On Balance

July 8, 2003

We never intend to offend

We can never get too many letters from readers (or these days, e-mails), but some months we get quite a few, and occasionally theyre nasty. It happened last year when Bela Liptak used global warming to illustrate how the fundamentals of process control can be applied to virtually any problem [CONTROL,July 03, p14] and again last month when Senior Technical Editor Rich Merritt sounded off on global cooling in Control Report [CONTROL,May 03, p35].

This time around, Bob Foote wrote, "The utter nonsense spewed by Mr. Merritt was really an embarrassment to your magazine. It had nothing to do with control science (or any kind of science for that matter--which shouldn't be any surprise as he states he gets financial and energy information by reading Car & Driver and apparently listening to scientific fellows like that gasbag Limbaugh)."

Brian Seamons comments included, "I am writing to object to the offensive content of the article…Politically-motivated name calling such as ‘Ozone Al Gore, tree huggers, and other liberals…has absolutely no place in a supposedly technical publication such as yours. I suggest that if Mr. Merritt wants to spew hatred like some Rush Limbaugh wannabe, that he find another forum in which to do so. I believe that an apology to your readers is in order for allowing such garbage to be printed in your publication."

(Limbaugh fans, please hold your pens.)

I always take readers comments seriously and see them as representative of many others who might not have taken the time to write. So Id like to respond to their assertions.

Global cooling is an appropriate subject. It makes sense for CONTROL to address the ecological consequences of the process industries when process control is part of the solution. Process control specialists are likely to be involved in producing, choosing, and conserving fuels. Global cooling is, to me, another perspective on global warming, so while we would not devote a feature article to it, a page every year or so is not out of order.

The subject was treated fairly. In a time when the results of scientific research (and the truth, for that matter) seem to be routinely distorted for personal, political, and money-making purposes, we strive to present many perspectives and as broad a view as possible of the world of process control so readers can draw their own conclusions. To Foote and those who share his opinion, I must point out the sources Merritt cited are real and are as respectable as most. He also made reference to alternative views and pointed out how difficult it is to know what to believe.

But its apparent some of the terms used in the column are offensive to some readers. I apologize to Seamon and anyone else offended by "‘Ozone Al Gore, tree-huggers, and other liberals"--though I imagine Al Gore would be proud of the recognition, Ive personally been known to hug trees (sometimes for firewood), and Im not sure what less offensive term we could use for liberals.

While Im at it, Id guess at least one person was offended by the appearance of "SUV" on our pages, so I apologize for that as well. Drive em if youve got em, but dont go buy one on Merritts recommendation. Unless you want to.

Finally, I wish to extend my apology to anyone offended by Seamon and Footes comments about Rush Limbaugh. Please dont be mad at me for quoting them in this column. But if you want to write, please do. We never get too many letters.

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