Smear Campaigns, Hidden Agendas and the Manufacturing of Victims
Why should you believe my story, my “version” of Marc Gafni rather than the rumors circulating about him? I’m tempted to say, “Because I am right and they are wrong.” It’s tempting because, after all, I am and they are, but that assertion shouldn’t be enough for the thoughtful reader. My answer is, because I have checked facts. It is curious to me that those who have prosecuted this smear campaign, while having been offered multiple opportunities to check facts and hear another side, have consistently refused to do so. I have not. A great deal of what I have to say is based on e-mail threads, most written by Stephen Dinan who is the primary instigator of this most recent smear campaign.
These e-mails were made available to Marc as early as October 2015. This most recent smear began two months later, on Christmas Day 2015. The thread indicates that Steve Dinan was then, (in October), working to organize a take-down article about Marc Gafni in the New York Times, (NYT). Just as the Dinan email thread suggested would happen, a columnist from the New York Times called in October 2015. He pretended to be a reporter interested in the work of the fabulous think tank, the Center for Integral Wisdom, which Marc co-founded with Ken Wilber . . . and so it began. That article was published Christmas Day 2015.
The question of course, is, “Why would Stephen Dinan make such a move?” The fact that Dinan does not know Marc—to be clear, Dinan has literally never had a conversation with Marc Gafni—matters not. In fact, respected leaders on Marc’s board, people with profound liberal sensitivities on victim advocacy, have asked Dinan more than once, to either sit down and check facts with Marc, or at the very least, review the reams of objective material on Marc Gafni’s site. That material makes mince meat of the claims that Dinan was broadcasting and supporting. Marc wanted to meet; Dinan refused. (You’ll note that this behavior becomes a bit of a pattern in those who are perpetuating a smear campaign. While I did not talk to Stephen Dinan, I have spoken with others taking part in the campaign who have refused to sit down with Marc. More on this later.)
I’ll say more about Dinan’s motives, along with the source of the e-mails later in this essay. Suffice to say for now that his reasons have nothing to do with protecting victims and everything to do with the fact that he is very angry. Stephen Dinan got very angry, (from where I sit, he’s in the grip of self righteous rage), when Barbara Marx Hubbard decided she wanted to work with Marc, rather than work exclusively for him. This is not simply my opinion. Barbara has told this story herself, and she has the e-mails from Dinan to back up her claim.
Of course all of this was behind the scenes, not visible to the public as they began reading and evaluating articles about Marc. The public has not been aware that, rather than an impromptu call to arms against Marc Gafni, this whole thing was an orchestrated smear. Moreover, the smear campaign was launched by Stephen Dinan in conjunction with Marc’s former student, David Ingber, and Marc’s former wife, Chaya Lester. (Step one in prosecuting a smear campaign is to find your victim’s past enemies. Dinan performed this step well.) Clint Fuhs provides an in-depth discussion of all this in his lengthy piece, Anatomy of a Smear. In that article Clint probes the motivations driving each party to the smear. Further, Marc shed light on Chaya’s motivations in a recent public response to the virulent, public, letters she has published against Marc throughout the last ten years. (Ten years! Seriously, I’m not kidding. I mean, come on, does spousal bitterness now qualify as reliable testimony?)
My point is simple: this was not a spontaneous attack. It was and is an intentional and coordinated smear campaign. This has been relatively unknown outside of a small circle of leadership. My purpose in writing is to make the facts about the smear known to a wider circle.
The Orchestrated Smear Campaign Against Marc Gafni
That point made, let’s return to Christmas 2015. Even with the warnings we received, none of us could have believed the level of organized malice and malevolence that would be unleashed upon, not only Dr. Marc Gafni, but also his friends, his family, and his associates. The NYT’s column, filled with distortion, and deception by omission, was bad enough, but it was just the opening salvo. It became clear in the next few months, that writers were being enrolled to write negative articles about Marc and post them around the internet, particularly in the Jewish press. These were people Marc did not know, people he had never even heard of, people with no direct, first-person knowledge of him. The articles called Marc, among other factual absurdities, a sociopath, or a pedophile. They insidiously implied, though never explicitly stated, that a mature, adult, Marc Gafni was right now, or just a few years back, sleeping with 13 or 14 year old girls and they kept implying it until headlines assumed it to be true—things like “Accused Pedophile Does This or That.” This is grossly untrue.
Let me tell you this, and it is important! I am close enough to Marc Gafni that if those accusations were true, I guarantee you that I, a) would know about it, and b) would not be writing this article. I would be standing against him, (me, along with everyone else I know who calls him friend). But once you distribute a canard like this on the Internet—the big lie—then, as any propagandist will tell you, it will stick. Marc has responded in depth to this particular set of claims, the pedophile claims, here. A very brief summary of the in depth piece can be read here.
Some of the media outlets that published and promoted these claims were themselves, involved in the smear campaign. You can get a sense of how this unfolded from a recent CIW Newsletter that outlines the basics of how this went down. Read these pieces yourself and see what you think. I know it takes time, but this is a question of fairness; a man’s life and reputation are at stake. Reasonable people need to speak; they need to demand truth. (I mean hell, if we don’t, we might end up having to live through some sort of demagogue wrecking havoc in the White House. . . . oops.)
Lisa Engles, a tenacious feminist and mother of a 14 year old girl, has taken the time to write two incisive articles debunking the absurd claims, that were made, by Nancy Levine, as well as others who were enrolled into the smear campaign. There are a lot of very fine people who know better than to believe the smear and they’ve taken the time to write. (Believe me, I didn’t get paid for this.) That ought to reveal something to the fair minded souls reading this essay.
As the Marc Gafni smear campaign got into full swing and CIW began to develop a response, we sought a way to bring facts into the mix—what a concept. When a professional staff person from CIW, (the Center for Integral Wisdom), called one of these enrolled writers I mentioned, called with the naive hope of engaging in a dialogue and correcting at least the gross factual misstatements, the writer hung up the phone.
As these absurd claims were made in the bizarre echo chambers of the Internet, many readers believed them. Then, as has been so well-documented in the so-called “Pizzagate” incident, the disgusting practice of trolling began. Here follows just a couple of those trolling comments to give you a brief taste. “Marc should be murdered on sight.” “Someone should shove a baseball bat up his ass.” Those are the ones I can print.
Can you imagine waking up every day and reading this stuff about yourself? Make no mistake, this wounding of my friend Marc Gafni, makes me furious. It took a while to edit the four letter words out of the first draft of this article. But this is not only Marc’s nightmare. Can you imagine the impact all of this has, not only on him, but on his family, his children, his mother?
Consider too that while tragic, it is also true that Marc is not the first revolutionary teacher who has offered a new vision and then has had to bear such an attack. If you really get what is happening here, you will come to realize that this smear campaign doesn’t undermine Marc’s leadership but instead, paradoxically validates it. Really, it is clear enough to me that, if Marc had nothing to say and no presence to transmit, this obsession to take him down would soon disappear.
What is going on is even worse than it appears. Beyond taking Marc down, there has been an orchestrated attempt to inflict professional damage on many of Marc’s associates. The basic tactic is simple. A strategy of subtle intimidation has been deployed. People were told that association with Marc would threaten their life work. Of course, the people that would be doing the damage to their life’s work are the ones running the smear campaign to begin with. But several people have lost jobs and contracts. They have been dropped from professional associations. Life trajectories have been tragically changed. The smear campaign activist have called or written the employers of Marc’s associates, seeking to get them fired, and to my horror, this revolting tactic has, occasionally, succeeded. Do you see what the energy of a smear campaign can do when good people do not stand up and demand facts? At least ten women I know, ten women who are my friends, have been hurt by this smear campaign in significant and measurable ways. Dinan says he is trying to help women. What a load of horseshit.
When you think about it, very few leaders would have the capacity to withstand such an assault. Marc found that capacity in himself. I think that speaks to the truth of who he is. It confirms the integrity and commitment Marc Gafni has to his unique calling. This is true for me, and many others who know him. It is a reflection of the courage and the love at the core of his being. But for some of those supporting the smear campaign, his ability to survive, and even somehow thrive, in the midst of this, is simply “evidence” of his alleged sociopathy. People claim that only a sociopath could survive this kind of assault and attempt at public degradation? Isn’t that a bit like the Salem Witch trials—you try to drown the witch. If she dies then clearly she wasn’t a witch, but if she survives then obviously she was a witch so you execute her. Hogwash. (The word was the best I could do in the editing process.)
The answer to how he has survived is as simple as it is extraordinary. Marc Gafni may be imperfect—I’m close enough to know that—but I’m also close enough to know for a fact that he’s the real deal. He is a person who seeks, every single day, to express love into the world. Marc works hard to be what his teachings call, “an outrageous lover,” which means that the source of his strength has its origins in Spirit. Does he experience outrageous pain? Oh God, yes. In this sense the core of this teaching these last two years, captured in two sentences, seems almost prescient. “We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.”
This is usually the moment when people start screaming back at me, telling me all about the horrible things that Marc Gafni has supposedly done to deserve this. (Actually, the screaming usually starts well before this.) They forget two things: Marc has long ago responded, in the public space, to the false complaints and distortions that had been promoted in the past. There is genuine evidence these false complaints were built on lies. (Even the 2006 claim that police complaints were registered, was a lie.) Marc has also made it clear that he “takes full responsibility for any part in creating the conditions that allowed the false complaints to take place.” This material has been housed in a dedicated section of Marc’s personal website. It’s there for anyone to read.
But here’s the second thing and it’s really, really, important: you, the reader, have no idea what Marc Gafni has done or hasn’t done. There has been no finding of fact, no objective forum in which to mount a defense. That is the point. A smear campaign is built on lies and innuendo, not fact. It is built on distortion, driven by hidden agendas and self-righteous hatred, the kind of hatred that sucks the life out of human society. A smear cannot survive when scrutinized in the daylight.
The hatred of course, seeks a way to disguise itself. In liberal circles especially, the easiest form of disguise is victim advocacy. The truer motives, the malice, are disguised under the seemingly noble fig leaf of protecting “victims.” This requires three key components to make it work. The manufacturing of victims, the demonization of Marc Gafni, and the avoidance of any genuine conversation or dialogue. Any genuine dialogue would include fair fact checking and would expose the hidden motives, and behind the scenes collusion, driving such a grotesque public action. Clint Fuhs has written a long and penetrating essay on the Anatomy of a Smear. It does in depth what I seek to do through several brief illustrations—uncover some of the tactics and motives that have produced this ugliness. While Clint’s article exposes the anatomy of this nightmare, Mariana Caplan has written an excellent article about the false complaints in which Ingber, directly or indirectly, played an important role.
The first step in orchestrating a smear campaign, as I’ve said, is to identify your target’s past enemies—easily done in an Internet Age. The second is to hide the fact that the campaign is orchestrated to begin with, and instead make it look like a spontaneous outburst of public anger at alleged misdeeds. (There wasn’t even a new alleged misdeed to start this whole thing.) In this case, Steve Dinan had made contact with past enemies: David Ingber, Marc’s former student, Chaya Lester, Marc’s ex-wife, (the one who he refused to re-marry), and Donna Zerner, a former friend, lover, and board member of Marc’s Israeli organization. What do these people have in common? In 2006 they all participated in catalyzing or supporting false complaints against Marc in Israel. This was serious. This was wrong. This successful effort to ruin Marc’s work there, included erasing e-mails from Marc’s computer so that he could not defend himself against their lies. Those e-mails, as well as erased Skype chats, were in fact, eventually recovered. (Do you know what it costs, do you know how long it takes, to have an expert reconstruct a hard drive?) Those e-mails—no less than reconstructed truth—conclusively proved that the allegations against Marc were false. Literally everyone who has read them thinks so. Some of them are adduced for the first time in Clint Fuchs article on the Anatomy of a Smear.
Several excellent articles, all supported by professional evaluation, have been written in this regard—Mariana Caplan and Clint Fuhs. Dinan could have contacted any of these people to check his facts. He has not. He could have met with Marc or his team and reviewed the primary source material on which these reports are based. He did not. It is pretty obvious that Stephen Dinan is not the least bit interested in the truth. He had already joined forces with David Ingber, who as Clint Fuhs makes abundantly clear, was a major player in the false complaints debacle in Israel.
Marc has responded directly to Donna Zerner in a series of revelatory videos which I would recommend to anyone who wants to understand how a smear campaign unfolds. It’s extremely illuminating, especially in light of the fact that smear tactics continue to haunt our public life in so many arenas. Marc Gafni, from necessity, has worked hard to understand this. He details in great depth the distortions, and outright lies in Donna’s dramatic faire. He does this while pointing out the ways in which she has hidden her own sexuality within the story. (When you do the things she’s done, you leave your target no choice but to respond with truth. This same merry band, especially Donna Zerner, were also involved behind the scenes, in catalyzing an the attack on Marc in 2011, (to which I will return shortly). False complaints in Israel, spurious attack in 2011, and now an organized smear campaign. All involve the same group of people, all are based on similar distortions and outright lies, and all of this is pretty much unknown to the public. It seems all they needed was someone with the marketing skills and experience to put together a powerful smear campaign. That turned out to be Stephen Dinan, a man who has based his career on knowing how to collect and make use of Internet sales techniques. Together, their obsessive dedication is, I believe, fueled by fear and malice, not a desire for justice, not a desire to protect victims.
These people cannot admit of their malice so they are also claiming to be protecting victims. Further, over the years they have become expert in the manufacturing of victims, victims who will support their obsessive quest to bring Marc Gafni down. Clint Fuchs has pointed out in his key article, Anatomy of a Smear, that one of the major motivations of Ingber and Lester in the smear campaign was to cover up their involvement catalyzing, directly or indirectly in the false complaints in Israel.
For more on Marc Gafni and his story you can visit WhoIsMarcGafni.com. The site is a compendium of articles, videos, interviews and the like, which offer a very different narrative from that of the smear campaign. It has the “ring of truth” and I encourage the reader to use the site.
Links to the other parts of this essay: