Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the activities of Dr. Steve Best, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso and long time supporter of animal rights extremism. Indeed, only last month we discussed his support for campaigns of harassment and intimidation against students and scientists, prompted by a recent post on the Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch blog which reported on the hate campaign being waged against students by the animal rights extremist Camille Marino.
While Best has been open in his enthusiasm for Marino’s campaigns of harassment and intimidation, and Marino has in turn peppered her “Negotiation is Over (NIO)”website with his videos and essays, he has appeared to limit his involvement to moral support.
In a fine report on the online newspaper “Death and Taxes” entitled “Why Is a UT Professor Collecting Donations for an Animal Rights Group that Targets College Professors?” , journalist Carlton Purvis has uncovered evidence that Best’s support for Marino’s campaigns goes well beyond moral support, writing that:
The NIO membership section directs members to a small PayPal button on the right column of the page if they wish to donate. The group also sells annual memberships for $20 and lifetime memberships for $50. Since that appeal for money, the site has been rapidly pushing out content.”
Why do they need money? Other than website upkeep let us remember that NIO has been offering $100 to anyone who can provide information on biomed undergraduates. See the poster below.
Nonetheless, the article continues:
Click on NIO’s donation button and it takes you to a donation page set up to send money to an account managed by someone using a Road Runner provided email address – the kind that you get for free when you sign up for Internet service.
A quick Google search of the email address reveals the owner of the address, none other than Steven Best, isn’t shy about putting his contact information on everything he touches.”
Oops…providing practical support for a campaign against fellow academics clearly isn’t a good career move for Best, and Marino’s next move proved that they realized this, as Carlton Purvis picks up the story:
Within hours of my email contact with Best on Friday night, the PayPal donation button had been removed from the Negotiation is Over website. Unfortunately, if someone was trying to cover Best’s tracks, they forgot to remove text on the membership page that says, “Please use the Paypal link in the right sidebar of this site or send your enrollment fees through PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.””
The question is now what disciplinary action the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) will take against Best for actions, for although Universities are traditionally – and correctly – very keen to protect their staff’s freedom of expression, it is difficult to argue with the view that:
…despite the university’s policy to not get involved with what faculty do on their personal time, it seems like it would be problematic for a university to employ someone who is affiliated with a bounty program that funds harassment targeting university students and faculty.”
We will be watching this developing story with interest, and welcome Carlton Purvis’ tweet that “Rogue animal rights group stops selling memberships after I uncover a #UTEP professor behind the curtain w/this story”. While we have our doubts about the popularity of NIO memberships, it is always good to see an extremist funding stream closed down.
UTEP President Diana Natalicio will need to think hard about whether her administration can afford to turn a blind eye to behavior directed against other students and staff at other universities that they would never tolerate if it was targeting their own staff and students.
We were also pleased to learn over the weekend that a federal judge has upheld an ordinance that has been critical to UCLA’s efforts to protect its researchers, their families, and their neighbors from harassment by anti–animal research extremists. This ruling makes it clear that there is a difference between legitimate protest and harassment, and shows that society will not stand by and allow citizens to be intimidated and threatened by those who disagree with their work.
All in all a bad week for those who favor harassment and intimidation over dialog and democracy!
Speaking of Research