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Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?

A part of the blogosphere is discussing the following incident.

DNLee5, Dana N. Lee, a black female biologist (specializing in vampire bats: note that the words for vampire, bat are upír, netopýr in Czech, similar endings) who oscillates between Oklahoma and Tanzania and who blogs as the Urban Scientist at the Scientific American server, was negotiating with biology-online.org about her possible regular, monthly contributions to this biologically oriented community server of a sort.

(No, Twitter's DNLee without 5 is someone else entirely, a fact that dozens of mindless retweeters of this story failed to notice.)

As most rational people would, she asked about the conditions as soon as she heard about the offer. She was interested in the financial compensation. There wouldn't be any, she learned, so she stopped the negotiations. The editor called "Ofek" at biology-online dot org added the key line here:

Because we don't pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?
"Did you just call me a whore?" she replied, and so on. You may imagine. Thankfully, her race wasn't directly involved in the exchange.

The Urban Scientist's review of the story (which includes her video testimony) got deleted from the Scientific American server (probably because "Ofek" is associated with SciAm more closely than she is) but it got reprinted at many places. Most commenters are not commenting on a certain issue that I find primary.




It is an ideological issue. Let me explain.

The Urban Scientist is no conservative hero. If you're looking for another warrior against the leftists, a role model, you will be disappointed. Her blog is full of tirades about the need to achieve diversity in the STEM fields and similar junk. However, in some fundamental issues, she's still less "progressive" than the likes of Ofek.




Think about the key question here: Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore? As she noticed, this is not just a plain description of her as a whore; it is an attempt to associate this expletive with her professional brand, too. It's an effort to hurt her at a professional level which should have nothing to do with this conversation about the financial compensation. Well, I have been abused by the left-wing scum in similar ways many and many times. They're cruel, nasty parodies of human beings.

But at the end, the question says much more about Ofek than it says about the Urban Scientist.

She and more likely he (I will say "he") lives in a different environment and state of mind where communism is already a reality and everyone is violently expected to behave according its rules. You should get an "unlimited" amount of money from some government-like source which doesn't really require a fair amount of work for the money; and on the other hand, you should do all the work someone wants for free. That's how these comrades imagine the "urban scientist".

To a certain extent, this is how the academic job in the West are supposed to work. Your academic salary is already containing the compensation for an unspecified body of related activities that you shouldn't get extra income for. However, the Urban Scientist just doesn't live in this world. Despite her obsession with the diversity and other left-wing delusions, she just thinks that the work should be compensated for and that the work only materializes if both sides of the transaction are satisfied. The satisfaction may depend on the money or the fame, degree of respect, amount of redirected traffic to the writer's personal website, or other things. Different people have different preferences, she realizes.

This "remnant of the free market" was what offended "Ofek" because, I believe, he is a hardcore communist. The offense was even stronger because he must believe that black female writers must be much more obedient a member of the communist sect than others. It just happened that the Urban Scientist didn't belong there. She was not afraid to ask about the conditions. She wasn't afraid to say No. She is a professional who won't work for free.

But she is definitely not a whore. A whore is someone who is doing sex for the money – something that women normally do for free if the counterpart is the right one (I won't add the joke what is the difference between a whore and a wife). To be paid for work e.g. writing is legitimate. It's how the real world works (almost) whenever it works. It would be great for urban assholes such as Ofek to learn that but I don't really expect they have the ability to learn such things. Cheap Ofek, the Urban Scientist isn't a whore exactly because she was able to say No to you.

And that's the memo.

P.S. The basic "market" idea that a contract or a transaction has two sides is something that is largely incomprehensible to many if not most of the "academic" types. I have learned quite something about it during my years at Harvard. Certain people just couldn't understand that the "package" of advantages, disadvantages, and restrictions of freedom that were incorporated into a faculty job at Harvard were simply not good enough for me. Quite often, I was suggested to swallow some extra XYZ because I should have been apparently grateful for that job. But I wasn't so grateful. The job had some initial conditions I was familiar with and I could have marginally accepted. But with some extra baggage added, the cost-and-benefits counting simply shifted beneath the red line. For me, the key consideration was freedom and not money as in DNLee5's case but the basic idea that an employee may get dissatisfied as well is the same. If jobs like that were so irresistible that no one could have possibly found something wrong with that, the rational reaction of the university would be to lower the salary or otherwise worsen the conditions, so that the potential for dissatisfied potential employees would get recovered. But some of the "urban" folks living outside the real world – and away from the logic of the commercial world – just don't understand these basic things about economics so they end up doing many things that look stupid and offensive to the rest of us.

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reader Dilaton said...

Ouch, that makes Ofek and the biology online community he represents looking not so good ...!


In fact, his reply to the legitimate answer of the biologist saying no, is at the exactly same niveau as the worst insults and trolling attacks too often observed in the comment sections below too popular physics articles ...


When looking as an editor for regular guest bloggers for the community, trolling seems not exactly the right strategy to me ...


I like the idealogical issues you explain too and the P.S. Before starting to read TRF I always thought, things should be more reasonable in acadimic environments ...


reader lucretius said...

This is a serious topic but my comment will be facetious. Sorry about that, but the question you asked and did not answer brought to my mind a joke, which I cannot resist telling. Unfortunately, I am bad at remembering jokes to the only the gist will be correct. In particular the monetary amounts are probably quite wrong.

So there is this guy whose wife had left him and feels the need for the services of a prostitute. He goes out to a rather elegant part of the city, meets a very beautiful one and enquires about her service. But her price is 100 dollars and he can only pay 10. So he goes down market, but the next one he meets wants 50 and so on, and he can’t get anyone who will do what he wants for 10 dollars. Finally he goes home and finds that his wife had returned. They are both happy and decide to go out to celebrate and they meet the first prostitute. She looks at them and says to the guy: “See what you can get for 10 dollars?”.


reader Rural Whore said...

Using the word "whore" in the title of a blog post.....classy. I think you have reached a global minimum.


reader Gordon said...

Hmmm, there are right wing scum as well as left wing scum, Lubos, just as there are left wing idiots and right wing idiots. There must be a jerk gene.
I noticed a marked decline in the quality of SciAm around the time John Rennie became editor and the magazine seemed to decide to take positions on social issues and political correctness.


reader Luboš Motl said...

It's in the title because this is what the story is all about. Most of those who know what this story is about used the same phrase in the title, including

http://twitchy.com/2013/10/12/scientists-standwithdnlee-biologist-called-urban-whore-for-declining-to-blog-for-free/

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/12/scientific-american-dustup-over-blogger-being-called-urban-whore-after-rejecting-request-for-unpaid-work/

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/scientific-american-writer-called-urban-whore-refusing-work-free-video

http://www.metafilter.com/132804/Are-you-an-urban-scientist-or-an-urban-whore



Because your comment seems obnoxious and unconstructive and I find it unlikely that you will ever contribute anything constructive to this blog or to the mankind, I have immediately placed you on the black list.


reader Luboš Motl said...

I didn't contradict your (clearly valid) proposition that there is right-wing scum. I just have a much more limited experience with it.


reader Rehbock said...

I think this is a case of Ofek "being one to know one". The "action" of the whore is deceit not sex. If one is willing to compromise one's principle to truth, whether to be a professor or a streetwalker or for the title, or to pay the rent


reader lucretius said...

A lot of "right wing scum", on closer inspection, turn out to be "left wing scum".


reader James Gallagher said...

haha, thanks for posting this, it is great to have hypocrites like "Ofek" unveiled. Look how easily he got flummoxed by someone from one of his simplistic left-wing group models not conforming to expected behaviour for the group. What a shit this Ofek guy is, and well done to Dana Lee for calling him on his shit behaviour.


reader papertiger0 said...

I just got done calling Josh Willis a whore for participating in a propaganda video for Obama's climate lobby group.

Here's the story of that. http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2013/10/check-out-this-brain-dead-organizing.html

Paranoia runs deep, into my life it will creep.

I am at the point, the worst, most hurtful thing a person could say about or to me is to call me a Democrat.


reader James Gallagher said...

Of course SciAm have now gone into overdrive to rectify the situation considering this involves a "woman of color"

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/at-scientific-american/2013/10/13/a-message-from-mariette-dichristina-editor-in-chief


Danielle Lee seems the only reasonable pubic figure in the case so far


reader J said...

I have been called similar things, and am a white male. And in my experience this kind of behavior is pretty common in academia. These people aren't racist or sexist, they're just assholes.


reader cynholt said...

How much am I getting paid for this comment? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! It is a disgrace I tell you! ;~)


reader cynholt said...

If she's a "professional blogger," then she should have a personal blog to air her grievances on. Regardless of what you think of SciAm, it is not the proper place for that type of post.


reader omeoide said...

The assumption of one-sided transactions you mention as part of communism is ironic considering how often socialists bring up "wage slavery" to argue against the evils of the free market. "Capitalism results in the restriction of people's choices of labor conditions, so let's use state power to force people into certain labor conditions to stop that."


reader Luboš Motl said...

Yup but it isn't really ironic. They think that capitalism doesn't allow 2 sides to influence a transaction because they believe 2 is too many for them to think about. So they assume it has to be one in capitalism. Needless to say, there is 1 deciding side in their 'ideal' system, too: the working people.