Negative Suggestion: A Killer Deal-Breaker

If you’re a parent, been around kids, or played with children for any length of time you’ll learn one cardinal rule: The easiest way to get a small child to do something is to tell them NOT to do it. This is called “negative suggestion,” and it is a psychological mind trick that could explain why people engage in some of the worst, most unspeakable behavior.

Consider the following “true crime story,” Netflix’s “American Vandal.” Spoilers after the trailer if you’ve yet to see it.

SPOILERS BELOW:
In the end of the series, though Dylan, the character at the center of this show is proven innocent over the high school vandalism incident, he eventually commits the act himself against his Spanish teacher because people saw him as a vandal. The more people perceived Dylan to be a graffiti artist, the more it pushed him into actually performing that act.

Children are the most prone to negative suggestion because they’ve not developed the social habits or impulse control of adults. Telling a two year old child “Don’t talk with your mouth full at the dinner table” will produce drastically different results than telling a twenty-two year old. Two decades of age teach a person there are certain social behaviors that are unacceptable, and the mind forms a sort of block preventing one from engaging in those bad acts.

That doesn’t mean adults are immune to negative suggestion. In fact, negative suggestion could move a person in the right context to kill. Watch the following video, then I’ll attempt to explain how the poor kitten was doomed from the start.

Now that you’ve watched the video, consider the following breakdown:

By :35 in the video, Brown establishes credibility with the subject. A very realistic looking setup displays a kitten in a box with wires connecting to a button. The subject is told if the red button on the table is pressed, it will deliver a massive electrical shock to the box and kill the kitten.

By :51 the subject is told her mission is to not kill the kitten. If she succeeds in this she wins 500 pounds If she doesn’t, then she kills the kitten.

Note the slap of Brown’s hand on the table containing the button which theoretically kills the kitten. It does two things. First, it puts an image in the subject’s mind of pressing the button without actually pressing the button. It also punctuates what Brown ACTUALLY wants the young woman to do: “kill the kitten.”

By 1:01 Brown’s officially gotten his subject to believe no legal repercussions will occur if she kills the kitten. She’s told there’s a “legal loophole” and four kittens have been killed on live British television.

He then says “This will be the fifth.” It’s a devious phrase inserted into the script, because now Brown is telling his subject without telling her that she’s going to kill the kitten.

By 1:30, while the subject is playing with the kitten through the box, Brown begins the negative suggestion. He tells her to try and not think about it for a minute. When she responds with a question, he says “It’s best to take your mind off the kitten.” By telling her to try and take her mind off the kitten, Derren is implanting the suggestion that she needs to fixate on the kitten.

By 2:06 Brown begins regressing his subject to a more childlike demeanor. He fixes himself a cup of tea after offering it to the subject, then hands her Tang. Tang is typically a children’s drink. She notices this, and notices he has tea. He brushes this off with another slap of the table and the command to draw something for him.

At about 2:25, marvel at the fact Derren Brown knows his subject is going to draw a kitten. Why? Because he told her previously to NOT think about the kitten! As an added mental punch, he puts the paper and crayons next to the button and invites his subject to bring the Tang with her.

Three minutes into the video Brown slaps the table next to him again and asks about a toy the subject was to bring for a “psychological test.” Here’s a killer. She brought a childhood teddy bear named “Scriffy.”

“Names like that just take you to back when you were that age,” he says.

By 3:28 he’s got her hooked. Brown asks his subject to close her eyes and imagine a time when she was younger, and maybe a little bit naughty, and associate the teddy bear with that image.

Ten seconds later he’s asking his subject how the memory of her father making teddy bears talk made her feel. We’ve now hooked imagination and emotion into the suggestion. It’s a one-two punch at this point. She’s feeling happy. The image of her father making her teddy bears talk is funny.

The next question: “When were you most mischievous?” attempts to put the subject in a state where they’re preconditioned to do something bad. Her description is putting on her mother’s makeup. By 3:55 into the video he’s asking her again how being mischievous made her feel. Brown is hooking the act of doing something bad with a feeling.

“It’s exciting…a growing up thing…” she says.

Happiness and excitement are all she can think about now when it comes to this new juvenile state of mind. This kitten is toast at this point.

4:06: “Feels good, doesn’t it?” Derren Brown asks. All while he’s clicking the button on a red ball point pen. His subject’s eyes aren’t open but she hears the audible click of the button on the pen. She’s now begun to associate the action of pushing a button with feeling exciting and happy.

Around 4:18 comes one of the most striking points in the video. Brown asks his subject to draw another cat. This one is larger and more child like in comparison to the first. He even asks her to sign her name to the drawing, as children often do.

Brown now applauds Lauren with “That’s a really lovely pussycat.” Note the change in description of the animal. First it was a “kitten,” now a “pussycat.” The latter is a more juvenile term for the animal, and further cements the lock on Lauren’s brain for a childlike, suggestive state.

She’s going to push that button now whether she knows it or not.

By 5:03 Lauren sees Brown click the red button on the ballpoint pen a number of times. This is reinforcing a belief in her head that if she pushes a red button nothing bad will happen.

One more slap of the table and Brown announces two minutes are left. He produces a large digital two minute clock (with red numerals), and at 5:26 into the video Derren Brown delivers the final linguistic kill shot*: “Whatever you do, don’t press the button.” Anchoring that with a clicking sound associates Lauren’s mind with the clicking sound of the red ball point pen, which further pushes Lauren towards killing the kitten.

Six minutes into the video, Lauren is in a state of crisis. She sees how much time is left on the clock, she plays with the kitten, and she’s in turmoil. She wants at a base level for the kitten to live, but she’s resisting a massive impulse to push that button.

At 7:12, notice the facial expression on Lauren’s face. She can’t believe what she’s about to do.

With one second left, the kitten is toast.

Look at those times when negative suggestion impacts you and the interactions with others in your everyday life. Sometimes the more someone tells you to not do something, it’s the easiest way to get you to do just that.

And hopefully, by now you’ve figured out how pliable our minds truly are and how they can be influenced for better or worse with the right skill set.

Coerced Confessions on Steroids.

It’s no secret law enforcement, with the right tactics, can get an unwitting subject to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

One of the most recent, and infamous examples, is Brendan Dassey, the teenager at the heart of Netflix’s true crime series “Making a Murderer” who confessed to a crime he didn’t commit after a brutal interrogation.

Criminal defense attorneys consistently tell people they should not speak to police absent presence of counsel. The mantra is simple. “Shut Up. Don’t Talk.” But the human instinct to prove innocence is so strong that people willingly go to police stations and talk up officers in the back of squad cars to insist they didn’t do something.

You don’t need long stretches in an interrogation room, lack of sleep, or a desire for food to get a coerced confession. Simply playing to someone’s sense of shame or guilt can produce a confession, even to murder.

Check out the video below to see how even a nice guy with a blameless history can be pushed to confess to a murder that never happened.

Could you, the nicest of people, resist the same level of suggestion in the same environment? Would you be able to resist the tendency to confess?

This is why you don’t speak to police without a lawyer present.

When Mob Mentality Goes Wrong

“Deindividuation” is a social psychology concept explaining mob mentality. When a group loses self awareness, it demonstrates a capacity to do harm, rather than good.

Examples of deindividuation in real life are the “#HasJustineLanededYet” movement, “#MeToo,” the Title IX “campus rape frenzy,” and the Milgram Experiment.

If you think deindividuation is a made up term that has no effect in real life, check out the following video:

After viewing, ask yourself. Do you possess the capacity to stand out from the mob if you are granted the condition of anonymity? Would you pick the positive choices if given the opportunity?

It’s easy to say “I’d never do that to a person.” It’s a lot harder to put that into practice.

Politics, Protests, and Sports

The introduction of political protests in sports for many Americans began when San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting during the National Anthem on August 26, 2016. When pressed on this decision, Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand for the anthem of a flag for a nation that oppresses people of color.” His decision to sit and kneel during the Anthem, as well as Kaepernick’s decision to wear socks depicting police officers as pigs, were two means of the quarterback’s stance against police brutality against African-Americans.

Despite his absence, more players joined Kaepernick’s symbolic protest during the 2017-18 NFL season, with the hash tag #TakeAKnee trending during certain games. The backlash was swift and harsh on the league, but no one can deny the effective nature of this political protest.

Now the NBA’s players and coaches are getting in on the action by speaking out against the current administration’s position on immigration. Basketball hasn’t felt the economic pressure football’s seen, but time will tell if this new protest carries negative repercussions.

What can’t be denied is that in both cases, athletes were using their positions of prominence to speak on issues they considered important. Even more crucial is that any athlete who chooses to speak on an issue or engage in a protest has the absolute right to do so thanks to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

A reality many Americans seem to overlook is athletes using their prominence to speak on passionate causes is arguably as old as the nation itself. A cursory Google search shows Roman Gladiators using their status to make a case for causes they found passionate.

I would delve into more history, but unfortunately I’m not a sports historian or expert.

Luckily, Southern Fried Radio has someone who brings that value to the network. And I’m delighted to announce a collaboration with Michael Shibley, host of “Man in the Arena,” where we’ll discuss sports, protests, how athletes use their positions of influence to discuss issues they find important, why their speech is protected by the First Amendment, and the social consequences of their protests.

The major domo of Southern Fried Radio will serve as moderator for this discussion to keep Michael and I on track.

I can’t stress how excited I am for this broadcast. It’s one time where the Sit Down puts aside the conservatarian perspective and actively works to make listeners smarter.

Stay tuned for details on when you can hear this highly topical discussion. 

Education or Indoctrination?

A number of theories currently circulate regarding conservative hostility to higher education. Some argue it’s because a lack of education will keep Republican politicians in power. Others say it’s because conservatives can’t handle hearing different opinions. Let’s consider another perspective: conservatives want their kids educated, not indoctrinated.

A class taught this spring at Ohio State University will review a parade of reasons why white heterosexual masculinity is allegedly problematic…according to its syllabus.

Parents are surely thrilled at the prospect of their children learning about problematic masculinity for approximately five to six figures of debt. What could such a course entail?

The course, “Be a Man! Masculinities, Race and Nation,” includes a variety of readings to that end, including its required textbook “Dude, You’re a Fag!” by C.J. Pascoe, which analyzes masculinity as not only a gendered process, but sexual one.

Time will only tell if OSU’s Bias Response Team is deployed to examine whether Jonathan Branfam’s required textbook is considered “problematic” with a homophobic slur in the title. Perhaps other required readings make up for the gaffe.

Other assigned reading excerpts include: “Masculinity as Homophobia” by Michael Kimmel; “Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity” by Jackson Katz; “Dude Sex: Dudes Who Have Sex with Dudes” by Jane Ward; “Looking for My Penis” by Richard Fung; “Sodomy in the New World” by Jonathan Goldberg; and “Teaching Men’s Anal Pleasure” by Susan Stiritz.

Solving the heterosexual masculinity problem involves a detailed examination of homosexuality. Got it. The audiovisual material in the course is just as ridiculous for a class at a university.

The class is also expected to screen “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” the dashcam footage of Philando Castile’s murder, Key & Peele’s “Hoodie Skit,” and an episode of “The New Normal.”

Connecting any of those videos with dreaded toxic masculinity is a stretch for those outside academia. Fear not, as Dr. Branfam’s done all the heavy lifting for mere mortals.

The course is ultimately presented as a study in “feminist masculinity” that seeks to explain how ideas about masculinity “simultaneously harm yet privilege” men, the syllabus states. It also aims to explain how “beliefs regarding masculinity serve to justify certain kinds of violence by men against others, and violence against particular groups of men.”

Being a man is both a privilege and harmful. Masculine beliefs justify violence against others. Students read a “male privilege checklist” on the first day of class. If anyone can explain how this isn’t a case study of indoctrination, I’m willing to listen.

Dr. Branfam’s work isn’t confined to the halls of academia. His published material includes a children’s book teaching “gender and sexual identity.”

“It was really a result of teaching women’s, gender and sexuality studies classes at OSU,” Branfman told the [OSU] Lantern. “I often found myself thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if everyone got really clear, unstigmatized information about gender and sexual diversity at a young age instead of them having to unlearn all kinds of harmful false ideas when they’re 12 instead of when they’re 20?’”

Get them while they’re young, and they’ll sign up for your gender studies classes later. Duly noted.

The unhinged lunatics infecting academia aren’t limited to places like Oberlin or Evergreen State. Odds are your local university has someone like Branfam teaching men they are bad, evil rapists destined for a life of violence unless they rid themselves of all the harmful manly thoughts and values taught by their parents and society.

Once the diploma is secured, and the newly neutered but “educated” man walks across the stage at graduation, he will attempt to find an employer who will pay him a living wage without subjecting him to the horrific violence that is masculine thought. This “woke” individual will no doubt make every effort to point out co-workers’ problematic displays of manliness.

And he’ll blame the patriarchy when his boss finally sees him as a liability.

Conservatives aren’t willing to engage with differing opinions. Parents against sending their children to college are more wary of the gospel preached by the Dr. Branfam’s of academia. They’re paying for their children to learn useful skills and study subjects preparing them for the transition to adult life.

When the kids come back home over break and argue with their parents about the gendered violence of the NFL, Mom and Dad will call their friends and tell them to keep their children away from university.

The second call will be to the school, demanding a refund.

h/t Andrew King

But For Video: Parents Doing Stupid Things Edition

An acquaintance posted this video on social media today, asking parents for comment. Go ahead and watch it, then answer the following question:

Do the parents deserve punishment for this video? 

It’s perfectly natural for your first, visceral reaction to condemn the parents and feel horribly for the kids. On first viewing it’s hard to make it past the youngest child openly bawling, professing his innocence.

But what to do about it? Do you call for government intervention? Is your first instinct to call for the Department of Children’s Services? Many people, well intentioned parents included, saw the video and demanded the family’s local DCS hotlines get flooded until something happened.

This reaction leads me two two fundamental assumptions about those who call for DCS intervention over a stupid video:

  1. If you’re calling for DCS intervention, you’re most likely not a parent.
  2. If you’re calling for DCS intervention, you’ve most likely never interacted with DCS.

If you’re serious about the Department, Child Protective Services, or the family’s local equivalent getting involved after viewing that video, this is what you’re asking for that family:

You’re asking for a bunch of social workers, most likely flanked by police, to tell the kids to put their clothes and a few comfort items in a trash bag while the parents loudly protest their removal and tell the kids they love them. You’re asking for the kids to ride in the back of a car to a foster home together, if they’re lucky. Most likely they’ll get split up into several foster homes. Worse yet, there’s a good potential for the children as a unit to head to a group home where they will be assaulted by staff, neglected, or mistreated in some fashion.

These kids will next see their parents after Mom and Dad appear in court, flanked by attorneys that are most likely court-appointed. They will have to relive their “prank” video as evidence presented by the State that probable cause exists for the children to remain outside their home. Mom and Dad will have to submit to and pay for drug testing. Most likely, they’ll both get urine tested and hair follicle tested.

Attorneys will call the children as witnesses. The kids will have to relive the entire experience again, and this time get cross-examined over any inconsistencies in their testimony. If the family is lucky, the juvenile judge or magistrate judge will find by clear and convincing evidence the parents didn’t neglect the children or commit child abuse with their prank video.

If the judge or magistrate finds otherwise, the parents will be placed on a “permanency plan” designed by well meaning social workers to put them back on the “right” path. Steps may include weekly drug testing, maintaining a stable source of legal income, and completion of an anger management course. All of which will be paid for by the parents.

It’s going to be really hard for the parents if either of them works with or around kids, too. There’s a good shot they’ll get “indicated” for potential child abuse and placed on a registry of people who were actually found guilty by a judge of committing child abuse long before they reach trial over this video. That means when either parent goes to work, they might be out of a job. Getting off a registry like that takes substantial time, energy, and luck. And money.
Back to the permanency plan. If the Department’s workers don’t find within a year the parents have “substantially complied” with the permanency plan, there’s a good chance the Department will file to have the parents’ rights terminated. This is critical mass. At this point the State throws everything at the parents to prove them completely unfit to parent, and will pressure them into signing “surrender” documents that allow the kids to find their biological parents once they become adults.

If a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence the parents’ rights should be terminated, the family is severed forever. The kids will then be put up for adoption.

Now that you’ve read the entire hypothetical of what happens when you involve DCS, CPS, or any similar government agency, go back and reevaluate your answer to the original question.

Do the parents deserve punishment for this video? 

Not comfortable answering that? Let me rephrase the question.

Does this family deserve to be forever torn apart for this video?

The parents did something stupid and put it on the Internet. The world is already calling them vile and mean spirited. They will probably suffer social consequences for their actions. They’ve suffered enough. Destroying the entire family by calling in DCS doesn’t help.

 

The Sit Down goes Live Monday

If  you’re a listener of my broadcast “The Sit Down with Chris Seaton,” we appreciate your support.

If you’re not listening, you can remedy that by going here, or subscribing on iTunes, TunedIn, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever fine podcasts are sold or stolen.

Unfortunately, this week things are going to be different.

I got a message from The Sit Down’s producer, Aaron Campbell, last night. He’s laid up in the hospital with what is most likely a severe case of the flu. He wanted to cancel the show. I said “no thanks.”

So this week we’re going to try an experiment. Monday, March 27, starting at 11 AM, “The Sit Down with Chris Seaton” goes live with its first ever video show. Livestreaming video, 100% uncensored, and completely open to the viewers and listeners.

Want to be a part of the show? There’s several things you can do.

1. If you’ve topics to suggest, leave them in the comments, twit them @clsesq, or email contact@thesitdown.org

2. If you’ve questions you can do likewise or join us on the live Periscope broadcast. We will try to get to as many as possible during the show.

3. If you can’t make it, tell a friend.

Should you happen to miss the broadcast, it’ll be on the Sit Down’s YouTube page for later consumption.

I look forward to joining you in a one vs. the mob style discussion about big ideas, fun topics, and controversial opinions.

See you Monday.

Presidential Dual Reality

The President met with leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities yesterday. It should have been a powerful meeting, and I understand the HBCU heads had various items and an agenda for the President to consider. None of this got attention. What set the Internet abuzz was a photo of the President, with the HBCU leadership, in the Oval Office. This photo had Kellyanne Conway sitting on  her knees on a couch in the Oval Office, looking at her phone.

The photo was not well received. Leftists scorned Ms. Conway for not “respecting” the Oval Office. Women called into local talk radio denouncing Ms. Conway’s posture as “unladylike.” Later reports would surface that was a photo of Ms. Conway looking at photos on a cell phone after getting into position on the couch so she could get the best angle possible for the photo.

None of this mattered. People came unhinged at the “lack of respect” for the Oval Office and demanded she resign immediately. All over a photo of her taking photos on a couch.

Last night the President of the United States gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress and the Supreme Court. I wasn’t planning on watching it. Tuesday nights are usually consumed with gaming and trash television (Hearthstone and The Bachelor, not that it matters). Today I wake to find two viewpoints on the President’s first speech to the rest of our nation’s government:

  1. Last night Donald Trump became “President.”
  2. Donald Trump blasted minorities, religious groups, and did nasty things but people are giving him a pass because he sounded “Presidential.”

These are two different realities. One person sees an effect, another sees the same thing, and both come to the same conclusion. There’s a theory behind this in magic called the “Dual Reality” principle, and something tells the deceptive in me Dual Reality is in play at this moment.

Logic and rational thought dictates that whether you cared for the man or not, Donald J. Trump became President on Inauguration Day. Yes, he’s said and done a lot of things since taking the oath of office that weren’t what many would consider “Presidential.” When the American public elected one of the least qualified individuals to the nation’s highest office, someone who has little to no understanding of the law, I gather most of those people understood what they were getting.

That it took a speech before a joint session of Congress to get even those on board the Trump Train to view him as “President” suggests dual reality is at work. Those who were on the fence with Trump’s actions but were committed to his camp now see him as President. The speech gave the effect that despite the “CEO” approach The Donald’s been taking to his new job, he can be Presidential when needed. That’s effect one.

The secondary effect is those who don’t like Donald Trump saw him look Presidential. These are the same people who scream #NotMyPresident, holler about his lack of qualifications, and plot disruptions and protests at every move. Regardless of how they felt about the man last night many who called themselves his opposition reached a point where they were forced to admit this racist, sexist, misogynistic, transohomophobic President Pussygrabber could actually look like the leader of the free world when necessary.

Dual Reality is a powerful principle in life. Some people experience it every day. The fact that we’re seeing it play out in government is astounding. It speaks to the way we perceive our lives, the reactions of those around us, and how we react accordingly.

Did you see Dual Reality at work last night? 

We Sincerely Regret Our Error

Regret. Apologies. Both are a bitch.

Last night PriceWaterhouse Cooper “sincerely regretted” mistakenly handing Warren Beatty the envelope for the Best Picture Oscar. This led to what us pro wrestling fans call a “Dusty Finish”* moment where the cast of “La La Land” stopped their acceptance speech and hand the award to the cast of “Moonlight.”

PriceWaterhouse Cooper is the accounting firm for the Oscars. They tally all the ballots and then issue the envelopes that contain the award winner names. Their official apology is a classic story of how to fuck up an “I’m Sorry” moment.

“We sincerely apologize to ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land,’ Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for best picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.

“We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”

Conflict resolution occasionally requires an apology from a party. There’s three steps to a good apology. Let’s examine each, and the moments where PWC botched them.

1. I’m Sorry

This is the classic start to the apology. You say you’re sorry for what happened. It’s the basic step towards making amends for the issue central to the conflict in question.

PWC doesn’t directly admit guilt or sorrow over the incident that led to the Oscars gaffe. Their sincere regret doesn’t even mention the firm. Deep regret doesn’t cut it when you can’t even be bothered to directly admit you fucked up.

2. It was my fault.

Simply saying “I’m Sorry” in some form doesn’t cut the mustard for someone you wronged. If the situation was one you caused, the best thing to do is admit you fucked up. An admission of fault when making an apology makes you look honest and sincere to the person or parties you wronged. Owning your mistakes is crucial to an effective apology.

Here PWC didn’t even bother to admit fault. They said the presenters were given the wrong envelope, when the mistake was discovered it was immediately corrected, and that an investigation was being launched into how this occurred. Why bother even attempting an apology at this point? PWC’s essentially saying they had nothing to do with the gaffe.

3. What can I do to make this right?

This is the crucial third step to making an apology, and one that must be handled with care. You have to see if the other party is willing to let you fix the situation, and best practices are to ask the other party what steps you can take to remedy the issue.

Asking works best because it gives the other party a chance at directing a proper “fix” to the situation. Sometimes that may not work. Sometimes you may have to take a proactive step and reach out with a potential remedy. In those cases, you deal with the situation as you must and see what happens.

PWC got this issue “sort of” right.  They announced an “investigation” into what caused the gaffe. Whether that investigation will actually occur is anyone’s guess. If you think this might become a scenario where results of that investigation are announced and people actually see a resolution, you’re delusional.

PriceWaterhouse Cooper is an accounting firm that handles Hollywood’s greatest awards. They may have motivations to “sincerely regret” their fuckup instead of owning an apology and doing so properly. I have no doubt after last night PR professionals were busy sweating over every word of the “official statement” so as to not draw any ire from Hollywood’s top stars and executives.

That careful wording doesn’t make the apology any better. It just makes the entire thing as scripted as an episode of Monday Night Raw.  It also makes the entire “statement” sound disingenuous. A more heartfelt expression of regret would have resonated with the public, the Academy, and all those with time invested in the show. Now PWC must deal with the backlash.

Apologies are important when they are merited. I had to apologize for an issue I created recently, and I took the steps outlined here as best I could. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the party who fucked up, I contributed to the fuckup. That’s a situation meriting an apology, and I did what I had to do to make sure the parties I wronged knew I not only sincerely regretted my contribution to the fuckup, I would take active steps to see the issue made right.

Who in your life that you’ve wronged deserves an apology, and what active steps will you take to make amends today?

*A good definition of the “Dusty Finish” can be found here.

Do We Miss Richard Simmons?

I met Richard Simmons once in my life. He was traveling through the McGhee-Tyson airport in Three Stooges pajamas. I stopped and said hello, and he insisted we take a picture together.

The creator of “Deal a Meal,” “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” and other wildly iconic fitness gimmicks was a fixture in media for some time. Then in 2014, he disappeared. Simmons didn’t return phone calls from friends. He stopped talking to people that visited his Hollywood Hills mansion.  Something was wrong.

Was Richard Simmons missing? Did someone kill him? Was he being held hostage by his housekeeper? Apparently speculation ran so rampant Simmons did an interview on the Today Show last year to let people know the rumors of his demise, capture, or otherwise were completely unfounded.

That’s not good enough an explanation for Dan Taberski, one of Simmons’ friends, a Daily Show producer, and former regular at the “Slimmons” exercise classes Richard taught up until his “ghosting” from public life. In an effort to get some closure or answers regarding the fitness celebrity’s disappearance, Taberski launched a weekly podcast in the vein of NPR’s “Serial” called “Missing Richard Simmons.”

When I first read “Missing Richard Simmons” was “like “Serial,” but better,” I had to give it a shot. The first two episodes have been interesting, and I’ll continue to give it a shot into the third episode. It’s full of stories about Richard Simmons and his interactions with the public. It also raises a very troubling question: Does Simmons owe the public an answer as to why he’s peaced out of public life?

Taberski seems to intimate the answer is “yes” through the two episodes he’s cranked out so far. His rationale is that with the amount of people Richard Simmons helped lose weight over the years, simply refusing to speak to anyone isn’t good enough. There are some, possibly Taberski, to whom Simmons owes at least a courtesy call or text saying “I’m taking a break.”

This view smacks of entitlement, foolishness, and a complete disregard for Richard Simmons as a human being. The sad thing is Taberski manages to acknowledge without saying in two episodes exactly why Simmons is entitled to remain “missing,” and either doesn’t understand or is cleverly keeping the audience listening to find out.

Two episodes in we learn Richard Simmons is a very emotional caring person who can be described as a giver of the highest sort. He saw a calling in helping people who didn’t look like gym rats get fit and stay fit, so he actively pursued that calling. It made him millions, but the money wasn’t as important as the lives he touched. That would explain why up till his sudden disappearance, Simmons still taught exercises classes for twelve bucks a head.

Eventually, the giving wore out.  There’s only so much a person can give of their time, money, and energy before there’s nothing left to give. If one follows this basic axiom and applies it to what we know about Richard Simmons, his obsession was giving people the gift of health and making sure they stayed healthy. Simmons gave and gave until there was nothing left in his tank. As a result, he decided to go into isolation until he could recharge his batteries.

Taberski, the Slimmons regulars, and those whose lives were bettered by Richard Simmons are right to care. It’s as if a close friend kept a great, positive relationship with you for an extended period of time and then stopped talking without any explanation. If they want to hear from Simmons again, the best thing all parties could do is take one simple principle to heart.

You are entitled to nothing. The world owes you nothing. 

This is true in relationships, business, hell all of life. You are owed nothing, even if it’s an explanation why one of your business associates decided to stab you in the back. No one “deserves” an explanation from another human why they decided to hit “unfriend” on Facebook. Yet we feel we are deserving of such issues, and that only speaks to the hedonism and narcissism of our modern society.

If Richard Simmons wants to stay missing, he can stay missing. He’s earned his money. He’s made his relationships. Like any adult, he’s free to do with them as he pleases.

Until the next episode catches my attention, I won’t be missing Richard Simmons, and honestly you shouldn’t either.