Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fang mail?

Sometime during the wee hours last night, a really, really, really nasty comment came through regarding Tuesday's skeptical post on Robin McGraw. Though I seriously doubt it was from anyone in the actual McGraw family, it had that kind of enraged, "taking it personal" tone. In fact, in overall tenor and, um, word choice, it reminded me of some of the vicious emails I received back in June 2005, when SHAM was first published. Actually, I was already getting emails attacking my book even before the book was out (and thus before anyone really knew what was in it), which gives you some idea of the platoons of insiders and sympathizers that self-help's leadership is capable of mobilizing at a moment's notice to combat any perceived threat. Those forces can be brought to bear in engineering page after page of Amazon reviews...or in a coordinated hate-mail campaign directed against an author who takes on one of their own. (For the record, let me say here that, while I was admittedly satiric in my handling of Mrs. Dr. Phil, the basic question I raised was legitimate and above-board, to wit: Who is this woman, and why do we value her advice?)

Last night's comment is far too over-the-top to see the light of day on this blog; too profane, too ad hominem. And that's a shame, in a way, as I think it would be helpful and illuminating for readers to have a better idea of the true nature of the adversary here. I am also reminded of my long-ago "debate" with Mark Victor Hansen on Anderson Cooper 360. Mr. Chicken Soup became a vulture that night, flaying me with his talons from the word "go," and showing little regard for truth in the process. He simply made stuff up to make me look bad. As Barbara Ehrenreich documented with great eloquence and verve in her January piece for Harper's, these folks talk a great game about happiness and positive energy and the like, but confronted with a non-subscriber to their little cult of hope, boy can they close ranks and get ugly.

P.S. I'd be remiss if I took leave of this topic without referencing our own Cosmic Connie's fine article, "Wrath of the Secretrons," for the Skeptical Inquirer site. In it, Connie details her own treatment at the hands of the positive-thinking community.

11 comments:

Cal said...

It sounds a lot to me like the "dispute" between the creationists vs. the evolutionists. In the past (and maybe even now), the creationists told the non-believers that they were destined to hell. But now the evolutionists are striking back. I haven't read his latest book, but I understand Richard Dawkins (an evolutionist) took a very strident tone in it against religion.

For that matter, I guess that is why we have so many different religions. Each one believes in something that the others don't. Unfortunately, there have been millions of lives lost throughout history because of religious differences. And many more to come --- see the Middle East.

Well, at least SHAM will never get to that (I hope).

Steve Salerno said...

...although I did hear a story about a sleeper cell of fanatical followers of The Secret taking flying lessons somewhere in Florida...

Case said...

I do remember the look on your face when Mark Victor Hansen called you incompetant. I can imagine you thinking, “Did the king of feel good literatue and positive thinking really just launch and unprompted insult in my direction?” It would be interesting if you were able to have more conversations with self-help practitioners, or even just talked about the subject yourself. Have you considered conducting tele-interviews to distribute as podcasts? I would certainly add such a show to my listening schedule. Audio would also help me understand the your message a little better.

Mr. Spin said...

Make'n more enemies, Steve?

Just kidding.

Reminds me of a small piece I wrote in college that attracted the wrath of a the few I exposed.

The ire of some...

Anonymous said...

I think maybe you said this yourself once before and if so I apologize but what y ou describe here reminds me of radical Islam too. "Embrace our kind of love, or we'll kill you." Great blog, keep up the good work .

Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for the mention, Steve. I'm still getting the lectures from the Secretrons about my negativity, anger, and other shortcomings, as evidenced by comments to my recent "Oz" post.

I have also received my share of utterly unprintable comments from Secretrons. But one of the worst and most profane comments I got recently wasn't from a Secretron, but from someone who was apparently upset at one of my old parodies I reprinted, in which I made fun of a rather odd spiritual path that most people haven't even heard of. I've also received unprintable missives from apparent followers of Rhonda Byrne's ex-paramour Tilak.

In short, there's a lot of anger and aggression in the positive-thinking and spiritual communities. Your experience with Chicken Soup co-perp Mock Raptor Hansen remains a classic example.

Steve Salerno said...

Case, it wasn't so much the thing about me being incompetent--I've been accused of that by people whose opinion I respect far more than Hansen's. :) What really got me going was his mention of his "conversation that day" with Dr. Laura re the death of her mother, and the implications of same, which were clearly nonsensical; you may wish to take another look at my post on the matter:
http://shambook.blogspot.com/2005/11/hot-chicken-soup-part-1a.html

Also, once I got into the details of his Millionaire's Club, or whatever he called it on the Cooper show that night, it became clear that the whole thing was about as credible as Colin Powell's (in)famous "weapons of mass destruction" performance at the UN. (And at least Powell had an excuse.)

Anonymous said...

One thing I still don't get about you is why you chronically blame the self-help community (and it is indeed a community) for doing the very same things that are an accepted part of the American scene when done by other groups. If you are management and you do something that irks labor, the union will band together and take a stand against you. If you are the GOP and the Dem party does something that you think you can make political hay of, you call a press conference on the steps of the Capitol and do your dog and pony show. Letter-writing is an established part of the culture going back to Colonial times, and monarchal times before that. People wrote letters to voice their disapproval of policies they disliked. Often those letters whipped up public sentiment and begat more letters. Still today interest groups will get up on a podium and urge the mass of people to "write your congressman."

Why are you, Steve Salerno, alone among all men, immune to this? Why can't believers in self-help write critically of (or to) you?

Tom Bethune
Myrtle Beach, SC

Cosmic Connie said...

Tom wrote:
"Letter-writing is an established part of the culture going back to Colonial times, and monarchal times before that. People wrote letters to voice their disapproval of policies they disliked."

There's a difference between voicing one's disagreement or disapproval, and engaging in gratuitous name-calling and personal attacks that have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. I've been reading Steve's blog for nearly a year now, and I've noticed that he has published plenty of comments by folks who disagree with him. And on my own blog I publish lots of comments by people who don't like what I say. I draw the line, however, at publishing blatant obscenities and sexual references that are juvenile and completely irrelevant.

Tom, if you could see some of the comments I get, I don't think there's any way you could classify them as an "established part of the culture," unless, of course, you were talking about the culture of sexually and emotionally stunted wackos.

RevRon's Rants said...

Hmmm... I've written comments critical of Steve's position and/or approach before, and he has yet to blast me. Perhaps the fact that my comments, while sometimes critical, aren't laced with hate-filled vitriol just might be a factor.

Time to re-take that Social Skills 101 class, paying closer attention to the chapter on Civil Discourse.

Steve Salerno said...

My gratitude to those who rallied to my defense here. I like to think I've run as fair a blog as possible, under oft-trying circumstances.

I'll probably have more to say on this topic than the mere banality above--but I'll have to say it on a day when I haven't just returned from a 3.5-hour ball game played in on-and-off rain under progressively darkening skies, followed by an hour drive home under even worse conditions. This, after driving back and forth to the city (2.5 hours each way) to catch my granddaughter's ballet recital first-thing this morning.

Not that anyone asked, of course...