Category Archives: blaming
Via Information Aesthetics, a blog I read because i am obsessed with data visualizations and charts and graphs, I read about a new campaign designed by “eco-design consultancy Giraffe Innovation.” They’ve created a website where a user creates a humanoid form to represent themselves. The site then tracks the person’s environmental impact – things like home energy use and waste creation – and represents their individual environmental impact by modifying the humanoid form that represents them.
It’s when we get to the specifics of how the representative form is modified that I start to get uncomfortable. As the site describes:
The website shows the environmental impact of a person by using humanoid forms with body parts distorted relative to the environmental impact of common activities. Each part of the body is allocated to a different type of environmental burden: the feet correspond to the transport footprint, the hands to home energy, mouth to water, stomach to consumption, bottom to waste and the eyes and head to electrical consumer products.
Here is a sample image demonstrating some of the distortions:
The whole purpose of the website, the underlying assumption that makes this a meaningful exercise to convince people to reduce their environmental impact, is that when people see these “distorted” human forms that represent themselves, they will be so horrified that it will motivate them to reduce their impact so they can again be “normal.”
There’s got to be a way that we can encourage and motivate people to be more environmentally aware without drawing from, relying on, and reinforcing these ideas about “normal” bodies.
Dr. Drew enrages me. The way his whole empire is built on callous exploitation of the pain, suffering, and need of others makes me very suspicious of his motives and goals in treating people. But even more than that, his eagerness to observe people through tabloid reporting and unsubstantiated rumors and then make unfounded assumptions about whether they’re experiencing substance addiction or abuse issues and/or mental health issues is, frankly, repugnant.
He’s been targeting Lindsay Lohan recently, and has said some absolutely outrageous and unacceptable things about her in recent days. I saw this reported by the Onion AV Club and they respond so nicely I’m just going to quote them:
Dr. Drew Pinksy, of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, and Dr. Drew’s Ol’ Fashioned Healing Vapors & Hair Tonic, is obviously a great doctor. He can diagnose life-threatening drug addiction just by listening to unsubstantiated rumors. He knows which cameramen will help the most in each individual addict’s recovery. And he is great at uncovering and broadcasting an addict’s childhood trauma—which is the only reason anyone becomes addicted to anything ever.
In fact, Dr. Drew is such a great doctor, he diagnosed then officially cured Lindsay Lohan via an interview with the always reliable gossip website RadarOnline.
First, Dr. Drew detailed his recommended course of therapy for Lohan:
“If she were my daughter, I would pack her car full with illegal substances, send her on her way, call the police, and make sure she was arrested. I would make sure she was not allowed to get out of jail. I would then go to the judge and make sure she was ordered to a minimum of a three year sobriety program.”
I’m sure Dr. Drew already emailed this interview to the head of development at VH1, because in addition to being a terrific treatment plan for an addict (and also a morally sound thing to do), Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Frame-Up & Jail For Addicts Featuring Dr. Drew would also make a great reality show.
But after pitching his new show/course of therapy for Lindsay Lohan, he added this:
“I would say it’s less than a 1% chance of her making the decision to go to rehab. I have said this many times before, I believe that Lindsay will make a wonderful sober person, someday, if she survives this. I absolutely wish no harm to her, but I just have a feeling that something awful is going to happen to her, like she is going to lose a limb. I hope Lindsay gets help before something terrible happens.”
Something terrible like having a celebrity doctor diagnose you on a gossip site, or tell you what you need to do, or plant drugs in your car then call the cops on you?
It is easy to imagine the same kind of “logic” and “help” being applied to someone with a mental illness. Dr. Drew might suggest calling the police and saying that an individual had threatened suicide – even plant a weapon or suicide note on them to be sure the police would take them in for psychiatric commitment. He would publicly judge and shame that person for not seeking what Dr. Drew considers to be appropriate and beneficial treatment and imply that if his proposed treatment plan isn’t followed, any harm that befalls the person is their own fault.
This is not ok. It is dangerous, and is unfounded judgments and shaming. And it is utterly inappropriate and unacceptable from a medical doctor.
File this under “Who Even Knows, Anymore?”
s.e. smith recently posted a photo of a “5 a day” tag that came on some asparagus she bought. She felt, and I agree, that those tags are a form of food policing – instructing people what they “should” eat. The corollary, of course, is that if people do not follow these food guidelines, their unhealthiness is their own fault. s.e. explored some of the problems with these educational campaigns over at This Ain’t Living, but I want to highlight another problem here.
That problem being, namely, that NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. From a recent article at Scientific American:
The recommendation that people eat at least five servings (about 400 grams) of fruits and veggies each day, espoused by the WHO since 1990, was based on studies that found a link between higher intakes of these foods and lower risks for cancer and other diseases.
Since the 1990s, however, evidence from large studies has been mounting that the protective effects of these foods against cancer in particular might be modest—if it exists at all.
The results are in line with other findings both in the U.S. and abroad that suggest the protective effect of fruits and vegetables is “much smaller than had been believed 10 years ago,” Harvard School of Public Health’s Walter Willett, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, noted in an e-mail to ScientificAmerican.com. People who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables are also more likely to make other healthful lifestyle choices, such as exercising more and drinking and smoking less, which the researchers noted “may have contributed to a lower cancer risk” overall.
So this “5 a day” rule – which has been adopted as healthy eating dogma all over the world – may not actually be based on much of anything and there’s virtually no evidence to support the assertion that eating more fruits and veggies will automatically lead to better health.
But watch – it will still be used to shame people, and to blame them for their own health problems, regardless of the lack of scientific support. This strongly supports the argument that these healthy eating rules, and other rules about what people “should” do to be healthy, are much less about scientifically proven relationships between eating and health and much more about shaming people for their health problems.
(h/t The Awl for the link, and the suggestion that You Are Going To Get Cancer Anyway, So Have The Steak)
So I stumble across this at Diabetes.co.uk: Mobility Scooters Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Daibetes and Heart Disease
“O really?”, thought I, “I wonder how well-controlled that scoldy little piece of disability panic was?” So I read on.
However, recent research suggests that mobility scooters can do more harm than good by heightening the risk of diabetes and heart disease .
“More harm than good?”, thought I, “I wonder who measured that? How did they decide which effects outweighed which in the goodness vs. badness stakes?” So I read on.
Astonishingly, a study of scooter users in the U.S.A discovered that almost one in five developed diabetes after buying one to get around.
“Huh”, though I. “One in five, eh? Hm, that doesn’t sound all that different from the baseline prevalence in the population, let alone the older/ill/disabled population.” So I read on.
The research, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, highlights how multiple benefits to patients’ health from being able to get around more easily are being erased by the effects on the cardiovascular system.
“Erased?”, thought I. “Completely wiped out? Huh. Was it the people concerned who decided this, or someone else?” So I read on.
Researchers are urging doctors to consider the risks of scooter use before making recommendations to patients invest in a scooter.
“*Doubletake*”, thought I. “Doctors should consider the risks? Doctors? Not, say, people with disabilities? Just doctors? Doctors should weigh up the risks before offering any options at all? Doctors should decide?” So I read on.
[…] There have even been incidents when scooters have killed individuals.
OMG RANDOM IRRELEVANT SCOOTERPANIC!
They recruited 102 patients, with an average age of 68, who had obtained medical approval for a scooter and monitored their health over six years. Even though patients stated that they felt better physically and mentally, tests demonstrated that 18.7 per cent developed diabetes during the follow-up period.
“Erm”, thought I, “Right then. Sure enough, it was an older population- nearly seventy years old on average. The prevalence of diabetes in the population older than 60 in the USA is 23.1%, and that’s not people who are already ill and have other risk factors. That’s not really a surprising number.”
“I wonder,” thought I, “I wonder how that control group did, the age- and disability-matched control group, the one who didn’t get scooters at the same time?”
Yeah, there wasn’t one. No control group.
Just a group of elderly people with cardiac failure, neurologic disease, disabling arthritis, and chronic lung disease. Just a group of people with disabilities trying to eke out a life and getting used as a Lesson To All Of Us about the dangers of sloth.
The abstract is here, in the American Journal of Cardiology. Effect of Motorized Scooters on Quality of Life and Cardiovascular Risk, Brian W Zagol and Richard A. Krasuski, Volume 105, Issue 5, Pages 672-676 (1 March 2010).
This sterling little doctor-centric chastisement does contain one really useful piece of information:
[…] significant physical and psychological improvements in all quality-of-life categories (p <0.001) [...]
I’ll say that again, ‘cos they buried the lead. After getting a scooter, people experienced:
[…] significant physical and psychological improvements in all quality-of-life categories (p <0.001) [...]
But the authors decided to slap a big ol’ “DESPITE” before this statement about how the lives of people with disabilities were improved by appropriate mobility aids, and instead go on to list the way several laboratory parameters became “worse” over time in this group of ill elderly people. In a study with NO. CONTROL. GROUP.
We have absolutely no idea how these laboratory parameters would have fared had the people concerned not obtained mobility scooters. All we know is that their quality of life improved significantly in all domains.
What the study fails to recognise – among other things – is that the alternative to getting about on mobility aids isn’t a day of jaunty strolling; it’s immobility. The alternative to going out sitting on a scooter isn’t a doubles tennis match and a brisk swim followed by a bootscooting class; it’s sitting at home.
But the quality of life of PWD, the lack of alternatives, is dismissed by these concerned medicos as a relatively trivial aside; as just one factor for doctors to consider before deciding whether to withhold their blessing – and their financial rubber-stamp – to mobility aids:
In conclusion, interventions, such as scooters, that improve self-perceived quality of life, can have detrimental long-term effects by increasing cardiovascular risk, particularly insulin resistance. Physicians should carefully weigh such risks before approving their use, as well as ensure healthy levels of activity afterward.
Dudes. Newsflash. You’re not the ones who should be carefully weighing this hypothetical “risk”. We are. And you sitting there planning to deliberately withhold mobility aid funding to the poorest people in the population because you think they might – not will, only might – see their blood glucose tweak a few points? Not ok.
You don’t get to dismiss the importance our self-perceived quality of life (“self-perceived”? Who do you think is the best person to assess our quality of life? You?) with a parenthetical “Despite”. What is important to us is important to us; you don’t get to override that with your misinformed concern-trolling. You don’t get to decide on your own, then inform us what’s important in our lives. You don’t get to exclude us from the conversation. You don’t get to tell us which risks are worth taking.
You don’t have the moral right to immobilise us based on your imposition of your own value system on our lives. You wouldn’t even have that right if this was good research. When it’s fucked-up hand-waving? Put the journal down, and start seeing real people. The people right in front of you, who are looking for independence, the ability to shop, the ability to socialise, the ability to go to the fucking doctor, the choice to have a better life. The life you’re planning to say “no” to.