Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Foolish decision: The San Diego Union-Tribune's Ruben Navarette makes a bad call in today's paper.
I can't believe I'm defending Tom Cruise.
Yep, that's a big mistake.
Instead, Cruise kicked off a debate over a subject that a lot of people don't feel comfortable discussing: whether Americans are too quick to turn to prescription drugs and whether their doctors are too quick to prescribe them. Cruise zeroed in on "drugging children" with Ritalin, which is supposed to treat hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder.
That's a hugely important discussion, and it shouldn't matter who gets the ball rolling. Even if the push comes from a – gasp – celebrity, and one who has links to – gasp – Scientology.
So far the public isn't buying it. According to an online poll by MSNBC, 69 percent of viewers said Cruise was "just plain wrong" on the role of doctors and the use of drugs to alleviate mental distress.
Those people are naive. My friends who are doctors tell me that they are constantly being lobbied by drug companies, trying to convince them to prescribe some of this and more of that.
You know, there's a lot to be said for the perfectly valid concerns that we may be overmedicating people -- especially children. That's fine.
Cruise said, as Navarette noted earlier, that in his opinion drugs only "mask the problem." The "problem" is one that Lauer didn't challenge Cruise on and Navarette blithely ignores. The "problem" is the souls of long-deceased space aliens called "thetans" tormenting humans. That's the "problem" that goes unremarked here. Cruise's solution -- in addition to vitamins and exercise -- is to pay the "church" of Scientology a lot of money until they tell you you're "clear."
All of a sudden, the issue went from being about drugs to being about celebrity and Scientology. Talk show hosts in Southern California ribbed "Dr. Cruise" for thinking that he knows anything about psychiatry. A writer for The Washington Post joined in, asking: "Should we address him as Dr. Tom Cruise from now on? Or will the Rev. Dr. Cruise suffice?" And how's this for a headline from one online newspaper: "Tom Cruise 'Today Show' Scientology Rant Hurts Image."
What Scientology rant? The guy was talking about – or rather trying to talk about – our society's increasing dependence on mind-altering and mood-altering drugs. And at no point in the interview did he even attribute those views to his religion.
So what? So what if he didn't "attribute" them to his religion -- is there really any doubt that his religion is their source?
Let's use the wayback machine and imagine Matt Lauer interviewing Tom Green on raising children. Does one really believe that Lauer wouldn't confront Green with the fact that he has five wives and raped one of his future "wives" when she was only 13?
It's little different with Cruise. I agree with Navarette that there is solid evidence that we're overmedicating our kids -- but if you wish to claim Tom Cruise as your spokesman, you're a fool.