A spellbinding case of justified paranoia is documented this week in the New Yorker. Researcher Tyrone Hayes upset the manufacturer of the second most popular herbicide in the US (since banned in the EU), when he published and promoted research suggesting atrazine causes growth defects in frogs. Hayes was well known for his paranoia, for example advising his students to listen for clicks on telephone calls that might indicate someone listening in – but it seems his paranoia was justified.
Syngenta, the manufacturer of atrazine allegedly began a character assassination campaign against Hayes. Adverts were purchased for web searches of Hayes’ name and research – a search for Tyrone Hayes still brings up a google ad titled: “Tyrone Hayes Not Credible.” According to the New Yorker, Syngenta’s communications manager Sherry Ford devised a list of methods for discrediting Hayes including: “ask journals to retract,” “set trap to entice him to sue,” “investigate funding,” “investigate wife.” The tactics did not stop with the alleged smear campaign but also allegedly extended to “systematic rebuttals of all TH appearances” – a measure that seems to be backed up by numerous reports of strange figures appearing at the back of Hayes’ lectures asking continuous questions apparently designed to embarrass Hayes. In the words of one of Hayes’ former students quoted in the New Yorker: “everywhere Tyrone went there was this guy asking questions that made a mockery of him. We called him the Axe Man.”
I’m going to end my summary there – but head over to the New Yorker to read the full piece, if you read one article this week, make it this one.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/136766561-Marcin Balcerzak