Television–Related Disease

By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

I have been observing what I find to be an interesting phenomenon.

Recently on a late night talk show, the guest was a psychologist who has achieved great fame.  Dr. Phat (not his or her real name) strode onto the stage clad only in shirt and slacks, no jacket.  Pushing the envelope of his clothing were the rolls of his fat, flabby body (I will refer to Dr. Phat in the masculine).

Dr. Phat is the Michelin Man psychologist.

And that’s fine.  Fine, but for the fact that Dr. Phat is promoted as a weight loss guru and making money hand over fist selling weight loss books and supplements.

He claims decades of experience in the field of weight management.  It is evident from his appearance that he has decades of experience managing his own weight--into too much and his own body into grossly overfat.

It would appear that Dr. Phat has some awareness of the poor condition his body is in.  He probably has an even better sense of how much money he stands to lose if he cannot manufacture an alibi for his overfat condition.  He has been asked what his authority is to give advice in the weight management area, since he is overfat.  His response was that he was okay with and accepting of his weight.

To me this is remarkable.  It is sort of like asking Richard Speck how to treat nurses.  “But you killed some, Richard.”  “I can still give advice on how to treat female nurses because I am okay with and accepting of my murderous behavior.”  Or, “Mr. Rooney, thank you for your advice on having a lasting marriage, but you divorced and remarried multiple times.”  “I can still give marriage advice because I am okay with and accepting of my many failed marriages.”

The list of okay and accepting persons is a long one.  “Thank you:

Ms. Bobbit for minimally-invasive circumcision technique advice

Mr. Dahmer for advice on serving others

Mr. Brynner for hair restoration advice


Dr. Phat spouts all sorts of advice.

In a sane world, one would expect that every shred of it would become suspect since it gets explained away as I am okay with my failure to succeed at the advice I give.  Think about it.  How many of us would last at a job at which we so obviously failed?  Who would welcome our advice when our failure at following it is so apparent?  Why do people eagerly accept advice on how to guard the chicken house from the well-fed fox?

Would you embrace investment advice from a homeless person?  How about coaching on proper study habits from a grammar school dropout?  English lessons from someone who speaks only Mandarin?  Even Dr. Phat has enough instinct for self-preservation and money-making that he would call you “crazy” if you sought to learn child-rearing techniques from someone incarcerated for child neglect.

Well, more power to Dr. Phat for being able to succeed in a field where such an obvious handicap would relegate others to the sidelines.

This fellow is a creation of the media.  Television has made him the world-renowned “expert” he is today.

So the question becomes, what is it about television that causes us to embrace the advice of failures?  What illness does the monitor transmit?

A few of the possible diseases are:

1.            Blindness.  Perhaps millions of people are sitting too close to the screen and frying their eyeballs preventing them from seeing the obvious.  Possibly the viewers and followers are blinded or dazzled by bullsh** waves.

2.            Stupidity or retardation.  The images we are fed create disconnects between the brain’s visual center and the part that should be used for thinking.

3.            Psychological breakdown leading to mind control.  After all, in the case of Dr. Phat, he is a psychologist and used to manipulating minds.  By the way, has anyone ever seen his degree posted in his TV “office” where he practices on the guests, studio audience and viewers?

4.            Insanity.  We are being robbed of our reason and good sense by the spellbinding sound of psychobabbled sophism, i.e., media—mediated mesmerized madness.

5.            Pathologic hero worship.  If we see someone on TV, they must be good, right, etc.  If they weren’t, how did they get on TV?  This illness is related to the “everything I read is true” syndrome.

There are other possibilities to explore.  In the meantime, sadly, people will continue to listen to a failure and throw their good money after his fat.