Wifi Woo Strikes in Sebastopol

By way of AP and BoingBoing, one can find this post by Dale Daugherty on O’Reilly Radar about the newest attack of the tinfoil-hat-wifi-radiation brigade:

Our town, Sebastopol, had passed a resolution in November to permit a local Internet provider to provide public wireless access. This week, fourteen people showed up at a City Council meeting to make the claim that wireless caused health problems in general and to them specifically. These emotional pleas made the Council rescind its previous resolution.

Ah, California! There’s good stuff out there explaining this breed of woo, but these activists still have traction because they’re very good at spreading fear and uncertainty. For instance, what do you do as a county supervisor (perhaps with no education in science since college) and a mob shows up at the meeting with signs that say “Just Say No to Radiation”?

Or “Money Talks, We Get CANCER.”

Strongly motivated, vocal, organized minority groups can have a powerful effect on politics. And this is irresponsible for several reasons–this anti-antenna movement has grabbed on to health and safety issues to mask their underlying goal: to make the neighborhoods more beautiful by removing antennae!

As such, it is great example of how health and safety concerns and the precautionary principle can be used to simply push other political motivations. Cato and AEI could use this post as footnote 1 in any argument against health and safety legislation.


  1. Ah, the legacy of Paul Brodeur. The inability to comprehend the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation is going to be the death of anything radio-related yet…

  2. “Hell no we wont glow”? Have these people been watching old videos from the 50s with “duck and cover”?

  3. What are these people doing outside on a SUNNY day? Do they not know what the sun is doing, up there in the sky, or are they martyring themselves?

  4. Another urban legend here – as with so much on the internet, I cant say if it happens. But its a story I have heard circulating:

    A school set up a new wireless network – complete site coverage, an access point every few rooms, all hooked up on a power over ethernet system. Perfect for wireless registration and staff laptops. Within a week staff complaints start coming in – teachers in the rooms with wireless complain of tiredness and headaches. The manager reads all these reports, considers the situation, and patiently explains that the access points have been installed, but not yet plugged in.

    I suspect this is very heavily embellished, because I have heard another version in which the transmitter is a mobile phone station in a village – again, people start to fall ill as soon as its installed, and the operator explains that they havn’t turned it on yet.

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