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Neutered Intellect

Dr. Keith Ablow is making some wild statements these days on FOX News. Does he really believe them?

As one who champions reason above all else, it can be a little painful when someone I admire behaves irrationally. It brings me no joy to “call out” someone who shares many of my own sensibilities, and whom I would much rather agree with.

I remember the first time I had ever seen Dr. Ablow. My wife and I were watching an episode of the now defunct Tyra Banks show, which, on that day centered around the merits of relationships which negotiated non monogamy. As swingers, we fully expected yet another biased, fact challenged representation of “the lifestyle” based on society’s pre-disposed affinity for ill-fated monogamy, and a condemnation of all things secular. Indeed, that is how the show was shaping up. That is, until Dr. Ablow arrived.

On the stage were two couples. One, a swinger couple clearly in love and sitting comfortable and relaxed, while their “Vanilla” counterparts sat angry and emotionally disconnected. As the audience predictably denounced the swingers, Banks –an intellectual windsock– acquiesced to their disapproval despite the obvious example of who the happier couple was. It was Ablow who took the stage and pointed out everyone’s hypocrisy. It was Ablow, who, to my knowledge, became the first person in a televised network venue to defend libertine sensibilities, and favor relationship truth over irrational hyperbole. It was Ablow who braved contradicting conventional thought, even though it was the more difficult path.

He made a fan that day.

Eventually, Dr. Keith Ablow would get his own daytime talk show, which did not last very long. Not one to engage in the circus atmosphere that drives that genre, Dr. Keith’s brand of lucid thought and his empathetic approach to people’s travails could not compete with his competition’s boorish sensationalism in a commercial environment. To his credit, Ablow seemed, unwilling to take advantage of emotionally vulnerable people for profit. It bothered me that Ablow, a *REAL* forensic psychiatrist, an intellectual, and someone who seemed to reject tabloid over-simplification was languishing in obscurity when bigoted, self indulgent dullards like “Dr.” Phil McGraw had achieved international fame and fortune based on ignominious precepts, and who feigned expertise by dispensing warmed over platitudes.

Later, I joined Dr. Keith’s website, “Living the Truth”, based on his book, and moreover, his approach to healing through empathy. “Doc”, as we affectionately referred to him would host semi regular chat sessions, which often had less than a dozen people in them. It was intimate, especially for a medium as vast as the internet. But he was gracious, funny, charming, and brilliant. It was there that he and I interacted. Sometimes we’d agree, and sometimes not. But it was always amicable. And it was in one of these chats where Dr. Keith offered an unsolicited act of kindness to me. I will never forget that, which is why I feel compelled to do the same for him, now. So…

Dear Dr. Keith,
As someone who both respects and admires you, I feel compelled to tell you that you’re behaving like an asshole.

I understand the frustration you must have felt watching your dim witted contemporaries like “Dr.” Laura achieve financial prosperity when you outranked them by a significant amount of I.Q. points, if not, more than just a few rungs on the evolutionary ladder. I understand what it feels like to be passed over in favor of people less qualified. So with that, I also understand that even when someone as psychotically delusional as your friend Glenn Beck came with an offer to rescue you from obscurity, you had to jump at it. But the character you’ve been playing on FOX News has gotten out of hand.

Wasn’t there a way for you to suggest that an ad featuring a Mom painting her sons toenails pink — while is in itself no big deal– might be a small part of a larger sociological dynamic which may be hurtful. Was it not possible to rationally discuss the societal benefits of more defined gender roles without the hyperbolic blather? Is this how you would truly address a patient if they were to come to you with this? I suspect not. But is this how your employers at FOX directed you to respond? I suspect so.

Would FOX News allow you to point your high powered perception at a Conservative Republican? Surely Dr. Ablow, you recognize the irresponsible –if not the overtly bigoted– psychological practices exhibited by Marcus and Michelle Bachman… and how destructive “reparative” therapy (a practice the American Psychological Association has deemed ineffective and unsafe) is to young gay people. Surely they are due scrutiny from someone with your background. Clearly, some of Marcus Bachman’s effeminate characteristics might lead someone to rationally conclude that his hatred of Gays is nothing short of self-loathing brought on by denial of his true sexual orientation. Dr. Ablow, you’ve made more irresponsible diagnoses about liberals from more casual observations. But would FOX News permit you to publically speak the truth regarding the Bachman’s? It’s doubtful.

Then there was your recent feud with HBO’s Bill Maher over comments he made about abstinence spokesperson Bristol Palin, and her assertions about how she lost her virginity. She claims in her book to not remember the drunken sex had with her fiancée the previous night, and that she was taken advantage of while passed out. There is a word for that, and it’s called rape. Realizing that her statements have legal repercussions, she has backed off the severity of her claims and tried to downplay them. Apparently, Bristol never knew that wine coolers had alcohol in them. Maher, a comic (whether you find him funny or not) made fun of her, and the vapid Palin intellect.

Which in turn led to your hackneyed diagnosis about Bill Maher’s hatred of all women based on his liberal lampooning of the estrogenic psychosis that accords some conservative women like Palin and Bachman. It was apparent to anyone who can do basic algebra that FOX News directed you to defend the honor of the Palin’s, as Bristol’s Mom Sarah is a fellow FOX employee. Did you offer a similar diagnosis when your financial benefactor Glenn Beck made personal jokes about Meghan McCain? Did you take your pal to task when he pretended to throw up into a trash at her expense? Really? Bill Maher’s comment about Bristol Palin were “vile”… and Glenn Beck’s comments about Meghan McCain were perfectly acceptable? Weren’t you the same guy who used to laugh it up on the Howard Stern Show? So when a friend makes misogynistic jokes about women, it’s all in good fun, but when a liberal does it, it compels you to channel your inner Gloria Steinem?

I have, in the past, also chastised Bill Maher for such partisan indulgences. It was not very long ago when I publically bashed Mr. Maher for placing the blame on the Arizona shooting squarely on the shoulders of the Republican party, while sitting next to his friend, Russell Simmons, who directly profits from the imagery created by urban gun violence. As I do with you, I like Bill Maher. But like you, he too can be an asshole.

But the assertion you made about Maher on the “Fox & Friends” show were ridiculous. You claim that Bill Maher has no affiliation with life? This coming from a guy who supports the Republican position on War and Health care? You connect hatred of women with his “anti-religion” stance, when the reality is –as you are well aware– there is nothing more patriarchal and women hating than religious scripture. Then you had the nerve to misquote Maher’s comments after 9-11. While comedians can always hide behind their “art”, as a Psychiatrist, your credibility is dependent on your integrity. Perhaps it’s time that you employ some. I know you’re capable.

Speaking of your friend and co-author Glenn Beck, are he and his outlandish statements also beyond psychological criticism? Are all those Nazi dots he connects in his paranoid mind the determinations of someone rational? Are his revisionist, inaccurate history lessons not worthy of being tempered with a psychological intervention from a friend? Are his assertions about God sending messages through natural disasters not in need of a little rational perspective?

At the risk of appearing immodest, Doc, I also have a decent following of my own. As such, I’ve received more than a few E-mails from former “Living the Truth” regulars who were wondering what has become of the man we knew? What happened to the luminous, empathetic soul who we knew from LTT and replaced him with a fear mongering FOX News doppelganger? As that woman told President Obama at the Town Hall meeting not too long ago, “Frankly, I’m tired of defending you”.

Dr. Keith, there are two types of people who can tell someone when they’re being an asshole… Enemies, and Friends. I hope you understand that I am the latter. I’m not sure if you realize how silly you sound to rational people. I believe that Fox News has hired you to give them some much needed credibility, but I’m afraid that it has come at the expense of your own. I hope the paycheck is worth it. In the meantime, the folks who know you from before you drank the FOX Kool-Aid will try to remember the man we knew.

The Premise of Faith

There is a disturbing trend occurring in the United States regarding how we fail to recognize the difference between illumination, and propaganda.

Certainty is a luxury which can only be acquired through accurate, proven information. While many have strong feelings about why things happen as they do, before one can reasonably claim assuredness, their facts must support their assertions. However, today’s media dynamics are such that a lack of valid data is hardly enough to discourage those whose brands offer assessments as certainty. No longer concerned with journalistic integrity, professional socio/political commentators often make assertions — not based on confirmations — but in accordance with how they might affect their financial bottom line. As cable news pundits, Op-Ed Bloggers, and Facebook prognosticators confound suppositions with hard evidence, and offer opinions as facts, the sensibly susceptible will invariably fall prey. The results are that much of America is having their world view shaped by editorialists with little, or no credibility.

It is human nature to gravitate towards those who espouse the things we want to hear. This is how many of us choose our media, churches, and often our friends. But where it concerns the premise from which many of us operate, absolute affirmations are being accepted as fact by a population all too willing to believe things that will provide a level of comfort –without those offering these same assertions having to provide any sources, or proof. A presumption of credibility is often being accorded to those who base their platforms on purposely deceptive information, and who draw conclusions based on demographics.

Such is the case with religious faith, and how theists are interpreting disasters, both natural and manmade, around the world. When sectarian pontiffs assert the will of an almighty creator in such instances, they not only do so without regard for all of the facts, they do so despite having any facts. Faith is often presented, not as a belief which is not based on proof (as the dictionary defines) but as a positive assurance. So those whose predispositions are in accordance with certain fundamentalisms will acquiesce to the message, regardless of its legitimacy. The recent Tsunami, and subsequent nuclear crisis in Japan was fertile soil for those hoping to nurture fear driven, religious fervor. Whether it was a preacher, a politician, or a “news” entertainer, there was no shortage of those who profit from feigning righteousness –or who claim absolute clairvoyance pertaining to God’s will– speaking their minds about why such a tragedy took place.

For instance, Fox News pundit Glenn Beck’s suggestion that God was “sending a message” to the people of Earth by killing thousands of Japanese folks with an earthquake, tidal wave, and subsequent nuclear meltdown would be laughable — if not for the amount of simple minded people who accept whatever someone with a dynamic personality like his says where it concerns such matters.

“God …what God does is God’s business, I have no idea.” Said Beck on his radio show, “But I’ll tell you this: whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus — there’s a message being sent. And that is, Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.”

Apparently, the character Mr. Beck plays in the media has some sort of divine intuition whereby he is able to determine whether a geological phenomenon is simply a matter of happenstance, or if it is a cosmic post-it note written by the hand of the almighty. What is the stuff we should stop doing then? Was the tsunami God’s way of letting us know that we shouldn’t watch liberal news broadcasts? Does God want us to listen more to Glenn Beck? Tune in to find out. God, it seems, works in mysterious, if not ineffectual ways.

The not-so-subtle message here is that Glen Beck, and his viewers/listeners are in good standing with the almighty creator of the cosmos, and that those who have befallen disaster somehow “had it coming”. The psychological payoff for one’s inclusion into any pietistic, theological “cool-kids club”… is that they are then afforded the latitude to enact sanctimony, indignation, and mask their bigotry with religion. But bigots rarely recognize themselves as such… and the pious either never see it that way, or they lack the capacity for honest introspection. “Hey, I don’t have a problem with anyone… it’s God …I’m just relaying the message.”

However Beck is not alone when it comes to rallying people through religious fear by appealing to their sense of self righteousness. There have been a countless number of opportunistic televangelists who have also engaged in similar self-serving indulgences when their fellow human beings have fallen into hardship. Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson, host of “The 700 Club” and self described “statesman” has concluded why God would have punished Haiti with such a devastating earthquake. It was retribution for a deal they allegedly made with the devil years ago. So too, according to Robertson, did God apparently punish the people of Louisiana with Hurricane Katrina for their sinful ways. Did Robertson not notice that Bourbon street, the cultural center of New Orleans’ libidinous proclivities went, for the most part, unaffected by Katrina? Has God never noticed the cities of Amsterdam, or Las Vegas? Is the architect of the galaxy simply not paying attention, or does he just have bad aim?

But there were few heralds of divine truth whose bigotry could compare with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who went so far as to blame the Sept 11th attacks on “abortionists, feminists, and gays”… none of whom are in accordance with Falwell’s (nor God’s apparently) moralistic world view. “I point the finger in their face” said the Liberty University founder, “You helped this happen.” Did I miss something, or did only pro-choice feminists, and homosexuals die in the Trade Center attacks? Considering that the United States financial industry was so negatively affected, couldn’t one just as reasonably conclude that God hates capitalism? Could our almighty creator be that obtuse? But Christian America’s hypocrisy is staggering when one considers how most in the United States will denounce the ignorance and bigotry consistently exhibited Westboro Baptist Church, and how someone like Falwell — who was no less insular — was a accorded the luxury of credibility to the point where he had access to the White House.

The moral and theological contradictions in the statements that evangelical, and politically motivated pontiffs make are clear… provided one’s acumen is not distorted by fear based religion. If one concedes that the God which these, and other theistic profiteers speak of is indeed the omnipotent, loving, merciful, all powerful being they claim –then how can one rationally assert that a loving God would punish people with natural disasters? What “message” could a “loving” God be sending to us mortals by decimating so many people’s lives? Would any of us send our children to play on a beach we knew would be devastated by a tsunami? How could anyone who is reasonable conclude that the same God who hates abortion would also allow pregnant women and children to be killed in these very same disasters? Is God also punishing bible belt Christians when he obliterates a town with a tornado? How can anyone with the ability to discern reason intellectually reconcile the concepts of love and mercy from a being who is also the catalyst for so much pain and suffering?

However when religious editorialists make such unconditional allegations about God’s intentions, the contradictions about love, mercy and petty wrath are incidental regarding the their true motivations. They have — whether they want to admit it or not– arrogantly replaced their messiah with themselves. The psychological dynamics of this type of narcissism are both frightening, and sad.

It is ego-driven self indulgence that will allow anyone to make any absolute assertions as to what God’s will is…as opposed to what they feel it might, or could be. In what amounts to a theological version of White Night Syndrome, those who claim to have inside apostolic information about God’s objectives, are in fact, portraying themselves as the incarnated prophets for their fundamentalism, or more likely, brand name. It’s like having a surrogate Jesus on our televisions telling us who to vote for, and why God is angry at us this week. It is they who offer divine providence here on earth by playing the role of savior, and rationalizing bigotry with scripture. But with the advent of social networking, masking hate speech with religion has gotten significantly worse.

With the safety and anonymity of the internet, those inclined towards being part of a “God Squad” have found a safe venue to impose their narcissistic self importance. All they have to do is simply regurgitate articles written by whatever “credible” 3rd party affirms their dogmatic predispositions, and inject themselves into the socio/political/theological equation by becoming “junior” saviors themselves. Now we can all, to some extent, be like Glenn Beck.

Condescendingly, many offer prayers when a cataclysmic disaster occurs, as if the almighty was momentarily distracted and was unaware of what actually happened, or if he could perhaps have his mind changed about those whose lives still hang in the balance. With every disaster, lives are destroyed, and with a cavalier disregard for human suffering, those very same people offering prayers will chalk it up to “God’s will”. Nothing short of hubris would allow one to conclude from the warmth and comfort of a middle class suburban home here in the United States why God would allow people to languish in disease and poverty elsewhere. Only through arrogant indignation could one determine that “God Loves Us” while chowing down on a cheeseburger during American Idol, while there is so much needless suffering occurring around the globe.

At least those on television who provide vainglorious proclamations about God’s plan can rationalize them with a significant income. For those posting inane religious platitudes on the Internet and blathering out of context scripture to their friends and co-workers, their payoff rarely amounts to more than satisfying a petty sense of ego. But for the small minded, or those simply looking to impose their will on others, the reconciliations about God’s alleged ethics, and the harsh reality of global suffering need not be made. Logic and reason are afterthoughts when the motivation is self indulgent.

The truth is, there are only three conclusions one can rationally draw where it concerns the concept of God, and what “his” motivations might be. One might take the classic Deist position, and determine that if there is a God, he is indifferent to what transpires here on Earth. Perhaps God created the universe, and like a giant Petri dish, things just started growing. A microbe on the other side of the galaxy, bacteria on a distant moon, and humans here on earth… he does not prefer one to the other.

Or perhaps, God is a sadist. After all, various holy writs are replete with stories about how God punishes people for not pacifying his ego, and banishes them to an eternity of torture for not worshipping correctly. That would not only explain all of the needless pain and suffering around the world, but how Glenn Beck and Jerry Falwell were created in his image.

Lastly, one could determine that there is, in fact, no such thing as God. If employed, logic and reason would most likely lead to that conclusion.

However one cannot invent the god they want. Recently I was engaged in an Internet discussion about the Japanese Tsunami, and afterwards I received an angry letter from a woman who took obvious exception to my stance regarding the uselessness of offering prayers, and the pretentiousness of those in a warm, dry place suggesting that survivors turn to God. It was my contention that if they believed in God, then this was obviously his will as he is all knowing, and all powerful… right?

Among other barely coherent ramblings, she wrote, “The God you think I pray to is not the one u(sic) speak of!!! My God didn’t create that disaster and if u(sic) think he did just to prove a point your(sic) wrong!! My God is a loving God and I am not imposing him on you but there will come a time in your life that you will call his name!”

Herein lies the problem with most Theists. It is their inability to recognize their own inconsistencies. First of all, she sent me the E-mail… so she was imposing her beliefs on me. Beyond that –spelling and grammar notwithstanding– there is a gap in this woman’s logic wider than the nuclear fallout that she claims God had nothing to do with. Can this person not understand that an all powerful God would have had to be responsible for this disaster, as he is in control of everything? But by the same token, how a loving God wouldn’t have caused any devastation in the first place? Is such a rudimentary inference too difficult to arrive at when one accepts without question that “God loves us” because it “comforts” them?

We cannot pick and choose random acts of nature, and conveniently interpret them so as to qualify God as “loving and merciful” when the facts bear our differently. One cannot rationally determine that if God is indeed omnipotent, all powerful, and loving… that he is unaccountable for the tragedies that occur on such a massive scale. We cannot remove God from the global suffering equation when it does not suit our astigmatic presumptions. Moreover, we cannot be certain about any of God’s intentions, when we cannot be certain about his nature, or whether he exists in the first place.

But like much of America’s personal indulgences, the luxury of certainty is being paid for with credit, and without any collateral. We’re overextended, and looking for an emotional handout. We accord credibility to those who simply do not deserve it because they say things we want to hear. It is how Americans formulate their premise of faith, and it is unfortunately devoid of any rationality. Certainly, if there is such a thing as “God”, we humans are incapable of understanding him, or his intentions about us… and those who affirm otherwise, are either self serving, egomaniacal, or simply predatory.

The Morality Police: A look into the media circus surrounding Charlie Sheen

I am still trying to ascertain the percentage of the population who truly believe their own lies, or whether they just want others to believe them.

My wife and I party a lot. Our lifestyle is such that we travel often, meet new and interesting people, and if the planets align so as to create a scenario conducive to consensual, extramarital copulation… that’s just what we do. We work hard when it’s time to work, and we party hard when it’s time to party. We are Happy, and in love… yet there are those who feel compelled to sit in sanctimonious judgment of us, and who have the gall to unfavorably scrutinize our marriage… even when their own lives are miserable. But this article is not about us, rather it’s about the hypocrisy of those who apply their “morality” universally.

Such is the purposeful deceptiveness regarding both the media’s role, and the public reaction to the drama surrounding Charlie Sheen. Before I begin, I am not a psychologist, and even if I was, I would realize that it’s impossible to offer a responsible diagnosis without the benefit of personal interactions. So I’ll say this to America: Charlie Sheen is an ACTOR, you imbeciles. The image you have of him, is the image he *wants* you to have of him. Could he be the rambling, psychotic nut we see in these cringe-worthy, albeit hilarious interviews? Maybe. But as the economy teeters on the brink, and the world faces threats, both real and imagined… the nation’s headlines this past week have been dominated by an actor with tiger blood, Adonis DNA, an over active libido. The actor Charlie Sheen is partying, banging porn stars, and like a nation of Gladys Kravitz’s we watch with phony concern/outrage because most of our lives suck.

It usually comes down to petty jealousy, and people resenting Sheen for living a life that few have the guts to. Granted, while Sheen’s lifestyle may be excessive, when it comes down to it, most of the general population amble through their day having had their thought process steered so as to compromise their inclinations in favor of becoming intellectually attenuated, unimaginative, unoriginal automatons. We make rationalizations as to the why the restrictions we put on out libidos make us virtuous, and we lie to ourselves about the foundations of what we claim to believe.

There are very few things as abhorrent as when people feign morality in order to enact a self righteous indignation, or a burning desire to impose their will on others. The Internet is replete with sanctimonious sex-o-phobes who offer ‘payers”, and unsolicited advice for Sheen, as if any of these dim witted mouth breathers have the synaptic circuitry to make the attempt beyond regurgitating religious platitudes, and self-help cliché’s. Very few of those pretending to care about whether or not Charlie Sheen emerges healthy (or at all), are sincere. Like ex smokers who freak out whenever someone near them lights up… Most are using Sheen’s celebrity to let the world know that since they rarely, if ever orgasm… or enjoy themselves beyond the vicarious thrill of listening to their cerebrally stifled offspring stammer through the trivialities of their school day… he shouldn’t be allowed to either.

Enter the pious, preachy and puerile putz hater, Andrea Peyser, who seems to be personally offended by Sheen’s hedonistic indulgences. As a writer for the New York Post– which is to News what Jersey Shore is to Reality — Peyser, makes a significant living of placating the lowest intellectual denominator… or as the Post calls them, their readership. By writing about whatever politically correct, knee jerk reaction she believes the cubicle dwelling, Walmart shopping public will most likely respond favorably to on any given subject… she utilizes her considerable lack of comprehension, integrity and research skills to hammer out fifteen hundred words of insipid, hackneyed drivel several times per week. Regarding Sheen, her recent article about him offered all the insight of a morbidly obese Topeka housewife whose husband peruses porn sites who prides himself on his flatulence… Men are inherently indiscriminant, and should be chastised at every opportunity… Especially Charlie Sheen!

Never does it ever enter into the nearly empty craniums of those who denounce Charlie Sheen’s behavior that when it comes right down to it… this is *his* life. Perhaps they should concern themselves with their own dreary existence, and while they’re at it, learn the names of their State Senators. Are they really concerned with his kids? If they are, what about the children in Africa who are being tortured and murdered on a regular basis? Are Sheen’s kids really so much worse off than most of the little tax burdens being dragged through our suburban malls by their feeble-minded, irrational, affection starved parents? Does anyone believe that any of the women in his life are actually victims? Are people truly concerned, and/or outraged… or is it more likely that misery loves company?

At least you can say that Charlie Sheen isn’t *that* kind of hypocrite.