Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More Death Threats

More death threats and abuse against scientists, this time scientists suggesting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might have a psychological component.
"It's direct intimidation in the sense of letters, emails, occasional phone calls and threats," says Professor Simon Wessely, of King's College London, who has received a series of death threats and threatening phone calls, and now has his mail routinely scanned for suspect devices.

"But more often indirect intimidation through my employer or the GMC [General Medical Council]. All of it intended to denigrate and try and make you into a leper."
Did this kind of thing ever go on before the Internet? I know that earlier climate scientist Benjamin Santer received a lot of harassment from the fossil fuel industry. But this now seems to be a dedicated effort from those with different views organizing via online tools.

If CFS truly believe there is not enough research into biological mechanisms, as the BBC article suggests, then they ought to use their organizing 'talents' to advocate for more research funding towards that aspect, not harass those with different views. Intimidation won't work, and can't be tolerated.

And it doesn't even work: one virologist, unable to confirm an earlier finding of a viral link to CFS, stopped doing research in this area after she was harassed and abused. She told the BBC, "I couldn't understand, and still can't to this day, what the logic of that was. Any virologist wants to find a new virus."

Ultimately, of course, the anger springs from concerns that society's view is that mental illness is something different from bodily illness and worthy of ridicule. (Thanks a lot, Rene Descartes.) That stigma and prejudice has to end, but is far too often still tolerated.

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