Don't Feed the Trolls

Those of you who pay attention to the media will have noticed the present disquiet in the cryonics community brought on by a former employee of Alcor: a renewed round of unpleasant and entirely unrealistic accusations of misconduct, made in the mass media echo chamber with intent to damage Alcor and produce profit for said former employee. I won't link to the recent press, not wishing to feed the trolls any more than is necessary, but you can find it easily via Google News or similar.

This should be looked on as a lesson in just how easy it is to make a terribly wrong hire, and just how much damage such a hire can do should they turn out to be irrational. This is why small companies and ventures must always be very cautious - though I fail to see what Alcor could have done differently to avoid this particular hire. Ultimately, the responsible party is the one who sets out to do bad things, not everyone else.

I will point you to Alcor's recent press releases on the matter:

Alcor Life Extension Foundation Granted Temporary Restraining Order Against Larry Johnson

Merkle said that Johnson’s main area of responsibility during his tenure at Alcor in 2003 was the supervision of the cryopreservation of Alcor members. According to Merkle, "Johnson expressed none of his lurid and sensationalistic concerns during his employment -- when preventing and correcting any such alleged mistakes would have been a major part of his duties. Only afterwards, when he could profit from exaggerations and misrepresentations, did he start to complain about how Alcor performed cryopreservations."

Alcor Response to ABC Nightline and Larry Johnson Allegations

Alcor condemns the gross insensitivity of news media in presenting Johnson’s stories as newsworthy, desecrating the memory of Ted Williams to the great upset of his family, who were devastated in a New York courtroom on Monday when learning sales of Johnson’s book would go forward. This was particularly heinous since the publisher apparently knowingly accelerated release of the book in order to preclude the Temporary Restraining Order requested by Alcor and the Williams family. The situation sadly demonstrates how easy it is for one malicious individual to taint the memory of a great man, emotionally crush a family, and damage decades of work by others. That this is presented as wrong-doing on Alcor's part is incomprehensible.

From my distant vantage point, I'll say this: this whole affair has the look of what becomes of those grade-school creators of drama when they grow up and become capable of causing real harm. It is very unfortunate that Alcor became the target of this particular individual. Alcor's volunteers and employees work hard at what they believe in: using technology to give people a chance at a longer life in the future, and ensuring that each new cryopreservation is as good as it can be under the always difficult end of life circumstances. They have been doing this for decades, to little applause, but it seems there's always some idiot ready and waiting to trample the hard-won gains of others for no better reason than he can.


The real concern here is that Alcor ever hired a guy like this in the first place. How did he come to be a part of their organisation?

Posted by: Ben at October 7th, 2009 10:49 PM

Bullies and opportunists can be very skilled at hiding their true natures, at least until they have reached a point in their relationship with a target where it becomes difficult to extricate oneself. This is how seemingly self-respecting people sometimes end up in abusive relationships. The conniving spouse is a model citizen until the perfect moment to exploit financial entanglements, reputations, and/or children arrives, then all hell breaks loose.

Posted by: shegeek at October 8th, 2009 2:34 PM

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