying it. But if it isn’t defamatory, it plainly doesn’t matter if it’st true or not. In general, to believe that trials are always about truth — even more so, about some elevated version of Truth — that is to be excessively naive.

    It puzzles me what people think courts are for and what courts can actually do.

    Just another point: I have nothing to be frightend of, least of all truth (or Truth), whatever that may be. In this case, Grégoire is the one who is taken to court, not me, but I feel for him. It is not exactly fun to have this hanging over your life, as a dark shadow, even if you know you did the right thing. I believe Grégoire chose to write about his experiences and to use his knowledge in this way because he felt it was the right thing to do — the way to make a lot of lost time useful, in a way, and understandable. Those are honest motivations. The one thing that frightens me — if anything at all — is that there are people who think you should end up paying legal consequences for doing what he did. That is truly frightening.

  45. Ted: ‘Maybe (you’ll have seen similar criticisms from Steiner in his own lifetime of the movement).’

    Yes, indeed.

  46. The thing about rights is that yours end where mine begin – think about it – rights are not absolute and never have been. Libel and slander are not the same thing as expresing an opinion – albeit contrary – duh!

  47. Actually, both you and I can have the same right to express our views even if these views are contrary.

    And, yes, there’s a difference between libel and defamation. As far as I can tell Grégoire’s article contains neither. It contains his viewpoints, his arguments, his criticism of the movement.

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