Dec 22, 2014

Controversial podcaster listened in on therapist wife and clients: lawsuit

Tu Thanh Ha
The Globe and Mail
December 19, 2014

Already controversial for counselling his followers to shun their parents, a Toronto-area podcaster is facing allegations he listened in on his therapist wife as she met with distraught patients.

Stefan Molyneux is a self-described libertarian philosopher. His wife, Christina Papadopoulos, is a psychological associate in Mississauga.

Photo of Stefan Molyneux, the founder of Freedomain Radio
The College of Psychologists of Ontario found Ms. Papadopoulos guilty of professional misconduct in November, 2012, faulting her for adopting Mr. Molyneux’s views and using the Internet to counsel people to sever ties with their families.

A civil court complaint filed on Oct. 24 in California says Mr. Molyneux boasted in a 2006 podcast that he would listen while his wife talked with her patients, even interjecting and suggesting they sign up with his website.

The allegations are part of a lawsuit filed by a Texas woman who has accused Mr. Molyneux of abusively invoking U.S. copyright law to silence her criticism of his podcasts.

Mr. Molyneux has not filed a statement of defence and could not be reached for comment. Ms. Papadopoulos and her lawyer declined to comment.

Catherine Yarrow, executive director of the College of Psychologists, said she could not specifically comment on the latest allegations against Ms. Papadopoulos. However, she said both the college’s regulations and Ontario laws make it illegal to disclose personal information without a client’s consent.

While not a household name, Mr. Molyneux is a controversial figure whose views have earned him both supporters and detractors. Several parents have told The Globe and Mail that their children became estranged from their families after listening to him.

In the recent lawsuit, the Texas woman, identified as J. Raven, says in her complaint that she started a YouTube channel criticizing Mr. Molyneux after discovering his podcasts and his boast that his website, Freedomain Radio, is the “most popular philosophical conversation in the world.”

Her lawsuit said one of her video criticisms quoted from a Molyneux podcast in which he said “that he listens in on his wife’s confidential sessions with her patients in her home office and interferes with the therapy sessions to suggest the patients join and donate to Freedomain Radio.”

The comments are not in the version of podcast 291 now on Mr. Molyneux’s YouTube channel, but are in a longer version Ms. Raven provided after a request from The Globe and Mail.

In the version provided by Ms. Raven, Mr. Molyneux states that it is June 21, 2006. He then speaks about listening in as his wife meets with “messed up and sobbing” clients at her home office.

“I’m in the vent system, listening, and I’m – she calls it heckling, but I don’t really call it heckling, I just call it providing suggestions about how things should go and that the people should donate to Freedomain Radio,” he says in the podcast.

“I mean, it takes them a while to figure what on Earth that is, but I do, sort of, try to put my two cents in and Christina says that sometimes can be distracting and so on. But even with the combined weight of her, directly in front of them, and me, my ghostly voice floating in through the vents, they still have trouble making the kind of personal changes that really have a positive effect on their lives.”

Ms. Raven says in her lawsuit that her YouTube channel was shut down after complaints from an associate of Mr. Molyneux, Michael DeMarco, who invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a U.S. law regulating intellectual property.

Under the DMCA, an Internet provider facing allegations that its clients violated copyright can avoid liability by removing the contentious content, even without investigating the validity of the complaint. As a result, so-called DMCA takedowns have been criticized as an abusive form of censorship.

“Molyneux apparently believes that it is acceptable to use the copyright laws to silence his critics – without any claimed copyright basis – by publishing false accusations,” the lawsuit said, noting that Mr. Molyneux previously opposed intellectual property.

Ms. Papadopoulos appeared before a disciplinary panel of the college in 2012 after two formal complaints that she offered improper advice on podcasts she made with Mr. Molyneux.

The college said she advocated a practice called deFOOing, or dissociating from one’s family of origin. “Your statements in support of deFOOing are not supported by current professional literature or consistent with the standards,” the panel ruled.

It added: “Your objectivity, competence and effectiveness were compromised by financial interests since you and the Freedomain Radio website … actively solicited donations.”

She was found guilty and reprimanded.