September 8, 2014
The term “psychopathological mechanisms” of dissent describes the political abuse of psychiatry in the former Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. Non-approved beliefs, attitudes or behavior are classified as mental problems, which converts them into a medical diagnosis that can be handled in an extra-legal manner. Dissenters or ‘the different’ can be detained indefinitely in mental hospitals where they are drugged or otherwise ‘cured’ into conformity.
Psychopathological Mechanisms in America
If accurate, a news story out of Cambridge, Maryland, in late August indicates “psychopathological mechanisms” is in full swing within the US. On August 22, a 23-year-old middle school teacher named Patrick McLaw was placed on administrative leave and taken into custody by police to be psychologically evaluated.
Why? The first reports stated, “Members of the Dorchester Sheriff’s Office, the Cambridge Police Department and…County Public School board have removed…McLaw for allegedly penning two books under the alias, ‘Dr. K.S. Voltaer’.” A police investigation is underway. [Note: the word “alias” connotes crime; “pen name” is the appropriate term for anonymous authorship.]
One novel, The Insurrectionist (2011), is set 888 years in the future and revolves around a school shooting. The Amazon blurb explains, “On 18 March 2902, a massacre transpired on the campus of Ocean Park High School…the largest school massacre in the nation’s history. And the entire country now begins to ask two daunting questions: How? and Why?…It becomes evident that the hysteria is far from over.” (The second novel, Lillith’s Heir, is a sequel.) The Amazon description is correct. The hysteria was just beginning.
The police searched McLaw’s home for weapons; none were found. They searched the school with dogs for bombs and guns; none were found. McLaw apparently does not have a criminal record. According to a local paper, The Star Democrat (April 23), he was nominated last April for Dorchester County’s “Teacher of the Year” award but lost out. Nevertheless, on September 1, Sheriff James Phillips stated that the teacher-novelist “is no longer in the area. He is currently at a location known to law enforcement and does not currently have the ability to travel anywhere.”
After a blitz of media coverage raised constitutional issues, the story offered by authorities changed. The novels became only “pieces of the puzzle” of their investigation. The State Attorney for Wicomico County Matt Maciarello now claims that McLaw drew police attention due to “a four-page letter to officials in Dorchester County.” The 4-pages were apparently a letter of resignation. In a highly unusual and prejudicial move, personal details from the letter were leaked although the authorities will not produce the document itself for independent verification. They will merely leak what is to their advantage.
Bottom line: No arrest was made, no charges were laid, no warrant has been issued and there has been no public accusation that McLaw threatened anyone. He is being held for psychiatric evaluation based merely on the fact that the police are investigating him for what or what may not be a crime.
The prevalence of “psychopathological mechanisms” is a touchstone of totalitarianism and a measure of how far a society or situation has distanced itself from liberty. Through American history, the distance from liberty has been an ebb and flow.
Psychopathological Mechanisms Embedded in American History
From its inception as colonies, the United States has included the political abuse of those who are seen as psychologically deviant. Between early 1692-1693, at least twenty people died because they were accused of violating the orthodox beliefs of authorities; they were called witches which may be as close to a psychiatric diagnosis as that period offers.
The most totalitarian situation or institution America has known was slavery; only the current prison system compares. During this period, the abuse of psychiatry revealed a second purpose; it not only provides social control but also justifies savagery in the eyes of those who commit it.
Consider the psychiatric term “drapetomania.” It refers to a mental illness defined in 1851 by a respected American doctor named Samuel A. Cartwright in order to explain why slaves ran away. His essay Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race stated that fleeing slavery “is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable, as a general rule.” The recommended cure was “whipping the devil out of” slaves as a preventative measure against those who display signs of this impending mental illness.
In his 2010 book The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease, psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl explored the 1960 history of the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane (Michigan), which is now a state prison. The hospital was notorious for diagnosing blacks who advocated civil rights with schizophrenia and confining them for treatment. Treatments could become de facto lifelong sentences without legal recourse. Along with many other state asylums, the hospital was justly closed down during what is called “an era of deinstitutionalization” in the 1970s which came as a result of outrage over the brutal use of psychiatry as social control.
Such use has been gradually increasing. Metzl ascribes much of the increase to successive changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. First published in 1952, it is considered to be the definitive guide to mental illness but its definition of mental illness has altered significantly through five editions. A few alterations are praiseworthy, such as the removal of homosexuality as a mental disease. Most of them are dangerous invitations for abuse. For example, the second edition added “hostility” and non-violent “aggression” as symptoms of a mental disorder. The latest edition defines Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). To be diagnosed with ODD, a person must display four manifestations from the following three behaviors for more than 6 months: an angry mood, argumentative behavior, or vindictiveness. The definition is so sweeping and vague that anyone who has a sustained reason to argue with authority could be diagnosed with ODD.
It has become common for courts to order a mental evaluation of those in custody or in family court, whether or not the ‘crime’ is violent. A prominent example is the whistleblower Bradley or Chelsea Manning. In many cases, they provide a legal justification for stripping people of legal rights and credibility. In other cases, authorities simply wish to punish a dissenter and discourage others from acting similarly. An October 9, 2010 headline in Raw Story read, “Cop hauled off to psych ward after alleging fake crime stats.”
NYPD officer Adrian Schoolcraft accused his supervisors of faking crime statistics and ticket quotas to make them look better. He backed up the accusations with documents and hundreds of hours of recorded tape which he supplied to the Associated Press. As a result of his alleged “hostile” behavior, he was taken in handcuffs to a hospital for evaluation.
The current call for psychiatric “normalcy” is a call for conformity to and acceptance of the status quo. Dissent or posing a control problem is increasingly seen as an indication of a mental health problem. Nothing else explains the 2012 Centers for Disease Control stats that indicate 13.5% percent of boys from ages 3-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD; 5.4 percent of girls in that age range share the diagnosis. One reason the stats are so high is because public schools and other state institutions want passive obedience, not independence.
The libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz stated, “The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility. With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion ‘I am sick’ as equivalent to the assertion I am not responsible’.” That is the advantage to those who willingly accept the label of “mental illness.” The advantage to authorities is the ability to sanctimoniously control and punish people while shifting the blame onto those being victimized. The trend is all the more dangerous now because Obamacare gives the state incredible power over America’s health care, including mental health.
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