I see the debate going
on in these pages about Diane Rehm’s professionalism (“Too Much of the Goodness Thing,” 8/2, The Mail, 8/9 & 8/16), so I thought I’d throw my two cents in. I was a “guest” on her show six years ago (though she didn’t treat me much like one). She interviewed me about an exposé I had recently written for the Washington Post that showed that the supposedly great child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim was actually nothing more than an intellectual sham, child abuser, and hypocrite who preached love and gentleness while practicing sadism. I knew from firsthand experience, as I had spent much of my youth as one of his victims in his school for “emotionally disturbed” children. (It later turned out he wasn’t even a psychologist, as he had claimed.)
I found Rehm’s conduct to be quite low-level. She seemed more interested in trying to embarrass me than in eliciting information. She obviously hadn’t done any homework, as a mountain of literature existed by and about Bettelheim. She seemed totally unfamiliar with it. Rehm started off by making a charge she should have known was false: She asked me why I had waited until Bettelheim died before going public with my story. If she had checked with her own producer (he asked me off the air), she would have known that I hadn’t waited—I had been trying to publicize the story for years, but no one listened until after he died. Rather than talk about the fraud Bettelheim had committed (such as claiming without any evidence that he had saved the lives of “hopeless” children) and why the government, media, psychoanalytic community, and supposedly great University of Chicago let him get away with it, Rehm wanted to know all about my personal problems as a youth and my relationship with my parent—hardly the stuff of public concern. She asked me if I thought I had gained anything from the experience. Only if you think being kept in an Orwellian prison for years, called names, and being deprived of your youth can
Then she must have figured she was being a tough professional asking the hard question when she asked me if I had told Bettelheim later that I didn’t like what he did to me. Bettelheim was, in fact, incapable of listening to anybody. He had physically assaulted me for such serious crimes as not eating lunch, kept me in a prisonlike environment for years without trial, threatened to put me away for life, and deprived me of any chance to lead a normal adolescence. When I got out of the school, I wanted to stay as far away from him as possible. Somehow, Rehm thought I’m not much of a man because I didn’t go back and tell him I didn’t like what he did to me. Would she ask a rape victim if she went back to her assailant and told him she didn’t like what he did to her? Is this the best public radio can find? I almost would have rather gone on Geraldo or Phil Donahue.
via the Internet