Today in We Blame Oprah news: last night the Twitter account of one “Dr. Phil” McGraw (who had his license to practice psychiatry “retired” back in 1989 and is therefore not a licensed psychiatrist or any other kind of medical professional) asked its 1.2 million followers what we in The Real World(TM) might call “a loaded and incredibly offensive question“:
Now, sensible readers, we can scan such a message and realize how inappropriate and even disturbing it is. Yet someone approved it, and we have to imagine that at least one member of the honorable non-doctor’s PR team will soon find him or herself “escorted from the building.”
Twitter being the digital Ritalin that it is, #DrPhilQuestions responses were quick and brutal:
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) August 20, 2013
The problem lies in the wording of the question itself, which skates dangerously close to asking followers whether non-consensual sex can be acceptable. Yes, it’s a rhetorical query designed to provoke. But the possibly that anyone would question its meaning or considering answering “yes” makes it incredibly distasteful. Other questions in the series were better executed:
Have you experienced abuse by a stepparent? How was it resolved?
How young is too young to have “the talk” with your kids — and why?
We’re not exactly sure who’s to blame for McGraw’s snafu, and we truly don’t understand how this draft received approval. What if the offending tweet had been worded a bit more…elegantly?
Can an intoxicated man or woman ever legally consent to sexual activity?
It’s an important, clearly worded question with an obvious answer. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
As much as we prefer never to think of Dr. Phil, he has presented us with a fine cautionary tale about the importance of writing well. See, it’s not impossible to get your point across in a concise, engaging and even provocative way without touching a “third rail” as painfully as the doctor’s account did yesterday.
If a head is bald, can we rub it and make @DrPhil disappear?
— Patrick Coffee (@PatrickCoffee) August 21, 2013
Unfortunately, the answer to our query is “no”, but we do have some advice for McGraw: call Oprah. She’ll make your tearful apology as painless as possible.