Planck Institute Clams Up on Animal Welfare: "Reputation Speaks for Itself"
Those were too many questions for Planck, apparently.
In a final email, a Planck media rep wrote: "The organization's superb international reputation speaks for itself. It is fully accountable and transparent to their supervising boards both here and in Germany, their professional organizations, scientific and academic partners, donors, and state and local government entities that provided funding to bring the institute here to Florida. As stated in the previous email, the Institute does not discuss personnel issues of any type in public forums, in keeping with the norms of any company or organization."
We'll set aside the questions of (1) what "norms" apply to "any company or organization" that receives massive public subsidies and engages in animal experimentation, and (2) why the general public is not among those bodies to which the institute is "fully accountable and transparent."
What strikes us is Planck's arrogance when it invokes its "superb international reputation" to shield itself. The Jupiter facility is an arm of a German body, the Max Planck Society, which will be forever sullied by its connection to the Nazis.
The society, at least, had the moral fiber to come clean -- though 50 years after the fact. In 1997, it formed a commission to investigate the history of its predecessor organization, stating that "the Kaiser Wilhelm Society's past as the predecessor organisation and especially its connections to the NS-Regime are regarded as an integral part of the Max Planck Society's past as well."
The commission's findings make for some lurid reading:
"No Time to Debate and Ask Questions" -- Forced Labor for Science in the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, 1939-1945
Brain Research and the Murder of the Sick: The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research, 1937-1945
Two Hundred Blood Samples From Auschwitz: A Nobel Laureate and the Link to Auschwitz
Chemical Weapons Research in National Socialism: The Collaboration of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes With the Military and Industry
"Whitewash Culture": How the Kaiser Wilhelm/Max Planck Society Dealt With the Nazi Past
The first and last of those papers have particular resonance for the matter at hand. Apparently the institute believes there's limited "time to debate and ask questions" about the "forced labor for science" of the animals they experiment on. And perhaps the institute has inherited an inclination for "whitewash culture."
As a rule, we believe there should be a permanent embargo on the use of Nazi metaphors in public debate -- such comparisons typically rely on vertigo-inducing slippery slopes and rarely hold up. But the Nazi dimension of the Planck Institute's "reputation" - -so glibly invoked by its hired flacks -- is not metaphor. It is historical fact.
That's the past, of course (though wisdom counsels "past is prelude"). But neither are we totally sold on the institute's present. Not when its board of trustees includes Henry Kissinger, whose blood-soaked résumé merits a war-crimes indictment instead of a seat of honor and when its sponsors include the notorious, prison-for-profit operator the Geo Group.
We can't force the institute to reveal more of its internal affairs. Only federal regulators and local law enforcement can do that. (Not that we expect local authorities to investigate Planck for violation of the county's statute on animal experimentation.) But we are not going to let it brush us off on the basis of its so-called reputation -- not without putting that reputation under a microscope.
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