I am always amazed at how easily public discussion about scientific issues can degenerate into childish and nasty attacks on science, and scientists. This is especially true for internet discussion – this medium really does seem to bring out the worst in some people.
Over the last few years we have seen climate science, and climate scientists treated this way. I have always tried to support that science, and those scientists, from afar and never thought I would become a victim of such nastiness myself.
Then I got involved in the fluoridation issue.
I am not critical of everyone who opposes fluoridation – some of my best friends oppose it. I can understand why some people will advocate personal freedom over social good. I can even understand the chemophobia and other misunderstanding which can make the less scientifically literate person a bit wary of fluoridation.
Anti-fluoridationists – a strange social mixture
But the anti-fluoridationists are a strange social mixture. Amongst the well-meaning environmentalists and health advocates there are some really irrational people. Conspiracy theorists are common. Some are concerned about chemtrails, others about Agenda 21 and attempts by the UN to control birth rates! Then there are the right-wing extremists, supporters of the US Tea Party Republicans, absolutely opposed to any community measure for social good.
The anti-fluoridation movement is a strange mixture of left and right, concerned greenies and outright libertarians. One wonders what would happen to these groups if the fluoride issue disappeared and internal strife broke out.
Unfortunately, it seems that quite often in the current controversy the more extreme conspiracy theorists and anti-science elements seem to be making the running. Speaking and acting for the more genuine members of the anti-fluoridation groups.
I thought this only happened with teenage schoolgirls, or young female celebrities, but now find that even someone my age can become a victim. This video demonstrates the sort of attacks people who speak out about the science underpinning fluoridation can be exposed to. It really does put into context the decisions by local Health Boards not to participate in political meetings on fluoridation because of threats to, and attacks on, their staff.
In a way, this sort of bullying is a bit of a compliment. Perhaps I have done something right to have upset these anti-science extremists. But it is not about me. This sort of thing illustrates the sort of nasty hysterical anti-science propoganda out there on the internet. The worrying thing is that this guy actually does have a following (about 9500 subscribers to his YouTube channel). When I expressed ignorance of who he is one commenter told me that “everyone” in Australia and New Zealand has heard of him!
Yeah, right. But he is obviously popular with a certian group of people.
Image credit: uknowkids