Ask anyone who has stood up to quacks/charlatans/nutbars– Crazy people be CRAZY.
Someone tries to educate the public, move their field, shine a candle in a demon haunted world, stand up for what they think is right, and they are rewarded with insane emails (check!), often including threats of physical violence (check!), badgering emails to ones employers (check, like, times eleventy!), which inevitably escalate into legal bullying (stifling free-speech by issuing false DMCAs, filing lawsuits with the intent of bankrupting the opposition, exploiting bullshit libel laws in backwards countries), ruining priceless research (animal lib freaks, anti-GMO freaks), criminally actionable stalking of friends and family members, actual physically harm, the list goes on.
Begs the question: Why do it? Just stop talking about vaccines, just stop talking about XMRV, stop criticizing some idiot anti-science internet celebrity, dont ‘provoke’ them, and the crazy people will leave you alone. Right?
Which in turn begs the question: Why not? If you are doing something you believe in, why negotiate with terrorists? They have their ‘weapons’, and we have legal recourse. We have rights. And no one can scare us away from using them.
While us bloggers try to support one another as best we can, it is nice when ‘outsiders’ step up to support the people who might not necessarily have our kind of support network, whether its the PLOS organization supporting scientists and science journalists, or now, the Nature organization partnered with Sense About Science.
The first recipients are Shi-min Fang, a biochemist-turned-journalist who was physically attacked for uncovering fraud in the Chinese science/medical system, and Simon Wessely, who has had to deal with, well, if you know what I had to deal with covering the XMRV fiasco, take that, times a gazillion, times a couple decades…
We do what we do because it needs to be done, but its nice when someone else says “Thank you. This needs to be done”, or as this fellow put it “If scientists are silent, loony ideas will win”.