Dr. Steven Reiss, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Ohio State University writes in Psychology Today:
On the one hand, psychologist bloggers like me believe that Woods, and his wife and children, are entitled to work out their differences in private. I go further and question psychologists and bloggers who try to explain Woods’ infidelity without knowing Woods personally, his relationship with his wife, and his family. On the other hand, we have a society that loves to put the Scarlet letter on the high and mighty. Not only is Gossip alive and well in America, it has become a right. Entire families with children are sacrificed to this right by going on reality television. When the audience sees the famous are like them, they feel good.
Media is expanding by trashing privacy. Powerful interests want gossip to be a right — think reality television, Google, bloggers, radio, and newspapers. They want privacy rights downgraded so they can learn all there is to know about each of us and make money selling our personal information to advertisers.
Gossip is not admirable. Kicking Tiger Woods when he is down is not admirable. Assuming that whatever happened between him and his wife is all Tiger’s fault is not expertise. Attacking Tiger without understanding that it hurts his children is not sensitivity, and if you are a professional, it’s not responsible commentary.
I do not support or make excuses for infidelity. What happened with Tiger’s marriage is a personal tragedy for his family. Truth be told, I don’t give a hoot about Tiger Woods. Infidelity is rampant in the country; I support serious efforts to strengthen marriage. What I oppose is making gossip a right that trumps the right to privacy of people who are in the private sector. National gossip is not the way to “punish” immorality: It is the path toward a society where Google becomes the state police who knows everything about everybody and can sell it for their own gain.
To which this psychologist/privacy advocate blogger says “Hear, hear!” And I will continue to question and criticize those who see personal problems as an opportunity for them to market their services or “professional opinions” about individuals instead of about issues. Hopefully, one day the American Psychological Association will issue an ethical standard as simple and as unequivocal as that issued by the American Psychiatric Association in its recent annotated ethical standards revision:
On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.