FoodScience

No Food Babe, Your Detractors Aren’t Racists, Sexists, Haters, or Shills

My next post was going to be on common genetics-related myths GMO opponents believe about agriculture. Instead, I feel compelled to address this upsetting statement. I’m going to do this as quickly as possible because I’d rather spend my time debunking misinformation. On the evening of the release of her book “The Food Babe Way,” Vani Hari decided to have a Twitter “party.” It appears that she decided to pre-emptively defend herself from opponents. I may be wrong, but as her most outspoken Indian-American, feminist critic, I think I’m uniquely qualified to address this. Let me assure you, I’m doing my best to refrain from using expletives.

I refuse to be intimidated by racists, sexists, shills and haters.

Hari has previously referred to her critics as misogynist, sexist, industry shills, to which I responded in detail here. To borrow a quote from myself:

“Many women have been targets of misogyny online. Internet misogyny is a scourge that we all should continue to combat together. I too have been targeted, told that I’m “poisoning” my children and that it will be my fault if they ever suffer a terminal illness. In addition, I’m Indian-American just like you, and have always defended you against ignorant racist remarks, in part because I know how it feels…Conflating misogyny with relevant opposition is underhanded. You are using this in an attempt to derail the entire conversation–a public conversation in which you’ve never even been willing to engage. You’re throwing yourself a pity party and inviting your entire army.”

From the above passage, my readers should glean that I have been tactful, eloquent, and civil with Hari in the past.

Now for a brief moment, the gloves are coming off.

Girl, please. Calling your opponents racist is no minor allegation. You don’t get to pull the race card from your Deck of Deflection without looking naïve at best, and like a bona fide sociopath at worst. Included in your Deck of Deflection are the Sexist Card, Shill Card, Hater Card, and now the Racist Card. Like I’ve said, I’m a woman, I’m an ethnic minority, and as such I’m extremely careful about calling anyone racist or sexist. If and when one claims racism or sexism, s/he should be ready to show some evidence. I’ll make it easy for you by naming some of your critics. Then, you can go ahead and show us instances of their being racist or sexist. This is not an all-inclusive list:

-Dr. Kevin Folta

-Dr. Steven Novella

-Dr. John Coupland

-Dr. David Gorski

-Dr. Julie Miller Jones

Kavin Senapathy

Yvette Guinivere

-Amanda, “The Farmer’s Daughter USA

Your move, Vani. Where is the racism? Where is the sexism? Like many others, I’ve been a target of both of these “isms,” yet I would never deign to slap those labels on people without warrant. To do so is deplorably unethical. These allegations are highly offensive, and your detractors deserve to know where they’re coming from. I can only speak for myself, but if you can point out any legitimate instances of my being sexist or racist, I will apologize.

As for calling us shills, I won’t address that here because it’s a cheap trick you pull far too often. See my post with a tongue-in-cheek title, “Monsanto Shill Mom.”

You say in your recent Alex Jones interview (and believe me, I didn’t watch that entire trainwreck. One of my followers brought this to my attention):

It is about making sure we stand up for the truth no matter what…The information that I am going to share…are meant to help the world, meant to bring a healthier world, and also help reduce the amount of disease rates in this country. What I want to ask my detractors is this: Why do you spend all day attacking me? Why don’t you spend some of your time finding something healthy to bring to the world?”

Puh-lease. You have got to be kidding. Ain’t nobody spending all day attacking you. You seem to have delusions of grandeur, or you’re being disingenuous as usual. Many of your critics are doctors, scientists, and science communicators. By their very nature, these people’s lives are all about making the world a healthier and better place. Others like me are doing just what you claim to be doing, standing up for the truth no matter what. I spend most of my time keeping my kids healthy, working at a small genomics-related company (and no it’s not Monsanto), and communicating science to a lay audience.

Why do we “spend all day attacking” you? Unlike your claim in the Alex Jones interview that most of your critics’ work is about you, I actually write about you very little, as is demonstrable by my body of work. I believe the same is true of your other critics. Still, your preemptive contention that your critics are somehow obsessed with you is brilliant. This way, whenever anyone tries and refutes your claims, you can pull the “Obsessed with Food Babe” card. Indeed, Vani Hari’s Deck of Deflection keeps growing and growing.

Nevertheless, your non evidence-based fear mongering needs refutation, and this is why we spend our valuable time addressing your blunders. When you arbitrarily demonize beneficial and inherently benign tools like biotech, promote chemophobia, and conflate consuming conventionally grown foods with eating “processed” junk, you contribute to the hindrance of progress. You contribute to the perpetuation of American scientific illiteracy. You contribute to irrational conspiracy theories.

Now, you’ve called a group of hard working writers, scientists, and doctors sexist, racist, shills. Either you should be ashamed of yourself, or you’ll explain why you continuously make these allegations. As I’ve borrowed from Carl Sagan countless times – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Put up or shut up.

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Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is a mom of two, co-Executive Director of March Against Myths, public speaker, Forbes contributor and author in Madison, WI. She is also co-author of "The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari's Glass House". Follow her on Facebook and twitter @ksenapathy

5 Comments

  1. February 12, 2015 at 6:14 pm —

    Now, there have been lay-persons who have used racist, misogynistic epithets to “attack” and undermine her influence over the masses. Those people were and are WRONG to use those tactics in refuting her claims and stances on health, food, and medicine. And they should be ashamed of themselves for resorting to such base and unworthy tactics and not only apologize to Vani Hari, but also to those of us in their “camp” who have avoided doing the same; they demean not only themselves, but the rest of us as well as undermining the integrity of those who disagree with the Food Babe and her followers. We must be better than that.

    But I will admit that I, personally, do have a bit of a fixation with Vani. But that should not be construed as obsession or lack of meaning in my life. This is a subject I’m passionate about and feel that is important be addressed in as full a manner as possible. Denigrating her detractors as simply being sad losers with nothing better to do than persecute her is as bad as accusing us all of being what she says we are. This is a problem that isn’t going to resolve itself just by ignoring it. If you’ll forgive me for drawing an unfair parallel, this is an intellectual war–would you say that the Allied Forces were simply obsessed with stopping the Third Reich during WWII and should have just found other ways of making the world a better place? When you encounter an “enemy” that you feel is doing harm and making the world an unsafe/unhealthy place, you don’t stop fighting until the matter is resolved, not give up just because your opponent is annoyed with your efforts. Perhaps her time and effort would be better applied with actual refutations and debate on the issues being discussed, rather than on deflection and smear tactics. Talk to us, Vani Hari! Meet us as equals and maybe you can garner some measure of respect due a worthy foe. Just because you refuse to defend your position, doesn’t mean no one can attack you.

  2. February 12, 2015 at 8:55 pm —

    Heh. Standing up for “truth”? It took me a while to stop laughing at that. It reminded me of a great comment I read about another abuser of truth once. Modified here for current events:

    You have to understand FoodBabe’s history. After she abused Truth so much during the writing of the Food Babe Way, Truth got a restraining order. Now FoodBabe’s not allowed within 50 yards of the truth.

  3. February 12, 2015 at 10:36 pm —

    Kavin, I admire you for so much, but especially for the fact that you could stomach even a small part of an interview with the Food Babe and Alex Jones.

    She has such a difficult time understanding science that when she sees in (people disagreeing with her using evidence) all she can think is “they are attacking me!” argh

  4. February 16, 2015 at 4:56 am —

    While I agree with most of your opinions on Food Babe, isn’t it possible that she is getting many racist and sexist e-mails? I don’t want to excuse her behavior in general – she is a fear monger through and through – but I think you may have been a little unfair to her in this post. She didn’t say you and these others in particular were racist or sexist, so it makes no sense to ask her to point out where you have been either of these. The internet is an awful place and I would not be surprised at all if 90% of the e-mails she gets are full of racial or misogynistic slurs. The valid criticism that you and the others you mentioned level at her may comprise only a small percentage of the feedback she gets.

    • February 16, 2015 at 10:40 am —

      Yes, it is possible, and actually I don’t doubt that she’s getting many racist and sexist emails. Most outspoken women, and women of color get sexist and racist messages and emails. It’s extremely unfortunate and shouldn’t happen, but it does. I experience it regularly. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean people like me should go crying “racist” and “sexist” on Twitter when we’re announcing Tweetups about our work. Vani Hari has been known to conflate this types of harassment with her opposition in general. It’s an attempt to derail and deflect. I’ve addressed the problem with this in detail here http://geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/12/10/evolution-of-food-babe-from-misguided-consumer-advocate-to-crude-bully/

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