In the continuing wake of the Pepsigate scandal at Scienceblogs (it made a splash, and then seemed to die away, but suddenly there have been 18 departures) a writer at the Guardian takes that community to task for being insular.

He's not the first to say so.  The running joke among other science media people is good luck being comfortable on Scienceblogs if you are religious or a Republican, but he echoed a point we also made - corporate scientists are, of themselves, not less ethical than academic ones, though we went further and said that if no one complained about all of the institutional blogs recruited there to be public relations tools, it seemed unfair to drive out Pepsi before they even wrote anything.

As we discussed, we would let Pepsi researchers write here - we just would not force them to pay for the privilege.   Our audience is smart, the community here is smart.  If Pepsi research turned out not to be research but instead self-promotion, the audience and the community would carpet bomb them.   No one would have to leave over a corporate boondoggle because the culture here is different.   Not being owned by a magazine helps.

Of course, Guardian writer David Appell is not entirely correct in making his case when he writes "Suppression of free speech is never acceptable, no matter who is being censored or who is calling for it. "   First, of course freedom of speech is sometimes acceptable, but more importantly there is no free speech issue in this instance.  Scienceblogs is an invited community owned by Seed and at-will participation by its members.    There is no constitutional right to be on Scienceblogs (or here) - both sites have terms of use and, in the case of Scienceblogs, written contracts for contributors.

But he brings it back nicely to the point we made, that the audience would calibrate the validity of Pepsi research:
These commentators, other bloggers and journalists could have evaluated and countered PepsiCo's claims in near real time. They could go toe to toe with PepsiCo, linking to the relevant scientific literature and offering alternative points of view in a manner offered by no other medium. 
And that's the crux of it.  He criticizes them for being a mob, but they have always been something of a mob - that is the Internet - and mobs can do good or harm.   He also makes it a left/right issue in the political sense but perhaps he is misunderstanding that there are not two points on a graph and instead three on a triangle - liberal, progressive and conservative - and most people inhabit various spaces in there.    Appell may be a liberal in the classic sense so he believes in freedom at any cost but progressives and conservatives have different levels of desire for freedom if it dampens the other goals.

What is the end result of all this?  A new coalition has been formed already and a few of them will get contracts from Discover.    But the buzz is all about where people will go.  I ask, why do they need to go anywhere and risk another big media mentality?    If the money is not important, and the writers were more important than the brand, they can go on their own and have the same audience they had before.

Here's hoping they do.