Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dispatches from the SHAMscape... April 21, 2015

A not-so-brief history of the men who've seen me like this
15 minutes of shame? I do not think it's helpful to "celebretize" dysfunction, as we are wont to do in our culture...and no one is more of an enabler in this regard than Dr. Phil McGraw. Yeah, you could point to the likes of Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and Montel as the fathers of the phenomenon (and still arguably the worst offenders), but they're bottom feeders and are taken seriously by precisely no one...so they don't give their topics/subjects mainstream legitimacy and gravitas in the same sense McGraw does. (It's like the difference between seeing something on Hannity and seeing it on the old Ted Koppel incarnation of Nightline. In the former case it's a joke, whereas in the latter case the same story acquires Zeitgeist meaning.) Dr. Phil has now sat down with Kim Richards of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills "fame" to discuss her DUI. So we have garbage piled atop garbage. Not only do we make icons out of people who are reprehensible role models even when stone-sober, but we suggest to viewersespecially impressionable teensthat it's somehow cool to act the fool, get arrested and then sit down next to Dr. Phil and chat about it in front of a live audience on national TV. There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when you had to do something at least a little bit noteworthy (in a positive sense) in order to get your allotted 15 minutes. Today the path of least resistance to Warholian fanfare is to do something outre or shameful. It's as if we make no qualitative distinctions anymore: Celebrity is celebrity for its own sake, such that Kim Kardashian = Stephen Hawking. (In fact, there's no way a photo of Hawking's ass would ever break the internet.) Actresses having their third child out of wedlock with the third different daddy get the same bubbly coverage in People as actresses who wait to marry before procreating. Is this social progress? Some might say it is. Viscerally, I don't think so.

From April 19:
Oz attacks! When we last left Dr. Mehmet Oz, you may recall, a group of 10 renowned physicians had called for his ouster from Columbia med, accusing him of egregious breaches of professional integrity that besmirched the university's rep and soiled the healthcare domain in general.* The docs didn't mince words, either, using terms including charlatan and quack. Although Oz's accusers focused chiefly on his for-profit exploits in the murky area of weight loss, their stinging rebuke applies just as well to the volumes of Woo he has spewed ever since Oprah Winfrey (The Fountain of Wooth) unleashed him on an unsuspecting public back in 2004. Your host (that's me) was one of the first to call Oz out publicly for his sins...back when it was politically incorrect to criticize any member of Oprah's stable, and could even spark threats of litigation (which, of course, has a tendency to chill criticism). As a side note, although at the time the Wall Street Journal was the usual venue for my sniping at the CAMsphere, my Journal editors wimped out at the last minute and the suddenly orphaned piece was claimed by ballsy opinion-page editor Josh Greenman for the New York Daily News.

On Friday Oz went public with a defense in which he claimed that he's just a good guy presenting the public with options, to wit:
"I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves. We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest. That doesn't sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts..."
That argumentso reasonable-sounding on its faceis surely applicable in many of life's realms, and might even have relevance to medicine if, say, we're talking about a case where two colleagues, both sane, differ about a given course of treatment for a patient who presents with a given malady. But the "multiple points of view" Oz has sponsored include absurd mind-body regimens like therapeutic touch, which is really just an updated spin on the laying of hands, or remote healing, which is akin to what some itinerant private-label preachers used to do in tents. That rationale also provides cover for the entrepreneurial charlatans who hawk bogus cancer cures and other quack products.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes. Hard to imagine Columbia summarily bouncing the good doc, but now that the two sides have staked our their turfs...it would seem that something's gotta give. If nothing else maybe this will lead to a wider discussion of alt-med and quackery and the New Wage movement's corrupting effect on various serious-minded disciplines.

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* I regret the absence of that original post, as well as several prior ones lumped under that same date/heading. Blogger had one of its famed "Blogger moments" and zapped them. They appear to be gone forever, including the several dozen comments you folks were kind enough to take the time to write. My profound apologies.

19 comments:

Jenny said...

Thank you, Steve. I appreciate you and am glad to see this new feature!

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you, Jenny. I appreciate being appreciated.

roger o'keefe said...

I agree with Jenny that this newsy feature is a nice addition to Shamblog, in keeping with the modern trend of short and sweet. The USA Today theory. I hope it helps bring readers, Steve. Even when I call you out on something I still consider your blog one of the smartest voices out there.

Hey Jenny, isn't it nice that I agree with somebody on something?

Jenny said...

Yes, Roger. It's nice to agree sometimes! I come around often to Steve's blog to see what he's talking about. There's so much to say, so many ways to say it, and always good cheer around here. Good to see you again, too, you contrary old pipe smoker! ;)

roger o'keefe said...

Still bothers me Steve that people make this automatic equivalence between Christian groups and wingnuts. And I'm not necessarily saying that I consider even some of the far-right Christian groups wingnuts, but Focus on the Family? If Dobson is a wacko then what's the Pope? I know we're getting into an area here where there's just basic disagreement, but let's not marginalize everyone who has deeply held Christian beliefs. This is my problem with so much of the coverage of the whole Indiana thing. I have no objection to full gay rights, but why is a fundamentalist Christian's view of what constitutes a real family less valid than yours or Ralph Reed's or Dobson's?

roger o'keefe said...

And yes she is a looker, isn't she?

Ivan Kowalchik said...

Steve, I stumbled onto your blog after I saw your review of Tony Robbins book and then ordered the Rob Burns book. You do some very nice work here. Could you possibly be the same Steve Salerno who used to be a part of that crazy Cannella outfit out of King of Prussia? Hard to imagine you're the same guy but your Linkedin page adds up too. So?
--Ivan

Steve Salerno said...

Ivan, it's a long, long, long story...for another lifetime.

Thanks for dropping by.

Rebecca said...

I disagree with your apparent viewpoint that all religions are cults. A lot of people felt that way about JFK before he was elected and he was a great president.

Steve Salerno said...

Rebecca, I'm not sure that all religions are inherently cults--or that I even said/implied that--but too many of the fundamentalist varieties behave in cult-like fashion nowadays.

And I don't get the JFK parallel.

Thanks for stopping by.

I see the gender bias said...

Why does it matter that she's easy on the eyes? Would you make a similar comment about a male politician?

Steve Salerno said...

"I see," I will concede that I tend not to find men as attractive as I find women. However, I am well aware of when a man is good-looking (just as even straight women are well aware when a female is good-looking), and there is no doubt that being good-looking is a huge bonus if you are a politician or just about anything else in this country. That was the context for my remark about the "buzz" surrounding Rep. Gabbard. There have been men--like JFK, mentioned elsewhere in this thread (or Robert Redford in The Candidate) who owed a good portion of their political (and other) success (and certainly their celebrity) to their looks...and alas, there have been briliant politicians/public servants (poor Dennis Kucinich comes to mind) whose lack of looks prevent them from ever developing the political traction they probably deserve.

I'm not defending that ethic; I'm simply acknowledging its reality. Gabbard would get a certain amount of coverage in any case simply because she's considered "hot." In this case she's getting coverage because some people consider her weird.

I see the gender bias said...

Well since it's okay to focus on looks let me ask you what were you using a 30 year old photo on your blog before? You certainly have aged then haven't you??

Steve Salerno said...

"I see," and thank you so much for pointing that out! Actually the photo is only 7 or 8 years old, so I guess you could say it's been a dramatic downhill tumble. That kind of stuff happens when you've been a resident of earth for six decades or more.

For what it's worth, I will also concede what everyone already knows, which is that looks and youth are surely more important to a female in the public eye than to a given corresponding male, in our culture. I just don't think you can blame that phenomenon on men...you "guys" are very hard on each other, and your magazines and cosmetics industry and related realms don't help matters.

roger o'keefe said...

Love the Oz piece and the new format for the blog, Steve, if that's what it is. The newsy element is a nice touch and if I may say so, anchoring it to your core discipline keeps you from going off on some of the rants where you've really strayed pretty far off the beam. I'd think purely as a marketing tactic this would help you attract new readers.

Keep it up! I never had much use for Oz, by the way, he always seemed slimy, like almost everybody Oprah endorsed.

Anonymous said...

Saw your tweet about Oz, James Ray, Dr. Phil and Oprah. So true! Never understood why that woman attracted such a following in the first place. She also gave us Eckhard Tolle and Maryann Williamson, and James Frey who was the con man author. She helped make millions for all those people and all they did was peddle bullshit to an American public, mostly women who gobbled up everything she served them. A very sad comment on us.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I think I read about all those people you mention...in a book called...SHAM...or on a blog called...SHAMblog. Wink. Seriously, I don't mean to be a dick, thanks for dropping by, and also for following my titter feed, if you normally do.

Anonymous said...

FOUNTAIN OF WOOTH!!!

LMFAO!!

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, we try.