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Monsanto built a step-by-step strategy to destroy my reputation (theguardian.com)
135 points by hhs 73 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

A company complaining to editors? Routine crap. Hiring FTI to pose as a journalist? Hiring people to post fake reviews on a book you don't like? Seems illegal, but I don't know. Are there US laws that prevent such actions?

Even if there were such laws, they would be very difficult to enforce. Monsanto certainly isn't the only company that does this. I'm sure that fake book reviews are very common.

Worse, there are entire subjects that have been pushed aside by interested parties systematically building a consensus through media that some topics are "discredited" or "unfounded" or "unproven" theories, or even "conspiracy theories," to the point where most people will automatically dismiss them if they are brought up in conversation. The difficulty is that if you don't have a direct interest in the subject, you are very unlikely to spend the energy to investigate the subject yourself and make an informed decision, and those who want to suppress backlash know that.

"Roundup? I never use that stuff. Who cares?"

At this point it sorts of starts to be the collective responsibility of us all to not let these people win. If people knowledgeable about the subject remain silent, the message of the malicious actors becomes the signal in the noise.

Possibly attempting to suppress evidence or similar laws against biasing court cases. It might even take down executives eventually; they knew, and they attempted to cover it up. It might not be illegal, but it can certainly be used as evidence to help prosecute things that are illegal.

IANAL, but I don't believe that a smear campaign against her would be illegal in the US. I mean, she's arguably a public figure, so a libel case wouldn't stand.

Indeed, it would have been a better article if she had focused on how common this stuff is. And just used her own experience as the lead.

A company preparing a 20 point action plan on how to discredit someone doesn't seem normal or legal (if implemented) to me.

> I mean, she's arguably a public figure, so a libel case wouldn't stand.

No, it would just require evidence of actual malice: that is, knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.

Is that true in the US? I thought that the bar was pretty high for public figures. I mean, consider what people say in political campaigns. Lies and malice (i.e., prevent their election) are common.

> Is that true in the US? I thought that the bar was pretty high for public figures.

“Actual malice” is a much higher bar than is generally in place for libel, but it is not an insurmountable bar.

> I mean, consider what people say in political campaigns.

Litigation over political campaign statements for defamation is fruitless for reasons aside from the legal standard to win a judgement; it takes to long to get a final verdict, but more importantly the litigation itself keeps whatever damaging claim you are trying to suppress at the center of the news, doing your opponents work for them.


So she (and others, similarly targeted) might at least get ~decent settlements.

I guess that I was thinking about this in the context of SLAPP suits and assassinations (e.g., Karen Silkwood).

Oh wow, how would we know that some corporate lobbyists or worse some government agency is not monitoring HN right now and propagating their agenda here in comment section. How can we detect that and how can we trust anyone else ?

If done well, how would something like that ever be possible to detect? Unfortunately, well-resourced malicious actors can stack the decks :( I now question every time I saw fairly vehement defense of Monsanto in comments sections and wonder if that defense was at least inspired by paid internet commenters and posters, even if it wasn’t directly them. Who really controls the narrative?

What really boils the noggin is realizing that it's not just "other" people who fall for this. We all do. Some portion of all of our political, economic, and moral views were put into our heads by corporate or government propaganda.

There’s a subreddit about this /r/hailcorporate. Some stuff there seems pretty benign but sometimes you get really blatant advertising by brand new accounts. It’d be silly if they weren’t also commenting.

It has been happening for years, on HN too. Astroturfing used to be extremely obvious and you could quickly verify by looking at someone's comment history. No longer the case I'm afraid, since accounts are either bought outright or pre-processed by intermediaries to have varied histories.

This definitely does happen, and occasionally it's really blatent.

You don't have to look too hard to find the most obvious examples. Hop on over to an HN discussion about the ongoing Hong Kong extradition bill protests. You'll find plenty of accounts that use whataboutist arguments to change the topic to Western interference on the geopolitical landscape, or that the protests are more violent than how Western media portrays them. Then check out the accounts more closely and you'll see that they're only a few weeks old, the only comment sections they've been active in are about the US trade war with China, Chinese imprisonment of Uighurs and the Hong Kong protests, only spouting pro-China comments.

But something this focused on one specific individual I haven't seen before, not on HN at least. I don't think it would be nearly as obvious as what China's doing, though.

Makes me think about the (fiction) book "The Doubt Factory" by Paolo Bacigalupi

I mean, it sounds like she built a step by step strategy to destroy Monsanto’s reputation, so it seems disingenuous to be shocked when they respond in kind.

She's commenting on the scientific research and evidence on a certain topic, which happens to be largely but not only about one individual company. That's what journalists do. Your comment is very disingenuous.

Hi, Monsanto media relations! Welcome!


You would write better posts if you imagine yourself writing a physical letter in a professional capacity rather than tweeting.

For example, Um is a sound we make while composing a thought it has no place in the written form. People commonly abbreviate things like "you" as u because typing letters by hitting a numeric keypad the correct number of times is incredibly cumbersome whereas everyone now has a passable keyboard even on their phone. Please write out the entire word.

Once you get past all that the point made is very shallow and ill formed. It suggests that because the world is rife with bad behavior by powerful people that this is uninteresting. I disagree.

If you have something substantive to say about the matter feel free to express it.

Instead of posting low effort

I have a problem with the above post, but I don't think your comment is much better because of it's first half.

The problem with the above post is that it lacks substance, attacking things like using "um" in text is not productive.

Hacker News is an international website, we should remember that different cultures interact with the internet very differently.

I saw the shorthand and interpreted it as the poster probably not being from a western country rather than taking it as some personal slight or indication that the poster doesn't respect their audience on HN.

If the poster had made a more substantive point, I'd hate to see people attack them for using "um" or some shorthand here and there.

Writing out umm instead of thinking it and saying u when you mean "you" aren't the artifacts of different nationalities and the way they communicate. They are the artifacts of lower quality English language communities like facebook.

The post is jarring because it says nothing of substance and it says it badly. Prompting people to communicate better is worth doing.

>Writing out umm instead of thinking it and saying u when you mean "you" aren't the artifacts of different nationalities and the way they communicate. They are the artifacts of lower quality English language communities like facebook.

That's just wrong. I don't know what to tell you.

I'm from Ghana, if you took 10 random online posts from friends without names and showed them to me, I could easily tell you which ones are my Ghanian friends and which ones are my American friends.

In general, different countries have different cultures about everything from emoticons to grammar online. It's telling that you didn't realize this.

I take issue with "lower quality". Who is wise enough to judge? I say English is exactly how i write it. Or speak it. English is not stagnant. The epitome of high quality in your head now. Will be as quaint as chaucer in time to come.

I always have a problem (me-my problem, not the other party's) when ome missuses the language, written or spoken, to spin something around and says A --> means B, "because language is a living thing and meanings change" to suit their message, but not the truth. The parent message was flagged, thus I didn't have a chance to read it, but from the above comments and your comments I get it that.

> English is not stagnant

No it's not, but potato means potato, and cancer means cancer. How you read it or speak it is your thing. And one of Quality's definitions is: "compliance to specifications".

I would like to believe that the audience here is mostly high quality audience, I have to admit that language barriers exist that would make some people seem less eloquent, but by your definition we'll end up having "Idiocracy" (what humour, food, health, etc. may become).

I think that "Idiocracy" idea is highly elitist. I'd for us to all be reading in search of lost time in the evenings. But hey playing fortnite n instagramming are the current consensus right? Who am i to say fortnite n instagram are low quality past times for idiots?

And inflammable means flammable...

The fluid nature of the future evolution of the English language is hardly an excuse not to communicate according to a reasonable set of standards now much less a reason to deny any standards exist.

I guess you're entitled to your opinions too!

But yes. Doing things like not starting sentences with "because". Not writing down the ums n ers. Seem to go well with old folks.

But ya. Usually i dun run things with the -vvv flag.

There's a spec for english? Ooops i didnt get the memo. I also hate it when ppl say "cheaters". So? Thats the current consensus thats all. We'll go back to calling them cheats when we feel like it again.

And indeed i don't come from an occidental country. English is not my native language.

In fact. Bullying small firms is easier. They probably don't have the resources to fight back. But monsanto are like professional evil doers. Surely they have whole departments dedicated to doing whatever she's accusing them of doing.

I'm only saying I'm surprised that the author was surprised. If you go poking tigers with sticks. Then at least be prepared to get bitten.

I mean. Is the author naive? Gullible? Or just having a professional need to submit an article? C'mon. She's saying bad things about them. She's saying they're bad folks. And she's expecting them to not at least reply in kind?

The thing is that they ARE bad folks in much the same way that the Cigarette companies were and are bad folks. We needed people that are better folks than you or I that are capable and willing to suffer personal hardship to make the world a slightly less shitty place.

I dunno what the world needs. But i think its interesting that she thinks criticism is a 1 way street. She can criticise monsanto. Thats it?

Why are you so emotionally invested in defending an evil megacorp?

Am i? Have i? I only think that was a pointless article....she's surprised the tiger bit her after she poked it with a stick?

Why are you so worked up about the english grammar?

Nothing in your post is technically wrong, but if you give ideas and semantics equal weight (or heaven forbid, give semantics greater weight) you're going to miss out on a lot of valuable human diversity and potentially the true meaning of someone's speech or writing.

What do u make of james joyce? Shakespeare? Chaucer? Or...to the lighthouse? Written English?

Its been at least 15 years since i wrote more than my signature with a physical pen on physical paper. Language is only as useful as it can be understood. Why big words when small ones will work too? You don't get the message?

So in other words. Her story i believe is much ado about nothing. Move along. Nothing to see here. Or something like that.

I'm just glad i don't have to take English tests anymore...

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