Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sad from Their Rage

Last week a video circulated that my family, friends, students and colleagues found deeply disturbing. 

The Moms Across America shared a weekly recorded meeting with Stacy Malkan from US-Right to Know, the organization demanding my email records because I volunteered time to answer questions on the website.

From the beginning, the women were ecstatic about voyeuristically probing into my private correspondences, one stating, “I’m just crazy you are going after him.”

They also make many claims about me that are simply not true, even showing a picture of me with “Monsanto Owned” written across it in “Welcome Back Kotter” font. 

The joy in their voices of defaming a public scientist is just a rallying cry for science and reason.

While those that know me are angry, maybe disturbed, I feel sad for Zen, Kathleen and the other one I can't remember.  It must be difficult to live with such baseless rage.

I also have deep empathy for their situations. From the little bit I know about Zen Honeycutt and Kathleen Hallal, they are mothers with children facing developmental or medical challenges, and my heart goes out to their families.  I’m sad for them because we share the same concern for children and for families.  We likely share the same concern for the environment and those of little means. I certainly recognize the difficulty when faced with family issues and truly wish the best for them. When children suffer, we all seek answers, sometimes blame, and maybe revenge. I understand that.

Where we differ is in how we wish to achieve change.

I’ve chosen a life in public science, where research is published after developing a body of substantial evidence. My research is financed by the public, by Zen and Kathleen and the one I can't remember, not Monsanto.  That's all public record. Research is used as a mechanism to train future scientists, and data are disseminated in venues where all can have access to them.

I make a point to share science with general audiences, interpreting the findings in the literature, helping to separate facts from fiction, and helping others to understand and appreciate the science that shapes their views.

On the other hand, Moms Across America sets out to discredit scientists, clinging to scientifically-dismissed claims by a cadre of disregarded personalities that use the theater of science to promote non-scientific ideas.  Their personal crusades target vaccination and transgenic crops, along with the proven chemistries developed to ensure their safe and effective use.  US-RTK employs heavy-handed mechanisms of public disclosure to force surrender of private correspondence from targeted public scientists. 

The crime?  Teaching. They honestly answered a concerned person's questions. 

After several years of flash points, Zen and Kathleen never contacted me, never asked me to join a meeting, and didn't respond to my willing request to speak with them after I saw their video.  I’d be happy to join them as discuss their thoughts.

This is not a fight. I'm not going to argue with them. I'm going to do the same thing that got me FOIA'd-- I'm glad to teach the science. 

While friends, relatives, colleagues and others want me to lash out and fight anger with anger, I’m glad to simply extend a kind offer to talk to them. To teach.  I’m truly saddened by their rage, and that they have broadcast such distorted views about who I am, the science I conduct, and how I wish to contribute to helping others understand food, science and farming.

We share a common concern for children affected with diseases with unknown or ambiguous etiologies.  In order to help them and eliminate these disorders going forward, it is critical to focus on real causes, on hard science.  I can help them do that. 

To blame a scapegoat with no good evidence, and then inappropriately criticize scientists with untruthful claims, slows their real mission.  Quelling the anger and connecting to those that truly share their values, but not their interpretations of science, might be a more effective first step.