Monday, December 08, 2003

food for thought

The Story of a Truly Contaminated Election:
...bizarre plot by the Rajneeshees, a religious cult, to steal a county election in Oregon in 1984.
The amazing story of the Wasco County election scandal was Leslie L. Zaitz, an investigative reporter for The Oregonian, and Dr. John Livengood, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control.
Cult informers confessed to numerous crimes, including plots to kill the U.S. attorney, the state attorney general, and the guru's doctor...

Zaitz and his investigative reporting team produced a twenty-part series on the Rajneeshees for The Oregonian starting in June 1985. After the commune collapsed they went back and produced a follow-up series. Among other things, they learned that the Rajneeshees had secretly put together a top-ten hit list on which Zaitz's name appeared as number three.

"If anything, the local news media were restrained and conservative in their coverage of the salmonella episode," Zaitz told the conference. "There was nothing alarmist, nothing to trigger a public panic. More aggressive coverage perhaps would have heated up already tense community relations with the commune. Yet the benign treatment also gave the Rajneeshees comfort that they could get away with it . . . . Fortunately, the commune collapsed before that could happen. But consider this: If they knew reporters were watching closely, would they have even tried?"
on the other hand
For epidemiologist Livengood, however, who had been dispatched to Wasco County to solve the cause of the mysterious outbreak, the story had a different, simpler moral: "Don't eat at salad bars."

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