I first learned about GMOs as a sophomore microbiology major in college. (They weren’t called GMOs then; they were simply referred to as “transgenic crops.”) I remember feeling exhilarated — the sort of thrill that only accountants or geeky academics can usually understand — at how basic knowledge of DNA sequences was leading to a huge technological revolution. The opportunities were limitless.
Years later I entered journalism. And I saw breathtaking ignorance and vitriol aimed at scientists like me coming from supposedly educated people. Never in a million years would I have anticipated that our passion for science would be used as a bludgeon or as a scarlet letter.
That is the milieu in which we find the current GMO “debate,” which in actuality has devolved into a vicious, relentless assault by organic food activists against the biotechnology community. It doesn’t matter if you are a professor, industry scientist, journalist, or private citizen; if you support biotechnology, anti-GMO activists will harass you using their keyboards as weapons of mass defamation.
Their goal is straightforward: Biotech scientists must be destroyed professionally. Failing that, they must be destroyed emotionally.
There’s actually a word for this. It’s called cyberbullying. More.
Indeed. One way of seeing the matter is that the internet empowers almost everybody, including trolls, windbags, fiends, and cranks. The only group it does not empower is traditional gatekeepers of information, which is why traditional big media are slowly going out of business.
The anonymity that the internet offers can free academic scientists of the restraints that would typically govern their public behaviour. So trolling becomes the new peer review. One must just cope.
But there is a bright side: At least we know that that’s the type of person the guy really is, which may help us in the long run.
See also: How to deal with cyberbullying: Coping with the shamestorms of social media. First, grow an alligator hide.
Yik Yak: Digital dorm room or cyberbullying? Words on social media are stripped of voice and context.
Yes, we need to crack down on cyberbullying But victims must help! Stop being victims!
It used to be only celebs and politicians could just trash people on line
Public shaming on the internet: Good? Bad? Think before we retweet? There is strength in numbers for good or ill.
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