Steven Best and “Negotiation Is Over”: Closer than Best wants you to know

I’ve made no secret of my opinion of the animal rights movement, in particular Jerry Vlasak, a trauma surgeon who has openly advocated the murder of researchers who use animals while–wink, wink, nudge, nudge–denying that he’s advocating anything. Another animal rights activist who is equally despicable is Stephen Best, who is affiliated with the even more despicable Camille Marino of the odious Negotiation Is Over, which has recently taken to targeting for harassment students interested in biomedical research who have worked with animals. NIO put this strategy into action, too, by targeting an unfortunate junior majoring in biology named Alena Rodriguez. It might be that in doing this they overreached, but that remains to be seen. It’s clear, however, that NIO isn’t about to stop. In fact, it’s offering a bounty of $100 to college students who rat out their fellow students to Camille’s crazies so that they can be targeted for harassment.

And Stephen Best is right there in the mix, appearing regularly on the NIO website. In fact, Carlton Purvis has found out that Best is involved with NIO far more than just providing aid and comfort to animal rights extremists offering rewards to college students willing to provide names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and addresses of fellow students to NIO. It turns out that…well, I’ll let Purvis tell it (or ask it), Why Is a UT Professor Collecting Donations for an Animal Rights Group that Targets College Professors? The scoop:

Negotiation is Over (NIO), an animal rights organization run by Camille Marino, started a bounty program this summer offering a $100 reward to college students willing to provide addresses, phone numbers, and personal information of students and professors whose research used animals.

On its website, the group outlined a plan to place flyers across college campuses advertising the reward. “STUDENTS – EARN EA$Y MONEY!!! Negotiation Is Over would like to pay you $100 cash for information about each biomed student who is learning to experiment on animals in your university,” the flyer reads. The Gainesville Sun reported that the group distributed the flyers at the University of Florida Health Sciences Center in July. It’s not known how many people, if any, took the offer. Marino has not responded to any requests for comment about the campaign.

NIO uses what it calls “applied persuasion tactics,” and intimidation to press biomedical students to abandon their studies.

NIO is, as Purvis points out, a fan club for Stephen Best:

At a glance, the rest of the NIO site could serve as a fan club for Steven Best, a tenured University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) philosophy professor whose writing and YouTube videos are featured on every page. The organization uses his “Manifesto for Radical Liberationism: Total Liberation by Any Means Necessary,” as a founding document. Content from his personal blog is often cross-posted on the NIO website almost immediately after he publishes.

Now here’s the kicker:

Click on NIO’s donation button and it takes you to a donation page set up to send money to an account managed by someone using a Road Runner provided email address – the kind that you get for free when you sign up for Internet service.

A quick Google search of the email address reveals the owner of the address, none other than Steven Best, isn’t shy about putting his contact information on everything he touches.

The search turns up his personal websites, journal articles, a Facebook fan page, and not surprisingly, the NIO website.

Amusingly (and typically), within hours after Purvis contacted Best by e-mail, the link to the PayPal account was gone. Even more amusingly, NIO didn’t quite cover Best’s tracks all the way, having forgotten a snippet of text with Best’s e-mail address ([email protected]) on it. Not having visited the NIO site in a while, I was interested to note that Dr. Best’s presence appears–shall we say?–diminished since the last time I visited in that I couldn’t find nearly as many articles by Best as I recall from previous times I subjected my eyes to that website. I don’t know if my impression is correct or not (it’s not as though I saved a copy of the NIO website), but it wouldn’t surprise me if NIO were trying to throw some inconvenient writings down the old memory hole.

Both Purvis and, of course, Speaking of Research have wondered what the University of Texas will do about Best going beyond just advocating animal rights extremism to providing material aid and comfort to animal rights extremists like Camille Marino, in particular letting her use his PayPal account to collect money a part of which was intended to be used not just to pay expenses to keep the NIO website going but to help pay for bounties on students doing biomedical research using animals. The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) PR flack didn’t have much to say on the issue, in essence saying that the university didn’t have any specific policies regulating what its faculty do or say on their own time. That’s all well and good; academic freedom is generally a good thing, and universities should largely take a hands-off approach. However, one wonders if such a tight collaboration between Best and NIO and other animal rights groups, to the point of an apparent financial relationship, crosses some sort of line, even does not:

Be that as it may, this case raises far more questions than it answers. One question that I have is why Camille Marino couldn’t set up her own PayPal account. One wonders why, one does. There doesn’t seem to be any reason I can think of, unless Marino is in trouble with the IRS or something.

One thing that’s clear. It’s that Steve Best, like Jerry Vlasak and so many other public leaders of the animal rights movement, talks a good game. He sounds really tough, promising that “every motherfucker who hurts animals will suffer” and advocating “radical action” on behalf of animals. But when it comes right down to it, all it takes to get him to run scurrying away is a single reporter finding out that he let Camille Marino use his PayPal account.