“Alt” and “Rogue” Social Media Accounts are Not Credible

The latest pop fad in the (pseudo?)scientific “resistance” movement is to set up “alt” or “rogue” Twitter accounts, then claim scientific credibility in the role of some anonymous knight in shining armor. Well, here was one example, and my open and public response on Twitter.

Muzzling of scientists is wrong, and I have expressed that concern many times on many fora. However, these fake Twitter accounts strike me as misguided (at a minimum) for many reasons, the biggest among them being trust. That is the over-arching issue and here are some specifics behind it:

  1. Hand in hand with trust goes authenticity. A fake EPA, NOAA, NPS or other pseudo-governmental account, by its very nature, is inauthentic!
  2. How do we KNOW that the people behind the accounts are who they say they are? They could be anybody, current or former employee, disgruntled grudge-holder, complete and total poser with no connection, maybe even a false-flag operative (more below). Anonymity undermines credibility.
  3. Many of these accounts are mixing in politics and social issues with science. That also undermines their credibility. Stick to the science if your account claims to be scientific. Otherwise you’re behaving no differently than some dweeb in a basement pretending to be someone else.
  4. Spelling, grammar, usage, and other English writing errors are powerful indicators of questionable credibility or complete inauthenticity.
  5. The snarky attitudes and tangential posts of some of these “alt” and “rogue” accounts only can undermine the causes of the legitimate accounts.
  6. Plenty of degreed, real-world scientists are standing behind their names and saying what they want to say. I always do. So can others. So can you. Therefore these accounts serve little practical purpose but to deliberately annoy and irritate, while satiating some desire to vent, and/or to masturbate one’s own ego to the thrill of sycophantic adulation from the like-minded.
  7. Who is held accountable for inaccurate statements made from these accounts, and how?
  8. What if some of these are false-flag accounts run by people building name lists of opposition? Whoa … … … bet you didn’t think of that possibility, did you? Hmmm…better think twice. In this crazy world, you can’t rule that out either.

Courage necessarily involves taking risk. The following I mention, not to brag, but to establish personal credibility in this subject for those who don’t know me. For over 25 years, I have been speaking out on the Internet about many issues in my science (as well as otherwise), both here in this BLOG since 2005 and in stand-alone HTML web pages before that. I do so on my own time and equipment, not on the job, which keeps it all legal and untouchable under Amendment 1, United States Constitution.

My name is Roger Edwards in Norman, OK, and I take full credit and blame for everything I post, including this. Look for yourself, both in this BLOG’s archives and in those web pages. I have spoken out openly about it all — not hiding behind fake identities in a timorous fashion. I have criticized Republicans and Democrats alike, including our current President, who has been both at various times in his life. All those pages are still there, and so are those BLOG entries. I stand firmly and resolutely behind all of them as they were written based on the insights I had at the time, and get this: with my true identity attached. I have the guts to stand behind my ideals, back down from no one, and suffer no fools. Let that set an example.

If you are a government scientist, and you want to speak your opinions on anything in particular, the solution is clear: keep your opinions off official social-media accounts. That’s not what they’re for anyway. They’re for official business. Do not use official time and equipment to express your concerns — only to express the science itself that’s relevant to that account. If you are punished for doing it by the letter of the rule, fight that through all available legal means!

For opinionated activity: use your own personal accounts and equipment, and do so unfettered. Say what is on your mind. The First Amendment applies to all of us, and does not contain the words, “except” or “unless”. Could you be hated? Sure. Could trolls say mean things? You bet — grow a thick skin and deal with it. Could you be passed up for a grant or promotion? Yes, butt-hurt bureaucrats can and do act like that, and sometimes will retaliate in unprovable ways. I know, I’ve been there. We just have to be ready, even though it’s wrong and we don’t like it. That’s the price we pay for having convictions and the courage to express and act upon them.

If you are a media member, you owe it to journalistic integrity to verify your sources and the information they provide, independently. Journalism 101…never, ever, ever take someone simply at their word. That’s the fastest way to undermine your own credibility and that of your employer, as I also have discussed openly and publicly on this BLOG for the world to see. Vet your sources and their information, thoroughly — and yes, that takes time. So be it. Better to get it right than get it first!

If someone doesn’t have the guts to put their name on the line, to stand behind their claims, that’s just so much cowardice and hollow posturing with no credibility or authenticity to back it up. The greatest measure of the importance of your ideals is in your willingness to stand behind them with your real identity.


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