The Wasted Civil Servant
Communication with drugs 'expert' Dr Paul Skett.
I thought I would offer the article's quoted drugs expert, Dr Paul Skett of Glasgow University, the chance to clarify and set the record straight. Here's how it went...
Dear Dr. Paul Skett,
You may remember that I wrote to you a few weeks ago after being the subject of a story in the Sunday Mail – ‘the Wasted Civil Servant’. At that time I just wanted to introduce myself and bring to your attention some of the article’s inaccuracies, including quotes from yourself, which I suspect were either made out of context, or you were misled by the Mail’s reporter.
The past few weeks have been traumatic for me. There have been job concerns, with my employers reviewing the situation, and just general stress in association with such a defamatory article.
Anyway, I have been working on my rebuttal. The initial detail draft of this takes apart the Mail’s story almost line-by-line and can be found at www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/mediastories/20050206_sundaymail2.htm – There will doubtless be some further refinements to it, but I wanted to invite your comment at this stage.
Your thoughts generally will be welcomed, but of particular interest will be any clarifications you can give as to your expertise with regard to Salvia divinorum.
Questions on this were a common theme in the feedback I received from my readership. However, we mostly suspected that title ‘expert’ was not self-appointed and had just been lazily ascribed to you by the journalist in order to give his report a ring of credence. Anyhow, if it is the case that you are a ‘drugs’ expert of some kind, we were especially interested in your Salvia credentials. You are invited to substantiate on this. And, bearing in mind that I’ve been working closely with Salvia for over 6 years, I thought you might otherwise consider conceding expertise on the matter to me.
I’d also like to give you the opportunity to disassociate yourself from the Sunday Mail’s article in general, in other words, to state your disapproval of this kind of scurrilous journalism. Would you agree that, no matter what one's opinion on the practical uses of visionary plants, this kind of misinformation, in simply perpetuating fear and ignorance, in fact does more harm than good?
I’d be interested to know your position, say, for example, if you were contacted by a tabloid paper again in the future, what would be your attitude and what you might say.
You are of course entitled to your opinion, wherever you stand in relation to “the war on drugs”.
I’d like to assure you that your comments will not be misrepresented on my website. I, like many of my readers, would be interested in your views whatever they may be.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Salvia Divinorum Scotland
PS. A couple of other links which may be of interest:
www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/mediastories/20050226_newscientist.htm – the next entry in my site’s Media Stories section from recent edition of the New Scientist – couldn’t be more different to the Sunday Mail’s approach.
For another example of Norman Silvester’s ‘reporting’ see – www.thebricktestament.com/press/sunday_mail_03_02_09.html – To get an idea of just how twisted this particular story is, compare it to other articles via www.thebricktestament.com/press – for example, check out the Bible Review and the Catholic Telegraph’s more favourable accounts – and look at overall content of the The Brick Testament website itself. Try to imagine in what way the site could reasonably be described as being “popular with paedophiles for its graphic scenes, including child abuse”. – Seriously, I’m worried about Silvester next picking on, say, some harmless eccentric, but someone not resilient maybe, not able to cope with such lurid headlines and unwanted attention.
Dr Skett's reply to above...
Thanks for the opportunity to read the material on your website. I found it very interesting.
My credentials and degrees are on the University of Glasgow website and are public knowledge.
Like me, the reader may not find this curt reply particularly illuminating.
I checked Dr Paul Skett's profile on the University of Glasgow site
I could find no references to any work with Salvia divinorum.
Since he'd ignored the specific questions I asked, and perhaps giving him the benefit of the doubt in case he'd taken offence at my tone, I thought I would write again...
I’m sure you’ll understand why I might feel justified in letting let off a little steam with my online rebuttal.
I wouldn’t want this to detract from important points.
It wasn’t my intention to question your overall credentials and qualifications in what you do, just to clarify in particular on the matter of Salvia divinorum.
If you feel that my tone is anyway inappropriate then I’ll consider re-edit (at the very least, note of your objections).
I intend to publish online version of our communications, so that my invitations for further comment, and subsequent responses, are recorded.
If you’d rather not comment on certain issues, that’s fine too.
Non-responses are of course also open to interpretation.
Readers will make of it all what they may.
PS. I noted your involvement with paper Traditional Remedies and Diabetes Treatment Plant for food and medicine (Raman, A. and Skett, P. 1998). If you’ve not already seen it, you may find the following paper of interest www.salvia-divinorum-scotland.co.uk/salvia/ethnopharmacology.htm
Dr Skett's reply...
Thanks for email. You do, of course, have a right to state your case on your website and I would not deny you this right.
I am content with this.
So, to summarise, while apparently happy to talk to the tabloid press and be quoted as some kind of expert on the matter, in a story which suggests that he doesn't know the difference between the effects of Salvia divinorum and a few cups of coffee, Dr Paul Skett does not wish to clarify or comment further.
As I say, readers will make of this what they may.