Marbleheaded Hags and Dirtbag Trolls

I posted a comment the other day on the Facebook page of Robert Reich. Reich was the Secretary of Labor during Bill Clinton’s first term, under whom I served as a presidential appointee and OSHA spokesperson. Reich has been extremely outspoken in his support of Bernie Sanders. He and the Clintons parted ways somewhere between here and here.

Like all political commentary, Reich’s posts are provocative and the comments are largely unmoderated. He like Bernie Sanders supports Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and essentially believes that large corporations are forcing farmers into hard times. Here’s what he posted:

“Watch your wallets. According to today’s Financial Times, the giant American agribusiness Monsanto is in merger talks with Bayer, the giant German chemicals and drugs group. Their merger would be the latest step in the consolidation of the world’s providers of seeds and crop-chemicals, after Dow and DuPont’s $130 billion merger in December.

Such mergers are giving a handful of global corporations increasing market power over the food chain. The result is both farmers at one end of the chain and consumers at the other end pay more.
It’s another hidden redistribution upward to the top executives and major shareholders of giant corporations.

Antitrust enforcers should block this merger but market power translates into political power. Monsanto’s political clout may push the merger through.

What do you think?”

Here is the image that Mr. Reich chose to accompany his post:

Monsanto photo Cheryl Byrne Blog

I took him up on his offer to let him know what I thought. Here’s my comment.

Cheryl Brolin Byrne You have disappointed me once again, Mr. Secretary. Monsanto is not an evil corporation and is not taking advantage of farmers. Please talk to some farmers, plenty of them here on Facebook telling their stories if you are willing to listen and learn. It is scary propaganda like the image you chose to accompany your post that is threatening farmers’ livelihood, not Monsanto.

 That immediately elicited this (I have redacted the poster’s name):

“Monsanto is a company rooted in killing things. They make chemicals that kill plants, bugs, animals and people while polluting the environment where their chemicals are sprayed. They’ve always made chemicals that sicken, kill, and create birth defects. They are currently being sued by the city of Seattle, Portland, and San Diego for poisoning land and water resources. They sue farmers and they pay for dirtbag trolls like you to promote their killing agenda. Any questions you Marbleheaded hag?”

Of course I was also called a shill for Monsanto, for which I was a communications consultant from 2001 until 2008. I also worked for Bob Reich, but that went unremarked in the comments.

Regardless of where you stand on issues, particularly one as emotionally fraught as GMOs or as charged with negativity as the name Monsanto, is it ever ok to resort to this ugly bullying, which, at the risk of being called a feminist (GASP!) has the strong stench of sexism as well?

Of course I know that this is how the Internet works, adults hiding behind their keyboards, the web as their virtual playground, behaving in a way they would never have the courage to in real life. But I am so, so tired of incivility. We are so thoughtless in our words, in our treatment of each other. It’s not about being politically correct. It is about being empathetic, trying to imagine how it would feel if YOU were called a hag, a fag, a dog, or a fat pig. Or a racial slur. Just because you used a term growing up does not make it ok to use it now, and you cannot deflect criticism with don’t-be-so-sensitive or you-know-what-I-mean defenses.

The man who called me a “Marbleheaded hag”–a quick online search reveals that he lives in a nearby town on the ocean, appears to be a professional, and has owned several successful businesses–has friends, perhaps a family.

What he doesn’t have, what NO ONE HAS, is the right to call me names just because I disagree with him.



3 Replies to “Marbleheaded Hags and Dirtbag Trolls”

  1. My first thought after reading your whole post was that I really need to educate myself on the GMO issue. Clearly GMOs and Monsanto are polarizing topics, and I should do the research and decide for myself which side I lean to. Thanks for pushing me to chase this down.
    The title of your blog post really grabbed my attention since the anonymity of social media and its use in lashing out and being cruel and insulting is a hot button for me. So my second thought was that the comments at the end of that poster’s rebuttal completely ended their credibility. Starting off sounding reasonable, and ending with insults and name calling, only reduces the argument. If you are sure in your facts, there should be no need to resort to name calling, especially with such a sexist tone. Makes me doubt the validity of what they are saying.
    So once I do my own research, and if I find myself on the opposite side of the fence from you, I will let you know. And I promise, no name calling, just a healthy debate. I guess the art of disagreeing agreeably is a fading concept. That’s a shame.

    1. Thank you, Dianne. It is much easier to default to Agent Orange, or terminator seeds, or Indian famers killing themselves than to look for the facts about Monsanto. Same with GMOs. I am so grateful you took the time to read, and I look forward to a healthy debate!

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