Do you remember Usenet? That was so fun, back in the late 90s / early 00s. The modem’s wheezing, then the cascade of new posts on the screen, all grouped according to their subject. On my screen: two English speaking groups about Jewish humour, the Italian group about Jewish culture, that one about urban legends, and of course Kibo.
Usenet was about words, written words, probably the only porn-free corner of the Internet. And – in Italy at least – it was nerdy enough to discourage occasional users: you often needed some extra space on your hard drive to store all the messages. Pretty tribal, I think.
I should probably note that I personally led a Usenet delegation to the Gay Pride march in 2000 in Rome, when the LGBTQ community called for solidarity to oppose the influence of the Catholic Church. A crew used to meet virtually to discuss different topics, such as religion or international politics, or just to have fun (Italian kybologists were great). We met in Rome on a steamy summer day and joined the rally to protest against homophobia and defend freedom of speech. Tolerance and freedom kept us together.
Fast forward some years, say around 2007. Usenet is still a thing, although easier to access. The crowd is mainly the same. Four users of a group about international politics [it.politica.internazionale] want to “import” in Italy the Euston manifesto (remember?).
Like things were done these days, circulated an appeal, set up a blog, wrote a manifesto and collect signatories. You find everything in the Internet Archive.
Little did they know that thanks to an email leaked to David Miller, these four acquaintances of mine were about to be profiled as influential members of the Italian section of a Liberal hawkish international lobby.
Their names – and the name of the signatories – are to be found in the “power bank” section of the now-infamous Spinwatch web site. The depository of conspiratorial knowledge referred by those who see in the Jewish Students societies a branch of the Israeli secret service and can decipher a Zionist plot in a bowl of chicken soup. David Miller’s main contribution to the advancement of science.
Since moving abroad, I lost contact, but I knew three of the four. The fourth is still my friend on Facebook, although we never met personally. They are (you’re welcome to use Linkedin and cross-check) an engineer, a humanities lecturer, a primary scholar-teacher and a translator. Because I was living abroad, they did not contact me at the time of the manifesto.
By the way, two out of four are Jewish and consider themselves on the Left. Last summer, they both signed an Italian appeal against the West Bank’s annexation, which is pretty strange for “Liberal Hawks”.
You may think that writing the Italian translation of Peppa Pig’s dialogues and writing software for teaching humanities is equivalent to running the media and controlling the narrative – because, after all this is what Jews do.
Only a paranoid can believe that writing a manifesto and looking for signatories among your friends -plus the odd big name- makes you a gear of a powerful machine that threatens democracy in Europe and destabilises international peace. And this is precisely how the mind-frames of conspiracy theorists -such as David Miller- functions. They make sense of the messy reality we live in (a basic human need), providing lists of enemies randomly collected over the Internet.
David Miller can operate with an aura of respectability: he wears the academic garb. And so the many nonsenses in his production (such that the United Arab Emirates promotes islamophobia) are assumed to be reliable.
Perhaps someone has consulted that database before interviewing a candidate for a job, say in the academic world; or in the security field. We really cannot rule it out.
It is probably clear by now why so many academics from the English and American world have rushed in defence of David Miller. There is the fear of being profiled, of having the name listed in such a way and with a heinous (and gratuitous) political label attached.
And how many similar lists of enemies are out there to poison interpersonal and political relations and to ruin lives (JewDas, for example, is probably compiling a list of good and bad Rabbis, based on bookshelves’ photos taken without consent)
Mapping interpersonal relations is what social scientist do for a living. But there is a difference between network analysis and conspiratorial fantasies. The academic world should be a place for the former and where the latter are banished.