Sunday, February 17, 2019


“There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.” 

-- Lisbeth Salander (protagonist to the Stieg Larsson novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire)

I very much admired Larsson's original Milliennium trilogy. Salander was a far from perfect individual, but one who had a moral compass she put into practice. The quote above is a good indicator of her ethos (and I suspect the ethos of Larsson): we get our hands dirty, we take sides, make our choices, and deal with the consequences. Some hands are dirtier than others. In an ideal world, those who were more responsible would shoulder more of the burden of accountability. Indeed, Salander tried to make that ideal a reality throughout the course of the original trilogy. Reality is considerably more complicated. Sometimes those who are more responsible, and who do deserve to be held to a higher level of accountability, manage to continue to skate. Although frustrating, we can note that there may be systems in place that prevent justice of any sort (restorative or otherwise) from occurring. In the book series there was indeed a system in place that enabled gross economic exploitation, exploitation of those who were vulnerable due to real or alleged psychological disabilities, and based on gender or sexual orientation. In that sense, art imitates life. In my corner of the sciences, there is a rigid hierarchy, as well as various forms of exploitation. Unlike the book series, there aren't necessarily any obvious villains. When the occasional Wansink gets caught, it really isn't a cause for celebration, given not only the obvious loss of a life's work, but also the human toll on those less privileged who tried but were unable to replicate and build on that work, as well as those most directly affected as collaborators. We may wonder who knew and when. But really many who may have known the most were likely those with the least power in a game that was (and is) largely rigged against them. Different degrees of responsibility. As we work our way through the current crisis in confidence in our field, let's make sure to keep that in mind. The end goal is to change the system, rather than take down individuals.

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