Mitt Romney is acting out again. On Sunday he published this op-ed in the Boston Globe in which he "explains" his opposition to the legislature’s stem cell research bill. It’s a silly piece with lots of dubious assertions. For example:
- "Once cloning occurs, a human life is set in motion." Romney assumes as fact one of the most hotly disputed moral and ethical issues of our time: when "life begins." Romney’s wholesale, uncritical adoption of the "pro-life" party line is surely directed outside the borders of Massachusetts.
- "Only 3 percent of the biotech companies nationwide are doing stem cell research of any kind." Well, duh. No one in the US is doing stem cell research now because President Bush basically made it impossible. But with California, New Jersey, and other states beginning major efforts to encourage and fund stem cell research within their borders, that’s going to change fast. Massachusetts needs to be ahead of that curve, or we will quickly find ourselves far behind it.
- "Some fear that, without cloning, Massachusetts biotech could fall behind other states. That is not the case." Wrong. See above.
- "Some stem cells today are obtained from surplus embryos from in-vitro fertilization. I support that research, provided that those embryos are obtained after a rigorous parental consent process that includes adoption as an alternative." Let me see if I have this straight. An embryo is a human life. Therefore it’s wrong to use embryos for research purposes, because it would mean destroying human life. But if the people whose genetic material was used to create an embryo say it’s OK, then we can destroy the embryo for research purposes. This position makes no sense to me. Either an embryo is a human life, or it isn’t. If it is, then it’s not OK to destroy it, and it doesn’t matter who signs off on the destruction. This position is a transparent effort by Romney to appeal to pro-lifers while also appearing to be "reasonable" and non-obstructionist about scientific research. Hey Mitt – they’re called "principles." Try one – you might like it!
Fortunately, the state legislature (and Senate President Robert Travaglini in particular) are doing the sensible thing about Romney: they are ignoring him. Passage of the bill to which Romney objects is likely to go through with a veto-proof majority, and the legislature is now talking about the next step: a $100 million funding initiative. Obviously, Romney objects. No one cares.
Which leads me back to the title of this post. The phenomenon of "trolls" is well known to readers of blogs, chat rooms, and other online communities. But it seems to me that the concept has a broader application. Consider this definition: "A troll is a cry for attention, a pathetic attempt to be noticed." Or this one: "Trolls are people who … say or post things to create a disturbance within the … community." Sound familiar? Our Governor, after going out-of-state (to the NY Times) to announce his revised stem cell policy, "posts" his latest op-ed in our "community" (the local media) in an effort to be sure he gets noticed, and to try to stir things up, before the legislature passes its bill over his pointless veto. What to do? Consider this advice regarding online trolls: "Deny the troll continued satisfaction to make it go away. It may cloak its urges as some holy or misguided crusade, but once its arguments are invalidated and it STILL hangs around, it’s a troll. Pure and simple. Usually the best basic advice is to ignore the troll. It will probably go away if denied attention."
Sounds about right to me (I particularly like the bit about a "holy or misguided crusade"). Travaglini and co. are doing the right thing by pressing forward despite the Troll Governor’s annoying posts. We can only hope that the Troll Gov will, indeed, "go away if denied attention."