Bioethics Medicine Science

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.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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

Is there any reason why tenure can’t be revoked for this type of behavior? After all, tenure is supposedly in place to protect academic freedom. For someone to take advantage of tenure to threaten academic freedom somehow seems screwed up (to me, at least).

I agree TBruce. I find UT’s response to Dr. Best’s activities lazy, dismissive and disconcerting. He is actively engaging in the harassment (terrorism even?) of students, even UT students. That he may be doing it “on his own time” is frankly, bollocks.

If you want a bit of light relief here’s a quote from Marino’s response to this story on the NIO blog, where she tries to defend Best, repeatedly stating that he is not NIO’s treasurer despite the fact that neither Carlton Purvis nor Speaking of Research has claimed that he is, but only drops him further in the merde.

“Not a single “bounty” has ever been paid by me or anyone associated with NIO for information about any vivisection student or complicit individual.”

and later
“Second, all assertions that Dr. Steven Best is somehow funding the “bounties” initiative are baseless. No reward has ever been paid for intelligence.”

So her defence is that Best can’t be guilty because her campaign to get students to inform on other students has been a flop!

Popcorn anyone?

@Paul Browne

Of course, there’s also the possibility that she’s lying and NIO has paid people. Or that people have provided names but NIO reneged on any promises of payment.

First I found out that one of my GW professors aided The Father And The Son in their thimerosal-autism “research” (not to mention admitting you-know-who to their MPH program). Now this guy, as it turns out, teaches at the university where I got my BS in Medical Technology.

I wish I had more money to influence these two academic institutions as an alumnus.

I was in the cesspool all that time… I’m so glad I didn’t become “infected”.

I just went to NIO’s Facebook page… Holy crap! They post an article giving instructions on how to start electrical fires, but they only post it to aid “the free flow of information” not for any nefarious purposes. No.

The admin seems to really have it out for Orac.

@ JacQueso

How can you teach ethics and not feel like a complete jackass saying “every motherfucker who hurts animals will suffer”?

It’s the “New Ethics”: Everything I do and say is right and ethical. Everything the people who disagree with me do and say is wrong and unethical.

Or perhaps it’s “advocating violence to others is wrong, except in support of a greater good, in which case it is always justified.”

Isn’t that providing material support to a terrorist organization?

NIO is a terrorist organization, they are an organization and they are using intimidation to try and influence policy.

Why isn’t the FBI and the Justice Department looking into this?

From a posting by Camille Marino:

“On July 8 & 9, 2011, NIO activists in New York and Florida began to place bounties on the heads of biomed students & aspiring animal torturers. Our infiltrations were coordinated with several orientation events and festivities. The campaign has continued to spread to a number of other universities throughout FL and NY throughout the summer and will continue to move forward… Just know, the war has begun. WELCOME TO OUR NEW CURRICULUM!!!”

Well, if that ain’t a goddamn threat, I don’t know what is.


Isn’t that providing material support to a terrorist organization?

Harassing and terrorizing are a bit different, though I see your point. I think it’s just a really indecent thing to do. It’s bothersome how easily they have been able to obtain and hold on to personal information that wasn’t given to them willingly by the people concerned.

Jac@14 — “The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

That’s how the FBI defines terrorism. NIO’ proposed activities (electrical fires and bounties) seem to fall within those parameters.


Yes, I see. It seems to me, though, that the word “bounty” was used for drama/to piss people off/colorful language, etc.
I just read about the post about how to start electrical fires…That’s definitely terrifying, but do they actually come out and say that they will perform these actions or tell anyone else to do so? I think we can all agree there’s probably an underlying motive in posting things like that, yet I don’t see how that’s really enough to call for an investigation concerning terrorism.

Thanks, Jac. I’m not sure the world is ready for two of me.

That’s an interesting legal question (that I’m not qualified to answer). We had a situation here in Illinois about … ten years ago? With a white supremacist named Matt Hale who preached race war and encouraged his followers to kill non-whites.

And when they did, he got very indignant that anyone would blame him. I’m not sure what the outcome was but I think he’s still in jail.

@Ren (#8) “I wish I had more money to influence these two academic institutions as an alumnus.”

Well… a letter to the Alumni Offices of the two institutions, telling them how appalled you are, and exactly why, and that as a consequence you won’t be donating.. and maybe a website where you post the letters… and maybe an email to your classmates…

From small acorns, and all that.

I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but in the UK even almost wholly-publicly funded Universities are rather sensitive to both bad publicity and the prospect of alumni donations drying up. I doubt it would take that many letters to get them to notice.

…and I’m still wondering why we shouldn’t do unto them what they’re threatening to do unto us: put bounties on animal rights activists’ heads, start fires in their houses, that sort of thing. Kind of a “see how it makes them feel to see their tactics turned on them” thing.

These animal rights extremists are despicable. I love animals and am definitely pro-animal welfare (not rights; I think there is a distinction to be made), but this is vile. These animal rights “activists” are no different from the anti-abortion groups who participate in violent acts, or environmental extremists who do likewise. All of these persons who commit such acts should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

(As I write this, one of my two cats is meowing at me. My anthropomorphic conclusion is that she wants me to pet her, not tap away on some silly keyboard. And since she and her sister pretty much run this household, I’ll sign off.) 🙂

@ Lucario

Because then we would be no better than they are. I refuse to commit an act that I despise, simply to “teach them a lesson.”

And why is it that we should be “better than they are”? Does that ever work in the real world?

People who advocate violence against the innocent should recieve no mercy.

People who advocate violence against the innocent should recieve no mercy.

So drop the royal “we” and get cracking.

“Drop the royal ‘we’ and get cracking?” What exactly do you mean by that?

Wouldn’t mind having an explanation that was at least a paragraph long.

By “we” I meant people in general, not a “royal we”.

By “we” I meant people in general, not a “royal we”.

Horseshit. You meant some sort of adolescent fantasy posse. “People in general” tend to have things called “civil governments,” which do not need to bother with activities of this sort:

[P]ut bounties on animal rights activists’ heads, start fires in their houses, that sort of thing. Kind of a “see how it makes them feel to see their tactics turned on them” thing.

There has to be a case to be made against these nutjobs regarding threats, terror and/or stalking.

That’s just wrong on so many levels.

I wasn’t talking about “adolescent fantasy posses”, whatever those are. I really did mean the general public.

And why is it that “civil governments” don’t bother with things of this sort? I don’t want a “no better than they are answer”, I want a decent-sized explanation as to why, including historical examples of vigilante tactics in the defense of good backfiring (if any).

That’s all I ask for.

That’s all I ask for.

No, it’s not. You ask for an imaginary “we” to go along on your third-pary revenge trip. TINW. Go do it yourself if you’re all hot and bothered.

Lucario – I’d like to point out that it’s against the law to set fires in other people’s houses. I don’t know if setting a bounty (as it’s been described) is illegal but it is despicable.

If the “civil government” gets involved (and I certainly hope the FBI is investigating this group), then they prosecute criminal acts (for example, setting fires in other people’s houses).

There are plenty of legal ways to oppose what these groups are doing, and for a start I think we should be publicizing what they’re doing and holding it up to public scrutiny, criticism, and mockery. That’s likely to be far more convincing than violent acts.

Are you an agent provocateur? You’re certainly advocating illegal acts.

Unfortunately Steven Best is a tenured professor and he gets a free pass for life. Tenure in the U.S. educational system does not encourage academic freedom…it discourages younger people from ever contemplating a career in academia.

IMO, anyone who associates with animal rights groups that advocate terrorists acts, such as Best’s attachment to NIO…is a terrorist…just slightly removed from actually torching medical laboratories.

He is no better than those who harass women seeking gynecological care at Planned Parenthood health care centers… because they want birth control or wish to terminate a pregnancy. And, he is no better than the activists who program deranged people to murder physicians who provide care to woman at those health centers.

He would have been fired years from U.T. El Paso…except he has “tenure”.

Drop the royal ‘we’ and get cracking?” What exactly do you mean by that?

Wouldn’t mind having an explanation that was at least a paragraph long.

By “we” I meant people in general, not a “royal we”.

the word “bounty” was used for drama/to piss people off/colorful language, etc.

Also for purposes of dishonesty. The word is chosen for its associations of ‘Wanted’ posters, bounty-hunting and all that, when in fact it’s a situation of paid anonymous informants.

I am sufficiently old-fashioned to see nothing admirable, or indeed ethical, in fostering a nation of narcs, squealers and informants.

This same thing happened last night at our skeptics in the studio meeting, a guy came in thinking he was all stealth and badassery and would teach us skeptics a lesson. It became obvious within minutes of opening his mouth that he was an agent provocateur for some xtian organization. Lucario smells of Camille and her ilk . . . I thought you people were against fishing.

Rather than stooping to the same level of terrorist violence advocated by Best, NIO and others, if someone is itching for action, infiltrate and inform. Join these bastards and find out what is planned. Inform the police and warn the targets.

Frst, let me apologize for my wanting to go to extremes on people like Best. I’m not an animal rights type; far from it. In fact, I hate animal rights types with a passion – perhaps too much of a passion. And I’m also a skeptic.

I’m also not an agent provocateur. It’s just that I’ve been mired in a desire for “eye for an eye” measures against people who threaten violence against innocent people that I’m often blind to other ways of doing things.

I’d like to thank Rebecca for at least starting to show me why it’s not right to do things like I suggested. However, she said that there were ways of opposing these people without metioning any such tactics. Where might I start?

lilady @32 —

“Tenure in the U.S. educational system does not encourage academic freedom…it discourages younger people from ever contemplating a career in academia.”

I usually agree with you, but I think on this matter you’re wrong. I went into academia myself largely because of the tremendous job security it offers. I almost certainly could have made a lot more money doing something else, and if I had not been tenured, I probably would have.

At my institutition, at least, the senior faculty are, with few exceptions, very productive. In the whole science division there are only a few “stuck Associates” — people who got tenure and then fell off the research track — but even they are productive in other ways.

Tenure can be revoked for cause. While I don’t know the facts of the matter, my guess is Best hasn’t gotten into trouble because of institutional inertia, and possibly moral cowardice on their part. Or, they may simply not be aware of how closely he’s approached the boundaries of legitimate speech.

Has Best forgotten that human beings are animals themselves?What punishment has he called for for the NIO members who caused Alena Rodriguez so much suffering?

@ palindrom: I knew that my statement about “tenure” would evoke some controversy.

Best has fulfilled the criteria for attaining/maintaining tenure of “publish or perish”, if that is all that is required. But certainly his statements about not ACTUALLY being a terrorist, while actually supporting terrorist groups, speak volumes about his fitness to teach.

Best’s public speeches, including the video provided by Orac are testaments to his advocating violence The utter nonsensical explanation of the use of his PayPal account to pay bounties for identifying (“fingering”) young science researchers at campuses for the purposes of harassing them on campus and at their homes, doesn’t just straddle the boundaries of “legitimate speech”…it actually breeches the boundaries.

With all the violence that we have experienced lately on American campuses, do we really need to protect Mr. Best…just because he has tenure?

Rebecca is absolutely right it would be every bit as wrong for supporters of animal research to threaten or undertake harassment or arson against animal rights extremists as it is when AR extremists harass and attack scientists.

As Rebecca points out there are plenty of legal ways to counter extremism, ranging from action by law enforcement and throughthe courts, to disciplinary action in universities, to public solidarity with those targeted by extremism. Pro-Test in the UK vanquished the SPEAK/ALF extremists without resorting to threats, relying on moral force and scientific evidnce to win the day, students and scientists can do the same.


One place to start is to make sure that the local police and/or the FBI or Homeland Security are aware of those sorts of terrorist threats. Maybe even write to your member of Congress to point out that this is terrorism, and you want the government to go after it.

Another is to talk to people: not to encourage retaliation, but to make sure people know what the would-be terrorists are advocating. Explaining some of the ways that research on animals has saved human lives and improved quality of life might also be useful.

Southern Povery Law Center who run Hatewatch is certainly aware of NIO and Marino.

Marino was fully aware during the interview that she was talking with a blogger from the Southern Poverty Law Center, even volunteering that she is familiar with the SPLC’s history of denouncing radical animal rights activists like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). She approved a transcript of her interview, writing in an E-mail, “I think you captured everything I said perfectly.” Hours later, Marino contacted the blogger and said she wanted to withdraw her consent to be quoted, saying that she did not want to be quoted on “a blog filled with the most contemptible groups of racists, bigots, madmen, and hatemongers … groups that I despise.” Following widely accepted journalistic practice that once an on-the-record interview is conducted, permission cannot be withdrawn, Hatewatch decided to publish quotes from the interview.

“peicurmudgeon” gets my nomination for today’s best linked article…bravo!

All of Camille Marino’s twisting of the facts about Steven Best’s activities and funding of terrorism through his PayPal account, do not change the fact that she and Best are sponsors of terrorism. They may not be torching cars, but their rhetoric incites terrorism against scientists and students.

O/T but…I had my “doubts” that Marino is a former “investment banking professional.” Her attempt to squelch her comments given freely to the Southern Poverty Law Center…”cinches it” for me. She is a crazy publicity whore with a questionable history of working in the investment banking field.

Maybe Zoolander (Sean Michael) will come back and regale us with tales of his life as a goodlooking, supermodel, animal-rights activist. Best. Troll. Evah.

@ Pareidolius

I’d forgotten Zoolander. Perhaps we should set him and Neil up on a blind date.

It’s scary that Stephen Best is molding impressionable young minds. Most of his students seem to love him, although there are a few astute ones that have him pegged:


PHIL 1301

Poor Quality




This guy is really a joke. He’s never there and has his TAs do everything. He is rude and so full of himself and is more concerned with his politcal agenda (animal rights) than in the study of philosophy. Avoid!



Poor Quality




Rater Interest1

he wanted us to ascribe to his beliefs, and his beliefs only. unlike excellent professors, who give us their opinions but also listen to ours, he shoves it down your throat, and then some. what a jerk!


Phil Scien

Poor Quality




Rater Interest3

This guy is so full of himself. Reminds me of a TV preacher. No real dialog in class. I dont have anything good to say about this guy. For philosophy of science take Ferrett instead, he is a good teacher and respects students. Symons is too hard.



Poor Quality




Rater Interest1

The guy doesn’t have TA’s anymore. He bites off more than he can chew and he doesn’t have a lot of time to help students. He is a nut, simply put…a strict Vegan who wishes to see the end of the human race. If you don’t agree with his views, he gives you a very difficult time. Very easy-going about assignments, etc. as long as you ASK!

@ Pareidolius and @ ArtK: LMAO-ROTF: I had forgotten about Sean Michael/Zoolander…Shades of Trolls Past.

I had already “proposed” a play date for (my personal, stalking) Ugh Troll and the SFB Thingy Troll…but never thought of an internet dating service for trolls. Is there a business opportunity there…for us?

@ lilady, Pareidolius, ArtK, and Shay,

Well… at risk of being the messenger( wot gets shot)… I hate to uh,… inform you that another well-known troll from days of yore is tossing off furiously at our dear bot-creator…
It is calling itself ” Satan’s little helper” or suchlike and is begging for Freudian analysis re developmental stage ( @ “One more lesson…” post). Troll’s a-poppin’ on the solstice!
Can Ragnarok be far off? Go look.

SLH has definitely been here before. I recognize its bizarre syntax and distinctive misspelling of “turd” (terd). I agree that it used to be Dr. Smart and/or Dr. Wonderful.

And speaking of wonderful, I do hope Zoolander can take time out from his exhausting workday of saving animals, exfoliating, pouting, smouldering, purging, strutting, posing and of course his international DJ duties to join us here in the mortal world.

And I concur with Shay, we must prevent them from breeding at all costs.

SLH a/k/a the spawn of the devil has been “busted” by Orac. I was beginning to enjoy his rants and Narad’s take downs.

We could allow them to mate, follow them around to their nest…and then just destroy their eggs.

I don’t understand it, I really don’t. I thought this was all about fighting quakery and saving victims. There are so many of you that have the brains to help. I asked for help with the altie section of but nobody took me up on it.

I don’t understand it, I really don’t. I thought this was all about fighting quakery and saving victims.

I tend to leave Quakers alone and haven’t come across any ‘victims’ of theirs.

The people who live near the San Andreas fault do not love the “Quakers” and haven’t found a way to deal with “Quakery” either.

Not to defend Best, who I regard as a total idiot, but I’d be very wary of believing much that appears on RateMyProfessors. Getting consistent good reviews on RMP (at least while not handing out A’s like candy) is considerably harder than being beatified, and giving bad grades while still getting good reviews would probably count as a miracle towards beatification.

It’s not totally useless—you can read between the lines of bad reviews posted because the professor expected the students to work—but I would never judge anyone’s classroom performance from it.

I am a graduate student who suffered emotional distress on being told that our university had those flyers left around campus and that we should be careful in case they make good on threats. We all know what animal activist terror types do to people. I wish I could find more students in the same situation who would like to file a lawsuit against NIO, Stephen Best and the University of Texas.

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