AmyTuteurMD

AmyTuteurMD
Bio
Dr. Amy Tuteur is an obstetrician-gynecologist. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Tuteur is a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School.

OCTOBER 17, 2009 9:51AM

Dr. Amy was mean to me

Rate: 6 Flag

shocked

Coincidentally two different people decided to upbraid me at the same time. Susanne Freeborn, commenting on “How do vaccines work?” writes:

No matter how medically correct you may be in what you are saying, and I am certain you are correct quite a lot of the time, your responses to people who doubt or question you are boorish. And really, I don't think it matters if they are equally boorish…

Your unkindness undercuts any benefit you feel inclined to render. That seems emotionally and deeply unintelligent to me.

And Ginny Rose, commenting on “A modest proposal: no insurance for vaccine rejectionists” writes:

Do you even KNOW how condescending and polarizing your posts are? You make a lot of great points, but then piss everyone off with the absolutes of your verbage.

Why aren't you listening to the feedback? …
Write what you're interested it, but dial it down. Back off the supercilious shit, and quit alienating your audience. You have a lot to offer, but not if you're boycotted, and deeply hated.

Rather than copy the exact same reply to both, I thought it might make more sense to publish it as a separate post.

Dear Susanne and Ginny Rose,

Your comments put me in mind of an incident that happened when my daughter was small. Something like it has happened to almost every parent.

When I wouldn’t buy my daughter something she wanted, she turned to me and declared:

“If you won’t buy it for me, I won’t be your friend.”

Responding as most parents do in that situation, I told her, much to her surprise:

“I’m not trying to be your friend. I’m your mother. It’s okay if you don’t like me. As your mother my job is to make sure you are not spoiled, and I take my job very seriously.”

Susanne and Ginny Rose, my response to your chastisements is similar:

As a writer, I am not trying to be a friend. I am trying to be heard. In order to be heard, I must be read, and in the Wild West that is the Internet being read requires several specific attributes.

Nearly every week I read a post with my name in the title that ponders why I get so many EP’s and covers. I have no relationship to Kerry or any of the other editors. (A note of friendly advice: Pissing off the site editor by accusing him of various sexual acts with me probably does not help your efforts to get on the cover, but you can check with him about that.)

So if I’m not servicing Kerry in some way, why do I get EP’s and covers? Only Kerry and the other editors can tell you for sure, but here’s what I’ve surmised.

To be heard on the Internet in general, and on this site in particular you must:

Write something provocative.

Supply expert opinion.

Buttress your claims with professional references.

Make your blog sticky by engaging with readers in a way that is designed to keep them coming back.

Entertain.

I can reliably deliver 4 out of 5 every time I write about sex, but frankly, I get bored of writing about sex, and I want to leverage my readership to teach people. I can’t teach anyone anything if they don’t read what I write. So if I want to write about how vaccines work, I still must follow the above guidelines. Therefore I spend a lot of time thinking about provocative titles; I spend even more time reviewing the relevant literature so I can provide references that are important and understandable; and I spend a great deal of time engaging with my readers.

Here’s what I’ve learned about engaging within a setting like this. If the comment section is filled with people agreeing with me, and me agreeing with them, no one is interested. Conflict drives the comments section and makes the post “sticky.” People come back to see what nasty accusations others have flung at me this time and to see whether I tolerate the accusations or make the accuser look foolish. I give as good as I get, and people find that entertaining.

Am I alienating my audience? Certainly I am alienating some people, but, frankly, I’m amazed that people think I am being mean when I respond to ridiculous assertions and vile comments with demands to supply proof. One thing I know for sure, though, is that my audience increases.

And those nasty posts written about me? They are free advertising. I’m surprised that people don’t understand that. Every post written about me is not an insult, but is a small victory. It shows that what I write has hit the mark, has elicited strong feelings, has made people think. And of course every post written about me increases my readership.

Do I change people’s minds on the topics that are important to me? Certainly I don’t change the minds of the commenters, but nothing is going to change their minds. I could supply all the proof in the world, but they are resistant to both evidence and persuasion. But I’m not trying to change their minds. I’m aiming for everyone else, the vast middle that isn’t sure what to think, but is willing to read anything entertaining and ponder the points that I make.

So Susanne and Ginny Rose, I would be going about it all wrong if I were trying to influence people by making friends. But I’m not trying to make new friends. I’m trying to be heard. And I cannot be heard if I am not read. And I will not be read if I am not both entertaining and provocative.

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Blogger feuds are bush.
As a long time reader of your posts I understand both of their comments as well as your reply.

You have a wealth of knowledge and you expertly present it to us on this site. I have had my frustrations with your sometimes condescending attitude towards differing opinions, but I do continue to read your posts, and often times I feel like I learned something.

Susan and Ginny don't want to be your friends, they just want you to not treat them like idiots when they question something that you say.

I know for a fact that it's your proclivity to make absolute statements in a sometimes non-absolute world, that frustrate your readers the most. Months ago, when you posted that (and I paraphrase) that parents have no right, for any reason, to get a divorce, your rigid positions seemed ridiculous, moronic, and not the kind of opinion that anyone could take seriously. I think it was that post that compelled me to "question the value of a Harvard education."

If that kind of rigid lack of openness to the notion that you might be wrong increases your readership, fine.

I keep reading your posts and getting valuable information out of many of them, but it wouldn't kill you to occasionally make a statement such as, "I don't know of any supplements that work," as opposed to saying "Not a single one works," because the way you state your arguments, while generating readership, doesn't make you sound very intelligent, which obviously isn't true.

On a final note, I'm a dad, and I raised my daughter very well (I think) and I was strict when I needed to be, but I can't imagine thinking that it wouldn't matter if she liked me.
ps
I've never questioned the validity of your EP's. 95% of them are worthy, and the other 5%... well, maybe I'M WRONG about them:)
Roger,

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

"Months ago, when you posted that (and I paraphrase) that parents have no right, for any reason, to get a divorce, your rigid positions seemed ridiculous, moronic, and not the kind of opinion that anyone could take seriously."

I think I am a very clear writer. (One of my children berated me once for writing like a middle schooler. He said I should use fancier words so people would think I am smarter). Despite that, and for reasons I don't completely understand, people often reply NOT to what I wrote, but to what they wish I wrote so they can argue against it.

For example, I write about homebirth in a lot of different venues. I will post statistics that show that homebirth increases the risk of neonatal death. Invariably people insist that I am claiming that babies never die in the hospital, but of course, that's not at all what I am claiming.

In the case of my claims about divorce, the distinction is subtle, but the issue is similar. I never wrote that parents have no right to get a divorce. In fact I specifically stipulated situations in which a divorce is not only appropriate but can be life saving. What I did say is that a child's right to a resident biological father trumps an adult's right to pursue happiness through divorce. I honestly believe that.
I have a close personal friend who came to "know" you through your blog about home birth, and considers you to be an expert on the subject. Her niece decided to go the home birth route and the baby died.

Nobody will ever convince her that her niece would be alive if she had been in a hospital when the unnecessarily fatal problem arose.

Now you've made me want to go back and read the parents/divorce post.
You own a cat, don't you?
Excellent post. Points well taken. You are purposely pissing people off to increase your readership.

Well done.
I've noticed that in general, people get really angry when a statement of scientific fact disagrees with their non-scientific opinion. Just sayin'!

I'm the one who keeps repeating, "Correlation does not equal causation!" Now I'll hide. ;-)
Amy: "Coincidentally two different people decided to upbraid me at the same time. "

It's certainly been more than two.

Amy: "Susanne and Ginny Rose, my response to your chastisements is similar [to what how I responded to my daughter as a child]:"

The posters here aren't children, nor were Susanne, Ginny Rose, or many of the other people objecting to your methods and tone behaving like children. So your analogy is inaccurate.

Amy: "Certainly I don’t change the minds of the commenters, but nothing is going to change their minds."

This is easily disproven, and a good example of the type of sweeping statements that you make that are demonstrably false.

Amy: "I will not be read if I am not both entertaining and provocative. "

There are plenty of people who are read and are not provocative.

If your goal is simply to generate readers, then one can perhaps understand--although disagree with--your methods. If your goal is to argue in favor of a particular point of view, then your methods undermine that goal, and indeed even work against it on occasion. For example, as I mentioned previously, Jodi Kasten wrote a post that was a better argument in favor of vaccines than five posts of your "provocations" combined, and managed to do it without insulting, condescending to, or provoking anyone.

Here's the thing: you hold your commenters to a standard that you yourself refuse to adhere to. And that makes you look arrogant, bullying, and disingenuous. Allow me to repeat: You're an OB who has not been in practice for a decade and a half; it's not unlikely that there are people out there in the world who know more than you. In fact, the probability that is the case approaches unity. Try to keep that in mind.
You apparently conflate boorishness with provocation. And your editing missed the point of my comment which I copy here:

Dr. Amy, No matter how medically correct you may be in what you are saying, and I am certain you are correct quite a lot of the time, your responses to people who doubt or question you are boorish. And really, I don't think it matters if they are equally boorish.

You are a highly privileged woman with a better education, and many more options and resources available to you than most people can afford, and yet, you don't seem to have grasped the concept that you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. That glaring omission reflects on both your character and your judgment.

My grandmother, a simple farm woman, wouldn't have let me go to kindergarten without having taught me that simple principle. It has always been clear to me, no matter how far I travelled and what I learned that demonstrating respect does not depend on the behavior of others. I can't say I have always been good at this, but I work hard to do my best.

Your unkindness undercuts any benefit you feel inclined to render. That seems emotionally and deeply unintelligent to me.

I stand by what I said.
Um... could you take a look at this sore on my lip?
incandescent:

"I think sometimes you're a bit resistant to new data, but I do understand where you're coming from most of the time. I certainly don't think you have a desire to harm people."

Thank you. I certainly have no intention of harming anyone.
Douglas Moran:

"The posters here aren't children"

Who said they were? This is yet another example of what I was describing to Roger. Instead of arguing against what I said, people argue against something I didn't say.

I used the example not because I was comparing them to children, but because in both cases my objective was very different than the objective of the people criticizing me.

Susanne and Ginny Rose are correct that if I want to influence people by making friends I'm going about it in exactly the wrong way. But that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to get people to read what I write.

I'm surprised that people do not understand this, since there is an incredible amount of whining on this site as to why most people don't get read. They don't get read because they are not provocative enough, entertaining enough, engaging enough or some combination of all three.

Almost every day I see posts that say "why isn't anyone reading my stuff?" Then I see posts that say "why is everyone reading Dr. Amy's stuff?" And I even see posts that say "Don't read Dr. Amy's stuff!" which are promptly followed by a surge of people reading my stuff. Don't people see the connection between those issues?

""Certainly I don’t change the minds of the commenters, but nothing is going to change their minds."

This is easily disproven, and a good example of the type of sweeping statements that you make that are demonstrably false."

Coincidentally I read a comment about me on someone else's blog today. The issue under discussion was whether skeptical bloggers alienate readers by criticizing them. The commenter was referring to my writing on homebirth. She said:

"I was all set on having an unassisted homebirth until I came across her site (the homebirth debate...). I argued for awhile and eventually realized that she was (for the most part) right. And honestly, if she hadn't been so damn antagonistic, I probably would've just dismissed her claims and been on my way; instead I kept coming back to argue with her, lol."

"There are plenty of people who are read and are not provocative."

So read them. Why do people come to my blog to tell me how to write? If you don't like what I write, if you don't find it interesting, if it doesn't make you think, no one is forcing you to read it.

"For example, as I mentioned previously, Jodi Kasten wrote a post that was a better argument in favor of vaccines than five posts of your "provocations" combined, and managed to do it without insulting, condescending to, or provoking anyone."

No doubt. However only 458 people read it. In the same time period 2,928 people read my post. See what I mean?
I am NOT saying that you should try to make friends. That is utter BS and misses my point altogether. No one has you confused with Simon Cowell here. I am saying that your character is showing and it affects how people are willing to listen to what you say.

Presenting yourself as a well-educated, but socially stunted trainwreck may get you page views, but so did Britney Spears generate a lot of traffic when she was melting down. It doesn't get you what you think it does and denies you the overall impact that you could have on important issues. You are settling for chicken feed when you could be doing so much more.
Susanne Freeborn:

"I am saying that your character is showing and it affects how people are willing to listen to what you say. "

It's not my character. It's my persona in this setting.

Take a look at my primary website Ask Dr. Amy.com. There is an archive of more than 600 reader submitted questions that I have answered over the years (http://www.askdramy.blogspot.com). You will find the tone very different indeed.
Doug: "The posters here aren't children"
Amy: "Who said they were?

You implied it by comparing your feelings to your young daughter to those you have when posters "upbraid" you. And further, I was pointing out and showing why your analogy was inaccurate, not saying you were accusing people of behaving like children.

(And for at least the fifth time, I would like to request that you please quit clipping my comments. A full sentence at least, as a courtesy.)

Amy: "Coincidentally I read a comment about me on someone else's blog today."

Your anecdote does not address the point I made, which is that your sweeping statement (like many of your sweeping statements), "Certainly I don’t change the minds of the commenters, but nothing is going to change their minds." is incorrect.

Amy: "So read them."

I do. Do you?

Amy: "Why do people come to my blog to tell me how to write? If you don't like what I write, if you don't find it interesting, if it doesn't make you think, no one is forcing you to read it."

Good heavens, isn't it obvious? Hasn't that been made clear multiple times by multiple people? You can't possibly be as obtuse as you present yourself. No matter how you present it, you have interesting information. It's not your subject matter; it's your abrasive, arrogant, dismissive, condescending presentation that's under discussion. It's not what you say; it's how you say it. Surely you must know that.

Amy: "However only 458 people read it. In the same time period 2,928 people read my post. See what I mean?"

You missed the point, which is that a person who is reasonable and friendly is a lot more convincing than a person who browbeats, is arrogant, never admits to mistakes, and is deliberately obnoxious. Do you want to be convincing? Or just "drive hits"?

(And just out of curiosity, are those hit counts, or "unique hits"? Because if they are the former, they are essentially meaningless.)

People who follow your avowed style have been on the internet a long time. Historically, they don't get a lot of respect, nor do they convince a lot of people. Ask yourself this: what is your goal? If your goal is hit count, then fine. But if it's to convince and persuade, I would like to suggest you're going about it the wrong way.
Douglas Moran:

"People who follow your avowed style have been on the internet a long time. Historically, they don't get a lot of respect, nor do they convince a lot of people."

Really? Better tell Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, etc. etc. etc.
That's funny, because I was just about to post this prior to reading your "response":

I suppose it boils down to: do you want to be Glenn Beck, or Bill Moyers?

And in answer to your implied question, do you really believe that Beck, Limbaugh, Colter, Malkin, et. alia convince anybody? Seriously? Because I would posit that they do exactly what you appear to scorn: preach to a choir that agrees with them.
Oh, and I'm still curious: are those hit totals for total hits, or unique hits?

And as a person whose expertise is online documentation, I have to say that hit counts are a very gross, as well as misleading, statistic. Why do you think ad companies are willing to pay so little for internet advertising versus, say, television or print, even than many more people presumably "see" internet ads?
Ah, one further point: Rush Limbaugh et. al. are not bloggers; they're radio and TV personalities. Different rules apply.
"To be heard" to what end? Any lunatic raving on the street also wants be heard.

As for this being your "persona": If you use your real name and credentials, readers will assume what they're getting IS Dr. Amy. Also, if this were a persona, why would you break character here?
""To be heard" to what end?"

To impart information that people can use to make decisions. To correct misinformation. To counteract scams. To teach.
Dr Amy quoted: Douglas Moran:

"People who follow your avowed style have been on the internet a long time. Historically, they don't get a lot of respect, nor do they convince a lot of people."

Really? Better tell Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, etc. etc. etc.

These are the people you aspire to emulate?
"These are the people you aspire to emulate?"

In popularity and influence? Yes, when it comes to those characteristics I'd very much like to emulate them.
I would never accuse Kerry of having sex with women.
If you want provacative you should read my blog on Maureen Dowd. If you want to lose readers, tell them something as wiked as a doctor suggesting some people don't deserve medical care at all because they don't agree with the treatments in fashion. That's not so much clever and provacative as inhumane, but hey, it's your blog.