Since starting the Facebook page We Love GMOs and Vaccines back in early 2014 we have seen very steady growth. Only twice have we seen our page likes go down. The first is when we made a post in support of Planned Parenthood, and the second is after the election of Donald Trump.
In the case of Planned Parenthood I was not surprised. While I am personally pro-choice, I understand where the other side is coming from. They believe human life starts at conception. To them it isn’t about choice, but about human life. There just isn’t really any point in arguing over certain religion convictions. In their eyes I made a post in support of murderers.
In the case of Trump I was flummoxed. I run a page called We Love GMOs and Vaccines and we just elected a man as president that thinks vaccines cause autism and told Iowa voters during the primary that they had too much “Monsanto on the brain”.
I actually got rather accustomed to being accused of having a conservative slant. I don’t think corporations are inherently evil and making fun of Bernie Sanders became quite a fun hobby while he still had a shot at winning. For a while I even left Trump alone, thinking he didn’t have a chance.
What really amazed me was the attitude from the most vocal critics of the Sanders and Trump memes. Fans of Sanders that already like the page would typically say, “I agree with him on other issues, but not with GMOs.” Fans of Trump, on the other hand, got really nasty and left en masse.
It was this general attitude that caused me to become a Democrat. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, up until a few months ago I was a registered Republican.
I was raised by a father that was really into politics, and would involve me in a lot of it. He was a campaign manager for several Maryland Republicans running for state offices. One such man was Bob Kittleman. A farmer (I can still feel the electric fence I couldn’t quite get my legs over), he was what I thought Republicans were.
Active in the civil rights movement, Kittleman became the president of the Howard County branch of the NAACP. A white Republican farmer in the civil rights era being in the NAACP? I grew up with stories about rocks and bricks being thrown through his windows.
His son, Alan Kittleman, would step into his father’s political shoes. When a bill to legalize gay marriage in Maryland was being voted on the first time he stepped down as Republican minority leader as the only Republican to vote for it.
Of course, I do live in a blue state. The Kittlemans wouldn’t be the first Republicans in a blue state to be socially moderate. In fact what actually killed the gay marriage bill the first time around were churches in heavy Democrat districts organizing their congregations to contact their representatives.
Can you see why someone living in Maryland might not be sure whether the sky is up or down?
I’ll still continue to vote Republican when a candidate’s platform is a little closer to what I am looking for. I was saddened to see my state vote for fear-mongering Chris Van Hollen over optimistic Kathy Szeliega for Senate. I understand that many people voted for Trump because his own platform appealed to them, especially in regards to foreign policy and economic policy.
But We Love GMOs and Vaccines has always been about two things, sharing information about biotechnology and making fun of those who demonize it. If you don’t think we are going to go after a president that hangs out with Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield….. I just don’t know what to tell you.
For those conservatives who commented in our defense, telling others not to live in an echo chamber, I thank you. Conservatives often criticize liberals for being anti-vaxxers and anti-GMO. Maybe a page seen attacking Trump can reach some of those liberals and break down their cognitive biases a bit. Because even though scientists themselves tend to be liberal, the Democrat politicians seem to think most of their constituents hate GMOs.
These issues need to transcend politics.
And if you are a liberal or a conservative, stop by southern DE and buy my Trump loving father a drink.
(This will be updated as Professor Zimdars edits and updates the list.)
Disclaimer 1: All of the contents in this document reflect the opinion of the author and are for educational purposes only. This resource was split into categories around 8:00pm EST on 11/15/16.
CATEGORY 1: Below is a list of fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits. These websites are categorized with the number 1 next to them.
CATEGORY 2: Some websites on this list may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information, and they are marked with a 2.
CATEGORY 3: Other websites on this list sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions, and they are marked with a 3.
CATEGORY 4: Other sources on this list are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. I’m including them here, for now, because 1.) they have the potential to perpetuate misinformation based on different audience (mis)interpretations and 2.) to make sure anyone who reads a story by The Onion, for example, understands its purpose. If you think this is unnecessary, please see Literally Unbelievable.
Note: I will be updating the categorizations and adding links gradually through the next couple of days.
Many of the websites on this list continue to offer valuable journalism and/or satirical commentary. For example, a website included on this list wrote an overall thoughtful piece about the list, but the headline suggests that every source on this list is fake, which misrepresents the list. Finally, I do not condone plug-ins that automatically block any of the websites listed below. And as a reminder, not all of the sources listed below should be considered fake.
Tips for analyzing news sources:
- Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (above). These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
- Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources
- Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
- Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
- Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
- Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
- Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
- Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
- If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
- It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
Bio: I am an assistant professor of communication & media, and this list started as a resource for my students, who are learning about journalism/social media/media literacy.
Update 1: I’ve received hundreds of emails with suggestions, very few of which are duplicates, so it will take me a while to sift through and verify them. I will add them as appropriate. (EDIT 11/15/2016 @ 3:42 EST: I have a list of sources, suggested by all of you, that will take me a long time to get through)
Update 2: Yes, I am considering further coding/categorizing these sources for clarity and creating a more durable/dynamic database. This is likely just step 1.
Update 3: Some people are asking which news sources I trust, and all I can say is that I read/watch/listen very widely, from mainstream, corporate owned sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes) as well as The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and various local and alternative sources with different political perspectives, some of which are included on this list. The problem: Even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness. The best thing to do in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.
Update 4: A group of AWESOME librarians will be working with this list to provide more detail, examples of the news articles in question, etc. I will post what they make here when it is complete.
Update 5: It should be noted I’m not the first person to call out some of these websites. When I first started compiling this specific large list on Monday, some friends alerted me to many websites doing similar and great work, such as Ed Brayton’s recent post at Patheos (I included many of the websites on his list after checking them myself if I was unfamiliar). I plan on providing more links to outside resources in the near future.
© 2016 by Melissa Zimdars.
The work ‘False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources‘ is made available under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit
It is no secret to fans of We Love GMOs and Vaccines that I am not a fan of Trump. It goes beyond his lack of respect for the scientific method. It sickens me to my core that my children and students are going to grow up in a country run by someone who openly spreads fear about “the other kind”. I just finished teaching a unit on global citizenship, and now we have a president who threatens all the gains we have made in that realm.
But I agree with President Obama when he spoke of being on the same team. I want the United States to succeed under Trump, because otherwise would be a disaster for everyone I care about.
Like it or not, our best hope now is to work with Trump. Perhaps we can use some of his platform to our own advantage. But to do that we need to speak his language.
Donald Trump’s presidency has the potential of being the greatest threat the organic industry has faced since the invention of the GMO. Trump is an isolationist and the organic industry relies heavily on imports from the very countries Trump thinks stole our jobs.
According to the Organic Trade Association, NAFTA “has a powerful positive effect on organic exports (to Canada and Mexico)” and “has a strong positive impact on U.S. organic imports”. This might be the reason Gary Hirshberg, of Stonyfield Organic, raised $600,000 for the Clinton campaign. He knows what might be coming.
I am a strong supporter of free trade, but I also admit that some people will feel the hurt from it as jobs move and get created. Farmers themselves are going to vary on its benefits depending on what they grow. The sugar industry does everything it can to prevent cheaper sugar coming in from overseas, while China is spending more than $24 billion a year on US crops. But there is no doubt that ending trade agreements will have a detrimental impact on Whole Foods shoppers.
Trump, appealing to the blue collar worker, worked hard to shed any image of him being an elitist. Perhaps it is time to cut funding to the organic branch of the USDA and start putting tariffs on those organic bananas destined for homes of those that can afford to pay more for their food anyways.
Biotechnology stocks soared this week on the news of a Trump victory. One of the factors leading to GMOs getting such an early start in the United States was development under the Reagan and H. W. Bush years of deregulation. Crops developed with biotechnology do not pose any risk that don’t also apply to “conventionally” bred crops, so perhaps the time has come to deregulate them.
Deregulation would have a huge benefit to farmers, consumers, and small businesses. Farmers pay extra for the seeds so the companies that developed them can recoup their costs. Small businesses could finally afford to bring new GMOs to market with consumer friendly traits. Frankly, a lot of the anti-GMO rhetoric about patents and lawsuits would fall on deaf ears if companies didn’t have to make money back on regulatory costs.
I would trade all of the possible benefits Trump can off as president. There is going to be a net loss to the world over the next four years. But he is going to be my president, and it is the job of the president to serve the people of the United States. Let’s do our best to reach out to a Republican led government and make them work for us.
Liberals out number conservatives, they need our votes in the local elections in two years.
Writing for The New York Times, journalist Danny Hakim continued the trend of raising doubts about the use of genetically modified crops by farmers. His argument relied on herbicide tolerant crops, and how the United States may not have seen quite the yield increase and pesticide decrease promised by the industry selling those seeds.
A lot has been written on the weaknesses of the piece:
— Dr. Andrew Kniss, weed science professor at the University of Wyoming, explained how Hakim’s comparison with Europe was based on flawed logic.
— Dr. Kevin Folta, molecular biologist at the University of Florida, asks why farmers would be using these seeds if they were not profitable.
— Agricultural economist Dr. Jayson Lusk points out pesticides with lower toxicity are being used with these seeds and that they allow farmers to practice no-till farming.
— Professor C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University reminds us that a meta-analysis showed that GMOs have reduced pesticide use and increased yields globally.
— Dr. Steven Novella, of Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, jumped in to remind us that genetic engineering is a tool, and not something that can be judged based on just the herbicide tolerant trait.
On Twitter, Hakim attempted to address some of the points in all of these different forums. He is correct that none of the rebuttals addressed his concern over industry claims. He even admits that GMOs can be useful and that his article was intended to specifically address herbicide tolerant GMOs, along with the industry claims about them.
That’s the problem. His article was titled “Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops”, not “Doubts About the Promised Bounty Herbicide Tolerant Crops”. His article might exclude disease resistant and non-browning traits, but his title certainly doesn’t.
Genetic engineering is not the only method used to create herbicide tolerant crops. All corn and sorghum is tolerant to the herbicide atrazine, even organic (though it wouldn’t be allowed to be used). Rice, sunflower, wheat, lentils, canola, and corn is produced for BASF to be tolerant to their imazamox based herbicide.
By the definition used by the Non-GMO Project, these crops are not GMOs because they were created through the “traditional” methods of mutagenesis and artificial selection. Even though they have all of the same concerns, like weed resistance, that their GMO counter-parts do, they completely escape scrutiny.
When Chipotle began sourcing sunflowers to replace the GM crops used in their cooking oil, they claimed it was because of concerns over glyphosate toxicity and “super weeds”. Unfortunately the sunflowers they switched to use a more toxic herbicide and potentially contribute even more to the development of “super weeds”. It certainly can’t help that the sunflowers were first developed because a farmer had discovered them as “super weeds” themselves.
According to Bloomberg:
BASF enlists the help of 40 seed companies, including DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. in the U.S. and Switzerland’s Syngenta AG to sell Clearfield crops in markets that reject GMOs.
Since BASF makes the same claims about pesticides and yield for their non-GMO herbicide tolerant crops that Monsanto has made about GMO crops, Hakim and the New York Times should have included them in their investigation.
Every major anti-GMO organization from Greenpeace to GMO Free USA echo Hakim’s herbicide concerns. This is an argument based much more on ideology than one based on science.
These groups have worked hard to keep GMOs regulated based on the process of genetic engineering, yet they use this single trait as an argument against the technology. If herbicide tolerant crops are truly what concerns people, then perhaps we should end process based regulation and use a product based one.
Seeds should be judged not on the method of their breeding, but by the quality of their trait.
The anti-GMO movement was recently endorsed by David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke is a Holocaust denier who served one-term as a Louisiana State Representative. He has also unsuccessfully run several times for Congress, governor, and even president.
Ignoring her “troubling ties” to the organic industry, Duke seems concerned about Hillary Clinton’s ties to the biotechnology industry. But in his tweet he takes this conspiracy theory a step further by connecting Monsanto to his hatred of Judaism, as indicated by the parentheses around Monsanto.
Lindsey Ellefson from MEDIAITE explains:
Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and white nationalists put the triple parentheses around the name of a Jewish writer or influencer to quickly and quietly identify them to other Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and white nationalists. Sometimes, a blog that employs a large number of Jews may also get the (((treatment))).
In other words, Duke is insinuating that Monsanto is controlled by “The Jews”. An opinion he appears to not be alone in sharing, as a quick twitter search for the words “Monsanto” and “zionist” confirms.
Like most conspiracy theories, this one appears to be based on a couple of facts that quickly got twisted. A Jewish family with the name Monsanto fled to Holland from Spain to escape the inquisition, with at least one branch later finding their way to the Americas. They have a lot of descendents, and most appear to have converted to Catholicism. The founder of Monsanto, John Queeny Francis (a Catholic himself) named the company after his wife’s family. According to census and immigration records, this branch of the Monsanto family, however, did not arrive in the Americas from Europe until the late 1800s.
Many sources seem to indicate (including Wikipedia) that Francis named the company Monsanto to secure financing from a Monsanto sugar baron in the Caribbean, but there does not seem to be any historical record of a connection between these two branches of the name.
John Francis Queeny and Olga Monsanto were married at the Catholic St. Paul’s Church in Hoboken, NJ (where Olga lived at the time). According to New Jersey Wills and Probate Records (1792-1991), Olga’s parents were Mauricio (with Moreis and Morris being alternate spellings) and Emma Monsanto. American census records and German passenger lists indicate that Mauricio (a civil engineer) was born in Germany with Emma (hotel house keeper) being born in Holland. They would take their daughter to St. Thomas, before later settling in New Jersey.
The Monsanto name, being the paternal name, is really irrelevant here. In Jewish law the religion of the mother is what determines whether or not someone is Jewish. Olga Monsanto’s maternal grandmother was Caroline Magdalene Beckmann of Hannover, Germany. She was Lutheran.
The idea that David Duke would buy into anti-GMO conspiracies should not surprise anyone. Crank magnetism is a real thing. Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky published a study for Plos One showing that belief in conspiracy theories makes one much more likely to believe in multiple conspiracies. For example, people who think AIDs was created by the US government are far more likely to also believe that the connection between lung cancer and smoking is built on junk science.
The human brain evolved to find patterns, it helped early man survive. The problem occurs in the fact that the brain will perceive patterns when none are really there. Writing for Psychology Today Mark Van Vugt describes why so many people accept that there are massive conspiracies against them.
Another evolved function of the mind is to respond swiftly to threats. The biggest threat facing humans throughout history has been other people, particularly when they teamed up against you. If you consider societies that still live as in ancestral times, such as the Yanomamo in the Amazon region or the Kung San in Botswana then the most common form of violence involves a conspiracy directed against a particular individual who has been accused of malice, adultery, or witchcraft.
So whether it is one of the smallest religions on the planet somehow managing to control the world, or multi national corporations trying to depopulate the planet, these conspiracy theories are part of a primal survival instinct gone amok.
Fayth Stephenson, an 18 year old high school senior at Greenwood High School in Millerstown, PA describes herself as “passionate about GMO education and awareness”. A transplant from the Jersey Shore, Fayth found a love for agriculture in rural Pennsylvania.
Becoming aware of several markets in her area that she believes are passing off genetically modified crops as organic produce, Fayth is looking to purchase a GMO Investigator Kit from Bio-Rad. Bio-Rad markets its device as being neutral in the GMO debate, simply a way for students who may “be interested to know how much
of the corn– or soy–based foods they eat has been genetically modified”. It works by testing for the presence of two of the most common DNA sequences found in food using GM ingredients ” the 35S promoter of the cauliflower mosaic virus and the terminator of the nopaline synthase gene of Agrobacterium tumefaciens”.
“I have devoted 3/4ths of my entire high school career to researching GMOs,” Fayth explained. “I actively compete in several state science competitions throughout the school year. These include, the PA Farm Show FFA Agriscience Fair, PA Junior Academy of Science, and Capital Area Science and Engineering Fair.”
Fayth has turned to crowd funding to raise the money for the project, “which costs about $245.00 plus costs for test materials”. Hoping to encourage the members of her local community to not fear conventional produce, she has been forced to work on a local farm to save money to help her mom with family finances with little left over for the project.
According to Fayth, “this project will be taken to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Exposition to be judged in the FFA AgriScience Fair, as well as the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PAJAS) and the Capital Area Science and Engineering Fair”. If she succeeds at PAJAS she will have the opportunity to present her project at Pennsylvania State University.
“My goal, with this project is to test non USDA certified organic produce and ultimately expose leisurely labeled “organic” produce. I want our public to learn the facts and not fear their food. ”
You can help Fayth by donating to her GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/gmo-research-project-2w3pm78
No alternative to cancer
If 1,000 Australians died every year because they did not receive adequate medical treatment for their disease you would think that there would be national outrage. You can probably imagine the uproar if every year more than 5,000 Australians with potentially fatal illnesses simply disappeared off the medical records. Especially, if you knew that most of this death and trauma inflicted on these people and their families is entirely unnecessary because there are good medical treatments for their conditions.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what has been revealed during a special investigation by Australia’s Science Channel into people who forego conventional medicine treatments for their cancers in favour of searching for an alternative cure.
This year we can expect over 130,000 new diagnoses of cancer in Australia. With conventional treatment, the overall survivorship five years after diagnosis is 67%, meaning more than two-thirds of people diagnosed with cancer this year will live to see 2021.
Despite this, there is a small percentage of people diagnosed with cancer, who don’t pursue conventional treatment preferring instead to seek out alternative cures.
It is prescient to point out that there is a difference between complementary treatments and alternative cures.
Many cancer patients will pursue unconventional treatments for their disease or the symptoms of their disease alongside a regime of conventional medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. In fact, the front-line cancer medical experts we spoke to during our investigation actually encourage their patients to seek out unconventional, complementary treatments to help them through their ordeal with cancer. The key there is open discussion with the doctor or nurse about what other treatments the patient is trying. This way medical professionals can manage any conflicts or complications that may arise with the treatments they are already providing.
The concern is when a patient takes up an alternative cure for their cancer to the exclusion of conventional medical treatments. There are several problems with this course of action. The first is that alternative medical practitioners are not required to keep records of their treatments nor do they have to record the progress of those treatments. So no one really knows what happens to these people. We do not know of the efficacy of alternative treatments, something we would know if proper records were kept. But, from the limited data that is available, we can find no alternative treatment for cancer that actually works.
Why would a patient with a diagnosis of cancer turn away from conventional treatment? Professor Maria Kangas from Macquarie University says there are probably a variety of reasons including fear or having witnessed a friend or relative having gone through conventional medical treatments. In some cases, patients lured away from conventional treatments by promises of cures from alternative therapies. Unfortunately, these are promises that do not appear to be fulfilled.
The cases that are particularly distressing are those who return to the medical environment after having tried to find an alternative cure for their cancer. Usually this only occurs when things go wrong, the cancer has progressed and, what was a treatable condition, has developed into an untreatable cancer with a poor diagnosis.
What happens to the cases that don’t return to the medical environment? “We just don’t know”, says breast cancer nurse practitioner, Karen Redman. The assumption is that most of them suffer unnecessarily and many of them die prematurely. The extremely limited data from studies overseas indicate that they greatly increase the risk of dying prematurely from their cancers. We do not have a strong body of data showing that significant numbers of people either cure their cancer or significantly extend their lifespan following any proposed alternative cancer treatment. In short, there is no evidence that any alternative treatment for cancer actually works.
So how big is this problem? Again, this is difficult to pin down because of the lack of record keeping. The expert practitioners we spoke to all indicated a ‘drop off’ rate of between 3-5% but this is just within the area of breast cancer. If we assume that rate applies across all types of cancers, then, of the 130,466 new cancer diagnoses for Australia in 2016, we can expect over 5,000 people will choose not to pursue conventional treatments. We can assume most of those people will be looking for alternative treatments. Applying the demographic of prognoses for treated versus untreated cancers, this will result in around 1,000 premature deaths within this year.
We asked what’s to be done about this appalling and unnecessary waste of life and unwarranted infliction of suffering. The experts we spoke to all clamour for more and better education and awareness of what’s available and what the prognosis is for all alternative therapies. This means research and record keeping by alternative practitioners, the collection of hard data, of their successes and failures, so that a patient can be fully informed of what is likely to lay in their future. Perhaps, if the data were there that showed poor prognoses around alternative therapies, patients would be less willing to take up that course of treatment.
A key feature in the successful treatment of any cancer is timing. The earlier conventional treatments can be brought to bear on cancer, the better the prognosis for survivor-ship or even cure from the disease. Conversely, delaying action for any reason, decreases the prognosis for survivor-ship and increases the chances of dying from the cancer. Delaying conventional treatment while searching for an alternative cure is, all too often, a fatal mistake.
Watch the full story at http://www.australiascience.tv/videos/no-alternative-cancer
Dr. Hector Valenzuela has long been critical of biotechnology. A proponent of organic agriculture, Valenzuela has been performing research on it at the University of Hawaii since the early 90s. His criticism has certainly made him some rivals at his university, but academic feuds are definitely nothing new.
Valenzuela, unfortunately, appears to want to take his disagreements outside the confines of his university. Last year, in an interview for PR Web, he claimed that funding from the biotechnology industry was causing his university to silence him and he called out several fellow professors critical of his own viewpoints.
Professor Valenzuela told the authors of the piece, Paul Koberstein and Eliza Murphy, “I am not an anti-GMO person, and I have never served as a spokesman for any anti-GMO group”. Yet he took part in a protest against GMOs organized by Occupy Monsanto, and even spoke to the crowd. Valenzuela also appears to be actively engaged with Babes Against Biotech, plastering their posters on his office door.
I am not an anti-GMO person. – Hector Valenzuela
Dr. Andrew G. Hashimoto, the dean at the College of Tropical Agriculture told PR Web, “His claims of retaliation are also unfounded as the actions he cited were the result of non-performance. He spends most of his time making presentations about the problems with biotechnology, which he has the academic freedom to do, but not at the expense of his assigned responsibilities.”
If these allegations of harassment were accurate, Valenzuela appears not to have done much about it. I asked Dr. Robert Paull, one of the professors Valenzuela claims is harassing him about it. This was what he had to say, “Dr. Valenzuela has repeatedly raised allegations against myself and others at my college claiming harassment. He has been told to file a grievance on numerous occasions with our Union (UHPA) but has never done so in more than 12 years.” This was important information that the PR Watch authors failed to mention. Dr. Paull later clarified that he was aware of one discussion with the union, but no grievance was actually signed.
PR Watch’s Paul Koberstein is sticking with his claim that Valenzuela is not involved with any anti-GMO group.
I don’t know where you get your information about Prof. Valenzuela’s “very clear involvement” with GMOs. As he told me, and I reported, he is raising questions about biotechnology. That is what he is required to do to perform his job as a professor at the University of Hawaii. As far as I know, he is not involved with any group other than as a source of factual information.
Contrary to the title of the piece, which claims Valenzuela is being silenced, the last paragraph admits “They both continue to speak out.”
A pattern that may be continuing according to emails released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The University of Hawaii released the second in a series of emails from Valenzuela’s university account, around 1,000 pages worth. The majority of emails were extremely easy to read, except for approximately ten pages that had text shrunken down. Caitlin Russel who scanned the emails for Muckrock.com (a non-profit dedicated to government transparency) took note of it having something to do with Professor Kevin Folta of the University of Florida.
“ As best as we could figure, the emails had something to do with Kevin Folta, the director of the biotechnology communication program at the University of Florida, and the fallout from the public records reveal that he had received a $25,000 grant from Monsanto.”
Professor Folta has long been an outspoken proponent of genetically engineered crops, and critics of the technology used his receiving of the grant to insinuate that his opinion was shaped because of it. When the story broke, Diana Reeves of GMO Free USA sent an email through the listserv GMOList (which Valenzuela is a part of) requesting that people make anonymous complaints to Folta’s university and also requested for ammunition people could use in their complaints.
When the university released a legible copy of the shrunken email, it turned out to be a 32 page dossier on Folta created by Valenzuela. Much of the information was cherry picked from comments made by Folta on social media and blog posts going back several years. GMO Free USA appears to have used a lot of Valenzuela’s information to create memes encouraging their followers to harass Folta. Quite often it is obvious notes appear to have been taken verbatim from Valenzuela’s dossier and posted to GMO Free USA without disclosure. I emailed Professor Valenzuela and asked if he could confirm or deny his direct involvement in the creation of these memes, calls to action for Folta’s firing, or an explanation of why the original email released was shrunk down. So far he has failed to respond.
They even went so far as to call on Folta’s university to fire him, because a page unrelated to Folta made a joke about water.
And call the university, they did. According to Fusion.com, “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.”
The harassment did not stop at just complaints to his university. The blog Skeptical Raptor described how ruthless some of these people were. One email described the location of where the Professor’s wife liked to bike, terrorizing her enough to become afraid of staying home alone. They even went to Craigslist:
One of the most vile personal attacks was from some cowardly and anonymous Craigslist poster who invoked Dr. Folta’s deceased mother to attack Folta’s reputation. And used childish and ridiculous language like calling him a “Monsanto whore.”
Professor Folta wasn’t surprised to learn of Valenzuela’s involvement. “He can’t take on science in the spirit of acceptable scholarship, so he gets in line with vile activists to defame legitimate scientists. I heard him on the radio on Kauai. I could not believe I was hearing someone claiming to represent a Land Grant University and a science-based perspective. He was pushing claims we know are not supported by evidence.”
Unfortunately free speech often protects cyberbullying, but that does not necessarily extend to public university professors using university resources. This 32 page dossier created by Valenzuela was sent to his work email from his Evernote account. The technology policy set out by the University of Hawaii prohibits use of email to harass others.
“The same legal and policy standards that define intimidation, harassment or invasion of privacy apply to the electronic environment. For example, persistence in sending unwanted email constitutes harassment and is unacceptable if not illegal.”
“University resources are intended to be used for institutional purposes and may not be used for private gain.
The University provides information technology resources at great expense for the purpose of supporting its mission (learning, teaching, research, and public service). It is expected that usage will be primarily educational in nature in support of this mission.”
The first amendment gives rights to public university employees to speak out on matters of public concern. Those rights do not extend to using university resources to do so, nor does it apply to becoming involved in the harassment of people they might disagree with. Professor Folta was harassed and intimidated to the point of fearing for his family and nearly quitting his job. No one should have to suffer that over a disagreement about biotechnology. Especially when federal and state tax dollars are being used to support it.