Note: The news section covers news, particularly on 
psychiatry and psychology online, by News
Section Editor and PsychNews Managing 
Editor Don P. Corriveau.

Opinions and comments are invited. Please send them to
the PsychNews Int'l mailboxes: psychnews@psychologie.de 
and pni@badlands.nodak.edu


                    Donald P. Corriveau, PhD

This article begins to examine the issue of moral responsibility
in the electronic age.  In a brief Quasi-cyber-experiment,
issues of professional and personal culpability will be
explored.  All readers of PsychNews International are invited to

This "experiment" will only take a few minutes.  A single brief
scenario will be described.  Try to imagine yourself in that
situation.  Next, indicate what YOU would do in that situation.
A future article will discuss the results of this "experiment."

Submit your responses by doing one of the following:

Option 1:  Respond using the form below by sending a reply e-
mail message to survey4@ceus.com

Option 2:  Go to http://ceus.com/pni/survey4.htm and use the
anonymous electronic form.

Imagine yourself sitting at your computer.  You are reading
messages from your favorite Mailing List or Newsgroup. You notice
a message from Larry Froistad.  Larry has been an active
participant of this mailing list for several months.  In contrast
to other members who remain anonymous, Larry's messages have
listed his "home page."  As you recall, his web page contained
pictures of himself, his girlfriend, and an adorable young
daughter from his first marriage.  You know where Larry resides.
His current message reads:

     Hi.  I need to get something off my chest.  Three years ago,
     I felt terrible rage toward my ex-wife for what she put me
     through in our long custody battle.  While I was the victor,
     my rage would not subside.  Alcohol was my one and only
     friend.  Sure, my 5 year old daughter lived with me, but I
     knew my ex-wife would continue to seek custody.  The
     solution was to kill my daughter.

     One evening, three years ago, I let my daughter watch her
     favorite videos and then put her to bed.  I then locked all
     the doors and set my house on fire.  I went to my bedroom
     and waited for the fire to spread.  When I heard my daughter
     scream, I climbed out a window.  When her screams stopped, I
     presumed she was dead.   I pretended to save her by climbing
     back into the house.  As I picked her body up there was
     still a wheezing breath.  I dropped her body to the floor,
     escaped again through the window, and acted frantic and
     shocked until the police arrived.  Her death was ruled

Indicate ALL the things YOU would do if you read the above

( )  Ignore the message.
( )  Reason that the child was already dead and that nothing
     could be done to save her.
( )  Engage in flame wars with other list members and defend
     Larry's behavior.
( )  Assume that no one in his right mind would confess openly
     to this tragedy and assume that it must be a hoax.
( )  Assume that memory of the fire must have been so painful
     that Larry's damaged mind was producing a false memory.
( )  Find the name of a reputable counselor and send this
     recommendation as a back-channel message directly to Larry.
( )  Counsel Larry directly by saying things such as "Larry,
     please don't blame yourself."
( )  Contact an ethics review board (e.g. through APA) and seek
     advice on what you should do.
( )  Show good leadership and explain to group members that
     Larry was mentally ill and that the child probably never existed.
( )  Consider informing the police but wait to see if anyone
     else on the list would do so first.
( )  Notify police immediately.

Please submit your responses BEFORE reading the following.

Larry Froistad is a real person.  The scenario featured in our
survey summarizes the main points of actual postings to a mailing
list of over 200 members.  The list is called MM (for Moderation
Management). The list was created in 1996 as a public service for
people who wanted to help each other with their drinking
problems. (1)

So, how did the members of the Moderation Management (MM) group
deal with this scenario?  Certainly, most members would accept
the moral responsibility and notify the authorities -- would they
not?  Who would want to protect the villain of such a heinous
crime?  Would we not expect at least the mental health
professionals on this list to abide by the highest ethical
standards?  Dr. Frederick Rotgers, Director of the Program for
Addictions, Consultation and Treatment at Rutgers University, was
an MM-list administrator.  What type of direction did he provide
the group?

The full story is told through the eyes of a reporter in a _New
York Times_ article. (2)  More interesting reading is found in an
article titled "Murder, She Read" by Elisa DeCarlo. (3)  Elisa is
one of only three list members who reported Mr. Froistad to the
police.  All three were lay persons.  Three out of 200 is a very
small fraction (1.5 %). Not one mental health professional
accepted this moral responsibility.

Let's review our survey items.  This time, let's ask what was
actually done by MM list members.

1)  Ignore the message. [Evidently, many people did.]

2)  Reason that the child was already dead and that nothing
    could be done to save her. [This obviates invocations of the
    _Tarasoff_ rulings.]

3)  Engage in flame wars with other list members and defend
    Larry's behavior. [Elisa DeCarlo noted that many members "circled
    the wagons" in Larry's defense.]

4)  Assume that no one in his right mind would confess openly to
    this tragedy and assume that it must be a hoax. [A
    rationalization used by some list members.]

5)  Assume that memory of the fire must have been so painful
    that Larry's damaged mind was producing a false memory.
    [Apparently, some list members created their own false memories.]

6)  Find the name of a reputable counselor and send this
    recommendation as a back-channel message directly to Larry.
    [Apparently, Larry did receive back-channel advice from the list

7)  Counsel Larry directly, saying things such as "Please don't
    blame yourself." [ Gee! Did anyone ponder the treatment of choice
    for this disorder?]

8)  Contact an ethics review board (e.g., through APA) and seek
    advice on what you should do. [The jury is out as to whether
    anyone actually did this.]

9)  Show good leadership and explain to group members that Larry
    was mentally ill and that the child probably never existed.
    [Elisa DeCarlo reported that Dr. Rotgers did this.]

10)  Consider informing the police but wait to see if anyone
     else on the list would do so first. [Many list members appear to
     fall in this category.]

11)  Notify police immediately. [Three list members accepted
     this moral responsibility.]

Admittedly, these editorial musings are not very scientific.  On
a more serious note, how would you explain the behavior (or lack
thereof) of MM list members?  Is moral responsibility evaporating
in cyberspace?

David Chasey writes:

"Moral abdication is as old as morality. What is new in the
present post-modern era are the innovative means through which
such moral failures can be accomplished. Or should I say
attempted. Of the multifarious creatures spawned by the global
communicative powers of cyberspace, front and center is a
radically new moral exposure. 'Naked and alone,' as Hamlet says.
With millions of eyes watching, we are, all of us, more naked and
alone than ever -- and shifting into moral hyper drive."(4)

Jeffrey A. Schaler writes:

"What will the position of Rutgers University be now?  Will the
American Psychological Association or the American Psychological
Society take a position on his professional conduct?  Or will
they, like Dr. Rotgers, refuse to act because they have 'no basis
for knowing' the truth?  And what is the position of similar on-
line self-help groups?  Will they simply post an announcement
warning participants to be careful of what they post--which
suggests protection of those who harm others--or will they take
a moral stand against such persons, making clear that any
information about harm to others will be promptly reported to law
enforcement authorities for proper investigation?  The whole
world is watching." (5)

Indeed, the Froistad case has brought to our attention many
unresolved issues.  In an editorial, John Grohol, a pioneer on
the frontier of psycho-technology, appears concerned that this
case may have a damaging impact on on-line support groups.  With
his permission, Dr. Grohol's article is reprinted as a rebuttal
to my position.  In his article, Dr. Grohol writes, "I sincerely
hope this doesn't have a chilling effect on other virtual support
groups and their members' ability to share with one another
openly and honestly on their lists." (6)  Dr. Grohol's concerns
appear most valid.  No one would argue against the important
functions served by support groups.  Their potential obviously
extends to on-line-support group formats that allow even greater
accessibility and convenience.  Whereas on-line support groups
are not on trial here, the behavior of on-line participants may
very well be.

Dr. Grohol pays particular attention to the effects of alcohol
and suggests that Mr. Froistad may have been playing "games" with
list members or alternatively, that alcohol combined with
feelings of guilt may have made him "feel as though he had
murdered his daughter in the fire because he survived the fire
and his daughter did not."  Are these deliberations similar to
those made by the list members who decided to bury their heads in
the sand?

Dr. Grohol defends the non-actions of list members explaining,
"Think about how difficult it would be to turn in any close
friend of yours after a confession and you see the serious
dilemma the list members were facing."  Frankly, I have thought
about this and sympathize with the moral dilemma that faced the
MM list members.  Yet, we know that the right thing to do is not
always the easiest.

For the on-line community, the Froistad case may very well
become the trial of the century.  As would an effective defense
attorney, Dr. Grohol (6) reminds us that the APA code of ethics
does not directly apply to this case.  The familiar _Tarasoff_
rulings are mute -- Mr. Froistad did not indicate that he would
hurt himself or others.  Similarly, issues of confidentiality
(which would, if anything, pose a barrier to the notification of
authorities) were irrelevant in that Mr. Froistad did not have
attorney-client or doctor-patient relationships with list members.
Thus, without clear legal guidelines, list members would be found
"Not Guilty."  But, are they innocent?

Moral responsibility cannot be legislated but it must not be
abdicated.  In our on-line courtroom we must study the naked
facts presented to us.  Mr. Froistad indicated to list members
that he murdered his five-year-old daughter.  Maybe, he did.
Maybe, he didn't.  Listmembers were presented the knowledge that
he said he did.  Surely, they were not expected to serve as judge
and jury.  All they knew was, "Maybe he did.  Maybe, he didn't."

It is my opinion (and not necessarily that of PN or any of its
staff) that a mere possibility of veracity, no matter how
tenuous, in Mr. Froistad's confession was sufficient cause to
invoke a moral responsibility.  Informing the police that a crime
might have occurred was the difficult but correct choice. I tip
my hat to Elisa DeCarlo and the two list members that followed
her lead.

In sharing an earlier draft of this manuscript with colleagues,
I received an e-mail message that read, "Whenever people start
throwing around phrases like 'moral responsibility,' I get
nervous.  No one should be in a position to dictate to anyone else
what their moral 'responsibility' is in a free society.  We all
have varying degrees of morality defined by very personal and
life-changing experiences."

Am I alone in taking umbrage to this claim?  Is it true that no
one should dictate that murdering five-year-old daughters is
wrong?  Has moral responsibility gone the way of the dinosaur in
a pre-on-line era?   To not report murder is to condone murder --
no matter how difficult that choice may be.

Moral responsibility lies at the core of this issue.  On-line
communication does not attenuate this responsibility.  As Jon
Katz writes, "Still, some moral issues are clear, and do rise
above ambiguity and rationalization.  If the many millions of
people on-line, and their support groups, choose (in however
well-meaning a way) to give a higher priority to supporting
murderers than to bringing them to justice, we are setting off on
the slipperiest of slopes, setting the stage for a kind of moral
anarchy that no civilized society has -- or can ever ultimately
sanction or support, on-line or off." (7)

Donald P. Corriveau, PhD
Managing Editor, News Section Editor

(1) Schaler, J.A. Personal e-mail communication, May 8, 1998.

(2) Harmon, A. On-Line Trail to an Off-Line Killing. _New York
Times_, April 30, 1998. (Available at cost at

(3) DeCarlo, E. Murder, She Read. _New York Magazine_, May 11,
1998.  Available at

(4) David Chasey, D. Personal communication submitted to Sunkyo
Kwon, May 8, 1998.

(5) Schaler, J.A. Personal communication submitted to Sunkyo
Kwon, May 8, 1998.

(6) Grohol, J.M. Secrets confessed - The Larry Froistad Case.
Available at http://www.grohol.com/froistad.htm and reprinted in
this issue of _PsychNews International_.

(7) Katz, J. Rethinking On-line Confidentiality. Available at



                    John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

I'm sure by now you've heard about the confession of a murder in
an on-line support group. While I won't go into the details of
this sort of thing here (you can read them for yourself at
http://www.newyorkmag.com/This_Week/view.asp?id3D1443), it is
interesting to note how much media attention this story has
received. The story is an intriguing one -- an active member in
an on-line alcohol-recovery support group (Moderation Management)
by the name of Larry Froistad drunkenly confesses to the alleged
murder of his daughter years earlier, in her death in a house
fire. The police at the time determined it was an accidental
death. However, three of the group's members decide to go to the
police with this information and the suspected murderer is soon
arrested. The psychologist who helps run the support group list
is Frederick Rotgers, Psy.D., Director of the Program for
Addictions Consultation and Treatment(PACT) of the Rutgers Center
of Alcohol Studies. He was not one of the people who reported Mr.
Froistad's confession to the police.

This event raises a number of troubling questions about ethics,
morality, and the law. It also nicely illustrates how the media
will grab onto a story about anything relating to the Internet
and blow it out of proportion because it involves the Internet.
Let's examine some of these questions and what to make of them . . .

Some of the first questions asked might be, Why would someone
confess to such an act if he didn't do it? What was he thinking
(or not thinking)? Was this confession influenced at all by the
perceived anonymity of being on-line? This last point seems
unlikely, given that Mr. Froistad used his real name on the
mailing list and on his Web site. Maybe it was simply the case of a
man who had to too much to drink one night deciding to confess
his soul.  Or was it the case of a man who had too much to drink
one night deciding to play "games" with other list members . . . ?
Often, when persons are inebriated, they will say and do things
that they would never do when sober. This includes saying things
which they don't really mean, and even lie. Why would he lie
about such an important matter? Why does anyone lie?  In this
case, the reasons could range from an attention-getting ploy, to
overwhelming feelings of guilt making him feel as though he had
murdered his daughter in the fire, because he survived the fire
and his daughter did not. We may never know.

One item of note that caught some list members' attention was
that Mr. Froistad used the word "murder" rather than killed or was
responsible for his daughter's death. Word-choice, in a word-
oriented medium such as a mailing list, is very important. Some
say the reason some list members were so disturbed by Froistad's
message was because of his use of the word "murder."  Yet, again,
we cannot know if a person is exaggerating when inebriated or
not. For instance, we wouldn't think twice about not believing
someone who was drunk and claimed they had been one of the people
responsible for JFK's assassination. When drunk, people are more
likely to do and say things which have little basis in reality.
Think of how many times you or someone you know has taken the
keys to a car to drive home after a night of drinking, knowing
they are not equipped to drive home. When asked, the person so
often lies about their state of inebriation and says, "Oh no, I'm
fine to drive home." It's a lie influenced by the alcoholic
intake and a complex underlying set of social, personal, and
environmental factors not easily or readily understood.

If I come up to you, and you know me extremely well from
hundreds of personal interactions with me previously, would you
believe whatever I said to you in a drunken state which went
against everything you knew about me previously? It is unlikely
you would do so. This support group was a close-knit group of
people, many of whom knew one another as much or as well as you
could ever know another person in this life. Just because their
social and interpersonal interactions occurred only on-line
doesn't decrease the strength or potential strength of their
relationships. In fact, some research has shown that social
interactions and relationships can often be stronger on-line,
because of the disinhibitory effect of on-line communication. The
professional therapist who knew Mr. Froistad decided that, based
upon his own personal observations and interactions with Mr.
Froistad in the past, what he was saying was highly unlikely to
be true. So Rotgers took a conservative plan of action -- he e-
mailed Larry privately, "urging him to seek the help of a face-
to-face therapist who (in my mind) would be better able (by virtue
of having all of the non-verbal cues from Larry that were missing
on the listserv) to more adequately evaluate the situation, and
if necessary (as actually happened, it turned out) urge Larry to
turn himself in, if there was convincing evidence in that
person's mind that Larry had, in fact, 'murdered' his daughter."

Now some other professionals are second-guessing Rotger's
judgment and playing Monday-morning quarterback. That's just
untenable. They weren't there and they didn't know the
circumstances of the relationship or the confession, outside of
third-hand news reports (which tend to sensationalize and gloss
over important facts). I have been on mailing lists where the
indignant professionals on the list have said they called the
therapist's professional association to file an ethics complaint.
But what exactly is the ethical violation? Let's try and find
out . . .

_Tarasoff_ is the case most therapists cite when in a situation
where (a) a professional therapeutic relationship exists and (b)
the therapist becomes aware of a likely danger to some third
party because of the client's disclosure. "Privilege ends where
public peril begins." While some states have adopted this as law,
others have not. It is, however, considered standard practice
within certain professions and failure to act could result in
professional disciplinary action brought against the therapist.
The question is, did Rotgers or another therapist on the list
have what is traditionally defined as a professional therapeutic
relationship with Mr. Froistad, and was Rotgers aware that
Froistad's behavior was going to harm another? Well, in the
latter question, the harm has already been done.  There is
nothing in the psychologists' ethical principles which codify
reporting criminal behavior, except:

     5.05 Disclosures. (a) Psychologists disclose confidential
     information without the consent of the individual only as
     mandated by law, or where permitted by law for a valid
     purpose, such as (1) to provide needed professional
     services to the patient or the individual or organizational
     client, (2) to obtain appropriate professional
     consultations, (3) to protect the patient or client or
     others from harm, or (4) to obtain payment for services, in
     which instance disclosure is limited to the minimum that is
     necessary to achieve the purpose.

So, one might argue there is a potential ethical obligation
that, if one becomes aware of an illegal activity which was
committed in the past (such as a murder, which has no statute of
limitations), to report such an activity (at least under
psychologists' professional ethical codes). But this is not at
all clear-cut. In this case, nobody was aware of Froistad
actually committing the crime. All they were aware of was that,
in a drunken state, he said he did. The police report filed at
the time showed the fire was an accident. A report from a
knowledgeable source close to this incident reported to me that,

     [Upon checking with numerous attorneys], there is no
     obligation to report knowledge of a crime. However, there is
     an obligation to assist in any police investigation, and
     certainly to not obstruct the progress of any such
     investigation. In [this] case, evidence of the same level of
     validity as the confession (i.e. an e-mail from Larry --
     that was subsequently born-out by press reports) indicated
     that there was no investigation on-going and the fire had
     been ruled accidental at the time (arson had
     already been ruled out). So [not only] was there [no] legal
     obligation to report him, there was no investigation to

Without knowing that a crime has been committed, it becomes a
question of personal ethics and personal morality as to what one
does in a questionable situation. There is no law or professional
ethics which can guide a person in a nebulous situation like

It is also clear from the mailing list itself that no
professional relationship exists between Rotgers and Mr.
Froistad, nor Rotgers and anyone else on the list. Yes, Rotgers
helps maintain the list, but he doesn't appear to have what is
traditionally defined as a professional relationship with the
members of the list (from direct, personal observations of
postings to the list). Rotgers doesn't "lead" the group, but he
does participate from time to time, although nearly always as a
factual resource, rarely as an advisor or therapist. His main
role on the list is as a technical and clerical resource, not as
a professional.

Something important happened here, and we mustn't miss it with
all this talk about who's to blame or who were the horrible
people for doing nothing. Remember, Mr. Froistad was more than
just another name in cyberspace -- he is a real, breathing person
with whom many on the list were close friends. Think about how
difficult it would be to turn in any close friend of yours after
such a confession and you see the serious dilemma the list
members were facing.

From now on, individuals participating in on-line virtual
support groups must be more careful about what they say. There
seems to be little or no outcry about the privacy trampled in
reporting this story, and other list members' confidentiality
(some of their words were printed verbatim in the original _New
York Times_ article which "broke" this story). That is the real
shame of what happened -- media coming into a private group and
using the group's internal dynamic for the media's own needs.
Privacy being lost to report a story about a difficult ethical
and moral dilemma that, for most people on the list, had no
"right" answer.

I'm not aware of a state law which exists today which protects
the privacy of members in a support group, whether it be real or
virtual. Such laws currently exist to protect attorneys and their
clients, doctors and their patients, and therapists and their
clients. But no similar type of protection exists for support
groups today. This means anything you say in what you thought was
an open and caring, supportive, close-knit community may be used
against you in a court of law in the future. Your fellow support
group members, whether virtual or real, may one day be your
accusers. How can people still "open up" and share their deepest,
darkest, and scariest secrets (some of which, heaven forbid,
might be illegal!) with one another with this potential threat
looming over their heads?

I sincerely hope this doesn't have a chilling effect on other
virtual support groups and their members' ability to share with
one another openly and honestly on their lists. You never know
what may be used against you, even in what you thought was a safe
refuge and place to share on-line. Keep that in mind in your
virtual travels, no matter what kind of mailing list you
subscribe to.

1.  This editorial-rebuttal is reprinted with permission after
    originally appearing on Psych Central: Dr. Grohol's Mental
    Health Page (http://www.grohol.com/). 
    Copyright 1998 John M. Grohol.



                         Jeffrey A. Schaler, PhD

Why did "MM" listowners Audrey Kishline, founder of Moderation
Management(MM), and Dr. Frederick Rotgers, director of the
program for Addictions, Consultation and Treatment at Rutgers
University, apparently want Larry Froistad to get away with
murder?  ("An On-line Trail Leads to an Off-Line Killing," _New
York Times_, front page, April 30, 1998).  This story raises
important questions about law and liability for Internet
listowners and "mental health" professionals, to be sure.
However, there are also important ethical issues involved here:
Ms. Kishline, Dr. Rotgers, and the majority of subscribers to the
MM list appear to have acted in unconscionable ways.

Excerpts from the archives of mm@maelstrom.stjohns.edu were
published verbatim in the _New York Times_. Larry Froistad, a
member of the MM list, and a person whose home page on the world
wide web(http://home.san.rr.com/froistad -- now shut down by the
site administrator) indicated significant involvement with MM,
confessed to murdering his five-year-old daughter:

     My God, there's something I haven't mentioned . . . The
     Kitty had to endure my going to jail twice and being
     embarrassed in front of her parents.  Amanda I murdered
     because her mother stood between us . . . . I suffered for
     years trying to get custody of her after her mother divorced
     me.  When I did, I still had to deal with her mother's
     constant attempts to take her back.  I had the upper hand;
     in fact, her mother gave up her summer custody just before I
     killed Amanda.  But I always felt I was not in complete
     control . . . [T]he conflict was tearing me apart, and the
     next night I let her watch the videos she loved all evening,
     and when she was asleep I got wickedly drunk, set our house
     on fire, went to bed, listened to her scream twice, climbed
     out the window and set about putting on a show of shock,
     Dammit, part of that show was climbing in her window and
     grabbing her pajamas, then hearing her breathe and dropping
     her where she was so she could die and rid me of her
     motherUs interferences.  Hearing her wheeze in the smoke
     which I could barely stand--looking at her bedroom door
     burning--these are things I can't forget. Those last two
     screams that I tell everyone saved my life--they are wounds
     on my soul that I can't heal and that I'm sure I'm meant to
     carry with me.  I am damaged goods, and as much as I feel I
     need the comfort of someone in my life that I can be good
     to, someone I can build a new family with--the simple fact
     is that I don't deserve those things and I'm meant to suffer
     a thousand times longer than my little girl did.

To which, Frederick Rotgers, Ph.D., responded:
     Larry, Several (sic) folks have sent me private emails
     expressing genuine concern over some of the stuff that
    you've posted very recently.  They are concerned, that you
    might be contemplating suicide or other drastic, harmful and
    ultimately counterproductive actions aimed at dealing with
    what seems to have become for you an awful situation.  I'm
    writing for all of the folks who wrote me off list, and I
    believe for all of the folks on this list, to urge you to
    seriously think about contacting a therapist and working
    things through with yourself in a safe manner.  Take care of
    yourself, my friend.  And let us all know how things are
    going.  The people here really care about you.

While legal obligations to report Froistad's written murder
confession to the police are unclear, Kishline and Rotgers had an
ethical responsibility to report the confession -- especially
because they led the group.  The fact is they did not report it
-- several lay persons did. Those who reported Froistad did the
right thing, and they deserve to be commended for acting
promptly.  Instead, they were criticized and condemned by members
of the MM list and Rotgers himself. Why were they criticized?

Ms. Kishline, as reported in the _New York Times_ article, "said
the group was considering not maintaining archives . . . and
issuing a more strongly worded notice to new subscribers that
their words . . . can never be considered completely
confidential."  Why would she ever want to protect someone from
the police who just confessed to murder?  Does Kishline express
any concern for the five-year-old girl who was allegedly
murdered?  Does she express any concern for the mother of the
allegedly murdered daughter?  What does Kishline's statement tell
us about her character as a person?

At first it appears she said this to "protect the
confidentiality" of discussion on the list.  However, there's
more to her statement than that.  She obviously believes that
criminal behavior is "treatable," i.e. that it stems from (in
this case) "addiction disease" and that her self-help group is
the more appropriate place to deal with criminal behavior than
the criminal justice system.  Her position is more than one of
incompetence (addiction isn't a disease and it doesn't cause
criminal behavior) and arrogance (self-help groups are not above
the law) -- it is a symptom of moral complicity. On that basis
alone people should eschew Moderation Management. For we are
presented here with a person who places a higher value on the
integrity of her self-help group than on assisting the police
with a determination of facts about the case in order for justice
to be served.  Kishline had an ethical obligation to act.  She
chose not to.

Dr. Frederick Rotgers' story is slightly different.  Based on
the statements he made appearing in the _New York Times_, Rotgers,
like Kishline, acted unethically.  He also demonstrated
incompetence as a psychologist.

On the one hand, Dr. Rotgers did not notify law-enforcement
authorities "since," he is quoted as saying, "the child was
already dead" -- a ghastly and revealing statement about Rotgers'
character in itself.  However, by saying this he also revealed
his belief in the accuracy of the report, i.e. Froistad's
confession.  Rotgers believed at least part of what Froistad was
saying was true.  On the other hand, he contradicted himself,
again as quoted in the -New York Times-, when he said he "had no
basis for knowing whether it was true or not."  If the child was
dead (as he obviously believed was the truth), why didn't he act
to ensure that the proper authorities were informed?  And if he
had no basis for knowing whether the report was true or not, why
didn't he act to inform the proper authorities in order to find
out?  It is this latter failure to act that impresses me as
unethical.  Acting to inform the police was not contingent on
whether Rotgers could ascertain the truthfulness of Froistad's
confession.  He had an ethical and I believe professional
responsibility as a psychologist to inform the police so that
they -- and a jury -- could make that determination.  Instead,
Rotgers called Froistad "my friend" and encouraged him to see a
therapist to "[work] things through with yourself in a safe
manner."  What kind of person calls someone who just confessed to
murdering his five-year-old daughter "my friend"?  Again, the
moral complicity is obvious.  And Rotgers expressed more concern
about Froistad harming himself than harming others -- if Froistad
murdered his own daughter, why wouldn't he be inclined to harm
someone else, someone less important to him than his own

Dr. Rotgers, as co-listowner of mm@maelstrom.stjohns.edu, notes
his affiliation with Rutgers University in each of his e-mail
posts.  What is the position of Rutgers University on his
behavior?  Dr. Rotgers is also a psychologist.  The Executive
Office of the American Psychological Association informed me they
have asked their ethics committee to investigate.  Will they
condone or condemn Dr. Rotger's behavior?  And what is the
position of the MM Board of Directors and Advisors on this
matter?  Have they resigned in protest, or will they give their
silent stamp of approval by doing nothing?  If the MM Board of
Advisors and Directors does nothing, it's reasonable to assume
they share the same ethics as Kishline and Rotgers.  And what is
the ethical position of other self-help groups such as SMART
Recovery, Inc. and Rational Recovery, Inc. -- groups which gave
their stamp of approval to MM in the past -- on this matter?
Will they take a stand, an ethical stand, against such
unconscionable behavior?  Remember, the MM list members and
Rotgers criticized those who informed the police about the
confession. Who will criticize Rotgers, Kishline, and them list
members? The whole world is watching.

The MM confession story appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC news
television two nights in a row following the report in the _New
York Times_.  People have good reason to be shocked by this story.
They are shocked by the heinous nature of the alleged crime.
They are shocked by the on-line written confession.  They are
shocked by Kishline's and Rotgers' cowardice, self-centeredness,
and failure to report the confession.  They are shocked that
those who were courageous in reporting the confession to the
police were then attacked by members and leaders in the MM
organization. Will people now be shocked yet a fifth time when
Rutgers University, the APA, and other self-help groups do not
act to condemn the unethical behaviors of their affiliates?

I created the MM list in 1996 as a public service for people who
wanted to help each other with their drinking problems.  On
August 22, 1996 I promptly resigned from the MM Board of
Directors, publicly announced I had severed all relations with
Moderation Management, Inc., no longer owned or ran MM lists, and
did not recommend or support that organization in any capacity
under any circumstances -- because I suspected Kishline and
Rotgers were the kind of people they have now shown themselves to
be.  Good therapy is a function of the character and emotional
stability of the therapist (1).  The same holds true for those
who run self-help groups.  Ms. Kishline, Dr. Rotgers, and those
responsible for the activities of Moderation Management
demonstrate bad character.  _Aegrescit medendo_.

1).  Schaler, J.A.  (1995)  Bad therapy.  _Interpsych
Newsletter_, Volume 2, Issue 8 (November - "Fifth Column"), is
available at http://www.cmhc.com/ipn/ipn29b.htm

Jeffrey A. Schaler, PhD, is an adjunct professor of justice,
law, and society at American University's School of Public Affairs
in Washington, D.C.  His E-mail address is:  jschale@american.edu



The issues discussed by Drs. Corriveau, Grohol, and Schaler are
complex and have far-reaching implications to on-line community
and behavior.  Please take a moment to share your opinions with
these authors and possibly with other PNI readers.  Submit
comments or opinions by sending E-mail to SURVEY4@CEUS.COM or use
the Web form available at http://ceus.com/pni/survey4b.htm.