It was a windy, dry day this last Thursday in central NSW. Winds in the region were recorded at 100km per hour. Much of the state was under fire restrictions. The dust, the pollen… Hay-fever had gripped me as well.
The group was large for our standard field trip, which in its own way worked against my natural rhythm, leaving me frustrated with my personal pace.
At one point, the WordPress app on my phone informed me of pending comment which I later reviewed while finally getting to my sun baked lunch.
What I found was another ambiguous comment, with nothing more than a link and a title. It was from an anti-fluoridation individual which was not, in itself directly related to the actual post under which the comment was made. I had to spam it.
But I didn’t do so straight away. I simply sat on it, thinking over my choices.
To dance the Rain Dance or not?
Did I really want to approve the comment, follow the link and reply? In short, no. My time is very limited at the moment and not well spent on each and every bundle of garbage that someone dreamed up as a rebuttal to the standing position within the scientific literature and then posted online in a forum completely devoid of that methodical, expert critical review process.
In essence, this is entirely the realm of the blogosphere discussion, whether it’s fluoridation, climate change, vaccination, evolution or any other topic that sparks an anti-science reaction.
Each communicator whom supports the most accurate conclusion as understood via scientific methodology is only responding to media that happily avoids such scrutiny. In a lot of ways, part of my chosen role has been in this arena. In retrospect, I did this because it way easy and generated traffic.
It was easy because there is no limit to the rubbish that can be generated, pretending to have some leverage in an informed debate; it’s fuel for the lazy writer. As for the traffic it generated, this is not as valuable as the raw statistics would have you believe.
Feeding the Beast of Attention
I remember a few years ago, one environmental senior academic writer thanked his audience, showing a graphic of his traffic. From my experiences with that blog, it was a sizable audience true enough, by the posts themselves were not really the focus. It was an echo chamber where a few individuals, the host included, would incite a reaction with strong comments and then berate, at length, anyone who disagreed or simply questioned this position.
My traffic is some what less, but am I actually being read a great deal less by an engaged audience? Certainly a little, but I think I largely lack the antagonist audience. It’s quality, not quantity.
Such a style is cheap and ineffective. It’s more about the fight than the case. Yes, I’ve been there myself, but why waste my time stirring up a reaction from conspiracy theory proponents unless the basic traffic information feeds my ego.
Honestly, it’s spam
Mulling over all this, I had to admit to myself that the newest comment was indeed spam. The creator didn’t question or even relate to the post, which referred to osteosarcoma and fluoridation except that it linked to the creators personal space in which they “prove” that fluoride is generally bad.
The comment would have better suited other posts I’ve made on the subject, which leaves me with the impression that the creator made this generic comment, did an online search and just posted it on whatever the search returned.
Further, this individual obviously didn’t read the post and, like all anti-science proponents, simply knows the science is wrong and is waiting for the evidence to support this faith-based position.
It might generate traffic, but this is deaf traffic to information accuracy.
The knock-on effect
The only element of that harsh day was that at least the winds were so fast that they kept the flies at bay.
By the time I sat down to dinner, I had decided to spam the comment, but more than that, I had decided that such an approach wouldn’t work for me anymore.
While my readership may remain lower, at least I can feel confident that it’s engaged and interested in scientific accuracy.
I’ll turn my attention more so on the analysis of policies in the public domain and on the science where suitable. I will no longer chase the creationists, the climate deniers, the anti-vax or anti-fluoridation fan. I won’t remove any of this material, only focus on an audience interested in genuine reality as best our species understands it.