statement of purpose
This blog is here because I don’t like assholes who hurt innocent people. Specifically, I don’t like quacks, medical frauds, and fools — however well-meaning they may feel — who mess with other people’s health, either in the policy arena or by poisoning the public sphere. This interest drew me several years back into the virtual land of the ‘skeptic’ blogosphere, first on Respectful Insolence and later on Science Based Medicine.
While I share many concerns and goals with authors and commenters on such sites, I come at those goals from a different angle. Specifically I hold no special brief for ‘Science’ or ‘scientific truth’. My interest is not in how pseudo-science is ‘incorrect’, but in the harm that it can do.
And ‘sadmar’ exists because I don’t think the skeptics are doing a particularly good job of whacking the quacks and preventing harm. When sadmar argues with ‘skeptics’ about analysis, strategy and tactics it’s because I want them to succeed. Too often I find skeptic commentary politically naive, and all but clueless about culture and social forces. Too often skeptics appear to be insular, too unwilling to broaden the tent to gather support and build a movement that could be effective in countering the harms of quackery, and other venal forms of pseudo-science. Too often skeptics skeptics seem to frame their discourse in ways that would shoot themselves in the foot should they want to walk the wider streets of public opinion.
I think, specifically, skeptics could benefit some of their key goals by making peace with potential allies in the arts and humanities, and LISTENING to folks who understand a heck of a lot more about culture and society than they do.
Yes, I think that includes me, not that that makes me ‘special’. There are plenty of people who are smarter about the stuff sadmar writes about than I am, though few with the both the breadth and the ability to write about it in something resembling accessible prose. I offer my perspective mainly because I don’t see anyone making a vaguely similar contribution on these topics. I wish that weren’t so. I wish there was someone smarter and better than sadmar on ‘sadmar’s issues’ posting about this stuff on these sites. But it seems like Cliff Clavin voice ya gotcha science-y skeptics over here, and ya gotcha critical theorists over there, an there’s an electrified barb wire fence runnin between the yards, an evrybody’s snarlin at each udder, an meanwhile the bad guise is gettin away wit murder./Cliff Literally. As some of the innocent people who’ve been hurt on this terrain —or are vulnerable to be hurt — are my friends and family, I feel a sense of responsibility that compels sadmar to write on (and on), trying to bridge that fence.
Anyway, I mean no harm whatsoever to anyone of good will, and intend sadmar to come in the spirit of peace.
i am not sadmar
I am sadmar’s anonymous creator. As a web persona (or personae, as sadmar can get a little MPD) sadmar’s virtual consciousness has a certain significant Venn-diagram overlap with my IRL consciousness, but the expressive form of the sadmar persona(e) is pretty much a text-based thing, and not much like I am in meatspace — at least not most of the time. I do not use my ‘real’ name to sign my posts as, besides sadmar not being me, the Internet can be a kinda scary place, and I just don’t feel comfortable revealing stuff about the IRL me online. The nym ‘sadmar’ has no reference to anything. It was generated by applying a fairly simple coding algorithm to a nym I’ve used in other place at other times.
sadmar’s prose styles
sadmar’s prose might seem a bit schizo – and I won’t contend it’s not – but you could also consider it eclectic. sadmar is a jokester, and will sometimes drop stuff in just for a laugh. I did a Theater major as an UG: did a little acting (not very well), some directing and playwriting (better), and in later years did guerrilla theater at union rallies during a strike. So, sometimes sadmar comes at things pretty straight, and other times he’s writing intentionally in performance mode – in character, so to speak, such the entire chunk of utterance has a figurative dimension as a whole. Sometimes the gags are pure performance: I make them ‘because they’re there’ and I don’t actually mean any snark that may be in the text: they’re ironic irony. Other times, the sarcasm is meant to be pointed, and make a point. sadmar’s tone tends to shift from mode to mode as I write (I type very slowly) and the styles get tossed into the mental blender. I know this makes some of the posts hard to parse, but it works for me as self-expression, and I have a hard enough time getting words down to begin with, and it’s the frikkin’ Internet, so I can’t really take the time to smooth everything out, even if I wanted to.
If you don’t know what sadmar meant by this-or-that, just ask. I seem to encounter a lot of confident assuming online, and most of it’s way off.
Fwiw, sadmar definitely has some literary influences – not that by naming them i make any claims to be in their company or to invoke anything but humble praise: Lester Bangs, Hunter S. Thompson, and Gertrude Stein seem to show up most often.
…is an allusion to T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‘, but that’s not where I got it. Sometime circa 1968-1969, one on my schools chums obtained a copy of the satirical anti-Vietnam war pamphlet 1001 Ways To Beat The Draft by Tuli Kuferberg (of The Fugs) and Robert Bashlow. We would pass it around the lunch table and read sections. It wasn’t that any of us were that political. We just found it hilarious. Some of the 1001 ways are self contained jokes, or semi-serious ideas, but a lot of them are short commands that get a comic effect from appearing in sequence. And for some reason this one made me laugh the hardest, and burned itself into my memory…
Not knowing the poem at all, the image of it being better to be awkward and ugly crustacean scurrying along way beneath the ocean waves than to get sent off to Nam just struck as the perfect absurdity. I thought Kuperberg had made it up, It was quite a few years until I finally encountered the poem, and went, “Oh!” discovering not only the ragged claw reference but the many other familiar phrases i hadn’t known were allusions. This was not a let down, as I took Kupferberg’s appropriation to be just as clever as an original line.
The blog is one ragged claw because I wanted to add some spin of my own, and the image of a solitary pincer struck me as having the right mixture of humility and self-deprecating humor.
For posts here responding to threads elsewhere, readers are encouraged to reply in the original thread. You may leave comments here if you like, but if you mean them to be part of the larger discussion, I think the site of the OP is best.
‘one ragged claw’ is intended to be a no-troll zone. I will need to approve your first comment here, but after that, they’ll go right up. My definition of ‘troll’ is fairly narrow, so mere disagreement does not qualify. Lively debate is encouraged by all means, but I expect a certain measure of humility and respect for other commenters as well as for sadmar. Appropriate qualifiers help: imho, fwiw, I think, I submit, I would argue, it seems to me, my working hypothesis is… and so on.
Being wrong is not a sin. This is the Internet. Our fingers run ahead of out brains. Being arrogant is simply bad form, though. Self-corrections and apologies are signs of wisdom, intellectual integrity and, above all, confidence. Everybody gets things wrong sometimes. If you’re smart enough and knowledgeable enough to write good stuff most of the time, you should be able to fix or clarify or retract or whatever your screw-ups without feeling the least bit of a blow to you ego. In contrast, blunder on, and you just look like a tool.
In the end, this is my page, and I’ll do whatever the heck I want with it. But I’m pretty easy going.