I saw the story on the domestic violence email group I belong to some time ago and while it was certainly a horrific account, I didn’t pay it too much mind because “Dr.” Phil was wrapped up in it (which means he was exploiting yet another person or people to enhance his celebrity).
A call from an upset DV survivor mom on Maui this afternoon reminded me though of how much long-term and long-lasting damage Dr. Phil actually does so this really should come to the public’s attention.
Apparently, a fan sent in an “audition tape” to get on his show. What was the tape of? An Anchorage, Alaska mother abusing her adopted 7 year-old son by pouring hot sauce into his mouth then putting him under a cold shower.
Instead of notifying Alaska authorities about the documented evidence of child abuse he now had in his possession like any ethical psychologist would be obligated to do by law (see the Mandated Reporting reference in my 08/12/11 “Confidentiality” article) what do you think “Dr.” Phil did?
That’s right: he put the mother on national TV after dolling her up to publicly chastise her (how much does that speak to the “do no harm” principle psychologists are supposed to abide by?) but not before advertising parts of the tape for TWO WEEKS in trailers before the show he innocently titled “Mommy Confessions” aired (which could now be retitled to “Mommy CONVICTIONS” after the verdict of the mother’s jury trial today).
As you can tell, this case eventually landed in a courtroom BUT as the mother’s attorney commented in a January 28, 2011 Anchorage Daily News article “If this hadn’t showed up on ‘Dr. Phil,’ there wouldn’t be anybody saying anything about it.” http://www.adn.com/2011/01/27/1670946/dr-phil-visit-leads-to-child-abuse.html
In the same news article, a director who oversees Russian adoptions for the Alaska International Adoption Agency http://akadoptions.com/ said she “believed the Beagleys contacted the show to get additional help with the boy’s behavioral problems. She has reason to believe the producers told the Beagleys the video they send had to be controversial to get them on the show”.
If controversy is what they were looking for, that’s certainly what they got, but at what price? “Dr.” Phil and his producers should be ashamed for directly contributing to this little boy’s abuse. How? By fanning a self-admitted angry mom’s flames by encouraging her to be a little more controversial in her form of discipline in order to get on the show. You see, the video of the little boy being abused wasn’t the first and only one sent in to “Dr.” Phil but the others were apparently too tame and they wanted to see more.
Mom should have been smarter then to accept such a challenge or to seek her 15 minutes of fame in such a manner – or was it something else? It’s been said that the little boy actually has some severe behavioral problems and that mom initially reached out to “Dr.” Phil for assistance under the impression that he – as a former professional psychologist – would be able to assist. How absolutely tragic for the mother, the little boy and the rest of the family if this were the case.
And what do you think about “Dr.” Phil’s behavior? Just to be clear, he lets us know that HE didn’t shoot the video (he’s just the person profiting from airing it). The ethical principle of “Do no harm” appears to now be absolutely meaningless to him and if that’s the case, shouldn’t he surrender the title “Dr.” like he surrendered his license in 2006 so that there’s no question whatsoever that he’s purely an “entertainment figure” and nothing more then that?
Even the person who gave him his start figured out that some controversies aren’t worth the ratings because giving some controversies a forum could produce actual harm. From The Oprah Winfrey Show Oprah’s Most Memorable Guests: The Greatest Lessons on The Oprah Show:
“In 1988, Oprah learned one invaluable lesson the hard way when she taped a show with a panel of white supremacists. She says her producers knew it would be edgy, controversial and likely get huge ratings. More importantly, Oprah and her team thought they could expose the white supremacists ignorance and confront their hatred of black people right on national television.
The plan backfired on them when the panel came in with their own agenda. After promoting violence and making several offensive comments, the white supremacists walked off the stage.
After the show, Oprah says she felt unsettled and had a strong epiphany. ‘In the end, we gave a bunch of racists an hour-long platform to spread their message of hate and evil. That taping changed the way I thought about TV and how it should be used,’ she says. ‘I made a conscious decision to never again use this platform to put that kind of energy out into the world.’” http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/The-Greatest-Lessons-on-The-Oprah-Show_1#ixzz1WZ5OSJps
Clearly “Dr.” Phil has yet to learn the wisdom of such a lesson.
I guess the good news is that “Dr.” Phil’s audience is more responsible and intolerant of abuse then he is since viewers are the ones who actually notified authorities.
Since the show, there has been much discussion over “discipline or abuse” and here’s the difference: DISCIPLINE comes from the word “disciple” which means “to teach”. Abuse is dominating another, getting your way at another’s expense with no regard or empathy for the other person’s feelings.
So what did the little boy learn that day? Why lying is bad? Or that lying gets his mother mad? It’s kinda hard to learn anything when you’re in pain so I don’t think the little boy was in the most conducive environment for learning anything beyond fear and coming up with the right answers. The lesson he may have learned is that LYING isn’t the problem but GETTING CAUGHT is.
One thing is sure though: 20 years from now he will not remember what he did to deserve the hot sauce and shower (unless he watches You Tube) but he’ll never forget the pain of the hot sauce or the sting of the cold shower.