Smear Campaign vs. M. Witzel (II) (fwd)

Walter Slaje slaje at T-ONLINE.DE
Tue Dec 27 16:32:00 UTC 2005

Part II: Recent Smears against Michael Witzel 

When other things fail, Hindutva groups
traditionally try slander. And 
that's what they are now trying with Michael

The Hindutva misinformation campaign, which
started several weeks ago, 
reached new heights in the last 48 hours with
publication of a 
grotesquely distorted article on Christmas day in
the rightwing New 
Delhi newspaper, _The Pioneer_. 

For those of you who haven't seen the article
here it is: 

A plaintext version of the article on my server,
if this article 
disappears or is altered: 

Its many inaccuracies will be obvious immediately
to those who have 
read the background materials presented in Part
above. Other 
inaccuracies will be noted below. 

The timing -- and at points even the exact
language -- of this 
blatantly defamatory piece overlaps with an
Internet petition aimed at 
Harvard University (my copy arrived on Christmas
eve), which among much 
else calls for the disbanding of Harvard
University's Department of 
Sanskrit and Indian Studies (not coincidentally,
Michael's department). 

The cover letter of the petition -- all of it
many people will 
probably see before signing it -- starts with
appears at first to 
be a progressive agenda, perfect for Christmas

> To defend the best liberal traditions that we all hold 
> dear, I hope you will take a moment to please sign the 
> petition at the url below, to support our effort to 
> get the religious hate groups (you know which ones..) 
> from using Harvard facilities and resources. The 
> Petition is developed by well-wishers of Harvard 
> university, concerned over the increasing intrusion by 
> religious hate groups into our environment. I am sure 
> you will agree with us. 

The inside of the petition, which is several
clicks away, drops the 
'liberal' facade. A few highlights: 

* Our Indo-Eurasian_Research List is
(just as it is in 
the _Pioneer_ article) as an "Internet hate

* Harvard is linked with supposed "anti-Semitic
Nazi groups", and 
Michael is characterized as "Harvard's Aryan
Supremicist Sanskrit 
Professor." (The irony of the fact that real
historical links existed 
in its formative years between Hindutva and the
Nazis is apparently 
unknown to the petition's authors.) 

* I'm characterized as Michael's "assistant",
apparently working with 
him at Harvard, despite the fact that I live in
California, many of 
thousands of kilometers away from Harvard, on the
opposite side of the 
United States. 

* One choice quotation from the petition pictures
Michael as an "Aryan 
Supremicist" -- the writers apparently have blond
blue-eyed Germans in 
mind -- and me as a "Creationist", which I
would please my 
relatives, who have long suspected that I harbor
evolutionary tendencies: 

> Witzel’s screeching against the community is often part of his 
> marketing of the “Aryan Invasion Theory” (AIT), now re-packaged as 
> "Aryan Influx Theory". This marries Farmer’s Creationist dogma, with 
> Witzel’s Aryan Supremacist requirement that all civilization must have 
> emanated from his “Aryan” Caucasian roots. Devoid of intellectual 
> substance, this gang personally abuses anyone who cites the growing 
> scientific evidence debunking “AIT”. The evidence points to 
> distributed local evolution of civilization, independent of any 
> Caucasian influx. 

Back to the _Pioneer_ piece: 

Just a few points on one scientific issue and on
various defamatory 
materials in the text: it would take a book to
straighten out all half 
truths and lies in this hatchet job: 

1. The idea that DNA studies support the Hindutva
view that there was 
no movement of Indo-Eurasian speakers in
into India, ascribed 
in the article to S. Metzenberg (one of the
conservative members of the 
advisory CC, who is _not_ on the Board of
Education) is ludicrous. For 
every study that makes such claims, as another CC
member (the physicist 
C. Munger) accurately pointed out to Metzenberg,
others can be cited 
that 'prove' exactly the opposite. As is well
known to every researcher 
in population genetics, such studies are based on
modern genetic data 
back-projected into historical times using very
iffy theoretical models 
of genetic drift. The result is that the error
bars are literally 
thousands of years long in every such study. One
implication of this is 
that the temporal resolution of such studies is
far too low to make 
_any_ statistically significant judgments about
population movements 
_except_ for those involving extremely ancient
pre-historical periods 
-- coming tens of thousands of years before any
putative IE movements 
into India. All this is well-known to serious
researchers -- we have 
made sure that cutting-edge population
are in attendance at 
every yearly Harvard Roundtable -- but that
doesn't prevent the 
repetitive misuse of these genetic studies by
Hindutva groups every 
time a new study of this type pops up. (The old
article Metzenberg had 
in hand was published in 1999 (Kivisild et al.),
and is well-known to 
everyone; it doesn't even use y-chromosome but
mitochondrial DNA data, 
which only is pertinent to tracing female
populations; I first 
discussed that paper at length in 2000.) 

2. The idea that Michael has "contempt for
who live and work in 
the US" is ridiculous: he works with them daily,
and counts them among 
his best friends and students. (Obviously many of
them have also 
endorsed the Board of Education letters, and many
others are on this 

3. Michael is the *last* person I would ever
of as a 'racist'. 
Anyone who knows his immediate family, which is
more Asian than 
Caucasian (!), in fact, would be more than a bit
startled to hear such 

4. The quotations ascribed to Michael in the
_Pioneer_ article are 
consistently ripped out of context and
reformulated to make it appear 
that they involve hate or ridicule aimed at the
Asian community. It 
would take a lot of time to show this quotation
quotation, but to do 
so would be intellectually trivial. lThere isn't
an ounce of hate that 
I've ever seen in Michael Witzel, after knowing
and collaborating with 
him on many articles and projects now in the last
half decade. 

5. Previous idiocies in publisher-submitted
textbooks have absolutely 
nothing to do with Michael and have in fact been
sharply criticized by 
him in discussions with both the publishers and
the California 
Department of Education. Historical inaccuracies
arising from corporate 
ignorance, however, are obviously quite distinct
from Hindutva groups 
trying to stick politically and religiously
inspired edits into US 
kids' 6th-grade textbooks. 

6. The fictionalized account in the _Pioneer_
article that makes it 
appear that Michael appeared before the Board of
Education (which the 
article confuses with the Curriculum Commission),
which subsequently 
rejected his views as "unscholarly, insensitive,
biased and devoid of 
facts -- heaping ridicule on the Harvard brand"
never happened. Michael 
never went to California, never appeared before
the Board, and 
certainly wasn't at the CC meeting. Far from
having his views rejected 
by the Board of Education, he was specifically
charged by the Board of 
Education (as part of an official 'Content Review
Panel' with Dr. 
Wolpert and Dr. Heitzman) with vetting the
edits submitted by 
the VF and HEF. 

7. Just as in the petitions aimed at Harvard, the

Indo-Eurasian_Research list is once again
misrepresented in _The 
Pioneer_ as an "Internet hate group." Opposing 
attempts to rewrite 
history for political and religious purposes does
not qualify us or any 
other group for such a label. These rightwing
groups have had a 
terrible effect on research in premodern fields,
and correcting the 
false image they present of history is an
unfortunate (and obviously 
thankless) part of our job. 

I should add in conclusion that until November a
tiny percentage of the 
(now) 2600+ messages made on the List since we
opened for business last 
April have anything to do with Hindutva.
Hopefully, after the 
California business is over, we can forget these
extremist groups for 
at least a short while and go back to exploring
advanced research 
issues in pan-Eurasian studies, which is the real
purpose of this List. 

(Steve Farmer)


Prof Dr Walter Slaje
Hermann-Loens-Str. 1
D-99425 Weimar (Germany)
Tel/Fax: +49-(0)3643 501391

Ego ex animi mei sententia spondeo ac polliceor
me studia humanitatis impigro labore culturum et
non sordidi lucri causa nec ad vanam captandam
sed quo magis veritas propagetur et lux eius, qua
humani generis continetur, clarius effulgeat.
Vindobonae, die XXI. mensis Novembris MCMLXXXIII.

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