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Just within the last month there has been an increase in news media articles on how online activists are bullying and threatening doctors and scientists into retreating from online public discussions.   They are “terrorizing into silence” using tactics intended to intimidate and threaten in order to shut all opposing thoughts, opinions and even research they do not agree with.  In some cases, scientists have even abandoned their research.

These are not situations where there is a difference of opinions expressed in a civil discussion or debate.   This is about power to control the narrative by libel, insult, threats, invasions of privacy, attacking family members.   For many scientists, it’s a new normal: From climate change to vaccines, activism and science are fighting it out online. Social media platforms are supercharging the battle.

We all lose when  scientists are bullied into silence about their research.  Below are three examples of how online bullying has redefined how doctors and scientists engage in their work, research and how they communicate their findings to the public.

Anti-vaccine activists have doctors ‘terrorized into silence’ with online harassment

Dr. Dana Corriel wrote on Facebook in September that the flu vaccine had arrived and encouraged patients to come to her office for a shot.

Within hours, the post was flooded with thousands of comments from people opposed to vaccines. Corriel initially decided to allow the postings to continue, hoping to use the moment to educate people about the importance of immunizations.

But then she began to feel threatened. People she had never treated gave her one-star ratings online. Commenters called her a “pharma vaccine whore” and a “child killer,” according to screenshots shared with The Times. Someone looked up her office address in New York City and mailed her an anti-vaccine book.

But the platforms also facilitate far more antagonistic behavior, with doctors facing online harassment and even coordinated attacks for promoting vaccines.

Since late 2017, there have been more than 50 of these online campaigns against health providers who promote vaccines, some of which have led to threats of harm that prompted calls to the police, said Chad Hermann, communications director for Kids Plus Pediatrics, a Pittsburgh practice that faced one of these online attacks in 2017 and then began tracking them.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Activists Target Research Scientists

Reuters contacted a dozen professors, doctors and researchers with experience of analysing or testing potential treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome. All said they had been the target of online harassment because activists objected to their findings. Only two had definite plans to continue researching treatments.

Sharpe no longer conducts research into CFS/ME treatments, focusing instead on helping severely ill cancer patients. “It’s just too toxic,” he explained. Of more than 20 leading research groups who were publishing treatment studies in high-quality journals 10 years ago, Sharpe said, only one or two continue to do so.

The world’s largest trials registry, clinicaltrials.gov, indicates that over the past decade there has been a decline in the number of new CFS/ME treatment trials being launched. From 2010 to 2014, 33 such trials started. From 2015 until the present, the figure dropped to around 20. This decline comes at a time when research into ways to help patients should be growing, not falling, because the condition is more widely recognised, scientists interviewed by Reuters said.

Simon Wessely, a professor of psychological medicine at King’s College London and former president of Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, said he decided to stop conducting research into treatment approaches for CFS/ME several years ago because he felt the online abuse was detracting from his work with patients.

But he is still the subject of what he calls “relentless internet stalking.”  Wessely’s employers at King’s College London have taken advice on the potential risk and have instituted X-ray scans of his mail, he says.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Anti-GMO Factions Force GMO Scientist To Quit The Public Arena

Folta is a plant geneticist and the chairman of University of Florida’s horticultural department. When he’s not teaching or researching the genomics of strawberries, Folta spends a good deal of time speaking out on places like Twitter about agricultural biotechnology, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Like most scientists, Folta does not believe that GMOs are inherently harmful; unlike most scientists, Folta spends a lot of time online trying to convince the rest of the world he’s right. That has made him among the most hated scientists on the web.

People posted ads to a local Craigslist site, publicly sharing Folta’s phone number and address and writing that his dead mother would have been ashamed of his industry ties.

People called him a whore and a Monsanto cheerleader. A meme circulated featuring Folta’s head Photoshopped onto a baby being fed by a bottle labeled “Monsanto Money.” Folta’s wife was afraid to stay home alone after an email that said Folta’s harassers knew where she liked to bike.

The harassment also made its way into the real world: the university was so inundated with requests to fire Folta that it changed his office number and asked the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force to remain on alert.

After a few weeks, Folta and his university decided that the trolls had won. Folta announced via Facebook that he was stepping out of the public conversation.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

 

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When I was a child I attended an elementary school in my neighborhood.   It was a typical Baby Boomer generation community where nearly every house had at least one child but usually an entire family of kids in a range of ages.   We grew up from age 5 or 6 knowing each other and playing group games in a playing field that spanned 6 to 10 backyards. 

Junior High was the game changer as the children of a half dozen elementary schools were gathered into one larger facility for the continuation of their education. This was the age at which bullying by kids outside of your local group, strangers, reached its zenith.    My own experience of being bullied did not occur until the first day of 8th grade.  My sin?  From stress I had cried quietly in 4th period and by 7th period it was all over the school.   I walked into my 7th period class to hear someone yell,  “Hey everybody, Jeanne cried in 4th period!”   I was now marked as an easy target for kids desperate to not be known as easy targets themselves.  The worst bullying came from a group of girls from a different elementary school who did not know me, had not grown up with me.  My “neighborhood sphere” saw nothing in me worth bullying.  A group of 5 total strangers did.

In this social media saturated age and the Internet ubiquitously woven into daily life, we are exposed to a much wider number of total strangers, some of whom are malicious bullies.   A common means by which total strangers try to gain power and control over individuals is to harass, intimidate and embarrass people into silence by accusing them of racism or cultural appropriation.  The news seems to routinely report on a celebrity who crossed someone’s line, the groupthink goes viral and that celebrity feels compelled to apologize to appease complete strangers.

Your family,  circle of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors … these are the people in your “neighborhood sphere” that give you immediate feedback.   Assuming you are not isolated in an echo chamber, your “neighborhood sphere” of people who actually know you are the only sounding board one needs to ascertain if your actions and behaviors are truly offensive to THEM, the real people you interact with.   So why are  we giving power and control to absolute strangers on social media to define people as being racist in order to intimidate and harass people?   Let’s examine three recent cases that made the news of people who refused to bow to the tyranny of the perpetually offended.

Case 1:  The Cheongsam Prom Dress

“Kezia Daum, a teenager in Utah, tweeted photos of herself in her prom dress, with the comment “PROM”, a seemingly normal thing for a high-school student to do.  Not in these times.  Daum had unwittingly committed the crime of “cultural appropriation” by wearing traditional Chinese-style dress without being of Chinese descent, so she was subjected to an outpouring of fury and denunciation.  “My culture is NOT your goddam prom dress”, one young man tweeted in response, a sentiment that received more than 150,000 “likes”. Daum, to her credit, refused to apologize or remove her post, saying that she had meant no disrespect to Chinese culture and had worn the dress because she thought it was beautiful. If only more adults showed as much backbone in the face of unreasoning malice.”  National Review May 28, 2018

The “one young man” was Jeremy Lam whose tweet was “liked” by 150,000 people thus building into a group feeding frenzy to intimidate and humiliate Ms. Daum into groveling in apology.   It’s all about the power to control people you don’t agree with.

“At first, I felt bullied, but my mom helped toughen me up, and I began to realize how many people there were who were supporting me in my decision and encouraging me,” Daum says. “I learned that there’s always people who are going to hate and I can’t control that.”

And what did people living in China and Asia think about the issue once it went viral internationally?

  In an outstanding article in the New York Times  (well worth reading in its entirety),  Chinese views were considerably different:

When the furor reached Asia, though, many seemed to be scratching their heads. Far from being critical of Ms. Daum, who is not Chinese, many people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan proclaimed her choice of the traditional high-necked dress as a victory for Chinese culture.

“I am very proud to have our culture recognized by people in other countries,” said someone called Snail Trail, commenting on a post of the Utah episode by a popular account on WeChat, the messaging and social media platform, that had been read more than 100,000 times.

“It’s ridiculous to criticize this as cultural appropriation,” Zhou Yijun, a Hong Kong-based cultural commentator, said in a telephone interview. “From the perspective of a Chinese person, if a foreign woman wears a qipao and thinks she looks pretty, then why shouldn’t she wear it?”

If anything, the uproar surrounding Ms. Daum’s dress prompted many Chinese to reflect on examples of cultural appropriation in their own country. “So does that mean when we celebrate Christmas and Halloween it’s also cultural appropriation?” asked one WeChat user, Larissa.

Recall how Miss Manners warns about who you choose to bully since they could be more powerful than you?  Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson  applied the literary equivalent of a hard spanking to Jeremy Lam by exposing his hypocrisy:

Some guy on Twitter, Jeremy Lam, is of Asian descent and was triggered when he saw Kezia’s dress, promptly telling her that “My culture is not your G-D prom dress.” His profile picture shows him wearing a T-shirt and an Adidas baseball cap. So let me restate it this way. An Asian man, with the Hebrew-originated name Jeremy, wearing an American baseball cap manufactured by a German sportswear company, bullies a teenage girl for crossing a cultural boundary.

While I didn’t previously know that some dude in the United States with a Twitter account was the guardian of Asian culture, it was rather unfortunate that in earlier tweets he dropped the N-word in a “thug life” kinda way. That seemed to diminish his status as the cultural appropriation appropriator.

And for heaven’s sake, let’s just stop prosecuting people who praise a culture by partaking in it. 

Case 2: Jeremy Lin and his dreadlocks

NBA player Jeremy Lin likes his hair and has explained that his sometimes extravagant hairstyles were a source of fun for him and a challenge to not care what people think. The NBA even created a web page of his “many hairstyles”. This worked for him until he sported a head of dreadlocks.

Former NBA forward Kenyon Martin criticized Lin for growing dreadlocks. In an Instagram video that now appears to have been deleted, Martin, a former member of the New Jersey Nets, addressed Lin’s dreadlocks, saying, “Do I need to remind this damn boy that his last name Lin?”

Martin continued, saying: “Come on, man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘All right, bro, we get it. You wanna be black.’ Like, we get it. But the last name is Lin.”

What ensued has been described as “Linsanity” as social media weighed in.
But here’s the point…Jeremy Lin sought input from friends, fellow players , his “neighborhood sphere” regarding the appropriateness of having dreadlocks. One of those was fellow player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who spent 8 hours getting his hair dreadlocked along with Lin. Another person was a Nets staffer:


I still wasn’t sure. A recent conversation I had with Savannah Hart, a Nets staff member who’s African-American, really resonated with me. I told her about my thought process — how I was really unsure about getting dreads because I was worried I’d be appropriating black culture. She said that if it wasn’t my intention to be dismissive of another culture, then maybe it could be an opportunity to learn about that culture.

Lin concluded saying,

“This process started out about hair, but it’s turned into something more for me … It’s easy to take things that we enjoy from other cultures — that’s one of the coolest things about a melting-pot society like ours.

Jeremy Lin was respectful to ask friends and co-workers their opinion on his hairstyle choice and in his “neighborhood sphere” there is no bullying or offense taken. Strangers who have no real life connection tried to bully him from doing something his closest associates had no issue with.

Case 3: Avril Lavigne with Hello Kitty outfit

From Wikipedia: Avril Lavigne has been cited as appropriating Japanese culture in her song “Hello Kitty“. The song and music video depict Asian women dressed up in matching outfits and Lavigne eating Asian food while dressed in a pink tutu.[140] Its depiction of Japanese culture was met with widespread criticism, which has included suggestions of racism. Lavigne responded by stating “I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video … specifically for my Japanese fans, with my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers and a Japanese director in Japan.”[141] A lot of the feedback Lavigne received on Twitter was favorable, and those who blamed her for racism were non-Japanese.[142]

This is a rather amusing case of online bullying because while Lavigne’s “neighborhood sphere” had no issues whatsoever with the music video, “non-Japanese” bullies applied their westernized neocolonialism with the belief that the Japanese are not sufficiently “woke” enough to recognize that they should be offended so white people need to be offended for them.

Dress and hair are not the only things deemed to be culturally appropriated or racist:

Only the deaf can teach sign language
Dressing in traditional Japanese clothing (ignoring the fact that millions of Japanese wear Westernized clothing)
Zumba
Saying “y’all” if you are not Southern
Neck chokers
Hoop earrings
Cinco De Mayo parties
Westerners eating sushi, studying yoga, wearing toe rings
Selling burritos if you happen to be white
Farmers Markets are racist

The list of things people can choose to be offended by grows bigger and more ridiculous by the day. It’s a bully’s dream come true….how many ways can I gain power over you, let me count the ways.

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Fascinating article by Kaitlyn Tiffany

Why is the wedding industry so hard to disrupt?

Weddings are big money — but not for Silicon Valley.

I had no idea David’s Bridal declared bankruptcy last year or that Condé Nast is trying to offload the iconic print magazine Brides. Despite many millions spent each year on weddings, this does not translate into wealth and success for even the big guns of the wedding industry.

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For over a decade I have received requests to address the issue of cyberbullying as it relates to civility.  It’s finally time to begin that conversation.  This post is the first of a multi-post series on the subject of adult cyberbullying.

Prior to any worthwhile discussion, there needs to be a definition of what cyberbullying means. 

 

Cyberbullying is: The use of modern communication technologies (such as the Internet and cell phone) to embarrass, humiliate, threaten, or intimidate individuals in an attempt to gain power and control over them.(Glen R. Stutzky)

One can understand why children bully each other.  Steeped in juvenile insecurities and lacking self-confidence, they tear their peers down in desperate attempts to not be the lowest man on the totem pole.   The scramble to be higher on the social hierarchy begins in these early years. At an age when everything seems out of control, bullying brings a warped way of having any control.

Once people reach adulthood, there is a hoped for expectation that childish things are put away, people begin acting like responsible adults and often they do.   One of the girls who had bullied me so aggressively at age 13  had a significant change in maturity in her early 20’s and in an interesting twist of fate she and I have been Facebook friends for many years.  People can change.   Some people do not.

Miss Manners had some very pointed comments about adults who have not outgrown their childhood bullying:

Groups of people who hone in on one person to deliver an on-the-spot criticism — always with an air of belief that their catty opinions are indisputable and helpful — have provided generations of citizens with a lifetime feeling of relief that they are no longer in high school.

Even the most callous bullies are supposed to have learned something in the subsequent 30 years, if only that bullying is dangerous. The technique only worked in high school because it preys on victims during a stage of life where many are uncertain enough about themselves to worry that it is they who are wrong, and not their tormentors.    Miss Manners https://www.uexpress.com/miss-manners/2003/10/7/a-dirty-thirtieth   

She ends her comments to the “Gentle Reader” with this advisement:

“Etiquette does not side with bullies.”

When adults engage in power bullying, it may be motivated by insecurities and a desperate need to control people, but many times it’s simply because these people are nasty, bitchy strangers who are intent on silencing people through intimidation, libel, doxing, invasions of privacy, threats of rape or death. 

For a good example of a total stranger engaging in bullying on an epic scale as a means of punishing someone with whom she disagreed with online, read:  When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

 

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I just wondered, do you have any guidance on what constitutes a reasonable request, versus begging?  Below is the second email I’ve received via the school email list, asking for donations for this family, who recently had a house fire.  When I received the first email, I clicked the link, thinking I could surely come up with some blankets, or cookware, or something to help them, and found that all the donation options are for cash amounts.
 
As some background, this is quite a well-to-do school district.  Every house on the street where the fire was has an estimated value on Zillow of over $650k.  While it’s possible that the family owned the house outright and/or carried minimal insurance, I very seriously doubt that’s the case (the donation site even mentioned that they were looking for donations to help them while they waited for insuance items to be sorted out.) 
 
As I said, my first instinct was charitable – to help them though the first few days before insurance kicked in with food or goods, but when I saw the only donation format possible was cash (while I know that cash is certainly helpful) my feelings changed.  Personally, I’d be thankful for unsolicited gifts from family and friends, but I’d be horrified if I found the school district was begging for cash on my behalf.  Am I being unreasonable in feeling like asking for cash for this family is over-the-top?  0124-19
 

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