Still No Such Thing As Bad Publicity…

 

Author’s note:

Readers of this post might be interested to know that many are working to raise public awareness of a syndrome called Family Gathering Deprivation Syndrome. It is a devastating syndrome in which family members have been estranged from each other as a direct result of a lack of quality time spent together. Workshops and books will introduce a particularly effective form of Radio Therapy, a well-known therapy used by millions of individuals since the 1930’s in homes across America to treat this serious and sometimes life-altering condition. In Radio Therapy sessions, individuals affected by Family Gathering Deprivation Syndrome are required to sit together in a comfortable room for increasing periods of time over the course of 8 days. During that time, they listen to a state of the art radio play high quality music, entertaining comedies and variety shows. The cost of the workshop will be approximately $40,000 per person.  More information to follow in upcoming posts…

 

Still No Such Thing As Bad Publicity

By Julia Fletcher

November 28, 2010

Years ago, we’d gather around a radio in our living rooms and our kitchens. Turning the radio dial past the static to listen for the  clearest reception, we depended upon the radio to share local and world news with us. Hearing the catchy songs and commercial slogans, we knew which of the best products everyone else used.

In those days, earning a living as an entertainer or an  author  meant you had to get publicity from somewhere. There was no  internet “information super highway”.  Reviews  of entertainment and the best-selling books travelled a little faster than word of mouth and some could reasonably argue that there was “no such thing as bad publicity”.  P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, Mae West and W.C. Fields all said, each in their own way: “Say whatever you want about me as long as you spell my name right.” 

We’re not gathering around the family radio  anymore because we have internet access and Wi-Fi, but if we want to sell a product or service, we still need publicity and consumers to buy our wares. Today, with America’s divorce rate a whopping 50 percent, Americans are interested in the topic of divorce and The Huffington Post knows that.

Richard Warshak knows it too. A few weeks ago, he was allowed to post his article called “Stop Divorce Poison” in Huffington Post’s new Divorce Section. The article was followed by links to the books he wrote on that same subject. After his article was published, most comments in response to his article which didn’t support his theories or practices were removed. Gone. Disappeared. Censored.

I wrote my own comments, posted them after his article and waited to see if I would be censored too. Lo and behold, my comments were posted and, like a few of the proverbial many flung at the wall, they stuck. I thought maybe I should let those who had been censored know that they could try to post their opinions again – this time in response to my comments. I felt they also had a right to be heard and commenting on my comments would be a way that could happen. That gave me some sense of accomplishment until I realized that the more comments I sent to Mr. Warshak’s site, whether or not they were censored, the more “hits” were added to the stats for his article. As long as I partook in that commenting frenzy, encouraging others to try to post a comment about his article, the more I inadvertently increased Mr. Warshak’s ratings. 

Imagine that. So much new technology to deliver so much information without any static at lightning speed and there’s still no such thing as bad publicity, just higher ratings for your website. There’s another old saying by P.T. Barnum that says, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Fortunately, that’s still true today too.

The following is from Lawtimesnews.com:

 

Speaker’s Corner: Does the Warshak workshop work? 

By Jan Weir | Publication Date: Monday, 19 April 2010

 
It can be put no better than the oft-reported quote of Dr. Sol Goldstein, who talked about the “scourge” of parental alienation in Canada.

Some commentators call it the “20/80” of the court, referring to the 20 per cent of the cases that take up 80 per cent of the time. There seems to be no effective solution.

Dr. Richard Gardner, a New York psychiatrist, proposed a theory in the early 1980s that some alienation was irrational in that the accepted parent had brainwashed the children to the extent that the cure was to deprogram them of their rejection of the other parent.

Enter Richard Warshak into the Ontario court system. He’s a psychologist from Texas who claims to have developed a four-day workshop at a cost of up to $20,000 to cure the irrational brainwashing type of alienation.

 Only a handful of psychologists have training in the techniques. In some cases, the courts will order children into the custody of the rejected parent, who will then have them take the program. Sometimes, the court suspends contact with the accepted parent for a period of time.

One criticism of this theory is that it gives a tremendous amount of power to the health professional in that a misdiagnosis takes away the children’s right to object to certain parental behaviour and subjects them to an intimidating experience. The risk of that scenario increases when one parent is wealthy and the other is unable to retain an expert.

But how successful is the workshop? While it’s been around for 17 years, there hasn’t been an independent study to decide the criteria for evaluating success, monitor the cases, and compile the data.

The courts have developed rules of evidence on expert opinions because judges are intelligent amateurs who don’t want to pass judgment on the validity of scientific theories.  Thus, they are gatekeepers. For the first test of admissibility, they rely on the scientific community to determine whether the theory or technique is generally acceptable. There is no such evidence for the Warshak workshop.

Additionally, because there is a recognition that a novel theory or technique may not have been in existence long enough, the courts have developed four criteria to admit such evidence. The Warshak workshop doesn’t meet the criteria for novelty because it has been around for more than 17 years.

However, even if it were novel, the reliability of the evidence on its validity wouldn’t meet the four-part test. That’s because the first element is that it’s capable of being and in fact has been tested. Here, while the data is available for an independent test, none has taken place according to generally accepted scientific principles.

Warshak has recently published a study he did himself claiming the workshop is highly effective. But this work doesn’t meet generally accepted principles for a valid scientific study.

The guarantee of validity is independent confirmation or repeatability by other scientists. The history of science is replete with examples of very intelligent and respected scientists who have made claims that, after review by other experts, have proven unreliable.

There is enough data for short- and long-term evaluation of the Warshak workshop. One of the concerns is whether, even if the data confirms the claims, the workshop works for the right reasons.

The procedure may be so intimidating that it may frighten the children into submission. Some of them are now old enough to give feedback on such concerns.

I know of the results of just two orders from Ontario judges sending children to the Warshak workshop. One is J.K.L. v. N.C.S. The other is a case widely reported in the media in which an older brother sought to intervene to get custody of his brothers after an associate of Warshak sent them to a hospital psychiatric department alleging they had mental health issues.

The report in The Globe and Mail on the case noted that the psychiatrist at the hospital said there was nothing wrong with the boys.

Judges appear to be ignoring the Mohan general acceptance test out of desperation for a solution to this seemingly unsolvable problem. But will this prove justified?

Given that judges are making these orders and there is now local data, a study could keep track of these cases. It’s an important issue for which a research grant would likely be available.

Warshak may also reach into his altruism to make his techniques known to the health profession at large. Although it would entail a significant financial sacrifice, doing so would bring the benefit of these methods to people of more modest means and permit evaluation of them according to the usual cautionary measures of science.

The idea isn’t to deny that the workshop is effective. Warshak’s claims may in fact be correct. What’s missing is the proper scientific basis to support them and hence their admissibility in court.

There is no doubt in my mind that Warshak believes in his theory and techniques. However, as Ontario’s recent experience has shown, belief in a beneficial theory can be harmful. The only safe control on such good intentions is an independent review by the scientific community.


Jan Weir is a Toronto lawyer who was involved in S.G.B. v. S.J.L., a case in which a judge overturned an arbitrator’s award ordering participation in Warshak’s program. That matter is to go back to court for a new trial.

3 thoughts on “Still No Such Thing As Bad Publicity…

  1. I’m trying to understand the issues here. I saw no mention of a syndrome in Dr. Warshak’s article, although I am aware that Dr. Gardner’s “Parental Alienation Syndrome” is a hugely controversial subject.

    Is there agreement that alienation exists but disagreement over whether or not it’s a syndrome? Or is the disagreement over whether or not a parent (male or female) is capable of alienating a child from the other parent?

  2. Very nice post Julia! Yes, you are right about giving hits to Warshak just by talking about him. That is why I don’t have any links to his article, just backlinks to my own references to it. Warshak is getting very nervous about what this is doing to his “reputation” though, as I have seen in his comment to ms lc, which she passed on to me (I refuse to go to the article and give it any hits now). I saw this article you wrote come up when I Googled “richard warshak” on the 24 Hour” results, and I also saw this come up in a “Google Alert” for “Parental Alienation” which always distresses the Pro-PAS people. So congrats on giving Warshak back a little more grief also. It takes a village to take people like this down. A group of my friends and I have been successful like this a few times, but this is a big one. The bigger they are though, the harder they fall. Thanks for your efforts too sweetie!

  3. good point julia about commenting on a comment AGAINST this abuse supporter named Warshak. Maybe we should just ignore him and he will fade away? Also, we can publish on our own sites and comment on Nancy Carrol’s? I am back and this time I will be more vigilant in my activity here on FB. Thanks for your continued advocacy for Women and children.

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