Respectful Insolence

Enough with Radovan Karadzic, already!

I know schadenfreude can be a fun thing. I’ve even indulged in it myself from time to time. I also know that Radovan Karadzic was a very, very bad man who engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Balkans wars of the early and mid-1990s. My interest in the Holocaust and Holocaust denial makes it hard not to see the parallels between Karadzic and what Hitler wanted to do.

So, wonder all the people who have forwarded me links to stories revealing that Karadzic had been practicing alternative medicine while he was on the lam all these years, why have I avoided, until now, writing about it?

Here’s why.

As fun as it may be to engage in some fun at the expense of purveyors of alternative medicine (a.k.a. quackery, for the most part) using Karadzic as an example, it’s completely irrelevant to the question of whether any “alternative” remedy or treatment has any scientific basis to support the contention that it works. Mentioning Karadzic as being an alt-med practitioner, while good for some schadenfreude, is really not much more than a weaker form of argumentum ad Nazium (weaker, because Karadzic, although a genocidal leader, was not Hitler and did not manage to kill nearly as many people). In other words, harping on Karadzic as being a a woo-meister on the lam comes across to me as saying, in essence:

Radovan Karadzic is a murderer, ethnic cleanser, and instigator and overseer of genocide.
Karadzic practiced alternative medicine.
Therefore, alternative medicine is bad.

Sure, it’s fun, but it’s completely irrelevant as a criticism of woo. Try comparing the above to this:

Adolf Hitler was a murderer, ethnic cleanser, and instigator and overseer of genocide on a massive scale.
Hitler was a vegetarian.
Therefore, vegetarianism is bad.

See what I mean?

Worse, given my having created the Hitler Zombie, the very embodiment of making fun of overblown Hitler/Nazi analogies, how on earth could I in good conscience engage even in a weaker version of exactly the same sort of “guilt by association” argument?

I just can’t do it, no matter how fun it might have been.

Comments

  1. #1 spondee
    July 23, 2008

    And that’s what makes you better than them, Orac.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2008

    I thought he was doing some kind of psychiatry or psychology in an alt med clinic. Other than the fact that he had disguised himself as Professor Dumbledore, I had not heard he himself was into anything like homeopathic medicine or deep tissue rolfing. I could be wrong, of course.

  3. #3 Orac
    July 23, 2008

    I’m told (although I don’t speak the language; so I can’t tell for myself) that this is his website.

    Also, it’s not about my being any “better” than anyone; it’s just that in this case I have to be consistent.

  4. #4 jen_m
    July 23, 2008

    With respect for your position, I must dissent – it’s not the same thing. Vegetarianism is a benign behavior that, for some, is an act of conscience, unlike running a long con on the unwell, infirm or just clueless. Although it’s ridiculous to class quackery with genocide, a person whose conscience can tolerate mass murder should be able to take advantage of desperate sick people, to tie napping old men’s shoelaces together, to kick sleeping kittens, without self-doubt.

    It shows a behavioral consistency that this man made his living by reprehensible mischief even after his term of true evil was up. What’s important about it is that it shows his lack of conscience in social matters large and small.

    Whether it’s news is another matter. The puzzling contradiction of Hitler’s love of animals was very much man-bites-dog – this is dog-bites-man territory. Letting it pass on those grounds might be justified, but not on the grounds of argumentum ad Nazium.

  5. #5 Orac
    July 23, 2008

    Try this one on for size then:

    The Nazi regime practiced mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
    The Nazi regime promoted naturopathy. (Absolutely true.)
    Therefore, naturopathy is bad.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    July 23, 2008

    You are correct. Those two things are and should remain separate.

    But his poetry may yet be his worst crime (do not attempt to read it, even in translation, if you want to retain sanity).

    ;-)

  7. #7 Pierce R. Butler
    July 23, 2008

    You make it sound as if Karadzic had been ingesting doses of some quaint form of christianism…

    Those hiding from the law (or other unfriendly forces) are technically on the lam.

  8. #8 Orac
    July 23, 2008

    Is it as bad as Vogon poetry?

  9. #9 Interrobang
    July 23, 2008

    I think the point people are trying to make is that being a mass murder and a quack doctor both require a certain, shall we say, ethical flexibility; I’d think it’d be absolutely unsurprising (and perhaps predictable) that someone who’d made their bones as a bloodthirsty dictator would move on to some sort of ethically dubious second career. It seems like a bringdown to move from killing people en masse to possibly maybe killing them one at a time with crank remedies, though. (Then again, once you’ve been the mastermind of massacres, where is there to go but down?)

  10. #10 David C. Brayton
    July 23, 2008

    It seems that lots of people, including Orac, draw a distinction between “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Is there one?

  11. #11 Tyson Koska
    July 23, 2008

    I wrote about this, but I think the parallel is somewhat different… the attraction to woo, and the ability to woo have something in common… http://truthisawoman.wordpress.com/

  12. #12 Aaron Golas
    July 23, 2008

    The important thing to bear in mind is motivation. If Karadzic went altie with the intent to quietly kill people by leading them away from science-based treatment, then it’s valid to compare it to his prior exploits. But that requires a turnabout, doesn’t it?: in order to intentionally cause harm with quack practice, he would have to know that alt-med was quackery.

    Not that I know anything about this, but I’d guess Karadzic was practicing alt-med because he believed it, which means he could not have intended harm by it, and thus it would be improper to compare it to his previous crimes. QED.

  13. #13 Regan
    July 23, 2008

    Would it be out of the realm of possibility that he went to alt-med for the same reasons others have–Easy money, aka how to be successful in business without really trying?

    Glad they caught him.

  14. #14 PalMD
    July 23, 2008

    I so wanna go there, but like Regan, I see altmed as a fertile field for someone going underground.

    It doesn’t take any special training, just being able to separate people from their money. All alt med takes is deception. Really, anyone can practice it. It doesn’t have to be a mass murderer who takes it up, it could just as easily be a hedge fund manager or embezzler.

  15. #15 David Rickel
    July 23, 2008

    When I first heard of the arrest on CNN they mentioned that he had been disguised as a doctor–I was kind of curious how he could do that, because if you’re pretending to be a doctor it seems as if it would help to actually know something about medicine. Later, I found that he had been disguised as a doctor of alternative medicine, which would make things a lot easier.

  16. #16 Dan
    July 23, 2008

    Scientologists are more than happy to blame the Balkan genocide on psychiatry because Karadžić was a psychiatrist. Interesting that.

  17. #17 Coturnix
    July 23, 2008

    Almost as bad as Vogon poetry ;-)

    “He’s an alternative man
    in an alternative world…”

    He was an alternative psychiatrist and an alternative poet, living in his own alternative mental universe, then led an alternative army into building an alternative country where he could practice alternative politics. When that did not work, he assumed an alternative identity, took an completely alternative lifestyle, developed an alternative look and made a living by practicing alternative medicine.

    I say he’s consistent….

  18. #18 Don Gwinn
    July 23, 2008

    I’m not sure I’m grasping your Hitler analogy. Are you implying that vegetarians are not more or less equivalent to Nazis?

    No, no, vegetarians, don’t get mad! I’m only kidding as far as you know.

  19. #19 DLC
    July 23, 2008

    Hm..
    Radovan Karadzic practiced quackery, while eating vegetables and reading vogon poetry ? Now there is some evil, in addition to his being a murdering genocidal thug.

  20. #20 Beth
    July 23, 2008

    I didn’t think the two ideas (alt. med. and genocide) had any connection at all, just an strange convergence.

  21. #21 nzsceptic
    July 24, 2008

    I think the point we’re making here is that faking a fake is much easier than faking something real! Karadzic was able to be a pretend/alternative doctor because they don’t actually need to know anything. If he’d tried to set up as a real doctor, it might have been a different story!

  22. #22 Dafmeister
    July 24, 2008

    Karadzic’s practice of altmed doesn’t necessarily say anything about altmed practitioners in general, but you’ve got to admit it was a great choice of hiding place for him. Where better to bury yourself than in a profession that’s completely detached from reality in any case?

  23. #23 Dr Aust
    July 24, 2008

    Here is an article in a UK paper interviewing someone whose family were treated by Karadzic in his “alternative practitioner” guise…. covers much of the ground under discussion.

  24. #24 sophia8
    July 24, 2008

    As Serbian leader, Karadzic fed and used the Serbs’ delusion that everything would be hunky-dory if they just cleansed their land of all those pesky Muslims, Croats and Bosinians.
    As an alt-med practitioner, he fed and used peoples’ delusions that everything would be hunky-dory if they just cleansed themselves of all those pesky toxins and bad energies.
    Same basic spiel both times, worked for him both times.

  25. #25 Kathleen Seidel
    July 24, 2008

    From the Guardian article:

    “She swears he helped an autistic child to integrate with other children and to overcome his problems…”

    Why am not surprised?

  26. #26 TheProbe
    July 24, 2008

    When I saw the picture of Karadzic with his beard, I first thought that the media screwed up and substituted a picture of Andrew Weil.

  27. Mr. Handley is a Chairman of GeniSoy Food Company, Inc. (Soy foods are condemned as bad for children by JB Handley on his Generation Rescue website); Fresh Food Concepts, Inc. (sells gluten and casein containing foods); Marketfare Foods, Inc. http://www.mffoods.com/ (sells gluten and casein containing foods and meat from animals that have been vaccinated); International Fiber Corporation (sells fiber products to the dairy industry and big pharmaceutical corporations); and ReNew Life Formulas, Inc.(renewlife.com, sells probiotics and digestive enzymes, “intestinal bowel soother”, “diarease”, “intestinew”, “candigone” to get rid of candida so it should cure autism immediately, “heavymetalcleanse” http://www.renewlife.com/cleansing/HeavyMetalCleanse.aspx, and even “merc-freecleanse”

    “MERC-Free Cleanse™ MERC-Free Cleanse is a unique blend of herbs, vitamins, minerals and amino acids formulated specifically to promote the healthy chelation of mercury from the body.‡ (Chelation refers to the binding of a substance with a heavy metal to assist with its removal from the body.) The two-part formula includes added ingredients to promote healthy liver detoxification and provide powerful antioxidant and immune support.” Handley is now an official profiteer in the world of chelation scams.

    He is also a Director of Bravo Sports and Gilchrist & Soames, Inc.(seller of hotel amenities like shampoo and soap that can easily kill neurons in a petri dish so must also must be a major cause of autism).

    I look forward to JB Handley putting out full page ads in cities where children die during measles epidemics because he told all parents not to ever vaccinate for measles, mumps or rubella. The ads will say, “This measles epidemic was brought to you by Renew Life makers of Merc-Free Cleanse” or “This deadly rubella epidemic was brought to you by Genisoy Food Company, Inc.”

  28. #28 Chris Krolczyk
    July 24, 2008

    David C. Brayton:

    It seems that lots of people, including Orac, draw a distinction between “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Is there one?

    Not to the victims, there isn’t.

    I suppose the clearest difference of definition is that ethnic cleansing relies on terror and violence against a target group in order to reduce, subjugate or drive it from a region without completely annihilating that population; genocide, OTOH, can be considered an active effort to kill off as many individuals from a target group as possible in order to exterminate that group.

  29. #29 Phoenix Woman
    July 24, 2008

    I think the point we’re making here is that faking a fake is much easier than faking something real! Karadzic was able to be a pretend/alternative doctor because they don’t actually need to know anything. If he’d tried to set up as a real doctor, it might have been a different story!

    He actually has more than a smattering of medical training, particularly psychiatric training. That probably helped him sound authoritative when he was pitching his woo.

  30. #30 Christophe Thill
    July 25, 2008

    So, first ethnic cleansing, then liver cleansing?

    Or: Ben Stein taught us that science leads to killing people, but who knew that killing people leads to pseudo-science?

    Or: I don’t mind the fact that he was practicing woo. I’m just story he didn’t choose this career much, much earlier in his life, instead of the other one.

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