Back in the 1960s when I was a kid in a small town in Pennsylvania, there were always a few people known as the crazy neighbor. They weren’t dangerous, but everyone in the town knew them. They showed up at town meetings and in local stores ranting about some imaginary threat or conspiracy.
People would listen politely, let them speak their piece and as they would wander off, those in the vicinity would roll their eyes and shake their heads.
Usually they would wander home to write bizarre letters to the editor. Some had mimeograph machines in their basements where they would churn out their screeds to be mailed to hundreds of similar folk.
Today, the modern-day version of the crazy neighbor doesn’t visit local stores or churn out mimeographed tracts. They use the internet. Their new milieu is the comment boards. Back in the day you wouldn’t engage them because trying to have any sane discussion was impossible and you knew it.
One of the new versions is the anti-GMO crazy neighbor and for some peculiar reason, we give them the time of day, much to the detriment of our own sanity. By engaging them, we give them legitimacy, at least in their own minds. They show up whenever any article is written that might even hint that GMOs might not be the scourge they believe. It’s all one big conspiracy by Monsanto, who, by the way apparently controls the federal government and all their agencies.
While there exists a controversy in this country as to whether psychiatrists too easily dole out anti-psychotic drugs, reading the comments of the anti-GMO crowd makes you wonder whether they are over-prescribing or just prescribing them to the wrong people. I’ve read a lot of crazy talk on this issue, but a recent flood of comments on the CNN blog Eatocracy seems to have brought out the even crazier neighbors.
The Blog is an occasional one by an Indiana family farmer named Brian Scott. In addition to his CNN contributions he maintains his own blog, The Farmer’s Life. In his most recent CNN column, My family farm isn’t under “corporate control,” he tries to dispel the misconceptions surrounding farmers’ dealings with the Devil Monsanto.
In the piece he quite nicely explains what it’s like being a farmer who uses Monsanto GM seeds and in the process dispels the myths of the draconian rules Monsanto supposedly inflicts on farmers. He writes,
We get a lot of our seed from big corporations like the so-called “evil” Monsanto, Pioneer and others, meaning I have first-hand experience raising a crop under such an agreement. In hopes of clarifying the matter and fostering honest dialogue, I posted a copy of an actual technology agreement I signed, so others may see how we are able to operate our farm in the manner Dad, Grandpa and I choose.
Brian posted the agreement so people could see exactly what is required of farmers and he doesn’t see it as oppressive. You would think people reading his explanation would see that what they think they know simply might not be correct. But you would be wrong.
What followed was some of the looniest stuff I’ve ever read on the issue. A few choice examples follow. Please note, all comments are [sic].
Amy: You have GOT to be kidding me. What a bunch of BS multi-national corporation, new world order, mind control propaganda. Does Monsanto et al think this country is THAT dumb. Ha! Let’s write a story and have a fake farmer tell his story… pro Monsanto. GMO’s are AWFUL. Stay far away!!!!!!!!
Amy: This so-called farmer doesn’t exist. This story is a bunch of bull. Monsanto wrote it, paid big bucks for CNN to put it on their website in hopes that stupid people will go along with it. Not me. I smell a rat.
farmmyass: as big ag’s business is killing the honey bees who we ALL depend on for life.
Easy E: Agreed. The man is self-deluded, and lacks integrity becauses he’s succeeded in lying to himself for so long he cannot acknowledge reality. It’s a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome as applied to agronomy.
federalreserve: Luther never tried to get a poisonous toad to have sex with a tomato, which is exactly what Monsanto the criminal did.
U.N. Owen: E. Coli is in my body’s environment but to imply that location was not important is absurd. B.T is in the soil putting it where bees fly above the ground is what concerns me. Every time some one writes that B.T. Is in the environment I get a little suspect that maybe that reply is in some play book but it could only be some thing being regurgitated maybe both but not neither.
And this loon was very special:
DLG: Whom are you actually kidding? Lol.. You as a farmer are poisoning the world!!! I live I. A small farm town… And I must say this farm community is the crookedest town!!!, the government CONTROLS you!! The control the price… Stop trying to be the poster boy for Monsanto. You have either drank to much of their kook-aid or gone on one of their fancy trips…Folks on the coasT Wake up!!! Your tax dollars are paying farmers to kill you with chemicals!!!! You are just a statistic in the eyes of Monsanto. TOTAL RUBBISH!
DLG: As an FYI lots of commercial flour is “blended” and enriched there causing it I becoming contaminated with a GMO source I.e. soy flour. Hybridization interesting conversation. You start modifying plants in an matter omething is bound to happen.
Now here’s the thing. For a while now we have been hearing the mantra of Monsanto shill or some variation. There seems to be a new entry into the field, drinking the Kool Aid. This a new one but it seems to be popping up all over the comment boards recently. I guess Monsanto has run out of money to buy shills, so now the tack is farmers like Brian are delusional.
So, where do the crazy neighbors get their information? Some of it comes from their addled minds, much like the small town forbearers. Other ideas come from the activists who are the ideological descendants of those who were cranking those mimeograph machines in their basements.
Today those basement dwellers have a much more sophisticated technology which allows them reach a wider audience thanks to the internet. They have fancy websites which allow them to project an aura of credibility. But, the bottom line is these guys are nothing more than anti-GMO Orly Taitzes. They are names you have read here before, freaks and frauds like Mike Adams and Dr. Mercola who peddle nonsense.
So, the question is, why do we engage these people? It’s an exercise in frustration, enough to drive you to drink before 5pm. You can’t win or even make a dent. Do we have some form of intellectual masochism?
We can’t help ourselves, but I do have a suggestion that might ease the frustration. Go after the sources of their so-called information. Don’t engage, per se, but simply put the real facts and evidence out there. It won’t change the mind of the crazy neighbor, but we forget there are people who read the comment sections who aren’t loopy. They are people who may or may not have strong opinions on the issue who are open to actual facts. When they read your responses, they will see that the person/article you are commenting on is wrong and it will give your information more credibility.
This may be pie-in-the-sky thinking, but it’s all we got.