Glyphosate in the Age of Stupid

  • Date: 25/10/17
  • Risk Monger

We are living in the Age of Stupid. Social media has built walls around communities of shared ideals (tribes) that confirm people’s thinking and attack, ban or systematically repudiate people with differing ideas.

The EU glyphosate debate has become absurd and beyond any rational perspective. I keep having to remind myself of some basic points:

  • Glyphosate is a useful herbicide with a very low level of human toxicity
  • Monsanto is a mid-sized seed and pesticide company
  • Seeds modified to be herbicide-resistant are not sold in the EU
  • The alternatives for farmers post-glyphosate ban are unthinkable and unsustainable

But in the Age of Stupid, with the power of social media fear campaigns, glyphosate represents a battle between corporate dominance and the little person; between a poisonous industrial agriculture and safe organic farming; between captured regulatory science and the brave independent scientist fighting the bought system; between a food industry peddling cheap poisons and the gurus protecting the health and wellness of humanity.

Sorry Mr Monger, it is not simply a useful herbicide! This glyphosate debate is symbolic of the battle between good and evil.

Somehow a substance with a toxicity level below that of ingredients found in biscuits, chocolate and coffee is responsible not only for the potential risk of a rare type of cancer to farmers applying glyphosate, but it is now unanimously declared to be the main cause of autism, cancer, obesity, leaky gut, celiac and any allergy consumers may be suffering from. Exposure levels (detected in the part per trillion range) of this almost non-toxic herbicide do not matter when an IT researcher from MIT draws correlations. Glyphosate has become an emotional battle for humanity’s soul.

How did this happen in less than three short years?

Welcome to the Age of Stupid

We are living in the Age of Stupid. Social media has built walls around communities of shared ideals (tribes) that confirm people’s thinking and attack, ban or systematically repudiate people with differing ideas. Surrounded in our echo-chambers, our tribal gurus disconnect us from dialogue, raise emotional arguments to the point where anecdote serves as evidence and build trust by elevating fears and vulnerabilities their herd is designed to defend against. It is not that others are stupid, but as I surround myself only with people who think like me and confirm my bias, how would I ever be sure that I am not the Stupid one?

The Age of Stupid allows individuals with no budget to reach out directly to tribes (to breach their inner trust linings) – saying what needs to be heard in small, insulated communities of confirmation bias where emotional stories are personally shared and passionately internalised. Cat lovers can find other cat lovers, Neo-Nazis find Klansmen and they find the courage in their community to take the hoods off, and people afraid find others who understand (and exploit) their vulnerabilities. Social media is not simply a place to find friends – it is a tool to manipulate opinions and build walls around dialogue. It has been used and abused to get unpresidential people elected, radicalised kids into jihad and as we’ll see, to turn a useful, safe herbicide into an issue of good versus evil.

The Gang of 50

Social media allows little people to pretend to be big movements, amplify little researchers into inspired titans of science and convert fake news into known facts. If you repeat something 500 times, no matter how ridiculous, people will start to believe it; if you delete all of the negative comments on your Amazon book reviews and highlight what your friends and colleagues say, the ignorant will buy it; if you pretend that your Facebook page is a “Network” or “Watch”-dog, a cabal of clickivists and bots will like your page and then ignore you. Social media allows for Stupid to become believable.

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