Monica Pignotti: Exposing Tactics of Cyber Abusers

Updated with new items added: September 25, 2010

To anyone who Googles my name, "Monica Pignotti" it will become all too obvious that I have been the target of a cyber-abuser for more than a year now because of a stand I have taking against certain interventions for children that I consider to be dangerous. I am taking on a certain therapy guru that most people are too afraid to deal with and and he and/or his followers and supporters have managed to successfully intimidate a number of people into silence. Hence, I am becoming an informal expert at the kinds of tactics they use. In this posting I will be listing some of them. Some of the tactics are modernized versions of age-old propaganda tactics.
  • Take negative events from a person's past, repeatedly highlight them and blow them all ouf of proportion, failing to note anything positive about the person. This is a well-known propaganda tactic. For example, many of the posts portray me as a "Scientologist" neglecting to mention that I left and completely repudiated Scientology 34 years ago and am now a well-known critic of Scientology. An old civil court case involving Larry Sarner has been posted endlessly about and is being misrepresented as a criminal matter, when Sarner never had any criminal charges against him.
  • Outright fabrications. All kinds of completely absurd lies have been posted about me that have no basis whatsoever in fact.
  • Repetition of lies and meaningless phrases. For instance "fringe group writer" is a meaningless phrase that have been repeatedly endlessly to describe me when in fact, I have a CV full of publications in reputable peer reviewed journals and a book contact with a highly reputable academic publisher. "Fringe" is a subjective term that is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose to a true believer in a guru-led therapy, anyone who questions is an outsider, hence, "fringe". To the propagandist, repetition of lies and meaningless phrases is key. Repeat a lie enough and it will believed, at least by people who have sponge-like minds rather than active minds and lack sufficient critical thinking skills to question what they read. As Eileen Gambrill has pointed out, that is what propaganda is designed to do -- manipulate the audience to accept an agenda with the least thought possible.
  • Attempts to reframe any positive achievements and attributes as negatives. For example, lying that I was fired from FSU when, in fact, I only left FSU because I graduated with my PhD and left in good standing in every way.
  • Framing and gaslighting. Here is where things get very serious. Someone answered an ad on Craigslist through an anonymous remailer, claiming to be me. This was followed by postings about me, misportraying me as paranoid and delusional when the fact is that Craigslist is taking this criminal matter very seriously. Another example from the 1970s (pre-internet) is when Scientology attempted to frame Paulette Cooper by forging bomb threats in her name. This very nearly resulted in very serious consequences for her, although she was eventually cleared and her record completely expunged when documents planning the frameup were seized from Scientology's headquarters in a raid. The term "gaslighting" comes from the classic movie about a young woman who was made to think she was losing her mind, all the while being manipulated by a psychopath who was doing the things she was being accused of. This one is more difficult to accomplish with me, since I am not a young woman and have a solid track record of years of mental stability with no psychiatric history whatsoever.
  • Taking facts out of context and presenting them in such away that they are completely misleading. For example, posting an article that I co-authored on Thought Field Therapy, neglecting to mention that I had published a retraction of the article and had completely repudiated its contents. In the latest posting they did mention that I had "renounced" the article, but they still presented two tables from the article and then drew a completely erroneous conclusion from them, stating that I made claims that in fact, I never made.
  • One or two people, posting under multiple identities (sock puppets) in order to make it appear as if a mob of people are against the individual who is the target.
  • Putting the victim in a double bind. If the victim chooses not to respond, lies are posted that go unchallenged. If the victim chooses the less conventional approach of standing up to and confronting the cyber-abuser, the victim is then accused of having an internet addiction, being an "attention whore", being unstable and all kinds of other nonsense. Even though the conventional wisdom is not to respond, there is no real evidence that this is an effective tactic. People tend to confuse the individual with the situation and need to keep in mind that it is the situation and the cyber abuser who are insane, not the target.
  • Flooding newsgroups such as alt.religion.scientology with anonymous postings and then when I respond to them (I know, some people think that is a big mistake) they cite this as proof that I am still preoccupied with Scientology, when very few of the postings about me had anything to do with Scientology. Update: I have not responded to the smear spam about me on alt.religion.scientology for several months now, yet the postings continued, which shows that all the people who thought they would just go away if I quit responding, were sadly mistaken.
  • Attempting to flip things. For example, calling someone who debunks and criticizes quackery, a quack. One notorious example is when quacks debunked by Stephen Barrett called him a quack. Accuse the victim of being the harasser. The same has been done to me. See Fairfax Underground for all too obvious examples, a site that has garnered me tremendous support because the postings there make it blatantly obvious that I am the one who is the victim of an all-out cyber smear campaign.
  • Portraying the victim of the cyber abuse as paranoid, mentally unstable, a kook or a crank. This tactic has been used against ex-patients who have chosen to blow the whistle on their therapists and this puts them in a very vulnerable situation. For example, some people who were misdiagnosed with multiple personalities will carry the stigma of that bogus diagnosis for life, thanks to the cronyism running rampant in some mental health systems who refuse to discipline the quacks who make such a misdiagnosis. In my case, however, I am not an ex-patient and have never had any kind of diagnosis of a mental illness, no psychiatric treatment whatsoever, no history of hospitalization or anything like that and when I have taken tests as part of my participation in research studies, they have been completely normal. Therefore, claiming I am mentally ill constitutes libel. Additionally of interest, I worked for a neuropsychologist who specializes in psychological testing and he had me tested on some measures that I later found out, contained measures that would indicate if the person was not being truthful, and he let me know that the standardized psychological tests showed I am very honest.
  • Do anything possible to make the person look as kooky and unattractive as possible. Pictures of very obese women have been posted with my name on them, pictures of women in kooky dress have been posted. I have been called names such as "pig" that I have not been called since the second grade in spite of the fact I was always quite thin as a child (due to people ignorant of Italian pronunciation of my last name [peen-yocht-tee], mispronouncing my name). At this point, it really deteriorates into juvenile nonsense that makes me wonder the age of some of these posters. When I became an adult, I had thought that the days of people ignorant of Italian pronunciations calling me "pig"were over. Guess I was wrong about that and that contrary to the bad rap children are given, they are not the only ones who can be cruel.
  • If all else fails, start rattling those sabers. Pretend to be a court clerk and make threatening postings on a local website about how the whistleblowers will be sued and drained financially. The problem with that is that people who have real cases, don't have the need to attempt to frighten their opponents into submission. They simply sue and win. It is only people who have no case that have the need to attempt to threaten and intimidate. I am not motivated by money, own no property and live very simply. I realize that this is very difficult for people of the mentality I am dealing with to grasp, but I am motivated by loyalty to principles and values and my values and principles cannot be taken away through a lawsuit. Even if I am broke, destitute and in debt, my values and principles cannot be taken away by any form of thuggery or abuse of the legal system. In the highly unlikely event that an egregious legal injustice did occur, I would still have the peace of mind of knowing that I stood up for my principles and values.
  • Use scare tactics and resort to blackmail. Hire a so-called internet reputation management company that plays dirty (not all play dirty but some do). Attempt to make the person a target. Buy the domain name of the person and put up a website full of filth, bigotry and lies and then call the person up and threaten the person that unless they cease their criticism, the website will stay up. This was tried recently with one of my colleagues and it did not work as he will not back down from his legitimate, truthful criticism.
  • Take any idiomatic expressions or figures of speech used by the target and twist them into meanings never intended. There are two examples of this where I am concerned. The first one, I made a play on words based on the idiomatic expression to yank one's chain, and before I knew it there were postings all over the internet suggesting that I wanted to literally chain people up. No, to yank someone's chain means only to be verbally provocative to get a reaction and for this particular person who had become obsessed with hatred of me, the mere mention of my name, yanked his chain, it would seem. The second is when I used the expression "if we could go back in time" which was followed by postings that I am obsessed with "time travel" when all I did was use a figure of speech. I haven't figured out if the cyber stalker lacks the intelligence to think metaphorically and understand figures of speech or if this is a deliberate distortion. I am no more obsessed with "time travel" than Cher is (for the humor impaired, Cher had a hit song called "If you could turn back time").
  • Read sinister motives into anything the person does, no matter how innocent. I sometimes update my blog postings if new ideas occur to me or if circumstances change. For example, in one posting I stated that ACT had never been sued. When they did get sued, that changed and so I updated my blog article to reflect that change in circumstances. I just updated this particular blog article as I noticed additional tactics being used. I also update my CV regularly like all reputable professionals do when there are things to add or if I learn something new about what is or is not appropriate to include. Thoughtful and honest people provide such updates. For my intentions, which were to be as honest and accurate as possible, I get slammed for trying to rewrite history or "time travel" and all kinds of sinister and/or whacky motives are read into completely innocent and sensible actions. I have to say, though, that people I respect are in no way falling for this nonsense that my cyber stalker is trying to pull because the ridiculous spin he attempts to pull are obvious to anyone with at least half a brain.
  • Take advantage of the fact that we're all imperfect human beings. Let's face it. We all have had moments when we have made a statement that we didn't really mean, but if you are unfortunate enough to be the target of a cyber abuser, as I have been, that person will seize on the statement, pluck it out of context and repeat it over and over. One activist against cell phone use while driving who had a loved one killed, made a statement on Oprah that she wished cell phones had never been invented and who can blame her? By the same token, who can blame someone who has the internet repeatedly used against them as a weapon of abuse, spreading reputation destroying lies about them with the click of a mouse, for saying in the heat of the moment that she wished the internet had never been invented, even if that person didn't literally mean it any more than the person who said she wished the cell phone had never been invented. This kind of taking a moment when something was said that one doesn't mean and then repeating it out of context, month after month, is taking the victim and tromping all over her, just as the people I criticize do with the lives of innocent children when they wrestle them down to the ground and forcibly hold them in a dangerous position, all in the name of "therapy" while screaming and yelling in their face. And that, my friends, is why I will not be silenced. The more you try to victimize and tromp on me, the louder my voice for all of your victims who have been silenced, becomes. Got that, cyber bully? And from the looks of recent postings to Fairfax Underground (and no, they were not done by me because I have been blocked from posting there), it sounds like some of the people you think you have silenced are now regaining their courage to speak up and call you out on your antics. And yes, I am very thankful to the internet for existing and if I could go back in time, I would change nothing because just as the internet can be an agent of destruction, it can also be a positive agent for change.
These are just a few tactics used by cyber abusers and cyber stalkers. If you Google my name, "Monica Pignotti" examples will be found. I will be adding more, as they occur to me. If anyone reading this has had similar experiences, please feel free to respond and add more of your own, if you wish. The more people who are having this problem refused to be shamed and come forward, the more chance there is that cyber abuse can be combated and cyber abusers defeated.

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