Vani Hari is using Scientology tactics.http://kfolta.blogspot.de/2016/05/my-email-goes-off-to-vani-hari.html
My Email Goes Off to Vani Hari
IMPORTANT. I was reluctant to make this information public because I do not want anyone to harass, intimidate, troll, or give any grief to Ms. Hari. That's her game. Those who condemn her tactics are not to use them. We must define the high road.
I provide the information in this blog because I want everyone to understand the ongoing abuse of public records laws at incredible public expense. I want everyone to see the scope of innocent people that will be potentially affected if/when she makes this information public. There are consequences of handing over 2707 pages of private correspondence to someone that has a goal to destroy you-- because you dared to challenge her with science and evidence.
Share the story. Don't flame her or her followers. Share it with science journalists, science enthusiasts. Let others know that this is happening, but NO RETALIATION, NO ABUSIVE COMMENTS, please LET HER CONTINUE TO SINK ON HER OWN.Today at 9AM EST over 257 MB of PDF, containing 2700+ pages of my personal email, goes to Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe.
I was reluctant to write about this or even pay it a second thought. She is a small annoyance and has been a willing participant in propagating vicious lies about me. What do we expect? I'm costing her lots of money! When we talk about what science is, how technology works, and what chemistry does, her fear-based message becomes less influential. Viva Educacion!
But it is important to make this invasion of my privacy public. Here's why.
The Food Babe, Vani Hari, is convinced that I work for Monsanto. She only has to check my statements against a scientific record, a scientific consensus, then check a mirror, and she'd see who really is making mountains of money from false claims.
I've dreaded today. I've been disturbed coming up to it. The anxiety I experienced before is back, I'm on the edge of breaking down when I talk to people about it.
Because I did nothing wrong.
I did my job.
I helped people understand science and decipher popular web-driven myth, perpetuated in part by Hari.
The huge stack of emails shows nothing inappropriate, nothing breaking rules, nothing breaking laws. Nothing harming others.
But if history is a lesson, when you provide thousands of personal emails to people that want to destroy your three-decade career-- they will find a way to manufacture a narrative that is not true, purely to destroy you.
One thing is for sure. There's little about her, other than my discussions with reporters looking for a scientific perspective on her claims. She was mentioned often, but nobody really cares about her personally. But what will she turn it into in retaliation for my criticisms?
Here are some nuggets:
For instance, there is email in there about Dr. Robb Fraley, Monsanto Chief Technical Officer, coming to deliver a public seminar on my campus. I was appointed to be the host.
That alone will be portrayed as high collusion between me and Monsanto.
While he was here he was prepping for the Intelligence Squared Debate, and asked me if I knew the points that Chuck Benbrook (another debater) usually makes. I did know. I sat in two events with Benbrook in the previous few months and knew exactly what points he raised. He has made many claims without any data (such as how "new science" says GE crops causing autism, food allergies, ADHD and asthma) I disagreed with him, but found him personally quite a nice guy.
I did refer to him and Margarent Mellon as "cold fish", speaking to their combined charisma and likability, which eventually played out true to prediction.
So I gave Fraley a note on the things he might hear (you'll see it was not a priority, as they badgered me to send it for weeks). That will be portrayed as additional evidence of my "strategic position as a key advisor to Monsanto's highest executives" if her previous posts about me are any guide.
The vast-vast majority of this stuff has nothing to do with her. There are discussions between me and others about important personal issues, employee problems, or work related to my job as a Department Chair. At the end of that business, someone would chime in with something like, "Read your note on that Subway-Food Babe thing, wow is she clueless..."
That whole conversation, not about her, is now in her hands.
I had a discussion with a dean about a faculty member we were hiring and were trying to determine what the salary might be. It's all in there! Why? My dean included a link to an article about Vani Hari at the end of one of the emails.
That entire email is now going to her. She may decide to make the personal info public to harm this other scientist or the dean for criticizing her. She may write to the new faculty member about how his salary was determined. She has their names, their email addresses and phone numbers. They may even be subject to FOIA investigations.
Students' Requests for Assistance
But the worst part-- students. I received many emails from students after her talk here at my school. They were redacted if they were from my university, and there are many blacked out pages. But if you were a student from Purdue, Berkeley, or University of Arizona (yes all of you, and many others), I'm so sorry to report-- you are in there.
You must have mentioned her, like "Thank you for standing up to people like the Food Babe."
Your email address, your name and other personal information are now in her hands.
I'm hoping she will defer to her higher angels.
It is bad because with a posting on her website you may be harassed and taunted by the Food Babe Army. She may smear you the way she did me-- all I did was criticize her too.
But there's another problem. I pride myself on being a professor that reaches beyond my university. I've offered career advice to thousands of students, just to respond to an email. I give career advice and guidance.
If you were a student, and wanted help from Prof Kevin Folta, would you dare ask him, knowing your personal information will now be handed to those that want to destroy scientists?
I think that is a problem.
Discussing Books and Interviews
I saw a friend that works for Springer Publishing and he asked me if I had any good book ideas. I told him that I had a manuscript started for Al Quesadilla- The Rise of Food Terrorism and that part of it was about Vani Hari. He asked me for a proposal. You'll see that. I didn't have time, so I never did it. I used part of it for the work with Kavin Senapathy et al's book Fear Babe. I also was in in places where I could stop in and talk about food, technology and farming and be a guest on radio, TV, podcasts, etc. I always check if there's an interest to talk. Some of those are in there too.
My guess is that these will be described as some desperate attempt to market Monsanto lies for profit, if the past is a guide.
Other gems in the pile--
Not much, pretty much nothing. However, you'll see me use unbecoming language and other things that are not consistent with my usual professional demeanor, but are lapses I have when shooting a note to a friend.
So here we go. What do you think will happen? Another Eric Lipton smear piece that can be twisted into visible claims of corporate fraud and collusion... or will she just read it and say, "This guy's a good dude"?
Time will tell. But if my blood pressure, heart rate and headache are any indication, I'm expecting the former. Fight or flight has kicked in, and I'm afraid that because I spoke scientifically against a charlatan, I will be punished, hard.
I don't want to go through that again.
Perhaps I won't have to. She may receive this package, look through it, see there's nothing there and toss it in the trash. However, her current website suggests that this will be a retaliation for speaking science and criticizing her. I will be happily surprised and grateful if she opts to do the right thing, and will thank her accordingly.
Based on her rationale and endless smear of me, I'm not holding my breath.
Posted 3 weeks ago by Kevin M. Folta
35 View comments
Gayla BerMay 5, 2016 at 11:43 AM
Oh Kevin. This is so unfair. She can't take any form of criticism so she will go to expensive lengths to discredit anyone who dares criticize her. I mean, as indicated above - it is possible to disagree with people and not hate them. BUt that's not the way Ms. Hari works. If you don't agree with her, clearly you're paid not to.
I really hope that this doesn't come back to bite you as hard as initially it did. I really hope she'll use some common sense and realize that most, if not all, of your emails show nothing more than you debunking her claims, but that there's nothing for her to gain.
but as you stated, she will see the one about you hosting the Monsanto guy. And that will be enough for her to use.
is there any legal recourse you can take? I mean, she can't, legally, publish or harass can she? Is there a way to protect your students, if not yourself?
Please know, I support you as much as I possibly can - it's pretty superficial, but as I am friends with Kavin and Mark and Marc, just reading your Al Quesedilla intro to their book was enough for me to see just what a wonderful teacher and scientist you truly are.
you have more support than possibly you even know. I hope that this blows over quickly. Isn't there some junk food that never professed to be healthy she can attack?
EvidentarianMay 5, 2016 at 8:49 PM
I will use your honorific Dr.Folta. She spews the same material they use in organic farming. Please don't give up. I am old enough to be your father. I will hang in there with you.
WilliamMay 5, 2016 at 12:08 PM
I admire your courage and strength, and know that the scientific community supports you. She is a charlatan pure and simple and will get her comeuppance at some time. Hang in there!
Mary MMay 5, 2016 at 12:33 PM
Wait, debate prep? For free? Are you kidding? Benbrook got Organic Valley to pay for media training. You got robbed, Kevin. https://twitter.com/mem_somerville/status/656942962639769602
Dorit ReissMay 5, 2016 at 1:24 PM
If it's your private email, and if it has emails from students, I admit I'm a little troubled that you voluntarily handed it over without a court order. It sounded like you used the email for work purposes as well, so I understand that you may see it as ethically required, but it's not clear that FOIA would apply to your private emails, and it would probably be a good idea, again, if student privacy is involved, not to provide the information without a court order.
That said, I am speaking without knowing whether you got legal advice on the issue, and if your university counsel advised otherwise, it is, of course, the reasonable thing to do to follow their advice.
Kevin M. FoltaMay 5, 2016 at 5:06 PM
My university pulled the emails and redacted information. Not me. The see student information as "on the table", at least at this point. I think it is disgusting, but this whole fishing-trip-to-destroy is all the way across.
Tilghman LesherMay 5, 2016 at 6:30 PM
I'm wondering if a student was harassed as the result of a FOIA request, would the university go to bat for them? Or would the student need to file such charges? I'm thinking "intentional infliction of emotional distress", which usually nets high dollar judgements.
Dorit ReissMay 5, 2016 at 10:58 PM
I am sorry to hear that. What a tough situation to be in.
As to IIED, that's a pretty hard claim to prove. And it's not something the university can sue for the student. I suspect the student would have to sue, and it won't be easy. Tricky.
Mike BillupsMay 5, 2016 at 3:03 PM
Unbelievable that people like her can be such a bully and her followers love it. This above all speaks to the type of people they are.
At some point, if the information about students and peers that she now has is sensitive enough can she be sued for releasing it? I know if someone like her got ahold of my personal information and used it I would be going after her. That is not acceptable, for any reason.
Marc DracoMay 5, 2016 at 3:19 PM
I'm lost for words. Truly I am. This entire affair is bullshit.
Oh and Vani - be very careful what you write about others because they are skeletons in your closet (a very large one in fact) that might start tumbling out. Like you Vani, I'm sworn to secrecy but not everyone is as respectful of the law as I am.
rockzordMay 5, 2016 at 5:30 PM
What's a scientifically literate person opposed to fear-mongering and pseudoscience to do? Giving up the fight is clearly not an option, but to wish to carry on a fight that is sapping the life of a beloved member of our circle isn't much of an option either.
How do we use reason and logic to convince those who do not value it?
The dumbing down of North America is starting to get really scary. Where lies the tipping point that decides which direction we will go? At the point where people think it's morally acceptable to say and do the things they have done to you, is there even any saving it?
The future looks bleak my friend.
Barbara FletcherMay 5, 2016 at 5:37 PM
All of this...dreck reflects on her, not you.
M&M04May 5, 2016 at 6:10 PM
You have many, many supporters, Dr. Folta and we are in your corner. Small potatoes when your name is the one out there, I know but we are here cheering you on.
Karen MMay 5, 2016 at 6:12 PM
I stand behind you. She's no more than a bully and a snake oil salesman.
You need to do what is best for you.
Geoffrey FutchMay 5, 2016 at 6:52 PM
I'm disgusted. Vani and her ilk are examples of some of the worst sides of humanity. Paranoid, narcissistic, insecure, and unwilling to allow anyone to challenge their worldview. I'll pass this along and make sure my friends are aware of what has happened. You're too good for this, Dr. Folta. Too good for this.
-- Geoff Futch, Ph.D. student (Exercise Physiology at UT Austin)
Figured I'd make sure readers know who I am in case they want to see if I'm on the Monsanto payroll as well. Ridiculous as it is that people would seriously suspect that.
Sean WhittenMay 5, 2016 at 7:15 PM
Thank you Kevin Folta for remaining true to your ideals and calling for supporters to maintain the high road. Remember, regardless of what Vani Hari and others may spread to smear your good name, it's the opinion of the person who looks back in the mirror that counts. Take solace in knowing that you have done what you know is the right thing. Take courage in knowing that your many supporters also know you have done the right thing.
Matt BeckettMay 5, 2016 at 7:18 PM
Stay strong Kevin, don't let it get to you and definitely don't let it affect your help. There's nothing you can do to stop it at this point, but keep in mind that her only audience is those already convinced the stupid conspiracy theories. Rational minds dismiss her and the majority of people on the fence really don't give a crap.
It's definitely shitty that she's getting student info though, if she uses it to harass then I hope *someone* takes her to task legally.
LucaMay 5, 2016 at 7:21 PM
Ok this type of attacks are typical of people like the food babe .. what are you waiting to sue her and shut her web site down, at the very least you need to have a restraining order put on her
AnonymousMay 5, 2016 at 9:14 PM
Nolite te bastardes caborundorum
AnonymousMay 5, 2016 at 10:55 PM
Stay ahead of her. Continue to blog about what she might find and get your story out first.
LauraMay 5, 2016 at 11:49 PM
Speaking as someone who actually works for Monsanto, I can tell you I support you, Dr. Folta, and I appreciate your efforts.
I remember not long ago you came to our company and gave a really great seminar. I appreciated you coming and speaking to us as fellow scientists and sharing your insights and perspective.
I'm sorry to say that at some level I understand what you're going through. Anytime I say anything pro-biotech, I and my opinions are immediately dismissed, because I work for Monsanto, so I must have an ulterior motive. I am clearly not a scientist, a mom, or even a human being.
So I understand people trying to discredit the good work you do because of some real or perceived association with Monsanto. I get it.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not have a tail or horns growing from my head, but I might as well in some circles. But I love what I do. I'm not being duped by Monsanto into doing evil things to destroy the planet. And I don't get paid extra to defend biotech or Monsanto on social media.
Stay strong. You are a brave man and you are doing the right thing. You are my hero.
Kyra SlubowskiMay 6, 2016 at 1:37 PM
Im so sorry that people are like that. Its unfair that they dehumanize you in such a way because of whom you work for. Thank you, for all that you do! :)
The Mgt.May 6, 2016 at 1:41 AM
The above does not require further comments. However, the question of international scientific collaborations has not been addressed so far. I would not like to correspond with a US scientist, let alone send recommendations for PhD students or postdocs if confidentiality cannot be granted. I will have to take this into consideration in the future.
CibatarianMay 6, 2016 at 10:20 AM
You can request an exemption to FOIA-accessible material. Universities do it all the time when intellectual property (things like patents) are involved. It takes longer to begin discussions, but at least you'll know you'll have full confidentiality.
CibatarianMay 6, 2016 at 10:21 AM
[I was replying to The Mgmt. For some reason blogspot is reorganizing the comments, at least on my display.]
Paul WitterMay 6, 2016 at 4:27 AM
That's such a shame. Personally identifiable information should be available only by court order. Nothing to say she couldn't look through the documents and then get orders to find out who significant persons were. I'm, frankly, disgusted with your University Administration.
AnonymousMay 6, 2016 at 7:25 AM
You have my sympathy, too. I think it is a good move to make this announcement, including defusing the very few points VH might try to leverage.
One element missing from your commentary is the cost to the University of preparing these FOIA requests for release. I presume that this cost is absorbed by the University and, therefore, borne by taxpayers. I am also guessing it is not trivial. Maybe these frivolous/malicious requests would diminish if the requesters had to pay the actual cost.
Jesse Lunsford, RDMay 6, 2016 at 9:25 AM
Thanks for being such a strong figure for science through all of this. Your strength is appreciated through the entire community.
CibatarianMay 6, 2016 at 10:26 AM
The thing that gets me about FOIA attacks is that their purpose is to end the research being done and to silence the scientists. In my ~9 years of experience dealing with this I've only seen it happen temporarily. The work resumes. The scientists return to their lab and outreach work. All it ever does is waste time and money.
Dr. Folta, keep on keepin' on. This will pass.
And thank you for taking the high road.
ErikaMay 6, 2016 at 12:28 PM
I am so sorry this is happening to you. She is a monster and a terrorist, and one day she will get what is coming to her.
AnonymousMay 6, 2016 at 2:18 PM
She's so midevil. She would burn you as a witch if she could.
Nelis V.May 6, 2016 at 3:59 PM
Dear Dr. Folta,
Sad to read you have to go trough this, just for speaking science.
Sad to all the foolishness that keeps existing in the 21th century.
I'll try a bit harder to speak up against all this foolishnes myself and hope it will support you in some very indirect way.
AnonymousMay 6, 2016 at 6:44 PM
Keep hanging in there. Presenting evidence based practice gives her the fear that her multi-million dollar empire will be chipped away at. In Australia we have Pete Evans who does the same, he has unleashed his minions on dietitians who are attempting to destroy evidence based nutrition to keep their lord and master rich, the sad thing is, those who seek truth don't even have a fraction of their wealth. It's irrational.
AnonymousMay 7, 2016 at 2:08 PM
As a member of the community, a mom, and a curious human, I appreciate what you are sacrificing so people like myself can have accurate information. Both sides of the coin are rarly seen when one party is the Goliath and we need your perspective, facts, and compassion. Your strength is admirable and your humanity certainly comes through. Consequences should not dictate ones course of action, research, or truth. A sincere thank you from a non-scientist, non-montsanto, human rights advocate and her children.
DocMay 15, 2016 at 8:04 PM
This is probably 100% futile but have you looked at getting a good old fashion restraining order? It would make a lot of her behaviors actionable claims.
Illumination "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" -
"I'm going to play that card and play it hard..." Dr. Norman Borlaug
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Another Vani Hari FOIA Request
First, some rules. Please do not retaliate or harass her. Respect her privacy for one reason-- I can tell you personally how horrible it is to have someone not respect mine. I do not want her to feel the way I do, because of her. There's some Sunday irony. Thanks.
On Friday afternoon most folks watch that clock as the minute hand clicks toward five o'clock. Last Friday, I got the email that my university had filled another public records request, again from the Food Babe, Vani Hari, and spent the next few hours going through what they plan to send to her.
Why is she going after me? Did I say something wrong? Is something in my publication record not panning out and she suspects undue influence?
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Done with VH.
She has my emails, I held up my end of the deal in full transparency and compliance. It is in her court. Will she do the right thing? One follower over on Facebook does not think so, and provided the most eloquent statement about the situation. I'm done now.
Let's focus on science.
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