Saturday, August 21, 2010

In defense of Dr. Laura

Everyone is attacking the radio talk-show host and advice-giver Dr. Laura Schlessinger for using the N-word on the air. I wonder how many of them are even aware of the methodology that she has using for decades.

The typical pop psychologist operates by showing empathy. If a patient complains that her husband has acquired a drinking problem, the shrink will first try to say how he feels her pain, and then suggest that she join a support group. The idea is that she will feel better and learn to cope better if she connects with others who understand her.

Dr. Laura's approach is radically different. She is not really a psychologist at all, and does not do psychological therapy. She operates by abruptly confronting callers, and challenging them to take personal responsibility for their actions. So if a caller says that her husband has started drinking to much, Dr. Laura might ask, "Why did you marry an alcoholic?". The question is rude and offensive, as it is unlikely that the caller married an alcoholic or that she deserves blame for her husbands imperfections. But the question is designed to force the caller to express why she did marry the man, and what she can do about the problem. Dr. Laura has a very low tolerance for callers whining about their spouses.

All of this makes Dr. Laura's radio program infuriating. A lot of people hate it. Some people must like, as she is on a lot of radio stations. All of her regular listeners must surely know what they are getting.

A caller complained about relatives using the N-word. Dr. Laura said that black comics on HBO use the word all the time, and that:
If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race.
Yes, of course this is rude and offensive. Just like every other radio show where she uses her methodology of confronting people about their personal responsibility choices. This one just happened to push a racial hot button.

As Dr. Laura would say, if you don't want to have your beliefs challenged, then don't listen to an offensive radio program.

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