January 14, 2011

Performance-Enhanced Punditry

This isn't the biggest issue in the world, but it's one I think about now and then: The opinion journalism business isn't a terribly hard field by most standards, but it does requires unnatural amounts of self-confidence to think that you have anything worth saying on a ridiculous number of random topics.

Now, most people in the business, I presume, drink coffee or colas for the caffeine for energy. 

What about attention deficit disorder drugs like Ritalin or Adderall? I haven't seen many references to these by pundits, but I was struck by a footnote or two in ESPN columnist Bill Simmons' Big Book of Basketball about all the ADD medication he took to pound out his huge book. (Note: He may have been joking.)

Finally, Andrew Sullivan wrote an NYT article eleven years ago about how he saved his career with a testosterone prescription. "My wit is quicker, my mind faster, but my judgment is more impulsive," which is something of an understatement. 

I would draw the line between Simmons and Sullivan, in that while Simmons can apparently outwork his competitors who aren't on ADD pills, the medication doesn't seem to warp his judgment. His Big Book of Basketball is terrific and very sensible. What Simmons appears to be doing is somewhat unfair to his competitors, but it's good for readers and the state of basketball punditry, as a whole.

What Sullivan is doing, on the other hand, is both unfair to his competitors and, far more importantly, injects random surges of hormonal hysteria into the national discussion.

I haven't read Sullivan much since he was pounding the Iraq war drums back in 2003, but it was pretty obvious at the time that his hormone therapy was playing hob with his judgment. The Atlantic should put a warning label on his blog, one that gets update round the clock to show you where in Sullivan's artificial hormone cycle he is, so readers can make their own informed judgments about, say, last Tuesday's pronouncement:
Very very very few people have contributed more poison and hatred and extremism to the culture than Rush Limbaugh.

In which he sounds like Lindsay Lohan on steroids.

Rush, of course, had his own very personal aids to enhanced performance.

62 comments:

John Craig said...

That's why they call it steroid rage.

OT: My son's theory on the Tucson killings: "I think Sarah Palin shot all those people herself -- and then framed Jared Loughner for the murders."

Anonymous said...

Don't know about Ritalin, but I have taken modafinil. It certainly did the job in keeping me awake and alert - 30 hours at a stretch, but I can't say it made me smarter or more creative.

Anonymous said...

Anyone taking a testosterone supplement is cruising for cancer or a heart attack. Anybody taking Ritalin is cruising just for the heart attack.

Want a safer way to enhance your literary or journalistic performance? Follow Joyce Carole Oates' example: take up jogging.

Anonymous said...

It's well-documented---he mentions it himself in Cruising Speed or Overdrive---that William F. Buckley used Ritalin.

Carol said...

Ah, drugs. Pet theory: I am convinced that hiphop loghorrhea was fueled by cocaine, coke, meth, Ritalin. That's a no-brainer. Byron was no doubt similarly "inspired."

Also, I think the housing bubble was fueled by caffeine, all those Sbux, lattes espressos frappes granites. Clearly caffeine makes you much more confident, more likely to see the upsides of a transaction...what could go wrong? Any sharp salesman will make sure you get some good coffee during the pitch.

Prior to coffee's great comeback in the 90s, we were told that Gen X didn't care for the stuff..ha.

The T connection with Sully makes sense. Boy did he start going downhill after that. He was so excitable over WMDs in Iraq, and silly me I was right behind him.

Anonymous said...

What about attention deficit disorder drugs like Ritalin or Adderall

funny you should mention this steve the FASCINATING book "the brain that changes itself" - about neuroplasticity, had a section about ADD- apparently, more effective than ADD drugs was a program where boys learned a new alphabet (by HAND, not computer) such as Urdu, and learned to recite a long poem- the author remarked that both of these practices were jettisoned from schools in the 1960s- in prior to the sixties, penmanship was a huge part of the curriculum, and nearly every person educated prior to the 60s could recall learning a long poem like Hiawatha to recite.

Shouting Thomas said...

Krugman can't seem to stop himself. He's back at it against today.

Even the direct admonition from President Obama that people should stop seeking to blame the political opponents for this horrible crime hasn't stopped Krugman.

Hard to understand why any responsible newspaper would give him a forum after that fit of fantasy and vengeance.

I guess the Times isn't a responsible newspaper any more.

Rrrrrroger said...

"Rush, of course, has his own very personal aids to enhanced performance." Of course?

albert magnus said...

I've always kind of assumed Simmons snorted a huge bag of cocaine every week.

He is sort of manic-something-or-another.

Mel Torme said...

Just knowing a little bit about this guy, I have a feeling his "cycle" has got the standard 28-day period to it. (I mean "period" in the sense of one wavelength peak-to-peak or trough-to-trough, not in terms of certain Proctor & Gamble paper products.)

Anonymous said...

Serious question - we talk a lot about low-T and high-T people here at iSteve, but what about the "E" [Estrogen]?

What would a man with high-E be like?

Mentally retarded? [Down's Syndrome?]

Is there any benefit for boys or men if they have high-E?

Better verbal scores on the SAT?

Anonymous said...

taking add drugs and caffine is like chowing at mcdonalds and taking weight loss medication

Anonymous said...

"Rush... has his own very personal aids to enhanced performance..."
I note the present tense. Are you just going to drop that one on the table and let everyone speculate about what you mean, or are you going to clue us in?

Thripshaw said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Limbaugh is on a maintenance program of methadone or buprenorphine. I've tried both, and they definitely make me feel confident in my own opinions. More power to him if he is. He can certainly afford it!

Anonymous said...

Rush, of course, has his own very personal aids to enhanced performance.
---------------------------

what do u mean by THIS?

are you suggesting that because Rush is OLD and FAT, his sexual functions no longer work?

is that where you went?

Anonymous said...

Rush, of course, has his own very personal aids to enhanced performance.
----------------------------------
^ unless, u meant something entirely innocuous: that Rush uses hearing AIDS.

Anonymous said...

your basic point seems to be that shamelessness-ism seems to pervade our society.

and that you're against it.


well, me too, to be honest.

Anonymous said...

Steve, your favorite dog bites man trope has finally been trumped: "Fox shoots man." I won't hold my breath for the Law and Order episode.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_belarus_fox;_ylt=Anaio1QYos_5VVn.0OJI1nJzfNdF

benjack said...

Annonymous: please google "Limbaugh OxyContin"

Anonymous said...

Blow hard pundits like Krugman and Sullivan are consciously offering a left handed salute to talk radio, which caught fire in the early 90's. But what they fail to grasp is that talk radio arose from authentic anger on the part of the little people at the dangerously brain dead social and economic engineering of Democrats, which was heavily promoted on all the big business media outlets. Talk radio was indeed the media precursor of the Tea Party.

Of course, Sullivan and Krugman believe talk radio is all just a marketing strategy by affiliates of the KKK, but they appreciate its substantial power to reach. They ape the fury of folks who have genuine grievances, hoping their abrasiveness will pick up the Cromagnon audience share put to sleep by the smug delivery of progressive bromides and perspectives radiating out of NPR. They figure that, by going on testosterone fueled tirades, they can be authentic, too. Kind of like Mario Savio (what a tool) trying to draw a crowd on Sproul Plaza by shouting fuck through a bullhorn.

Fortunately, as we've witnessed in the Tucson shooting incident, progressive partisan harangues set off the bullshit detectors of the majority. At some level most of us are rooted to reality in our daily lives unless we live at home with our parents, have a job we can't be easily fired from, or attend college. And that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"It's well-documented---he mentions it himself in Cruising Speed or Overdrive---that William F. Buckley used Ritalin."

"I've always kind of assumed Simmons snorted a huge bag of cocaine every week."

Well if they are crushing and snorting something like ritalin, they are essentially using cocaine. Too bad for the guys in the projects their insurance doesn't pay for it!

http://www.slate.com/id/2076413/

http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/ADHD.html

"I wouldn't be surprised if Limbaugh is on a maintenance program of methadone or buprenorphine. I've tried both, and they definitely make me feel confident in my own opinions. More power to him if he is. He can certainly afford it!"

Methadone is basically free. Very cheap drug. Anybody could pay for it, especially if it was legal, which all drugs should be.

josh said...

Well Newsweek did a piece on brain drugs and the bottom line,acc to them,is that the best way to power up your gray matter is A)aerobic exercise,B)Meditation and C)Certain video games that demand your brain to work in specific ways. Long term A & B seem great methods to use. The drugs that the "kids" so love these days may not be very conducive to becoming a trustworthy doctor...or economist. BTW speaking of meditation,has anyone here ever used one of these brain-entraining devices that use sound to lower the freq of your brain and hold it down low-in effect,automatic meditation? Just curious!

Anonymous said...

A few words about the hardest drug I've ever dabbled with:

Red Bull actually works. I was surprised to discover this. Thought it would be a fraud before I tried it. If you spent a sleepless night and have to go to work in the morning, it makes the day a little bit less miserable. And it seems to disappear from your system completely after 6 hours or so. If you fail to fall asleep the next night, it won't be because of Red Bull.

Everything in moderation, of course. I woulodn't want to drink it every day, or even every week.

Harry Baldwin said...

Very very very few people have contributed more poison and hatred and extremism to the culture than Rush Limbaugh.

In which he sounds like Lindsay Lohan on steroids.


If only he had said, "Very very very few people, you know, have contributed more poison, you know, and hatred and extremism to the culture, you know, than Rush Limbaugh," he would have sounded Kennedyesque. (Caroline Kennedyesque.)

Paul Mendez said...

Also, I think the housing bubble was fueled by caffeine, all those Sbux, lattes espressos frappes granites. Clearly caffeine makes you much more confident, more likely to see the upsides of a transaction...what could go wrong? Any sharp salesman will make sure you get some good coffee during the pitch.

I don't know about the housing bubble, but the commercial real estate bubble of the late 1980's early 1990's was fueled by cocaine and Dom Perignon.

I know. I was there.

Financial kickbacks are so crude. But a few ounces of blow between friends is just being social...

Anonymous said...

Saw Limbaught's first episode with Hank Haney on the Golf Channel the other night.

Looks as if Rush has put back on a lot of the weight he had lost.

Anonymous said...

nicotine is probably better than caffeine long term because nicotine doesn't stimulate the adrenals.

also, why no speculation on George W Bush using steroids? Clearly, he knew people who used them.

Anonymous said...

My previous comment about Rush's alleged performance-enhancing "aids" being dropped on the table was not well-phrased.I personally do not care what, if any, medications Limbaugh may take.
However, Mr. Sailer,I do think it is a bad idea to engage in that sort of innuendo, particularly when it concerns a person who has been an addict, unless there is some point to it.If Limbaugh became an airline pilot,OK, I would definitely want to know.

Anonymous said...

On Rush, has he dumped the Wall Street Journal position on immigration?

Goatweed

crawfurdmuir said...

The practice of normal persons taking a psychiatric medication to improve their mental performance is very old. Robert Burton, in his "Anatomy of Melancholy," after describing the use of hellebore to relieve what we now call bipolar syndrome, writes:

"They that were sound commonly took it to quicken their wits, (as Ennius of old, Qui non nisi potus ad arma - prosiluit dicenda, and as our poets drink sack to improve their inventions): I finde it so registered by Agellius, lib. 17, cap. 15. Carneades the academick, when he was to write against Zeno the stoick, purged himself with hellebor first; which Petronius puts upon Chrysippus..." (Anatomy of Melancholy, part 2, sec. 4, mem. 2, subs. 20

John Craig said...

I remember reading once a long time ago that Frederick Forsyth, fueled by pots of coffee, wrote the first draft of The Day of the Jackal in three days. That was an exceptional performance, even for an exceptional guy like him.

Anonymous said...

"I do think it is a bad idea to engage in that sort of innuendo, particularly when it concerns a person who has been an addict, unless there is some point to it.If Limbaugh became an airline pilot,OK, I would definitely want to know."

Actually, the Rush drug prosecution clarified for me how our justice system works. There's this guy called a District Attorney, who's probably a Democrat if you live in a big city, and basically he can indict a ham sandwich. And if he doesn't like you because you are a conservative celebrity pundit, you're the ham sandwich.

Anonymous said...

Most lib pundits seem to be on Kool Aid.

Patsy said...

Maybe if you ritalinize black kids, they'll do much better. The problem among blacks isn't only lower IQ but wild temperament.

bbartlog said...

'Byron was no doubt similarly "inspired."'

Byron seems to have come by his mania genetically... not saying he never touched drugs but it certainly appears he would have gone around the bend with or without them.
Obviously there are other writers who freely admit being drug or alcohol fueled. Hunter S Thompson just to name one.

Anonymous said...

"Too bad for the guys in the projects their insurance doesn't pay for it!"

The guys in the projects have Medicaid, which pays for everything. What kind of a person wouldn't know this?

"Anybody could pay for it, especially if it was legal, which all drugs should be."

Oh yeah, THAT kind.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone taking a testosterone supplement is cruising for cancer or a heart attack. Anybody taking Ritalin is cruising just for the heart attack.

Want a safer way to enhance your literary or journalistic performance? Follow Joyce Carole Oates' example: take up jogging."

The guy has AIDS, he's probably not to concerned with getting cancer down the road.

Anonymous said...

It's pathetic to see so many ditto heads here. People who spend hours a day listening to Stern or Rush or Beck, etc should be forever muted (nonviolently of course) for the benefit of huyman beings with thoughts of their own.

Anonymous said...

I take Ritalin. It got me through undergrad and law school, and it definitely helps me maintain my boring legal practice now. But it has sucked every last ounce of creativity and extroversion out of me. It also causes me to over-analyze arguments to a point where my confidence in any position I hold is lost, even though I know 99% of people that disagree with my understanding of the world haven't really thought about it. Ritalin wouldn't help a pundit like Sullivan.

Anonymous said...

People who spend hours a day listening to Stern or Rush or Beck, etc should be forever muted (nonviolently of course) for the benefit of huyman beings with thoughts of their own.

I want to vomit on you very very much.

Steve Sailer said...

"It's well-documented---he mentions it himself in Cruising Speed or Overdrive---that William F. Buckley used Ritalin."

WFB burned out pretty young.

Peter Brimelow believes it was more disappointment that he couldn't get enough conservative backing for a run for President. WFB felt he was handsomer, smarter, and wittier than JFK, so why shouldn't he be President?

Steve Sailer said...

"Rush, of course, has his own very personal aids to enhanced performance."

Thanks for catching that. I've now changed "has" to "had," which is what I meant in the first place. I don't have any knowledge of these individuals other than what is in the public record.

Anonymous said...

"The guys in the projects have Medicaid, which pays for everything. What kind of a person wouldn't know this?"

Theoretically you are right. Medicaid could pay for a lot. If you are able to find a physician willing to risk his medical license and possible jail time writing for anywhere near the amount of Oxycontin that a guy like Rush was buying, which was reported to be enough for 30 tablets a day. Can it happen? Sure. I doubt it would be as easy as it probably was for a guy like Rush.

"Oh yeah, THAT kind."

Good one! A much better system is to have the US policing the world for enforcement of drug laws. It costs billions and kills tens if not hundreds of thousands.

Then you can have drug companies design drugs that do the exact same thing. Replace heroin with oxycodone. Replace marijuana with marinol. It's a fantastic system for arms dealers, drug dealers, drug companies, and government law enforcement agencies. For the citizens of a bankrupt country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, it's not that sweet of a deal.

Anonymous said...

"A much better system is to have the US policing the world for enforcement of drug laws."

Sure.

"It costs billions and kills tens if not hundreds of thousands."

Drugs would kill a lot more if they were dirt cheap. See, making something illegal increases its price.

"For the citizens of a bankrupt country with the highest incarceration rate in the world..."

Not nearly high enough. If you think that too MANY people are in jail here now, then you're definitely smoking something.

Anonymous said...

One more comment for the drug enthusiast here:

Drugs destroy a human's most precious possession: his mind. Even the drugs that folks like you mischievously represent as harmless do that - marijuana, for example, destroys short-term memory, which is highly correlated with g. It also saps motivation, destroying tons of human potential, turning talented kids into life-long slackers.

Think of it as a plague. Responsible governments get involved in fighting avian flu, right? The war on drugs is kind of like that, but with guns.

none of the above said...

I'm sure people have been using drugs to manage their mental states (along with exercise, meditation, prayer, routine, sleep deprivation, fasting, music, etc.) for as long as there've been people, and longer than there've been homo sapiens.

At some fundamental level, controlling your mental state is about the most interesting thing you can do for yourself. Your mind is your most basic tool, right? Figuring out how to tweak it so that you can focus on one narrow problem for longer, or so that you can just spill out ideas and words quickly, that's enormously powerful.

I wonder how much of history is shaped by the dominant ways of tweaking your mental state. There might be the seeds of an interesting research study here--look at societies where smoking fell off at different times, and see whether there's some related change in the economy or literary output or whatever.

none of the above said...

I read Sullivan's blog fairly often. He's uneven as hell, but amidst the Palin-hate and occasional bursts of pettiness, he tries to address some big ideas, and there are occasional real insights there. In general, I think the Atlantic has done better than most old media organs at getting pretty good bloggers.

I think the important thing is to understand, for any source of information or commentary, where they're coming from and what their limitations are. In many ways, that's easier if you have some fundamental disagreements with them. Reading opinions from someone who thinks just like you do, it's too easy to mistake his blind spots for simple good sense.

Worse, if he's trying to spin you on some issue, he'll be much more effective at it if you're working from about the same beliefs as him. (It's often hard to distinguish intentional spinning of an issue from a bad case of self-deception on the part of the pundit, especially when his financial or social well-being depends on keeping the self-deception going. But whether intentional or not, it's better if you notice it.)

Anonymous said...

Steve said, "WFB felt he was handsomer, smarter, and wittier than JFK, so why shouldn't he be President?"

Surely he must have had some inkling that to the general public he came off as faggy? I mean compared to WFB, Adlai Stevenson was John Wayne and Gore Vidal was....well, Vidal and Buckley would have been rated similarly on the masculinity scale that exists in every viewer's head, with Buckley only one point or so higher than GV.

travis said...

Patsy said...
Maybe if you ritalinize black kids, they'll do much better. The problem among blacks isn't only lower IQ but wild temperament.


Anonymous said...
I take Ritalin. It got me through undergrad and law school, and it definitely helps me maintain my boring legal practice now. But it has sucked every last ounce of creativity and extroversion out of me.


From watching the director's commentary on The Social Network, I got the impression that David Fincher cast Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker because Timberlake is about as black as a white guy can be. That is, if we define "black" as a wild and creative extrovert and "white" as a test-cramming, anxiety-ridden drone. But when did we start accepting those definitions?

Anonymous said...

i make an incredible, verifiable post about the effectiveness of non-drug methods for ADD and no one picks up on it? What kind of @%#$$# idiot takes ritlan - a pretty dangerous drug, instead of a little simple self-discipline.

Steve Sailer said...

Right, Buckley and Vidal had quite similar speaking styles.

Anonymous said...

"Even the drugs that folks like you mischievously represent as harmless do that - marijuana, for example, destroys short-term memory, which is highly correlated with g."

Arguing for the legalization of drugs and saying drugs are harmless is not the same thing. Drugs can be very dangerous. We are wasting money on drug prohibition. We should be treating addicts or cleaning our water supply instead:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-10-drugs-tap-water_N.htm

Perhaps we should also do some investigating to make sure nobody is breaking any laws here:

http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20080409/poll-scientists-use-brain-boosting-drugs

Don't they know drugs will make them stupid! Lock em up before they do something useful like this guy did:

http://www.miqel.com/entheogens/kary_mullis_lsd_dna.html

"Not nearly high enough. If you think that too MANY people are in jail here now, then you're definitely smoking something."

Ooops. I thought you were making serious arguments. Now I know you were just pulling my leg.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of history is shaped by the dominant ways of tweaking your mental state.

Well, I have the vaguest schoolboy-memories of why it was that Americans came to take their caffeine from coffee.

Marc B said...

"On Rush, has he dumped the Wall Street Journal position on immigration?"

Sometime around 2004 Rush announced his change of heart on this issue and is now against illegal immigration (his listeners being 99.9% anti-illegal alien made his former position untenable). Is he still pushing unilateral free trade and warning against protectionism? Many conservative talkers are now calling for tariffs against China and for US re-industrialization.

Anonymous said...

I want to vomit on you very very much.

Well, unlike you, I don't spend a quarter of my waking hours llistening to someone else blather on the radio but - from the four hours or so that I've heard these guys over the years - I'm gonna guess that bit of parroting came courtesy of Stern.

You don't seem like the kind of man who can compose an original sentence on his own. Or any kind of man for that matter.

Again, can we please place the radioheads in a room somewhere (with great radio reception, I'm not cruel you know) so that the rest of us can be surrounded by independant human beings rather than by ditto heads mindlessly repeating the clever lines of some other slightly-above-average dude? (And yeah, the most popular radio greats are only slightly above average. Phil Hendrie, Rabbi Rudner, Adam Corolla, Bill Handel, the popular talk guys in Toronto and other superiors are hard for some of the hoi polloi to wrap their minds around and would have to work harder than they'd care to in order to achieve the easy success that the "THOSE DEMOCRATS...!" guys have acheived by simply repeating the same exact thing over and over again for DECADES.)

Anonymous said...

Before his diet Rush was really fat -- over 300 pounds. Maybe his doctor prescribed insufficient pain relief for his compressed vertebra or whatever his problem was. Dosing can be a tricky thing -- also, one can quickly develop a tolerance for analgesics. Look, it wasn't like the guy was selling his pills on a street corner, nor was he being picked for driving under the influence or repeatedly ending up in an emergency room. People with chronic pain often hoard medication. In the end, he lost over a hundred pounds. No fat man does that unless motivated by a potentially fatal health condition or extreme pain.

I'm not a dittohead, but I listened to Rush occasionally in the early 90's when I was upset over the advent of HillaryCare. I didn't begrudge him his new found popularity and wealth as a kind of everyman conservative. Effective political action and successful election campaigns are often driven by simplistic "talking points," and lets face it, his talking points resonate with the white middle class and help them to speak with unified voice just as NumbersUSA has helped millions of Americans speak with a unified voice against so-called immigration reform by crafting letters they can fax to their congressthings. While I admire the high editorial standards and brilliance of zines like Vdare and AmRen, their trickle down influence on the conformist intellectual elite remains somewhat limited.

JSM said...

"can we please place the radioheads in a room somewhere...so that the rest of us can be surrounded by independant human beings rather than by ditto heads mindlessly repeating the clever lines of some other slightly-above-average dude?"

Sure, so long as we can lock up the Kos Kids and anyone who has ever used the word "ignorant" when discussing race issues.
Deal?

Anonymous said...

Sure, so long as we can lock up the Kos Kids and anyone who has ever used the word "ignorant" when discussing race issues.
Deal?


You'll get no argument from me.

The fact that you assumed I might disagree though says something about the low quality of discussion that people have, wherein any disagreement with someone known as "right wing" is assumed to come from someone from the competing poilitical camp. I don't blame you for the assumption because in fact it's generally true, I'm just pissed off that it IS generally true. My complaint here was about the masses of asses whose every clever thought is just a canned recording that emanated from some amplified blowhard on the air railing to an army of losers but if you wanna lock up the kos kids and people who ignorantly misuse the word ignorant I have no quarrel with that.

adsfasdf said...

"Right, Buckley and Vidal had quite similar speaking styles."

Similar tones, different styles.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if they are all on a whole bunch of prescription drugs.

JSM said...

"My complaint here was about the masses of asses whose every clever thought is just a canned recording that emanated from some amplified blowhard on the air railing to an army of losers but if you wanna lock up the kos kids and people who ignorantly misuse the word ignorant I have no quarrel with that."

You DO realize that you plopped YER arse squarely in with the masses of asses who used "canned recordings emanating from some amplified blowhard" when you unimaginately parroted the slur "dittoheads" to describe Limbaugh fans, right?

Since the Kos Kids rail about the "ignorant" "dittoheads," I do appreciate you understanding why I assume you are one. So, what kind of view would you enjoy looking at out your barred window?

Christopher Paul said...

i make an incredible, verifiable post about the effectiveness of non-drug methods for ADD and no one picks up on it? What kind of @%#$$# idiot takes ritlan - a pretty dangerous drug, instead of a little simple self-discipline.

Incredible AND verifiable? Yep, someone here is the idiot all right...