Tomorrow I present to Hilary my readings for my lecture on September 22nd on the legacies of the Marxist tradition. I keep telling her that my knowledge of social theory is pretty limited, but she insists I know more than I think I do (ok...). When she pressed me for what theorist I knew the most about and could lecture on, I quickly claimed I knew a lot about Marx. Whom I think I do.
So today I polished up the list of readings I intend to subject the kiddies to. The only real restriction I had was to not top 50 pages, 'cause undergrads'z laaaazeee. So, I managed to do 59 pages of reading for them, bibliographies and charts inclusive, from Lenin, Mao, Gramsci, Polanyi, Wallerstein, and Erik Olin Wright. Hopefully I can turn that mess into a coherent mess come September 22nd.
Now, I have to scramble to put together a lecture on the legacies of Weber... But I think I know where I'm going with that one: C. Wright Mills, sociology's badass (he rode a motorcycle. Without a helmet).
IT TAKES A MESSAGE BOARD
Recently, the knee message board I read frequently (link's somewhere on the right side of the blog) has achieved a heated, and some would say a quite vituperrious tenor. A few days ago, "drmark" as he's known on the board, began posting responses to questions on the board. Usually the board consists of people recounting their rehab or injuries, asking questions of other injured people about their experiences. All in all, the board was very warm and very comforting. With drmark around, the attitude of the board changed significantly.
First, drmark posted all the time. Answering every post. Usually in a very informed, yet sort of blunt manner. He summed up his board presence after a few postings:
We are on the internet now and can be brutally honest with each other. I
guess its my personality. I like telling people what the [sic] want to hear, but
REALLY like telling people what they DON'T want to hear, especially when it [sic] the
TRUTH and is backed up by articles in publications such as the Journal of Sports
I guess my real goal is to educate people into knowing that they don't
have to spend the rest of their lives with some doctor's dumb busines [sic] card in
their wallet reminding them of their next appointment.
To those who continue to think I'm a flake, good luck to them and their
stiff knees, I no longer have any of them in my Houston, Texas practice.
I put my money where my mouth is so to speak. I am willing to speak to
any knee patient and post my website, email and cell phone. My goal is to
educate, even if I communicate a sometimes unconventional type of wisdom borne
from 25 years in this business
He added at the end, "Bring on the hate mail if you like. I will answer all of it." Certainly the most unconventional thing about drmark's post was that he was egging people on.
His posts would take some interesting turns. Sometimes, he'd be very defensive and academic. If he were challenged by any of the more knowledgeable of the board members, he'd whip out the academese. See this exchange between SueBW (who has been the "resident smaahty") and drmark starting here.
Other times, drmark was obviously making people feel very insecure about their current rehab and surgical decisions, usually by telling them they're wasting their time, that their chosen graft would fail, and that he offered the TRUTH (as he put it). Here's his take on the board in general, claiming in the title of this post that he could get you back at sports condition 3 months as opposed to the usual 6:
All I have concluded from reading these pages is that most patients and doctors
are in the dark ages with graft selection and rehab. Our guys get back to sports
at 3 months. We have not had any complications related to ACL reconstruction
such as early failure, or stiffness in years. None of our patients ever, right
ever [sic], use crutches.
He followed with a link to his clinic and gave "kudus" [sic] to his mentor DR. RON SHELBOURNE (the TRUTH!).
That post engendered this first response:
I think this has to be someone joking around. Nobody I know with medical
training would make such cutting remarks about their peers & patients in
this kind of forum, hand out their personal cell phone number, call themselves
something like "drmark" or use this style of language & grammar (your
average OS knows how to spell peripheral)
People were pretty darn skeptical of drmark, and partly because he never wrote very well. I asked him for some citations, but many were much more skeptical, just from his posts. Here's a response by the good dr after a reader pointed out his spelling errors:
Sorry for my grammar, I type fast and don't have spellcheck on these message
boards. The facts are the same whether you like them or not. If you continue to
have problems with your knee, you are the one that suffers. My patients do not.
Check out the website. To my knowledge there are no more spelling errors. If you
find one, email me.
Damn. drmark said facts are always right, and as much as you point out his spelling errors, the facts are STILL right. In other words, YOU'S WRONG, BITCH!
After a few posts between SueBW and drmark, one person wrote this to him:
I have read all the above posts with increasing mirth knowing that Sue BW
is the co-author of a huge number of the most important papers on the outcomes
of knee ligament surgery in one of the most highly regarded knee units in the
Mark....her input to the board has been immensely helpful over the
years in particular to those of us with complex knee injuries. At the same time
she is very careful not to condemn peoples treatment without very good reason.
This is a board for support rather than creating feelings of insecurity and
there is often more than one way to deal with a knee problem. You only have to
look at changing reconstruction techniques over the last 20 years. It is also
quite hard emotionally, geographically, and sometimes financially to change a
Oh snap. But drmark had a comeback:
Thank you for your email. Sue's contribution to our collective knowlege has been
great. We spent the morning exchanging private email and in discussions that
maybe [sic] beyond the scope of this layperson's forum [emphasis
YOU'S DUMB, BITCH! After that off-handed putdown, drmark continued:
I am not asking people to send me their records and come to Houston for me to
treat them. Perhaps those that are insecure need to sit down with their doctors
and find out why their treatments are not going as they had thought.
Oh, but he was. Constantly claiming he had the TRUE way, hocking his site, his successes, and that sly, sly remark that the "insecure" should find out why "their treatments are not going as they had thought." It's funny because, again, the board usually was filled with people comisserating about their conditions, how long PT was taking, how frustrated they were, but no one told anyone to give up -- it was always a positive space for reinforcing a long and difficult recovery to full health.
drmark started to go a little crazy here and there. First, after calling out SueBW on her support of knee braces (he doesn't use them), he responded to a response that tried to metaphorically tie drmark's logic to the OJ Simpson trial (BIG mistake):
If you ask most people of Color, they will tell you that OJ was set up by the
LAPD, and they have known police to be doing that since Jim Crow. I [sic] you
ask a Caucasian, they respond like Michael [the previous poster]. The emotional
responses to this question mirror the debate about knee braces. A a Caucasian, I
do know that he was found not guilty. The state couldn't prove its case against
OJ or for knee braces
I don't recall the case People of California vs. Knee Braces. Granted, he was given the clay to work with on that one, but it was getting absurd.
Anyway, one poster DonJoy Braceman had had enough. drmark began to claim that there was some sort of conspiracy between the big business knee brace companies and the message board, and DonJoy Braceman came to the rescue:
If anyone should be criticizing the brace manufacturers, it should NOT be
you. All I see when I read your posts is a constant advertisement for you,
constant references to your website and a section of your site devoted to 'Out
of Town Patients'. Please, with a straight face, tell me you are not advertising
your services. At least, the brace resellers PAID to advertise on the Board.
Normally, I would have no beef with you self-promoting, but you simply
degrade what I and any other brace manufacturer provide to the industry. By
simply defining us as companies just trying to take your money, clearly shows
your arrogance. The fact is we are BOTH providing a service or a product for a
fee. You charge between $290 - 350 for a consultation. Not surgery, just a
consultation. To some that may seem like wasteful spending, you see at as your
He finished, "quit trying to play the Everyone is Corrupt Card [sic]." drmark has yet to respond.
Today, poster Ellen asked, "So, I go away for a couple of weeks and I come back and log in to find that the tenor of this board has completely changed. Is it just me or does anyone else want the old style back?"
Indeed Ellen, I certainly do. drmark was like an internet knee recovery message board neopopulist, attempting to generate a manichean distrust for "the man" while building himself up as the savior of all knees. "Kudus" to DonJoy Braceman for doing a little shut-up work on drmark (to be sure, drmark did make a couple other posts after that, but nothing responding to DonJoy Braceman).
Where drmark went wrong was his perhaps unintentional criticism of the gullibility of the average board poster/knee rehabber. You can't win over the people if you tell them they're stupid. Sure, you can tell them they've been deceived, but his attacks aren't nuanced enough.
The members of the board community are much more savvy than any average joe (and I would venture to guess, extreme motocross rider), probably because in the time it takes someone to undertake such a long recovery process, that person learns a lot about anatomy, physiology, and even sports psychology. When people like this come together, their collective knowledge is reinforced through shared experience -- a discursive community that would make Toqueville and Habermas proud. All the commiserating and support truly engendered a community of understanding and support, and really, of a single goal of the psychic and physical well-being of all the people on the board.
Where drmark failed was in his attempt to make value claims using everything but those that would lead to communicative action. drmark engaged in everything from "rational" pleas towards "strategic action" (I'm a doctor, I know better, go to my website), "dramaturgical" (I don't want you to come to Houston, etc.), and "emotional" (those inspiring stories...), but never fully or sincerely engaged in the coordination of social integration, a la Habermas, through "communicative action" or a coming to an understanding of each other. Habermas claimed that strategic action could encroach upon communicative action, but it seemed that the understanding already built between board members prevented this attempt by a so-called expert to tell them they're wrong.
After DonJoy Braceman's post, drmark has been on the board much more sporadically, and I've noticed a return to the old "it's ok, we all went through it, keep on trying" posts that, maybe, are much more helpful in recovery than any one doctor could ever be.