Rachel Carson and Social Homeostasis

Slate had as article I read this morning, from William Souder. The article tells the story of the reaction to the book and movie, “Silent Spring.” The book, later turned into a movie, was written by Rachel Carson and apparently warned against the indiscriminate use of pesticides (this took place before I was born so I am relying heavily on the narrative the article provided).

Carson’s book was controversial before it even was a book. In June 1962, three long excerpts were published by TheNew Yorker magazine. They alarmed the public, which deluged the Department of Agriculture and other agencies with demands for action, and outraged the chemical industry and its allies in government.

Apparently, Ms. Carson had no problems with the proper use of pesticides. This neither stopped critics from portraying her as un-American or accusing her of being a left-wing radical trying to ban the use of pesticides. A large propaganda (my word) campaign was waged against Ms. Carson and her ideas. A broad, well funded public relations offensive was used to demonize a person calling for the RESPONSIBLE use of pesticides.

A person who stands up as an activist on any issue that has not gained a widespread public acceptance (see Overton window) can expect similar treatment. Even if an activist’s actions are not criminal in themselves, this will not keep the activist out of jail. Also, local power structures tend not to be averse to using violence against those who would challenge the local power structure.

When you challenge the power structure, it will react. This is normal. The city council sending in police to busts the heads of a group of protestors is tantamount to the body sending white blood cells to deal with invading bacteria. It is social and political and economic homeostasis. It is the body politic protecting itself.

That it is normal, however, does not make it right. It is the job of the activist to push matters until they are made right, regardless of the cost.

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