Respectful Insolence

The most intentionally obtuse response ever?

You may recall that on Friday afternoon, I posted a bit of a rant about how a certain liberal blogger named Matt Stoller had disparagingly and contemptuously referred to Presidential Candidate John McCain as a “crazy, cancer-ridden dishonest madman.” It turns out that Mr. Stoller was displeased by my much-justified rebuke. His response is an example of the most studiously, intentionally obtuse avoidance of answering what my real criticism was, including an elaborately constructed straw man, some quote mining, and one really dumb additional statement that reveals Mr. Stoller to be far more concerned with scoring political points than with scientific accuracy or even decency.

Truth be told, I knew about Mr. Stoller’s response on Saturday afternoon and debated over whether it was worth bothering to craft a response then. I ultimately decided that mowing my lawn was more important. Later on Saturday night, I thought about crafting a response again, but decided that, with my wife gone to visit her folks for the night, downing a couple of tasty brews, kicking back and watching some entertainingly over-the-top horror movies, including Grindhouse (just the trailers and the first part, Planet Terror, not the second part, Death Proof, which, let’s face it, was not very good) and Beyond Reanimator was preferable. At least that way torturing my brain with illogic would be entertaining. (In retrospect, though, maybe I should have used the time I wasted watching Beyond Reanimator to do something productive.)

However, sitting around Sunday afternoon, I got to thinking. First, I was still annoyed at his despicable language, and his response, if anything, had annoyed me more because it made it quite clear that he just didn’t get it. On the other hand, if Mr. Stoller was so nice as to respond to me, surely he deserved at least one more reaction from me. I certainly don’t want to change this into a prolonged exchange, à la Steve Novella and Michael Egnor, but one more rejoinder struck me as being worthwhile Maybe I could even show Mr. Stoller why his response was so inadequate, although I doubt I could show him why his response shows him to be so full of crap that he burps farts.

Or maybe not, but trying will probably be more fun than watching Beyond Reanimator was. Even if it’s on the same level as that movie, at the very least it will give me one more chance to try to explain why his dragging cancer into his anti-McCain rhetoric was uncalled for.

Mr. Stoller first tries to construct a straw man by implying that I was arguing that the health of Presidential candidates is not important or relevant. He did this by first trying to imply that McCain is hiding something about his health, citing a New York Times article that I linked to. First he quotes me:

“Crazy cancer-ridden dishonest madman”? Nice. I wonder if Matt spit out the term “cancer-ridden” with the same amount of contempt and venom while typing as he did when he spit out the terms “crazy,” “dishonest,” and “madman.” I wonder if he thinks “cancer-ridden” is just as bad an insult as the other terms.

As a cancer surgeon, I found that bit about “cancer-ridden madman” to be a truly despicable rhetorical gambit, not to mention irrelevant. John McCain had melanoma. He was successfully treated for it, and has been cancer-free for seven years, making the likelihood of a recurrence very small.

Seeming peeved that I didn’t address his entire post when the intent of my criticism was not to critique his analysis, such at was, but to criticize his use of cancer survivors as punching bags in his quest to tear McCain down, Mr. Stoller cites a passage from the NYT article, as well as from a CNN article, about McCain’s not having given full access to his medical records, going on to say:

It is very likely that McCain has cancer or some other serious illness. There’s no reason McCain wouldn’t let reporters look at his records otherwise. McCain is 72 years old and he was a POW, a member of a group with high rates of illness due to ill-treatment on the part of their captors.

Cancer is relevant to the Presidency. Misleading the press about one’s health is relevant to the Presidency. This is not just a dude looking for a job, he’s going to have his hand on the nuclear trigger. Imminent death from a terminal disease kind of skews your perspective on this, you know what I’m saying?

This is a straw man. I never said that a history of cancer wasn’t relevant to the Presidency. Indeed, note that Mr. Stoller conveniently and clearly intentionally omitted from his citation of my post what I said next:

Whatever reasons one might have for not wanting him to be President, even if his having survived melanoma is one of them (an aspect of the overall package that, in McCain’s case, I rank pretty darned low on the list of reasons not to vote for him, given the low likelihood of his tumor recurring), using the term “cancer-ridden” as part of a string of disparaging adjectives gives the impression that the vile moron who wrote the above sentence views being a cancer survivor as something to be ashamed of, something on the same order of being dishonest, crazy, or a madman.

Note how nowhere did I say that the issue of McCain’s cancer was irrelevant. I simply said that in McCain’s particular case I ranked its importance low because of a relatively low risk of recurrence of his melanoma. A more detailed discussion of the issue would have taken a separate and longer post. Such was not my intent.I also pointed out what my real objection was, namely Stoller’s use of “cancer-ridden” as an insult on the order of “dishonest” or calling McCain a “madman. It was a vile thing to write, and, instead of simply apologizing for it, Mr. Stoller decided to dodge and weave and construct straw men arguments about what I said.

I also wonder on what basis he concludes that McCain “likely has cancer or some other serious illness.” The article he cites was from May. Despite the security requirements on reporters who saw McCain’s more recent records, does he really think that if there were evidence of serious disease or recurrence of his melanoma (or the development of another cancer) that it wouldn’t have come out? Moreover, Mr. Stoller all-too-conveniently neglected to mention that McCain did issue a report and let his physicians give a press conference on the state of his health, which is summarized in a report on McCain’s website about his health status. Here are key excerpts.

A report from John D. Eckstein, M.D.:

I will begin with a synopsis of the Senator’s general health, based on his most recent comprehensive evaluation in March 2008 and a subsequent follow up visit and tests earlier this month. At the present time, Senator McCain enjoys excellent health and displays extraordinary energy. While it is impossible to predict any person’s future health, today I can find no medical reason or problems that would preclude Senator McCain from fulfilling all the duties and obligations of President of the United States.

About McCain’s melanoma:

Regarding his past skin issues, the Senator has received skin care at Mayo Clinic in Arizona since August, 2000. Four malignant melanomas were surgically removed in the past. Three of these were in situ melanomas, meaning they were limited to the top layers of the skin and were not invasive. These three early melanomas on his left shoulder, left arm and left nasal sidewall, were removed in 1993, 2000 and 2002, respectively. A fourth melanoma that was invasive was removed from his left lower temple in 2000.

Each melanoma was a new primary melanoma and did not represent a recurrence of any previous melanoma. There was and is no evidence of recurrence or metastasis…of the invasive melanoma nearly eight years after surgery. Other less serious skin cancers have been removed over the years without complication. These have been non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell cancers.

Many questions have been asked about the removal of the invasive melanoma from Senator McCain’s left lower temple in August 2000. Dr. Hinni, who performed the surgery, will explain in detail the surgical procedure. To summarize, we continue to find no evidence of metastasis or recurrence of the invasive melanoma as we approach the eighth anniversary of that operation. This was most recently confirmed with his comprehensive examination and tests in March 2008 and with Dr. Connolly’s skin examination on May 12, 2008. The prognosis for Senator McCain is good because the time of greatest risk for recurrence of invasive melanoma is within the first few years after the surgery.

There is a detailed description of the surgery in 2000 for McCain’s melanoma in which he also had part of his parotid gland removed, as well as a lymph node dissection. None of this indicates that he’s had a recurrence, and the fact that McCain is seven years out makes it unlikely that he will recur. Is it impossible? Of course not. But, as I said, I rank this issue low on the list of reasons not to vote for McCain. My little rant was not intended as a discourse on the exact role of a candidate’s health in assessing his or her fitness for office but rather an pointed rebuke at an insensitive and loutish disparagement of cancer patients in the service of a political attack. His insults were nasty and unnecessary. Mr. Stoller could very easily have raised these issues and made the point that a President’s medical history matters, as does a history of cancer, without using an insult that denigrates all cancer survivors by calling McCain a “crazy cancer-ridden dishonest madman.” He chose not to. When criticized for his nastiness, Mr. Stoller chose instead not to apologize, but rather to intentionally ignore the very point of the criticism in the first place.

But here’s where we learn the true measure of the man:

Orac is not just wrong, he’s misplacing his professional norms onto a political process fraught with bad faith. He’s like all those scientists tut-tutting people to not jump to conclusions about whether this or that storm are directly related to climate change. He believes in his authority over the social context of medicine rather than recognizing that the public has a right to weigh in on the Presidential nominee. If the Presidential nominee has cancer I want to know about it. And if he’s at risk for getting cancer, as he probably is, it’s a problem.

Mr. Stoller is Exhibit A for a political process fraught with bad faith. Passionate and reasoned debate is possible without using demeaning language that disparages cancer patients, but that’s clearly not what he is interested in. (Come to think of it, I’m not so sure I like his use of “crazy” and “madman,” either, as they rather imply that he’s about as contemptuous of people with mental illness and as willing to disparage them as well as he is of cancer patients.) He’s once again full of crap when he constructs a straw man claiming that I believe in my authority over the right of the public to weigh in about a Presidential nominee or that I was arguing that a history of cancer isn’t a consideration when examining a candidate. How he got that from what I said required a willful misreading of my rebuke. As for my “authority” over the social context of medicine, I view it more as advocacy for my patients. Mr. Stoller’s remark was an insult to every cancer patient I’ve ever taken care of, and understandably I didn’t like it one bit. Apparently, this sort of behavior is a pattern for Mr. Stoller, who has been criticized for advocating the demonization of his opponents.

Regarding John McCain, mission accomplished, Mr. Stoller. Too bad cancer patients and the mentally ill were collaterally insulted. But, hey, what’s a little demonization in the name of politics? If the current administration can do it, why not Mr. Stoller?

Even more disturbingly dumb, though, is Mr. Stoller’s statement likening me to climate scientists “tut-tutting people not to jump to conclusions that specific storms or hurricanes are related to climate change. That remark is consistent his “crazy cancer man McCain” insult and really reveals his true agenda. Not only does Mr. Stoller apparently like to demonize his political opponents as an explicit political strategy, he clearly doesn’t give a rodent’s posterior about getting science or medicine right as long as he can score points that support his politics. Who cares about all those climate scientists who understandably become agitated when activists go beyond what the science actually shows by linking individual storms to anthropogenic global climate change? They’re just boring old farts “tut-tutting.” Who needs that boring old science, with its insistence on careful experimentation and hypothesis testing, after all? Ditto norms in medicine as well. Ditto, apparently, anyone who calls him to task for a lack of simple human decency and sensitivity in using cancer as a convenient insult and a means of demonizing John McCain.

As fellow ScienceBlogger Ed Brayton put it:

Decide that your opponents are purely evil rather than mistaken and all bets are off. You will do precisely what the STACLU crowd does, and what many on the far left do as well – you’ll either fall for any criticism anyone makes of your enemy, no matter how unsupported it is by the evidence, or you’ll reach the point where you don’t really care whether a criticism is accurate as long as it makes Them look bad.

I suspect that Mr. Stoller falls into the latter category. Fortunately, apparently many of his readers do not. Indeed, several of them have taken him to task in the comments for his insensitivity towards cancer patients in his quest to insult and demonize John McCain (for example, here, here, and here), and my fellow ScienceBlogger Mike the Mad Biologist concedes that he should have noticed Mr. Stoller’s slur. Not that I think any of this will register. I’ve probably wasted my time here.

But, hey, I wasted my time watching Beyond Reanimator. At least this makes the point that it’s not cool to piss on each and every cancer patient that I and any other surgeon, oncologist, or radiation oncologist have taken care of. There are lots of reasons not to like John McCain. That he survived melanoma is not one of them.

ADDENDUM:

In case Mr. Stoller wants to paint me as some sort of Republican shill, he should read this recent post by me first.

Comments

  1. #1 HCN
    August 25, 2008

    So sorry, I saw the title and thought you were going to write about Dawn. Oh, well.

    I kind of ignored this whole kerfuffle. My policy for looking at presidential candidates is to ignore the writings of editorial pundits. I try to read what should be unbiased reviews, read what the candidates write in the voter’s pamphlet and avoid all political advertising (which is why I will not be watching any live TV before November, DVRs and VCR’s make it easier to zip through commercials).

    I do have one thing in common with McCain… I was born in the Panama Canal Zone as a military dependent. I also lived there during some high school years, and in Venezuela for a couple of years, plus many Army bases happen to be in the south (Texas, South Carolina and California). I have red hair and freckles, and only found out about sunscreen when I was eighteen years old. Before then I have peeled off several layers of lobster colored skin from many sunburns.

    I am a prime candidate for melanoma. My doctor and I are always on the lookout for suspicious moles.

  2. #2 Pinko Punko
    August 25, 2008

    Orac, I agreed with the feeling behind your response to Stoller in the first place, but you were so blogflame-over-the-top with it, it seems like his response would only be so predictable.

    Alternate Orac Initial Post:

    “Stoller says X about McCain. What might be a toss-off adjective to him in a screed about McCain is deeply offensive for reasons A, B, C. I wonder if he even knows this?”

  3. #3 Orac
    August 25, 2008

    Orac, I agreed with the feeling behind your response to Stoller in the first place, but you were so blogflame-over-the-top with it, it seems like his response would only be so predictable.

    Come on, haven’t you been reading? Over-the-top is my middle name when I see something like this, and I actually didn’t even expect Stoller to notice, much less respond, given how much more traffic he gets than me. :-)

  4. #4 Landru
    August 25, 2008

    Your argument and my sympathy for it held up perfectly well for two or three sentences. The extension of it to two posts and many paragraphs is advancing you into some territory best explored by…uhm…others. You’re insulted personally and on behalf of a group of people you represent by virtue of a special connection? Dood. DOOD.

    That said, Stoller is unusually wankful, even for a political blooger. I’ve never been particularly thrilled about having him on my side.

    And finally: yeah, it does seem like you picked a good time to get rid of the Raging RINO icon, hmm?

  5. #5 LW
    August 25, 2008

    My grandfather was cancer-ridden. He had malignant skin cancer all over his face. Sometime before I was born (I’m told), his entire face was scraped off down to the bone and reconstructed with skin grafts from his back. For decades thereafter, he would go in regularly and have another lesion removed and another skin graft applied. All my life, every time I saw him, he would have several skin graft on his face in various stages of healing. When he died of other causes at the age of 93, there was a healing skin graft on his face.

    I never saw my grandfather’s face. I have seen a picture of him as a young man, and he was quite handsome. When I knew him, he was not quite bad enough to send children screaming from the room, but it was close. Nevertheless, I never heard him utter a word of complaint about it, and he went to work every day and did a lot of good for his community. There were an awful lot of non-family at his funeral.

    I’m offended too that some jerk who’s never experienced that and probably never known anyone who experienced that, would use “cancer-ridden” as an epithet of contempt equal to “dishonest”, “crazy”, and “madman”. I don’t think you were at all over the top.

  6. #6 wfjag
    August 25, 2008

    “Over-the-top is my middle name when I see something like this, . . .”

    And, likely, “way-over-over-the-top” is Stoller’s middle name. There seems to be a tendency among those who’s approach is ad hom. attacks and strawmen arguments to respond to criticism of their ad hom. attacks and strawmen arguments by — well — more ad hom. attacks and strawmen arguments. You expected “what” from Stoller?

  7. #7 Annie
    August 25, 2008

    FWIW, Orac, I think you got it just right.

    Stoller and most bloggers of the “progressive” persuasion, in my experience, harbor deep and abiding bigotry and stereotyped beliefs about people, and they use ad hominem attacks with as much venom and viciousness as any of their right wing blogging/commentariat rivals.

    It is telling that civil discourse is put asunder whenever the opportunity to “score” points by attacking people’s physical and mental health by stereotype and by -isms: ageism or conflating disease/illness with capability and leadership soundness.

    When anyone misuses terms to label, stereotype, ostracize and stigmatize, they have sunk below credibility, humaneness and ethical standards.

    It is important to expose and to refute the claims of those who do this.

    This is the language of hate, of exclusion and of exactly what progressives should be refuting.

    Health issues must never be used to diminish the inherent worth of people.

    That’s as absolute as the total repudiation of torture.

  8. #8 Paul D
    August 25, 2008

    I don’t have anything to say about Stoller, except to note that him being liberal doesn’t have anything to do with it. Assholes come from all political persuasions.

    But I would like to say that you’re freakin’ crazy for thinking “Planet Terror” was better than “Death Proof.” That’s clearly not the case. It’s a shame movie-going audiences had to slog through Rodriguez’s snoozer first to get to the truly entertaining second half of “Grindhouse.”

  9. #9 snoey
    August 25, 2008

    What Stoller said is indefensible. Neverless, we are talking about fitness to be president, not inherent worth as a human being.

    Both unlikely to live out the term (Tsongas) and serious loss of mental acquity (Reagan 2nd term) are real issues.

    You do, of course, need some of that evidence stuff to raise them, and lacking that McCain critics should stick to batshit crazy warmonger and other staples of political discourse.

  10. #10 Pinko Punko
    August 25, 2008

    I HAVE been reading, and you wouldn’t except “over the top” as an excuse from PhysioProf. I understand your post wasn’t really about Stoller in terms of you were making a point and not really communicating with him, up to the point that he actually read your post. Given the fact that he did read it, it becomes clear that the tone you wasn’t really effective. I just think you missed a chance at actual results in lieu of red meat and righteous anger.

    Anyway, I’m glad you flagged the comment, but I think there was a missed opportunity.

  11. #11 Coriolis
    August 25, 2008

    Nice post. Lying political wannabes are bad even when they are technically on my side. Only one thing though, I think you’re being overly sensitive on the whole mentally ill thing. When most people say someone is crazy or a madman, they don’t really mean someone who actually has a mental disability, but is just crazy stupid (at least in my experience).

  12. #12 Phoenix Woman
    August 25, 2008

    Considering all the other things McCain’s lied about, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lying about his health. But as for melanoma: McCain’s only lived in Arizona since the late 1970s, so he hasn’t lived a full lifetime under that scorching sun. Unless McCain spent most of his pre-mid-40s life in equally sunny climes, I’d say that Cindy’s probably more likely to have a really nasty form of melanoma than he is, as her cumulative lifetime exposure may well be higher.

    The anger exhibited by Stoller may be regrettable, but it is understandable, considering he and other progressive bloggers are facing not just McCain but a media that is actively on McCain’s and the GOP’s side, a media that among other things is giving free publicity to Jerome Corsi’s anti-Obama book while refusing to mention Cliff Schecter’s anti-McCain book.

    Let’s look at the AP: Not only is Rupert Murdoch on its board, but Ron Fournier, the AP’s DC bureau chief, is both a sycophant of Karl Rove’s and was in the running to be McCain’s communications director. (He apparently decided he could help McCain more by pretending to be an actual journalist.)

    Then there’s UPI, which has been owned since 2000 by the Republican-backing cult leader Sun Myung Moon (a fact that caused UPI’s most respected journalist, Helen Thomas, to leave the agency where she’d worked for six decades).

    And of course there’s FOX News and the whole AM talk-radio scene, which was set to be swarmed by right-wingers the moment the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987. But even without FOX News and AM radio in the mix, most big media corporations are owned and/or run by ardent conservatives and/or Republicans and have been for decades. (Former RNC chair Roger Ailes was hired by archconservative Jack Welch to remake NBC’s news division; he would later be hired by Rupert Murdoch to create and run FOX News.)

    When you’re fighting behemoths with billions of dollars propping them up, it’s not surprising that you might get a little testy once in a while — especially when you see that your opponents very seldom pay any sort of price for being testy themselves.

  13. #13 John
    August 25, 2008

    “But as for melanoma: McCain’s only lived in Arizona since the late 1970s, so he hasn’t lived a full lifetime under that scorching sun. Unless McCain spent most of his pre-mid-40s life in equally sunny climes,…”

    He was born in frickin’ Panama.

  14. #14 John
    August 25, 2008

    Also, Orac is right and Stoller is a scumbag–not for insulting McCondo$, who also is a scumbag, but for using a term that insults people suffering from and fighting against cancer.

  15. #15 PhysioProf
    August 25, 2008

    Over-the-top is my middle name

    Holy fucknoly! That’s my fucking middle name, too!!

  16. #16 HCN
    August 25, 2008

    Phoenix Woman, like me McCain was a military brat. He lived in lots of sunny places and went to high school in Virginia, plus he was a POW in Vietnam. Before he retired in Arizona from the Navy where one of his postings was in Florida. This stuff is in the Wikipedia.

    But it doesn’t matter if you live north or south. Residents of Seattle have a high rate of melanoma also:
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008080799_sun30m.html … “Most people in Washington don’t realize the state has the fifth-highest rate of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, Hall-Jordan said. (Vermont has the highest.) And Washington has the seventh-highest for death from melanoma. (No. 1: Rhode Island.)”

  17. #17 Pinko Punko
    August 25, 2008

    PhysioProf’s comment suggests that the worm has turned, as I predicted.

    Can’t we all get along???

  18. #18 Matt Stoller
    August 25, 2008

    reveals Mr. Stoller to be far more concerned with scoring political points than with scientific accuracy or even decency.

    Well, I consider indecency somewhat differently than you do. You might think that assuming bad faith in political disputes or belittling scientists who pride their own vanity over political process is indecent, I consider killing a million Iraqis and letting climate change ravage our civilization indecent.

  19. #19 Orac
    August 25, 2008

    What an idiotic false dichotomy you present!

    I honestly had no idea who you were before this little incident, having never encountered your blog or you before, but now I’m starting to realize why so many hold you in such contempt. Here’s a clue:

    You can take political action against the war and those who started it through either incompetence or bad faith without descending into obviously bad faith and demonization yourself. You can argue for political action to mitigate climate change without misrepresenting the science. Indeed, advocates misrepresenting the science give climate “skeptics” ammunition, from a political standpoint, to call all the science behind anthropogenic global climate change into doubt. It shoots your own cause in the foot big time. You make it very easy for climate change “skeptics” to paint advocates of action to do something about it as crazed ideologues who are more concerned with their ideology than with actual science. Come to think of it, that clearly describes you, and, yes, I consider your idiocy on this issue to be “indecent” because it makes the job of explaining the real science and mobilizing the electorate to support a policy to do something about it. Yes, I consider it despicable of you to refer to John McCain as a “crazy, cancer-ridden dishonest madman” and then intentionally leave out evidence from your responses that shows he is probably not “cancer-ridden.”

    That was pretty dishonest on your part, IMHO.

    Indeed, you apparently choose to exaggerate or misrepresent the science just as baldly as as the Bush administration has, only in the opposite direction. Instead, you choose to demonize your political opponents with every bit as much relish as Karl Rove, not caring how much you offend uninvolved third parties.

    When you criticize McCain or the Bush administration, you really should look in the mirror. From my brief reading of your blog, I’ve concluded that you sound a whole lot like them. I had thought that perhaps I might have gone too far in attacking your obtuseness, but now I realize that you deserve every word.

    So, yes, this physician and scientist will continue to “tut-tut” you or anyone else when you twist the science or medicine for political ends or intentionally cherry pick information that suits your purposes even when I agree with the political ends. I’m funny that way.

  20. #20 Liesl
    August 25, 2008

    “You might think that assuming bad faith in political disputes or belittling scientists who pride their own vanity over political process is indecent, I consider killing a million Iraqis and letting climate change ravage our civilization indecent.”

    Seriously? That’s where you take it? Is that the, “throw everything at the wall and focus on what sticks,” mode of logic? Or is it just that you have a particular fondness for a certain small enjoyed most notably in The Netherlands?

  21. #21 Liesl
    August 25, 2008

    Er, make that “small fish” in my last comment.

  22. #22 Orac
    August 25, 2008

    Can’t we all get along???

    Apparently not.

  23. #23 Orac
    August 26, 2008

    Holy fucknoly! That’s my fucking middle name, too!!

    The difference is that I’m over-the-top with only rare use of profanity.

  24. #24 DrugMonkey
    August 26, 2008

    funny but this comment of yours:
    Unfortunately, a fellow ScienceBlogger has, in a blast of ridiculously overblown rhetoric, decided to use this particular incident as a convenient springboard from which to generalize

    seemed a hell of a lot more concerned with the over-the-top than it was with the profanity Orac. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t let your usual punching bags get away with such a transparent dodge so I’m sure you are happy to correct one of these statements…

  25. #25 Orac
    August 26, 2008

    Talk about obtuse! Perhaps you and Stoller should get together. You can make beautifully intentional non sequiturs about what each other says.

    The entire point of that post was that I was concerned and angered that someone who is teaching medical students would harbor and express under the cloak of anonymity such hostility towards medical students and physicians and, quite frankly, that he deserved a slapdown. That you defended him put you in the same camp deserving a slapdown, as far as I’m concerned.

    He, at least, apologized.

  26. #26 PhysioProf
    August 26, 2008

    The difference is that I’m over-the-top with only rare use of profanity.

    Dude, just relax and let your inner profane motherfucker out!

  27. #27 tonyl
    August 26, 2008

    Matt Stoller opined: “You might think that assuming bad faith in political disputes or belittling scientists who pride their own vanity over political process is indecent, I consider killing a million Iraqis and letting climate change ravage our civilization indecent.”

    Really, you think that science should be suppressed or manipulated if it is inconvenient to your political positions? Wow, you really are no better than Bush and Rove.

  28. #28 Annie
    August 26, 2008

    It’s so disappointing to have to see just how many naked emperors there are.

    So many arrive unarmed at the civil discourse arena, and without their ad hominem adjectives, expletives and invectives, they find their quivers empty and their armaments wanting.

    One can only hope that Stoller and his team, intelligent as they are, will come to realize that their arguments won’t ever persuade others to come over to their “side” until they can do so with reason, logic and evidence. Until they can respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people, regardless of their political persuasion, of their actions – heinous and grievous as they may be – and of the need to leave judgment behind while pulling up enough chairs at the great table to seat and feed everyone.

    That food for the brain and soul must include inspiration, inclusion, tolerance, generosity, humility, passion, prudence and agape. The poisonous rhetoric will only taint and ruin, and so, as difficult as it is to do so, it is critical to leave it behind.

    What Stoller misses is the opportunity to show greatness – of ideas, of thinking, of inspiration, of action – all of the elements of true leadership.

    For every person insulted and demeaned, there isn’t only one less on the team, but there is one MORE enemy. Every insult carries double weight.

    I’ve been in a unique position to watch Republicans and Democrats, neocons and conservatives, moderates and progressives, socialists and libertarians. There are not fundamental differences in their humanity. There are not fundamental differences in the basic needs that they have for shelter, food, water, clothing, transportation and the like. Indeed, they articulate the same societal wants: liberty, opportunity, freedom. It’s in the means to the ends that the differences lie.

    The arguments need to demonstrate how best to do that while mitigating impingement, how to allocate scarce resources while not unduly constraining, and how to provide for freedom without inhibiting others.

    The terms, cancer-ridden, crazy, dishonest and madman don’t address any fundamental principle or process. They aim to diminish, rather than amplify. They aim to humiliate, rather than respect. They aim to incite disgust, rather than to persuade by evidence. They are beneath the level of civil discourse, and they reflect poorly on the writer behind the rhetoric.

    I’m consistently on the receiving end of hate speech and acts of hate, and I will never – absolutely never – use it on another human being. That would dehumanize me, and I won’t allow anyone to do that.

    I’m sorry that Stoller hasn’t yet discovered that, and I hope he will, soon, so that he, too, will arm himself with ammunition that, when it strikes home, leaves a person better for embracing progressive values, with a place at the table, and with another ally for the common good.

  29. #29 DrugMonkey
    August 26, 2008

    That you defended him put you in the same camp deserving a slapdown, as far as I’m concerned. He, at least, apologized.

    keep digging Orac.

    You, in case you forget, are the one that went way over the top with “PP couldn’t possibly have any point” and suchlike, blatantly ignoring the considerable number of commenters all over the many blogs on this topic that testified exactly to the type of attitude PP was referring to. Ignoring the fact that like it or not, you are not privy to the experiences of anyone other than yourself with respect to interacting with med students or MDs. You are the one who looked like a completely over-reacting nutjob on this one, overgeneralizing your experiences and suggesting that nobody who has different could possibly be correct and furthermore launching ad hominem attacks to discredit those experiences. An approach you would not hesitate for one instant to deride if expressed by one of your usual opponents.

    Here’s another hint, my supposed defense of PP was merely to point out that not everyone got their panties in a bunch just because some blogger went “over the top” in making a point. By all means explain why I should apologize to you for this. Unless you mean apologize to your mortally wounded ego in which case, get a grip buddy.

    and as you say, PP apologized for his tone.

    I’ve yet to see you apologize for your way-over-the-top clownery on this topic, nor for your outing threats and encouraging of same from your “blog bud” as you put it. Nor for your juvenile participation in some coordinated faked-up-offended blogoattack on PP in the first place. Not to mention your way-over-the-top tarring of others with the PP brush because they have the temerity to disagree with your arrogant inability to understand that just like PP doesn’t have a lock on the behavior of all docs, neither do you my friend.

    as I said, keep digging. shows your true colors and all that. the mortally-offended-blogo-MD routine resulting from that whole episode did far more to reinforce the arrogant princeling perception than anything PP might have said.

  30. #30 Orac
    August 26, 2008

    I’ve yet to see you apologize for your way-over-the-top clownery on this topic, nor for your outing threats and encouraging of same from your “blog bud” as you put it.

    Then you either obviously didn’t look too hard, or your memory’s faulty. I did apologize for going too far:

    Although Mark’s absolutely correct and has also stated that it was not his intent to threaten to “out” PP, in retrospect I see how those statements could easily be interpreted as just that. I don’t believe Mark would do such a thing, and I’d hate to think that PP apologized because he was afraid that Mark would out him. In a bit of self-examination, I can now even see how a statement to PP that I made in the comments could be so interpreted:

    If you really “care deeply” for your medical students, as you claim you do, you sure do have a most unusual way of showing it. Ask yourself this; What would those medical students you claim to care for so deeply think if they found out what you’ve been writing about them on blogs?

    I didn’t mean it that way, and if PP interpreted that way, I, too, am sorry. Given that I use a pseudonym and am (sort of) anonymous, it would be hypocritical in the extreme for me to threaten to “out” any blogger. I would never do such a thing except under very extreme circumstances: for example, if it were necessary to expose truly criminal activity, prevent a serious crime, or prevent someone from coming to harm, and in retrospect I see that I probably went too far.

    What was that you were saying again?

    Finally, the bit about PP having apologized was not directed at you, nor was it a demand that you apologize. It was meant as a comparison of PP with Matt Stoller. But, hey, I give you credit for a proper “Princeling” attitude. Apparently it’s all about you just as much as you think I think it’s all about me. Maybe you should have gone to medical school. Heck, maybe you should have done a surgery residency too.

  31. #31 Orac
    August 26, 2008

    I’ve yet to see you apologize for your way-over-the-top clownery on this topic, nor for your outing threats and encouraging of same from your “blog bud” as you put it.

    Then you either obviously didn’t look very hard, or your memory’s faulty. But I’m a benevolent “Princeling”; so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the latter. In fact, I did apologize for going too far in that incident:

    Although Mark’s absolutely correct and has also stated that it was not his intent to threaten to “out” PP, in retrospect I see how those statements could easily be interpreted as just that. I don’t believe Mark would do such a thing, and I’d hate to think that PP apologized because he was afraid that Mark would out him. In a bit of self-examination, I can now even see how a statement to PP that I made in the comments could be so interpreted:

    If you really “care deeply” for your medical students, as you claim you do, you sure do have a most unusual way of showing it. Ask yourself this; What would those medical students you claim to care for so deeply think if they found out what you’ve been writing about them on blogs?

    I didn’t mean it that way, and if PP interpreted that way, I, too, am sorry. Given that I use a pseudonym and am (sort of) anonymous, it would be hypocritical in the extreme for me to threaten to “out” any blogger. I would never do such a thing except under very extreme circumstances: for example, if it were necessary to expose truly criminal activity, prevent a serious crime, or prevent someone from coming to harm, and in retrospect I see that I probably went too far.

    I can’t hear you. What was that you were saying again?

    Finally, the bit about PP having apologized was not directed at you, nor was it a demand that you apologize. It was meant as a comparison of PP with Matt Stoller that made PP look favorable when matched to Matt’s behavior. But, hey, I do have to give you credit for a proper “Princeling” attitude. Apparently it’s all about you just as much as you think I think it’s always all about me. (Say that ten times really fast if you can.) Maybe you should have gone to medical school. Heck, maybe you should have done a surgery residency too. Sounds like you probably fit the personality profile. At least, you seem to have the stereotypical personality profile that you attribute to physicians.

  32. #32 DrugMonkey
    August 26, 2008

    I can’t hear you. What was that you were saying again?

    I missed that and given the circumstances that is the closest thing to an apology that one might expect, my mistake. Nice sack up on your part.

    the bit about PP having apologized was not directed at you, nor was it a demand that you apologize.

    Given the context, surely you can see where someone just might have been confused. I need a “slapdown” but the apology think was related to Stoller? ok. whatev. but I’ll take your clarification on face value for argument’s sake.

    Maybe you should have gone to medical school.
    Why? If it is the case that arrogance is highly concentrated in medical paths this does not preclude the possibility that arrogance is present in other careers as well. I’m pretty sure you or possibly one of your band of brethren made this point about research PhDs. And guess what, it’s true. There are aspects of research science that culture and nurture arrogance. Guess what? It isn’t a mortal insult to me personally to acknowledge this.

  33. #33 Paul Murray
    August 26, 2008

    I hear you with regard to not using “madman” as a personal slur, but the problem with the word “madman” is that it means what it does.

    It’s rather like the way that we have had to find a sucession of euphemisms for “idiot” and “cripple”. As each euphemism in turn has come to be associated with its meaning, each has become pejorative and so a new euphemism must be found. “Differently Abled” only works until you no longer have to think about what it means.

    Madmen are mad. Being mad is a bad thing. Saying of someone “that person is mad”, or mentally ill, or differently saned, is nessesarily going to be perjorative.

    You don’t want a mad, crazy person as presdent. Even if there is no question of moral culpability: even if it’s not his fault that he’s mad. Using it to describe a presidential candidate with anger issues (etc, etc, etc) is perfectly legitimate. Even if it does remind us of the terrible plight of the mentally ill.

  34. #34 tonyl
    August 27, 2008

    Okay, I’m a day late to this one but DrugMonkey, you said, “You, in case you forget, are the one that went way over the top with “PP couldn’t possibly have any point” and suchlike, blatantly ignoring the considerable number of commenters all over the many blogs on this topic that testified exactly to the type of attitude PP was referring to.”

    Are you really incapable of seeing the difference between saying that some act this way and all, by their very nature and training act this way? Really? I find that hard to believe.

  35. #35 DrugMonkey
    August 27, 2008

    tonyl: PP in his original post on feministe did not say “all, by their very nature and training”. what he said was

    this kind of attitude-that physicians are gods, not mere mortals, and wield power over other human beings that no one dare question-is inculcated in them from the very beginning of medical training. It is an ugly secret of our medical training system. And the more prestigious the institutions where physicians receive their training, the more overweening is this attitude.

    This is open to interpretation. Since I am neither naive, autistic, unbelievably literal, nor swayed by preconceived antipathies toward the blogger in question, I took this as one guy’s experiences written in the slightly over-the-top manner that pervades many good / interesting blogs, like this one. All the MDs flew off the handle and PP acknowledged that his phrasing went too far into making a general claim and clarified that he was talking about a climate that encouraged and tolerated arrogance, not one that exclusively made each and every MD an arrogant asshat. (In short, the interpretation that every fair minded reader applied to his original comment in the first place.)

    Fact is, MDs suffer from a reputation for arrogance. A reputation that is clearly recognized by them (see admissions to same by PalMD and Orac and others). That William Hurt movie was well received…why? Commentary on the blogs discussing this issue (including PPs original post) also show that patients occasionally have unpleasant interactions with MDs. Why is it so damn hard to recognize this?

    It is a legitimate topic of discussion, not a MORTAL INSULT which requires the type of response PPs original comment engendered.

    Now, what part of this whole sordid discussion and blogowarz supports the conclusion that what PP really meant (or that I am defending him for) is that “all MDs by their very nature and training” are arrogant asshats?

    I find it hard to believe that you are incapable of understanding the difference here.

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