Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.
After barely a month, I’ve decided to retire the “Stegosaurus of the Week” award. I’ve begun feeling uncomfortable about it, and decided it wasn’t the right thing to be doing.
Since I only average about a post per day on weekdays, and often don’t blog at all on weekends, devoting up to 20% of my posts to a recurrent, insulting joke probably sets the wrong tone for the blog. For one thing, I just got done chastizing the most recent StegoWeek winner for her lack of collegiality (among many more serious faults); I don’t think pointing out bad thinking by others falls to the same level as using your supposed credentials to justify picking a personal fight with a critic that spills over two Web sites, but it’s not the height of professionalism either. And singling people out for their personal lack of perspecuity, instead of focusing only on the deficiencies of their actual writings, is harsh. (Not, perhaps, unnecessarily so – there are a remarkable number of idiots who just have no clue about themselves, and I think it’s helpful to tell them the truth – but I’ll leave it to others.) After one early award resulted in an avalanche of abuse that caused the (richly deserving) recipient to shut down his blog, it started to seem as if this was detracting from debate, not fostering it. There may be more high-minded (though less satisfying) ways of conducting this discourse, and I think I should probably pursue them.
So I won’t be making new awards. That’s not to say that I won’t be turning my critical eye where it is needed – and boy, is it needed! And, too, that’s not to say that the winners to date have not entirely deserved their awards. A final hats-off to the few, and from now on the only, Stegosaurus of the Week Awardees:
[No] Thanks to all, for making health-ethics blogging what it is!
There’s a weird freak-show quality to internecine dustups between extreme right-wingers, especially on the religious anti-sex front. One is going on now as to who is the most authentically sex-negative. Worrisomely, though, one of the combatants is a professional counselor who uses her position, and credentials, to push a highly personal agenda while also pulling rank on people with dissenting opinions.
“Jacquefromtexas” is an MSSW (though not, apparently, with a clinical social work license). She writes a blog mostly devoted to simplistic anti-choice rants, and she also serves as an “expert” on About.com’s answer-board devoted to abortion, where she cites her professional credentials to bolster her standing. One would think that would impose on her an obligation to act within the understood bounds of professional behavior – to support those she counsels in developing and exercising their independence, to remain neutral in assisting them in working through their issues, to acquire and diligently use factually correct and scientific information when providing factual input, and to avoid using her position to promote a personal agenda through her clients. One might also hope it would be exercised by someone with the maturity to stay out of public pissing fights with people with other opinions. In this case, one would be disappointed (all quotes below from About.com except where noted).
I joined AllExperts to counter to pro-abortion opinions and irresponsibility that I saw, like the downright lies that people like “Angel” wrote. . . . I share your concerns and am pleased to report that neither myself nor the other expert who now answers abortion questions would ever promote or refer for an abortion. . . .
[H]aving abortions hurt your body and your ability to have children but oral contraceptives are bad for you, too. They make you infertile (that’s there job) and hurt your ability to conceive later. They are also abortifacient, which means you may not be having surgical abortions, but you’re still aborting by using the pills. If you heart has changed toward abortion and feel like it is morally wrong, then oral contraceptives are not a good choice for you, either. . . .
I think you’re transferring some of that pain and burden onto yourself, saying that because you aborted 3 of your babies, you don’t deserve to have another because of the risks you created. Nicole, God doesn’t work that way. He will forgive you and bless you if you recognize that what you did (abortion and premarital sex) was wrong and you seek Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for forgiveness. If you beleive that He was the son of God, died to your salvation and rose again, then you can be saved and reunited with your children. And any guilt or shame can be taken from you and God can reward you with healthy children if He chooses to. . . . There is so much forgiveness, Nicole. So much. [NB: This was to a questioner who hadn't mentioned feeling guilty, or having any religious feelings whatsoever.]
My friends [who had abortions] tell me that the feelings of guilt, grief and shame almost never go away. Many feel like they chose themselves over their babies, that they were selfish and let their babies down and feel like a murderer. Many of them report having nightmares of killing babies, of bloody babies crying, or just wake up to a crying baby that’s not there. . . . [etc.]
I joined AllExperts to counter to pro-abortion opinions . . . I commonly refer to places that provide free pregnancy help [i.e., anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers"] . . . [N]either myself nor the other expert who now answers abortion questions would ever promote or refer for an abortion.
Abortion clinics charge for ultrasounds and the counseling that a person receives there is minimal. All services provided by non-profit pregnancy centers are comprehensive and free. . . .
The latter is particularly odd in light of this response:
[Question:] I want to ask you a question but you dont say if you are balanced in your opinion. . . . Can you say if you answer that you are fair and accurate or biased?
While I appreciate your question, I’m afraid I can not answer it. I am a professional and bound by a Code of Ethics that forbids me from answering personal questions about myself.
WTF? I’ve reviewed the entire National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics and the Clinical Social Work Federation Code of Ethics; one or the other is also the basis for most codes of ethics of state or regional social work societies in the US. I cannot find anything even remotely similar to the above in either of them. Certainly no medical association has a code of ethics that prohibits telling your patients whether you are going to be honest with them! The NASW Code requires, among other things:
Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers promote clients’ socially responsible self-determination. . . .
Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. . . .
Social workers should provide services to clients only in the context of a professional relationship based, when appropriate, on valid informed consent. . . . Social workers should provide clients with an opportunity to ask questions.
Social workers should be alert to and avoid conflicts of interest that interfere with the exercise of professional discretion and impartial judgment. Social workers should inform clients when a real or potential conflict of interest arises . . . .
Social workers should not take unfair advantage of any professional relationship or exploit others to further their personal, religious, political, or business interests. . . .
It seems obvious that she evades answering the question above because, in her case, the answer would have to be “No.” It’s certain that no interpretation of professional ethics imposes such an answer; in fact, answering that question – and the only responsible position is to be able truthfully to say “Yes” – is fundamental to setting a supportive and trust-inspiring groundwork for counseling. If, of course, that’s one of your priorities.
I am NOT pro-birth control because birth control causes abortions. If you did any research then you’d know that most birth control methods inhibit implantation, causing early abortions. Furthermore, 80% of abortions are performed on women who use birth control and studies show that women on birth control have more sexual intercourse than others and thus are more likely to get pregnant. . . .
Statistics show that 93% of women regret their abortions. Women are 9 times more likely to kill themselves after an abortion. Women who abort often suffer from post-traumatic stress, nightmares and depression. Eating disorders, alcoholism, and drug abuse are more common in post-abortive women. Also, 47% of all abortions are REPEATS meaning that having one abortion often leads to having another because women try to replace the child they lost and realize that circumstances haven’t changed. Promiscuity and the self-esteem issues that accompany it are also prominent in women who have aborted. . . .
Your body that sent out a set of hormones to change your body for childbirth is traumatized by the unatural loss of the child (most miscarriages come from a lack of these hormones, which is less traumatic), so there are hormones that go crazy, mutating cells (like breast cells to turn them into milk-producing cells) that never get the last of the hormones and stay mutated. This makes them cancer prone. . . .
And then there’s the question of maturity – or the amusing display of its lack that results when two anti-choicers get sucked into a holiness contest:
[In response to another anti-choice poster on About.com who criticized her for not being aggressive enough(!):]
Woah there, zealous idiot! How stupid must someone be to direct the attack at an non-offending individual rather than the website itself? . . . Furthermore, she indicates just how uninformed a pro-lifer that she is . . . I love how she chides me for not being pro-birth control . . . Yes, may God have mercy on me for not advocating birth control that slaughters millions of lives by it’s abortifacient action! . . .
It goes on:
I’m going to have this [poster's comment] removed, but nonetheless I am further annoyed by her idiocy. Abstinence is not birth control and she did nothing to suggest that. She’s trying to save face and failed miserably. . . .
All she’s done is discourage abortion-minded from contacting me and allowing me to give them the resources they need to choose life. Way to cut off your nose to spite your face, at the expense of those unborn babies you claim to love so much.
Wow, this chick needs a hobby. Perhaps she should direct all that energy toward actually doing something rather than attacking those that do.
So, Jacque, for being the most childish self-described “professional” in easy sight, for asserting your standing in an autonomy-centered, non-directive, healing profession for the explicit and admitted purpose of directing those who come to you into a choice of actions you personally have made for them ahead of time, for spreading long-discredited anti-choice propaganda as fact, for using bizarre, false, and ideologically based definitions of ordinary factual terms like “pregnancy”, “abortion”, and “birth control”, for explicitly refusing to reveal your ideological biases and schemes when asked directly about them while citing as justification professional codes that require the exact opposite, and for demeaning your own profession with these immature antics and your display of childish rancor at a total stranger on two public Web sites, you are officially (albeit belatedly – I had a rough weekend) the Stegosaurus of the Week. Next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one.
Our lovely “Stegosaurus of the Week” Award GIF: Official Winners may feel free to add it to their Web sites:
In closing, I have to say I’m actually quite concerned about this. It’s one thing to hear this kind of nonsense from the typical anti-choicer – and most of the above is just old propaganda rehashed. But I think it’s entirely another to see it from someone who claims to be a professional in the healing fields, and who sets herself up in a quasi-clinical role (she apparently is not an LCSW, but she does refer to herself as a “counselor” on About.com, and frequently encourages questioners to e-mail her privately so she can “counsel” or “work with” them). I think statements and behavior such as the above are gross violations of professional ethics, and very worrisome in someone, however immature and inexperienced, who is both well along in training (she’s in a doctoral program – one which apparently hasn’t noticed, or doesn’t care about, behavior like the above!) and already presumes to act in a quasi-professional capacity.
It’s true that the NASW Code of Ethics is filled with weasel words like “socially responsible self-determination”, and various justifications for violating client autonomy and confidentiality, but it’s also clear that they are aimed at questions of obvious and overt threat to others. I would be amazed that anyone in responsibility there would think it was acceptable for a social-worker/counselor who was approached by a client saying she was ambivalent about a potential abortion to then engage in a self-interested and specifically slanted program of influence to encourage that client to make one and only one choice that had been decided upon by the counselor before the client even spoke.
I was tempted to file a complaint about this person. I would never attempt to personally harass an ordinary activist, and this is why I do not support tactics such as posting personal contact information about, or contacting the employers of, people I disagree with. But professionals must be held to professional standards, whatever their personal views may be, and especially whether or not those views match those of their clients. I did look into her licensure status – apparently she does not have a license, so she has no license to revoke. I have a feeling that complaining to her professional training program (it can be discerned on the Web, although she does not advertise it) would be going too far, but I also have the feeling that letting someone this hostile to patient autonomy run loose would be worse. Finally, I don’t want to become one of those bloggers who make it their business to harass others, as we’ve seen too many doing – yet I don’t think that simply behaving unprofessionally on a blog grants you immunity from professional discipline. In the end, I think I’ll let it go, but I can’t tell you how much contempt I have for this abuse of training and professional standards.
The self-consciously quaint, and apparently unironically asinine, “Ladies Against Feminism” consists of the usual religious-right commentary on social issues couched in the prose style of Miss Manners. Every other post is about babies and homemaking (“Many women do not see the importance of their role as Mother and Wife . . . “). Mostly it’s just weird and dreary, but sometimes they surpass themselves. From their July 10 posting:
Birth rates in the European Union are falling fast. . . . What is supremely sad about those who insist that “it’s up to the individual to decide what constitutes a family,” is that they do not realize it will one day be up to the state to determine what constitutes a “worthy” life. Euthanasia can only flourish in a culture that embraces sterility and sees children as burdensome leeches. Who will be around to care for the elderly when the vast majority of the population is old or infirm? The state will not love you back. It will not ask to share your memories or miss you when you are gone. . . . Deliberate sterility is choosing death.
Wha . . .?
This is mind-boggling in a way that goes beyond the right’s usual confusion. Not having children leads to euthanasia? I can’t even imagine what kind of slippery slope would link those two. Presumably this is some kind of “culture of death” raving, but usually that’s accompanied by at least an attempt to make the delusions sound plausible.In this case, they just let it all hang out.
Birthrate . . . euthanasia . . . leeches . . . eldercare . . . . “The state will not love you back” – huh? Who imagines the state loves them? “Deliberate sterility is choosing death”? Does that mean the involuntarily sterile are murder victims? Strangely, sterile individuals generally look pretty lively to me – at least as much so as fully-stocked breeders do. Whence this “choosing death”? No matter – it’s all part of the “culture of death”. It doesn’t have to make sense.
I have nothing to add. Some forms of nonsense speak for themselves. But there’s a familiar sense of idiocy permeating these writings – an unapolagetically unhinged repudiation of any obligation to make sense, or even to use conceptually related terms in the same paragraph. This is the gibbering of people for whom gibbering is, well, good enough. And that calls for recognition.
Therfore, Ladies Against Feminism, for proudly selling the entire rest of womanhood down the river, for mistaking preciousness for insight, for nearly-insane doomsaying in response to perfectly ordinary human behavior, for making no fucking sense, and for including on your own blog the disclaimer that “Ladies Against Feminism was founded by Mrs. Lydia Sherman and Mrs. Jennie Chancey . . . . LAF is under the oversight of Stanley Sherman”, you are officially and collectively the Stegosaurus of the Week. Next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one.
Our lovely “Stegosaurus of the Week” Award GIF: Official Winners may feel free to add it to their Web sites (if Stanley approves, of course).
UPDATE: Added link and post ID reference.
[Note to visitors from Feministing: Hello! Glad to have you here.]
[Same also to visitors from Feministe, Haloscan, Alternet, and the several others who have picked up on this post. Over 3,000 of you have visited in the last 5 days. Welcome, all!]
[At this point, let me just say: “Hello, and thanks!” to all the new visitors from the many sites that have linked this story. I’ve been overwhelmed – 7,000 hits in 6 days, from a pre-story average of about 35 per day! – and gratified by the attention. I can no longer keep up with the flood.]
Sometimes God hands you one on a plate.
The Onion ran a blunt but funny parody of the right wing’s delusional vision of women who have abortions (“Well, I don’t care what the pro-lifers say… I am totally psyched for this abortion! . . . Those pro-life activists made it pretty clear that, unlike me, they actually think abortion is bad and to be avoided. Are they nuts? Abortion is the best! . . . I seriously cannot wait for all the hemorrhaging and the uterine contractions. This abortion is going to be so amazing. . . . See you at my post-abortion party, everybody!”).
Exceeding even my low expectations, some imbecile “pro-lifer” took it seriously, and posted a lengthy finger-wagging screed about this woman’s irresponsibly light-hearted attitude toward “the killing of innocent human beings! [exclamation point original]”
“If my HMO wouldn’t have bowed to [pro-life] pressure not to cover oral contraceptives, I never would’ve gotten pregnant in the first place.”
Sorry ma’am, if you hadn’t had sex you wouldn’t have gotten pregnant, it’s not the HMO’s fault for not supporting your promiscuity while not married. . . .
Miss Weber, you have killed your child . . . . That does make you an admitted murderer. . . . I’m going to pray for your forgiveness and for the suffering which you will endure when you realize what you have done. Every baby you see from that moment on is going to wake you up to the realization that you killed your child.
Why do I get the feeling that when “Pete” at “March Together for Life” says he’s going to pray for “Miss Weber’s” suffering, that’s exactly what he means?
So, Pete, even though it’s not yet the end of the week, you take the prize. For being an unbelievable moron, for sanctimoniousness above and beyond the call of decency, and for confirming in hilarious detail the sheer boneheaded idiocy of the pro-life movement, you are officially the Stegosaurus of the Week. Next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one.
Our lovely “Stegosaurus of the Week” Award GIF: Official Winners may feel free to add it to their Web sites.
Man, it’s just too easy. After getting hammered with a 4-day surge of traffic from this site, and then the several who picked up the story and linked him directly, and after suffering several hundred unanimously derisory comments (still my favorite: “I’m pro-life, but sweet Jesus you’re an idiot. For your next post, how about a passionate speech on the need to immediately free Prince Albert from the can?”), “Pete” has finally responded. Not, as many had predicted, by taking his insanely stupid post down, but by following up with another attack on the same satirical Onion piece and claiming he was right all along!
I was tempted to just ignore it, but it’s priceless. He repeatedly refers to “Miss Weber” as a real person, insisting that “she” really said all the things in the article. He then asserts that he is entitled to believe that the article was real because that’s how pro-choice people really talk, as witnessed by a totally deranged conversation he claims to have had with a pro-choice woman while he was setting up his “Genocidal Awareness Project” signs in a public park. He concludes: “I think I did a good job of turning the ‘satire’ right back at them, don’t you?”
It’s hard to tell what he means by this, since, just before that comment, he quoted his own research into the meaning of “satire”:
Hmm, let’s look up the term satire:
“witty language used to convey insults or scorn; “he used sarcasm to upset his opponent””
Yep. He l
ooked up the wrong word, then quoted it. [UPDATE: To be fair, it should be noted that there is an online dictionary that gives the above as a definition of "satire". It's obviously a bad definition, but I suppose he's entitled to use it. See comments below.]
I dunno. The Stegosaurus of the Week award was just recently instituted, and was intended more as a joke than anything (I hesitate to use the word “satire”). There aren’t really any rules for it, so I don’t know if I can give it out at the beginning of the week, or to the same person twice for what is essentially the same act of stupidity. I do strongly suspect we’re not going to see anything this gaspingly dumb again, certainly not in the next three days. Unless Pete keeps posting.
ABSOLUTELY FINAL UPDATE: He posted another self-defensive statement when his first defense only drew more flames. When all three absolutely idiotic posts collectively garnered over 1,500 comments, virtually every one of them harshly critical, he moved the entire content of his blog to a new URL. I could almost sympathize with that, except that he moved the clueless anti-Onion rants along with it and left them up on the new blog, with no retraction and no indication that their subject was fictional. (He does appear finally to have figured this out – after having it pointed out in unmistakeable terms 1,500 times – but he hasn’t deleted, retracted, or edited the two posts in which he claimed the Onion story was real.) The new blog requires registration for comments (I wonder why), so he’s insulated from criticism but still puts forward his clueless and false rants about abortion.
I give up. I will post nothing more on this. This dipshit is simply far beyond help, and there’s nothing to be gained by flogging the incident. As some have begun to note on his old comments threads, there may not be any more point in commenting on his posts either. Whatever they are capable of learning from this, he and his supporters no doubt already have. Insulting him or them just to do it is gratuitous and makes no political point that hasn’t already been made. Best just to ignore him. As for me, I’m very grateful for the nearly 6,000 visits I’ve now received from this and the Margaret Sanger post (above) – I do hope many of you will come back here regularly – but I consider the incident closed now. He’s done, we’ve stuck a fork in him (over and over . . .), and it’s time to move on.
PLEASE MAKE ME STOP . . . (A Post-Final Update): I said I wouldn’t, but . . . . Pete now claims that he was in on the joke all along! It’s obviously not true – his first followup to his idiotic post repeated his direct criticisms of “Miss Weber” and claimed that he knew she was real based on his extensive (and apparently bizarre, if not imaginary) interactions with other pro-choicers. His second and third followups (he’s now up to a total of 5 posts on this one article) both put the word “satire” in scare quotes and/or a question mark, while still seriously criticising the “pro-choice” agenda he claims to find in the Onion piece. The guy really does not know when to give up. Now, finally, he says:
Point one – My article was a joke, which obviously thousands of you didn’t get, all the while accusing me of being the stupidest person on the planet.
Pete . . . you are the stupidest person on the planet. Really.
He also removed the entire set of comments from all the posts on his original blog and disabled commenting both there and on the new blog he fled to. He claims it was because several commenters had posted his home address and phone number. He could have deleted just those comments, however, so this, along with his “my article was a joke” post, seem like a major revisionist effort – for which he deserves only more scorn. But my reason for posting this (final! really!) Update is to ask people not to post private information, especially home or work addresses, phone numbers, or the names or descriptions of family members, on the Web. As a tactic in these political debates, it’s vicious and unworthy. Even when not intended to intimidate – for instance, as a way of needling Pete by making donations to Planned Parenthood in his name, as one commenter below recommends – it can lead to harassment and invasions of privacy by others. It’s especially dangerous where families are affected. So I recommend never doing it for any reason, and, to the extent that I am responsible for having started this mess, I feel an obligation to ask people not to do it to Pete, anti-choice idiot that he is, either here or on any other Web sites.
Dawn Eden has a weird tendency to quote her own, personal feelings about any issue as evidence of the truth of factual claims she makes – often about other people’s feelings on that same issue. She thinks not merely that how she feels should dictate other people’s behavior (that’s just right wing politics in a nutshell), or even that how she feels should dictate actual facts about the world (right-wing science in a nutshell). Eden has expanded the shell of her nuttiness to include the apparent belief that her feelings both give her epistemological access to, and serve as a norm for, other people’s beliefs and values. She is constantly describing the mental contents, and emotional states, of people she clearly doesn’t understand on issues she can barely discuss coherently, and then relying on her own delusional descriptions as factual evidence for moral conclusions about those people and the topic at hand.
That’s . . . odd. (And let me say that, aside from the sheer reality-defying oddness of it, the emotional states of a woman who bursts into tears in church and sobs continuously through half the service because . . . someone making announcements talked too fast . . . are an especially dubious source of moral or epistemological norms. I hope she doesn’t get around to reading my mind, because I’d hate to suddenly find myself behaving like that.)
The “Vital Signs Blog” earns the just-established “Stegosaurus of the Week” award with this post noting that the Mayo Clinic Web site explains (in response to a reader’s question) that there is no scientifiically verifiable link between abortion and risk of later breast cancer. This perpetual fantasy being a mainstay of right-wing propaganda, Vital Signs is concerned, weighs the issues . . . and concludes that the Mayo Clinic is wrong. Because, after all, what do they know about medicine or anything?
Am[az/us]ingly, they pounce on the Clinic’s citation of the definitive study of the issue by the National Cancer Insitute (hacks! – like they’re some sort of experts on cancer!), on the grounds that “the organization has come under fire as politically charged”. (I.e., rightwingers complain that the NCI doesn’t accept their pretend science, which in turn is grounds for dismissal of the NCI by rightwingers, because it has been the focus of complaints.)
So, congratulations Vital Signs Blog. For judging the Mayo Clinic’s knowledge of medicine by your standards, and for regarding a refusal to believe the truth by people who agree with you as evidence supporting your own refusal to believe that same truth, you are officially the Stegosaurus of the Week. Next time try thinking with the cerebral ganglion, not the sacral one.
Our lovely “Stegosaurus of the Week” Award GIF:
Official Winners may feel free to add it to their Web sites.
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