An Enemy of the People

The Players — Enemy of the People

Intentionally or not, we see the character’s personal demeanor reflected in how they approach the claim of the water being unsafe. Thomas’s character recklessly spends more than he makes, and desires to have some kind of greater impact. Peter, on the other hand, is cautious, hesitant, doesn’t spend outside his means, and doesn’t presume what the future will bring, nor what his role in it is. From this perspective, it makes sense that Thomas would jump on any semblance of a link between the water supply and the sickness, desiring to shout to the hilltops about it. He also appears clueless about how people will react to the information, claiming everything will run “quite smoothly”. He jumps from microbes in the water (what his findings actually suggest) to “poison in the water supply”. In his interest of “serving the people”, he neglects his duty as a scientist, instead inflaming his study with rhetoric and exaggerations, quickly integrating it into how he views society as a whole. Worse still, he deals with what scientists never deal in, which is absolutes. He declares it is impossible not to be convinced by his findings.

How the play unfolds

We see Thomas become more and more corrupted by his own ego as the play plays out, at first with small comments, such as declaring he is “a patriot trying to cleanse society.” But he slowly becomes more ambitious, “You thought you could turn me out, but now I shall take you out.” He later declares, parading himself as the “mayor” with his perception of the power he’ll get from the release of the study.

The Players — Monsanto and its Adversaries

In a slightly more moderate vein, the story of the attack on Monsanto is a tale of narcissism, crusaders for a cause, and a disregard for truth in favor of butchering an entity they view to be ‘vermin’ or ‘unclean’. The attack has quickly become less about the potential risk of Roundup, and much more about a political crusade to destroy big agriculture and greedy businesses. Though, thankfully for us, not quite as many genocidal tendencies as An Enemy of the People.

The Science — What it really says

Glyphosate kills weeds by attacking a certain pathway (the shikimic acid pathway) that exists in plants and certain bacteria (eubacteria), but not animals (or humans). This does not mean it is harmless to humans, but many don’t understand the primary reason why it works is not directly harmful to people.


In conclusion, we see that the Monsanto situation and An Enemy of the People have many striking simularities. Both have a hazy fear of health most likely based on psuedoscience, or else exaggeration fears, not made any easier by it involving a health condition that is not widely understood by even the experts of their time. Both have a crusade brought against ‘evil doers’ based on this hazy understanding of science. And both have the targets of such crusades using shady tactics to undermine their adversaries, which end up likely hurting their public perception and damaging their credibility.




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