Full Transparency: I am Paul Thacker’s Fantasy Spy

mem_somerville
8 min readOct 1, 2019

And how a reporter gave a woman scientist’s information to her top abuser

In a small corner of the internet, some scientists and science writers are taking on a topic that gets little attention from the wider public. Despite the fact that food biotechnology plays a crucial part in the adapting to a future climate framework, scientists and writers who buck the narratives preferred by the organic industry and their anti-vaxxer funded hit squads find themselves getting threatening mail, social media abuse, and in some cases extended conspiracy theories crafted and published, in an attempt to damage their reputations and silence them. It doesn’t get the same attention that attacks on climate scientists do.

A similar attempt at HuffPo aimed at me did not surprise me. For a long time, Paul Thacker, whose reputation for trolling of women who speak out in the food biotechnology space long precedes this, has lobbed lies and false claims about me and other women, without evidence of his conspiracy theories. He seems to think that just repeating them makes them true. They are not. He has, though, managed to find a publisher that shares his lack of rigor and lack of concern for evidence.

Although some people say that these trolls should be ignored, research in science communication says that offering facts and exposing rhetorical techniques of deniers is worthwhile. So what are the facts, and how did rhetorical trickery get deployed to attempt to stop me? Let’s find out.

During the drama of a recent court case on glyphosate, a reporter who was covering the case found herself immersed in the same kind of abuse, by the same people, that scientists on this topic face. Paul Thacker and anti-GMO/anti-vaxxers were throwing the usual misogynist rhetorical Molotov cocktails at Helen Christophi, who was simply tweeting the courtroom activities.

Many of us who have been the victims of the same attacks by the same crew were sympathetic to this situation. And those of us who have been in this corner of the internet had backstory on the bad actors, and long institutional memory on how we got to…

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mem_somerville

Mary Mangan PhD is a genomics scientist, with credentials in microbiology, immunology, plant cell biology, and and molecular biology.