I thought a lot about how to make this announcement. In true “Rebekah Jones fashion,” I’ll just come out and say it:
I will be leaving Florida next month.
After the raid on my home, I can no longer justify staying in the state.
I am not abandoning Florida. I am not abandoning this project. I will continue to do this work after I move until it is no longer needed, as I’ve always promised.
The governor of Florida seems have an irrational and passionate hatred for who I am and what I represent: defiance in the name of science of human decency.
He crossed a line involving my family. The depravity of having his personal police force storm my house and point guns at my young children cannot be overstated.
That action may very well become a life-changing moment for my son, who at only 11 years old had multiple police officers pointing guns at him.
We were kept in our living room for hours while police went through our things – an armed babysitter not allowing us to leave the room.
My family is no longer safe living in this state, and I cannot and will not ask them to make sacrifices of that magnitude for the work I am doing.
My team of amazing lawyers are working to hold the police and the governor accountable for these actions.
Despite the raid on my home and my family, my greatest concern is not about police intimidating whistleblowers.
Science has been at war with politics in this country since its founding. We’re barked at for getting pulled into the fight, but if we can not be advocates for our own work, then we can not sit back and expect other people to become advocates in our absence.
I saw first-hand how information is manipulated for the advancement of an agenda completely departed from the facts. I refused to be a part of it.
It reminds be a lot of the history of science related to smoking and cigarettes.
There have been many great books written about this topic, but if you’re able, get a copy of Merchants of Doubt, by Oreskes and Conway.
I wrote a short piece below about that fight, and I hope you take the time to read it. It exemplifies the struggle of scientists against political forces.
Franz Herman Muller, Eberhard Chairer, Eric Schoniger, Ernst Wynder, Evarts Graham, Rochard Doll, Bradford Hill, Raymond Pearl, Alton Ochsner, Charles Cameron and others were among the early researchers of the tobacco-cancer link. Their names are not well-known, but they put into motion all of the research that ultimately saved millions and millions of lives from cancer-related illness.
Alton Ochsner, another researcher looking at the cancer-linked, was stabbed in the back by his own colleagues for being “an anti-smoking enthusiast,” as if being an advocate of his research findings somehow made those findings illegitimate.
Cigarette companies had their own medical researchers who claimed smoking was great for your health – literally. Even Harvard University speculated as to why the research might be wrong.
Influential doctors like James Walsh made outrageous statements about how they knew healthy people who smoked and that the entire medical field had no reason to spend its vast resources researching the emerging science on the smoking-cancer link.
In 1952, emerging research on the link between cancer and smoking broke through the academic-public barrier after a widely-shared article in Reader’s Digest was published. There was a sharp decline in cigarette sales, but it was temporary, and cigarette companies began stepping up their marketing and lobbying to protect sales.
In 1955, Dr. Charles Cameron, medical and scientific director of the American Cancer Society, published a best-selling book detailing the connections between smoking and cancer, and offering preventative measures. For his efforts, he and other leaders in medical research were harassed, threatened and even fired from their positions.
Cigarette-funded “scientists” called into question the quality of data being used. They said they had never met someone who had died from cancer due to smoking. They dismissed researchers as being “fear mongers.” Sound familiar?
Here’s a great excerpt from The Atlantic about how politics interfered with the science:
“Politics also played an important role. In “The Quiet Victory of the Tobacco Lobby: How It Found the Best Filter Yet—Congress” (September 1965), Elizabeth Drew explained how business people with vested interests in the tobacco industry were exploiting their high-level political connections to influence tobacco-related government policies. And in a 1992 article, France: An Ambivalent War Against Smoking,” Judson Gooding discussed how similar factors were then operating in France to stymie anti-smoking legislation. In this case, he explained, the vested interests resided not with outside lobbyists, but, paradoxically, within the government itself, which owned the nation’s cigarette-manufacturing monopoly and reaped substantial tax revenues from cigarettes.”
An article published in 2011 actually calculated the profit made for cigarette companies per each person who is killed from their products: $10,000.
A cigarette company profits $10,000 for each person they kill.
Today, we’d view anyone who denies the link between cancer and smoking as a moron, and smoking is generally frowned upon (as it should be). But it took decades of fighting the cigarette lobby and congress to get that information out to the public, and then turn it into legislation.
The same people who led the misinformation campaigns about smoking and cancer would later lead the disinformation campaigns against climate change science, using the same tactics to undermine the global body of research showing the definitive link between man and global warming.