First up: ‘The Dangers of Psychiatrists Diagnosing from Afar; A Marxist review of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M. Div., St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017, Steven Strauss, January 10th, 2018, dissidentvoice.org (Dr. Steven Strauss practices Neurology in Baltimore, Maryland and is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is a member of the Freedom Socialist Party)
Strauss opens by noting that as Bandy Lee is also a practicing neurologist, and Marxist femininst, the book had caught his eye. He’d hoped that given how oblivious psychiatry and psychology have been to the role that capitalism plays in mental illness, Lee’s compilation might have done better. He opines that sadly, it doesn’t.
“In fact, if Donald Trump is as dangerous as the authors claim, then their volume is at least as dangerous, because both their analysis of and solution to the problem, if taken seriously, can only make matters worse. They do not question the very social foundations which have without a doubt led to Trumpism. They treat Trump the symptom without touching the underlying disease, and even then their remedy is a small dressing over a gaping and festering wound.
The authors’ discussions are entirely in the liberal tradition. They clearly support progressive causes, like opposition to racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, but they do not once question the underlying capitalist system which aids and abets these social crimes. They do not consider that it was precisely the mass disillusionment created by a combined liberal-conservative assault on working peoples’ standard of living which put Trump in the spotlight. More of the same assault will only replace Trump with another disaster.”
He argues reasonably that finding a solution to the mentally ill president is to question the sick socioecomics that produced him, then radically transform it to one with no economic generators of mental illness, no economic compulsions for war, racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, as in socialism in which democracy rule by ordinary people.
He admits that until that day, it’s important to address the immediate urgency of Trump’s specific psychological illness, what we really need to be addressing his political programs, given that so many allegedly rational politicians support and agree with them. As in: they’ll still be around when he’s gone, still leading us to the brink of disaster. But onward to:
Trump’s mental illness: diagnosis and treatment
Referencing key themes is book: Trump’s malignant narcissism, underscored by his lying, bullying, lack of empathy, delusional thinking, etc. Thus his political danger being hot-headedly activating nuclear codes and dropping the big ones. Strauss references the many commentators noting: ‘One tantrum away…’, etc. Zo…we need an emergency mental health ‘fitness to serve’ evaluation not only of this President (in order to Article 25 him) but for every other applicant for Prez or Veep. He laughs at their solution: electoral reform!
“It should be fully appreciated that the authors’ position in no way questions the U.S. nuclear program or a U.S. initiated nuclear war. These are not the problems. It is that a deranged human being is currently in charge. If any of the individual authors do oppose the U.S. nuclear arsenal or the role of U.S. nuclear power in the current world order, they do not even hint at conveying that message to the reader.
It goes without saying that the proposed solution isn’t guaranteed to remove Trump, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t be any time soon. Given the alleged urgency of the problem, what would the authors propose we do in the meantime?
We have to conclude from the logic behind the authors’ reasoning that the real problem lies not so much with Trump himself but with a very repairable little leak in our otherwise ingenious democratic plumbing. The founding fathers, it would seem, did not go quite far enough in their system of checks and balances to preclude the possibility of us electing an outlier situated so many miles off the sanity curve. That only proves, of course, just how democratic we are, that it really is true that in America anyone can become president, even a psychopath like Donald Trump. Not to worry. It’s nothing a little patch can’t fix. We can keep the pipes from bursting. And we can thank the mental health profession for coming to the rescue.
What will we have when the leak is fixed? Obviously, we will all be able to go to bed secure in the knowledge that only a sane president now has the power to blow up the planet.
This is precisely, and without exaggeration, what the book is all about.
Then comes his Deeper Questions section to which he writes the authors seem overtly oblivious, including:
“Virtually every single contribution from the twenty-seven mental health professionals addresses Trump’s psychopathology without once discussing the history of U.S. capitalism or imperialism. These words themselves appear nowhere in the book. Social theory, Marxist or otherwise, is non-existent. The expression ‘U.S. democracy’, on the other hand, fills the pages.
What does this mean? It means that the socioeconomic foundations of the United States are taken for granted. They are a given. Even more, they are accepted as legitimate. The notion that capitalism has something to do with why we are in such a predicament and why even an allegedly sane president will not make us any safer is safely kept in the dark, as if it does not even exist or is not up for discussion.
The theme that the fundamental aims of U.S. foreign policy are legitimate runs throughout the book. I stopped counting how many authors were concerned that Trump is alienating “our allies” and taunting “our enemies”. We read more than once about the sane and wise John Kennedy and how he was able to successfully beat back the Cubans without resorting to nuclear war. There is praise for the likes of the CIA and FBI. Kissinger and Brzezinski get favorable treatment. One author tells us not to worry because even if you oppose the pro-Zionist Trump, you can continue to love Israel.”
Other headings of high interest include:
No discussion of nuclear war
A comment on sanity, with quotes from Eric Fromm, Sigmund Freud to rebut the authors, etc.
His The Chomsky epilogue rises to high satire in my estimation; it’s longish, but opens:
“The book ends with an epilogue by Noam Chomsky. Considering Chomsky’s world-renowned reputation as a left wing critic of U.S. domestic and foreign policies, and after reading twenty-seven essays filled with patriotism, praise for the likes of the CIA and FBI, sighing over Zionism, adoration of John F. Kennedy and his actions opposing the Cuban revolution, and many similar points, I asked myself if Chomsky had even read the manuscript which he agreed to contribute to.”
“I venture to say that if working people and unionists could be drawn into a discussion of the Trump danger, their solution to the problem would involve far more than election reform and convening a panel of mental health experts. Sadly, bringing their discussion to working people for critical feedback is not part of the book’s message.
But if it was, that would be a major step in the direction we need to go.“
By the by, at least one of the contributing authors to this book was is pop-biographer Gail Sheehy of the Passages series; her bio page says nothing about her related to ‘psychology’ or ‘psychiatry’… but I’m sure her ‘expert analysis’ was right on the money, so to speak.
When seeking images of the book cover, I also found this charming one and clicked into its web page of origin:
It went to this anti-neoliberalism website, and included what I assume (but don’t know) are a few chapters of the book, including Robert L. Lifton’s, Judith Hermn and Bandy Lee, with various articles their troupe had written and published at differenet websites, but no hyperlinks, such as this one:
“Dr. Gartner (author of “Donald Trump Is: [A] Bad, [B] Mad, [C] All of the Above”), the initiator of an online petition, now with fifty-five thousand signatures, who cofounded the national coalition, “Duty to Warn,” of (as of this writing) seventeen hundred mental health professionals.”
From Bandy on the poorly attended Yale conference (after noting the Fear Factor), but watched online by many:
“If we are mindful of the dangers of politicizing the professions, then certainly we must heed the so-called “Goldwater rule,” or Section 7.3 of the APA code of ethics (American Psychiatric Association 2013, p. 6), which states: “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on a public figure] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”
“Embracing our “duty to warn,” as our professional training and ethics lead us to do at times of danger, therefore involves not only sounding an alarm but continually educating and engaging in dialogue our fellow human beings, as this compilation aspires to do.”
‘An association of mental health professionals advocating Trump be removed under the 25th Amendment as psychologically unfit, on Twitter. #DutyToWarn
Ha ha: turns out it was the self-same Bandy Lee (‘an assistant professor in forensic psychiatry (the interface of law and mental health) at the Yale School of Medicine who has devoted her 20-year career to studying, predicting, and preventing violence’) who’d addressed ‘briefed a dozen members of Congress — Democrats and one Republican — on the president’s mental state.’
Jeebus, this group never came out of the wall to advise the same for HW Bush, who of course was famously in the throes of his ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’ dementia while serving, or had I missed it?
On morning edit: For instance, see JP Sottile’s ‘Missing the Trump Team’s Misconduct’ consortiumnews.com, January 9, 2018
“If the so-called “Liberal Media” really is out to “get” Trump … they really suck at it. Why? Because if I was a managing editor at MSNBC (or CNN or the “Today Show” or “Good Morning America,” for that matter) and I was “out to get” Trump … I’d have spent a good three blocks of airtime on former Eli Lilly bigwig Alex Azar. He’s Trump’s replacement for the sleazy, insider trading Dr. Tom Price at the Department of Health and Human Services. Hell, POLITICO even did most of the work when it published a big story detailing the way Eli Lilly gamed the patent system to sustain Cialis as a rock-hard profit producer when Azar was a Lilly exec. They used a pediatric study loophole the makers of OxyContin had once used to squeeze another six months of profits out of their drug.
On the other hand, they are not talking about the Oil Industry’s influence and the opening up of offshore drilling. They are not talking about the significant expansion of the war on terror … and Trump’s direct hand in a spike in civilian casualties around the Muslim world. They are not talking about the trainwrecks inside the Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They are not talking about Trump pushing DIPLOMATS to get even more involved in selling weapons around the world. They are not talking about Trump’s role in opening up the media for more consolidation. And they are not talking about a dozen other damning stories that, if they’d just dispatch some effing reporters and producers and photographers, they could use those video-driven packages like a goddamn barrage to pepper Trump’s presidency and, in turn, to corner his supporters on Capitol Hill.”, and so on.
Ahhhh. but moving on to No. 2: ‘The Electrical Abuse of Women: Does Anyone Care?’, Bruce E. Levine (a practicing clinical psychologist, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect), Dec. 22, 2017, counterpunch.org
“Many Americans are unaware that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)—more commonly known as electroshock—continues to be widely utilized by U.S. psychiatry. In the current issue of the journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, psychologist John Read and co-author Chelsea Arnold note, “The archetypal ECT recipient remains, as it has for decades, a distressed woman more than 50 years old.”
In a comprehensive review of research on ECT, Read and Arnold report that there is no evidence that ECT is more effective than placebo for depression reduction or suicide prevention.” They conclude, “Given the well-documented high risk of persistent memory dysfunction, the cost-benefit analysis for ECT remains so poor that its use cannot be scientifically, or ethically, justified.’
“This begs the question of why this brain-damaging electrical abuse of predominantly middle-aged women, unlike the sexual abuse of younger women and girls, is not today addressed by most high-profile feminists. One renowned feminist who did speak out against ECT was Kate Millett (author of the 1990 book Loony Bin Trip), but she died in September 2017 after receiving little attention in recent years. There continues to be women such as psychologist Bonnie Burstow (author of the 2006 article “Electroshock as a Form of Violence Against Women”) who do see ECT as a hugely important issue for women, but Burstow is renowned only among ex-patient “psychiatric survivor” activists and dissident mental health professionals.”
He notes that many feminists and Americans at large believe in the APA’s promulgation of the research showing the efficacy or ECT in treating depression, with no basis in factual evidence.
If and when there were placebo-controlled studies (simulated ECT while under general anesthesia):
“Read and Arnold report that none of these studies showed ECT effectiveness beyond the end of treatment.” He then explains the data, and skewers the meaningless of APA claims that include no placebo-control. As in: ‘Anecdotal testimonials are worthless at best’.
But here’s where it gets scary biscuits:
“Psychiatry is well aware of ECT’s negative public image, so today the administration of ECT is not as painful to observe. Patients are administered an anesthetic and given oxygen along with a muscle relaxant drug to prevent fractures. However, the goal of ECT is to create a seizure, and these ECT “procedural improvements” raise the seizure threshold, thereby necessitating a higher and longer electrical charge, potentially resulting in even greater brain damage. The standard “electrical dosage” is from 100 to 190 volts but can rise to 450 volts. Thus, while ECT no longer appears quite as torturous to observers as it appeared prior to these procedure changes, ECT’s effects on the brain are as—or more—damaging than ever.
Even ECT advocates such as the APA recognize ECT’s adverse effects on memory, but the APA tends to minimize the extent of this damage. However, in 2007, the journal Neuropsychopharmacology reported a large-scale study on the cognitive effects (immediately and six months later) of currently used ECT techniques. The researchers found that modern ECT techniques produce “pronounced slowing of reaction time” and “marked and persistent retrograde amnesia” (the inability to recall events before the onset of amnesia) that continue six months after treatment.”
I did find that ECT shocks are usually done is a series, on or two a week for X weeks. He tries to guess how many people are ‘treated’ with ECT, but recent data is scant and only estimated, including the 2009 Journal of Psychiatric Practice having reported, “approximately 100,000 people in the United States and over 1,000,000 worldwide receive ECT. ‘. He did dig out, however, that women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be its…recipients than men, and that often it’s women over forty-five who are in ‘severe’ clinically depressive states.
“Psychiatrist(s) commonly recommend ECT to severely depressed patients after various antidepressants fail to improve symptoms. Psychiatry increasingly focuses on symptoms and not causes of our malaise, and so it often fails to address obvious sources of depression such as loss, unhealed traumas, and other overwhelming pains”
I dunno how many Amerikans are taking prescription anti-depressants, or are now addicted to opioids, whether legal or not, but given the inherent dangers of the former, plus the addictive nature of the latter, is the alternative of ECT akin to ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’? The answer might depend on the individual.
Now I reckon a Marxist analysis could indict capitalism as underpinning many of the reasons ordinary people get depressed: no jobs, scant, if any, wealth, one paycheck or large hospital bill away from destitution or home-foreclosure if not homelessness, the background media background of fear this nation, fear that national leader who’s coming to get you! fear the future! But remember to go out and support the duopoly candidate of your choice! They care about you, and will perform miracles to better your lives!
(cross-posted at Caucus99 Percent.com)