Sunday, July 19, 2015

Steve Farmer's slander

On the occasion of the Rajiv Malhotra plagiarism controversy, Steve Farmer has issued several unprovoked allegations against me. I sent a brief reply on 17 July 2015 to his Indo-Eurasian Researh List. It was predictably not posted. As far as I remember, I sent 6 posts before, of which 3 were published. The three others were censored out on some pretext, including a link to my very positive review of Michael Witzel's book on global mythology. 

Dear listfolk,

Steve Farmer wrote:

"And Malhotra's Hindutva surrogates, many of them who we know he has funded in the past, including Vishal Agarwal, like Elst are now writing slanderous articles -- Agarwal ludicrously writing on a Facebook page that Nicholson himself is a plagiarist."

No, I am not "Malhotra's Hindutva surrogate": I was in this debate already more than ten years before I even heard of Malhotra. The statement is also untrue if it means (as it seems to) that I participated in the plagiarism debate at his request, let alone that he paid me for it. Incidentally, I award a symbolic euro to whomever can find a single profession of "Hindutva" in my work. There are many shades in the Hindu activism spectrum, and the neologism "Hindutva" represents only one of them, as I have amply documented in works of scholarship that, according to Steve, "nobody takes serious". My 1997 book BJP vs. Hindu Resurgence is specifically a critique of the Hindutva movement, only it was written from a close knowledge of this movement, not from the sort of biased ignorance that makes one an established "expert".

No, I have not written any "slanderous article" in this affair. In fact, I have not even written an article, only a few e-mails on lists.

That is already two lies on Steve's part, in just one sentence, only the part about me. As for Vishal, on Malhotra's own list he has detailed three more lies in the part about himself. That is no less than five lies in one sentence. Those who are so sensitive to intellectual improprieties can obtain an abundant harvest by scrutinizing Steve's work.

Lies are not the only unscholarly feature of Steve's writing. There is his fiercely partisan stance, not even willing to give the other side a hearing. And there is the conspiratorial mode of thinking. He just can't imagine that anyone would see through the plagiarism allegations without being Malhotra's paid agents. In the real world, people happen to form opinions; but in Steve's fantasy world, people who take his side are his "surrogates" or are in his pay.

Another person he has just now falsely accused of doing it all for Hindutva largesse, is Michel Danino. The many misdirected allegations have made Danino publicly summarize his case for the Saraswati river, and it is quite enlightening to see how the Saraswati has been discovered and acknowledged by a whole procession of Western mainstream scholars starting in the mid-19th century. All the laughter about the "cranky" and "right-wing" Saraswati I have seen on this very list over the years, stands exposed. 

That Steve carelessly throws around ill-considered accusations is not new. But what has surprised me in similar situations in the past, and now again, is how his (let's put it charitably:) impulsive conduct is not reined in by the seasoned scholars who are no doubt present on this list. They thereby become his accomplices in slander.

Kind regards,

Koenraad Elst


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