25 minute read.
I sometimes talk about controversial subjects on this website and in person.
Subjects pop up from time to time like redesigning the American education system, or doing away with capitalism, or how religion is ruining the minds of our young children, or slamming the evil commercial entertainment industry.
I have a tendency to criticize many products, services, and ideas. But some people truly believe in this stuff, and many stake their entire career on it.
So, sometimes I get complaints that I am a Negative Ned, or Dismal Dan, or Hateful Harry, and that I ruin people’s moods. A lot of complaints are vicious. I have been accused of being a hater and a troll, and even… *GASP* an asshole.
But why do I talk about subjects like that? Why am I so full of criticism? Is doing that actually negative? Do I ever have anything good to say?
How is my approach helping people who are trying to live a good life and avoid being miserable?
I Plead Not Guilty
The reason I spend so much time focusing on negative things is to get at the truth, however ugly or disappointing it is. And it very often is ugly or disappointing.
One of the main reasons I take on touchy subjects is because I value integrity. Even if a myth is relatively harmless, such as Santa Claus, or corporate marketing, or the world economy, or American politics, I will try to take it apart because it’s dishonest.
And if it actually hurts innocent people, then I really want to take it apart!
What if believing in a myth wastes time or money? Or distracts people from getting proper care? Well, then I have no problem busting it wide open for the whole world to see, and to let the festering wounds air out and heal.
I realize that uncovering myths and using critical thinking can seem negative, but it’s actually the most positive thing anyone can do. Is it not noble and exciting to strive for truth and excellence, and to defend gullible and easily led people from fraud, false hope, and trickery?
And believe me, the number of frauds out there is absolutely staggering. There is literally a shit storm of fraud going on in the world right now.
Being a crusty old curmudgeon, and a general cranky little piece of shit as I am, I do report plenty of good news, and try to offer helpful tips and information you can actually use and put to action.
…that is, when I am not affected by the dreaded disease EOG (Early Onset Grumpiness)
I Like Challenging my Physical and Mental Limits
I am a big fan of running and strength training despite my well-earned reputation for being a crusty grumpy skeptic about nearly everything else.
I’m also a big fan of stretching, even though there is little to no evidence that it does anything important or good. I’m also very big on strength training, only because I have personal experience on how effective it has been to relieve chronic pain, especially in my lower back.
I also endorse icing and heating, but only at the right times for certain ailments. I have a lot more examples.
The more I think about it, the more I believe people who accuse me of being negative are just people who don’t like my opinion, and it completely clashes with what they believe is true or proven according to their own experiences.
My comments can at times be very unsettling for people, especially if they are trying to make money from servicing people’s ailments and discomfort.
The Role of Optimism in Society
There is a book by Barbara Erenreich called “Smile or Die,” which describes optimism as a societal cult that has sprung up around breast cancer. She says “cheerfulness, up to and including delusion and false hope, has a recognized place in medicine.”
It seems that blind faith in the power of positive mental attitude has become so fashionable and so completely ingrained in our heads that being “positive” seems not only normal but suggests that you have a problem if you don’t think that way. In fact, anything other than positive thinking is frowned upon in certain circles!
It seems we are punished for even speaking frankly about bad news and disappointing truths. The very mention of unpleasant truth conjures up feelings of hatred and dread towards the person who dares to utter it. And the worst part of all, the bearer of such truths is subject to personal insult and attack on their personal character. Some are even publicly humiliated for bringing out truth.
Instead of having a civilized intelligent discussion on these ideas, people who believe their own truth and try to maintain an everlasting sense of positivity are not particularly focused on solving problems, but most often entirely consumed with hating and avoiding problems, along with hating the people who expose them.
Complaints Come from People Selling Treatments and Therapy for a Living
Do you believe that people who sell treatments and therapy for a living get really pissy and all nose out of joint when someone comes along and bursts their bubble with a contradictory statement which may happen to be true? Damn right they do! You are treading on their livelihood, whether what they do is right or wrong.
What about whistle blowers that call out cases of fraud and corruption? Do you think they get extremely hostile hate mail? Well, does a bear shit in the woods?
To be honest with you, I am pretty puzzled by all the attitude. It is absolutely amazing to me that people threaten others with litigation or even threaten bodily harm to those who they think you are trying to cut in on their income, whether the means of producing that income are savory or not.
Softening the Blow
It appears to me that what people perceive as negativity is really just harshness of reality. People tend to shoot the messenger. It is difficult to separate the message with the people who deliver the message. It often results in outrage for the people who want to help by stating the truth and uncovering the stink.
In his book “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science” by Chris Mooney, he writes: “Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction. We apply fight or flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.”
Chris Rock says something like this in his own way: “Books are like Kryptonite to a n*****.” (at 3:40)
If I appear negative, I do everything I can to appear negative as nicely as I can. For example, “myth busting” has a much better ring to it than “I call bullshit on you!” The point is, whatever you want to call it, we must always use our critical thinking skills when deciding what is right or wrong, good or bad.
I like to use the word “bullpucky”. It denotes strong judgement and gets the message across, but is less harsh than “bullshit” or “what a load of mutha farkin crap!” Bullpucky is an annoyed house cat. Bullshit is a pissed off badger trying to defend its home.
We are Just Human
I am a big fan of defusing strategies. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade, but if you do it the right way, you can disarm even the most embittered critics and disillusioned dickheads. On the other side, if you uncover truths that people don’t want you to uncover or if people don’t believe you, you will always get horrified shocked responses, no matter how gently you present it.
As with any controversial writing, you have to be willing to gain something out of it as well as lose something. At the low end, I may be disappointing and annoying some of my allies or people who look up to me. At the high end, I might be truly helping someone see the honest truth, and help them make an informed decision.
But if your Batman Underoos are getting all twisted and hot, and making you all squidgy and squirmy over something I’ve written, it probably wasn’t meant to get you so riled up. There are many reasons for calling out a fraud or charlatan. Persuasion certainly isn’t the only goal here. I don’t really care if I persuade anyone or not.
My first goal is always to provide the public with more and better information, so they can make better informed consumer choices, and not be bamboozled and jerked around by hustlers and whores. It that helps even one person, then I can be proud of the job I’ve done, and fuck y’all who are making my job harder than it needs to be.
Being human means we have emotions and behaviors that are sometimes irrational. The things that make us human are not professional. Professionalism is a made up word in business, commerce, and civilized society.
Honesty, humor, integrity, standing up for what you believe in, affection, love, joy, and sincerity are human qualities. And human qualities, right or wrong, good or bad, will make some people love you and others will hate you.
If you are on the radar, you are going to get more attention, and with that comes the inevitable backlash. It’s not a question of “if” it happens, it’s “when” it happens. As your audience grows, the chance of attracting criticism grows alongside it.
There’s Just More Bad News Than Good News
As often as possible, I try to bring attention to things that work and ideas that make sense, but I also try to uncover the bullshit and warn people about ideas that don’t work. The reason I do this is because I HATE wasted time, drained wallets, and unnecessary or excessive risks.
There is so much dodgy, sneaky, sleazy, slimy, hyped up shit in the world today. From alternative medicine to holistic healing, and things like hypnosis, super herbs, miracle oils, and magnetic bracelets, you can’t talk about these subjects for more than 2 minutes without stumbling into 5 times as many myths about them.
Over the years, I have developed a keen interest in pointing out that there are MANY MANY more myths than there are truths in the world. Whoa! I just had to duck to avoid a barrage of shoes coming at my head! (George Bush reference)
I think we can all agree on one thing: Lying is bad!
It is completely unacceptable to directly deceive people with outlandish claims in any context for any reason. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have (or how much money you will make). You should not prey on people’s emotions and lie just to make a sale.
You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) at all the common justifications people have for being dishonest to make a sale. But the ethical responsibility goes much deeper than simply not lying.
You have a duty to the rest of humanity to answer any question as honestly as you can. And sometimes that means saying “I don’t know.” A good idea is also to follow it up with “I will help you try to find the answer.”
Unfortunately, honest answers are often disappointing, and truly good solutions are tragically few. This is a reality we must face bravely and without apology.
Here is a great video with Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining how he feels about myths:
Promises Promises Promises!
Promising “results” in any kind of therapy, whether it’s medical, physical, behavioral, sports, school, career, whatever, has caused an epidemic of unrealistic high hopes!
People don’t have any clue that there just may not be any good or reliable solution to their problem, whatever it is. That is frustrating! Today, we humans are pretty much a bunch of spoiled privileged brats. Too many people just expect that there should be a product or service for every single problem we have, except for terrible plagues and unexpected disasters.
Now where would they get an idea like that?
Industries and companies that promise results is a huge culprit! Freelancers are notorious for this because they want to undercut the big box stores and corporate giants to compete for business. Sometimes that is the only way they can stay in business. A lot of them are in business for insurance subsidies as well.
They generally start out in earnest, with sincerity and well-intentioned effort to help those in need. A lot of times, customers are poor and under-served. But over time people become complacent, and it can be really easy to take advantage of customers, if they don’t know any better.
Corruption often has a way of sneaking in. It’s not a conscious thing, or is it? Do people suddenly wake up one morning and say “Today, I am going to cheat my customers because it’s fun and I get paid well for it.” Not usually.
For some, it may seem perfectly normal and commonplace to cheat people, because “everybody does it” and if you don’t get caught, then what’s the harm? It may be hurting people, but if you don’t see it or think about that part of it, then who cares, right? This is a very dangerous way of thinking!
Over promising, under serving, and over charging hurts everyone, because this sets the stage for extremely unrealistic expectations. And it happens just as frequently in mainstream offices and businesses due to arrogance, ego, and the one-size-fits-all approach.
People love a good sales pitch. They eat this shit up like candy, and just assume that there MUST be a solution to their problems out there somewhere if they just look long enough and hard enough! Then they think “What if I pay this person MORE for this other solution? It costs more, therefore it MUST be better than the cheaper stuff!”
What Happens When People Don’t Get What They Want
I see this every day in some way, shape, or form from people:
“I am really pissed off because I demand answers from you that don’t exist! How dare you fucking not tell me what I want to hear!!!!”
Take YouTube commenters for example. To say that some of them are not playing with a full deck, or they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer is a massive understatement.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of these:
The entitlement issues.
The incoherent profanity.
The barely-literate statements.
The comically deranged.
It’s all there in black and white.
It’s amazing we even survived as a species this far.
This is how some people act and behave when you give them a truth they don’t want to hear.
What people don’t want to hear is: There is no cure.
There is no specific method or series of logical steps that will reliably cure any kind of problem you are having. When someone is selling the answer to all your problems, it’s not true. That would be a lie. A big fat unadulterated lie.
The truth is, there is only a range of imperfect options, sometimes very wide ranges. And even the best ones are iffy. Most of the time, you will be disappointed, even angry and outraged. Get used to it. It is reality.
Every remedy has their pros and cons. Some remedies are completely ridiculous.
It always depends on your individual case. Sometimes people can’t help you. The answer is not to sell “the answer”, but to give people a realistic and thorough set of options that pertain to their individual case or experience.
That’s really all there is. Really. I’m not lying to you. That’s all anyone can do if they are truly ethical and want to help you.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. I will never try to bullshit you. I may tell you some things that are disappointing, dismal, boring, or “negative”.
But it will be real, as far as I can possibly critically analyze. I promise to review all realistic options and not try to persuade you into something you don’t want. Unethical and overconfident cure mongers constantly fan the flames of hope and then try to capitalize on it, and that just isn’t right.
Hold on to your Shit, I’m Going to Try Using Science!
It is a sad reality that the world of therapy is usually mucked up royally with insanely bad ideas. People deserve better information. Even if you think a myth is just harmless and no big deal, it still deserves to be uncovered for the sake of integrity.
Let me attempt for a moment to answer something from a scientific perspective (OH NO!). This won’t hurt a bit, I promise. I am talking about the “null hypothesis“. Believe it or not, this is one of the pillars of the scientific method, and it is one of the most useful theories we have in the world today.
Sadly, most people don’t even know what the fuck it is, or what it’s for. To briefly explain, it means “how things work amounts to nothing when carefully checked.” In other words, most test results are “negative.” So then you might say, “Science is so negative!”
All kidding aside, having something be “negative” is actually a good thing! It teaches us about what doesn’t work, and steers us closer to what DOES work.
Here is something that might come as a shock to you. Most medical ideas are wrong.
Cynicism is deeply baked into science. You can’t have science without cynicism. In science, we are looking for empirical evidence. No one can possibly study the science without becoming really hyper-cynical.
Many many strange and BAD ideas have come and gone over the centuries, and really stupid crazy dipshit reasons, or for no reason at all, or (my personal favorite) just because someone in power decided it.
These ideas however kooky or unrealistic come with such horrific caustic consequences, it is difficult not to freak out with maniacal episodes of laughing followed by loud outbursts of crying.
The number of completely obvious evil scams alone throughout history is just incredibly staggering, but that is nothing compared to the number of delusions believed by the most zealous.
Not to pick on the medical industry in particular, but it seems to me at the heart of every scam and delusion in health care is a notion that something would help someone, but we find out over time it mostly turns out to be wrong, and it may even cause irreversible damage or harm.
How many ideas in the history of medical brainstorming have actually turned out to be good ideas? If you take a close look at how many medical breakthroughs have actually been discovered and used for the greater good of humanity, it’s maybe a meager 1%. Ya, shockingly low.
The reasoning behind this could be that truly effective treatment methods are blocked from the public because of profit wars.
It is safe to assume that almost all the ideas we dream up about anything at all are intrinsically flawed and turn out to be wrong most of the time. As a population and a species, we are generally great at coming up with wrong answers.
Much of that is within the medical industry, because issues of pain and suffering are so scary and confusing. It is way too easy to come up with “answers” and “solutions” fast when you’re desperate for relief of pain and suffering.
Unlike the business of making profit, the business of science is to check ideas carefully and methodically. Being wrong is so incredibly common that scientists have learned for the most part to just assume that an idea is wrong until proven otherwise.
It took centuries for arrogant and ignorant scientists to finally admit in 1935 that cynicism should be given a proper name. That’s when a British geneticist named Ronald Fisher called it the “null hypothesis“, which is the assumption that an idea will amount to nothing when carefully checked.
Trying to Beat the Dead Null Horse
People are constantly trying to claim victory over the null hypothesis. If they find some obscure benefit to a therapy method, no matter how trivial, fleeting, or coincidental, the believers will cry “Hallelujah!” and it suddenly makes headlines the next day (or in the case of real time updating online today, it’s within minutes).
Not so fast there Cindy Cyberspeeder!
This happens so much that it seems like the null hypothesis has been all but completely forgotten by modern researchers. Researchers should actually set out to prove the null hypothesis. Instead, we see many of them trying to prove their pet theory.
And when money is involved, bias and corruption has completely taken over and invaded the clear process of fact finding. When that happens, how are we supposed to make critical decisions and smart consumer choices based on faulty data?
A great article by John Ioannidis is “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”, which lends much needed support to this ever increasing sticky issue.
To wrap it up, I want to bring attention to a very plain and realistic truth.
As the great Carl Sagan puts it: “The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science.”
But in the end, it’s good.
Be honest, have integrity, and never shit on people. Leave a comment if you have any reactions to this post. I welcome any feedback and I always read all comments. Also share to your favorite social media app.