Monday, June 29, 2015

High Roads

Over the last few years you'll find that a substantial number of my twitter posts are followed by the objections of a certain veterinarian from from Long Beach, CA.  I'm not naming her here because I don't want anyone searching for her professional or business information to find this page. This is an appeal to others to take a high road in dealing with her, and if possible, to not engage with her. 

Why is it a problem?  

She comments on my blog posts. She slams me on her blog. She systematically checks all of my tweets and chimes in on a large number of them, using fallacy to negate key points. She has dug for, and has broadcasted personal financial information, obtainable because I am a public scientist, then she claims I'm paid by Monsanto and not a public scientist.  She's endlessly tries to tarnish my reputation as an independent voice of science, as an expert in genomics and someone that can faithfully interpret the literature for the general public.  

I'm comfortable to make these statements because her words are proudly part of her public persona, placed daily into various venues for all to see. She uses her real name and defends her positions, which is admirable. You can scroll backwards through her timelines and bask in the vitriol. I keep a file of several hundred screen shots of angry and defamatory posts she's made about me and other scientists. 

A little sample of the nasty comments I've saved over the years. 
I'd rather keep it all private for now.

One side of me would love to post the whole set of screenshots.  I've been told that her comments cross lines and are legally actionable. I've asked her nicely if she could refrain from commenting on just about every post, and that does nothing. It just keeps coming. 

Still, I sit on my little treasure of anger nuggets. They really should never see the light of day, but it is an ace in the hole in case she ever starts creeping me out with facts about my wife's business again. 


When I visited Long Beach, CA in 2014 I invited her to lunch. It was mega weird, but we ultimately had a nice chat, and it was a positive visit. I toured her clinic and answered all of her questions. My point was a simple one-- to try to build a personal connection with this person that finds it necessary to endlessly chastise me and harm my reputation.  Maybe if she saw a real person, and understood how damaging false claims are to a public scientist's reputation, they might stop.

That's what this discussion needs.  Fewer all-caps, softer tone, evidence-based content... and buying someone a breakfast burrito.

Even if it doesn't work. 

And before you scramble into the bowels of the internet and shove my own words in my face, yes, I know that I have been less-than-cordial on a few occasions.  That's partially why I'm writing this. It hurts me to be like that, and I do tend to apologize when I cross that line. I know how much it hurts, and I understand that it is not how we should treat each other. 

Most of all, as stewards of science and purveyors of evidence, we must follow the truth, and do not need to operate like that.


About six months ago I got an email from someone with an attached screencap.  I don't remember what it was, but it was some dirt about her that someone scrounged from somewhere on the web, and he/she was so excited to blow it up in a public forum in an act of retaliation.  True, false, manufactured, whatever, it was not important.  That's not the way to correct this situation.  I suggested that their quest to smear her end immediately, and it did, as far as I'm aware. 

I'm glad.  I know what it is like to have people trying to damage my reputation, and I don't wish that on anyone. Even cranky people.

I have a list of people that have tried to get me in hot water at my university. I also have false and defamatory statements made by Dr. Don M. Huber in a certified letter to my superiors.  I have a letter from another sorta-academic that reported a simple misunderstanding right to my boss, complete with legal threats. Ultimately it was a simple explanation, something relatively minor, and I was quick to deliver an appropriate apology. 

I know what it is like to have people spread bad information about me and try to harm me professionally. 

That said, I'm disappointed in the fact that her business website has now become the target of those that disagree with her about non-business issues.  Her business facebook page has become a wall for an agriculture debate.  I even posted something there about how she treats me, and when I realized it was her business page, I deleted the comments. 

If you are reading this and you are disappointed in her approach, please take the high road.  Refrain from angry retaliation in social media- especially in ways that would harm her business or her professional reputation. I have no reason to doubt that she's probably good at what she does, and people that care for animals automatically get points in my book. 

The best alternative is to block her from commenting.  I didn't do that because I wanted to monitor what she was saying about me and others.  However, at this point I've blocked her from Twitter, I will not reverse that action. 

She has not been blocked from my blogs because I am critical of the blogs that remove my comments.  However, I think a policy change is probably going to happen soon, probably right after she chimes in after this posting about what an asshole I am. 

And I did invent, and she inspired, the hashtag #blockthewhackjob, and have used it on her at least a few times.  I'll own that, but I won't use it again. 

My request is that we take a high road.  No matter how much it hurts, let's do it.  Don't try to harm her business.  Don't argue with her.  

Replace #blockthewhackjob with #highroad 

It is disappointing to see where this has gone and I'm sorry for my lapses.  I have to remember that the folks we need to convince are not the people like her.  They are the folks in the middle that are also repulsed by her message and approach.  Why would we adopt that? 

Let's let the science do the talking, take the high road, and move forward.  Block, ignore, whatever -- but don't get down to that level.  Let's lead by example.  Who knows, she might be our best future convert. 


  1. Thank you, Kevin, I agree wholeheartedly with this. I work at being painstakingly neutral and fact-based when speaking with anti-GMO folks - of course, I have it easy compared to you as far as the amount of vitriol goes! But I definitely run into a lot of walls with people in my community (northern California) but my first and most steadfast rule is no insults or saying anything to imply that they are stupid, or gullible, or anything negative that might actually be true about them, because that goes nowhere reeeal fast. Sometimes being even-keeled makes them even angrier, but I feel that it's always worth it to prove to them that my opinions aren't based on emotions, but hard data and credible, verifiable evidence. I've tried having open discussions on our local community's facebook page, but 100% of the time (so far) they have all walked away from the conversation after listening to me and, I feel, seeing how well I know my info. Especially in comparison to them - these are MAM-types, so most of their opinions are based on propaganda and emotion. Maybe I push too much info at once, but I try to be as concise as possible, and as polite as possible. I wish I could direct them to the GMO Skepti-Forum, because that group helped bring me around to my current stance, but I feel even there the dog-piling, and blatant baiting, is too overwhelming to be a useful resource for someone who is coming from a roundly anti-GMO stance ( I know admins work hard to keep it from happening - it does, though). Hopefully this will change as we all take the high road! It seems to me that most real-world anti-GMOers are just folks who care about food and what they're feeding their families, who care about the environment and the impacts humans have on the world. Most are not crazy crop-destroying activists, they are decent folks who have been incredibly misled and the propaganda has been pounded deeply into their brains. Insults are not going to help any of us get our points across. Thanks for all that you do and keep up the good work!

  2. "Little treasure of anger nuggets." I have a sizable screenshot file that shall soon be renamed "Anger Nuggets". It is quite tempting to publish it and let the world see the bad behavior of others. Thank you for this article as it may have just saved the reputations of a few people on Maui.

  3. Dear Kevin and friends,
    this is a true Christian attitude and I appreciate it because I had a Christian education (no kidding!). But we all know that it is not always easy to be a good Christian and „turn the other cheek“.
    This is a struggle or even a war between unequal adversaries: science and emotion. Both are human characteristics and both are good. But you cannot argue with science against emotion and vice versa. When people argue in different languages they soon become angry. Though I believe that most people are somewhat „bilingual“, they are native speakers in one language and they always fall back into their mother tongue.
    I am afraid that emotion is the more ancient language and that the vast majority are native emotion-speakers. It is unfair when „real bilinguals“ i.e.native speakers in both languages, exploit the easier understanding of emotion for their own benefit. And then it is difficult to turn the other cheek.
    What we need are professional language courses to make more people at least partially bilingual.

    1. I have always known logic cannot be used successfully against emotion. I had never thought about it in terms of two different languages, however. This is a perfect way to think about it - and to describe it to others. Thank you!

  4. Great post! I have noticed this person's comments on your Twitter postings and recently had to deal with her for my postings as well. I admire the patience and positive attitude you have brought to this matter. Thank you for your efforts on communicating scientific knowledge to everyone.

  5. You always take the high road and that's admirable. That's one of the reasons we like you and what separates the nice guys like you from people like me. But what has it got you? They still go nuts on you. They're on a mission to destroy your reputation. That's not simply a minor disagreement. It is legally actionable. Sometimes you have to hit back. Your rep maybe solid within your profession, but to the public at large, they don't know you.

    If I might paraphrase, "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way. And that’s how you get the crazy anti-GMO. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"

    Those who come after you see your decency as a weakness. Keep that in mind. As HST once wrote, "Badgers don't fight fair, bubba."

    I've lived in NYC for almost 40 years and I know of what I speak.

    1. Bernie, I get that and my gear is a little different. Don't think I have not been taking action, consulting with attorneys, and devising a plan that works. Getting people to stop defamatory statements in the internet age is not easy. You have to give 'em enough rope. It is no enough to send two to the morgue, you need a daisycutter that solves the problem for good. The punitive end of this is difficult. How do you put a dollar amount on harmed reputation? The fact that some nut in some town says something about you means nothing. There has to be a concerted effort that ends in quantifiable harm. I'm building that. Until then, it is simply harassment. The cure, use the "block" and "delete" keys. That's what they'll tell me. We'll see soon. Thanks for your ideas.

  6. "Still, I sit on my little treasure of anger nuggets."

    You need more fiber in your diet.

    Good on ya for taking the high road. It can be difficult when faced with such, uh, "challenges". I trust and respect people who readily own and correct their mistakes than people who are _always_ right.

  7. Good for you. I knew exactly who you were talking about before you even said Long Beach. I truly, honestly don't like to block people on social media, but when they say as awful things to me as she has? You have no choice. In all sincerity I worry for her and feel that something is wrong for her to be so full of fear and express that fear with such hatred and cruelty. She has called me a "Monsanto prostitute", Monsanto shill, crazy, evil, unethical and has accused me of poisoning people both at work as a nurse and as a farmer. I cannot and will not tolerate that level of insanity. I don't condone people fighting back with that same fire she has, that gets us nowhere. It's a shame people are attacking her business page, no one deserves that either, not even your worst enemy. I have blocked her on all my social media outlets including my blog and I'm better off for it. I still get wind, even though I blocked her well over 2 years ago on Twitter, that she still tags me and insults me. It's unreal and I feel sad for her that she has to tear people down like that to try to make herself feel better.

  8. Thanks for this post! I agree. It may seem difficult at times to avoid bashing each other but in the end, it really comes down to finding the best way to live together. There's enough bad stuff in the world as it is. We can focus on making more of the good stuff.