On October 24, Michael Eisen was fired from his position as editor-in-chief of the scientific journal eLife for a quote by tweeting The onionwhich criticized all dying Palestinians for not condemning the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7. Following the backlash, Professor Eisen clarified himself the same day in another tweet where he said: “Every sane person on Earth is horrified and traumatized by what Hamas did and wants it to never happen again Never again. Even more so as a Jew with (an) Israeli family. But I am also horrified by the collective punishment already inflicted on the people of Gaza, and by the worst that is about to happen. »
Shortly after his clarifying tweet, eLife The newspaper joined the issue with a tweet, which has since been deleted, saying: “eLife condemns the atrocities committed by Hamas last week. We wish to emphasize that, although the opinions of eLife the staff and editorial board belong to them, they are covered by our code of conduct. We take violations seriously and investigate them accordingly.
The day he was fired, the newspaper published a statement clearly citing the reason for Professor Eisen’s dismissal. The statement said: “Mike has received clear feedback from the board that his approach to leadership, communications and social media has, at key times, been detrimental to the cohesive community we are trying to build and therefore to eLifethe mission. It is in this context that a new incidence of this behavior (the tweet of October 14) contributed to the decision of the board of directors.
On October 27, The Hindu published an analytical article regarding the replacement of Professor Eisen by the magazine. Hours after the story was published, a eLife the spokesperson sent an email to clarification on why Professor Eisen was firedpublished October 28. While eLifeIn its clarification, it is stated that “the particular content of Eisen’s tweets is not the reason for the decision to replace him”, the reason cited in the statement published on the newspaper’s website completely contradicts the clarification.
Disagree with clarification: Eisen
In response to the journal’s clarification, Professor Eisen contacted The Hindu saying, “I completely disagree with their assessment of what happened and I am shocked that they do not take ownership of their own role in creating this problem.” »
To react to eLife‘s statement that indirectly referred to his October 14 tweet for firing him, Professor Eisen said The Hindu in an email: “At no time in the past has anyone eLife ordered me not to express my own personal opinions on politics or any other matters unrelated to eLifeeven though I always did it and continued to do it throughout my years at eLife.”
He added: “Indeed, earlier this year the board established ground rules for my use of Twitter which required me to clearly state that my tweets are my personal opinions, thus formally acknowledging that I have them and that they expected me to continue doing them. . At the time, they also asked me not to use my personal account to tweet about eLife policy. I have fully complied with this agreement and the tweet in question did not violate any of these terms.
He added: “As I said above, I think it’s pretty clear that the reason they fired me is because my tweet was controversial and they feel that this controversy is detrimental to the mission of the organization (I don’t agree with this, but they are free to think so). . However, it is simply not tenable, in my opinion, to fire someone for making controversial comments and pretend that it doesn’t matter why those comments are controversial.
“For example, if I had posted a series of tweets echoing the Max Planck Society’s statement on terrorist attacks, I don’t think there would have been any controversy. It is therefore obviously false to say that the political content of the tweet had no impact on my dismissal. »
Responding to the spokesperson’s clarification that “the decision to replace Eisen was made due to his communications behavior and his decision not to act on comments previously given,” he said: “The only time where a board member discussed something outside the scope of my work at eLife it was when they asked me not to swear on Twitter after all the hubbub over the worm joke. Aside from that, all of our communications discussions have been directly related to eLife.”
He also said: “The Board of Directors has expressed reservations about my use of Twitter in the past, and I have always modified my use of Twitter based on their feedback. They also, on a few occasions, took issue with the way I reacted, in non-Twitter correspondence, against efforts to undermine our publishing reform efforts. But again, no one told me how my recent tweet violated either the arrangements we had made regarding my use of Twitter or the broader framework of Twitter. eLife code of Conduct. And, in any case, the board’s efforts to put an end to a series of communication failures have clearly not convinced the public, the vast majority of whom believe that the content of my Tweet was the main reason I was fired. And although the EIC sits during board recess and they can choose to replace me for any reason, I think it is a mistake for them not to address this issue that their action has been raised over whether working as an EIC journal means you are not allowed to express controversial political views.
Expanding on what he meant, he meant in the message to this correspondent that he “completely disagreed with their (eLife‘s) assessment of what happened,” he said: “I regularly tweet about scientific issues that are outside my area of expertise. eLife EIC, on national and international politics, on climate change, on sport and other topics. I in no way connected my Tweet about Gaza to eLifeor to anyone connected to eLife. This link was established by Israeli scientists who marked my non-eLife tweet related to eLifethen by eLife in their response to my tweet. For them to suggest that this was somehow related to my position at eLife or conflicts around the new eLife The model obscures the reality of what happened here: that a group of scientists managed to push eLife to fire me for a political statement based on the pretext that my tweets present bias against Israeli scientists. This is not only ridiculous, but completely belied by everything that happened during my four years at the EIC, during which time I recruited and promoted many Israeli publishers and we published a large number of articles by Israeli authors.
Explaining what he meant when he told this correspondent that the eLife/The board takes “no ownership of its own role in creating this problem” and the possible reason for this problem. eLife Deleting his controversial October 14 tweet, he said: “In my opinion, their tweet was the problematic one because: a) he took my personal statement that didn’t involve eLife at all and made it about eLife, b) he suggested, in condemning Hamas, that I was not condemning Hamas (which is absurd), and c) gave credence to the idea that I had violated eLife’s code of conduct ( which they said was not the reason I was fired). If they hadn’t posted that tweet, they could have simply said something like, “This is Mike’s personal opinion, which he has every right to express.” We don’t think his personal opinions have any impact on his judgment as an editor and this controversy would probably have gone away. I also think it’s bad for eLife let them ignore the fact that their actions appear to almost everyone as if they fired me for expressing support for Palestine. »
Finally, he summarized the danger when organizations decide to run their affairs based on social media reactions. “Putting aside the specifics of my situation, I think it would be disastrous for any company to establish the principle that people can be fired simply because they are involved in controversies, because it gives way too much power to the Twitter mobs and creates the situation we have before. us where eLife claims to have no problem with the content of my tweet (which I don’t really believe but that’s what they say) but chose to fire me for it simply because other people were upset by it, whether or not eLife finds their reaction fair or reasonable.