February 26, 2012

What would I do if I was misquoted?

If I was misquoted saying this in a newspaper:

“If there is a supportive home environment, the evidence is that eating disorders will not follow. Eating disorders, like anorexia, largely develop in the homes of white middle-class girls with controlling mothers, and the child reclaims control with how she eats. That shouldn’t happen if a child feels cared for and is taught to take ownership of their diet.”

I would make it my urgent mission to have it removed, demand the paper publish my disgusted and horrified rebuttal, and - because I would now be forever associated with that reprehensible paragraph - join the efforts of those fighting that kind of thinking.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that a paragraph like that in a newspaper, no matter how innocently or ignorantly published, could help kill a patient. The parent who reads that paragraph will assume it is true and it will feed every fear they already have. They may delay seeking care, thinking the problem lies within and is unfixable, worsening the prognosis. They may accept care that marginalizes them and blames them - which is abundant. They may back off in supporting their loved one in fear that their influence will only harm. They may reject the clinicians who don't blame them - and waste time during treatment wallowing in guilt.

This isn't benign. It is a pernicious and dangerous line of thinking that so many people have worked so hard to fight.

If you are quoted as saying it, even if you didn't, you own it. I know what I'd do. How about you?

23 comments:

  1. That's a terrible assumption to make. If it were me who had been misquoted, I would immediately ask for the facts to be set straight. It is information like that which damages a parent's confidence and leads them to blame themselves even more than they already do.

    I suffer from anorexia, I am white, I am female - but my eating disorder developed 5 years after leaving home - how does this fit? My parents are certainly not to blame for my eating disorder, as much guilt as my Mum feels - it is in no way her fault and articles like this don't do anything to help her see that.

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    1. I hate that your mother carries that. We need to do a better job. I am hopeful that YOU are getting what you need to get better - that's the most important thing.

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  2. Wait, I'm confused... Has he told you personally he was misquoted, or are you just opinion-shaming? What Prof Gately said on Twitter about the article was: "slightly out of context what I said, but a good & imp piece about #parents probs with kids weight". He doesn't specify which of the several comments he made was out of context, doesn't even disagree with the article, and "out of context" is different from "misquoted." So basically you're just trying to shame him out of his opinions? Or am I missing something here (i.e. a personal conversation you had with him or something, which would make more sense)? Not everyone who expresses an opinion different to yours has been misquoted by an evil journalist. Some of them actually just hold those opinions.

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    1. Um, gosh, are we on the same side here?

      Interesting about the tweet. I'd heard that he said he was misquoted.

      Either way, he owns it now.

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    2. Everyone has the right to their own personal opinions, yes, but saying "...the evidence is..." makes it no longer a personal opinion. It simply makes it incorrect. I would love to see this apparent study (and the year in which it was published) which discusses this evidence - I notice none is offered.

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    3. Professor Gately has indicated he was misquoted. The journalist has the interview recorded, I believe. Susan Ringwood, Chief Executive of Beat, has spoken to the journalist and Professor Gately has emailed a member of FEAST to say he is going to review the evidence base.

      I am unsure how you can read the quote and regard it as an opinion.

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    4. But Laura, he's not denying that he "owns" the opinion - he's gone so far as to tweet a link to the article from his twitter (http://twitter.com/profpaulgately - took me about 10 secs on Google to check out), and made favourable comments about it. So there seems to be no point making these dire pronouncements about how terrible it is that he's been saddled with this terrible opinion that no one would actually express.

      You seem to be pushing the idea that he couldn't possibly actually have said what he said (presumably because you don't like what he said) - which I initially assumed, from the way you've written this post, meant you'd spoken to him and he'd elaborated to you that this was what he meant by "taken out of context."

      Of course, at this point both you and I are making assumptions about what he meant by "out of context" - except that I haven't made a blog post to a sizeable readership, dismissing someone's "reprehensible" views as a misquote, and implying that a journalist fabricated them. Rather than acknowledging the possibility that these are honestly held views. I think that's a bit of a strawman, don't you? And to be honest, I think that by putting his direct quote on a blog post and asserting that you knew what had happened between him and the journalist, is also taking him out of context.

      If you disagree with what he's said (obviously you do, that's fine), then just disagree with what he's said. No need to fabricate a premise about the quote not being real. The reason I took issue with this whole thing is that I think it's a bit disingenuous.

      At this stage I wouldn't mind hearing from Professor Gately what he meant when he said "out of context". Someone could probably find out relatively easily by... asking him.

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    5. Lots and lots have people have asked him. He's been flooded with responses from organizations and individuals. And he has answered some of these people personally. His response has been that he was misquoted and taken out of context.

      You're right that I shouldn't be putting the blame on the journalist without hearing from them, actually - I really wasn't thinking about that. I suppose I'm being unfair to the writer.

      The point I was making is that there dimply isn't any excuse whatsoever for that quote and that whether he meant it or not it is HIS problem to solve and he will be held responsible for it and I for one am waiting for him to do so. I've heard the "well, I was misquoted" or "It's a complex issue" and "it was a long interview" and "most of the article was correct" excuse before and I'm tired of it.

      I wasn't being cute here: I really was thinking about how horrified and responsible I would feel if it was me who harmed people in this way - either through ignorance or by a reporter's misinterpretation. That's what I was expressing. That quote is, as I said, reprehensible and harmful.

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    6. To be fair, Anon, you are making some fair old assumptions yourself. Unleashing my inner pedant to speak to yours, Laura didn't actually say that he felt he had been misquoted or assert that a journalist had made the quote up. She might have felt that such an outrageous, outdated, harmful, plain stupid quote could have been no other when attributed to an 'expert witness' of sorts, or she might have been informed by someone else that he said that he had been misquoted, which may (or may not) have prompted her to write in the style that she did, but what she 'actually' said was "If I had been misquoted saying..." then "I would make it my urgent mission to .... and what she has done in her blog post is to call to account the article, the journalist, and the professor for being involved in putting something out there that is inaccurate and, worse, actively harmful. I have no issue with either the point that Laura is making or the style in which she chose to do it.

      It seems that Professor Gately is now taking a break from Twitter - last seen heading for Chicago, from where, I would imagine, he hopes it will all blow over; I don't know that he hopes that, but I think it might be likely. I also think that, doing whatever it is that he does and gets paid for being an expert in (by government money, in part) having been a part of that article and having been a part of publicising it in his own small way, he needs to take some responsibility for what is published in his name and either defend what he has said, if he did in fact say it and if he can, or ask to have the record put straight if he didn't in a manner commensurate with that in which it was published in the first place.

      Just my opinion.

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    7. MANG!!! Now we are going to assert that there is a way that "out of context" can be taken out of context?

      What would be REALLY disingenuous would be to deliberately misunderstand the context of the OP. How can we possibly pretend not to undersand Laura's framing of her post? How is it possible for anyone with access to a TV or the internet not to recognize this scenario? It's A GIVEN that when someone says something that gets a lot of justified pushback, and that person EITHER believes what they originally said OR doesn't want to publically admit to being FOS, and yet wants to make the criticism stop, they pull out the old "misquoted" "out of context" "I know you think you understand what you heard but I'm not sure if you realize that what you thought I said was not whaat I meant" canards. This is a script that has been read outloud since the dawn of public speaking.

      :) "... dimply isn't any excuse"; this is no doubt what happens when Shirley Temple is your apologist.

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    8. We need Shirley Temple! She could sort this out!!

      (I guess autocorrect is having fun with me...)

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  3. Whether totally misquoted or quoted out of context, he has appeared in print under a 'professorial' label with a direct quote attributed to him on an area in which the readership are being led to believe he is competent to 'profess' with some authority.

    His linkedin profile puffs and preens without telling us much about what the professor actually knows or contributes to his field but reveals a particular interest in looking at 'childhood obesity treatment strategies' which would not seem, by itself, to qualify him as an expert in the etiology of eating disorders.

    If he feels that he has been quoted out of context he should not only make that plain but should also make plain in what context his remarks were made - he has stopped short of giving any clear information by his "slightly out of context what I said" tweet, which leaves us wondering. He seems, from the rest of that tweet ("a good & imp piece about #parents probs with kids weight #in") pleased with what has been published, but what did he mean by any of it? He seems to be scratching at the surface of an issue about which he does not appear to have the first idea as to its origins, its complexity or its wider ramifications and he deserves to be called on his possibly 'out of context' but, nonetheless, factually inaccurate and directly attributed to him quote.

    Professors are not above professing their ignorance it would seem and, if they did not but have been directly quoted in a publication with mass circulation as having done so, then they should certainly carry a responsibility for putting that wrong right - a 140 character tweet to his own personal tribe of followers is hardly adequate for such an important task.

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    1. I'm the anon above, in disclosure. I totally get what you're saying, Erica, but surely the answer to Laura disagreeing with him, or to her thinking he's not of sufficient authority to speak on the matter, is just to say so. Don't assert a journalist made the quote up. I just felt it was disingenuous, because by taking this route it's basically a hall pass to outright dismiss someone's opinion, without actually debating the person's opinion or credentials. By all means say his opinion isn't backed by evidence. By all means say it's wrong, or that he's not in a position to make these judgements. But don't assert that a journalist made it up.

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    2. I understand your point and agree with you. Why make a muddle where simple statements of fact and direct quotations will do?

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  4. As with Erica MY beef is with the paper for publishing the statement. Whether it is a direct quote, a précis of what was meant, or a serious misquote, it is there, in a newspaper article aimed directly at parents and it is harmful. The newspaper need to print an apology to the many people who have suffered because of such attitudes. Maybe after his break in Chicago the Professor would like to encourage them to do so, maybe he won't.

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    1. Well, if he doesn't it won't be out of ignorance of the alternative views!

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    2. I don't know if Prof Gately has replied further. The Mirror newspaper certainly haven't bothered to reply to my questions. I am therefore rather at a loss as to what to do next. Probably nothing is the only practical answer but it seems a shame to allow such harmful ideas to remain out there, attributed to an individual or not.

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  5. Well, I May not be getting it but I think that what Laura said was IF she were being " misquoted" or "taken out of context" to the extent that the piece expressed a different professional believe , she would not be discussing or tweeting but pulling the article off the press and clarifying the facts. When someone professes to be a medical professional, there is a responsibility to the people to act like one.

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  6. Regardless of exactly who said what and meant what and quoted and re-quoted what, I think the real problem is that there is enough misunderstanding of eating disorders for a statement like this to be fashioned as "evidence" and BELIEVED as such. In this field, stereotypes are a huge problem and, more importantly, a significant danger (discouraging those who don't fit the mold from seeking treatment, leading to over-diangnosis in certain demographics and under-diagnosis in others, and causing a destructive cycle of guilt and shame). I'd hoped we were at least beyond this sort of perspective.

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    1. You've nailed it. The general level of cluelessness and plain old wrong ideas about EDs (and weight and eating and body image in general) are a breeding ground for nonsense.

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  7. I think this statement depends on the context of the interview. It comes across to suggest that eating disorders are caused by parents yet they are not. In the context that there is stereotyping of who has eating disorders, it is repulsive to the masses.
    If I was quoted against these exact words, I would stick to my point of view. That would not be due to arrogance or pride, It would be because of the essence in the statement. The statement ,to me, also means that parents have the responsibility to recognise any signs and symptoms about their kids health. On the other hand, the kids, not necessarily white and all that part of the statement,take into eating to occupy a self need. the self need is also not necessarily control; it could be avoid loneliness, boredom etc.

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  8. Can't go there with you, Petar! Eating disorders are not just the far end of normal behaviors and thoughts. They are a sign of serious brain problems and changes. As different as going on a spring cleaning spree is to having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Wanting to be clean may be a symptom of OCD but it doesn't cause it.

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