Rigorous honesty time here, campers: Just writing this series has been exhausting. Reading & re-reading Ebert’s pablum, the commentary posted, & Ebert’s further pablum in response to the commentary has been like spending a week at the worst meeting I can remember & listening to the most mind-numbing, irrational, self-congratulatory ‘bumper-sticker-ese’ imaginable.
So after this post, I’m done with Ebert & his “hooray for AA” Tradition 11 busting swan song.
Unlike Ebert, I don’t want to sing to the choir. Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times blog is probably going to see more hits in a day than we’d see here at Stinkin’ Thinkin’ in a year. That said, what do you want to bet that AA’s membership rolls stay flat or actually decrease in 2010? If Ebert genuinely believed in his beloved program & its “attraction rather than promotion” principle/tradition, he wouldn’t have used the bully pulpit of a major metropolitan newspaper’s web-site for his own thinly veiled membership drive (straight from the horse’s mouth: “There’s a chance somebody will read this and take the steps toward sobriety.” see: blogs.suntimes.com paragraph 6).
Bullshit is bullshit and needs to be called for what it is. There’s mountains of bullshit in Ebert’s blog post & commentary, but I’m going to ‘keep it simple’ [/snark], stick a fork in it & call it done.
Side-stepping the “cult” subject — one, because I think the pejorative baggage that comes with the word tends to turn people off & two, because Ebert does such a ridiculously poor job of making his case against the charge — I’ll just say go to any major dictionary & look up the word. (Hint: just about every one contains in its definition something akin to: “A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.” see: dictionary.reference.com & judge for yourself the word’s utility.)
Also, offering fictional cinematic representations of alcoholism & AA’s ‘effectiveness’ in treating it (Ebert posts YouTube links to segments of “The Lost Weekend”, “The Days of Wine And Roses”, & “Clean & Sober”) is the equivalent of ‘proving’ of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence by linking to a clip from “E.T.”! Either Ebert is so divorced from reality that he actually thinks movies can serve as sources of empirical evidence or he knows he’s just playing his audience for cheap sentiment. I suspect the latter. If a director were to try that in a film, Ebert would happily excoriate that director. But since he’s 30-years sober through the grace of AA, Ebert doesn’t have to play by the rules he’d hold others to.
Now the big one: Borrowing from the AA/12X12 proponent’s playbook, let me state up front that Ebert’s post is killing people.
You read me right: Roger Ebert is killing people.
If AA/12X12 proponents can pull out the alcoholic ‘genocide card’ when anyone dares to publish AA critical or AA skeptical material (or even vocalize that opinion in a public forum), then turn-about is fair play.
Let the fireworks begin:
Finishing up his post, Ebert offers a link to AA’s “rate of success” (see: hindsfoot.org; take your time with this one, kids, because the logic is convoluted & the links for statistics or anything that might support the findings take you to a dead-end). The first link will take you to a page debunking the “95% First Year Dropout Myth” authored by Loran Archer. That page will link to a “Data Brief” published in 2007 by Archer (former Deputy Director of the NIAA) dissecting 1991-1992 numbers (I told you this was convoluted) that reveal (according to the original page — remember, convoluted) a “36% Success Rate” for AA.
Of course that ‘success rate’ is qualified by the following:”when measured in the same way that the government would evaluate success in treating diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.” Eschewing the ‘alcoholism is/isn’t a disease’ argument & just going with the figure provided, one is left to conclude that AA DOES NOT SUCCEED 64% OF THE TIME (i.e., AA fails almost two-thirds for those individuals who turn to it in a time of need or crisis).
So, if Ebert is about the business of saving the lives of alcoholics then (by his own measure) he’s sending nearly two out of every three of them down a dead-end. Exactly who’s killing who when you’re promoting a dubious “spiritual solution” with even more dubious numbers like that?
While we’re on the subject of “dead-ends”, if you actually go through the trouble of tracking down Archer’s original “Data Brief” (see: alcoholreports.blogspot.com) the numbers get even more slippery, there’s no mention at all of a “success rate”, and the supporting data link yields a “404 – Page Cannot Be Found” message from the NIH’s web servers.
So not only is Ebert potentially killing alcoholics, he’s doing it with bogus data & YouTube clips.
I think that rates a pretty definitive ‘thumbs down’.
The final point I’d like to address comes from Ebert’s reply to the following comment:
As you know 30 year sober members are sticklers when quoting the official AA steps, and that the quote should be accurate. Whoever typed this blog did not quote the first and third steps correctly. In the meantime congrats from a 32 to a 30.
I typed it myself. Yes, going to aa.org I see that the first step says “alcohol,” not addiction. I have corrected that. In the third step, the web source I used said “God as we understand God,” not “as we understand him.” I’m choosing to let that stand. I don’t think Bill and Bob were remotely sexist, but in this day and age…does God, as you understand God, have a gender?
Not to put too fine a point on things, but not only did Ebert bone up his writing of Steps 1 & 3 the first time out of the gate he then compounds that by not capitalizing the ‘h’ in Him in his reply to the comment. This is important because it speaks to the preposterousness of Ebert’s next statement: “I don’t think Bill and Bob were remotely sexist … (italics added).“
This is one sent my bullshit detector flying off the charts. Ebert is prevaricating on two counts: Not only would both founders be considered ‘sexist’ by any modern standard, the Him of the 3rd Step clearly has its roots in the rhetoric of Christian theology.
Here’s a ‘suggestion’ [/snark] for Ebert: Grab your Big Book & re-read the “To Wives” chapter. Keep in mind that demonstrably sexist chapter was advertised as written by Lois Wilson but was in fact written by Bill.
From “Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous” by Nan Robertson: “Bill would not let even Lois, who was dying to do so, write the chapter titled “To Wives.” After all, she was the wife who had endured Bill’s drunken years and the houseful of alcoholics he was trying to wrestle into sobriety. “I have never known why he didn’t want me to write about the wives, and it hurt me at first,” she said.” (pp 70 -71)
While you’ve got the Robertson book in hand, check out pages 36 – 37 for the skinny on Dr. Bob: “He was a dignified man, gallant to women, yet he had a slangy way of speaking about them. He called women “frails” or “skirts,” or, if he really liked one, simply “woman.”” and “Conventional and sometimes dogmatic, Dr. Bob opposed the admission of women alcoholics into the initially all-male A.A.”
And Bill Wilson’s incessant philandering is both AA’s worst-kept & best documented secret. Even Susan Cheever’s hagiography on the great sage [/double snark] is forced to acknowledge it.
Opining these two weren’t sexist is not only ignorant it’s analogous to suggesting that George Wallace was an early supporter of civil rights. It’s demonstrably false.
Actually, as Mike of BlameDenial suggests, Ebert couldn’t have made a better case against AA by publishing his drunkalog/public-service announcement. Of the self-identified AA commenters allowed to respond to Ebert’s blah blah blah, the ratio of those with 20 or more years to those with 5 or less has to be at least 7-to-1. Ebert’s ’12th Step call’ isn’t going to bulk up the ranks any.
Still, AA bullshit belongs in AA meetings — not on the websites of major metropolitan dailies.