“Hello Nazi.” It's not the typical salutation you expect to find when opening an e-mail, but it was one of several — all in the same vein — that were sent our way following the publication of a series of news articles regarding a case of BSE or “mad cow disease” confirmed in Alabama.

Reader discourse comes with the territory in journalism. It's something we encourage and many times learn from. It's proof to us that someone is reading and is concerned enough to respond to what they've read and to what we've written, whether it be positive or negative.

But the ferocity and paranoia spurred by the BSE articles is unprecedented, and perhaps a bit unsettling.

The news articles in question reported the ongoing investigation by Alabama and federal officials of a cow that was confirmed to be infected with BSE. The key word here is “reported.” The articles did not endorse a certain position; they merely reported the actions being taken by state and federal officials.

But it certainly wouldn't be difficult to make an argument for a National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Despite legitimate concerns about an over-reaching government intent on tracking our every move, this is simple economics. If U.S. consumers, not to mention international trading partners, don't trust the safety of our beef products, then cattle farmers are out of business.

That, however, is not how some see things. The response that began, “Hello Nazi,” went on to call NAIS an “ungodly, rights-violating scheme.”

It also states, “With your continued support, perhaps your children and your grandchildren may be compelled to receive an implanted RFID chip at birth, and consequently will not be able to ‘buy or sell’ without worshiping the beast system you've chosen to support. Perhaps you will be around long enough for them to ask: ‘Why did you do this to us?’”

There's probably a good likelihood that our children and grandchildren eventually will pose such a question to us, but it'll probably have more to do with huge federal budget deficits and the effects of global warming than with implanted microchips.

Another correspondence of a similar nature says that the “real promoters” of NAIS are “WTO and NIAA (the mega agri companies, drug companies and micro chip companies).”

The e-mail continues, “Our best chance of protecting our food supply lies with the small farmers/ranchers/breeders because they are so scattered and have such few numbers the terrorists will have to hit many places as opposed to a few of the large companies and their thousands of animals on one parcel of land. This is also the most unhealthy way to raise livestock so more chemicals, drugs, hormones, etc., are needed to keep them alive.”

The letter also states that NAIS is “tromping” on our First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. “Many people, myself included, have decided it would be best to be dead than to submit ourselves to this and other programs developed by the UN,

WTO and those in the U.S. who want a one-world government. These programs, NAIS, PAWS, RealID and Codex remind me of when Hilter took over the control of Germany. He just did not have the technology we have today. However, he was extremely effective anyway. What will it be like now that they can keep you in sight with satellites 24/7?”

Again, we see a reference to Hitler and Nazism.

The e-mail concludes, “I certainly hope you like it when you have to wear your microchip and be tracked by your every move, or someone changes the coding on your chip or steals the information from it. I personally do not ever want me, my children or grandchildren to live under those conditions.”

Yet another response, along those same lines, makes a connection between NAIS, large-screen television sets and sex offenders. “I am sure you would be delighted if the government decided that having a large screen TV was dangerous. And because of public safety issues, if you had one, you would have to register your property, just like a sex offender. And, because these TVs give off radiation, each time you turned it on, you would have to notify the government within 24 hours, and tell them who was in the room with you, how long you watched TV, what you were watching and when you shut it off. And each of these reports you would need to pay for out of your own pocket. And this TV would no longer be yours, but part of the ‘national property.’”

This particular letter concludes, “Just because something is ‘easy and free,’ doesn't make it good. Are you willing to give up your freedoms, your right of privacy and our Constitution for the CAFOs to be able to market their products overseas? Is the WTO treaty more important than our Constitution? Where will you draw the line…when they come for your property, or perhaps when the government comes for you? By then it will be too late. Giving up one's freedom for ‘safety’ is a slippery slope, and in doing do we deserve neither (paraphrasing Ben Franklin).”

One of the great things about this country is that we do have freedoms, including the freedom to express our opinions, no matter how convoluted, paranoid or ill-conceived.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com