Is America Crazy? Anti-Government Phobia a New Disorder
The following piece was based on a hoax study originally reported by BreitbartTV and commented upon by several radio hosts. There is still valuable information within, but the study itself was a fraud.
A Flawed Study?
Is America crazy or is the United States government? A new “study” published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that people holding an intense fear of the government may be suffering from “Anti-Government Phobia” (AGP), whose symptoms include “extreme suspiciousness, conspiracy-mongering, delusional thought patterns, staunch ‘us against them’ mentality, withdrawal from reality, and often religious fanaticism.”
According to the authors of this study: “Anti-Government Phobia has a worldwide distribution, but has a particularly high incidence in the United States. Infection rates are estimated by mental health officials to be about 5% of the general population, and this rate is growing at an alarming rate.”
This description would make AGP the first ‘infectious’ mental illness in the history of the world. In actuality, the authors implicitly admit we are speaking of a sociological phenomenon and not a psychological one.
Since this is the case, we must characterize the symptoms of AGP as “abnormal” or “normal.” Assuredly, there is some controversy over whether or not a view that is maladaptive and held by the majority of individuals in a culture can be considered “abnormal.” But if we can rule out that the view is “abnormal” in the rate of incidence, we can proceed to the question of whether the “symptoms” of AGP are maladaptive.
The authors “guesstimate” without providing evidence that the “infection” [sic] rate of AGP is about 5%. But recent public polling suggests that the fear of government is much higher than that.
A Gallup poll taken in December 2011 asked the question, “In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future — big government, big business, or big labor?” Sixty-four percent of the respondents chose big government as the biggest threat, much higher than the second choice big labor. This was only the second highest rate of big government fear on record compared to 65% in 1999-2000, showing that fear of big government is an aspect of contemporary American culture.
Another poll gives a clearer picture of what exactly Americans fear, and does so in a non-comparative manner. A CNN/Opinion Research poll published in 2010 showed that 56% of respondents agreed with the statement “the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” Forty-four percent disagreed.
We have thus shown that the fear of big government is not abnormal in the statistical sense.
Americans Hostile to Big Government are “Paranoid”
Academic complaints of paranoia in the American public and its stubborn resistance to big government are nothing new. Esteemed social scientist Richard Hofstadter complained in 1964 of what he called the “paranoid style” in American Politics. Herbert Marcuse drew upon Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic work to frame a New Left argument for expansive government that cared for the people. Erich Fromm, fellow man of the New Left and follower of Freud, echoed the argument for paternalistic government in his “Escape from Freedom.” Interestingly, Fromm also attempted to distance Joseph Stalin from communism by dismissing him as a sadistic “madman.” Theodore Adorno attempted to flip the argument against authoritarian government on its head to show that those who cling too closely to liberty and religious faith are guilty of displaying an “authoritarian personality.”
In present-day intellectual life,”regulatory czar” and Harvard professor Cass Sunstein penned an article on the insidious influence of “conspiracy theories,” where he argued: “Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law. The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracy theories prosper; the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined.”
Interestingly, one of a handful of reviewers Sunstein names in his article, fellow Harvard law professor Eric Posner, authored a poorly received book entitled, The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, in which he argues that the system of Constitutional checks and balances has failed and that it is inevitable that authority will be consolidated in the executive branch. This political trend runs directly to the majority of Americans’ view of good government.
The psychiatric researchers have made an inherently political assessment in their conclusions, and thus open themselves up to psychological, sociological, political, and scientific criticism. What may be proposed is to flip the psychiatrists’ argument on its head and claim that these presumed members of the political class, as Angelo M. Codevilla called it, are suffering from confirmation bias. Since the authors likely have a paternalistic attitude towards helping others, as several of the intellectuals mentioned above would probably share, they have been bewildered by and have sought to explain the entrenched opposition to European-style paternalistic government, and have drawn upon psychiatric methods to do so. The researchers framed the study in a manner confirming their biases. They compared their invented AGP syndrome to paranoid schizophrenia without explicitly asking how likely those who would more broadly be diagnosed as “paranoid” would list government as one of their fears. In other words, they did not acknowledge that AGP is likely co-incidental with paranoia in the society at large, which is easily explainable in an age of easily accessible mass media reporting daily on political affairs.
The “symptoms” of AGP are so broad and unclear that they may easily be conflated with views commonly held by most Americans. But are the symptoms described nonetheless maladaptive? The historical record does not show this to be the case.
The Historical Record Shows that People are Not Suspicious Enough of Government
If there is anything the twentieth century should have taught mankind it is that the fear of big government has been grossly insufficient. Over a hundred million counts of “democide,” as professor RJ Rummel has called the government’s execution of citizens, shows that government has often turned against its own people — with deadly results. If one may defined normality as “displaying a healthy self-interest without violating others’ individual rights or working towards doing so” then we must presume not wanting to see one’s own self-interest threatened is a healthy instinct. However, several members of the political class fall immediately suspect in the latter aspect of being socially predatorial. It may be that government and its associates are sick, and not American society.
One tactic that big governments utilize to deflate the legitimacy of its opposition is the political use of mental health. A pioneer of this technique was the German National Socialist Workers’ Party. Over 300,000 “mental defectives” were sterilized, and over 100,000 executed in Germany alone. Dr. Joseph Mengele, who actually managed to escape justice, carried out cruel psychiatric experiments on Jewish people, including children. There was definitely something mentally dysfunctional with the Nazi Party elite, which executed over seven millions Jews, Roma, and Slavs for “racial purity” reasons; but there also had to be something wrong with a people that allowed it to come to power. Germany, lest people forget, was considered to be a highly civilized society; that is, before such schemes as socialized medicine began distorting people’s views of the value of human life.
The abuse of psychiatry to discredit dissidents in society was notorious in the Soviet Union. As a 2011 Moscow Times article put it, “In the Soviet Union, dissidents were labeled schizophrenics, thrown into psychiatric hospitals and drugged just for questioning the government. It wasn’t until the Soviet demise that officials grasped the difference between criticism and mental illness.” Indeed, we should take such warnings seriously in the present; the article goes on to explain how the practice is making a comeback in Russia.
One prominent Soviet dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, who has published previously classified documents on the political abuse of psychiatry, wrote, wrote, [Soviet premier Nikita] Khrushchev reckoned that it was impossible for people in a socialist society to have anti-socialist consciousness, and whenever manifestations of dissidence could not be justified as a provocation of world imperialism or a legacy of the past, they were merely the product of mental disease. As a matter of fact, Khrushchev had the following to say in a May 29, 1959 speech published in Pravda:
A crime is a deviation from generally recognized standards of behaviour frequently caused by mental disorder. Can there be diseases, nervous disorders among certain people in a Communist society? Evidently yes. If that is so, then there will also be offences, which are characteristic of people with abnormal minds. Of those who might start calling for opposition to Communism on this basis, we can say that clearly their mental state is not normal.
The Politicization of Science and Psychiatric Practice in the United States
There is an eerie similarity between what Nikita Khrushchev said and what the psychiatric researchers in question appear to be driving at; but lest I get brandished as “paranoid,” I will disavow knowledge that they are “card-carrying communists.” I will point out that the article reads more like a screed than a professional peer-reviewed article, almost mimicking the infamous DHS “right-wing” memo, itself one of the most tendentious and mendacious documents in American history. And it would be remiss not to point out that DHS is currently monitoring the Internet for evidence of “anti-government sentiment,” according to mainstream news outlets like Reuters.
Bizarrely, the psychiatric researchers thank the notoriously left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, which has characterized all “tea party” opposition to Democrat President Barack Obama as based on racism, although they provide no evidence to support their sweeping “unfounded claim,” as well as the ATF. A fascinating passage in the article specifically covers the “paranoia” of those who see gun control legislation and treaties as a Trojan horse to eventually deprive Americans of their right to bear arms, “For instance, in the patient’s warped mind-set, each new piece of gun-control legislation is oddly rationalized to be merely one additional step in an ultimate plot by the federal government to confiscate guns altogether.” As the Church lady from SNL fame once said, “Well isn’t that convenient?” I’ve published extensively on the ATF’s Operation Fast & Furious elsewhere, and have listed numerous signs indicating that the operation was designed to bolster the case for ratifying a small arms treaty called CIFTA. This is not “conspiracy-mongering,” but informed conjecture based on the public record.
Fearing the government confiscating or limiting weapons is not paranoia. There is an undeniable drive on the American left to rid society of firearms, and thus people have a right to be suspicious when the Democrats propose legislation to “limit” the use of firearms. After all, statistical evidence “conclusively” shows that in general, as famed criminologist John Lott has demonstrated, “more guns, less crime.” On the other hand, a people who cannot ultimately defend themselves from government usually have their rights routinely trampled by it.
An excellent article by Richard J. Bonnie published in the Journal of American Psychiatry & Law draws insights from the experience of the Soviet and Chinese people to clarify the ethical foundations of American psychiatric practice and law, warning particularly about the practice of “coercive psychiatry.” Eminent psychiatrist Thomas Szasz has gone so far to argue that psychiatry in this country has been thoroughly politicized and we must be wary of the slew of mental illnesses being contrived yearly and the medications proposed to treatment. A short interview with the proponent of individual freedom is shown below:
All of this is not to argue that there aren’t legitimate mental illnesses. I know, as a psychological researcher into such mental illnesses as schizophrenia and psychopathy, that they can be extremely serious and medicine is sometimes a vital part of a treatment regimen.
One reason for the politicization of science is the left-wing bias of academia, which is easily verified. It is a bit of an “open secret” that Marxism is fashionable in the universities, especially among those professors in the upper echelon of social science. We should not find it surprising that the New Left intellectual Theodore Adorno, mentioned above, specifically argued that science and morality should be inextricably intertwined. And Thomas Kuhn, whose “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is doctoral school primer, argues that “normal science” is made by consensus. When we dig even further, we find such arguments as Michel Foucault’s that power relationships are inescapable. A little inside knowledge goes a long way towards understanding the left’s view of science; that is to say, it is a political tool just like anything else.
When medicine becomes politicized, like with any scientific or scholarly discipline, it constitutes a grave threat to the democratic process. Just as the pre-ordained “paranoid” conclusion that human beings are causing an alarming rise in the earth’s temperatures, shown repeatedly to be false, when politics and science mix, we are not only being made more misinformed, but are rights are truly being threatened. The question should be raised: Can we expect researchers who collaborate with or take money from the government to be intellectually honest? And if not, then what should real scientists do about it?
H/T Breitbart TV