About "Dr. Laura Schlessinger" and Tourette's Syndrome
" Never To Be Humble Opinion"
"One of the Saddest Things in Her Life ?"
"There are probably more Internet hate sites about me than Charles Manson. In fact, I don't think there are any hate sites about Charles Manson, but if you call up my name on one of these things, you will find hundreds of thousands of just demeaning, hateful, hostile, ugly things about me, and I walk around sometimes in circles trying to think, gee, I am trying to help people lead better lives. Why does that engender so much hate? So, I have had to come to peace with there are forces that are against goodness, and what I think is basic common sense truth. And you have to be able to stand up against that wind. " (1)
So claimed "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger when she was interviewed on MSNBC's Scarborough Country to promote her upcoming, appropriately-named theatrical event, In My Never To Be Humble Opinion. It is billed as a two-act, one-woman show where she will share her opinions on "everything from childbirth to death." The pre-publicity gives the impression we are to see a more open, personal side of "Dr. Laura." She revealed a bit of this in her interview with Joe Scarborough, when she almost teared up as she admitted that ...
"... it's one of the saddest things in my life that I don't have a relationship with God right now." (1)
This is a woman who apparently just doesn't get it. Compounding her history of moral and spiritual confusion (5), she seems to see no connection between her behavior, her lack of a spiritual relationship with the God she professes to embrace, and her image problems. She presents herself as a victim of the internet age, comparing herself to the serial killer Charlie Manson, even while acknowledging her own lack of humility in the title of the show she's promoting! She sees herself, apparently, as a victim in a role in which her own actions play no part. Not surprisingly, she's assumed the victim role before, in discussing the Tourette's incident. (2) "Dr. Laura" seems to have no cognizance of how her own actions and behaviors are connected to her image, and would have us believe that she advocates only "basic common sense truth," while anyone pointing out when she is simply wrong about medical facts must be a "force against goodness." She doesn't seem to understand that she is accountable for her actions, particularly when they are wrong, and/or can harm others. Where was this "common sense goodness" when she made assumptions about a child with Tourette's, making pronouncements and judgments based on inaccurate medical information, and reversing all of her professed family "standards" to insist that the child be excluded from an important family event? She did this without apparently having even a basic, fundamental knowledge or understanding of Tourette syndrome or the circumstances actually experienced by this child in this family.
Perhaps it never occurs to her that some people may find some of her own pronouncements "hateful, hostile, and ugly?" Perhaps her arrogance doesn't leave room for such ideas to enter into her consciousness. Or perhaps she's just playing to a segment of her audience, in order to increase ratings and promote her show.
Further, because she is viewed as being aligned with the religious right (in spite of her professed lack of a relationship with God), she contributes to unfavorable impressions of those with the political and religious orientations she pretends to represent.
Let's review the facts of the Tourette's incident, as it provides an example of how Dr. Laura herself is responsible for "engendering so much hate."
In the infamous Tourette's incident of so many years ago, Laura Schlessinger employed a double standard as soon as she heard the dreaded "T" word. She reversed her previous statements and positions about the importance of family not taking sides, and drew hasty conclusions about the child as soon as she heard the caller was referring to a child with Tourette's syndrome. After a LOT of protest over her inaccurate and judgmental response, she took a second chance to address the issue on a subsequent show, but then aired even more damaging and inaccurate information about Tourette's disorder! The transcripts of those shows, and a record of her attempts to rewrite this history into something different, are now part of her documented history. (3) She never personally apologized on air or on her website, she never personally fully retracted her inaccurate statements, and she never made amends for the harm done to people with Tourette's syndrome. What did occur is that a post allegedly representing her views was made to an internet message board, with no means of verifying that it came from her or represented her views, and containing statements which she personally did not make on air or on her website. So, was the apology from her or from her "handlers?"
Contrast this, for the sake of argument, with how it could have gone, were it not for "Dr. Laura's" own pride, arrogance and apparent inability to repair damage done. In a different, (not uncoincidentally) little known incident, a columnist made an unfortunate reference to Tourette's in one of her articles. She received some published and other private protests and comments on her article, in which she used Tourette's as an analogy to describe a politician's stupid comments. In response to my e-mail to her, I received an immediate reply, which included among other things, two simple sentences:
"I'm sorry for my insensitivity. It was dumb." (4)
How easy was that?
End of story, right there, just that simple. Just as simply, "Dr. Laura" could have apologized and and used her radio format to correct the inaccurate and hurtful information she put out about Tourette's in her first show. Instead, she used her credentials "as a scientist" (she's not a medical doctor, or a psychologist) to air incorrect information about Tourette's syndrome a second time.
So why is a straightforward apology and admission of error so hard for "Dr. Laura?" Is there, per chance, a connection between the things she acknowledged to Joe Scarborough, and her inability to make amends when her wrongful, inaccurate information brings harm to others? Isn't there is a reason that pride is considered a great downfall? Is there a connection between her arrogance and spiritual yearning? These aren't questions for a rocket scientist, but the connection seems to have escaped Laura Schlessinger.
Let's look at some more of what she said in her interview with Joe Scarborough.
"I really immersed myself in Judaism to the point that I had a Orthodox conversion, and let me tell you, when I do anything, you know me well enough to know, it's 120 percent. I had great hats, I mean. I wore—I did Shabbos. I did everything, and I was never—it's very sad for me to say this, it upsets me to this day, but as hard as I worked and as hard as I tried and as hard as I prayed and as hard as I immersed myself, I didn't get there, and it's a great sadness to me ... " (1)
Well, wearing the hat doesn't get one a relationship with God, nor does pursuing a relationship with Him through our own self-directed hard work and goals. Humility and submission to the will of a greater power doesn't seem to have entered "Dr Laura's" conscious awareness of Desirable Ways to Approach God. How can one expect to find a relationship with God in the presence of pride and arrogance?
If a relationship with God is truly what Dr. Laura seeks (and not just more publicity), the way out of her greatest regret and sadness is not that hard to find. It's there for the asking and for the taking. But a first step is putting aside "never to be humbled" pride and arrogance. Dr. Laura might even consider a starting place for practicing humility: setting the record straight for one small child with Tourette's, who wanted to attend his aunt's wedding. Humbling one's self is a good start towards learning to submit to God's will.
But ... What does "Dr. Laura" want more -- the ratings or the relationship? Or, stated another way: can she ever allow herself to be wrong?
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, this is to you: the child was young, impressionable, easily scarred and damaged, with his whole life ahead of him. The acceptance of his family could be his first step towards a healthy outcome, and family rejection could be the first step towards a life of despair. You were misinformed, hasty, judgmental and wrong in your medical facts and assumptions about the child. When given the chance to become informed, and do the right thing, you didn't take advantage of that opportunity. Some might even say you were "demeaning, hateful, hostile, and ugly" to people with Tourette's syndrome. You had the chance to make a difference. You consciously chose not to do the right thing. You are accountable -- to the families with Tourette's, to your audience, and, yes, even to God. Taking you to task for medical misinformation is not "hateful" ... it is holding a public person, who enjoys a wide audience, accountable for disseminating misinformation in ways that can bring further harm to persons already living with a stigmatizing condition. You have turned your failure, and your mean-spirited response to that sister-of-the-bride, into a situation where you have convinced yourself that you are the victim of the internet, and that it is others who are just "bound to hate." Another name for this narcissistic behavior is denial.
It's really not that hard to Go and Do the Right Thing. Or is it? As Dr. Laura might say:
Don't forgive those who wronged you unless they evince Remorse, Responsibility, and Repair (her "three R's"). (6)
Another example of Dr. Laura not following her own advice? She accuses those of who hold her accountable of being "forces against goodness," yet she demonstrated no remorse, reponsibility, or repair in her response to the Tourette's debacle.
I'm not sure how her forgiveness policy fits in with most religious doctrine, but that is between her and God.
(1) Transcript of MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," December 29, 2005.
(2) Dr. Laura claims the "victim role" in Tourette's incident.
(3) Dr. Laura on Tourette's, transcripts and incident of May, 2001.
(4) Kathleen Parker Tourette's Response
(5) Dr. Laura Loses Her Religion
(6) Wikipedia: Laura Schlessinger