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Trolls as killers - for real
Published on May 13, 2007 By Phil Osborn In Internet
When I post, I usually am writing from memory. Occasionally I get details wrong, and am happy (if chagrinned) to be corrected. When I have the time, I try to include as many references and links as possible to assist the reader in checking my story.

Then there are the people who simply don't want certain things said, certain subjects examined, or who are simply trolls, such as the Mensa weenies who quibble over the slightest detain, triumphant in their debate forum ability to bring any discussion to a close, regardless of the merits of the underlying case.

All this is annoying, to be sure, but, beyond that, actions have consequences. By taking a position that is aimed, not at reaching to the truth of a matter, but of discrediting, ridiculing, or distracting from a discussion that could have changed minds and thus behavior in the real world, the writer may be indirectly inflicting real damage on real people.

A case in point is the criticisms I have laid against Chinese culture. About a decade ago, I brought up the case of eighty or more children who had died in Haiti due to ingesting children's cough syrup in which alcohol or glycerine had been substituted with ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in anti-freeze.

I brought the issue up on the Extropy newsgroup, where I recall being lambasted as zenophobic, racist, anti-Chinese, etc., etc. When I looked for a reference on the net to support the story, which had appeared a year or so before in either the OC Register or the L.A. Times, I could not find anything, and I simply did not have the time to devote to trying to track it down. (Note that these papers were not fully up to speed on the internet at that point.) My critics were satisfied to let the case rest that I must have fabricated everything out of my racist insanity.

Vindication at last!!! Front Page article of the May 6th, 2007 New York Times: "From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine." It turns out that I was precisely on target, not just with the original story regarding Haiti, but also regarding the reports I had been seeing which estimated that tens of thousands of people may have died to this one act of criminal responsibility, now sourced directly to Chinese manufacturers. The Times lays it all out in horrific detail.

Of course, perhaps that large group of investigations might have gone just a tiny bit faster if people such as myself had not been lambasted with charges of racism, etc. and discouraged from even attempting to put an issue forth for examination. And, if someone - a prosecutor, a drug manufacturer or the employee of such who knew someone in the Quality Control Dept. - had stumbled accross on the web or overheard a conversation in passing alluding to the Haitian experience, then maybe a shipment would have been tested and caught in time, and a thousand people's lives spared.

And that is no exaggeration, as anyone who reads the Times' article will discover. There were some very close calls on this right here in America.

While no one can be prosecuted for stating their opinion, I take the position that writers are morally responsible for the content of their posts. If the import of what they are saying is such that if it is believed to be true then it leads to tragedy, then I judge them accordingly.

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