Sunday, August 21, 2016

Supporting FOIA Resistance

It would be a wonderful world if we didn't need to lock our doors.  It would be great if we didn't need passwords to protect our personal accounts online.  I would be overjoyed if we could be free, open and fully transparent in all aspect of our lives.  All open book. 

There is one minor problem. We can't trust everyone to do the right thing.  Some people are truly evil, and will hurt others for fun and profit, or sometimes to achieve a political motivation.  Because of this, we're forced to take steps to insulate ourselves from their malevolence.  Whether it is encrypted passwords or taking off your shoes at the airport screening line, we take steps to limit the harm from others acting unethically. 

US-Right to Know (USRTK) is a front group for interests sworn to end modern food production practices, contemporary genetics and safe approved chemicals. While claiming to act angelically in the public interest, they clearly act as a mallet of defamation, seeking to destroy the careers of scientists that teach evidence-based science. 

Their weapon is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and its ability to confiscate personal emails from public employees.  That's not the problem.  Our daily interactions should be transparent and open to public scrutiny.  That's not the problem. 

The problem is when sentences are lifted from their native context and reformatted into outrageous narratives with an intent to harm others.  They get what they want through our transparency, and then use it maliciously. 

If you don't believe it has an effect, google my name.  I'm smeared for life though search engines.  The people that want me silent have polluted the first 10 pages with misinformation, and it matters. 

Last week I spoke in Quebec City, and the host said that many called her concerned that I was invited. 

"Didn't you read about him on the web and how bad he is?"

That was a legit conversation, luckily my host had the guts to dig in her heels and say that we would stick with science and evidence. The person they have created is not who I am, but it is a narrative they were able to construct because of free access to my emails. 

Apparently USRTK is going to have to sue UC Davis for the emails for about a dozen faculty, at least according to their website. 

I fully endorse UC-Davis not cooperating.  USRTK is not interested in checking for malfeasance.  If that was the case they would have never made a big deal of my situation. I did my job, well.  They called it "corruption" and inspired tremendous personal and professional harm.  No laws or rules broken, nothing even unethical. 

Because we cannot trust them to do the right thing, it is reasonable to not cooperate.  Why give them the ammunition to forever hurt public faculty at a Land Grant institution?  If they found something unethical or criminal, great.  That's what FOIA is for.  But this is to harm people with their words out of context.  They have demonstrated that well. 

Again, in a perfect world we could be clear as crystal.  However, USRTK showed that they are evil people that will cherry pick those emails for sentences to harm, sentences that in context are completely innocent.  

Congrats to UC-Davis for fighting back.  My institution will turn over 680 more pages on Monday, bringing the total to over 20,000. I feel that when someone acts immorally, we should never provide them more opportunity to continue their behaviors.  

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