I made several points about the piece: that scientists, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, are in a PR struggle with those who are unalterably opposed to using animals in research; that the Boston Globe article played neatly into negative stereotypes carefully crafted by Animal Rights activists about scientists; that the stereotypes were vicious and patently untrue; that for better or for worse, such hit-pieces mold public opinion about science and scientists; and that scientists and their supporters would be well advised to do more than play defense against such characterizations, viz. scientists cannot depend solely on pointing to past glories and their own authority if they hope to see the scientific enterprise flourish, when AR people have plausible, but false, answers to both responses that can sway public opinion away from science and towards their own extremist cause.
But I have more to say about the hit-piece, its author, the nature of satire and the Boston Globe.
The author of the piece, Martha Rosenberg (the reincarnation of Rita Skeeter), and perhaps the editors of the Boston Globe might well try to defend the piece on the grounds that it is merely satire — that politicians are often satirized, as are lawyers, college professors, doctors, etc. So why should scientists be exempt?
Fair question — scientists shouldn't be exempt. But satire should be responsible and illuminating, not irresponsible and dangerous. And I do mean dangerous.
This piece simply never should have seen the light of day, and for two reasons.
The less important reason — indeed the trivial reason — is this: as a work of satire it simply fails. It fails because it plays precisely into an Animal Rights stereotype that already exists, and has for decades. It is not creative, it is not new, it is not particularly well-written, it is not innovative, it is not insightful. In light of these deficiencies, it is nothing more than AR propaganda.
You can read exactly the same kind of stuff in any Animal Rights/Animal Liberation pamphlet, or by visiting any number of Animal Rights/Animal Liberation websites.
But that is, as I said, a trivial reason why it should not have been printed.
At this moment in history, scientists occupy a unique place, along with some other categories of people.
Unlike lawyers, professors, reporters, bureaucrats, cartoonists for Illinois Newspapers, editors of Op Ed pages, etc., scientists are targets of Animal Rights fanatics.
Those fanatics feel perfectly free to invade and vandalize the scientists' places of work and their private property; they post threatening and intimidating messages demonizing scientists and all who work with them; they threaten the friends and families of the scientists; and one group (SHAC) has posted a list of the top 20 terror tactics, and hints on how to avoid being caught.
And those threats are credible.
If you don't believe me, read my post on the ALF "direct action" made against researchers at the University of Iowa. The people at the U of I who were attacked had their offices and labs trashed, their records destroyed, their animals "liberated" (to who knows what fate?), their names, telephone numbers and addresses posted online. They were demonized and were threatened to the point where they were afraid to allow their kids to play in their own yards.
Now — add to the University of Iowa attack the person of Dr. Jerry Vlasak. Dr. Vlasak is a self-appointed "Press Officer" for the terrorist ALF (Animal Liberation Front), the loosely organized group that claimed credit for the University of Iowa attack.
Dr. Vlasak believes in achieving the Animal Liberation utopia by assassination: he begins with the assumption that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value. He then proceeds down a logical path that leads inevitably to the conclusion that if you can save "N + 1" animals by killing "N" scientists, you've come out ahead! (Dr. Vlasak claims you'd only have to kill 15 scientists to chill the rest into abandoning their work . . . but if that doesn't do it, logic dictates you kill another 15, and then another and another . . .)
You can listen yourself to Dr. Vlasak proclaiming that the assassination of scientists is "morally acceptable". Better, if you follow this link, you can watch him advocating the practice of assassinating scientists. (The fact that so far nobody has acted on Dr. Vlasak's recommendation is irrelevant . . . it's only a matter of time. There are lots of dots to be connected here . . ..)
Scientists have been targeted for assassination. They, their friends, colleagues and families have also been tagged as targets for intimidation, vandalism and thuggery, and the threats are very, very real.
The fact that scientists and those close to them are the specific targets of a campaign of violence, vandalism and intimidation, which campaign is based on exactly the same vicious stereotypes that are the core of Rosenberg's "satire," is what separates her effort from perfectly defensible satire that could be legitimately aimed at lawyers, politicians, doctors, reporters and almost all others.
It is the combination that is key: scientists are targets of violent people, and the reason they are targets is because of a vicious PR campaign based on exactly the same false stereotypes that Rosenberg chose to make the centerpiece of her "satire."
The Boston Globe should be ashamed of itself for having published such tripe and thereby making common cause with Animal Rights terrorists.
For perspective — can you imagine the Boston Globe publishing a similar Op Ed in which the two conversants are abortion clinic doctors, and the "good guys" — the equivalent of those standing up for the animals in Rosenberg's piece — were Christian fundamentalists whose tactics include firebombing clinics and calling for the assassination of clinic doctors?
The Boston Globe should retract Rosenberg's piece, apologize to scientists, and get down on their knees and beg forgiveness from the scientific community.
Yeah . . . right . . .