The media industry has been rife with endorsers who are untrustworthy and make claims or preach certain information that they are not an expert in and hence the message they send is at best common knowledge and cannot be trusted as scientifically true. A celebrity or authority figure however has been used by companies and products for their advertising campaigns, and sometimes when people identify with them, they eventually believe in the information espoused by the celebrity (Paul & Elder, 2004). One example is how Oprah swears by the products that she regularly use in her show even if she was not involved in its design, testing or production. Her authority comes from having been a consumer of the product which she supposedly uses regularly, thus if someone knew the effectiveness of the product, that would be her. Specifically, she had made Dr. Phil become a household name and greatly contributed to his success. Oprah claims that Dr. Phil can help many people in resolving personal issues and confronting their ghosts. However, Oprah had never disclosed whether she did undergo sessions with Dr. Phil, she only learned of him through his self-help book. By bringing Dr. Phil to her show, people was convinced of how effective and trustworthy Oprah is in her belief in the doctor (Kahane & Cavender, 2001). Dr. Phil may have been qualified to offer guidance and counseling to Oprah’s audience but those who know that therapy is something you do on a very personal note, requiring confidentiality, establishing trust between therapist and client and is a process that cannot be rushed in a 35 minutes show would have difficulty in believing Dr. Phil and his methods. Nonetheless, many have become enamored and worship Dr. Phil that he has become a huge celebrity.
Oprah has been regularly cited as one of the most influential celebrity in television and she has the power to make or break new artists, products, establishments, movies or upcoming personalities (Potter, 2005). When Oprah endorsed how well and results oriented Dr. Phil is, she is actually giving information that is untrustworthy. She does not have the training to evaluate Dr. Phil’s performance professionally; she is not part of the certifying organization of therapists and physicians. Oprah also does not have the training and background in psychology and counseling which would at least make her an expert on the subject, likewise, she may have had personal experience in therapy but we all know that people come to therapy for different problems and each therapist has his/her own approach and philosophy. On the other hand, Dr. Phil may be an expert in his field, because he has written a book on it and he may be certified by the foremost professional organization in the country, he can also be biased and have impure designs on why he appeared in Oprah’s show for numerous times. Dr. Phil went out of his way to introduce the audience on his methods and demonstrated how effective they were. One would however think of whether he is doing it to gain a wider market for his book or whether he genuinely wants to help these people.
Advertising companies have repeatedly found it important to rely on influential celebrities and authority figures to bring greater awareness to the specific information they need to be made known. However, it is not only the media that is charged with this way of thinking but each of us as well (Schick & Vaughn, 1995), we may preach to others how efficient our new vacuum cleaners are as compared to the other machines even if in truth we do not know anything about vacuum physics and we don’t even inspect the contents of the vacuum bag.
Kahane, H. & Cavender, N. (2001). Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in
Everyday Life 10th ed. New York: Wadsworth Publishing.
Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2004). The Thinker’s Guide to Fallacies: The Art of Mental Trickery.
Boston: Foundation for Critical Thinking
Potter, J. (2005). Media Literacy 3rd ed. New York: Sage Publications.
Schick, T. Jr. ; Vaughn, L. (1995). How to Think about Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a
New Age 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.