Perhaps I should stop watching the Today Show in the mornings as, lately, it’s really been agitating me too early. To wit: On Friday, Matt Lauer interviewed Tom Cruise about his new movie “War of the Worlds”. In the interview, Matt asked Tom about his recent comments regarding Brooke Shields and her new book regarding her battle with post-partem depression. Essentially, Tom Cruise railed against her use and advocacy of anti-depressants to pull her out of her hormone-induced depression, despite the fact that they clearly worked for her and, more than likely, saved her and her child’s lives.
I’ll let you watch the Today Show interview yourself. Now, here’s the thing – to some degree, I agree with Cruise. I strongly feel that medical science these days has devolved to “Have a pill”. This is not to say medicine doesn’t have it uses or purposes, but I feel like doctors, pushed by money-conscious HMOs and marketing-savvy pharmaceutical companies to keep costs low and improve the bottom line, are often missing the problems their patients come to them with by throwing drugs at them rather than really investigating the source of the issue. When it comes to things like, say, Ritalin, there’s a lot of pressure on doctors from exhausted parents who would rather have the magic pill that calms their kids down rather than explore the safer, smarter and more effort-intensive process of teaching their children how to focus. I believe that using Ritalin therapeutically – that is, just enough to get the child to focus, but not so much as to “fix” the problem so that correcting the behaviour is made easier – is the best method. The same is true for anti-depressants. It’s been shown that regular exercise can help fight depression. But, if a person is too depressed to get up and exercise, a small dose of anti-depressant may help get the ball rolling.
But it’s not Cruise’s opinions that bothered me. Everyone has their right to take side in a debate, and I respect the opinions of others. Cruise, however, does not, and he was a real ass about it. Here’s a choice piece of the exchange:
Lauer: …A little bit of what you’re saying Tom is, you say you want people to do well. But you want them do to well by taking the road that you approve of, as opposed to a road that may work for them.
Cruise: No, no, I’m not.
Lauer: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn’t that okay?
Cruise: I disagree with it. And I think that there’s a higher and better quality of life. And I think that, promoting â€” for me personally, see, you’re saying what, I can’t discuss what I wanna discuss?
Did you see what he did there? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he misspoke when he said “I disagree with it” as an answer to why it’s not OK to take antidepressants. What gets me is how he took the argument and used it to martyr himself, even though his opinions are not being squelched. Lauer asked him, in essence, to defend his position. He defended it by asking “I can’t discuss what I wanna discuss?”
At this point in a debate, I’d expect a rational, intelligent human being to begin naming sources. “If you had read the American Journal of Scientological Medicine’s third quarterly issue in 2004, you’d have read the article by Dr. Noaydea that clearly shows how the use of psychotropic drugs reduces the mind’s ability to work on its own.” If Cruise had pulled that out of his self-righteous ass, I’d have been impressed. Even if I totally questioned the source I’d at least feel that, yes, he cared anough about this issue to do some research, no matter how circumspect.
But Cruise is not a doctor, and I seriously doubt he’s actually read anything more scholarly on the subject than People Magazine. Given the style of his rhetoric and his seeming unwillingness to even name a source, to provide useful, factual information to support his cause, I’m guessing he got his information out of the Scientology newsletter or some other publication that caters to his point of view and his point of view alone. He didn’t even have a cogent comeback for Lauer’s argument that he’s seen it work in people he knows and lives with. Practically everyone can tell a story of how Ritalin turned an otherwise out-of-control child into a passably good one. What’s Cruise’s response to that assertion?
“Matt. Matt, Matt, you don’t even – you’re glib. You don’t even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That’s what I’ve done. Then you go and you say where’s the medical test? Where’s the blood test that says how much Ritalin you’re supposed to get?”
At no point in time does he actually, specifically point out his perceived flaw in the argument that “sometimes, Ritalin works.” Instead he questions the theories used in coming up with dosages of Ritalin doled out to these patients. This has nothing to do with the argument. If he thinks Ritalin is bad, if he thinks it shouldn’t be used, if he thinks it’s destroying our childrens’ minds, then, please, offer some proof and some solution other than “I know more than you do, but I won’t tell you how.”
I know this shouldn’t affect my impression of Tom Cruise the actor, except I don’t honestly believe I can ever look up to the screen at his two-story tall smug grinning mug without having the words “asshole” reverberate through my mind. You’re free to be passionate about your beliefs, you’re free to explore them at your will on national television and you’re free to disagree with anyone who doesn’t share them. But, if you’re going to come to an argument, either bring the tools or go home. I don’t expect perfect recitations direct from scholarly journals, nor do I expect you to be an expert on whatever it is you’re discussing. But, if you’re going to argue and shut down your opposition by saying they’re wrong, back it up with some facts, some quotes, some ideas that indicate this is not just all your personal crackpot theory bubbling in the back of your insane, self-absorbed little mind. You are not absolutely right. You are not an expert. You, Tom Cruise, are, instead, an arrogant ass who is no longer worthy of the $9.50 I pay to see your movies.