Saturday, June 22, 2019
The Dark Side of Harassment
My entire life I always questioned people that would take their own life or hurt others in rage. It did not compute for me. It seems no problem is that big, and there are so many ways to find solutions between the law, social services, and other mechanisms.
But after enduring endless daily harassment from Michael Balter and GM Watch, I deeply empathize with these feelings. It is a dark part of human psychology, and a program in the brain that is triggered from feeling helpless. It is a reptile brain taking over; backed into a corner with no other choice. It is the extremes of fight and the extremes of flight, life and death, and I'm feeling that.
I have so much to be grateful for. I have a wonderful wife, and we hope to have a child on the way soon. We both were robbed of that opportunity in previous relationships by combinations of tragedies and apathies, and now we are fixing that. I have a great job, wonderful students, respect in my field, and a good future in leadership.
But that is being challenged and in some ways affected. People long dedicated to my personal and professional demise have concentrated their vicious efforts in a #MeToo onslaught. They are characterizing me as a drunk spouse abuser, over and over again in social media and on websites. It is an unfortunate residue of an important sensitivity to abusive behavior, and ironically, manifests as abusive behavior. These individuals have appointed themselves as judge, jury and executioner, and they are working hard to ensure that I am punished hard --- for teaching science.
Today we need to be sensitive to abuse, and I think we are better because we recognize when politicians, celebrities and Joe Six Pack cross the line. I love that we don't tolerate harassment of others, that we fight for fairness and kind treatment of others.
But that same sensitivity has weaponized. Allegations of abuse by the "Me Too" accusers is a wonderful weapon to destroy people they disagree with. The internet is the festering cesspool used to perpetrate this action. There are numerous examples of people that have been falsely accused, and allegations retracted. It is unfortunate because it dilutes the power of these efforts.
In my case, 5 months after my ex filed for divorce, she solicited statements from her friends to help destroy me. And they obliged. Now those notes are making the rounds in a relentless assault on me and my reputation. They are retweeted and augmented by anti-science organizations and a hateful former journalist named Michael Balter.
I could go through each letter and tell you about the people that wrote them. She convinced others that I was trying to screw her out of a reasonable settlement (she demanded 80% of my take home) and she claimed she needed letters for court. She assured them that they were for court and her attorney only.
So people provided ugly statements. You can judge their veracity on many levels. They often did contain a seed of truth because we had a difficult and very private relationship for long time. In the hopes that it would heal and change I kept my pains and our marital business private, even from friends. Yes, I said things that were off base to my ex, and I even apologized for them. But the letters are a gross mischaracterization.
The letters were provided, along with other documents, from my ex to GM Watch, an online museum dedicated to smearing me and my reputation. In May 2017 my ex gave papers from my private, personal file cabinet to GM Watch. I could not get my things from the house because she told me that "If you come in this house I will say that you are physically abusing me and call the police."
My attorneys said to stay away from the house, and I did.
She then found a reimbursement stub from the Monsanto Company, from 2014. The story is well known, but again, Monsanto reimbursed me for the exact cost of coach airfare, a rental car, and a hotel when farmers in Colorado (that were Monsanto customers) asked to speak to an independent scientist about the technology.
My ex KNEW that the check was a direct reimbursement with nothing in it for me personally, but she gave it to GM Watch and claimed it was one of many under-the-table payments.
Of course this made headlines at GM Watch. Another torpedo to my name, another thing to show up in a google search, and more false information. The letters she solicited "only for court" soon were in the hands of those that need to stop science communication and those that do it.
She solicited letters from her friends that were designed to help her in court. She harvested those letters and gave them to GM Watch. Now Balter uses them as concrete proof that I was a drunk, physically abusing wild man. He does not use the word allegedly. He never spoke to me. He claims to be a journalist, by the way.
I had coffee with one of the letter writers yesterday after she saw the fallout in social media. She told me that she felt "used" by my ex and apologized. She said that the letter was only to be used in court and she did it because she was told that I was being unfair in the settlement.
Balter continues to make my private information public. He put my bank account number online (it is still on his website). I had to get a new account, I had no access to funds when I was traveling, and I had payments bounce because setting up my auto pay again didn't work right. He posted confidential documents between me and a law firm, describing my work on my vacation time as a professional witness as "consulting for Bayer"-- knowing that it would foment a pitchforks-and-torches response among his evil followers.
This is harassment. It is bullying, it is intimidation, and we should not tolerate it. In a world where we claim to want to stop abuse and harassment, Balter is the master of abuse and harassment. I have hundreds of screenshots.
The man is obsessed, he is insane, and he is relentless. Together with GM Watch they now share the letters that my ex released to them-- purely with the interest of defamation. They want to hurt me, my career and my family. That is their intent. That is their intent. That is their intent.
What do they want? They are going after my reputation, a good one forged from 30-some years of public service and kindness to all. I have provided opportunities to anyone that asked, helped students find jobs, thrive in their careers. I'm proud of that and would continue that kind of work for the rest of my life. But Balter needs to stop this. He wants to destroy my career, and together with malevolent fake accounts online, they want to destroy me. They want to hurt my wife and my ability to support a family. This is what they want.
I've spoken to law enforcement. I've spoken to lawyers, detectives, others. There is nothing can do about the relentless cyberbullying and harassment. There is nothing I can do. One police officer in New York City told me, "What he's doing is wrong but legal, what you need to do is right but illegal."
That was a reflection of the state of things, that someone can slander you without redress, and even the police are powerless to stop the onslaught.
Twitter leaves his account active. His hate is entirely within community standards. I've reported it dozens of times with no action. My account has now been deactivated.
This is where reptile brain dark places are triggered. I have had so many dark thoughts of what I would do to that guy if I saw him in an airport or on the street. It is that bad. Luckily I can control myself and I don't have that gear to execute what the reptile brain wants. I'm so grateful that I have a wonderful wife and friends that I can rely on for a reality check. The anger and want to lash out is extreme when you are backed into a corner and threatened.
I am not religious, but I was raised with religion. Some of the greatest lessons were those where Jesus was being destroyed by others, tortured over his beliefs, and refusal to back down.
"Forgive them father for they know not what they do."
"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."
These deeply ingrained messages help me pull back. I am being tortured by Twitter, being painfully drawn and quartered by someone's misappropriated revenge, being taken apart by those that hate.
When it all comes down to it, Balter and GM Watch hate me for one reason-- because I'm a teacher that teaches science they disagree with. A search of my name will forever bear their twisted allegations. I'm guaranteed to lose opportunities, be looked over for positions of service, and be always tagged as a dangerous offender to some.
I was a very effective leader of the 9th rated plant bio department on the planet for almost 6 years. I made great hires and did superb mentoring of 59 faculty in 7 locations, all the while running two internationally recognized research programs and effective science communication outreach. I had a good future in public service. That is gone now.
My wife asked me today, "Would it be so bad to just be a good lab scientist and the best husband and father?"
She's got a point. All of this ends when I drop out of communication, when I stop podcasting, writing and interacting with a public audience. Maybe not podcasting. That's a passion I might not be able to compromise.
Right now I'm broken. I'm sad, disgusted and dying inside. I can't fight back. I'm being disassembled mentally by the most brutal and evil harassment I can imagine-- taking apart my reputation because I tell the truth about science.
All of this is important because it shows how harassment is accepted, encouraged, and fostered. GM Watch and Michael Balter engage in hate and slander that would not be tolerated in any forum-- so why are they tolerated here?
The feelings cut deep. I will never question someone that feels harassed and intimidated to where they are so helpless that they hurt themselves or hurt others. Those feelings are real, very real.
I need to get well and away from the hate. I'm going to plant six trees, work on a grant proposal and have a beer tonight with friends. I hate what people have become. I never thought I would quit, but I'm afraid I'm done. For my mental health and for my family on the way, I need to be away from that hateful vortex.