Thursday, November 26, 2009

A few things to be thankful for, if you're me.

...that Britney Spears doesn't follow SHAMblog.
I can't tell you how gratifying it is that this blog is read by exactly the kinds of people I'd always hoped would read the kinds of stuff I like to write. Oh, we have our differences of opinion and can even get a bit snarky with each other
now and then. But wouldn't it be boring if we didn't? The main thing is, we run a moron-free zone here, to paraphrase Bill O'Reilly.... And speaking of O'ReillyI just had to get this indid anyone else happen to catch his self-described "tough" interviews with Sarah Palin? His questions were on the order of, "Admit it, Sarah: You shouldn't have worn the red dress that one time, you should've gone with blue!" or "Weren't you naive in underestimating the way the horrible liberal media would come after you and try to make you look stupid and unfit to be president? Come on, say it, you were naive...."

...that I don't know anyone who ordered Joe Vitale's blind Russian genie.

idering self-help's cultural penetration, my family and extended family are remarkably free of guru-obsession. I do know a few people who bought The Secret, mostly out of curiosity. But who wasn't curious about Byrne's Boondoggle? Hell, even I bought The Secret, albeit second-hand. ("Keep your friends close...")

...that I've been ab
le to keep my head (barely) above water in this crazy life called writing for one more year.
It hasn'
t been easymy long-suffering wife could tell you chapter and verse about that!but it's never been anything less than interesting, it's opened more doors and given me entree to more sides of life and living than that fat little kid from Brooklyn ever dreamed of, and for the most part, as Frank put it, I've been able to do it my way.

...that somebody once thought it might be fun to make an organized game out of smacking a ball around with a piece of tree.
My team's championship 2
009 season is barely seven weeks behind us and already I can hear my fast-twitch muscle fibers talking excitedly among themselves, looking forward to April 2010. I honestly don't know what I'd do without baseball. God bless Abner Doubleday.

...that my three precious granddaughters are coming to visit today, and will stick to their Grandpa's side the way the stuffing sticks to the bird.
OK, it's a lousy visual, but you get my drift. Grandkids are wonderful, and mine are more wonderful than all others. I can say that because it's my blog.

I have other thin
gs to be thankful for as well. But I'll keep my counsel on those.

Happy Turkey Day to all.


Bob Collier said...

"God bless Abner Doubleday"? Haven't you heard? He didn't invent baseball. It's derived from the English game of rounders.

Still, who cares really. I know what you mean.

Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Bob: Thanks for stopping by--even if only to tweak me a little bit. :)

I know this will ring hollow since it's after the fact, but I did indeed know about rounders, and I even considered putting in an asterisk/footnote...but then I figured, oh what the hell, it weakens the line so much, yanno? Some illusions are meant to be preserved: Doubleday, the Tooth Fairy, politicians who have your best interests at heart, etc.

RevRon's Rants said...

I'm thankful for Connie, for friends, for family, for the Dionysian feast I began preparing st 4:30 this morning, and that I've seemingly got a few things yet to do before my carcass adorns a table in some med school's physiology lab.

I'm also thankful that the wingnuts (both right and left) represent a loud but relatively marginalized portion of our populace. And for a place to argue, vent, snark, and occasionally make nice. Thanks for doing this blog, Steve. Whether you realize it or not, it does serve a needed function... even if only to provide a means for us writerly types to communicate with other human beings, and to write something not directly related to our source of income.

I'm thankful for the delightful ladies who dance in my dreams, if not my parlour. For the abundance of dogs and horses whom (I sometimes convince myself) exist for my entertainment. And for the wackos who participate in forums like this one, for reminding and reassuring me as to my own relative sanity. God bless us, every one! :-)

Case said...

>> ... this blog is read by exactly the kinds of people I'd always hoped would read the kinds of stuff I like to write.

It's good to hear some positive words about the blog and your devoted readers. You haven't tried to kill the blog again, so I think we are all relieved.

There was one post ...

"Fact is, I'm debating whether this will be my final series of posts in the life of SHAMblog. The subject of this series, Eckhart Tolle ... might say I'm having that debate with the entity inside me that is my true self. In any case, the debate has been ongoing for weeks now, and it's coming to a head."

Part 2 made no mention.

Then later, wham ...

"I'm going to keep the site up; I'm not planning to delete the blog, at least not yet."

Well, I for one, and many others, didn't believe it so we kept coming back to hammering the comments section for more answers.

Then the next post ... "P.S. No, I'm not cracking...yet."

Then, in a comment to the second post A.D. ... roger o'keefe said...
Steve, I don't know whether or not this is the official kick-off for "Shamblog Mondays," but it's a worthy addition to your body of work nonetheless.

I must say that the quality of what you post on an independent blog is ahead of 99.99% of what is out there. If you were getting paid to post or were featured in a prominent webspace, that would be one thing. But this is a freakin free blogger site that you've somehow managed to keep up over time with such high quality work, and even wade through endless comments like this.

I for one couldn't do it, even on a subject I was passionate about. So, I think to me your a shining example of doing something valuable for the sake of work. Not from any ulterior motivation, even if this blog started to promote a book. I found this blog after I read Sham in the new arrivals section of my Library and looked it up on There you posted a link to ShamBlog.

Case said...

First, I think Sham, the book, should be required reading for anyone that reads this blog.

Second, I think you need a readers guide for new arrivals, because so many people's gut reaction to the blog is one where they think you have some agenda.

You do not, in my opinion, have any agenda other than to take the opposite look at whatever is the majority conception or unquestioned conception of a thing.

It's as if you're saying, hey, look at the whole thing, not just what you're shown. Think people, think.

If only you would be willing to champion a sub-culture … I don’t think so because if any movement got big , even one you created, I personally feel that your main focus would turn to put the new movement up to the critical lens.

The challenge moving forward, again my own opinion, is take the notion of what your body of work is saying, and put it in the form that people can easily connect with and rally behind, but not in a nature where it is poking fun at anything else or calling any other work or individual out on the carpet. I admit, that can be a fun/destructive thing to do, but the sentiment is often lost on me personally.

I do feel a movement here, something greater than pointing out the idiots. That very nature of name calling, again, is I think what holds the movement back and keeps it from taking shape.

I'm certainly not talking about something to believe in, in a mindless fashion. What I'm talking about could never be anything close to resembling blind faith. But I think the spirit of questioning, the spirit of true critical thinking ... of that being accepted in the culture vs. where we are today in that we can't even intelligently debate an issue without attacking the other person. These are all ideas that could form the foundation of a social movement, one that could have real and lasting positive impact on our culture if it were to gain momentum. For that to happen, the tenets must be defined and vetted, and it must be stated in positive terms that can stand on their own.

I certainly like to get wrapped up in these kinds of ideas, and it's why I keep coming back for more, even if I'm not fully invested with or agree with all the topics, comments, or viewpoints expressed. The greater idea of intelligent debate based on facts, and real journalism and critical thinking, is like drinking from the vine ... meaning something that's missing in your life and when you find it, it brings energy, passion, and satisfaction. We certainly don't get this type of thinking from CNN, newspaper stories, and other popular publications. Although, it is nice to see some of your writing on the topic of self-help, positive thinking, and other related subjects surface in mass publications from time to time.

All the best to your family on this Thanksgiving day.

Steve Salerno said...

Case, I'm pretty close to speechless after all that (and anyone who knows me also knows what a rare condition that is for me to find myself in). All I can do in my inept way is reiterate how thankful I remain for the loyalty of readers such as you.

All along (certainly since the intensive PR push for my book subsided) this has been a labor of love--and hope. That is, hope for a more commonsensical, skeptical lens on society and some of its sacred cows. I've tried to approach the blog from the perspective that nothing is off the table.

And that makes a perfect segue back to Thanksgiving, for pretty soon many of us will be sitting at tables where--literally--almost nothing edible has been left off.


Steve Salerno said...

p.s. (to Case and like-minded readers): You make some excellent, substantive points that I will surely add to the pile of things to mull as I contemplate the future direction of this blog.

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm thankful for living with a man who is such a wonderful cook (Ron, of course), and who is wonderful in every other way as well.

I'm thankful for this blog, for all the reasons Ron listed, and for the fact that it inspired me to start my own marginally related collection of thoughts (which has made me a few enemies perhaps, but has resulted in more friendships).

As for the dogs and horses, ditto what Ron said. But let's not give short shrift to the feline-Americans, Ron.

The one point on which we can all agree -- and the one thing to which even the most annoying hustledork at least pays lip service -- is the importance of gratitude. I think we all benefit from practicing thanksgiving every day. Fortunately, there isn't as much cooking and cleaning up to do every day as there is on T-day, and for that I am truly thankful.

PS ~ I don't know anyone who ordered Joe V's Russian Wish Dolly either, but he and his partner in the venture sure have spent a lot of effort mean marketing it. As for me, I'm thankful that it was such rich snark chum. :-)

Jenny said...

Steve is thankful ... "...that Britney Spears doesn't follow SHAMblog."

Now how do you know that. She very well could be one of those snarky anonymous comment droppers.

Happy Thanksgiving, Steve!

Elizabeth said...

Your granddaughters look like you, Steve! Of course prettier and more adorable (not that you aren't ;).

Amen to Case's comments.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Dimension Skipper said...

(Ooops. Steve, if you catch this in time, please publish THIS comment, not my prior one. Made a boo-boo and left out a link. Sorry. It happens. But it's only frivolity anyway, so not too big a deal.)

Speaking of domesticated animals... I've never had pets myself, but I do love animals (some with gravy!) and am thankful for every pet owner who treats their furry friends with love, caring, dignity, and respect.

But no holiday is worth this no matter how many turkey bits you drop on the floor.


I'm also thankful to Al Gore for inventing Google so we can all stumble upon virtual places of interest (such as here) to hang out.

Happy thanksgiving everyone!

Do what you have to to Stay safe this holiday weekend.

Martha said...

I can't stand to even look at Joe Vitale. As I said to Cosmic Connie the other day, just the thought of him makes me want to check my pockets and purse for my wallet.

And yet, the Russian Wish Dolly made me curious. So I had to check it out. I can't imagine anyone swallowing this. Could it actually be possible?

Then as I read his sales pitch, he says that Hoshun "triggers" his whatever...can't remember his exact wording...basically his subconscious, I suppose, so he can continue attracting.

To his credit he invites his suckers, I mean customers, to "consider the power of the placebo," now that wording I do remember. Okee dokee. So he's basically saying, "consider the power of the big fat lie to bullshit you into doing or feeling what your rational mind wouldn't allow you to do or feel."

In which case...I betcha I have something lying around my house that I could use equally well. Lessee, what could it be? Something I can put on my desk: a ladle from the kitchen? An empty roll of toilet paper? Oh! I know! A stack of bills waiting to get paid! That's the ticket.

As for Russia being a land of wisdom and mystery...wisdom? Tell that to the murdered journalists.

Dimension Skipper said...

I just thought I'd take the time to mention (though what follows is lengthy) that I for one came to this blog because I'd been hearing a new barrage of ads on my local sports talk radio station for Linda Bassett's Midwest Center. (The ads themselves weren't new to me, just the barrage, and it seemed to me to be more saturating of the airwaves than previous.) So I Googled Ms. Bassett and her center and found a SHAMblog entry, probably the one which still gets occasional pro/con comments.

I never felt any need to comment on the post myself as her program wasn't something I had real knowledge of... I was only curious about it due to the overexposure of the ads and simply wondered whether there was any track record of real effectiveness or not. Then again, I've always wondered about anything like that where they tell you nothing about the program really, only that they'll send you a "powerful, free video" or something and make it sound like "...well, what do you have to lose?"

That happened to be during the last presidential election campaign and Steve was doing a lot of politics-related posting. Politics isn't usually my bag because such talk is normally so predictably unproductive, but I enjoyed his take on things (and some of the atypical debate it spawned) plus some of the non-political posts too, so I stuck around.

Gradually I picked up on the SHAMminess theme around here. But to be honest to this day I'm still not all that familiar (firsthand anyway) with names like Joe Vitale (I'm much more familiar with Dick, though I can't stand him), and others of that ilk. In fact some, like J. Vitale and Byron Katie, I wouldn't even be aware of at all if it wasn't for this blog.

Eckhart Tolle only came on my radar from having seen an ad for Oprah when she was pimping his New Earth book. Which I actually read all the way through in stages at my local Borders bookstore just to see what it and he was about. There were themes and sections of some interest, but also large parts that made me go "Huh?" I didn't end up going to any of his other books, like the "Now" ones (which I'd previously been aware of generally just through popular references, though I had no idea he was the author).

I know of Tony Robbins, but he's not anyone I ever thought about checking on to see what he was Hawking. I see Kevin Trudeau’s "infomercials" airing at times, but again he's not someone I've ever given much (or any) mental credence to as possibly being on any major legit footing. I was also vaguely aware of "The Secret" stuff that's been out there, but not aware enough that I would care. And I'd never heard of this "Ray" character either until the sweat lodge incident popped up here.

Sorry, I just felt like sharing a little bit about me and how I came to find SHAMblog since my impression is that I came here by way of a slightly different route than many of the others who hang here. Because of my unfamiliarity with such self-help people and programs I usually don't feel like I have much of anything to say on such subjects unless someone mentions something that sparks some minorly tangentially point I feel I can tie in somehow, that might actually add a little something to the discussion.

Oh, and I've never read SHAM, the book. To be honest, I have no great desire to as I've always kind of just leaned toward such SHAM-like views naturally somehow (at least, I think so). Heck, I'm distrustful of and very cynical even when it comes to mere advertising in general, simply selling everyday products... So I can't help but be mostly scornful when I see/hear anything of certain folks selling their wonderful systems, solutions, and guides to life, the universe, and everything.

Ok, way more than enough said, I'm sure... Now on to my intended original point in a comment to follow...

Cosmic Connie said...

Martha, you may really need to keep a close eye on your pockets and purse in the near future. Here's a link to a pic of Joe snapped at a "private dinner" last Saturday night.

The other person in the picture is Kevin Trudeau, who's been mentioned a few times on SHAMblog as well as my blog.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

Dimension Skipper said...

To his credit he invites his suckers, I mean customers, to "consider the power of the placebo," now that wording I do remember. Okee dokee. So he's basically saying, "consider the power of the big fat lie to bullshit you into doing or feeling what your rational mind wouldn't allow you to do or feel."—Martha

That statement just caught my eye this morning in conjunction with finding this latest item at PsychCentral:

A Note to the Severely Depressed: Don’t Try So Hard
By Therese J. Borchard

I don’t know about you, but when I’m severely depressed 90 percent of my negative thinking is based on the fact that I am a failure because all my cognitive-behavioral strategies and positive thinking and mindfulness attempts aren’t working. I discussed this with Dr. Smith yesterday and she reminded me, once more, that severe depression can’t be treated in a mind-over-matter way. Her compassionate logic made me review the pages of my forthcoming book, Beyond Blue, where I list the neurological and scientific reasons why.

And I breathed a much-needed sigh of relief.

. . .

She then quotes a significant passage from her book which I'll only cherry pick here:

Trying too hard was precisely my problem. It was the mind over matter issue again. In my mind, I was failing because I couldn't think myself to perfect health. I couldn't do it all myself.

. . .

I expected myself to think away my mood disorder, which involved a disease in my brain, an organ just like my heart, lungs, and kidneys.

"What's most important is to find a medication combination that works so that you can be able to do all that other stuff to feel even better," she said. "I will give you a list of books you should read if you want to study depression. Until you feel stronger, I suggest you stay away from the type of self-help literature you have brought it [bought?] because those texts can do further damage if read in a very depressed state."

. . .

I just thought that was a very good example of exactly the sort of troubles someone who gets into these self-help guru programs might have. And I think it also helps point out that some (if not many or most) people who seek out such programs may in fact have underlying conditions, real medical conditions, that they might not even recognize yet themselves. Such conditions could make them susceptible to looking for alternative answers and yet also contribute to lack of success in finding them (either by not looking in the right directions or by hindering the ability to apply the principles they're trying to learn).

I'm trying not to make any judgments either about the people who end up trying out specific SHAM movements or even the "gurus" themselves. Who am I to say what will or will not work for others? Nevertheless I remain highly skeptical and suspicious due to my own way of thinking as far as how such things could possibly ever be relevant to me.

Mainly I just thought the PsychCentral piece perfectly illustrates what Steve so often talks about, how and why SHAM-type movements can actually be actively detrimental to (at least some) folks. They recognize they can't get over their issues by themselves, by simply willing their way out, and yet that's often what the SHAMmers are selling. It just sounds so attractive to be told "You can do it if you just apply these principles of mine." Then when it turns out it's not really so simple, well, then the crash back to earth occurs along with greater self-doubts and fears.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip: I don't think anyone really cares how anyone else got here or why. All that matters it that you're here, and that's our gain.

Bob Collier said...

Considering Joe Vitale is supposed to be a world class copywriter, I thought the Russian doll sales letter was pathetic. It had me ROFLing anyway.

Steve Salerno said...

Bob: Remember, though, the first rule of copywriting is: Know/reach your target audience. I laugh at everything Joe V. writes. But I also laughed my ass off at The Secret (both the viral promotion and the product itself)...and we both know what happened there.

Bob Collier said...

Dimension Skipper wrote: "Mainly I just thought the PsychCentral piece perfectly illustrates what Steve so often talks about, how and why SHAM-type movements can actually be actively detrimental to (at least some) folks."

What has appalled me has been the trend toward minimising the level of expertise required to set up as an "expert".

It used be that it required years of training and credentialisation from an organisation that had the public's respect before somebody was allowed to advise others on how they might better run their lives.

These days, it seems anybody can set up as a "success coach", a "life coach", a "parenting coach", and today's big opportunity, a "law of attraction coach".

It's not necessarily the case, of course, that they're all worthless or will do more harm than good, but I suspect that many if not most of them are and do. It's certainly a minefield for the unwary.

Elizabeth said...

DimSkip: I don't think anyone really cares how anyone else got here or why.

LOL! I do care, actually. I find these stories fascinating. Thank you for sharing yours, DimSkip!

Dimension Skipper said...

Well, I didn't mean to imply that anyone really should care how I first came around. (Believe me, I'm normally the last person to go on and on about myself in such forums.)

I follow Ken Levine's blog and every year on his blogging anniversary (which was recent) he asks especially for newcomers to tell anything they care to share about themselves and more specifically how they came to discover his blog. This post, while not actively discussing or soliciting such, just struck me as sort of running along similar lines, especially too when Case mentioned that SHAM should be required reading for participation (much more I'm sure in praise of your book than being necessarily all that serious).

So my more general (and concise) point was simply to highlight that not everyone here is intimately familiar with all of these SHAM characters or even with your book, Steve. In fact for me personally, your book was (sorry, but I gotta be honest) irrelevant to how I got here or why I stayed except in so much as it's part of YOUR makeup and writing it may have honed your own ways of thinking.

I mean, I have enough interest to usually read posts about the SHAMmers and I've learned a lot of surprising details about these self-styled gurus, but that's not really the reason I came here (although maybe Lucinda Bassett technically qualifies) nor the reason I stayed. (I still have some trouble keeping some of these guys straight in my mind.)

Anyway, there's more of a generally skeptical questioning nature that I think most of us particularly share. I know I'm biased, but I prefer to think of that questioning mindset as a good thing. Which I'm pretty sure was one of your original points, so... never mind.

Like you, Steve, I can be fascinated at how different people can look at the same body of evidence about something and then retain and discard varying portions to arrive at polar opposite conclusions. I just prefer when those conclusions are discussed with a degree of civility and respect, not just name-calling and speed-of-light character judgments.

I also wanted to say some of that just as a means of providing this particular person's individual frame of reference in case it may accidentally warrant any barely significant consideration on whatever future course the blog may take. I don't expect it to matter or to hold any more weight than anyone else's views or "blog discovery" story, it's just a bit of info fwiw—i.e. not much.

Steve Salerno said...

Bob: It doesn't just "seem" that way. It is that way. And if you throw in all the various gurus and impresarios of what we call "alternative medicine"--most of whom, IMO, are practicing medicine without a license--the true dimensions of the fraud and gravity of the danger become all the more clear.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz and, especially, DimSkip: Jesus, I just realized how that comment of mine (helpfully italicized by Eliz) could be horribly misinterpreted to mean "please don't bore us with the mundane details of how you got here." Nothing could be farther from the truth! All I was trying (clumsily) to say is that we'd never judge anyone for the method/route by which he found SHAMblog--which is to say, all contributors are equally welcome despite their backgrounds and level of previous immersion in the SHAMsphere. Even if you never read my book, that's still perfectly fine (though you know, it's never too late to order a copy. Wink). To repeat: I'm just glad you're here, now.

Dimension Skipper said...

No worries, Steve. I didn't take it that way. I chose to focus on the latter part of your comment and took the whole statement the way you meant it. I did feel the need to clarify some in a subsequent comment which I don't happen to see showing up yet, but no matter... If it doesn't show up between now and when I actually submit this one, well, it's not all that necessary anyway.

I figured too that if you really felt no one would care (or even that YOU just didn't care), well, you didn't have to publish the comment at all. It's your blog after all and you could even always claim "glitch in the system" if I questioned why it didn't post. And it's not as if I was gonna retype all that either. (LOL)

For the record, I'm glad I started coming around here as well. And I'm grateful for the insightful commentary of fellow readers.

@Bob Collier... I agree. On the other hand I've come across enough seriously credentialed people in real life that would make me doubt the authenticity/legitimacy of their so-called credentials. It just gets harder and harder to know whom to trust about anything. People in widely varied fields always seem to have all sorts of official to semi-official paperwork to lend an air of authority. The problem for me then becomes how to tell the credentials that matter from the ones that shouldn't. Often enough it's easy, but maybe not always so? I could be wrong, but I think most folks don't even try, they just skip right to the conclusion they generally prefer, either "this guy is God-like and I'd therefore trust him with my eternal soul" or "this guy is a two-bit shyster, how dumb does he think I am?"...

Just like how I receive so many forwarded emails about assorted nonsense, though if folks would just take a few minutes to look it up on snopes or Google it that would eliminate 98% of it from circulating. People don't seem to bother to make even minimal effort to check into things.

Actually I can almost sort of understand that because personally I often find this skeptical "question everything" (or almost everything) mindset can get very mentally tiring. Is that just me? Regardless, becoming mentally tired can then lead to less vigilance and mistakes we like to think we wouldn't ordinarily make.

Steve Salerno said...

DS: Yes, questioning everything is very tiring. And makes people think you're schizophrenic. Or just makes them hate you.

One more reason why I basically live/work in a basement.

Dimension Skipper said...

DS: Yes, questioning everything is very tiring. And makes people think you're schizophrenic. Or just makes them hate you.

One more reason why I basically live/work in a basement.

That literally made me LOL!

It also reminds me of sitting in my local Borders bookstore the other night and a previous browser had left a copy of Michael Lewis' The Blind Side on the bench in front of where I was sitting. I picked it up to briefly glance through because I think I may see the movie at some point. I thumbed to the afterword where Lewis mentions he was surprised at some varyed, but strong reactions to the book with conservatives thinking it was an appeal to liberal ideals and liberals saying it was a biased paean for conservatism. Apparently he was just trying to write the story as it happened.

P.S. I see my followup explanatory comment DID indeed show up in the interim.

As a completely irrelevant aside it often occurs to me when I get in commenting mode that it's painfully obvious I could never be a twitterer/tweeter twit... 140 characters?! Pffft.

I don't think I could describe my breakfast in 140 characters if all I had was toast and OJ as I'd have to go into whether the toast was white, wheat, rye, whole grain, multi-grain, double fiber, underdone, overdone, or just right and what I may have spread upon it. And the OJ would have to be clearly noted as to whether it was pulp-free, some pulp, very pulpy and/or fortified with calcium, Omega-3s, and heart-healthy antioxidants.

See what I mean? Yet another example of how modern life is so much more complicated (and exhausting) than the Ozzie and Harriet days.

So Ok, I actually could be a twit! I won't argue that point.


(Don't worry... Shutting up now. Finally.)

Jenny said...

Steve to DS: "Yes, questioning everything is very tiring. And makes people think you're schizophrenic. Or just makes them hate you. One more reason why I basically live/work in a basement."

There is the real reason I keep coming back, knowing Steve is holed up in his basement and needing company.

Naw, I am kidding. I also appreciated hearing about DS's route to SHAMville.

I already told this story to Steve, awhile back, but I found his book on a bargain table in a community college bookstore. I didn't buy it that day, but kept thinking about it and came back the next day and bought it. I found the blog after finishing the book.

RevRon's Rants said...

DS said, "I've come across enough seriously credentialed people in real life that would make me doubt the authenticity/legitimacy of their so-called credentials."

A very valid point, IMO. In the past, I managed a psychophysiology of sleep lab that employed three PhD candidates, and have to admit that two of them were as devoid of anything resembling intelligence as anyone I've encountered who had not been institutionalized at some point. They actually laughed about how easy it was to progress through the "system." One, I finally had to fire when he caused severe damage to some very expensive data recorders by cleaning the heads with acetone. It was simply the last straw in a pattern of gross incompetence.

In more recent times, we "edited" and formatted a psychology PhD candidate's dissertation, in which he admitted to having engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a patient. Even though there were no overt acknowledgments of sexual activity in the final draft, it was clear that the candidate had crossed what are supposed to be inviolate lines. And guess what... his dissertation received praise among the accreditation committee, and he was awarded his PhD, allowing him to treat patients.

It seems at times that the thing that such "official" accreditation offers (in some, but not all cases) over the shake & bake "doctoral" degrees conferred upon people like Mr. Hype-notic writing is that the "real" degrees make you put in actual time in actual classes and pass actual tests before you're allowed to spout BS upon an unsuspecting public. The fake degrees merely demand that you write them a check, and in some cases, deliver something you've written on a subject (even if that something is just a pitch for your "products."

Steve Salerno said...

Ron et al: As it happens, I'm reading Kos' book, Taking on the System, where at several points the author--who of course gave us the phenomenally popular Daily Kos political blog--goes off on these long rants about the irrelevance of formal credentials. It stands to reason that he'd say this as part of his argument for why bloggers matter at least as much as academically trained, experienced journalists in today's media. I can see his point--as I can see the points raised in this comments section--but still, I think it's a dangerous argument that too easily lends itself to corruption/perversion by those who have fraudulent and/or highly self-serving aims in mind.

Credentials may not tell us everything about a person's true capabilities. But as a general program for living, don't they at least give us a bit more to go on than no credentials at all?

RevRon's Rants said...

"as a general program for living, don't they at least give us a bit more to go on than no credentials at all?"

Definitely. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to abandon one's own common sense when presented with a "credentialed" individual (and even more unfortunately, that tendency extends to those such as Mr Fire, whose "credentials" fail to meet the criteria of accredited educational institutions).

While we really should focus our attentions upon information and insights provided by individuals who have "paid the dues" and gone through an actual process of formalized study and accreditation, it still behooves us to not ignore our internal BS meters when evaluating the information they offer.

Jenny said...

Credentials show that a person knows how to navigate the system of getting them.

Steve Salerno said...

Jenny: Very well put, I must say.

Britney Spears said...

How could you, Steve? I've been following your blog for years, lurking in the background, and not feeling confident enough to comment so far, what with the collection of those eloquent talking heads you've amassed making me reconsider my every word.

Now you betcha I won't comment. At all. :(

Steve Salerno said...

Britney: You sure you're not really Sarah Palin?

Britney Spears said...

Steve and ya'll: Sarah and I are often compared for some reason, but I take offense at this unfair comparison.

(BTW, how didya guess? ;))