Confessions of a Striving Social Media Creature; Law Firm Hustles Raw Milk Clients; A Mom Takes Aim

Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia Journalism School's social media professorThere's no escaping the power of the social media. If anyone harbored any doubts, yesterday's news that a small one-and-a-half-year-old photo-sharing company launched by a couple of twenty-somethings is being acquired by Facebook for $1 billion should wipe the doubts away.

I've not been a doubter--I emphasize the importance of the social media when I speak to farmers and food club members about the importance of using the media to alert the public about government raids and court actions against small food producers. (I'll be doing so again at the Food Rights Workshop in Minnesota May 13; more specifics on the event to come.) I tell them that a few food rights advocates have been very adroit in using the social media, prime among them  Michael Schmidt with his Support Michael Schmidt Facebook page (that coincided with the start of his hunger strike last fall and quickly attracted nearly 5,000 supporters). There's also the Farm Food Freedom Coalition Facebook page, which now receives over 100,000 views a month. Both Wisconsin farmer Vernon Hershberger and activist Max Kane have made very skillful use of YouTube via well-done videos highlighting confrontations with regulators.

A number of food producers use Facebook to market their products as well. They regularly report about life on the farm and what new products are available for sale. They introduce customers to their family members, and in general forge an ongoing relationship that helps foster loyalty. I know from discussing with several that it helps boost sales, as more people use social media.

I've been more a doubter of my own abilities to master the social media. Yes, I have a Twitter account (@davidgumpert) and a Facebook page, and I share my blog postings, and re-tweet interesting info. I've even live-tweeted at food rights rallies and court hearings. But that doesn't mean I have a serious understanding of how these tools work, nor how to maximize their benefits.  It's kind of discouraging, when I read that 750 million or so people around the world are using Facebook, and I can't distinguish between a public posting and a private message; I cower when I see the "Share" button--am I sharing a private message with one person or the entire world?. I like to think I'm as smart as, well, at least a couple hundred million of those people who are deftly posting cute little somethings or others.

I know some of this is generational. Teens and twenty-somethings take  to Facebook and Twitter like fish to water.

I've even been taking an online course offered by my alma mater, Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. The professor, Sree Sreenivasan, is dynamic, and he preaches a serious strategic approach to using the social media. (He offers social media advice on his Facebook page.)

As just one example, he cautions against just dashing off tweets, saying he spends four to eight minutes on each one of his, to check his spelling and otherwise edit, so his tweets are both accurate and representative of his serious journalistic mindset. He also encourages us to tweet about the course, using the hashtag #cjsm, to demonstrate the power of attracting eyeballs to particular topics.

At the last session, Sreenivasan pointed the class toward klout.com and proskore.com, where each of us can assess how we stack up against others who are tweeting, in terms of followers, re-tweets, and other factors. There's another site to see how our hashtags are doing.

Uh-oh. I thought the social media were partly about getting away from status. It's hard to deal with the thought of being told my ranking may be low. It's one thing to think it, another to have it confirmed in a public forum.

I know I'm learning some worthwhile things. There are definitely lessons that can be applied to further the cause of food rights, beginning with using the hashtags "#food freedom" and "#food rights" as much as possible in your own tweets. (I'll let you google "hash tags" if you're not sure what I'm talking about.)

Will I ever get comfortable with the social media? That's where I have this gnawing sense of insecurity.

For one thing, it seems as if you have to spend a lot of time with it. Just what I need, trying to make more time in the day.

Also, the social media seem to be for people to be out there, as it were. Yeah, I guess on this blog I'm sometimes out there. But I'm actually not a chatty person. I'm more of an introvert. Facebook is definitely for chatting.

But as I said, there's no denying social media's power. The social media are powering revolutions in the Middle East. They are where sports celebrities sometimes divulge "big" news like new team contracts, or that they are retiring.

We in the food rights movement need to get much better at using the social media. I think a big requirement is just doing it, and not being intimidated, and taking the attitude...so what if you look stupid on occasion.

Did I mention you can follow me on twitter @davidgumpert.
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Has there been a business slowdown at the MarlerClark personal injury law firm? 

That's the main question that occurred to me when I saw a press release put out by the firm a couple days ago trying to stir up business based on three possible illnesses from raw milk in Missouri. This firm and others try to capitalize on illnesses from whatever foods are creating problems by blanketing the Internet with a steady din of "news", but not usually as blatantly as this, and not usually on small outbreaks like this.

Does this language strike you as a little forward, or is it just me? (The release is in Q&A format.)

"Q: I drank raw milk and got E. coli. I’m thinking about hiring a law firm to represent me, but am concerned about the cost of legal representation for my E. coli case. What are the costs of hiring a lawyer for an E. coli case? How do I find the most experienced E. coli attorney?

"A: The lawyers at Marler Clark have been representing E. coli victims since 1993 and have recovered over $600,000,000 for clients. The Marler Clark E. coli attorneys provide free case evaluations for all potential raw milk E. coli outbreak victims, and victims of other foodborne illness outbreaks. Our E. coli lawyers do not charge an hourly fee. Our firm works on behalf of clients and only collects fee on a contingent basis. That means we collect our fees for E. coli cases as a percentage of the recovery obtained on our clients’ behalf after the case has been resolved."

Hey, maybe I get a cut of the next settlement, for having given the firm all this promo. 

**
Coincidentally, Mary McGonigle-Martin lets it all hang out in an article on Food Safety News (owned by MarlerClark)--the story of her son's illness from raw milk. McGonigle-Martin, who has been a frequent contributor to this blog, goes beyond describing the circumstances of her son Christopher's illness (which she's done extensively on this blog), and goes after leaders of the raw milk movement, including Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation, scientist Ted Beals, and Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. (She includes yours truly, and appreciate that she considers me "a friend.")

I can understand her ongoing upset with the Weston A. Price Foundation, along with Mark McAfee, for failing to appropriately acknowledge Organic Pasture's likely role in the illnesses that occurred in the fall of 2006 and affected her son. I think she goes somewhat over the top when she says they "would hawk their souls to convince their followers that raw milk is always safe to drink."

I would also take issue with her complaint that Weston A. Price Foundation chapters "grind incessantly for the legalization of raw milk in states where it is currently illegal; in states where raw milk is legal, their aim is to relax existing regulations to their benefit. Sally Fallon, Ted Beals and Mark McAfee persistently advocate in state legislatures across the country regarding the perceived health benefits of raw milk."

What she neglects to mention is that big dairy processors, public health and agriculture regulators, and university professors regularly work against any kind of liberalization of raw milk availability, and spend huge amounts lobbying against food choice...for Big Ag's huge financial benefit.

The article is worth reading.
**
Thanks to all who shared their knowledge about calf health and animal husbandry on my last post--Ron Klein, Tim Wightman, Dave Milano, and others. Such matters are so mysterious to me, it's great to have such diverse insights, and a parting back of nature's curtain.

I read Mary's piece. Besides being poorly written I did not like the same things you did not like. "...would hawk their souls to convince their followers that raw milk is always safe to drink" was particularly odious. On the other side of the grocery store aisle Monsanto hawks it's corporate soul to convince us that GMOs are safe to eat.

I occurred to me that she might have been paid for it.

Mary, you need to get over it. Your poor son. He can't seem to get away from what happened to him, can he?

That bit about Marler-Clark hustling for e-coli business via reminds me of a John Grisham novel I just finished, "The Litigators," about a pair of third-rate ambulance-chasing "boutique lawyers" who rush into a class action suit without investigating first.

They advertised on park benches and bingo cards. lol

mark mcafee's picture

Our OPDC FB is at the core of the soul of the Raw Milk Markets in CA. David you are so right. A new generation of communication has created a vitual mind and soul. A soul that communicates all the time with a safe distance to all that concur with a similiar philosophy. FB is not a place of conflict....it is a place to build alliances and confirm loyality. You "like" someone or something on FB....you get unliked and dissassociated if you are in conflict. I know that I blocked Mary Martin and Dr. Rose last year when they started to rant about all things negative about RAWMILK on our FB. I did not feel one little bit bad about this. Not one little bit. I do not think that FB is a democratic place. It is a place to feel like family, post baby pictures, tell your story and share that you care and love people. It is a place to build good and positive things.

Marler beating the bushes for raw milk business is not unlike Ambulance business development by putting oil on the hiway-off ramps. There are literally no cases being fought on food safety issues in EU...literally none.

Mary would no longer be the poster mom for raw milk hating efforts conducted by the FDA.... that would crush her.

There are plenty of open spaces to do the "all voices first amendment thing"...not so much on FB.

With the FTCLDF interstate lawsuit being thrown out....I have submitted a request to FTCLDF for a review of the "CFR 1240.61 Interstate Commerce...Citizens Petition" that OPDC STILL has had pending for more than 3 years with the FDA. I am hoping that FTCLDF will pick up this "Writ of Mandamus" effort and take the challenge straight up the middle to the FDA.

Tear down that raw milk wall!!

Why is it that raw milk can be sold legally in Sprouts Stores all over Southern CA but.... can not be sold in those same Sprouts Stores in Phoenix Arizona? Are the people from a different planet? Are they somehow reactive to raw milk differently than the citizens of CA? vacationing residents of AZ drink raw milk all the time in CA. Vacationing citizens of AZ take CA raw milk home with them to AZ. There is a tamper evident seal and raw milk is legal to be sold in Arizona??? This stinks and has always stunk.

Raw Milk does not become magically unsafe when it moves over an imaginary line out in a desert!!

It is my hope that when the FDA reads this...that they spill their legal celebration champaign glasses, and start crapping pissed-off kittens. Gary Cox has some more hard questions for them to answer. They are far from finished with raw milk. How about these....show any proof that pasteurized milk does not contain pathogens....the FDA does not require any pathogen testing in the PMO....the FDA has no proof that pastuertized milk is actually safe. Studies have shown repeatedly that pasteurized milk contains pathoges a certain amount of time. The last people to die from milk died from pasteurized milk not raw milk. Raw Milk is tested and we have proof of no pathogens. Pasteurized milk being designated as the MOST ALLERGENIC food in America...is the biggest UNSAFE food label you can own. Pasteurized milk owns that label...near and dear.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079311.htm

Food allergies can and do kill consumers all the time and the dairymen of America wonder why their markets and prices are crashing again.

GOT MILK? Make sure it is #1 Most Allergenic.

How about those kittens Mr. Sheehan. There is no avoiding or evading the truth.

David Gumpert's picture

Mark, I think your observations about Facebook being "a place to feel like family, post baby pictures..." is absolutely correct. Now that you mention it, I rarely see any arguments in the friends areas of Facebook. It's very goodie-goodie, and I don't say that critically. Heck, there's so much of the argumentative stuff in so many other places (including here) that it's not a bad thing to have a place of respite.  You do see some outrage expressed on the" pages" (like "Support Michael Schmidt"), but even there, not much arguing. People of like mind attracted. Maybe my difficulty appreciating all that why I've had trouble getting my arms around Facebook, in particular.

Amanda Rose's picture

LOL @ Mark McAfee. I've consumed raw milk since I was three years old.

McAfee said:
"I know that I blocked Mary Martin and Dr. Rose last year when they started to rant about all things negative about RAWMILK on our FB."

I'd actually forgotten that I had gotten blocked. This was back during the recall in Nov/Dec 2011 when it came out that the calves had the matching strain. OPDC posted that the calves are separated from the moms. I thought I provided great value to the discussion by saying that the calves were kept in calf crates, separated from the cows.

On social networking, I added to my Twitter profile that I tweet from an historic brothel. I got new followers, though my conservative father would have a kiniption if he actually used Twitter (or even knew how to find it). Tweets from the brothel: @amgrose (It's no longer open for business, just FYI).

Amanda

Deborah - Pacifica's picture

Mark - so sorry to hear of your friend battling cancer. Do you know if they have explored the use of therapeutic grade essential oils for cancer treatment. There have been a number of studies showing the effectiveness of Frankincense & Lemongrass essential oils killing off even stage 4 cancer. One study that I personally am familiar with is the study done by Dr. Lin out of Univ of Oklahoma who had done a number of studies proving the astounding affects of Frankincense in particular. I have a couple of weblinks that I will email you when I get home (currently in Corpus Christi) & can get on my computer. Other oils that are currently in studies are: Orange, Coriander & a couple of others. If you are interested in more, I would be more than happy to send you all the materials that I have for cancer treatment with therapeutic grade essential oils. I have studied essential oils for medical use for over 20 yrs, but one thing that is very important...they have to be of a pure, therapeutic grade, meaning there can not be anything added, altered, substituted,etc....must be pure.

Sylvia Gibson's picture

David, you went from using a typewriter to using of the computer. I've no doubt you'll master social media too.

Business slow down? LMAO. That's a good one. "collect our fees for E. coli cases as a percentage of the recovery" Isn't it about 50% or more of the recovery?

"failing to appropriately acknowledge Organic Pasture's likely role in "

Key word there.."Likely" . That is supposition. I wouldn't acknowledge it either. It's not factual.

Reading the ingredients in the so called health-food stores can be quite alarming,. If your grandma can't identify it, you probably shouldn't consume it. People buy raw milk because they don't want it pasteurized. Several of the commenters to Marys story reiterated a lot of what has been said on this blog in response to her posts.

Amanda Rose's picture

Thanks for the link to Mary's article. It brings up important issues about the raw milk information environment that DO need to change. Hopefully that change is in progress.

Kristen P's picture

I guess I'm the only one here that thought Mary's piece was well written and a long time coming?

I thought she was gracious to admit that Nourishing Traditions is a good reference piece for Traditional Foods. It takes a lot of grace for someone who has gone through what she has to say that.

As for Marler-Clark, I just couldn't put down my free copy of "Poisoned". As for the press release: I hope he gets some clients. The reality is the damage is done. The kids are already sick. The ones represented by Bill will probably be cases of HUS. Why shouldn't their families get relief from hospital bills and who knows what will happen to them in the future as far as their kidney health is concerned? Also, in this Missouri case, it seems now that a ONE MONTH OLD has been hospitalized with a case of HUS. I hope that baby makes it. Sad indeed.
"Two patients -- a 2-year-old and a 1-month-old -- are known to be hospitalized after developing symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections."
http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/04/two-more-illnesses-confirmed-in-mi...

Talking about social media, it seems the food safety crowd has it under control.

your comment illustrates the maxim "nothing is so useless it cannot at least be used as a bad example" ... there's not a scintilla of evidence linking the vauge reference to an anonymous child - ill from SOMEthing yet to be determined - to consumption of raw milk. But that doesn't stop Marler & Co, from bruiting-around such notion. Gotta hand it to them = Marler& Co are adept at the puffery of cyber-warfare. No wonder the public loathes and despises the business of modern lawyering... a complete free-for-all in which responsible speech is a quaint, antique notion.

Marler's fear-mongering is in the same league as the testimony of the daughter of the Saudi ambassador, who tearfully told Congress Iraqi soldiers had invaded a hospital nursery in Kuwait, and tossed babies out of incubators. In fact, it never happened ... but it was enough of a pretext for war. No apologies forthcoming, for the damage done

Deborah - Pacifica's picture

Some interesting things about the book "Poisoned"...one statement in the book that "jumped" out at me is the statement that a mother had applied holy water to her daughter's head...no problem with that statement very understandable with the mother doing that as I would do so as well, but then it goes on to say that she even added it to the IV...well, I'm sorry but that is NOT possible!! In order to add something to an IV, it has to be injected into the IV line via a syringe & visitors to the patient do not have access to syringes, let alone have the knowledge of how to do that. There is no way for someone to request a nurse and/or doctor to even add it to an IV solution as it is not allowed (it is not an medically acceptable IV additive). Anything added to an IV must be a medically, legally approved solution, of which, holy water is not. No one in their medical experience would ever administer something that came from an outside source, let alone use something that is not in a sterile package that was not approved by the hospital pharmacy. I'm very curious why the author would make such a ludicrous statement?!

But the biggest thing that I have never understood (from either this book and other sources) about this deadly eColi outbreak is why was only Jack in the Box sued?!! They were not the only players in this terrible incident..why wasn't the processing plant sued..why wasn't the CAFOs sued??! This situation came abut because of Big Ag, CAFOs & improperly managed meg processing plants. Jack in the Box was a scapegoat for this...yes, yes they were very irresponsible when the first signs of the problem arose, yes, they tried to cover it up & yes, they were not cooperative with regards to investigation, let alone themselves failing to go after the processing plants & CAFO suppliers. It is appalling that the main players in this outbreak were not held accountable for this devastating incident which will only insure that something like this will indeed happen again!!

Sylvia Gibson's picture

That's a good question Deborah. Why weren't the other contributors sued? Ans it does appear Gag in the bag was a scape goat. I think I read regarding the 2006 suit against OP also included the store the milk was bought from.

Big ag, cafos and the processing plants will continue to spew out contaminated garbage selling if as "foods". Follow the money and who's sleeping in whose bed.....

Sophie's picture

David, I think you will grow into other social media outlets as well as you've grown into this blog!

David Gumpert's picture

Thanks, Sylvia and Sophie, for the encouragement. I think you're likely correct. There's no choice, really, except to adapt, even if all the fandangled new stuff is coming at breakneck speed.

 

Deborah - Pacifica's picture

I can definitely agree with you, David. I felt the same way when all these newer social sites came out after Facebook. At that time I was pretty heavy into FB & all that it offered (maybe too much into it, lol!). When Twitter came out, I tried it but felt too overwhelmed so I unsubscribed it. Now I am back to Twitter, have downsized my FB activity big time, cut out all the FB games, activities, etc. My Twitter account updates to my FB page so now I can reach do two things at once! I have come to appreciate the benefits of Twitters especially the updates. It has been a very interesting ride!!

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