Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pop Quiz

(Sorry, guys, this one isn't funny. I'm so mad over this I literally can't think of anything else right now.)

Okay. Here's a little quiz for you.

Let's say you're...a psychologist, who was once licensed and practicing but let your license lapse because you were doing something else. Let's further say you've written several bestselling books based on your gosh-golly sincere desire to "help" people. And how about adding a TV show to that, a TV show which trades on that gosh-golly-caring persona, and relies heavily on your former psychology practice, and all of that stuff. Let's say you have a website with advice and tips on how to report child abuse, help addicted family members, etc. etc.

Got it? Okay.

Now. let's say you're contacted by a woman who wants help because the "usual" punishments haven't succeeded in changing her seven-year-old son's behavior, and she's now resorting to things like pouring hot straight tabasco sauce into the child's mouth and throwing him into ice-cold showers for punishment, while screaming and calling him names.

What do you do:

A) Call local authorities and report this woman

B) Ask her to videotape herself "punishing" her child


Okay. So just for the sake of argument, let's decide you went with answer B. Perhaps--if we want to give it the most charitable explanation--you thought the videotape would result in a faster and stronger conviction of this woman for child abuse, being concrete proof. Perhaps you thought that sort of direct evidence was necessary.

The videotape arrives. It was filmed by the woman's ten-year-old daughter. In it, this woman berates her seven-year-old son--seven years old--for getting into some sort of fairly minor trouble in school. She performs all of the acts she mentioned in her letter while the child screams and begs for mercy. The video is absolutely grueling to see.

What do you do:


A) Immediately call local law enforcement and arrange for them to see the video immediately. Offer to testify at her trial and--seeing as how you're a psychologist and an aw-shucks good-guy type--offer the child some help and counseling to get over the trauma.

B) Alert no one. Rub your hands together and dream of the ratings this video will bring in, when you get to air the torture and humiliation of an innocent child on national television.


If you answered A to either of those questions, you're obviously not Dr. Phil McGraw. He answered B to those questions, and he makes me fucking sick.

This is a man who has the nerve to include a page on his website about how if you witness child abuse you should immediately call 911, or get a license number/description to call police later, or whatever. Apparently those tips only apply if you can't suck up some more ratings and thus profit from the abuse you encouraged. Ratings are clearly far more important than a child's pain, right? Hey, you won't even get a tax break for helping that kid!

The mother's question and the video arrived at Dr. Phil's office in November. This woman has just recently been arrested.

Why has she just now been arrested? Because the episode didn't air until recently. No one from the Dr. Phil show--from Phil himself all the way down to the production assistants--bothered to call authorities. No one, not one of them. Not a single fucking one of them thought maybe they should speak up about this--certainly not Dr. Phil, who had he not allowed his license to lapse would have been committing a crime by not doing so (psychologists are Mandated Reporters) and could have had his license taken away. [That list is from the state of Illinois site, but psychologists are Mandated Reporters in every state as far as I know.]

Instead, the police were contacted by viewers of the show. Hundreds of them. They, at least, understood what it is to be a human being with feelings, and a member of a society. They at least understood that it is the responsibility of every decent adult in the world to make sure our children are protected. They at least understood that some things are more important than getting people to watch your fucking TV show.


Seriously, how can someone who behaves that way consider himself any help to anyone? How can someone who behaves that way sleep at night, and how can other people actually look at him as if he has any ability to counsel or help them at all? I'm sorry, but to counsel people effectively you need to understand them and their feelings, and to understand feelings you must first have them, which that man apparently does not.

What's more upsetting about this is that no one is talking about it. No criminal charges have been brought against Dr. Phil and/or his producers, at least one of whom encouraged this woman to abuse her child for the camera. No one even seems to be discussing his/their responsibility in this matter, and his/their absolutely shocking lack of empathy, ethics, and care as related to this incident.

So next time you see Dr. Phil playing his gawrsh-I'm-just-a-guy-who-cares routine, remember that this is the man who condoned the abuse of a seven-year-old boy in order to make money off of it, and didn't even bother to help the kid out after the money was made.


Like I said, sorry, but I'm just seething over this. next time I'll be cheery again, I promise.

12 comments:

Shiloh Walker said...

Who wouldn't be seething... well, anybody with a conscious. This is just plain wrong.

Becky Hancock of Calico Books said...

Absolutely wrong! I don't think anyone can blame you for being so angry... the worst is that folks are still not talking about it. No one seems to think that he should be charged for this...
Hopefully that boy is able to get help and be moved to a family who doesn't abuse him like this.

Pamela {Spaz} said...

This takes my breathe away. Just when I think he couldn't be any more of a shittier human being, I learn of this. I really hope this gets national attention, this should be career-ending at the least.

Rachel said...

Cant stand that joke of a "dr".

Looking at his "community" most of the people who posted early on (cant bring myself to look too deep) are more concerned about the boy and his mother.

Not a word about how the show had this info and did nothing.

sad - just sad

micheleis said...

I used to use shows like his to study people's reactions to drama and conflict, but then back to back I saw a show where he told a woman who was probably only 20 or so pounds overweight that the "only medical reason for [her] to be overweight was that she was eating too much" (Oh really? What about all the other reasons? and what happened to the psychology of food relationships? It's just easier to slather on the guilt.) followed by one about a family "in crisis" where one daughter was estranged because she said her mother had abused her. And the idiot told her she "couldn't know if it was abuse or not because [she] didn't know what it was like to be her mom and have to make the choices her mom made". Oh really? The poor woman was clearly having a hard time just being around her family, she was clearly an emotional scape goat for them, and he dragged her on the show under the guise of trying to help them settle some things only to berate a woman still struggling to stand up for herself against people who were directly and secondarily abusing her?

Did I mention he once told an aspiring writer that he was going about writing wrong since he had to have an agent and publisher and editor in line BEFORE he started writing the book?

crazyscott said...

i would do b

unseelieme said...

He's been promo-ing that episode for WEEKS. I didn't watch it. And its not the first time he's done one of those 'abusive parent' episodes, either.

The episode that infuriated me(not that this one doesn't) was a few years ago when he was profiling "brats" and was telling one mother she just needed to discipline her child more to get him to behave properly. They had video of the kid as he moved through his day. (And yes, the mother was screaming at him and worse.) It took me two seconds, as a mom of a kid with Aspergers Syndrome (a form of autism), to recognize that was what the kid had. It had nothing to do with bratty behavior - the kid was struggling desperately to function & needed help. He never once suggested to this mother there might be a disability involved. It was so obvious. The mother went away ready to straighten her kid out. I still bothers me today because I wish there'd been a way to call this mother & tell her she needed to take her kid for testing ASAP.

Anyone who watches that show thinking he's actually acting as a psychologist and not as a "kinder gentler" Jerry Springer needs to have their head examined. (At least Jerry Springer was honest about what his show was.)

Jeanne Stein said...

Unseelieme-- I couldn't have said it better. I think Dr.(?) Phil is a disgrace.

Bethany C. said...

I almost wish I hadn't read this because I'm so angry right now. Before I just generally hated Dr. Phil for being useless, now I really wish he would lose his show. And by 'lose his show', I mean get sodomized in prison.

David D. Levine said...

I came here from a tweet by Nora Jemisin. I haven't read the content of the page yet, but I have to tell you that your tiny gray font on a white background peppered with black dots is one of the worst combinations for readability I've ever seen. Also, the Contact link on the left doesn't work in either Safari or Firefox (on the Mac).

David D. Levine said...

I used readability.com to make the page readable, and now that I have read the content of the page I have to say I am completely appalled by Dr. Phil's behavior. What a dick!

brni said...

I dunno. If he actually requested that she film herself doing this, couldn't he be criminally implicated in the abuse himself? Or at least that one instance of abuse that he solicited?

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