So far in my scientific career, I’ve earned my PhD in Molecular Genetics and Genomics, done two postdoctoral fellowships with training in neuroscience, neurotoxicology and neuroepigenetics, been published in numerous journals, been awarded my first grant exploring neuroepigenetic effects of toxic exposures and launched a science communication program. But I earned another honor this week when Vani Hari, AKA Food Babe called me her “Number 1 Troll.”
She might have meant it as a scarlet letter, but for me it’s a badge of honor. It means I’m doing my job right.
This began when Hari sent her “Food Baby Army” to the Boar’s Head Facebook page to complain about a lack of transparency on the ingredients of their delicious deli meats. Apparently, her “Army” can spend so much time on Facebook complaining to Boar’s Head but not use that time to look up the nutritional information on Boar’s Head website or ask to see the package at the grocery story. It took me less than a minute on Google to find the ingredient information. It would have taken me a bit longer to drive to the grocery store to snap a picture of the ingredient label at the deli counter, which would still be less time than Food Babe and her Army spent harassing this company on their Facebook page. Of course, it was fastest to open my fridge and find a pack of Boar's Head Oven Gold turkey in my fridge, with a label with ingredients!
“My family loves Boar's Head sandwich meats! The Oven Gold turkey is pretty much the only non-dairy protein my kids (The Hybrids) will eat! I hope you continue to follow the science of food safety and don't listen to the anti-science nonsense from "Food Babe" and her army.”
In a rambling real-time video featuring a play-by-play commentary of the posts on the Boar’s Head page, Ms. Hari dubbed me her #1 troll because I’m a scientist, sharing accurate scientific information. Her only way to counter what I say, is to attack me personally. I’ve seen internet trolls, they are mean and vicious. They do not make valid points. They use a lot of foul language. They rant and attack and say hurtful things. An internet troll is defined on Wikipedia as:
“a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.”
My actions on this page, Ms. Hari’s page or any other page I’ve commented on were not trolling, unless you are so self-absorbed or paranoid to think that someone merely disagreeing with you is trolling. I did not accuse anyone of being stupid, I didn’t attack anyone personally. I did not post information irrelevant to the discussion. I merely thanked a company for making a product my kids love. Predictably, this comment earned me a shill accusation (I guess I’m a shill for Big Deli?). Not predictably, it earned me a place in a somewhat incoherent rant from Ms. Hari in which she dubbed me the #1 troll.
I am proud that I am scientist. I am proud that I speak up to help people understand the science behind their daily decisions. I am proud to be a voice of reason amidst the hysteria.
This does not sound like a troll to me, but if that makes me a troll, I accept the title and wear it proudly.
About the author: Alison is a neuroscientist, currently doing a postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta, where she studies Parkinson’s disease, epigenetics and neurotoxicology. Alison has BA in the Biological Basis of Behavior, with a minor in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. She has PhD in Biology and Biomedical Sciences from Washington University, where she was in the Molecular Genetics and Genomics program, but did her dissertation in a Neuroscience lab. She has been a postdoctoral fellow at Emory since completely her PhD, receiving additional training in neurotoxicology, neuroscience and epigenetics. Outside of work, Alison is a mom of two (ages 7 and 2). She loves to cook, play tennis, do crafts, read bad scifi novels and sleep late (which rarely happens).
(A note from Science Moms: Follow Mommy, PhD on Facebook. As you can tell from this post, she's pretty awesome.)