Update April 3: Those other WordPress anonymous smear bloggers are at it again, misrepresenting my internet postings, which were made in defense, not initiated by me because I feel “compelled” to post every spring or any such nonsense. This particular spring, what has happened is that following the dismissal of Ronald Federici v Monica Pignotti et al, the smear campaign against me has escalated.
Although I need to begin by stating that these postings are anonymous and I am not accusing anyone in particular of being the anonymous poster(s), it is interesting to note that in the month following the dismissal of Federici v Pignotti, the smear campaign against me, which was relatively quiet with only a few mild postings about me for the 3-month duration of this case, has now resumed in full force. There seems to be a frantic quality to these postings by people who are obviously desperate to discredit me and have let loose with the most obscene imaginable false statements about me. In many states, these kinds of statements, especially the obscene ones, would qualify as libel per se, meaning that the statements are so obviously defamatory that the plaintiff would not even have to prove damages to win a case, should these anonymous cowards ever be identified and happen to live in such states. For example, one of the defamatory postings falsely stated that I had committed a serious crime. That type of statement may be considered libel per se if the anonymous coward who posted this were to be identified.
The other person defamed in that particular post (I am not linking to it because I do not want to promote this obscenity but it does come up on Google searches in my name), by the way, is someone who was critical of her child’s former social worker therapist in the media. Although I have never met this courageous mother, since she blew the whistle on him to the press, the internet has been flooded with highly defamatory postings about her and for some reason my name was brought into it as well. Why my name was linked to this is baffling since I cannot in any way claim credit for having exposed this particular social worker and have never publicly criticized his practices other than this mention and as far as I know this particular individual had nothing to do with Federici v Pignotti et al. The social worker in question moved his practice to Virginia, after being ordered by his licensing board in Oklahoma to stop misrepresenting his credentials. This is yet another illustration of the price people pay who choose to blow the whistle on certain therapists although in this instance, his licensing board actually did take action. Kudos to the Oklahoma Board for setting such a good example.
All kinds of absurd lies are being posted about me, including a completely fabricated report that I had an affair with someone’s husband and broke up her marriage and then that link has been Google bombed, by repeatedly posting it all over the internet making the completely false statement that I am a party in multiple divorce cases. People who know me know that the last thing in the world I would ever be interested in, is someone else’s husband. The lies that are being posted are so far afield of who I am as a person, it is obvious to anyone who actually knows me how off base they are.
These kinds of “cheaters” sites are highly controversial because they allow anonymous people to post anything they please and there is absolutely no fact checking. Any anonymous person can go onto such a site and make any kind of unsubstantiated allegations they please and there does not seem to be any accountability. Naturally, this makes these kinds of websites fertile ground for anyone with an agenda to smear another person with lies.
The latest postings about me have been highly obscene, sexist as well as homophobic towards my legal counsel and the legal counsel of some of the other defendants (actually I have no idea what their sexual orientation is, nor does it matter to me, but the postings about them show that whoever is doing them is highly homophobic). Some of the postings have also been denigrating people who have supported me. However, these postings say far more about the people who are doing them than they do about me, which is why they are anonymous.
If you Google my name, Monica Pignotti, please keep the timing of these postings in mind. Although I am not accusing anyone in particular of posting these, the timing is noteworthy and some of the postings which directly mention parties in the lawsuit are obviously upset about its outcome, which is that the case has been dismissed by a Virginia Federal judge who has ruled that Virginia has no jurisdiction over any of the defendants.
The plaintiff of the now-dismissed Federici v Pignotti et al, Ronald Federici has posted in his own name, a highly derogatory piece (in my opinion) on me and all the other defendants that is linked to his own website which I have responded to. People can read his posting and my response and decide for themselves how to evaluate it.
To the people who are trying to “help” me out by advising me to just ignore these postings and they will go away, that is not the case. Believe it or not, I have actually heard and carefully considered all the arguments in favor of making that choice. I urge people to walk a mile in my shoes before they presume to judge me for the choices I have made, which includes going against this conventional wisdom that is often presented as if it were some kind of unquestionable truth. In actuality, cyber abuse is a very new phenomenon that has yet to be studied so we really cannot claim that ignoring these people is a successful strategy. In this case, making the less conventional choice is not necessarily making the choice with the least evidence to back it up, because neither the conventional nor the unconventional choices have good evidence to back them up. Therefore, other factors such as personal style (does the person tend to face or avoid conflict, e.g.) or values can come into play.
Remember that around 20 years ago, rape victims were told to be silent and just submit because fighting back would only make things worse. We have since learned that this is a myth and rape victims are now advised to loudly fight back in any way they can. There seems to be a similar myth attached to cyber abuse, that the victims should just slink off somewhere and remain silent and that will get it to stop when again, we don’t know that is the case. In my case, this is particularly not likely to happen because based on the content of many of the posts, the anonymous posters are upset about my criticism of certain therapists. It is not that they want me to stop fighting back — what they want is for me to stop my criticism and since I will not be silenced, this will continue, regardless of if and how I respond to it.
For further proof of this, observe that Larry Sarner and Linda Rosa have not responded at all to this smear campaign and yet Larry Sarner is getting pummeled at least as badly as I am, maybe even worse since the dot com domain in his name has been bought by someone else and a smear website has been put up. He remains silent and has not fought back and yet the attacks and smears against him continue, unabated. I’m not criticizing him for this. I am only pointing out that he made a different choice than I did on how to respond and it does not seem to have stopped the attacks any more than my responding has.
The fact is that those of us who have found ourselves to be targets of cyber smear campaigns are damned if we do and damned if we don’t respond. That is the position we are in and so I ask people to please not rub salt in our wounds by blaming the victims for how they choose to respond. It would be more helpful to focus on the perpetrators and attempt to gain a better understanding of what motivates someone to do what these anonymous posters have done to me. It has been very difficult for me to imagine what kind of mindset someone must be in to sit on their computer and post these kinds of obscenities and lies, all under the protection of pseudonyms and anonymity that the internet offers. As the renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has pointed out in his book The Lucifer Effect, there is a large body of research that shows that people will say and do things when anonymous that they would not otherwise do or say when their identity is known.
Although I do acknowledge that anonymity can have legitimate purposes such as survivors of abuse coming forward and telling their stories, in some cases, deciding where to draw the line can be a difficult issue with no clear cut answers. For example, the loosely-associated group of people called Anonymous has been exposing Scientology abuses for the past few years and they have chosen to remain anonymous due to the serious consequences some people have experienced who have spoken out against Scientology using their real names. Although I have been critical of them in the past, having observed their present activities, my views on them have somewhat mellowed in light of this new information. I do also acknowledge that they have done some good in exposing abuses and giving a forum to ex-Scientologists who have come to some of the well-attended protests and spoken out, using their own names. Their existence happened to coincide with the defection of several people who were in the top echelon of Scientology management, so these two factors working together, even though not all of those defectors support Anonymous, have produced some very hard hitting and highly public exposures. They fall into a gray area, however because some of their behavior, such as the infamous Operation Slick Pubes [I will spare people here the details of that caper, but those who are curious can Google it] is not behavior I condone, nor do all members of Anonymous even condone it. Anonymous is a very loosely knit group that has a diversity of different sorts of individuals. Some are decent, idealistic people who take a stand against abuses and for free speech whereas others clearly are not, so it’s a mixed bag.
My point here is that anonymity can have both positive and negative consequences. However, the anonymous posters in my case, have clearly crossed the line since they have posted malicious lies about me with no even remote basis in fact. The US Constitution protects the right to anonymous free speech but it does not protect the right to maliciously lie about someone.
Although a few internet trolls might also be jumping in on the action (I’m not stupid, I know this) it is not the internet trolls that are driving this operation. They are just jumping on an already strongly existing bandwagon. In some cases, information has been posted that had not been known on the internet that no troll would have had access to. What I am experiencing here is a reaction from certain people who are very upset about my criticism and if I allow these kinds of attacks to silence me, this sends the message that anonymous followers of therapy gurus who who are upset that their guru has been questioned and criticized can successfully intimidate people into silence by their online cyber-stonings. I refuse to accept that. If that means the end of my professional career (note that I wrote if, not saying that it necessarily is), then the shame is on the profession that would shun someone for taking the stances that I have. Time will tell if this is the case.