I am no stranger to a controversial piece of work, my first post-doc publication took a solid pounding from one referee, and I have taken a fair bit of flack since its publication both in person or otherwise (nothing online bar comments in the following links, so no gratuitous trolling I am afraid). Some people also said nice things about it (here ($) and here (free)) though.
The reason I mention this is because yesterday a paper was published in a notable journal that could well indeed fit in to this category of “controversial”. A key difference between this and my work though, is that amongst the people I spoke to, we were not divided. About half the people I discussed with were critical of my work, but we appear to be unanimous that the work from yesterday is not worthy of publication where it was published, by a long shot.
[It should be noted we might all be completely wrong, after all, we are all friends and therefore probably have a similar outlook; but if not….]
There are many reasons why this is upsetting, but for me the main one is this: many people toil for a long time on their work, they have it criticised and rejected, stamped on and sometimes even treated unfairly. This is a hard thing to take when you commit so much to a piece of work, but then to see work that really appears significantly unworthy of publication in a given place is demoralising and upsetting. It is not only a kick in the teeth for those who have work rejected, but devalues other work published in the same place. This is bad for the journal, scientists and research as a whole.