On Tue, Aug 5, 2008 at 5:48 PM, Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>
I, too, have witnessed similar problems to those you describe on various lists. But there are also long-established lists such as SprayNo, where most everyone on it is actively involved in fighting against pesticides spraying, and which has generally not been faced with the kind of abusive behavior you describe.
I, for one, have raised several items on this list that have turned out to be controversial. My intention is NOT to disrupt, and I find it hard to see how my own posts, or the relatively few posts by Jim West, for example, can cause disruption here, as frustrating as some people on this list may find those controversial ideas which -- please remember -- were writtten as legitimate queries in response to assertions that others were making. I write here because on this list are scientists of high quality and radical politics. Not being involved with a university or research institution myself, this listserve is one of the few resources available to me to discuss and to come to understand the nature of certain debates. Please understand that the controversial issues I raise here concerning HIV, Gardasil, 911 Truth, etc. are coming out of and influencing social movements with which I am involved (I could throw in Palestine and a few other issues as well, but that one I'm pretty much able to handle on my own), and for which I seek deeper scientific understanding. I have learned a great deal from this list, especially in those instances when list members have seriously addressed concerns raised. As such, I have refined my views on a number of matters. The feedback I've received has helped me in my various organizing projects. I've also forwarded items and ideas from this list to other bulletin boards I'm on, particularly the Green listserves, and those have helped guide us in our work.
Just as much as this list has helped me, I think it is very important to keep scientists connected to social and ecological movements. While everyone here is, I'm sure, involved in those movements -- some more than others -- the danger has always been for academics, experts, scientists to become isolated from the nitty gritty of those movements. The same is true for many of us regardless of profession as we get older. We need to remember the import and intensity of those arguments within movements, the often wrong interpretations as well as the right ones, and strengthen our connections to them, which is especially difficult now that so many revolutionary groups that were nourished on grassroots democracy in addressing issues have been replaced by Not-for-profit corporations prizing the trust-the-expert and top-down approach that feeds the individual, with nowhere else to turn, back into the system even as we seek to remedy a particular aspect of it.
Dana Bramel and Ron Friend wrote a crucial article back in 1981 on "The Theory and Practice of Psychology," printed in Ollman and Vernoff, "The Left Academy: Marxist Scholarship on American Campuses." (I typed and critiqued that essay for the authors, who were also my teachers at Stony Brook, and as part of my job I was to run it into the editors in New York City, which is how I first met Bertell Ollman -- the beginning of our provocative friendship.) Their short review of psychology and Marxism is still fascinating to me, and their general conclusion can productively be made to reflect on other areas of science, including the Science for the People listserve. It is worth posting here:
"Discussion of the organized efforts of left or Marxist psychologists brings us full circle in our attempt to answer the question: "Psychology for whom?" [We might here ask, "Science for whom?"] The primary function of psychology as a bourgeois science in North America has been to reduce society's problems to individual problems. Psychology is applied at both ideological (images of human nature) and practical levels for purposes of social control, but always with the individual as the unit of analysis. This handicaps psychologists in viewing the world as Marxists do. Therefore, if they are to take an anticapitalist role in society, we believe it is insufficient to organize as an alternative psychology. In addition they should consider joining together with those outside of the discipline in Marxist organizations, where their psychological work can be put to direct use. This may be the only way to overcome the narrowness of the professional's point of view, in its theory and in its practice."
I agree with that assessment, still, after all these years. One should, in my opinion, take into consideration not only the view or question or challenge itself, but from whence it springs. The challenges to the official HIV = AIDS paradigm, for example, emerged among People With AIDS themselves in ACT UP and HEAL, who may not have had every scientific nuance nailed down but who knew (and still do) from experience that something was awry and who were being killed by the pharmaceuticals they were being told to take, and so the quest for information became (and still remains) a desperate and immediate need. Others can disagree, they can refine, they can argue -- but the exhibition of *contempt* by some on this list for those who collectively were (and still are) raising challenges to the dominant paradigm further speaks, in my opinion, to Bramel and Friend's insights and supports their conclusion -- one that I feel many on this list, as elsewhere, have for too long ignored or forgotten in our everyday lives.