Friends,
      This evening I received the posting by Garda Ghista, which read:

i am new to this list and find it a bit strange.  i might have mentioned that i run a list serve with 205 members, and another one with 246 members.  i don't remove anyone  at the very most i put them on Moderate but generally i just request them to write nicely. we moderate each other.  it is very easy to remove a person from the list.  but then it also seems a bit cowardly.  why not have the courage to deal with the person instead?  if we can't deal appropriately via communicating on a list serve, then where are the skills to deal with real people in real life?  one time when i wanted to remove someone from my list, a good man wrote to me, no, you should reply, you should respond, you should give proper rebuttal. if you can't do it, then you will not be able to deal with people in the public domain.  so with this advice, i never remove people from my two list serves. i write, i communicate, i persuade  i don't see why the same cannot be done here.  i admit i don't know the background of the animosity here. i just don't see why it is ever necessary to remove someone unless a person is an abuser.

      In my attempt to answer Garda I discovered to my dismay that the letter I sent to various people on 25 June was not posted to the listserv. It ought to have been, and must have been an oversight on my part, for which I apologize. I located a copy of the letter, which has the explicit language in Michael Balter's posts that I found unacceptable, and indicates the effort I made to solicit advice before acting. Here is my note to Garda, which contains the 25 June letter.

Subject: Thanks Garda for your note
From: George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2007 23:03:02 -0500
To: Garda Ghista <[log in to unmask]>}

Oaxaca, Saturday 30 June 2007
Hello Garda,
      I really appreciate your observations. I the 'culprit' who, after a substantial effort to stop the vicious personal attacks going back and forth (which did not involve me directly), acted to demand that one member who had written things that I found intolerable revise the posting and apologize or be removed. The individual refused, and I unsubscribed him for one month.
      Everything you wrote seems correct to me. I have always attempted to communicate when I disagree with someone else, but the people in the 'flame war' as they call it scorned and abused one another. I gave what I considered ample warning (three weeks) that I would use the arbitrary power of a list co-owner to remove anyone who made personal attacks that to me were intolerable. Here is a message that will give you a sense of the efforts I made.
_______________________________________________________

Subject: Science for the People list
From: George Salzman
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 15:53:08 -0500
To: Tadit Anderson , Eric Entemann , Claudia Hemphill Pine , Melanie McCalmont , Carrol Cox , Phil Gasper , Les Schaffer , Michael Balter , Mitchel Cohen , Mandi Smallhorne , Robert David Ogden

Friends,
      This note is for each of you who were interested enough to post in the string Saving the value of SftP on the internet , which had the 21 posts:
 
George Salzman [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 09:11:54 -0400
Tadit [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 09:26:25 -0400
Eric Entemann [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 10:04:42 -0400
Claudia Hemphill Pine [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 08:14:18 -0700
Melanie McCalmont [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 10:16:36 -0500
Carrol Cox [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 10:45:43 -0500
Dr. Science [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 11:55:00 -0500
Phil Gasper [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 12:09:13 -0500
Les Schaffer [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 14:00:44 -0400
Claudia Hemphill Pine [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 11:03:28 -0700
Michael Balter [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 20:21:09 +0200
Les Schaffer [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 14:32:25 -0400
Mitchel Cohen [log in to unmask] Tue, 5 Jun 2007 14:27:28 -0400
Mandi Smallhorne [log in to unmask] Wed, 6 Jun 2007 10:20:39 +0200
Tadit [log in to unmask] Wed, 6 Jun 2007 06:57:18 -0400
Eric Entemann [log in to unmask] Wed, 6 Jun 2007 09:58:09 -0400
Eric Entemann [log in to unmask] Wed, 6 Jun 2007 09:58:21 -0400
Mitchel Cohen [log in to unmask] Fri, 8 Jun 2007 02:14:10 -0400
Mandi Smallhorne [log in to unmask] Fri, 8 Jun 2007 09:51:03 +0200
Eric Entemann [log in to unmask] Fri, 8 Jun 2007 05:38:39 -0400
Robert David Ogden [log in to unmask] Fri, 8 Jun 2007 12:58:05 -0700
 
      Tomorrow will be three weeks since my 5 June post that started the string. This morning I sent a note to Alex Dajkovic and Eric Entemann, both bona fide scientists, Alex in biology and Eric in physics. Part of that note follows:
______________________________________________
 
Subject: In a quandry
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 06:58:56 -0500
 
Hi Alex and Eric,
      I'm writing for some advice. Quite honestly I don't know what to think or what to do. You, Alex, have been responding to people like Jim West and Jonathan Campbell without impugning their personal integrity. By comparison, Michael Balter ripped them apart yesterday with the following two posts:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Re: the problems of the HIV debate on this list
Sun, 24 Jun 2007 18:32:45 +0200
 
For an AIDS denialist who has stated repeatedly that HIV is not the cause of AIDS to now show a sudden great "scientific" interest in the possibility that HHV-6 might be a cofactor, when not all AIDS patients are infected with HHV-6 and individuals who are infected with HHV-6 but not HIV do not get AIDS, is a show of such staggering dishonesty--explainable most easily by the fact that he profits personally from convincing AIDS patients not to take their antiviral medicines but to pay him for telephone consultations--that I have changed my mind: It is no longer useful to continue to respond to such posts on this list. I will no longer respond to the lying garbage that Campbell and West disseminate here and will delete their posts. I leave it to others to deal with it as I feel I have done enough.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Re: the problems of the HIV debate on this list
Sun, 24 Jun 2007 18:44:28 +0200
 
In case anyone wonders what I am talking about, here is what Campbell really thinks about HIV and HHV-6 and their relationship, and here is what he is advising HIV positive patients to do. He and other quacks like Gary Null are a direct danger to HIV/AIDS patients and I would go so far to say that they are complicit in the deaths of anyone who takes their advice. As I said, this is serious business, which is why I have pursued it. There are lives at stake. Campbell should be in jail.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      In a note to Jonathan Campbell <[log in to unmask]>, Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>, Jim West <[log in to unmask]> and Frank Lusardi <[log in to unmask]> yesterday, I urged them not to allow themselves to be provoked by Balter, and concluded
 
"My own position is that I think the stance of Mandi Smallhorne makes the most sense. Also, I know Alex Dajkovic personally. He is a real scientist (unlike Balter) who, I'm certain, would have no hesitancy in admitting an error if he made one. I think your request for a citation from Alex is entirely appropriate, Jonathan. My negative feelings about Balter come from what I see as his arrogance and contempuousness of others. But if his views on HIV-AIDS turned out to be more justified than yours, I would accept them."
 
      I know very well that Mitchel Cohen is not a fraud. The others I have no prior knowledge of. Jonathan Campbell initiated a short exchange yesterday. I think his political judgment . . . However, I don't think he's a fraud. Unless I am totally naive on this matter and the people Balter here denigrates with the term 'denialists' are dishonest contemptible individuals, then Balter's behavior is, to me, unacceptable. The question is, How should it be dealt with? I know from previous correspondence with Claudia Hemphill that the kind of "tough, male slugfest" that Michael [Balter] and Chuck[Munson] seem to relish is very distasteful to her and to some other women, who find it intimidating. Claudia, if I recall, termed it a pissing contest.
 
      I wrote you Alex earlier (this is for you to see, Eric), “No doubt Balter will jump in to thank you for supporting “his” position in your latest post, which he can’t do because he is not a scientist. I thank you for speaking non-disparagingly to those on the list who question the causal connection between HIV and AIDS. I am a lay person in this discussion, never having had even a high school biology course. I’ve looked at a few of the so-called news articles by Balter and another similar Science reporter, and found them quite unimpressive. It's like reading Gina Kolata in the New York Times, whose job is to write, a few times a week, some little story about a ‘conflict’ between scientists -- so and so says . . ., but this is contrary to the report by . . . etc. Conflict is ‘news’, like when there is blood in the streets or burning buses in Oaxaca. These hack writers have got their niche in a capitalist world. It’s not that they are ‘bad’ people. They’ve just found a way to make a living by following a formula that doesn’t help people understand the problems caused by the dominant society we all live in. And they write fluently. Anyway, the contributions of Mandi Smallhorne and you struck me as probably the best to the discussion.”
 
      I thought of the possibility of telling Balter that he should retract the two postings (the ones above) and apologize, or face removal from the list. But I am at a loss, which is why I'm writing you. Thanks,
George
______________________________________________
 
      Alex wrote me his thoughts. I will welcome other comments and/or suggestions. At the moment my thinking is to post a note to the list citing Balter’s two posts that I find unacceptable personal attacks and to ask him to withdraw them or to modify them by removing the offensive language (see below), and to apologize. If he refuses to do so, I will probably remove him from the list for a month.
Unacceptable language:
   staggering dishonesty--explainable most easily by the fact that he [Campbell] profits personally
   the lying garbage that Campbell and West disseminate
   He [Campbell] and other quacks
   Campbell should be in jail.
Thanks for your help.
Sincerely,
George
P.S. It seems to me that Alex answered Jim West’s question today with his post, Re: Rebuttal ref request, again: REFERENCES, Mon, 25 Jun 2007 09:31:39 +0200
Subject: Oversight. I left you out
From: George Salzman
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 16:57:16 -0500
To: Alex Dajkovic

Hi Alex,
      Thank you very much for your response. I ought to have included you among the recipients. You were central to the discussion. But I just went down the list of those who had posted to the string, and didn't check to see if you were one of the posters. After thinking about it some more, I'm not really ready to accept Balter's behavior, even once. If he has been comparably personally attacked (I haven't tried to make a search) then the same standard ought to be applied to his attacker(s). I'll wait until he cites a posting that attacks him personally. This entire stupid business is so juvenile. And I've spent so much time on it. Far too much.
George


Subject: Re: Science for the People list
From: Tadit Anderson <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 19:59:22 -0400
To: George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>

George,
      It seems to come down to standards. Frankly, I consistently delete every post from Balter on sight, without even beginning to read them. My own preference would be that those that are attracted to personal denigration as a legitimate tactic in discussion be taken off list. Chuck Munson is also right that this sort of thing is relatively common on open lists. One that I managed/owned descended completely into a bullying free for all, I walked away from it for about a year in case somehow I was the source of such unremitting and pointless contention. When I returned on a lurking basis, the majority was still at it full throttle. The folk wisdom of refusing to engage pigs at their level will really only make them happy and you'll get muddy as well, seems to apply. I dissolved the list and several were angry enough to attack personally. I didn't respond and they they went ahead started their own list.
      In the case of the SftP list there seems to be a potential for a greater loss given the greater number of people involved, and the uniqueness of the thematic domain of this list. I would suggest that the owners of list determine the standards they want to be followed, and then periodically post those rules of engagement and discourse. It is not a majoritarian democracy, it has a task to accomplish.
      Tadit


Subject: Re: Science for the People list
From: Michael Balter
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 07:08:11 +0200

This is my response to George's post:

1. It is hypocritical of him to single me out on the score of personal attacks as he has made many recent ones on me, including in this post denigrating my journalism and my scientific knowledge. His statement is also partly inaccurate: Although I do not work as a scientist today, I did so as a graduate student for 3 years at UCLA, doing research and teaching and leaving just shy of my PhD with an MA after three years in the lab for personal reasons. Thus I have significant scientific training and continue to follow the scientific literature actively.

2. It is my opinion that AIDS denialism is based on a tissue of lies and that the most vocal advocates of this position can easily be shown to pursue dishonest and evasive arguments in favor of their positions. This is my political and scientific opinion and I am entitled to it.

3. It is my personal opinion that anyone who ACTIVELY encourages HIV positive patients to abandon their meds should be charged with attempted murder. Should that person be convicted of that or a lesser charge, the judge would presumably take their motivations into account during sentencing. If the defendant is profiting personally from this activitiy, as Jonathan Campbell does as evidenced by his own Web site, the sentence would likely be greater. That is my political and moral opinion and I am entitled to it, and it applies not only to Campbell but to his guru Matthias Rath, to Gary Null, et al.

I retract nothing and apologize for nothing as these are my opinions based on my politics and my principles. Whether they should lead to my banning or suspension from this list I will leave to others to debate.

best wishes, Michael Balter


Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 05:13:12 -0500

Hi Tadit,
      Thanks very much for writing your own experiences and thoughts. As you probably already know, Balter posted my e-mail to the 11 people to the SftP list. I had in fact thought of doing it (why not solicit wider advice?) but gave myself overnight to think about putting yet another post on conflict on the overburdened list. In any event, the point of this note is to ask whether it would be OK to make your comments public . . .
      As you can see [from my note [of 25 June afternoon] to Alex, which I included for Tadit’s info], I anticipated possibly removing others besides Balter. He of course doesn't know that and has called me (potentially) a hypocrite for focussing on him . . .


Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 06:08:39 -0500
To: Alex Dajkovic

Hi Alex,
      Would it be OK to make your response to me public? You wrote, . . .
      So far the only other direct response I've received is from Tadit Anderson. I wrote him, . . .


From: Tadit
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 07:26:39 -0400

George,
      You have my permission. One of my side points is that such permission should not be required as validation. Consensus building is generally good thing, except when consensus is made impossible deliberately. The question should arise whether all nominal participants are invested in compatible values. Besides for all we know Balter could be a mole whose intent is to disrupt. I know that such people are out there if only by what I have come upon relative to DU [depleted uranium —G.S.] education. A kindred issue comes up during union organizing, and there have to be ways of controlling the process from disruption by provocateurs. It is also a fact that there are personalities who get behind a keyboard and thereby lose all sense of civility. At the minimum, the process needs to move forward.


From: Alex Dajkovic
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007 14:26:01 +0200

I have to say that I have little doubt that HIV causes AIDS. In fact I doubt it as little as I doubt the general validity of Newton’s laws. I have some special knowledge in these matters, having studied under Bill Narayan who is a leading lentivirologist, and having taught medical students microbiology and immunology. I got out of the field for many reasons, and started focusing on other research questions. I know that many well intentioned people had/have doubts about HIV–AIDS. Our friend James was one of them. These are usually radicals without scientific training whose first reflex is to question things. They come across some scientific-sounding accounts that question HIV–AIDS and latch onto them because they are contrary to the “mainstream.” On the list I have tried to be friendly to people like this, to try to point out some very basic mistakes that they are making in as gentle a way as I can. This is mainly to help neutralize others whose style is too combative for my taste, especially with people who should be their comrades.
Best,
Alex

_______________________________________________________
     
      Garda, the key points are in the paragraph (about in the middle) that I'll repeat here,

At the moment my thinking is to post a note to the list citing Balter’s two posts that I find unacceptable personal attacks and to ask him to withdraw them or to modify them by removing the offensive language (see below), and to apologize. If he refuses to do so, I will probably remove him from the list for a month.
Unacceptable language:
   staggering dishonesty--explainable most easily by the fact that he [Campbell] profits personally
   the lying garbage that Campbell and West disseminate
   He [Campbell] and other quacks
   Campbell should be in jail.
Thanks for your help.
Sincerely,
George

      Also, the short paragraph right after the list of addresses, namely

      Tomorrow will be three weeks since my 5 June post that started the string. This morning I sent a note to Alex Dajkovic and Eric Entemann, both bona fide scientists, Alex in biology and Eric in physics. Part of that note follows:

      I hope this helps to clarify somewhat what has been going on.
Sincerely,
George