Whale Oil’s dirty attack on Otago academic

Posted By TEU on Oct 2, 2014 | 2 comments


Tertiary Update Vol 17  No 33

The villain of Dirty Politics, Cameron Slater, used his post-election downtime last week to attack University of Otago nutrition scientist Lisa Te Morenga, calling her a ‘trougher’ and, ironically, criticising her for being offensive on the internet.

TEU president Lesley Francey said Slater’s comments were intended to intimidate and to undermine academic freedom.

Journalist Russell Brown said the issue started with Carrick Graham, who was exposed in Dirty Politics as a lobbiest paid by big business to discredit and undermine public health advocates via Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Graham tried to intimidate Dr Te Morenga by going through her Twitter history and finding something he could quote out of context.

“He even tried to shop the “inappropriate tweet by an academic” line to me,” said Brown.

“It turns out that Te Morenga aroused their ire [last week] by giving Jordan Williams a serve about this disingenuous hit-job earlier in the year on the Fizz anti-sugary-drinks lobby group, presumably on the dollar of Katherine Rich and the Food and Grocery Council,” he said.

Graham’s friend and supporter Cameron Slater then used Whale Oil, to attack Te Morenga.

After this Brown noted there was a threatening legal letter from Jordan Williams, an official complaint to Otago University and a public warning from Carrick Graham to “be careful”.

“All aimed to intimidate and silence,” said Brown. “The whole thing appears to be a carefully-constructed effort to smear a group of health and nutrition researchers on behalf of a paying client.”

Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) defended Te Morenga, accusing Slater and Garrick of being ‘hate merchants’ implementing yet another attempt to smear and silence a health professional who’s doing research with which they disagree.

“Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog has repeatedly attacked the work being done by public health researchers, for example in the areas of nutrition and smoking, and now he’s having a go at Otago University nutrition expert Dr Lisa Te Morenga,” said Powell.

Powell said this type of smear tactics was well documented in Dirty Politics.

“Critiquing the conclusions of research is a valid part of health debate and discussion but this is just nasty stuff on the part of Whale Oil and others. New Zealand’s health professionals should be able to carry out research and other investigations without fear of intimidation,” he said.

Lesley Francey agreed, saying the criticisms levelled against Te Morenga had nothing to do with the credibility of her research or her public statements.

“Her work remains unchallenged. She was attacked personally, simply because she was a publicly funded academic. That’s not acceptable.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week

  1. TEU elects Sandra Grey president
  2. KiwiSaver improvements at EIT
  3. Collective agreements get more pay rises
  4. Vic students to leave NZUSA under VSM cloud

Other news

A steady infiltration of scientists on Twitter has accompanied the growing recognition that a social media presence is just as important as taking the podium at a conference. So where are the women scientists on Twitter? – Victoria Metcalf at the Conversation

Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi has been forced to repay $5.9 million and the Serious Fraud Office called in after a Tertiary Education Commission and Qualifications Authority investigation – Radio NZ

All German universities will be free of charge when term starts this week, after fees were abandoned in Lower Saxony, the last of seven states to charge – The Australian

The US for-profit college that’s too big to fail – – Business Week

“There are no jobs on a dead planet, but when governments do act to reduce carbon pollution and equip the communities and industries for the climate challenges to come, many more jobs will be created.” Sharan Burrow at the International Trade Union Confederation

Evidence shows continuing to learn throughout life can help improve and maintain our mental well-being. Learning can boost self-confidence and self-esteem, help build a sense of purpose and connect us with others Mental Health Awareness Week – Keep Learning Oct 6-12

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