We should also be clear about why such folks as Jonathan Campbell were driven from this list. Jonathan's BUSINESS (his for-money business) is advising people about their health issues. But because this listserve is on the web, when one googled his name at the time what came up near the top were all the attacks on him from this listserve, and those threatened his business financially.

My friend Cathryn had a similar experience in the Green Party. She has put several extremely significant blogs out there that even the corporate media turn to when dealing with certain issues; but when you googled her name, what came up was a piece calling her a liar and the call for her expulsion from the Green Party, which she felt to be inimical to what she was trying to accomplish.

In other words, whether the arguments are right or wrong, they cement into place positions and attacks of the moment, and nail individuals forever to swiftboat-type takedowns.


So what we say here has real world ramifications.

At 05:40 PM 8/16/2010, you wrote:

I had just drafted, but had not yet sent, a careful statement that I hoped Michael Balter would understand about how I felt his style affected people on this list (appended at the end of this exchange for the record).  I was debating whether it was worth the trouble.  Now I know that sending it would be a waste of time because of the email below he recently sent to the list.

I think Michael Balter’s first paragraph below represent his declaration of victory of his personal purge 9/11 types and AIDS denialism and others from this list.  I for one, did not appreciate Michael’s verbal assaults on people.

His second paragraph reads like most generous offer to let anyone participate provided, from his perspective, people, including women (most gracious of you Michael), are not attacked for their political views.  Written as though he does not attack people for their political views.  Jeez.

The arrogance is awesome.

He may not think he sounds that way, but he does to me.

All Hail the new SftP list controller.  Three cheers for his obvious non sectarianism--NOT (e.g., 9/11 types, not allowed, AIDS deniers, not allowed, anyone with Stalinist tendencies, not allowed) that he is so offended by in others.

OK, so moderate me.


On 8/16/10 1:51 PM, "Michael Balter" <[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I remember when I first came on this list too, about 3-4 years ago or whatever it was (maybe longer?) This list was largely dominated by posts on 9/11 conspiracy theories and AIDS denialism, and a battle had to be fought to put that in its place. I was kicked off the list briefly during that time for the strong stance I took, and Phil himself quit the list in protest at that purely political move by the then moderator.

I remember how appalled I was that the once influential Science for the People had degenerated into a listserve that so regularly featured such nonsense. Those days are largely over, and as I said before, the list is what its members make of it. Nobody is stopping a larger number of list members, including its women members, from participating and shaping the nature of this list. If they did, then the posts of allegedly "abrasive" list members would take their proper proportion and percentage of the total. And if people were not attacked personally for their political views, that would help a lot too.


On Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 3:11 PM, Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Sadly, that may already have happened. One of the things I always used to like about this list was that for the first few years I was a member (I joined in 2002, immediately after Stephen Jay Gould's death), there were several women who regularly posted and participated. That's extremely unusual on left listserves, where men (often very abrasive men) make 95% or more of the contributions. Sometime in the last few years, the character of this list changed and it is now very rare for women to participate­I suspect that some may have also unsubscribed. And I can't say I blame them. --PG

On Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 12:03 AM, Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]> wrote:
 Not trying to follow this helps turn any list into a not-very-illuminating boys' club, in my experience.

My initial meaningless email.


I will join Michael Balter in attempting to keep the discussion civil.  I reflected on my choice of going silent about this discussion or going silent.  I also thought about sending this email directly to Michael offline, but decided against being silent or writing offline.

I tried to address Michael Balter in a comradely fashion below about why he makes me so angry at times and how he does it.  Comradely almost sounds trite and maybe paternalistic, but I do not mean it that way because am writing about feelings and I tried to keep my language as non pejorative and as non ad hominem as possible.  I hope I succeeded.

I read Michael’s email below carefully and there is one section that for me that is particularly important.

Starting here:  “... this constant misconception [that Michael has a different ideology] is the source of a lot of the trouble, and indeed reflective of sectarian attitudes on the left. I am a socialist, a far-leftist, an anti-capitalist, an anti-Zionist, an anti-racist, anti-fascist, against the war in Iraq and the current one in Afghanistan, etc etc etc. I am not a liberal nor a Democrat. I share the basic political outlook of most people on this list.

I agree on the source of the trouble, because when you express yourself online Michael you really do sound at times like a Democrat.  I disagree with you that attitudes on this list toward you reflect sectarian attitudes on the left.  SftP is a small list that hardly reflects the whole left.  I and I suspect a number of others (I would never say all) are actually personally insulted by what you write.

Great on all the “ists” you oppose.  Me to.

The above point is followed by: “But I have some different ideas than some here about tactics, strategy, and priorities; and I am staunchly anti-Stalinist and, because so many "communists" still insist on "democratic centralism" and engage in destructive sectarian battles, I am anti-Communist from a left perspective.”

I feel your perspective about being staunchly anti-Stalinist, opposing sectarian battles, and being a anti-Communist from a left perspective, contribute mightily to the repeated disagreements on this list.  That added to what I see as your sometimes dismissive, pejorative, attack style can inflame others, including me.  The other way to view your being picked on is that you have succeeded in angering a number of us.  Your recent labeling of me as a Stalinist (I think you said something like that, I don’t want to get hung up on exact words) was for me just sniping, but fits with your staunch anti-Stalinism.

Michael: I was politically ignorant (a thoughtless conservative) until the police set the dogs and fire hoses on people in Birmingham in 1963 and then I underwent a gradually awaking with the anti-war movement, SDS and the New University Conference (organization folded) at Indiana University as a graduate student.  I also started reading Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action about this time, but never participated in the creation of the magazine.  But I was impressed.  As a Post Doc at Santa Barbara and a faculty member at Rutgers since, I have formally belonged to no political party (except I worked for Nader and McKinney a bit).  I met one guy who declared himself a Stalinist at Indiana University, but soon realized he was as ignorant as me about Stalinism.  All the organizations I have belonged to have been against democratic centralism or, more likely, the members don’t know what democratic centralism is.

Michael:  I feel at times you are trying to root out anything and anyone on this list that does not pass your Stalinist sniff test.  This is a discussion group not a political faction.

Michael:  You did an “aha gotcha” on me several emails ago by posting that I have a grant from the US Department of Agriculture  That is correct.  I suppose others might see me as hypocritical for applying and taking a USDA grant.  It is a contradiction that I live with.  When I decided to do academic research about 30 years ago and actually got hired to do it, I succeeded in getting my funding from NSF for much of that time. Later I also had a small grant to do research from the Center for Advanced Food Technology to do basic research on antioxidants in emulsions and I had some success and applied to the USDA and after about 6 tries, got funded.  During this time I also had two NSF rejections of a renewal proposal.  I was scared that all my scientific effort was simply going to die.  Last year both the USDA and NSF grants were funded and I am in better shape­but very busy.  I also have a grant pending with the Army Office of Research, which in a way, is even worse than the USDA grant, although the Army makes no more demands on me than NSF.

I can tell you than none of my colleagues in the chemistry department understand the mixed feelings that I have about taking money from the USDA and maybe the Army.  They just see them as different funding sources than NSF.  Sometimes I feel like a worker who is against some US war, but only can get a job in a defense (war) plant.  Trapped by my reality.  Yes, I can quit, but I have to give up my research to do it.  After 30 years and some successes, this is difficult.  I am pleased that to my knowledge none of my research has improved our military capability nor increased corporate profits that I know of.  Everything I do is in the open journals.

So, can we declare a truce.  You don’t like being attacked.  I don’t like being attacked.   Others don’t like it either.

I hope I was clear.