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Why I Hate Dr. Phil

January 5, 2014

dr. phil

(This is an excerpt from my book “Leave the Brother Alone.”)

I hate Dr. Phil.

I have a problem with people who insist, with no invitation, on telling other people what to do in the name of trying to help people, especially when basing their sermons on a false premise attained through mind-numbing ignorance. Of course, the victims of Dr. Phil’s nit-witted lectures choose to either watch his show or, worse, accept the invitation to sit with him on stage so that the nation of viewers can eavesdrop on their embarrassing confessions and the subsequent remedies as offered by the jowly charlatan doctor. Dr. Phil zealots – yes, they are a prowling gang of deranged, bug-eyed, brainwashed zombies – will argue (to the end of time) that “it is the fat-headed blowhard’s job to dispense advice, and the advicees come on the show because they NEED his Texan wisdom coupled with a shot of saliva-spray in their mooning faces. The mustachioed blowhard wants to HELP people – and what’s wrong with that? The obese blowhard is a really nice guy who earns my trust by his folksiness.”

Many believe in love at first sight, but there is also proof of its opposite: hate at first sight. In 2003, I had never heard of Dr. Phil until, one day, I was running on a treadmill at my local gym in Chelmsford, Mass when another member switched the channel on the TV to reveal a human head that was part potato, part flesh-asteroid and part slimy mustache – yes, Jim, meet Dr. Phil. His guests – or prey – were a young couple on the verge of marriage. They were over-weight and looked to be a product of the Midwest as evidenced by their hokey wardrobe, trusting nature and Hair Cuttery-styled coifs – but nice enough people. It seemed as if it had been her idea to drag her fiancée on the show so to get permission to go ahead with the wedding from this guy who was not her father, and in fact was a total stranger. The couple went on record as professing undying love for each other. In the end, though, Dr. Phil ordered the couple to not walk the aisle because the potential bride had “to first learn to love herself before she could learn to love someone else.”

The dude was shocked and angry to have his life upturned in so cavalier a fashion by this pseudo celebrity who had known the couple all of twenty minutes, with most of that time taken up by his own cliché-ridden speeches. The dude argued that, What did it matter that his fiancée had low self-esteem, for he loved the girl and they would work these issues out during a lifetime of marriage? Meanwhile, Dr. Phil ignored his “commonsense” rebuttal because it interfered with his one-size-fits-all approach to psychotherapy, as he kept hammering away at the girl’s crumbling defenses. He was the bullying voice of her god, the Burning Bush to her Midwestern Moses. Soon, in tears, she turned to her boyfriend and broke off the engagement. The dude assumed the disoriented look of anyone who, with a bounce in his step and a whistle on his lips, has walked into an ambush.

I put the word commonsense in quotation marks because I was soon to learn that Phil-ites equated the good Doctor (of philosophy) with commonsense advice. He was the guy who would tell it like it is, and it was said that his talent for bellowing the hard truth had something to do with him being from Texas. To me, the commonsense was that both members of this young couple were not exactly red carpet material in terms of physical beauty, and nor did they possess the wit and sophistication of Voltaire and Emilie du Chatelet, and so there was a good chance that neither of them was ever going to find anyone better with which to share a committed life. What about the idea of love and romance making otherwise fractured people just a little bit more whole? Perhaps it is better to lack some self-esteem and be committed to someone who loves you than to be brimming with self-love and live alone with the full DVD set of the Nora Ephron canon. Now this average couple had been split up by a cult leader that had brainwashed the woman into believing that it was better to forgo at least a smidgen of happiness in this vale of tears we call life in exchange for the utopian promise that she would, in the near future, attain a higher level of personal transcendence by having a torrid love affair with her own reflection.

Thus began my animosity toward this charmless buffoon who went on to build a giant financial empire by gathering a mass of lady followers more devoted to him than Mary Magdalene was to Jesus. My exercise regimen at the local gym was to work out four afternoons a week and end with twenty minutes on the treadmill at a time that now coincided with three lady members (Phil-ites) making sure to blast The Dr. Phil Show so that I became a captive audience. This lasted for three months until I had witnessed enough of this showman dispensing off-the-cuff advice to the saps coming on the set as if they were Islamist making the Pilgrimage to Mecca. Thereafter I changed up my workouts so to avoid these hypnotic cult rallies.

First, let us get past the self-esteem argument. Dick Cheney, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Kim Kardashian, Hannibal Lecter, and — why not — Adolph Hitler — all these monsters had or still have an endless supply of self-esteem. Yet none of them were or are capable of loving another person.

We must also dispense once and for all with the notion that Texans hold the monopoly on commonsense. I will even go so far as to say that they are the segment of American society that has the least grip on down-to-earth reality. Rick Perry is a Christian Fundamentalist who the citizens of the Lone Star State voted in as their governor. This makes it safe to say that a majority of Texans believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Therefore Texans have no commonsense.

We could go on all day recounting Old and New Testament stories that defy all logic, so let us cite the most ridiculous tale to make the editor’s cut: Noah and the Flood. He built an ark that was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet deep – and then fit into it two members of every species in the world. We shall ignore the commonsense fact that Noah could not have fit all these animals into a single flotilla – that’s too easy to mock — and instead will focus on how he could have, first, identified every known species, and, second, lured them into a Middle Eastern desert. Linnaeus is the father of modern taxonomy (the naming of species) and began his work in 1735. Scientific researchers have since been working around the clock, and around the world, to locate and name new species. Today tens of thousands of biologists are equipped with detailed maps, airplanes to reach out of the way places, and vast computer data bases to keep track of past and recent discoveries. At present, there are 1.2 million identified species, with 15,000 new ones found each year. It is estimated that, in the end, the number could reach 8.5 million animal (not counting insect) species.

Yet a no-nonsense Texan believes that a desert-dweller, who spent day and night hammering together a sophisticated boat capable of accommodating the largest zoo in recorded history, had the time and biological savvy to achieve what armies of trained scientist have not even come close to bringing to fruition. A Texan also lacks the commonsense to wonder how Noah could have traveled to North America, South America, the Caribbean, China, the North and South Pole, Central and South Africa, Madagascar (which possesses 175,000 species not found anywhere else in the world), the South Pacific Islands BEFORE he had built his cargo vessel. The straight-shootin’ Texan will bury his sweaty head in manure rather than come to terms with how two polar bears could have even survived in the Mideast heat, much less made the trek to the awaiting ark; or with how Noah, once he and his global menagerie disembarked on Mount Ararat, was able to transport those 175,000 species back to Madagascar, much less the buffalo back to Kansas, or the Coquimbo Marked Gecko back to Chile.

Suffice it to say, a Texan has no commonsense, no practical wisdom, and should be ignored whenever he or she professes to offer advice.

Now back to the Texan called Dr. Phil and his show that “helps” people using a commonsense approach. There are two things that never made “a lick of sense” to me about the show, and they are 1) How is it possible to meet and talk with someone on a stage for twenty minutes and then have enough information to offer responsible advice? 2) If you, as a guest, really wanted help with your problems, why would you go on national TV to air your innermost demons to a self-involved hack? The simple answer to both questions is that the show is designed as entertainment, to garner ratings in order to sell commercials, and nothing better attracts an American audience than the prospect of public humiliation. Texans love orchestrating a public hanging, and Dr. Phil loves pulling the rope. In the process, he makes another financial windfall, and the shameless guests get their metaphorical necks snapped in a trade for that one blessed chance to get their fifteen minutes of fame before heading back to St. Louis.

Dr. Phil has already rehearsed his answer to me and to the host of other like-minded people who see him as a harbinger for the end of decent civilization, when he repeats, on his show, that he is not offering therapy. Really? Let’s get this straight: People come on stage to air their personal woes, and then he responds by telling them how to fix their problems – and that’s not therapy? That would be like convincing a woman to have sex with you in front of a camera, then posting the footage on the web – and NOT calling it porn. An AP story tells of a Dr. Phil “disclaimer, which was shown for 12 seconds after a recent show, that tells viewers that the opinions expressed are educational and informational, are directed at individual guests, and that viewers who need help should consult a health care professional.” Okay, then why are you advising the patient in front of millions of people? The blunt, Texas-style answer: MONEY.

At the core of this monster named Phil McGraw is a glowing orb of greed, a need to capitalize on every word that issues from his weird-looking mouth. Here is where I commend the good Doctor. It takes a genuine talent to parley every break into another break and then into another break while raking in a pile of cash at each step – that is, to be a first-class hustler/conman on a grand scale. Let’s go to Wikipedia to learn more about Phil McGraw’s ascent to fame and fortune:

Phil McGraw is not all Texan, as he also spent his formative years in Oklahoma and Kansas – then again, it’s all the same wind-swept wasteland full of guys wearing cowboy hats and gals parading around in halter-tops. My favorite factoid is how he won a football scholarship to play middle linebacker at the University of Tulsa where his team lost a game by the score of 100-6. Anyone else devoid of McGraw’s narcissism would have retreated into a lifelong fetal position at having missed that many tackles, but not our boy. He reinvented himself at Midwestern State University in Texas to earn his B.A. in Psychology, a degree that, to me (as a science major), indicates someone who does not want to be bogged down by factual evidence – i.e., a future bullshit artist.

In 1979, McGraw got his PhD in clinical psychology at the University of North Texas – so, yes, he actually does have the title of doctor, contrary to what many of his other detractors may think. Wikipedia notes that he had “run-ins with several faculty members.” Yes, it is usually the case that older assholes were once younger assholes. What is amusing to contemplate is the title of his dissertation, “Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Psychological Intervention.” It suggests that Phil thought he could bully away a medical condition by shouting at an inflamed joint, “What were you thinking?”

The amassing of a fortune began when he and his psychologist dad joined forces with noted impresario and business woman, Thelma Box (a Texan, of course), to operate something called Pathway seminars, which preached the usual rah-rah methods to be a Success, for instance taking control of your own life, yada, yada, yada.  He ended up selling off his Pathways stock for $325,000 while hiding the sale from dad and Box. Then he used Box’s seminar material to write a book under another name, Life Strategies, which became a best seller. In sum, Phil out-hustled a hustler, or, better, one self-help guru promoted himself at the expense of another self-help guru.

Next he attached himself to another high stakes hustler, a lawyer named Gary Dobbs, and together they started a consulting firm called Courtroom Sciences, Inc (yes, CSI) that hired itself out to corporations during legal trials. This, too, became another source of outlandish revenue. More important, the gig was parleyed into the ultimate break when Oprah employed CSI to help her in a lawsuit. Thereafter came his weekly guest appearances as the resident “Relationship and Life Strategy Expert “on Oprah’s show. What did the faculty members that he had run-ins with at the University of North Texas think of their once belligerent foe now claiming to be a specialist on how to get along with people? A year later he came out with the aforementioned plagiarized book, Life Strategies. In 2002, Oprah midwifed The Dr. Phil Show into existence. Now he was famous, which, in America, means that you can spout total bullshit and somehow turn it into cash.

The art of the hustler is to know no shame, to hold a glaring contradiction firm in one’s dark and malleable heart. This was never more apparent than when Phil noted America’s obsession with weight-loss, and then, with a straight face, began instructing his flock on diet and exercise – and this coming from a big, fat slob! And, yes, people bought into it, and, wa-la, into the Dr. Phil coffers poured another multi-million dollar fortune. Phil’s spiritual grandfather, P.T. Barnum, had it right: There’s a sucker born every minute.

Dr. Phil knows how to make money, simple and plain.

(Check out my website:

  1. Nick permalink

    Dr. Phil on the View today (yuk by the way ; to both) : He can’t seem to turn his head. Do you suppose it’s because of that stick he has shoved so far up his bumb ?

  2. Elmore permalink

    Interesting blog although a bit wordy it does expose Dr Phil for the big phony he is. It’s basically women who fall for this con artist while men see right through him. This is because he panders to women and will take their side in most issues regardless of whether they are right or wrong. He knows what women want and he is a brownnoser, so they think he is on their side, when in reality he is making fools of them along with a lot of money. Dr Phil couldn’t care less about women or for that matter anything else, all he cares about is making money. I guess you can’t really blame him, after all it’s his recipe for success and it is working for him. As for the people who think he is wonderful because he tells them what they want to hear, they need to get a life. There are many good people from Texas, but Dr Phil is not one of them. I don’t like to generalize but it seems that people from Texas are hardcore Christian right wing conservatives with a rather narrow point of view. Not all Texans are like this and a lot of them are very progressive. Texas born Dan Blocker was progressive and a real great guy. As for people from Oklahoma, they’re similar to Texans however they also have some great people like James Garner.

    • Elmore, I agree on all counts. What the populace does not understand is how Phil ruins so many relationships by sending his lady disciples home determined to change their husbands/boyfriends, which only antagonizes the unsuspecting saps, which, in turn, blows up the whole partnership — and all based on an Ideology founded by a huckster.

  3. Sondra Beck permalink

    Brilliant blog. I agree with every single word of it. I am so glad I found this, it is everything I was thinking and more.

    • Sondra, thank you for the compliment. Yes, Dr. Phil is a cheap hustler, a hack and blowhard who ignores facts in favor of whatever vomit issues from his big mouth.

  4. Nick permalink

    Of note : the pseudo psychological folkish babble espoused by Dr. Phil is decidedly establishment slanted . He’s a go with the flow kind of guy who represents well the ideological powers that be. That is not only why he is tolerated but promoted by the rest of the established mind set. If you are anywhere outside the social norm you are automatically condemned and sometimes sentenced by the Dr. Phil over judgmental , moral majority philosophy. I always say it is good to go against the grain and challenge entrenched thinking and establishment views and moral authorities. Have you ever seen Dr. Phil defend a rebel ? Dr. Phil is a maker of cogs. His purpose is to remold people via a rather stern psychological adjustment (mental abuse) to “fit in”. I’m here to tell you it’s OK to not fit in. Revel in your time . F Dr. Phil !

  5. Nick, that was a great insight — and perhaps another thing that has always bugged me about the Blowhard without me being able to articulate the exact reason. Thank you.

    • Nick permalink

      Yes, he reminds me of that woman / TV judge that comes on and bludgeons us all with a moral lecture every time something untoward goes down that the media sensationalizes. “Thought Police”” is my first thought when I see her, Dr. Phil and their ilk ………………just dupish mouthpieces for the establishment. Phony champions for the morally correct even when there is a lot of gray area to leap. i think this bothers me more than the phony ‘snake oil salesman’ huckster / Sam’s Club degree aspect of the Dr. Phil persona. Or, it’s an integral part of it. It’s really alarming how politically correct all of television has become . I can’t think of one show that even slightly attempts to push the boundaries or push back significantly. And, this is the pablum the general population feeds on for its thinking.

  6. Nick permalink

    The woman judge = “Nancy Grace” I believe . There are so many obnoxious brownosers out there so I thought I’d be specific.

  7. Nick permalink

    Nancy Grace

  8. Dr. Phil is a right wing ideologue. Most people don’t understand how these folks are installed in our entertainment and news to make us see the world a certain way – a certain way that serves a certain broken and corrupt establishment and oligarchy. if you can think in their terms, you can accept them and your world as is and as they want you to see it. Therefore, their positions are secured (on top of you) because they have ways to explain the way the world is, without suggesting the world has to change or that their is even anything wrong with it. Anything to not jepordize the position of his lazy and entitled 1% class.
    In the depressed economic situation every capitalist nation finds themselves in today – Dr. Phil represents the few people who are doing very well and he’s prepared with an array of victim blaming narratives so as to not challenge the reality we all find ourselves in – but to isolate the blame on each and every victim of a busted economic system. In a world of not enough jobs – and a 1% that is swimming in luxury, he’s the voice that calls the out of work “lazy and deserving” of their punishment / poverty situation because of some inequity in their lives that we are all guilty of having. So in short – guys like the philosopher Phil are installed to explain the way things are, without changing the way things are.
    P.S. His gender biased, 1950’s, perspectives on stereotypical roles and family structures are out of date and worse yet – out of date for dishonest reasons to serve his right wing agenda.

    • Thank you for that perspective — one that did not come to me when I wrote this many moons ago. But, yes, Phil McGraw does dog the little guy and gal, making them feel even worse about themselves, when the fact is that it is difficult for people at the bottom, or even the middle, to pierce the ivory tower of the one-percent. And there is our boy, Dr. Blowhard, manning the ramparts of the tower to step on the fingers of anyone daring to climb onto the this privileged plateau.

      • Funny reading that now – I was a bit emotional having just watched him on TV and searched online for anyone who agreed so I could vent. Can’t delete it now… Sometimes you just snap.

  9. Phil has that effect on normal people. If you want me to delete it, though, let me know and I will do that.

  10. Ginger Merkel permalink

    Dr. Phil is a self-righteous bully who blames the parents for everything their children have done wrong with the lives. He shamelessly promotes his books, his sons and worse of all his wife’s makeup line. Really? That women has put more needles in her face with botox than most drug addicts! She looks like she’s frozen with that fake smile. Then you promote a beauty line. Does it contain fillers and Botox? I mean come on! Every day he walks off after ripping some poor parent to smithereens for not knowing their kid had a drug problem the moment it began. Oh, and I hate to hear “I’m a mandated reporter” crap. Guess what nimrod? So is everyone almost. Dr. Phil is a narcissist and it makes his day to make people feel like crap about themselves. He should be worrying about his anorexic wife who looks like she’s already filled with more formaldehyde than Michael Jackson. If you like watching shows that make you fill like your a failure as a parent or spouse, then this show is for you. If you have to work to put food on your plate and Oil of Olay on your face at night, then skip his dramatics, the guy’s an ass.

    • Thank you for the comment, which offers us key one-word descriptions of Dr. Phil — bully, nimrod, narcissist and ass. And let us not forget that he further ruins the lives of guest children by airing the tawdry details of their lives on national TV. Their peers must have a field day ridiculing them in the school cafeteria.

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