5 Things You’ve Taught me about Civility, Empathy, and Asking the Hard Questions


For a time this community intimidated me. I was in somewhat unfamiliar territory. Reading your impassioned cries for understanding and accurate analysis of ideas I’d never really thought about has been moving and enlightening for me. Some of you have been through things I’d rather not imagine. Your stories fiercely bring to mind the fates of some of my closest friends; they remind me of challenges faced and horrors narrowly avoided in my own efforts to “pass,” even as I worried I was completely mad.

I have spent a lot of time watching and learning from the conversations on this site, fumbling as I discovered that some elements of my previous experience in community management do not apply here — it would be an obvious injustice to apply blunt tools of moderation to this intricate arrangement of individuals. I consider myself an anti-oppression agent at heart, thusly I have been extra careful about excluding anyone from the conversation unless their comments have been unabashedly hurtful.

Today I will tell you five things I have learned, and how I would like us to be doing things differently.

1) We are an Intersectional Community. This site beautifully, in my opinion, brings together career mental health workers along with advocates, consumers, survivors, and ex-patients. We are home to a conversation with far-reaching implications about race, class, gender, sexuality, science, oppression, and human nature. As a space where multiple cultures collide, we are bound to encounter opposing beliefs and struggle to empathize with each others’ roles and experiences.

My hope is that these intersections can consistently nourish us, making us smarter and more kind through looking with an open mind at the way our beliefs clash with others’. There is only one way I know of that this can happen, which is that we really listen to one another. We must take the time to acknowledge the merits and intelligence of what others are saying and how they came to say those things, even when we completely disagree! When writing, this sometimes means taking a breath and sincerely choosing words like “I wonder…” and “What about… ?” and “Another point of view might be…” Rather than making authoritative statements about why someone else’s truth is invalid.

2) Shaming is not productive. I have never seen a conversation on this site enriched by bullying, badgering, sarcasm, character attacks, gratuitous and redundant arguments, long emotional diatribes, gang-ups, or any other form of communication that serves to diminish, exclude, disregard, disdain, attack, or humiliate another individual. I’ve had lengthy conversations about this with some of you, and I recognize that a spare few of you will vehemently disagree with this thing I’ve learned: My view is that we simply cannot in good conscience condone any form of communication which intends to emotionally satisfy one party at the expense of another. This kind of abuse feels much like the failures of communication and empathy that I see associated with the practice of biological psychiatry and the phenomena that get called “mental illness.”

While I have heard of no direct benefit ever coming to anybody due to this sort of commenting, I have heard the opposite countless times now: Very intelligent, skilled, and caring people are unwilling to participate in a conversation with us out of fear of these attacks. Most painfully for me, detractors of Bob Whitaker and this site use the aggression in our comments as a reason to disregard our mission entirely. We want to run a site that people are able to explore and participate in without fear of the fanatic jack-in-the-box, sitting on its springs, waiting to pop up and rip someone a new one the moment they offer a thought that doesn’t match the survivor-approved gold standard of word-choice and understanding.

That said…

3) Oppression is real, violent, and damaging. I believe that the actions of forced drugging, lying to patients about science, misrepresentations of data, stigmatizing use of pseudoscientific labels, and corrupt collusion between academic psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry are huge problems. People with positions of power over others have a very real, legal potential to do harm to individuals who pass under their care. These are realities that deserve to be exposed and questioned.

4) Given the reality of oppression, we have very hard questions to address. Here are several to chew on: To what degree can emotional distress be tracked and remedied through the body? Is healthy food important? Exercise? What about supplements? Why? Can science help us find better ways to support peoples’ biology? What drugs are helpful, used in what way? To what degree can emotional distress be tracked and remedied through interpersonal relationships and other environmental factors? To what degree do power imbalances contribute to and exacerbate the problems we are trying to solve, and how do we make support available without these imbalances? What are reasonable boundaries on acceptable behavior? When ought we impose them, for how long, and in what way? What are kind, effective, and practical ways of responding to physical violence and other extremely disruptive behavior when it does occur? What is the relationship between confusion, anger, trauma, drugs, and violence? What is the most helpful way to advocate for people who have been damaged from years of psychiatric maltreatment? What about those who are just getting their first diagnosis, or about to get one? In what immediate, effective ways can we reduce harm? How, in our everyday life, can we create a world better equipped to support those in emotional distress and heal all manner of interpersonal crises? How can we create a world where fewer people experience such distress in the first place?

These are only a sampling of the difficult territory we tread as a rich, intersectional community. I bring these up in particular to highlight the final point…

5) Nobody has the answers. One of the scariest things in life, in my experience, is all the uncertainty. When it comes to emotional distress and social/behavioral crises it is hard to be certain what the causes are and how to be most helpful in response. When someone disagrees with me, it’s hard to be certain whether they’ve really considered my position or not. Are they disparaging and hateful of what I represent, or has it merely not crossed their minds? It is easy to be certain that someone else is stupid, ignorant, or hostile, and then respond pretty much in kind because “that’s what they deserve.” Unfortunately, this approach — where I am certain that I am right and the other person is wrong — teaches neither of us anything new. It creates a hostile atmosphere, and the unborn fruits of our dialogue are lost. This combative, “othering” attitude is, I believe, a significant root of the very failings of psychiatry we would all like to address.

In summary, I am updating our posting guidelines so that our authors and commenters can have a clearer framework for understanding the dialogue here. We are also sending out an updated set of editorial guidelines for authors that reflect these changes and encourage awareness of the range of experiences and beliefs represented by the MIA audience. Please review the new set of values and additions to the guidelines.

The important amendments I want to highlight are these:

We are a shame-free zone. Language that primarily exists to disparage, shame, dismiss, taunt, bait, exclude, or otherwise diminish another person is not allowed on Mad In America. Comments containing such language will be removed, and people who cross this line will be put on moderation. In these cases moderation periods will last longer (at least a week) and temporary bans for repeat offenses will be swifter than before.

We are a certainty-free zone. Benefit of the doubt will be given in all cases. Commenters are asked to refrain from assuming or inferring anything about another person’s position. Errors of omission or misuse of terms are always assumed to be made in good faith. A person’s choice not to acknowledge or respond to specific arguments will not be assumed to be malicious, or a sign of a character flaw, or otherwise held against them. Under no circumstances may individuals represent and attack an argument that is not explicitly made by the person they are responding to. This “strawman attack” behavior is disruptive, unkind, and too often committed in error. When in doubt, ask the other person an open-ended question rather than declaring you know their truth.

We are an oppression-free zone. Statements that attack or assume things about a person based on a label they carry (i.e. “psychiatrist” or “schizophrenic”) are similarly not condoned.

Major changes in moderation:

1) We ask that each comment serve to advance the discussion started by the original article. Low content posts may be moderated.

2) Off-topic comments will be moved to the community forums, where I intend to participate personally in supporting an in-depth interior dialogue among the MiA community. I’ve noticed that a very small number of commenters tend to make many long posts. Sometimes these are in the context of exclusive personal exchanges, or discussion of one’s personal story and feelings unrelated to the article. These comments, while valuable, veer far from the original topic of the page. In order to welcome more on-topic discussion of individual articles, I am asking that the MIA regulars please make use of the discussion forums to carry on these conversations with each other, continue long-running arguments, and so forth. Reference links can be made back and forth between forum topics and blog posts to help guide any reader who wants to participate the “insider” conversation. I will be personally making this happen with posts I deem too gratuitous or off-topic to be a blog comment. The forums are also an appropriate place to express personal feelings about discussion happening in blog comments or MIA in general. We can use them to support each other in our growing understandings and in our efforts toward kind and effective communication.

3) Moderation will be made more clear and transparent. We will send a copy of moderated posts to the new Moderation Forum along with some information about why the action was taken. A link will be provided from the original comment. The reason for moderation will no longer be stated in the comment itself.

One final thing I want to emphasize is that we consider all conversations on the site to be “eye-level,” meaning that nobody is higher than anybody else in status or authority in this dialogue. We seek to provide a forum outside the daily power dynamics of helper and helped, professional and patient, and so forth. On our site, people from all sorts of backgrounds participate in candid, open dialogue. In this spirit, we address one another as equals, aiming to strip away the assumptions, shame, blame, and other prejudices that we might have developed in our everyday roles.

As always, these measure are imperfect attempts to realize a space where healthy, civil, intelligent conversation can occur between a wide range of individuals.

I recognize that some of you whom I have communicated with personally may feel alienated or uncomfortably limited by the new structure. Some of you would prefer that Mad In America be primarily an advocacy site. Maybe you are less interested in civil conversation and including anybody who doesn’t fundamentally agree with your position already. If any of you decide to step away that seems very understandable to me, though I’ll be sorry to see it. I believe that every voice is important to this dialogue. I hope that together we are creating a space where each voice can be at its most potent: By being heard in a conversation that generously welcomes all those who would benefit from hearing what you have to say, without sacrificing for a moment the clarity of your message.

My colleague Laura Delano had this to add:

When we attack each other here, we in fact replicate the force and harm that’s been done to people by the mental health system. Words can be weapons just as syringes and restraints can. When we attack someone else with words, we become no better than those who harm people against their will in the name of “treatment.”

My colleague Kermit Cole put it this way:

We all want to make the best of our time on earth; making sense of ourselves, others, and our world in the process. It’s a miraculous achievement when anyone pulls it off, and I guess what I hope for here on MIA is that we all do our best to help each other out in the process.

Thank you for joining us in this experimental and, we hope, paradigm-shifting community.

***Update on moderation approach after conversation with community.***


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.


  1. Well it looks like I’ll be leaving. My position is that what the professionals are doing at this point is criminal and needs to be treated as such, with criminal prosecutions in the works. That being said, I don’t see how I could possibly keep from shaming them. They have absolutely no reason to be denying the science of their own profession except for their own personal gain. People have been practically screaming from the roof tops about how the drugs are ineffective and cause brain damage, while referring them to studies from their own field, and yet they put over a million children on those drugs while PROFITING in the process.

    IMO, they don’t deserve civility. But instead of being a trouble maker, I’ll just leave.

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    • I don’t think you should leave. I think those of us who feel strongly about this should argue for our point of view. Also, as I have pointed out in my own comment, most if not all of the mental health professionals who still write for MIA seem pretty decent, and, myself, if I disagree with them I have no problem being polite about it.

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    • I want to say that I sympathize tremendously with this sentiment. For me, it goes a lot bigger than psychiatry. I think a great many of our core social institutions are oppressive, corrupt, discriminatory, and in some “ultimate” sense, criminal.

      At the same time I am very sensitive to the fact that everyone is at a different points on the spectrum of clearly seeing these paradigms and understanding them. I feel it is violent to meet ignorance with abuse.

      You say that the only reason you see for some people to act as they do is personal gain… I think this view might miss what I see as a great deal of confusion, misinformation, lack of education, limiting beliefs, emotional manipulation, and other forms ignorance that sometimes go very deep in peoples’ hearts. Very few people conceptualize themselves as evil or self-centered. Often folks seem to end up doing things I would consider really harmful, while holding beliefs and self-conceptions that are fundamentally positive and well-intentioned. It seems crazy, I know! I suggest it could be that environmental forces and the behavioral training we receive from our experiences are very much at work in harmful behavior, perhaps more so than any intentional, well-thought-out choices.

      And if these choices and behaviors are unconscious, then perhaps they can be brought to clarity and consciousness, effecting a paradigm shift, through inclusive dialogue.

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      • When they are presented with evidence that their drugs are causing brain damage and worsening peoples lives and future and respond with denial or rationalized arguments, they are not simply just unconsciously being ignorant albeit well intentioned. They know that insurance companies are not going to pay them 160 thousand dollars a year to talk to people about their problems. They are defending these drugs IN SPITE of science and the well being of their patients.

        To include them in our dialogue and expect them to be reasonable and willing to change their opinions is akin to asking them to give up their careers and cut ties with the medical community and their sources of funding. It’s never going to happen.

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        • When they are presented with evidence that their drugs are causing brain damage and worsening peoples lives and future and respond with denial or rationalized arguments, they are not simply just unconsciously being ignorant albeit well intentioned.

          Maybe in some cases. But not every psychiatrist has yet had a really full view of the evidence, and even the ones who have, we cannot always be sure they are acting maliciously. See my post below about it being better to be wrong part of the time in assuming good faith than unkind all of the time in assuming bad faith.

          They are defending these drugs IN SPITE of science and the well being of their patients.

          To include them in our dialogue and expect them to be reasonable and willing to change their opinions is akin to asking them to give up their careers and cut ties with the medical community and their sources of funding. It’s never going to happen.

          If you are certain of this. If the only way you are able to think about this is by using the word “never,” then yes, this may not be the discussion community for you. We do believe that dialogue can effect changing paradigms. As far as I know it may be the only thing that ever really has.

          On the other hand, it may be a possibility that this is not a “never” situation — that there are in fact people who read post here who change their minds, such as Dr. Sandy Steingard. I know of many other psychiatrists and mental health workers we have talked to who have been seriously moved and swayed by Bob’s work and the writing on this site, but are unwilling to come “out” publicly so far – sometimes due explicitly to the past viscousness of comments in this community. But we cannot possibly ever know of their existence if we have already decided on “never.” We become just as blind as them. If it’s us against them, then they are always wrong and we are always right and they will never change. Sound familiar? I’ve heard psychiatrists talk about patients this way. What a trip!

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          • Well I’ll end with this. I don’t think that it’s relevant that they “come out publicly” or switch sides at all. They belong in prison, plain and simple. This isn’t about malice, it’s about being negligent both knowingly and unknowingly.

            The perspective that I don’t think you understand here is that they are professionals with a job. To be professionals and have a career they first and foremost have to do their job. Their job is to prescribe drugs: plain and simple. They will not be doctors, nor will they be paid as doctors, if they don’t have somatic medical treatments. The moral dilemma is there’s to deal with: either abandon your career and suffer your student loans for the rest of your life, or go on to harm thousands of people and even ruin some people’s lives. They choose the latter, day after day, even after people like me have put the science in their face showing them what they’ve done. To me this is criminal, and I sure hope that one day there will be justice.

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          • I do understand that they are professionals with a job. I also believe that throwing every member of an oppressive class into prison is not a kind, effective, or practical goal. I think that kind of revolution breeds further resentment, discord, and danger. It stymies healing. It encourages violence, aggression, and further “othering.” One of my own favorite things is witnessing people change in this lifetime, and I’m actually skeptical of most incarceration for many of the same reason I’m skeptical of biological psychiatry: I believe change and healing are always possible, and that ones prior behavior, no matter how disruptive or harmful, does not define one’s character.

            Regardless of my personal beliefs, what we are striving for here is to hold a civil dialogue, which is at odds with the sentiment you are expressing. Perhaps some of my other responses here might help explain that further, but maybe not. So if what you need from a community is full support in issuing shame, then I do humbly and respectfully acknowledge that this isn’t that place.

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          • I’m not saying that all psychiatrists should be imprisoned for just simply being a psychiatrist. But surely the ones who deliberately misinform professionals and the public while receiving money from drug companies should. As too should the psychiatrists who continue to run a bad medical practice after being educated about the corruption in their field. Surely most people here know of the type of psychiatrist who when confronted with evidence that their drugs cause brain damage, just turn around and up the dose of the drugs they’re giving to the troublesome patient who brought up that evidence. To me this is assault and battery and the fact that it is done in a medical setting shouldn’t change that.

            I would like to think that most psychiatrists would agree with me if they really cared about their profession and had no economical reason to be biased. If I were a psychiatrist who really cared about my job and my patients, I would be enraged by corrupt members of that field doing things that trick my profession into causing harm and giving it a bad name in history. But I believe the ultimate problem is that most psychiatrists are already aware of the problems with their drugs and the corruption of their education, but they choose to go along with it because they need the lies to get reimbursement from medicaid and insurance companies. In this case, and was my case as a child, they are sacrificing people to fund their own quality of life. If this is true, then there is no reasoning with them. No point in inviting these types of people to the dialogue. They’ll just try to confuse everything and everyone, only half pretending to be listening while spreading propaganda. Whitaker has experience with some of these people, and I surely doubt he really wanted to invite them to the dialogue. Nemeroff comes to mind.

            Maybe I should have been clearer from the start, that I wasn’t referring to just all psychiatrists. We already have laws in this country against hurting people, but in medicine those laws aren’t supposed to apply because of an inevitability of some harm as a result of intervention. However, the treatments are supposed to be evidenced based and reasonably considered to do more good than harm. When that is not that case, I don’t see why the laws protecting people from harm should no longer apply.

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    • I remember many times of seamlessly believing in my position as regards primum nocere, that is that immediately and with every opportunity almost all psychiatrists seek to abrogate a troubled persons civil rights with involuntary and coerced “treatment”. But really I had not decided what there was for me to say while still very much in the grips of intense feelings of being wronged. Specifically, the indications that my interest was somewhat in empowerment or sharing control in decisions about my best interests seemed part of the warrant for denying me freedom and compelling my participation in “therapy” that was not at all uniquely determined by my own real needs.
      However, I could not realize all there was to consider about my impassioned beliefs amid the vast social consequences of bringing up the topic in America until, like the famous layers of the onion peeling off, I carefully admitted that mine was entirely a case of reaction to the sense of injustice and the real injustice that implicated all of my feeling and ability to respond. From there it was easier to like the idea of criminal and tort measures to counter what should unexceptionably be recgnized as illegal detention.
      Obviously, I see no systemic progress in the field scientifically available except as people who suffer seek to get help and voluntarily describe for what however often that needs to be until the need for a “diagnosis” gets transcended, if not pre-empted. Likewise, while the mental hospitals serve as alternatives to jails nothing good will happen.
      New to the site, Jeffrey C.’s posts reminded me of the incorribility of mainstreams views, how they can re-activate multiple aspects of that which disfrancises and depersonalizes and throws recovery off track altogether.

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  2. This seems to be connected with a comment Bob made at the NAMI conference, when MIA was attacked as having too many writers who were “anti-psychiatry.” He pointed out that we survivors gave certain pompous and oppressive psychiatrists a hard time, and so they left. As most of you know, I was tortured by psychiatrists for many years, and they took away my entire childhood. I cannot pretend that anyone who defends this should be given an audience. There are plenty of places where people like this can find an audience, and very few where people like me can be heard.

    There are still plenty of psychiatrists and mental health professionals on this site now, and while I don’t always agree with them, I feel no need to attack them, because I think they are participating sincerely and trying to be helpful.

    But if this site starts welcoming shock doctors and people who don’t really see us survivors as full human beings, what is the point of the whole website? You might as well become Psychology Today.

    I totally agree that we should try to respect one another, and personal attacks should be strongly discouraged. But when some psychiatrist starts defending in essence what was done to me and people like me, it is HE who is making a personal attack. Even if my name is not mentioned, it is as if I were black, and the other person started talking about “niggers.” Would I be cautioned to be “objective” about that? I don’t think anyone has an obligation to be polite to such people.

    So, once again, civility is important, I agree. But it would be intolerable to me if MIA became so “objective” that it stood for nothing. If some of these oppressive shrinks want to talk about us as if we are subhuman, they should be encouraged to write for the Psychiatric Times or Psychology Today where they belong.

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    • I want to thank you for jumping right into the heart of this with me.

      Intentional discrimination, in all its forms, is not allowed on this site. It isn’t allowed in the blogs or the comments. Where this gets confusing is on occasion when individuals do not realize that their speech may, in certain contexts, be discriminatory and oppressive. Once upon a time, people fundamentally did not understand that the n-word was problematic. Someone had to explain it to them. A lot of this explaining happened in angry, shaming ways in public. But actually a whole lot of it happened in gentle, patient ways as those who came to understand racism (and sexism, and heterosexism) educated their friends, families, and communities. We are in the same position now.

      When we disagree with someone’s speech, we can take a stand by politely, and generously explaining the problem when we see it. We can assume in good faith that anyone writing here is fundamentally kind and well-meaning. Even if it turns out we are wrong 1% of the time, that’s a whole lot better than dumping abuse on these people 100% of the time.

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      • Matt, I hope you give the same advice to the more obnoxious doctors who have written on MIA in the past. I don’t agree that we, their victims, must treat them with respect while they very clearly express their contempt for us. I must say, though, that I have not seen people like this on the website for quite a while, at least not in the articles I’ve read. When I’ve read stuff lately written by MH professionals here, it hasn’t struck me as something I should be protesting.

        When I was active in the civil rights movement as a white supporter, in spite of my good intentions I was sometimes attacked verbally by black people in the movement. Though I surely didn’t like it, I could very well understand where it was coming from and didn’t take it personally. In a context where some people have been badly hurt by the system, while others benefit from it and have often done a lot of the abuse, the people who have been hurt will be angry at the people who have hurt them. This is human nature.

        I don’t know what your experience with the mental health system has been, but if it was like mine you must be very saintly to be willing to be nice to the people who abused you.

        Myself, I withdrew my application for sainthood a long time ago. I am only human, and I demand to be treated as if I am. If someone refuses to respect me, I’m not going to put up with it.

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        • Well said Ted.

          [I’m glad to see that your “obnoxious doctors” description wasn’t moderated.]

          I agree that we shouldn’t put up with abuse or disrespect. As for being nice to folk who abuse us well that is up to us to decide how to treat them. And it works both ways in my opinion.

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        • I am a firm advocate for educating our less rights-oriented bloggers about how their language might be oppressive and triggering for our survivor readers. I’ve been talking about this for a while with the rest of the team and I hope we are getting better at it.

          My personal experience has been significantly less traumatic than yours, so yes, it’s easier. I’m not asking everyone to communicate like a saint. If something somebody is writing is too upsetting, you might choose to not participate in that part of the conversation at all. I have a lot of sympathy for being triggered when reading things online. It happens to me in other conversations and I have to walk away a lot.

          I appreciate what you’re saying about sometimes being attacked when working as a civil rights worker. For one thing, on an internet forum the whole conversation is a lot more tenuous than at a meeting or a rally. I think it needs more protection to have a healthy dialogue. Secondly, not everyone who takes part here is fully seeing this as a civil- or human-rights conversation. I know I certainly do! But fundamentally the one thing that brings us together is rethinking psychiatry, particularly its problematic conceptions of mental disorders and the failure of drug treatment to have good results. Many of us see this as an issue of rights, oppression, stigma, and so forth, but some are coming here from a clinical framework, and we’d like to allow them to be part of the conversation.

          When those of us who are able to gently explain the human rights issues at stake, we may find ourselves with powerful new allies!

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          • Ted- I agree that arriving at a forum of people who have experienced oppression in a position of power without being thoughtful about the dynamics at play is counterproductive. Coming into a space of folks who have deep experiences of marginalization from a priviliged perspectives requires some thoughtfulness, flexibility, willingness to be called on for things that may be difficult to here, and a sincerity engage for personal benefit (not just altruistic or paternalistic or exploitive reasons).

            While I don’t like the word “respect” without operationalizing it, I think you are right on not to expect respect unless you are willing to give it and not give respect when it has clearly not been given to you.

            Matt- Can I refer you to a post I wrote and revisited after reading some comments here about allies and engaging in spaces of folks marginalized by oppressive systems?http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/05/human-rights-and-managed-care-part-5-conclusion/#comment-10716

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    • Well said. I don’t believe that psychiatrists were chased away from MIA. They chose to leave and had the freedom to do so.

      If only I had the same freedom when engaging with psychiatry when mentally distressed, grabbed and jagged, forcibly treated, along with all my family members who went through the same tortuous process of being made to conform.

      Family history of schizoaffective disorder, labels of hebephrenic schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. Bullied and intimidated as a carer for standing up for my son in a locked ward. In 2012. As they shut him in a seclusion room, no toilet or water to drink. Jagging him forcibly with haloperidol until he was compliant. Threats of higher security wards. Police accusing me of psychological harm, because I wouldn’t stand back and let the system do what they liked.

      Let’s get real. MIA is a blogging website and information resource. We can engage in discussions, sometimes they get heated, people feel hurt, others get moderated, bloggers get their punctuation altered, it passes the time of day. Then we have to get back on with the important stuff. Of everyday living in our non-virtual communities.

      I’m beginning to think that some folk could be getting too big for their boots or have delusions of grandeur.

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    • Agreed Ted. I explained that to Matthew in private as well. I think it is a false moral equivalence to put us, survivors of psychiatric abuse, at the same level as those who perpetrated the abuse.

      Our society already shames criminals publicly. If we agree that the current psychiatric paradigm does more damage than good, that many, if not most, psychiatrists are fine with the abuses because they only care about their own gain, I see absolutely no problem in shaming them.

      When a psychiatrist defends forced drugging, as it was done to me, I don’t see why I should respect him/her in anyway. We do not ask victims of rape to respect their rapists. I don’t see what makes those who commit psychiatric abuses more deserving of respect than rapists, honestly.

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      • It’s a psycho-physical equivalence perhaps, or an unkindness equivalence to speak abstractly. I’m not judging morality on some scale of one to ten. I will suggest that it takes a similar attitude, perhaps even a similar physiological state that we can notice in our bodies, to abuse someone else in any context. These attacks, of any intensity, cause stress and shut down dialogue. I don’t care about measuring it, about arguing over the merits of trading small stabs and blows for the bigger ones we received. Any attacks between members of this community are not welcome. That is the standard that we believe this dialogue merits.

        We do not all agree “that many, if not most, psychiatrists are fine with the abuses because they only care about their own gain…” which is precisely the point.

        We are here to rethink the situation, shift the paradigm, and maybe even heal along the way. If psychiatry and rape were equivalent, which I cannot agree with, we could be having the same conversation about rape culture. I understand that what I’m getting at sounds completely mad to some of you. I’ve actually seen rapists, yes even rapists, change their mind about their behavior when confronted with gentle and patient first-hand accounts of how rape affects victims lives. This kind of non-violent intervention is much more likely to turn the former rapist into an ally than shaming and excluding them.

        There is a choice to make here for violent communication or against it. Do we want to make room to include people or do we want to shut them out and shame them? This is a pragmatic issue, not a moral one. Our mission can only be effective if we choose the former, and so that’s what we’re doing here.

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  3. Thank you Mathew.
    I think this is an important and timely refinement. It will encourage me to stay and comment more often. My reluctance to comment on discussions I felt strongly about, such as Jill Litrell’s “Talk Therapy Can Harm Too”, is sometimes motivated from concern that I would hurt feelings.
    I strongly agreed with her(including her responses to comments), and thought her brave for declaring her position.
    I think its noteworthy to the discussion here that Jill and I would likely completely disagree about the question of causation. she is a self declared biologist, and I am a self declared, (and quite stubborn) behaviorist. Opposite ends of the”nature versus nurture” argument.
    I think an important step in our movement is to seek out more public discussion through mainstream media. A good example of this was in response to Dr Leiberman’s essay in Scientific American. The reaction was more powerful because of the number of commenters who did not agree and expressed their opinions reasonably. This spoke volumes.
    I hope that more of us will wade into the waters of public disagreement, rather then restrict ourselves only to the safety and comfort of reassurance and agreement here.

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    • Thanks Michael. I agree that pulling together to carefully critique items that show up in other places on the web is one of the most effective actions we can take in terms of raising awareness. One way we can practice and refine this ability is by respectfully engaging with those who we disagree with within our own community.

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      • I agree, up to a point.

        Matthew can I suggest that if you’re going to moderate or remove a comment then you let the person know why, right away? In this way you won’t alienate people who are taking the time to express an opinion even if it is seen to be ‘disrespectful’ or ‘disagreeable’.

        I’ve been moderated without any explanation and it’s not a pleasant experience. It feels like my voice has been silenced with no recourse to a defense. I get enough of that in the psychiatric system and would prefer not to be treated like it on MIA.

        Yours, respectfully, Chrys

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  4. Matthew I support what you’re saying and Laura’s words.
    I too felt intimidated when I first posted here, not antipsychiatry enough, too focused on social injustice for some members liking. I strongly feel we must hold onto our empathy in disagreement, I have stated that a couple of times.
    I was away for a couple of weeks and on my return found my comments to be moderated, ‘awaiting moderation’.
    I had no idea I had offended so please could you let me know what I did, I’m fine with apologising to anyone where that is the decent thing to do

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  5. I’m very grateful for all the work you do for the site and the community. Thank you. I think history has proved that all successful movements are nonviolent and radically forgiving. It’s terribly hard to get there, tho. Something I do really like about Mad In America is that you seem to hold in mind exactly who you’re doing this for.

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  6. I am one of those folks who have brain damage from 20 years of multiple psych drugs. At present I am over 4 years off all of it. I have a hard time understanding the real message you are giving here Matt. It’s not okay to say you were badly harmed and severely wounded by being a compliant patient? I understand that some psychiatrists who posted here have left. I am guessing that they don’t want to hear how badly they have hurt and even killed thousands of innocent people? I think that is quite common that perpetrators don’t want hear that and they certainly don’t want to take responsibility for doing so. The prisons are full of such people.

    Is there a special way to talk to your abusers that won’t make them run away and allow them to hear what you’re saying without feeling threatened? I have much respect for those who admit that their life’s work is a sham and they are very sorry that they chose that profession. I have even greater respect for those who have the honour and dignity to face that and change direction by actually helping people withdraw safely from the drugs. I like that very much. I am full of forgiveness for such people.

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    • It’s not okay to say you were badly harmed and severely wounded by being a compliant patient?

      I certainly didn’t say this.

      It does seem to take practice and intention to speak kindly, or at least politely, about things that we’re really pissed off about. I’ll write more about my own experience with this in another blog. What I’m saying here can be mostly boiled down to “Please don’t attack or misrepresent people.” Simply sharing what happened to you doesn’t do either of these things. I believe that simply sharing our experience is one of the most powerful forms of communication there is.

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      • I look forward to you addressing exactly how to talk to people on the other side of the fence in another blog post. I really want to learn how to get my point across in a non-threatening manner. If they could only feel the pain they actually create for a few moments, they would know that what they do is seriously harmful and they would stop it, maybe?

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  7. Matthew

    I support the essence of your attempt to establish fair and appropriate standards for dialogue at MIA.

    On some of these issues there are fine lines between appropriate and inappropriate that can only be fully established over time and in the course of the actual struggle to change the world.

    You have made a good start and I appreciate your hard work and your sincere efforts to struggle with us over the best ways to wage this battle.

    I have always advocated an approach that seeks to unite “all who can be united” (both inside and outside the current mental health system) around an ideology and program to defeat Biological Psychiatry (I am anti-Biological Psychiatry, not anti-psychiatry) as part of a broader struggle for social justice and human rights for all.

    Overall I believe my postings have more than met that standard. Recently one of my comments was moderated in a posting by Jill Littrel. Matthew conducted some principled email communication with me over some of the new standards presented above. After careful reconsideration I have accepted the fact that there were some fundamental problems with how I presented some of my passionate ideas. Matthew’s criticisms were in depth, well thought out, and constructive regarding the future content of my postings.

    I would make the following observations about some of the discussion regarding the fine lines between appropriate and inappropriate postings:

    1) Oppressive ideology and practice as well as bad science in the mental health field should still be hit hard at MIA. But it should be done through the hard work of digging deep into the critical questions and wielding real science as a powerful weapon of persuasion. When this is combined with the real life stories of transformation and liberation from the current mental health system it represents an unbreakable force for positive change.

    2)Name calling, broad generalizations mischaracterizations, “straw man” arguments, shaming statements are often “lazy ass” methods of avoiding the hard work of digging deep into the questions to expose wrong ideas and practice. There is a difference between deliberately trying to shame someone using the above methods, and people ultimately feeling shame because we have made such powerful arguments convincing them that their real life practice has caused great harm to people. There is nothing wrong with the latter result.

    3) There is a difference between the top leadership of the various institutions of Biological Psychiatry and its rank and file. We should be targeting the leadership and their ideology and practice while using persuasion to split off and win over some of the rank and file.

    4) We do not have to worry about dishonest or stubborn representatives of Biological Psychiatry dominating or distorting the essential content of MIA. Using the hard hitting yet appropriate methods of struggle mentioned above, they will not be able to handle or tolerate the truth when it is presented in an unrelenting and persuasive manner.

    5) I am asking MIA to consider the following change in blogging policy: I believe all bloggers who make featured postings at MIA should, as a condition of participation, be required to make an honest effort to respond (in a reasonable time period) to the major themes made by those people in the discussion section. This does not mean responding to every comment but to the essential questions raised. I believe this would raise the level of discourse and hold people to an appropriate standard of accountability and responsibility to engage with the readers. This would also avoid any bloggers just using MIA as a form of self promotion or making provocative presentations without some accountability to defend their views. It also provides readers the possibility of further elaboration and deepening of the author’s analysis, or possibly show some changes or evolution in the author’s thinking through the process of MIA’s discussion section.


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    • I support Richards point 5, this would also reduce the possibility of offensive belittling comments as mine was viewed by you Matthew as when bloggers appear to not engage with critique after making some pretty out there assertions it causes frustration, and that can spill into feeling ‘bloody well answer to your views’ attitude.

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    • In the new editorial guidelines for authors that will be sending out soon we include explicit encouragement for bloggers to participate in the comment discussion. Blogging is a weird intersection itself between old-media publishing and a discussion forum.

      It doesn’t seem fair to require bloggers to respond. Sometimes people just have no good response, and forcing them to speak is another form of violence. As someone who has been depressed, confused and anxious I can speak to this from personal experience. I know I’ve also been called out on being flat-out wrong, and it can take me more than “a reasonable amount of time” to fully understand and speak about the issue without being defensive or aggressive about it. Sometimes returning to original context where I was called out can take a very long time. So, in my understanding, being required to speak by a group in a heated discussion is itself a form of shaming in many cases. That practice, while it might push some conversations forward, would be in danger of doing more harm than good in other cases.

      As much as I’d like to, I don’t know that we can do anything to enforce a highly enlightened or sophisticated conversation here. What we can do is protect the space from that which brings the quality down. The rest is up to our individual empathy and skill in conversation. Alas, (and I say this for myself, not you) there may be no community management magic bullet to make sure the right or best things (in any one person’s opinion) happen in a dialogue.

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  8. ‘ it would be an obvious injustice to apply blunt tools of moderation to this intricate arrangement of individuals.’

    My.. what a great thoughtful intelligent writer you are Matthew…(for a sysop!) (Joke!!) I could have chosen many other passages from your piece to illustrate this…

    Thomas Szasz is one of my heroes. Always vilified, yet always polite in his response.

    Me? I will always fall short of these standards. I am a drunk. I have passion. I say things that I regret. I am sorry.

    I am the slave that has to respect the master? No matter what he says to me? I am the patient that has to bow down to the psychiatrist? I am the Jew that has to respect Hitler? And be civil and refrain from personal attacks? Really?

    I have my failings. But Matthew. Honestly. I cannot do this. And I would prefer that others do not do this. This forum should be open. It is only words after all. Not bombs or guns that kill. Of course ideas have consequences that may end in death. But I will not be respectful to those persons that completely disrespect me. I will fight back with every avenue open to me.

    Sorry. I cannot subscribe to your request. If that means I must leave this site then so be it.

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    • “Thomas Szasz is one of my heroes. Always vilified, yet always polite in his response”.

      Actually he wasn’t always polite, at an event in the UK he was incredibly rude to some european survivors and shouted them down, wouldn’t listen [they were respectful in their communications] and called one of our leading survivor researchers a “malingerer”. So even ‘hero’s’ can it get it wrong!

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      • Yeh? Which event was that? Evidence…? Anyway.. so he should have. I would have. After 50 years of total insults from the psychiatry profession and he let rip? I forgive him. Perhaps he felt his suicide would make an impact. Read any of his books have you?

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        • An event in the UK he was kindly invited to speak at with a predominately survivor audience, and the example of how he insulted a respected survivor researcher was not from that particular event. You’re welcome to disbelieve, I have no problem with that.
          Yes I have read one of his books [myth], and some of his articles, each to their own in their hero’s.

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          • I’ve watched two of the Szasz You Tube videos and found them to be very interesting. I haven’t noticed any insults other than when a psychiatrist tried to make a point about Szasz and scientology. I know these things get edited and if you were actually there Joanna, I would defer to you.

            Besides that, Szasz is really very coherent and the questions from the audience are great! Some of my favorite quotes:
            “First you have to abolish slavery and then you work on freedom.”

            “We don’t have cancer laws!” In response to the existence of mental health laws.

            “If you don’t inform yourself, you’re a dead duck!”

            “Careful decision maker in a free society”

            “It’s word magic!”

            Welcome back Joanna!

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      • Joanna, Definitely respect your feelings but don’t forget how much of a true avenger Dr. Szasz always proved to be, and that he can’t add to all the helpful work anymore…

        My hero maybe was more George Harrison. But you certainly said nothing offensive regarding Szasz at the talk–just your impression and opinion of being let down or unprepared for his trademark manner.

        Hearing your take on it counts, certainly.

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    • This avenue is not open for you to fight your fight if it means violating these guidelines. There is no judgment here about anyone’s personal views or what you want to do elsewhere. These are simply the standards by which this community is able to achieve its mission. This isn’t actually a request — it’s an invitation. I’m inviting everyone who reads this site to be a part of a civil dialogue. If you don’t want to I, sympathize with that and wish you well on whatever path works for you.

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      • Matthew thank you, for several things – your personal communication with me which helped, for your moderation and patience.

        I do think that anyone moderated needs to know why [in order to learn] or asked to reconsider/how the other person feels.

        I also think that bloggers have a responsibility to attempt to respond [as they are able to] avoid ill feeling when considered and heartfelt responses and critique are offered to what feels like explosive views.

        I also wanted to say something about triggers, sometimes what triggers us isn’t always related to what is immediately occurring.

        As I said to you privately, I’ve never been moderated before anywhere so I prickled [I own that, and take responsibility for that].
        I also felt aggrieved at some serious online abuse I have experienced and witnessed [UK sites] which is why I no longer post under my real name because of how it impacted on me. I’ve seen and experienced survivors being directly threatened for their views, and people shamelessly abused for being in receipt of state support. You, MiA, even today’s unpleasant posts towards me which you removed are nothing to do with those experiences, something just ‘resonated’ but I own that. I just thought it might be useful if I said it publicly in case things have ever resonated for others, as in feelings/responses may have been about something touched in us rather than deliberately setting out to degrade the other person.

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        • You are welcome Joanna! Yes the subtle difference between direct attacks and triggers is something that is coming up in several of my conversations with community members right now. I will probably write about this as my next blog post. I appreciate you helping to tease this out.

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          • It would be good if you wrote about it Matthew because it’s something which affects all of us to some degree.
            I am saddened you have received abusive emails.

            Online communication has changed things from where we used to meet in each others homes, day centres, communities, and at more accessible regular events/conferences, when survivor groups were less ‘professional’, corporate even, profit making, with less avenue for entrepreneurs and freelancers. The up side is obvious hardly needs stating, but it has also had it’s down side. The sorts of discourse when it gets personal, angry in a unpleasant way, and how we value each other can get skewed online because we can’t see facial expression, hear tone of voice etc. For example, with friends/relatives I would always say ‘never let us argue by email’, we must speak or see each other face to face because it is different, and what might be argued over on the screen might not come to anything in voice or face to face. I have noticed generally speaking that online it can be intolerant of difference or we might argue in a manner we wouldn’t face to face.

            In saying this our survivor movement was different in previous decades where we wrote letters and used an abacus!! I do remember how hard we argued in face to face meetings, but we didn’t hold onto bad feelings for long about people afterwards, would never air ‘dirty washing’ in front of professionals. In fact I remember seeing survivors who had disagreed bitterly immediately pull together with a group of psychiatrists, an amazing sight and testament to people overall putting the ‘greater good’ above anything else. Would I be confident of that happening now? No.

            I take what you say Stephen about civil dialogue in some quarters, I too have seen this.

            Tina you have a good point too about being even handed regarding professionals, and I would add to that how survivors treat each other too.

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  9. Hi David, yes it’s not in those video’s and even though he isn’t my personal hero because of his right wing libertarian anti-welfare state position, that doesn’t mean I write off everything he says. I appreciate some of his words, just as I appreciate the value of an intervention I didn’t helpful for myself. Good to see you!

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  10. Thank you Matthew for this interesting discussion. Sometimes I feel as if the internet is a tabla rasa for me. I write things that later on I realize might not be in the best interest of the discussion. I think having the PSTD effect of a multiply hospitalized psych survivor with its resultant bad memories and realization you bought into a system that was full of bunk makes it difficult at times to always calmly and rationally discuss conversational threads. A time delay for posts with a the chance to review what was written would be helpful to all of the internet world!

    I find it a gift to be able to relay information on instances of abuse and poor medical management without falling into a blaming and or victim stance. Also some of my personal stories are fraught with stereotypes which in the telling make me look more prejudiced towards my Social Work profession and the medical professionals than I really am. The reason there are stereotypes is that they always contain some form of truth and the psych world is full of stereotypes of all kinds.
    I think we all need to be open with other’s view points. Saul Aslinsky was alway politically astute when dealing with his activism.

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  11. In my humble observations of what has taken place for the past two years on MIA, the only professionals who took a “drubbing” were those who consistently insisted on being arrogant in their lack of respect for the ex-patients/survivors who are involved here. These were the professionals who seemed to feel that they were the “experts” on our experience and lives and who continued to address us as deficient people who weren’t being compliant and cooperative as we should be. It seemed like the moment that anyone took exception to their approach they became “offended” and removed themselves from the discussion. Many of them didn’t seem to understand or comprehend why their approach was so distasteful to the rest of us. It’s as if they expected us to bow down and kow tow because they were gracing and gifting us with their opinions, which some tried to prssent as fact. It was the “same old same old” that so many of us have put up with for far too long from the system.

    I believe that the people who called them on their behavior did so with more grace and tact than I am capable of responding with. What did they expect from us? The very professionals who damaged and changed so many peoples’ lives who come here did so with the same attitudes that these writers were coming to MIA with. Most of us are willing to join hands and sing Kumbaya and get warm fuzzies in our hearts as long as you respect us. You don’t have to agree with us to get a chorus of Kumbaya out of us, as long as you respect us and treat us as intelligent and capable people. We’ve even come to highly respect the professionals who took their knocks but remained and keep posting, even when we don’t all see eye to eye on something. You get what you’re willing to give. If you give us respect then this is what we who come here will give you in return, even if we don’t always agree with you.

    IMHO, professionals who come here to speak their ideas must realize in the very beginning that we are on an equal footing with them and have just as much to share with and teach them as they feel they have to teach us. It’s always a two way street here at MIA. They must be as willing to listen and learn from us as they expect us to listen and learn from them. They are not the “experts” on our lives as some of them mistakenly believe.

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    • It’s not only the professionals who take a “drubbing,” and much friendlier professionals than Moffic, like Steingard and Littrell most recently, have also been subject to a severe abuse and misrepresentations.

      I realize that one problem is I remove these comments and you never see them again, so people don’t understand how uncivil some remarks are. From now on all moderated comments (except spam and zero-content posts) will be copied and saved in the moderation forum so you’ll be able to see for yourself what happens and whether this guidelines make sense to you.

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      • yes I remember a thread with a neurologist where I stated ‘this is bloodsport’ the misrepresentation and putting words in mouth were unwarranted, equally though I really don’t think Jill helped herself much with some fairly outrageous statements [in the views of several members] regarding words not hurting like something physical and issues around sexual abuse. Well hello words DO hurt, this blog is about just that…

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  12. Nathan,

    Thanks for providing the link to the comments that resulted after Dr. Moffic’s post. Which leads to a concern of mine.

    Mathew, in going back over the comments, it seems that while many commentators asked some tough questions, they did not flame Dr. Moffic. Yet, it seemed that unless people posted comments that were essentially, “rah, rah, psychiatry”, he took it that way and in my opinion contributed to the unfair reputation that people on this site are mean spirited.

    My apologies if you have addressed this already but I am concerned that MIA is going to go out of its way to welcome people like this and as a result we will have to watch every word we say. I already have to do that on a very strictly moderated forum on another topic and it is not a good feeling.

    If this has already been addressed, please point me in the right direction.



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    • This is not particularly about Moffic. There are many much more recent examples of people attacking each other, people who are already much closer to being in agreement than Moffic and his detractors. Now that I’m beginning to catalog these instances in the Moderation forum, you will be able to review them yourself and make up your own mind about the usefulness of this policy.

      I agree that Moffic’s attitude toward the community was unhelpful and often befuddling. Kermit, our editor, and I are teaming up to work more intentionally with the doctors who write here to try to manage this issue from both ends. I have no problem moderating blog authors who make misrepresentations or uncivil remarks toward commenters. If I had been more involved as community manager when Moffic was active… well it’s hard to imagine. I don’t want to rely on the past for making assumptions about how this stuff will go in the future. I hope that the clarity and sincerity of what I’m proposing here is sufficient for most of you. If it’s not, then we’ll have to prove it with our actions, and all I can do is invite you to stay in touch and see what happens for yourself.

      Just today I was accused by a prolific commenter here of lying about all of this and really wanted to sneak in more psychiatrists to better uphold the status quo. It was suggested that going down this road we would start taking money from big pharma. All I can say is that this line of thinking is nonsense, and truly feels like an insult to everything we’ve been trying to do here.

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  13. Hi Matthew-
    I think the new guidelines are a good idea. If people want to discuss an issue in a way that digresses from the actual content of the post, they should use another forum. (In that forum, they should be able to exchange any and all ideas.) My hope for this website is that it will attract a board spectrum of readers including physicians and those at the CDC. I think we need to build coalitions and change the paradigm for how distressed individuals are treated in this country. I was intrigued by Bob Whitaker’s comment at NAMI to the effect that main-stream people (for example, academicians) are discouraged from contributing to or reading the website because the main-stream folks represent a contrary point of view to most contributors to the web site. Most academics (those in the mainstream) are committed to the epistemology of evidence and science for determining truth. Thus, one talks about the findings from research or one criticizes the methodology of the research to discredit the findings, but all agree that the way to know is through the research. One does not argue with a finding if the methodology was good. (Usually, the methodology offers a lot to disagree on.) Currently, biology is exploding and thus finding physiological mechanisms for all behavior is the zeitgeist. Since I’m betting they will come up with a cure for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, brain tumors, and cancer, I’m very happy to support their endeavors. However, there is enough research now to thoroughly discredit the current pharmaceutical approach, at least as a long-term strategy, to treating human distress. Whether that will be the case in the future, who knows. I think we need to build consensus since current strategies are so devastating.

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    • Thanks for chiming in Jill! I think we can all agree that the current paradigm of pharmaceutical use to treat human distress is massively failed.

      One part of this dynamic I see raised in your comment is that the primary epistemology of many of our community members is a postmodern one, where we are inclined to see a basic truth in the interplay of language, stories, experiences, and social systems. We look at the patterns and effects of cultural constructs like symbols, memes, and labels. We deconstruct power structures and point to data that sometimes lives in our own hearts, our sense of justice, and what it means to be human. This heuristic seems especially useful to me when talking about suffering, oppression, and imbalances of power. These problem don’t always show up in the data — and are sometimes even obfuscated by it! Sometimes claims to scientific epistemology is used to protect harmful imbalances of power, and I think many people here are therefore sensitive, and perhaps even fearful, about the ways psychiatric research is implemented and used.

      I see in every discipline that when the postmodern views butts up against a scientific epistemology, the two parties can have a lot of difficulty understanding and working with one another. The folks interested in analysis of personal experiences, motivations, and systematic forces get angry at the more science- and data- oriented thinkers for not experiencing the same paradigm.

      I believe there is a lot of value to both views, and the thing we cannot do is say “this is just a science blog,” or “this is just a rights/anti-oppression/advocacy blog.” Every blogger and every post is going to potentially face both of these basic epistemologies in the discussion. I hope that we can find better ways to include all of this in our discussion in an integrated way, and would be curious to hear any of your thoughts, as a blogger, about how to prepare other scientists for entering into a milieu where this other paradigm is very active.

      Personally, I’ll say that I do suspect there are quite possibly biological correlates/mechanisms to all behavior, but that these are endlessly overdetermined by, and intertwined with, our interactions with other people. Therefore, the mechanism of an individual brain is only one part of the picture. I believe we have the power to radically change our own and each other’s brains through human relationship, such as what we are doing right here!

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      • Hi Matthew-
        I don’t disagree with anything you said. In fact, there is a lot of data that stress can influence genes. Michael Meany take pregnant rats and stresses them out. What happens in the rat pups is that the DNA for receptors for cortisol get changed so that the cort receptor does not get expressed. The rat ups are then prone to anxyiety. Meany reversed the effects with effectively a dietary intervention. I do think experiences and social interactions matter. Because of my orientation, I’m probably going to ask about how experiences get transalated into physiological mechanisms. We don’t disgree, we are just looking at different views of the same experiences.

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        • Well said Jill! I think it’s very helpful to look at intense states as physiological in nature with a social etiology. I agree that we are talking about the same idea, even though my own training is more from meditation and alternative therapies than scientific studies. I think that’s neat! It’s interesting to know there is science that is helping to demonstrate this.

          A big problem in history of the research seems to be the baseless faith that the physiological differences in bodies experiencing these extreme states are caused primarily by genes or otherwise stuck in one individual, and also that they are not recoverable.

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    • Hi Jill,

      You said, “I was intrigued by Bob Whitaker’s comment at NAMI to the effect that main-stream people (for example, academicians) are discouraged from contributing to or reading the website because the main-stream folks represent a contrary point of view to most contributors to the web site. Most academics (those in the mainstream) are committed to the epistemology of evidence and science for determining truth.”

      Perhaps I am missing something but I find this comment perplexing. Whatever gave them the idea that we aren’t since the issue is that alot of mental health care (mainly the prescription of drugs) has been done on fraudulent science?

      As an FYI, when I have asked psychiatrists on other blogs for evidence that antidepressants work long term, the only thing they have been able to say is based on their clinical experience, they work which isn’t a satisfactory answer in my opinion.

      Thanks in advance for your help.


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      • I don’t think we disagree. You may want to download the paper that Jeff Lacasse and I wrote on antidepressant efficacy. I have published a paper on depression=inflammation. I know that interpersonal interactions can cause depression. I, however, think that turbulent social interactions cause physiological events. (Stress is not just in your thoughts-it’s in your body.) I think you can reverse the physiological impact on the body with diet and exercise and compassionate meditation. (Papers can be downloaded by googling my name and digital archives at GSU.)

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    • Jill,
      I wish you had responded to and engaged more with posters on your therapy blog, may I ask why you didn’t?
      I appreciate pressure of time/workload issues, but were there are any other reasons as to why you didn’t engage that much [or maybe you didn’t feel able to]?
      It’s an open handed question, I’m not wishing to attack you, but maybe it would be useful if I said that for me your sparse engagement left me with a negative impression but I don’t know if my impression is accurate hence why I’m asking you.
      Did you realise that your limited engagement frustrated posters [hence some negative responses]?
      It is of course your choice as to whether you reply, I won’t enquire further if you don’t,but I ask so I can consider if/how I post in future on your blogs.

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    • Hi Jill,

      You write:

      “I think the new guidelines are a good idea. If people want to discuss an issue in a way that digresses from the actual content of the post, they should use another forum. (In that forum, they should be able to exchange any and all ideas.)“

      As I`ve been trying to state on other posts here, surely this is all very subjective and surely one persons digression is another persons “on point“. Perhaps even onpoint with great acumen!!

      To me (again) such basic principles like a free and open discussion are being obscured or lost in rationalized arbitray “nonsense on stilts“ that is the “moderation guidelines“. But perhaps i`m just “lacking insight“ into “appropriate“ posting techniques…I may very well have OCMG (overly critical of moderation guidelines) and perhaps may have suffered from it for years!?

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  14. Reading all this, I am feeling rather pessimistic about the usefulness of MIA to the cause of human rights in psychiatry. I was feeling very positive about the recent encouragement of psych survivors to write for this website. Now we are being told that we must respect our oppressors no matter what they say. This is just like the experiences all of us have had in the institutions we were unlucky enough to be trapped in.

    An earlier poster said this was like demanding that Jews would have to respect Hitler. I am sure if MIA staff respond to this, there will be denial that this is a valid comparison, but I think it is very appropriate.

    I don’t agree that the way to accomplish the changes that must take place in the mental “health” system is to have an intellectual discussion about “science.” While Bob’s work in exposing the fraud of psychiatric drugs is very important, I don’t see it as the basic issue. What is basic is that society has given psychiatrists the status of gods, and they are allowed to strip away the human rights of anyone they want to.

    I don’t respect the people who do this, and I don’t think anyone should. If we look at the history of the various movements for human rights in America over the last half-century, none of them made the great progress we see by having polite intellectual discussions with their oppressors. Even Martin Luther King, while being polite toward his oppressors, also confronted injustice in a very straightforward way.

    As Frederick Douglass observed, “Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never has and it never will.” His words are just as true today as they were 150 years ago.

    Forty years after our movement began, we are facing more bigotry and more violations of our legal and human rights than I have ever seen. I don’t think pretending that the people who are doing this to us will somehow see the light if we just tell them how wonderful they are is a strategy that works.

    These issues of human rights are not some interesting intellectual question for me. I have made many sacrifices of time, energy, money, and career to fight for this cause.

    It appears that MIA doesn’t believe these issues are really important, and I am very disappointed by this.

    This comment, I point out, is (I hope) an example of the respectful disagreement you are calling for. I hope it moves the MIA leadership in the direction I’m advocating. I certainly know that all of you are very well-meaning, not at all like the arrogant doctors who mostly have left the site.

    I have a lot of respect for you. But this new direction MIA seems to be moving in is very disappointing.

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    • I’m not saying anything about who you must respect. Our standard is that people be civil on this site. I encourage you to feel whatever you feel in your heart, and do whatever you want elsewhere. If you are an activist elsewhere, as I am, then I personally applaud you.

      Where the nazi analogy breaks down is that this is the internet, not a concentration camp! I would not walk up to someone in a psych ward, or a local clinic, and tell them to be polite their doctors in their everyday life! We are an online discussion community that seeks to bring together anyone who wants to rethink psychiatry. Nobody is suggesting that you have to be here, and certainly nobody is imprisoning you to this website like a concentration camp. We acknowledge that these atrocities do happen out in the world, and the standard here is that we discuss them with civility — with just enough detachment to refrain from trying to shame and destroy those we disagree with.

      Bob isn’t MLK, and MIA does not set out to single-handedly solve the human rights problems in the mental health system. That is not our role, nor what we aspire to… with respect and acknowledgement that some of you would like it to be. I think there does need to be an online community totally focused on this as its core mission. Maybe MindFreedom or another existing organization could serve this purpose. Maybe there needs to be something brand new. I know I would happily build and help run such a site, if there’s a team and resources ready to make it happen!

      I think the reason a lot of people pressure us to be that way is because there’s nothing else out there even close.

      It might be helpful to check out the comment I just posted above about how one of our intersections is between modernist and postmodernist thinking about power, oppression, science, medicine, and so forth. Our scientist friends may not think about these things in the same way as you or I, but here we are, welcoming them to this dialogue, because a discussion of the science is relevant to our mission. As is a conversation about oppression and human rights. In my estimation, a fallacy of the aggressively activist view is when people claim that any inclusion of old-paradigm thinking in the discussion means a total dismissal of a sense of caring about justice and human rights.

      I fear this is what you are saying when you write “It appears that MIA doesn’t believe these issues are really important.” These issues are hugely important to me and to other members of the team. I wrote about them in this very blog post! These kinds of words make me wonder if I’m being called a liar. But I don’t think that is really what you meant.

      Our approach is to hold a civil dialogue in the heart of the conflict, which is something that I understand happened with other movements also, including civil rights and and abolition! I’ll admit that this isn’t always as exciting or heroic as the powerfully activist campaigns, and so it’s no surprise these conversations didn’t end up in many history books.

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      • I feel very deeply what Ted is saying here. And, I also understand what you’re saying. Perhaps this is the frustration that I’ve been feeling for the past few months with MIA. It seems like we tiptoe around, not wanting to disturb or alarm the “establishment” which is controlling the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

        So, with your explaination of this I see the direction you all want this to go in and I for one really don’t believe this is the way things are going to be resolved. So, I think we do need a new place to look at things from a stronger activist viewpoint which Ted seems to be supporting and which I support also. I agree with Ted; I do not believe that they are going to let us go free just because we ask them nicely to do so and becasue it’s the right thing to do. History shows us very clearly that oppressed groups have never been set free without tremendous struggle against the oppressors. Slave owners had to be forced to free the slaves, gays had to fight the police at Stonewall, we’re going to have to fight the system to get our freedom. The biopsychiatrists and the drug companies have too much invested in our oppression to turn loose freely and with hugs all around. I guess some of us will have to go somewhere else to continue the discussion. This doesn’t mean that we can’t also come here to see what’s going on from your end of things.

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        • I’ve seen “civil dialogue” tried in the hospital where I work. All of the “civil dialogue” people were shown the front door of the hospital very quickly. From my limited experience the “system” doesn’t take very well to such dialogue since all they seem to be interested in is a monologue. This is just my viewpoint from my limited experience of what I’ve witnessed. It didn’t work at the hospital and I don’t think it’s going to work for the movement. I hope you prove me wrong.

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          • I gotta say I’m a bit confused by some of the turns in this conversation. Nowhere am I trying to suggest what a movement should look like or what anyone should do out in the world. These parameters are strictly for discussion on the Mad In America website. We are not a hospital. We are not nazi Germany. We are a discussion site on the Internet with all the freedoms, transparency, and flexibility through space and time that a website allows.

            So I do not know why people are taking these standards to have anything to do with direct activism, or any other thing under the sun besides posting on this particular website.

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      • I apologize if I came across as saying that MIA doesn’t care about the human rights issues in the MH system. I am sure all of you do, and I respect all of you for your contributions. You’re right also, I think, in your remark that those of us who are more activist want MIA to be something different from what it is.

        I was very pleased to read that if a website were set up just to discuss human rights issues, you would be willing to contribute some of your technical skills. I have been thinking about this very thing, as I think there has been very little discussion of the kind of strategies we should be using to address these gross violations of our human rights.

        In thinking about this in the context of this discussion, I am a bit amused when I realize that such a group will undoubtedly have the same problems of flaming and disrespect as we are seeing here.

        Just the same, I think it’s important to try to do something about this, and I probably will want to take you up on your generous offer of technical assistance. Thanks again.

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        • Ted,

          Laura Delano and I have been talking about this as a project we are both interested in for the past year. We even talked as a board about whether Mad In America could host such a second site, and we saw that the basic missions of these two projects would be too out of sync. They would end up compromising each other by association. Bob Whitaker’s work/role is as a journalist and educator, not a leader of direct activism.

          I mean, look how angry some activists and some psychiatrists already are with us! If we tried to do everything the movement might want in one organization, we would end up torn apart, with nothing.

          So yes, if the circumstances align, I would be eager to assist in building a specifically human-rights and activism oriented community.

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          • This splitting might work,

            Play there game with numbers, statistics and medical stuff on one front and then also come at them on another with the human rights activism.

            Kind of like an army and navy for land and sea attacks on the same target.

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      • Matthew,

        I found this comment of yours to be insensitive:

        “… this is the internet, not a concentration camp!”

        I think it dismisses the stories shared by Ted and others on this site, which in many ways were as terrifying and inhumane as those of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.

        And that’s all I’d like to say. And, “No, I’m not interested in having a lengthy discussion on the subject.”


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    • I agree with what Ted is saying, regarding the new direction of MIA being disappointing.

      It seems to have sprung out of the NAMI conference when Bob, according to the blog Op Ed by Claire Weber, talked about the early days of the MIA web magazine when comments were unmoderated, to begin with, then overmoderated in reaction, people left, come came back.

      However Bob also said (according to this blog post) “We’ve opened our website to that voice.”, that is the voice of the user and survivor of mental health services and psychiatry.

      As an MIA blogger from the beginning, albeit a Scottish one, I’m keen to see room on this website for a range of voices, not just people who agree with everything that is said or who fear to be critical in case they are moderated. Civilised debate can be fruitful for bringing about change. In my experience.

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    • Hi Ted,

      Yes, yes and yes to you fine sir! Agreed agreed and agreed! And MASSIVE respect and honour to you for all that you do, have done and have been through. To me you are IRON WILL and GOODNESS writ large! bless you in a believing, non believing and agnostic way…which ever suits you best!

      ps. I hope this has not been too “off topic“ or has not “moved the discussion forward“ sufficiently and thus rendered in need of “moderation“`…I await the ministry of truths decision on this grave matter…haha!

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  15. Matt, I bit the bullet and logged on, and was happy to see your post(s). Thank you for your courage and tenacity in attempting to shift the energy here so that, perhaps, clarity and healing around these complex issues might better occur. After all, any group–whether virtual or physical–is a microcosm of our global community, at large. If we cannot set a good example of reasonable and forward-moving dialogue, then words don’t amount to much at all. We teach and learn by example.

    Personally, it’s why I feel the mental health field, as a whole, is at such a standstill, and why my healing was contingent upon methods other than ‘psychotherapy’–that is, because of the lack of, at least, reasonable dialogue skills, on the part of clinicians. Seemed to be more about ‘who is right and who is wrong,’ which I don’t feel is at all a healthy focus. Life is a subjective art, not an exact science. That’s just my personal opinion and experience, however. Different approaches work for different people, and we all seek and/or create relationship dynamics that meet our needs at any given time. Overall, we all have our personal perspectives, based on our experiences, unique to each one of us.

    But I will still claim that healing *anything* (whether we’re talking about personal or social ills) begins in the heart, not the brain. Emotional intelligence will fly a lot further than intellectual savvy. It may be more rugged, at times, but living life to the fullest does take courage, faith, and trust in our individual processes. I feel your missives here are leading MIA in the right direction, in this regard. Thank you, again, for your efforts in helping to provide a safe space for reasonable communication, regardless of whether or not we’re in agreement with each other. Indeed, differing points of view is what provides the greatest potential to know the next level of information. I think this is always the first order of business when it comes to healing and creating new levels of awareness.

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    • I personally believe that the emotional and embodied aspects of healing and group communication are very underdeveloped in our culture in general, and to some extend in the conversation here. I hope to write more, as much as it might be helpful, about how I’ve learned to feel emotionally safe and capable of genuine kindness, especially in regards to internet communication.

      I don’t really know where we go from here. This whole idea of having a truly civil online conversation about such deep and painful issues seems like a very strange and unlikely experiment to me. I hope that you and all the others stick around to help make it something none of us have ever seen before.

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      • Paradigm shifts are stressful and messy when one is in the process of shifting. It will cause shifts in relationships, where some will fall off. That is inevitable, and a necessary bi-product of growth and expanding consciousness. At the same time, new relationships are formed. This is how a group evolves. Trust the process, and in the meantime, make sure you take care of YOURSELF, first! Breathe, ground, center…take a break from the chaos. When we are at rest and grounded, we are creating more than we can imagine.

        I can completely empathize with being attacked when trying to sincerely help bring balance and clarity. As a healer, teacher, group facilitator, and activist filmmaker, it’s happened to me on many occasions. Not fun, but I always learn so much from it, and my clarity and confidence increase exponentially. I am also a survivor of many abuses, discrimination, and blatant oppression, as well. I had to, once and for all, own my life experience in order to make sense of it all so that I could finally move on to better–and more joyous, fulfilling–things. Owning my life, while not easy, initially, is what lead to healing my heart from all those horribly painful wounds that lingered for years, and kept piling on, affecting everything in my life–and certainly, it affected my mental clarity and focus. That’s all changed, now, most thankfully.

        Resistance can be fierce, especially when folks are enraged. Still, we are all responsible for our feelings, which is what so many people have trouble understanding and practicing. When I feel triggered, yes, I can blame the messenger, initially. But when I allow myself to reflect on it for even just a few minutes, I always do my best personal growth when I ask myself, “Now why did I need to experience this? What is this negative emotion about for me?”

        Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” That’s true ownership and self-responsibility—the only way to heal, and to grow, both, spiritually and emotionally.

        To assume that one’s plight in life is more stressful than another’s is illusory. We all face challenges that are respective of our spiritual nature. When we discover our spiritual nature and can learn to connect with it affirmatively, then healing can occur. Otherwise, we just go in a loop, facing the same issues in life repeatedly.

        Again, kudos for your courage and integrity. When the confusion–and perhaps, discomfort–passes, you will see what we are co-creating here. Indeed, delving into the unknown is both exciting and scary, but then again, every step forward we take is inherently an unknown, so perhaps it’s best to embrace it best we can. Eventually, it all makes sense. Trust your heart.

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  16. Matthew,

    I find the focus on survivors’ behavior in your post to be a replication of oppression. I wish you would have found a way to call for politeness more even-handedly. Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see any mention of the ways that non-survivors have behaved aggressively (including upper class forms of aggression), comparable to what you say about survivors:

    “We want to run a site that people are able to explore and participate in without fear of the fanatic jack-in-the-box, sitting on its springs, waiting to pop up and rip someone a new one the moment they offer a thought that doesn’t match the survivor-approved gold standard of word-choice and understanding.”

    Best wishes,

    Tina Minkowitz

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    • In the year since I’ve been closely moderating this site, 99% of attacks the, shaming, and and misrepresentations have been from a very small group of staunch survivors, maybe 10-15 individuals, with very few other violations of the guidelines scattered around. Most of the attacks have been addressed toward others who don’t demonstrate understanding of the survivor point of view, although a lot of it has been members of this small group attacking each other for various reasons. If not for our desire to include this group, I wouldn’t even be bringing this up. The other readers on this site remains civil virtually all the time. I think it’s easier when you don’t have so much in your personal experience to be pissed off about! This small group is also responsible for all of the backlash against moderation, including, at times, a veritable deluge of emotional attacks, profanity, and straight-up personal abuse in my email inbox.

      Yes, there are other problem comments on rare occasions. If we banned or did not welcome this small demographic of very angry survivors, then all we’d have left are intermittent infractions could be addressed in an impromptu, low-key, zero-fanfare way. Until this post I’ve been waking up every morning reasonably concerned that I’m going to find shaming, attacks, abuse, and misrepresentations from one of these 10-15 people, or maybe a new reader following their example.

      This entire situation: My posts, the guidelines, the moderation forum, exist only to try to uphold a space where those who have been most deeply affected by the oppression of psychiatry can participate without shutting down the conversation for everyone else with abuse and misrepresentations. Sometimes this seems like a crazy and impossible goal, but we’ve never thought for a moment about having it any other way.

      I am so very sorry this looks like replicating oppression to you. My only intention has been heartfelt advocacy and allyship with survivors to the fullest extent possible while remaining true to the mission of this website. If you see that I have failed to address any “upper class forms of aggression” which violate our guidelines, please let me know and I’ll attend to it promptly. If we start to notice any sort of patterns or grey areas around other kinds of uncivil communication, I will gladly adjust the guidelines to address it.

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      • Dear Matthew,

        Thanks for the opening to point out upper class forms of aggression. Usually I have chosen to tune it out because it’s one too many front for me to fight on. But I hope that others might take up this invitation, and I will also keep it in mind.

        I would very much welcome for more people to engage with my posts to raise honest questions and concerns, and I have to say I don’t think I’ve experienced abuse here. It’s rather been that only survivors usually will comment at all.

        Best wishes,


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        • Matthew, Tina and Joanna

          Matthew, on the issue of requiring featured bloggers to make an honest effort to participate in discussions, you made a statement above that such a requirement could be a form of “violence” if someone was not prepared or ready in some circumstances to respond to commenters.

          I felt the use of the word “violence” was a bit extreme in this context. This has been more of an issue for professionals and academics on this website who have, at times, avoided participation or very selectively limited their responses.. I believe most survivors writing here (if not all) have more than welcomed interaction with the readers, even when it may have become a bit contentious.

          Tina raised a connected issue of “upper class aggression” and Joanna has raised issues related to “triggers.” I would say that one of the more subtle forms of “aggression” or perhaps “passive/aggressive” ways to disrespect someone or “trigger” them is to ignore or invalidate their feelings by not even acknowledging their existence.

          Sandra Steingard has been exemplary at MIA in handling very difficult discussions. She responds to almost all commenters. When there is strong emotion being expressed first she both acknowledges and validates their emotion before attempting to respond to the feelings and the particular questions raised. She also shows some compassion and understanding where some of these feelings might be coming from before she heads into the scientific questions being addressed. Even with the science she is upfront about what she knows something about, and not afraid to express her ignorance and confusion on certain subjects. This is why she has garnered so much respect, even though she is a psychiatrist working on the front lines in community mental health.

          Compare this to a few academics/professionals who do not participate hardly at all, or are very selective when they do respond. That is, sometimes rejoining a very emotional discussion about some of their ideas or comments with an introduction like “Hi everyone” and then never validating the existence of any emotion or strong feelings by choosing to only address the scientific issues involved in the discussion.

          Many survivors at MIA have provided numerous experiences where they have received very oppressive treatment (with some related similarities to the above topic) by psychiatrists or nurses, especially during forced hospitalizations and forced drugging. Many were deliberately provoked by their captors, and when they responded with strong emotion they were ridiculed or punished for it. Or in other situations their emotions and feelings were completely ignored and they were treated robotically by those in power.

          In smaller ways this could be recreated at MIA when bloggers ignore strong feelings, especially when some of their own writings or comments seem to provoke it, even unconsciously.

          In some way this brings to mind the famous character, nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest.” She never showed emotion, or yelled at people or even raised her voice, but she sure knew how to provoke people and then when they responded with anger or emotion she belittled or punished them.

          Now I am NOT making any direct comparisons to nurse Ratched to those blogging at MIA but only using this example to describe a certain process in communication that has undertones of more subtle forms of aggression.

          As some have postulated, there are many forms of intelligence. To improve communication at MIA it might be helpful for some, in particular, (and perhaps all of us) to work on raising the IQ of emotional intelligence when it comes to blog participation.


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          • I agree with all of this. I brought up the issue of bloggers not responding to readers very early on with the team, and it’s a conversation we’ve had again and again, including just recently. So if it’s any reassurance, we are definitely aware of this and working on it.

            Now, managing incivility-by-omission practically is something I don’t really know how to do. I find it challenging that folks are accusing us of being too subjective and heavy handed when it comes to attacks, and on the other hand I’m being asked to judge when somebody is being passive-agressive or dismissive and find a way to do something about that (you’re certainly not the first to bring it up with me). It’s a lot harder to moderate a comment for not acknowledging something than it is to identify an attack or a misrepresentation.

            The new guide for authors going out soon does touch on this issue, and strongly encourages authors to interact with readers. Also, Kermit and I have agreed to reach out more preemptively to potentially triggering authors about acknowledging readers’ predictable concerns, both in their posts and their followup comments. I hope we see a difference. It may not be obvious, or with as much fanfare, as what we’re talking about in this thread.

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          • “Tina raised a connected issue of “upper class aggression” and Joanna has raised issues related to “triggers.” I would say that one of the more subtle forms of “aggression” or perhaps “passive/aggressive” ways to disrespect someone or “trigger” them is to ignore or invalidate their feelings by not even acknowledging their existence”…
            ”In smaller ways this could be recreated at MIA when bloggers ignore strong feelings, especially when some of their own writings or comments seem to provoke it, even unconsciously.
            In some way this brings to mind the famous character, nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest.” She never showed emotion, or yelled at people or even raised her voice, but she sure knew how to provoke people and then when they responded with anger or emotion she belittled or punished them.
            Now I am NOT making any direct comparisons to nurse Ratched to those blogging at MIA but only using this example to describe a certain process in communication that has undertones of more subtle forms of aggression”.

            Richard thank you, you have voiced what I felt but couldn’t quite find the right words for, that’s what I felt regarding Jill’s blog [and my subsequent question], so I remain with a negative impression so that I don’t feel it is worth my effort to post of her future blogs, whereas other bloggers and posters even when there is vibrant disagreement at least take the time to acknowledge.

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  17. Of all the things we have tried to do at Mad in America, this issue has been the hardest for me personally. And it is because I personally have conflicting thoughts and feelings about “moderating” commments.

    On the one hand, I frankly would prefer to not moderate any comments. But it became clear to me some time ago that when we didn’t do that, the site lost out in two ways: some readers became fearful of posting comments, and it did end up with some bloggers feeling uncomfortable about writing here.

    But I would like to point out something important. We have created a forum for those who write about human rights, and psychiatric abuses, to make their thoughts, opinions, and experiences known to a wider audience. And why is this important? Because if you want changes in the system, and if you want issues of human rights to gain more traction, then you have to make this voice known to those with more mainstream views. Otherwise, you end up preaching to the choir, so to speak.

    So, one reason for moderating, from my perspective, was not in fact to protect “mainstream authors”. It was to preserve an audience for those who would write about human rights abuses.

    At the same time, there is much to be gained by inviting people to blog here who may start with more mainstream views, but show a willingness to grapple with ideas about how things might be different. Let us imagine, for a moment, if NAMI national got behind the idea that first episode psychosis treated in the manner of open dialogue would be a good thing. Or if NAMI national got behind the idea that people on antipsychotics deserve to be supported and helped in whatever way possible if they wanted to taper from the drugs. If NAMI national were to get behind those ideas, which I am quite confident is supported by good science, then the conventional paradigm of care re the use of psychiatric drugs WOULD CHANGE.

    And I can already see, in the responses to Kathy Brandt’s article and Claire Weber’s, the sense that there could be a dialogue emerge on this site that would help make that possible. And thus, MIA, rather than being just a site for a certain type of voice, could become a site that helps produce real change, of the sort we haven’t seen for a long, long time in this field.I read Kathy Brandt’s article very carefully, for it told of someone who is authentically thinking through things, and wondering what is true. That is a very valuable and interesting perspective to have on our site. Readers can learn from reading that post.

    So, I hope people can see this effort of ours to moderate comments, which is so very difficult, is not motivated by any desire to silence people. It is to preserve a conversation that a) we think help make sure such issues as forced treatment, or the merits of neuroleptics, can reach a larger audience, and b) we also think might lead to real change.

    This is not easy, and as I said, I wish that we didn’t feel a need to do it. But we are doing it in pursuit of a goal that I hope readers will see as worthwhile.

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    • I wish I could be as optimistic as you are.

      If the history of the human condition teaches us something is that power- be it political or, as in this case, economic- is not easily surrounded. If Kathy’s search for answers is sincere and she reaches the conclusions you mention, the most likely result is that she well be expelled from NAMI for promoting something like “unscientific stuff”, ie, the views of a journalist (that would be you) vs the views accepted by the “consensus of doctors”. That is how powerful lobbies silence their critics, by appealing to “consensus”.

      The market of psychiatric drugs is 80 billion dollars a year worldwide. Big Pharma as a whole generates 500+ billion dollars a year (ie, half a trillion dollars) worldwide. To put things in perspective, the annual revenues of ultra powerful and omnipresent Google are “only” 50 billion dollars. This is huge. Most psychiatrists make a living only out of being able to prescribe the goodies that Big Pharma sells.

      After the Chuck Grassley investigation that uncovered the unreported flow of money that goes from Big Pharma to psychiatrists -Grassley’s investigation was not targeted at psychiatrists but at researchers receiving NIH dollers; it just so happens that the most outrageous cases uncovered affected psychiatrists like Biederman and Nemeroff- there were promises made by the APA to deal with the situation. End result? In 2013, 5 years later, psychiatrists continue to top the list of doctors that receive the highest payments from Big Pharma http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/780835 ; even Nemeroff, despite being investigated for ethics violations, continued to cash in http://1boringoldman.com/index.php/2013/07/02/just-endure/ .

      Think about this. The reality to which Tom Insel finally admitted to in May 2013 had been argued by Thomas Szasz during the previous 50 years. Szasz was vilified by mainstream psychiatry for speaking truth to power like no other person I can think of.

      Maybe you are right, that it is possible to “reason” mainstream psychiatry out of its belief system of drugging, but I think of mainstream psychiatry more like a religion than a scientific endeavor. No religion that I am aware of can be “reasoned in” or “reasoned out”.

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      • Cannotsay

        I agree with your analysis regarding the strength and power of the institutions maintaining the status quo. Those people who believe that Biological Psychiatry is a house of cards, almost ready to fall, are misjudging the strength of the enemy, and how valuable their paradigm of theory and practice is to preserving the status quo.

        It is interesting that you are saying that Bob Whitaker is overly “optimistic” about influencing NAMI and other mainstream organizations. It was just a few weeks ago that someone was saying that he was overly negative and “pessimistic” about his involvement in the event at the Vatican.

        If NAMI began to kick out people such as Kathy for rocking the boat or for writing at MIA (or if they decided to leave for having major disagreements) this would definitely shake things up by further exposing their defense of Biological Psychiatry and create new conditions to bring forward new activists.


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        • I agree with your last paragraph. That is, in my view, a much realistic roadmap for change to come out a dialog with particular NAMI people. Not that NAMI is going to change, because Big Pharma has still a lot of influence in the organization, but its ranks might shrink because individual, and influential, people inside it abandon NAMI to join forces with the critics of the current paradigm.

          Those who underestimate not only the strength, but also their ability to mount an effective counter attack, of the defenders of the current paradigm -the APA, NAMI, Big Pharma, etc- do it at their own peril. At the same time, I do believe that change is possible but I do not believe it will come from Kumbaya moments with NAMI or the APA. To me the way Big Tobacco was brought to its knees is a much better model than dialog with the APA/NAMI/Big Pharma, etc. In that regard, identifying, as you have done, them as the “enemy” rather than a bunch of well meaning do-gooders gone temporarily rogue is the first step.

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    • Bob (and also Matthew, as I’m amplifying on my above comment as well),

      I want to comment that I appreciate your speaking to NAMI and the opening up of dialogue. You reach people that I wouldn’t with a head-on torture argument, and that Breggin wouldn’t with his description of what the drugs do, period (e.g. his 1983 book), without any framework of looking at whether they make sense as a treatment.

      As a human rights lawyer and activist I’m interested in what will open up pathways for change and I agree that this is one of them.

      For me, the question of whether psychiatric treatment is good or bad has been a non-issue. The reality I lived was that it was torture (neuroleptic drugging in particular). I’m aware that other people experience it quite differently, so the way I make sense of this is to talk about requiring free and informed consent. I also see that this is not enough though. We need to challenge what is being offered to people who are in crisis and needing something. I’ve been educated a lot by many who take a much more unequivocal stand than I do about psychiatry as being a corrupt enterprise, all its treatments as worthless, etc. I hope that those voices will also keep continuing to be heard in the mix, and as I read your comments and Matthew’s, it is the intention that they will be.

      And I have seen the openings among people who identify with NAMI. In hearings earlier this year in Connecticut NAMI members testified against outpatient commitment and talked about the harm done to their sons and daughters by forced treatment. I trust that the site is going to invite people who want to dialogue, and not those who are coming to defend the policy positions of NAMI that have caused so much harm and that were pointed out by a commenter above.

      Best wishes,


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      • Tina,

        Re: “I’ve been educated a lot by many who take a much more unequivocal stand than I do about psychiatry as being a corrupt enterprise, all its treatments as worthless, etc. I hope that those voices will also keep continuing to be heard in the mix… ”

        Thank you!

        I find it ironic that there are folks who consider themselves to be so “open-minded” they want to toss out the “narrow-minded!”… so “open to dialogue” they want to toss out those with convictions!

        Where would we be without Breggin and the few like him?!


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        • Duane, are you referring to me as one of those folks? In case you are, I just want to point out that I do not equate holding an unequivocal stance with making personal attacks or misrepresenting statements. I consider these two completely separate qualities. A single comment might include one, both, or neither. I’m very much in favor of unequivocal stances regarding oppression, and not very excited about the other things.

          This whole idea, that I’ve now heard many times, that we want to censor people because they have convictions, is itself a strawman, unconnected to what we are actually talking about with these guidelines. If people with convictions are making attacks, then I’m asking that they not make the attacks, not that they don’t have convictions. If someone’s convictions are inextricably bonded to making speech that attacks or misrepresents others, then in that case you would be right, I don’t think I want those people around at all.

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          • Matthew,

            I made no reference to you. Nor did I make any mention of justifying personal attacks. Finally, I never said I thought it was okay to misrepresent another person. I did none none of those things with my comment.

            I did mention in a previous comment on this thread that I appreciate having been given a second chance on MIA. And I do.



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  18. Bob I’m glad to hear you confirm that there is still room on the Mad in America website for people who write and speak out about human rights abuses in psychiatric situations.

    I say this because when I was invited by you to be an MIA blogger back in January 2012, I didn’t know that in the February I’d be having to speak out myself against human rights abuses in psychiatry, as a mother and carer. Having the freedom to write about this on MIA made all the difference to my stand.

    I do hope that the moderation of comments can become fairer and easier so that people can still speak out and not be silenced. I’ve been moderated and didn’t like it. It felt unfair. We all have feelings, they’re part of life. In psychiatric settings our feelings and emotions are sometimes harshly dealt with. By force. I didn’t like it.

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  19. Mr Whittaker and Mr Cohen, this is one of the most horribly difficult topics you will ever have to deal with.

    I love sarcasm and difficult conversations. But that’s face to face, usually in moderately large groups, where you can go off and talk to an allie and then come back to the fray. In online discussions it is just horrible and often more hurtful than people realise. I know someone who was severly distressed for several weeks after taking part in a very, “Lively,” debate on a survivor based facebook page, she vowed never to post their again.

    There’s a long tale to be told about that perticular site but as Matthew is asking people to keep to the point I’ll refrain.

    Without the moderation that we usually demand from each other in face to face encounters the internet is a potential psychic minefield. You can’t give someone a dirty look and say, “Now now, that was a bit low,” when someone indulges in comments that are close to the bone. Moderators do not usually do what they do in face to face groups where they explicitly say what the rules are as they go along or point out to the group when things are getting pointlessly heated or spend a considerable lenght of time asking the group to work out thier own rules. There is just not enough social pressure on people to conform to informal rules of ettiqute to make this work in online conversations. So for the same level of civility (as Mr Cohen calls it) to occur online as in the face to face world I think a much more active form of moderation is needed.

    Also, I think there is some confusion about online bloging and engaging in comments and other forms of activism. Venting ones spleen, or even giving a heart felt, honest but brutal opinion, in a comments section is not the same as writing to the newspaper, or taking part in a protest where stong opinions heartily expressed with little interest in the oponents viewpoint might be effective, rally the troups and stir things up in a useful way. So I’m concuring with Mr Cohen’s point that this is a website and not a hospital or a concentration camp.

    I therefore think there is a discussion to be had about the purpose of the site and it’s place in the struggle for the ethical treatment of people facing mental distress.

    Mainly I see this site as having some really useful articles which can be used by activists to challange mainstream psychiatry and it’s supporters. The debates are often interesting and entertaining but I’m not sure how much they are helping inspire and foster a broader movement. That would need a different type of website, one where activists blogged and shared thier concerns and debated strategy and protests as well as having a space for Survivors and those currently oppressed by psychiatry to discuss things with each other, and bad mouthing practitioners might well be a part of that. But that doesn’t seem to be the main point of this website. It is, as I think Mr Whittaker is saying, a broad church, where people of a range of points of view can blog and perhaps influence each other.

    My knowledge of social movments indicates that we need a broad church with moderates and radicals in order to bring about change. We do need a space for the rabble rousing radicals to get together and some dicussion on how to do that might be valuable but it looks to me like it is not this site which serves a different purpose.

    The main way of wining battles like this is to undermine support of the enemy – in this case Big Pharma and mainstream psychiatry which sees mental distess as an illness and not an outcome of a rather difficult life, to understate the matter. That means convincing a large number of people and institutions to seriously question the validity of the claims of Big Pharma and psychiatry. That will take a range of tactics appropriate to each indivicual institution anyone wants to tackle. Heated internet comments under a blog somehow seems inadequate to the job, though it can be affirming to people who have been seriously harmed by psychiatry.

    My only regret about Mr Cohen’s posting policy is that he decries rambling conversations as I rather like them. So I wait to see if I get moderated for that perticular sin.

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      • Thank you very much.

        I meant my potential rambling in future comments.

        To add some more about how social change comes about, I went to a workshop on strategy last summer facilitated by George Lakey, a very expereinced trainer and activist. He said that activists concentrate too much on, “The Enemy,” whoever they maybe. They will never change. What we need to concentrate on is all the institutions that, “The enemy,” rely on. We need them to move towards us.

        In any system there will be a range of opions held by different stakeholder organisations from those who wholeheartedly agree with, “The enemy,” and those who agree with us. Then there are all those who hold a variety of opinions between the two. Those who think that drugs are mainly ok but sometimes are dangerous to those who think that drugs are over perscribed but if carefully used on the whole they are ok.

        To win you don’t need everyone to agree with you. You need everyone, or as many stakeholders as possible, to take one step towards you. Then the support for, “The enemy,” falls away. So in this model Mr Whittaker engaging with NAMI is a useful tactic. All of NAMI does not need to agree with the radical voices on this site for the radical voices to win, but the radical voices do need a large proportion of NAMI to question the usefulness and moral probity of drugs and forced treatment. That on it’s own will not cause the collapse of mainstream psychiatry but in strategic terms it is an important issue.

        I’d like to see more discussion of this sort of thing. How can people reading this site contribute to change? What part can people who are not leading organisations or leading practitioners/survivor activists/researchers/commentators help bring about better services for people suffering mental distress?

        I recently put together a course for a college entitiled, “Armchair Activism.” We’re not all highflying activists and you’ve got a lot of people contributing to the comments on this site. How best can we help bring about change being active at the level that most suits our abilities and strengths?

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        • John Hoggett,

          I highly recommend these two comments of yours (i.e., your comment, above, on July 13, 2013 at 10:55 am and this follow-up comment of yours, on July 13, 2013 at 4:48 pm) …to all MIA readers.

          They are two comments, well worth copying-and-saving (which is exactly what I’m doing with them right now).

          You write at last,

          “…I recently put together a course for a college entitiled, “Armchair Activism.” We’re not all highflying activists and you’ve got a lot of people contributing to the comments on this site. How best can we help bring about change being active at the level that most suits our abilities and strengths?…”

          If I recall correctly from reading previous comments, of yours, you live in the UK (I think that’s right?); as I live in the U.S. and am quite unable to travel abroad, currently, I couldn’t possibly attend any of your upcoming college lectures; but, I would surely hope to do so, if you were ever visiting this part of the planet and teaching them in my area, some time in the future — as these two comments of yours form a really wonderful, fully articulated (not at all rambling) contemplation, on this awesome question, of how exactly can we, who’ve been drawn to the issues raised on this site, be the most effective ‘activists’ we can be?

          How can we be our best, as you say, “at the level that most suits our abilities and strengths?”

          Really, you’ve provided a most grounding presence, on this page, I feel; your words have clarity and a very positive gravity — such that, if what you’re saying is even the least indication of the kind of message you’re relaying in your course, I’m quite certain it will be a great boon to your students (and, ultimately, to the world, at large).

          Best of luck to you, Sir, in the ongoing development of your teaching career…



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          • I definitely agree that there should be more discussion about strategy both on this site and elsewhere. As a long-time activist in this movement I feel pretty frustrated that it often seems people either just do things without thinking about their effect or they don’t do much at all. I think some of this could be done on MIA and we might need more limited forums just focusing on these issues.

            I also like the idea that there be more discussion about the purpose of MIA as well, although I hesitate to tell the people who have done and are doing the work what they should do. But I do think this kind of discussion could be very fruitful.

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  20. Hi, I have followed the MIA site for about 1 year. I love most of the articles and the comments sections especially. Some of the readers comments are sheer brilliance (ie the posters “annonymous“ and “BeyondLabellingakaJonah“ being my favourites). I have never felt the need to comment as I felt my views have been expressed so well by so many others here. However I feel that I must now chime in due to this very latest turn of events with regard to what you are calling “moderation.“ This is so absurd and sad in my view and I don`t really know where to begin. However a few points: Do you not see what a slippery slope this is? How do you propose to be the arbiter/gatekeeper of what is acceptable speech?…and do you not see how this mirrors the societal function of bio psychiatry in terms of being the gatekeepers of what is “acceptable“, “normal“ and “civil“. Do you not see the dangers of co-optation in your quest to not scare off a more mainstream writers and readership? (surely we have ample evidence of other social movements facing this very question and the dangerous pitfalls they encountered confronting this very issue). It is my view that the latest effort to “moderate“ peoples view will lead to the dominance of more, shall we say nami-pamby type verbiage….I mean namby pamby!
    …hi ho hi ho it`s off to the moderation forum I go! (on my first ever comment no less!
    thank you

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    • I’m not sure what rule you broke that requires moderation. Would you let me know if I missed it?

      I hope I’ve been very clear about how I propose to be the arbiter of this stuff. I’ve gone to great lengths to explain what I will moderate and why: Most importantly personal attacks and misrepresentations of others statements. I think you guys deserve this clarity.

      If I am stupid, insincere, acting in bad faith, lack integrity, confused, naive, stubborn, arrogant, or unwilling to listen to feedback then this community may not thrive. What do you think? How can we find out? I’m trying my best to offer everything I can to this. I respond to questions or concerns, including admitting when I make mistakes. I carry on open, transparent ongoing email relationships with passionate readers, including Jonah and Anonymous. That seems like a good way to go, for me. I don’t expect anybody to trust this process on faith. I’d prefer you have to look at it for yourself, with an open mind, and see how it goes.

      If you notice any of the problems you’re scared of, let me know. I’d like to talk about it. Please, a little while from now, if you are right, point out to me whee the dialogue is being dominated by the namby pamby, and what you think we might do about it.

      I think I’ve addressed all four of your questions elsewhere in this comments thread already. Have you read all that I’ve written? I don’t mean to be dismissive, but I also do not want to spend a lot of time retyping what I’ve already said here, which is quite a lot, if what already exists satisfies any of your questions.

      You are welcome here.

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      • Hi Matthew,

        thanks for your comments and the welcoming. and no I don`t doubt your sincerity, intelligence or good faith. it is the arbitrariness and objective impossibility (and pitfalls) of the task at hand that you have set for yourself (or my understanding of it) that I doubt.

        you write:

        “I’m not sure what rule you broke that requires moderation. Would you let me know if I missed it?“

        Well these “rules“ are surely subjective, my provocative humour (well I thought it was funny..i`m biased, ha) a la nami pamby could be construed as a “personal attack“ at your (arbitrary) will, one day and not the next. As much as words can hurt, I would much rather live by the maxim that “sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me…however being exiled to the moderation form hurts tremendously!!“ haha!

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        • The guidelines are as arbitrary as any other social interaction I can imagine. I’ve gone to lengths to try to define them and practice consistency, so that this can feel like a safe and inclusive space. I think that’s about the limit of my human capability in this matter. Most moderators on most sites will never even have this conversation. You just get banned if they don’t like you, and that’s it.

          I appreciate your good humor, and your relaxed viewpoint. We’ve tried “sticks and stones”, and if it worked for the mission of this site as a general rule, I’d much rather approach things that way myself. So much less work for me! This is not how I’d first choose to be spending my time if it didn’t seem to be serving an essential purpose in fulfilling our mission. We are admittedly striking out in trying to up the bar on what a blog can be. The fact is that words do hurt. They hurt a lot. The words psychiatrist use hurt patients. The words racists use hurt people of color. The words abusers of all kinds use hurt their victims. If we were all as thick-skinned as you claim to be, then we might have an easier time. Now would be a moment to celebrate that we are not all the same!

          I’m pretty indifferent to humor and attacks at the expense of myself or the other staff. We can all handle it. My main concern is the atmosphere of negativity that occurs when other people are attacked, and the confusion, harm and discord that occurs when people are misrepresented.

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          • Hi Matthew,

            thank you.

            you write:

            “The guidelines are as arbitrary as any other social interaction I can imagine. I’ve gone to lengths to try to define them and practice consistency, so that this can feel like a safe and inclusive space. I think that’s about the limit of my human capability in this matter. Most moderators on most sites will never even have this conversation. You just get banned if they don’t like you, and that’s it.“

            well ok, I agree sort of… I love the content on Mad in America and am so glad it exists… and you are not behaving like “fox news network“ I imagine or some such thing…but I mean arguing you are doing better than other sites is not really where i`m heading (or a very compelling argument in my view…sort of were doing better than the “lowest common denominator“ so to speak.

            and I don`t claim to be particularly thicked skin…although I certainly acknowledge you could read that into my quip about sticks and stones…no I just claim to value free and open discussion…regardless of the hurt feelings that inevitably occur.

            I don`t wish to go around in circles, or want to alienate/insult the valuable work you do for MIA, but to me it is clear as a bell: it is wrong to censor people. The two comments in the moderated section thus far by Chrys Muirhead, and BeyondLabellingakaJonah, being two examples. In a previous post I believe you asked me to point out where you have gone wrong in moderating comments. Well I would call the moderating of the above noted comments (Chrys and Jonah`s)silencing of heartfelt intelligent comments in my view. Even if I hated what they said why should they be censored? I would also hark back to my other posts about the paralleling of peoples treatment at the hands of bio psychiatry (albeit in this case an exponentially less harmful way!). I just mean to say it is so paternalistic (in the sense that we need someone to be a gatekeeper and let us know our thoughts, comments and emotions are “out of line“?! not to mention arbitrary (as in who decides the “historical truth“ of opinion etc), and degrading: a minor version of thought crime.

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          • That’s fine with me. I understand and deeply respect that we have different values. Mad In America primarily values inclusion and welcoming mainstream readers, other people value total freedom. From what I gather, you might primarily value never censoring people, we value never hurting or misrepresenting people. These are compromises that need to be made in any online community, and I hope we’ve been very clear where we stand.

            Our invitation is that everyone who posts here meets a certain standard. It’s not as high as the standard we ask our bloggers to meet, but it’s somewhere halfway there. That is our editorial process with offering the ability to comment to the public. The institutional comparison to psychiatry is bogus because no one is forcing you to be here. Every site on the internet has its guidelines. Some are looser and some are stricter. These are ours. You are here by free association. If you don’t like what we’re offering, you might go talk about these things somewhere else. You might even start your own website. This is a completely different situation than the authoritarian and coercive role psychiatry plays in our culture, because we aren’t making anybody do anything. Everyone agrees to the same guidelines when they come here.

            You might find it interesting to review the history of how we’ve developed this approach, from Bob’s original post on the matter, to my introduction of the guidelines last year, to now.

            We have, since the beginning, considered that we are impacting peoples’ freedom of expression. This issue touches our hearts deeply. When the site launched, the message I got was that Bob didn’t want me doing moderation at all, for precisely this reason. You are in completely sympathetic company. We’ve chosen a certain path for all the reasons laid out here, in the guidelines themselves, and in those previous articles – mainly because, as we experienced, not managing comments means they becomes an assemblage of abuse and negativity bullied around by a handful of the loudest voices. Most people have no interest in reading, let alone participating in that kind of “dialogue”. We aspire to something kinder, and more effective at reaching readers. If you’d like to go join one of these other places, which I’d compare to an online versions of a mosh pit, they do exist and I hope they would welcome you.

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    • I should also add (to my comment above) that with regard to the pitfalls of this new form of “moderation“ I think looking of at the definition of “moderation“ is quite telling (and sadly lends a certain poetic justice to the arguments of the critics of this “moderation“). from wiki pedia I find it defined as:

      “Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. It is used to ensure normality throughout the medium on which it is being conducted.“

      Again how sadly that this parallels the very process so many readers and writers at Mad in America have had to deal with, at the coercive hands of bio psychiatry.

      I would be very wary of anyone taking on the role of “ensuring normality“ and “lessening extremes“ however good their intentions. new boss same as the old boss, deja vu all over again! I would like to coin the oxymoronic term excessive moderation! down with excessive moderation!! haha!

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      • Interesting point. I use the word because it’s the one people are most familiar with regarding this sort of role on a website. I think of it more as protecting the stated intention of the site. Maybe we should change it to something like that.

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        • I’m going to go back to my comparison of face to face discussion and online discussion. Different groups evolve different norms, some like roudy loud arguments, some like quiet, polite ones. These norms evolve over time and get changed from time to time. The mechanisms that they get decided on are mainly not available online.

          You can’t see people’s facial expressions online, hear their tone of voice (though you can read tone in the comments) or see them storming out of the room, or quitely slinking away online. You can’t then bring this to peoples attention or ask them back to find out why they were upset and from that pick out the essential differences between people and having done that find additional evidence to back up your point.

          If the loudest voices are allowed to dominate then the other voices are lost.

          We need the loudest voices, in this context they are often people who have been brutally hurt by psychiatry and there are precious few places for them to be heard. But if they dominate to such a degree that other voices are not heard a broad discussion is less likely to evolve and I think we need that to help build a viable movement.

          In face to face commuinication this could be pointed out but online it is very difficult. So once again I think more strict guidlines are needed in online discussions than in face to face ones.

          I don’t know if what Mr Cohen is proposing is a sensible way forward but I do think something needs to be tried, commentated on and evaluated.

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          • Thanks for understanding John. I think this is exactly the point.

            I do occasionally see spontaneous conflict resolution happen here in the comments, and seeing it warms my heart. But, in the vast majority of cases where I don’t intervene, the rage and confusion escalates until somebody disengages, usually to never return to the site. Nobody is satisfied, and other readers write me upset that we allow such nasty things in our comments.

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      • Abbot

        I consider myself quite radical when it come to fighting Biological Psychiatry and changing the current economic and political system we live under.

        I also recently had one of my comments “moderated” for the first time. Yes, I was initially angry and shocked by this. However, Matthew took the time to email me with the justification for its removal. I accepted his criticism and believe it will improve my future contributions.

        I also stated earlier in the comments that I believe we can and should contribute “hard hitting” and penetrating critiques of both the theory and practice of Biological Psychiatry. This can be done in a “civil” way (Malcolm X was quite “civil” with his speaking and writing style but no one would ever call him “namby pamby” or compromising) without resorting to some of the poor (and sometimes “lazy ass”) writing methods that are being “moderated.”

        I am keeping an open mind about this process and will carefully review comments that are moderated (this can be done by clicking on the word “moderated” and reviewing the reasons for the removal of a posting.) I will be the first one to complain if I think any strong, powerful, insightful, emotional etc. postings are removed for the wrong reasons.


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        • Hi Richard,

          thanks for your comments. oh yes I have enjoyed many of your excellent comments on the blogs for sure. My feelings are summarized on a comment I just made to Matthew. I do not think we will have any agreement on this. To me censoring comments like Jonahs and Chrys is just fundamentally wrong on so many counts, which I have outlined on my posts. My opinion is that this seems to be an overreaction to the ruffling of feathers of some mainstream writers/readers (or the perceived, potential ruffling of feathers, in the quest to court more mainstream writers and readers). My opinion is one does not compromise basic free discussion principles in this quest. In fact that road is fraught with pitfalls: co-optation etc.

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  21. At least on the internet, Plato is cited as saying, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” I don’t know how trustworthy the sources are for internet quotes, but I do include this in my film because I think it’s a very simple and brilliant statement. Everyone, including those whom we perceive as our enemies in power, is here on the planet trying to make sense of things, and having a devil of a time doing it.

    When we fight our ‘enemies’ with the same fire they have thrown at us, everyone gets burned and no one prospers. There may be some temporary relief and feelings of empowerment from making hurtful and malicious comments (whether blatantly aggressive, or cleverly passive-aggressive–which is what I find to be most disturbing in the mental health and academic worlds, both of which I have been a member in the past), but in the end, the battlefield is nothing but dead bodies, or, at the very least, lifeless souls.

    Having been myself the victim of the middle class establishment academic world to which I once belonged (because I spoke my truth in it, which they really didn’t care for and power abuse became the order of the day), I then became a card-carrying member of the survivor group, matching well in my experience of sexual, emotional, family, and social trauma—not to mention being once poisoned, for a couple of decades, by myriad medications, myself (from which I have since tapered and cleaned up completely). In this survivors group, speaking my truth was well-received and applauded, as long as I was angry, like them. But that anger only served me for a time, to find my power and voice, and eventually it came time to heal this anger, resentment and victimization. That was for my health. And the survivor group did not like that one bit, so I became the target of *their* rage. Can’t win, go figure.

    Certain groups consider me to be ‘too mainstream,’ while others consider me to be ‘overly radical.’ Whichever community they are angry at, is the one they project onto me as being a member. It’s not about me, it’s about their anger, rage and resentment, I know this. Still, when trying to achieve clarity about vital issues such as the ones raised on this website, it’s really most helpful and beneficial to the collective consciousness to remember that we are all fighting the good fight, here, as are our enemies.

    We are not separate beings. We are one. I thought this was pretty common knowledge by now, at least in an enlightened and educated group such as this. When you are angry with others, you are angry with yourself. I’d love to see people heal from this, without others sabotaging the healing. That’s MY trigger, sabotaging the healing of others.

    Is it at all possible to carve out a space in the mental health world where people are respected for their process, and can actually reach a state of peace of mind? It’s got to start somewhere, but this mental health thing is the biggest toxic mess I’ve ever seen, in every corner of that world, and I’ve been in it all, hard-core, on all sides of the fence—from clinician to client to social worker to vocational rehabilitation counselor to legal plaintiff to advocate, public speaker, and filmmaker. To my mind, the biggest source of ‘craziness’ is because of sabotage on both sides of the fence—misguided clinicians, and wounded survivors. Indeed, it is madness at its finest. Is this the place to heal this, or to perpetuate it? This is what I’m looking to find out as I read along…

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  22. Hi Matthew,
    thanks for your comments. I looked at the links you shared with me.

    well again I don`t know quite where to begin. To me as soon as we enter this subjective topsy turvey (Orwellian?!) world of someone having the power to determine the “truth“ with regard to “civility“ and “misrepresenting of arguments“ of others dialogue we have granted arbitrary power which is ripe for pitfalls. Again in my view this would be the case for the thus far “moderated“ comments of Chrys Muirhead and Jonah. For someone to have that kind of power over “authoritatively“ deciding when someones words are labeled “uncivil“ “offtopic“ “emotional“ is in some respects analogous to the powers of bio psychiatry (albeit with a exponentially less harmful effect as I stated!). That was the sense in which I was trying to make the analogy, along with pointing out the problematic definition with the word “moderation“: again what parallels to the function of bio psychiatry and what poetic justice for critics of your “moderation“ policy: Moderation: “Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. It is used to ensure normality throughout the medium on which it is being conducted.“
    Very parallel in that sense to bio psychiatry and not bogus at all in that sense: trying to eliminate “extremes“ and ensure “normality“. That was the respect in which I was trying to make the analogy. By your moderation system I could now say that you were deliberately trying to “misrepresent“ my argument and using a “strawman“. Now I don`t think you were: my point is again how problematic this slippery slope of censorship is.

    As for some of your other points: yes it is on madinamerica`s dime that the site is run and it is your prerogative to set the guidelines. I was just operating under the assumption that one is welcome to question the change in “moderation“ polices…especially since this was not originally the policy of this very site where a free for all so to speak was allowed.

    I also find it ironic that one of the aims in the quoted guidelines is to:

    “…. further discussion, and if comments distract from that goal, and instead serve to stifle discussion, then they are not helpful.“ (Robert Whitaker)

    I would argue that the discussion was stifled when you censored Chrys and Jonah above. See it depends on who is defining the situation…and yes as the site owners you have the power to define that…i`m not questioning that…just the rightness of that decision!!and the imbalance of power in the defining process…much like bio psychiatry!! haha!

    Needless to say I`m extremely grateful for all brilliant work Robert Whitaker has done. I just don`t like your “moderation“ policy for the above reasons.

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    • That all makes sense to me. It’s quite possible to deconstruct an institution or power dynamic, and declare them invalid from somebody’s point of view. We all have differing opinions… How one person, or one group, tries to make order out of the infinite complications of human relationship will never suit everybody. I honor your point of view here at the same time as being content with how we are doing things. The way I see it there are quantitative differences in different kinds of stifling. These sorts of attacks stifle vast swaths of participants – hundreds or thousands of readers. The bullying of rageful comments effectively censors everybody who isn’t inclined to rage back. The way I address them stifles a small handful of people. I wish it didn’t have to be any, but I’d rather it be this way than the other!

      My colleague Kermit just put it this way:

      Refraining from removing posts that vilify or misrepresent others doesn’t make it a zone free of censorship; it leaves people in charge of making pronouncements about who is good and bad who have no accountability. They turn it into a free-fire zone. We feel obligated to the majority of readers, who do not want that, to maintain ourselves as the authorities over what is or isn’t acceptable speech, and to try to be transparent about it. Anyone who isn’t interested, is free to shop elsewhere.

      One idea I’ve toyed with, but that we haven’t tried yet, is to open a true free-fire zone somewhere in the forums. Move the comments there and let people post absolutely anything that isn’t strictly illegal. I personally like this idea because I love freedom, perhaps just like you. However I imagine we’d suffer this same criticism about what gets sent there and what doesn’t, and nobody would use it.

      As is written in the guidelines, I welcome people questioning and discussing the policy on these “Community Update” blog posts, or in private messages to us. I suppose you could also post questions in the Feedback forum.


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      • I think developing the forums could be a good idea.

        Maybe it could be a job given to a new volunteer?

        I have raised several questions here that people seem interested in exploring. Strategy and how people with different skill levels and interests contribute to this stuggle are two that have been mentioned.

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        • I do have a volunteer who agreed to look after things in the forums, but leadership really has to come from peoples’ hearts. I strongly encourage anyone who wants to start a topic there to just go ahead and do it. Once a bit of regular traffic starts up again I’m confident the discussion will grow.

          Referring to forum threads in the blog comments would also help. And I’ll soon put up a little widget listing recent forum posts on the front page.

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    • Abbot

      Thanks for your compliments about my writing.

      In your comments above about Chrys and Jonah being “censored” you do not state if you believe their ESSENTIAL message was in any way being stifled or if you thought somehow the standards for moderation were wrong in and of themselves.

      I used the term “lazy ass” methods of writing earlier only to point out that some times it’s easier to dismiss or criticize someone’s comments by using “generalizations”, “straw man” arguments, name calling, sarcasm etc. rather than doing the hard work of digging deeper into the analysis and wielding real science as a tool (and sometimes as a weapon) for persuasion on the road to liberation.

      Is it asking too much of people (while participating at MIA) to make a few modifications in how we present our thoughts and ideas? At this time I do not think so, and besides it might just improve our forms of communication through the written word.

      Believe me I do not plan on being soft on Biological Psychiatry, nor do I think anyone else should be either. And actually, nor do I think that is the intentions of the leaders of MIA. It is more a question of form over content.

      Do we need other forms of organizations to wage this battle? As I have said before, we have enough theory, science, and numbers of people to BEGIN significant political activism that could start making a difference in the battle against Biological Psychiatry. What we lack is the collective will to develop the right program and organization to make it happen at this time.

      Another activist website could turn into an interesting exchange of ideas but I am afraid that it might just channel valuable energy into the realm of ideas and not lead to direct political action. It requires enormous allocation of people’s time and resources to run a good website. If this developed out of radical organization I might think differently about it.

      And Abbot I hope to read more of your views at MIA in the future.


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      • Hi Richard,
        thank you. and I really respect your stressing of the paramount importance of action in the world!…no dispute with that here….Pressed for time so my comments are sort of directed to you and I guess to Matthew as well in case he cares to read this as well.

        You wrote:
        “In your comments above about Chrys and Jonah being “censored” you do not state if you believe their ESSENTIAL message was in any way being stifled or if you thought somehow the standards for moderation were wrong in and of themselves“

        respectfully I would frame it in what I see as a much simpler formulation (however heretical it apparently seems to many peoples needs/desires for “guidelines“ and “decorum“): there is no need to censor anyone (I suppose other than when the law impinges…one can imagine a scenario where someone was making threats or something…). So what i`m trying to say and in answer to you question yes their essential message was stifled in the sense that they were censored!…and as to do I think there is something wrong with the standards of moderation…heck YES!..I think it is quite frankly much ado about nothing..in some respects…it seems the ruffling of feathers and the fear of ruffling feathers of potential readers/writers has trumped a free and open discussion. I think this is a colossal waste of time and energy, a colossal overreaction: for a moderator to have to go through each comment and be a mini polit-bureau and determine the “`truth“, “tone“ and measure the reading on the “character attack meter“ is absurd in my view and very troubling to me (for many reasons which I have already touched on in other posts) ….which is why I bothered to write..as I said I didn`t really feel the need to even come on here for over a year as I felt my views were mostly represented by others.

        To even have to argue the merits of a free and open discussion (regardless of how offensive some writers, readers comments may be) seems rather redundant. I believe it is self evident and a well understood principle of productive, thoughtful discussion…

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      • Again, I think it is really important to talk about strategy. I’ve heard it talked about that a website like MIA, but just focused on the human rights fight around psychiatry, might be possible. Bur MIA is more than just a website, it’s an online magazine, and starting another site like MIA would be a big undertaking.

        If someone wanted to do that, I would certainly be willing to help out. Right now, given the relatively few people who are interested in strategy, something smaller would, I think, be more practical.

        Would anyone reading this be interested in participating in such a website? Or just a Google Group?

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        • I’m interested in a group or sub-group of MIA with a human rights focus Ted but not sure if you are meaning only US folk?

          As a mental health activist and campaigner in Scotland it often feels like I’m a lone voice although many are in agreement with me but wouldn’t want to be sticking their head above the parapet, if you like. There are only 5.2 million folk here, compared to ten times the number in England.

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          • Still, I am not sure about the future. In my comment I referred to Iron Law of Oligarchy. That law asserts that sooner or later any association concludes to a division between oligarchs who rule and plebs who remain silent and ruled. I am not that much pessimist, yet, as I still believe that MIA is a very decent attractive work. I am in the UK and have some basic grasp of publication and web. I could be a hand. Regretfully, I have seen many works have started but not maintained. It is difficult for me to promote radicalisation before I witness that “they actually are standing on feet and toasting with them.” I came here through email subscription I receive from Jim Gottstein. Google group is linear in format and obsolete in attraction and is not readable. It is part of the history. I have tested it. Running a website is cheap and I can handle it. But we should try to join the branches to one mighty flood, instead of further division. Perhaps mainstream psychiatry has been cornered that shows interest and is knocking at the door of MIA. The best is to be patient for a while and watch the trend.

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          • Re Chrys’s question, I’m not sure how it would work for someone outside the US, since conditions are so different in each country. I must say that my impression, though, is that in a smaller country, a small group of dedicated people can accomplish more. I was in Ireland a couple of years ago (a country about the population of Scotland), and I was amazed at the access to the media and public discussion our movement has there, thanks to the very dedicated Irish activists. I am thinking of starting SOME kind of group of activists just to focus on strategy, though, and starting out trying to develop some kind of basic statement we can all agree on. If you like, I can send you a draft of that statement once there is one, and I am sure your comments and suggestions would be very valuable. Sometime later, I hope to have a small national conference just for people who are in agreement on the general direction we should take. I agree with Richard that something like this shouldn’t be to develop abstract ideas, but guidelines for action.

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        • I am also interested. Starting a Google group or something similar seems like a great starting point to me.

          Honestly, I am past the point where I think that there is anything to argue with mainstream psychiatry other than when are psychiatrists going to give up their legal prerogative to impose psychiatry onto innocent victims.

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  23. Sir,
    I can’t be more agreeing with what you said. Few years ago I was looking for sites with similar content. Most were in a disorganised state, not inviting, not maintained, not having a touch of a professional hand involved. It is natural that for people in situations like me they could add to my hopelessness, helplessness and a feeling that “these people, like me, never will get a way out of the misery of suppression by mainstream coercive psychiatry, repeating few paragraphs from some pioneer works such as R. D. Laing, and Thomas Szasz with news always two three years old. Most of the time there was no way of contact and if there was you never would receive a response. A good idea is that to search for such sites and invite them to join their efforts to this place and actively participate and share their experiences with this site and mutually take news and views from this place to theirs.

    It has been a bad experience on the Internet that good sites with similar “structure” gradually fall in the process of “Iron Law of Oligarchy.” If you pass a certain level of attractiveness and daily visits, forces of darkness start to attack to engage you in self defeating policies and procedures through the vandalism, sock puppets and trolls. Please keep on the idea you termed as “eye-level.” I always have a pet phrase I advertise: “School is for teaching children not for employing teachers.” Mainstream coercive psychiatry believes psychiatry is for their employment and passing the years towards retirement not for treating people. Hence, keep on the good work you are doing. History has reserved countless empty places at its pinnacles waiting to be filled.

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  24. I added an additional section to the guidelines that I hope will clear something up. When I moderate comments, people often wonder if I am trying to censor the position being taken, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I love it when people modify their comments and resubmit the same argument. Often I personally agree whole-heartedly with what’s being said, other than the parts which are attacks or straw men.

    What should I do if my comment was moderated?

    We encourage thoughtful comments that move the conversation forward to be resubmitted without the personal attacks or misrepresentations that caused it to raise concern. You may contact the community manager if you would like to discuss why your comment was considered an attack, misrepresentation, off-topic, or otherwise uncivil. We never intervene based on the positions being argued.

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  25. As someone who has just been moderated for the first time (for objecting to someone else’s comment being moderated) and who started his MIA’s commenting life with a bit of a spat with another commentator (which was luckily allowed to resolve itself without moderation), I have to say that while I understand the need to keep standards and make the website welcoming, I do think there’s some confusion here between the “moderation” of the posts (posted by the bloggers), which is the editor’s job, and the actual moderation of comments to those posts.
    The new standards of moderation which seem to be taking shape in MIA are, I think, a bit too “editorial”. All the more so in a website which is precisely trying to give a platform to people who have had their voices ignored and denied for a long time. Other than the most obvious personal attacks I think the comments section should be left to thrive as a wild and somewhat dangerous jungle; an “enter at your own peril” sort of place where people can scream and shout if that’s all they can do at that point in time. If it is going to turn into a safe and pleasant park with waste bins and “keep off the grass” signs, it will lose -for me at least- that which makes it a place worth visiting.

    And the fact that all this has come up because of NAMI’s overtures is the most worrying thing of all – an organization which is positioning itself to switch masters from the sinking APA to the more profitable biomarker industry…

    (Bob, please make sure they don’t change you faster than you can change them; it’s just so easy to not notice what’s happening until it is too late, the rewards so big, the compromises so seemingly small.

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    • You make some pertinent points Morias in my opinion.

      Your suggestion that the comments sections be “left to thrive as a wild and somewhat dangerous jungle” I think is worthy of consideration. I’ve often looked through the comments, some of them as you say, ones that were a bit scary, but I could skim over or take the safer bits at will. I couldn’t do that if they weren’t allowed to remain. Something valuable could be lost, as you infer.

      I had wondered about the NAMI influence re the changes but can’t really grasp the power of NAMI as we don’t have anything like it in Scotland or the UK. The switching of masters that you mention, to biomarkers, is very concerning, like setting the biomedical model of mental illness into stone. Brain surgery for mental illness comes to mind.

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      • NAMI has a lot of lobbying power when it comes to public policy. Its recommendations have a lot of weight, especially at the state level, which is where most of the issues relating to the intersection of mental health and the law are decided. NAMI has lobbied US wide so that states adopt laws that make it easier to put people on forced drugging regimes (the equivalent, with some minor differences, to the UK’s CTOs). They call it outpatient commitment. Only 5 US states are now free of this type of laws; that’s largely the result of the work that NAMI has done at the state level.

        They also lobby for the lowering of the civil commitment standard from “dangerousness” to “need for treatment” (ie, whenever some psychiatrist thinks it to be necessary). They say that judges should not make “medical decisions”. The majority of NAMI’s money continues to come from Big Pharma.

        Now, whether individual NAMI volunteers are well meaning do-gooders who are unaware of the policies that NAMI publicly advocates for is, from my point of view, irrelevant. NAMI is the third leg of the psychopharmacological industrial complex in the US, the other two being Big Pharma and the APA.

        The current appalling status of psychiatry is due to Big Pharma, mainstream psychiatrists (these are represented by the APA) and those family members/patients who blindly believe in biopsychiatry. The latter are represented by NAMI.

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    • Hi Morias,

      You wrote:

      “And the fact that all this has come up because of NAMI’s overtures is the most worrying thing of all…“

      Yes I agree and I think a number have people have pointed out (and I think it has been stated by the “moderation“ initiaters if you will) that this new “moderation“ policy is at least in part due to this need to appeal to the mainstream. That is very disturbing and quite possibly a forshadowing of future dire overtures/practises at MIA. Not to overstate: I think MIA is fantastic but this is so very very disturbing to me: i`m squeamish when I look at some of the recent “moderated“ comments and the rationale for “moderating“them: to me very UNcompelling arguments: sort of rationalized “nonsense on stilts“ or more bluntly nonsense dressed up in a three piece suit: censorship is censorship is censorship…no matter how nice of suit is dressed up in. And as I keep repeating how closely the parallels with the central modes of bio psychiatry in its subjective (masquerading as objective) methods of defining matters dealing with “appropriate“ conduct and “civility“, “character attack“ barometers and “misrepresenting“ and well having a monopoly on “truth“. Of course in this context the consequences aren`t even in the same ballpark as dealing with bio psychiatry! Of course not, it`s just that it is so absurd to be adopting these very methods of the oppressive institution of bio psychiatry on a site that welcomes and supports the very people injured by that very institution!?

      Yes almost feels (in some respect) analagous to when cities get all juiced up in their Olympic bids and then go about “cleaning up“ the streets by hiding the homeless and the rest of the “great unwashed“. How patronizing (among other things). One wonders if the proper “moderation“ policy with be able to make us more palatable to the good people at NAMI. (I hope that hasn`t veered to far into the red on the “vague“ character attack meter…I shall send it to the ministry of truth for analysis! haha!!)

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          • Here’s to more comments appearing from the undergrowth and underbelly, wherever that might be.

            An old Scottish rhyme:

            Here’s tae us
            Wha’s like us
            Damn few,
            And they’re a’ deid
            Mair’s the pity!

            May those who live truly be always believed,
            And those who deceive us be always deceived.
            Here’s to the men of all classes,
            Who through lasses and glasses
            Will make themselves asses!

            I drink to the health of another,
            And the other I drink to is he
            In the hope that he drinks to another,
            And the other he drinks to is me.

            Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
            Each man a glass in hand
            And may his great prosperity
            Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

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    • I’m getting a lot of feedback on this and one thing that has developed is I won’t be moving all strawmen off the page. I will try chiming in and pointing out when I see what appears to be a baseless representation, before beginning to remove comments.

      In response to the other comments: I knew nothing about Bob speaking at NAMI or inviting those two women to blog when I proposed and wrote up this blog post. The fact that they appeared on the front page on the same day is a coincidence.

      I can definitely see how this would look bad. It’s a reasonable suspicion and now rumors appear to be stirring. I have never communicated with anybody involved with NAMI in my life, nor was I instructed to change the policy by Bob. This shift in approach is based on my direct experience trying to work with the attacks and strawmen commonly posted on this site.

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      • Matthew,

        For me, what you say in this latest comment of yours (on July 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm) is clarifying.

        It indicates that you’re listening to the feedback you’re receiving and seeing some of the limits of your new moderation guidelines, as initially presented by your blog post.

        [Also, your comment, above, from this morning (on July 14, 2013 at 7:55 am), is helpful, as you recommend resubmitting “moderated” comments, “without the personal attacks or misrepresentations that caused it to raise concern.” There, at last, you insist: “We never intervene based on the positions being argued.” And, I am taking you at your word, that such is the case; therefore, no ones positioning need be watered down, in any way, in resubmitted comments.]

        Furthermore, gauging by what you’re saying here (directly above), it’s clear that your new posting policies were *not* a reflection of the addition of new NAMI bloggers being brought on, to this website; the timing was simply coincidental.

        From that point of view, I owe you an apology.

        In my comment to Chrys (on July 13, 2013 at 7:40 am, under her latest blog post, “Hearing Voices”), I spoke of, “the tendencies of the moderator/s of this site, which is to collude (naively) with their critics from NAMI.”

        I now see my deployment of that line, as regrettable — especially, because of my using that word, “collude.”

        As I’d used that word (“collude”), I was thinking that you guys (at MIA) were unconsciously colluding with your critics…

        I’d come to think that, because, from all the sudden NAMI activity on this MIA website (beginning with the link to Pete Earley’s blog, reporting on Bob’s presentation to NAMI), it seemed to me that you were changing your moderating policies (perhaps, at Bob’s request), to appease the concerns of those, especially in NAMI, who accuse this site of being “antipsychiatry”.

        NAMI members are fully dedicated to psychiatry; it’s implicit in all of their literature; their entire orientation to what they define as “mental illness,” requires that they will be consulting psychiatrists.

        N.A.M.I. stands for “National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

        Meanwhile, more than handful of people who regularly comment on this MIA site (including I) feel “mental illness” is a metaphor and/or is a misnomer (for various forms of human distress); moreover, it’s a term used to medicalize human experiences that may not require medical help; thus, ultimately, there are those of us who never refer to anything that we, our friends and our loved ones ever experience, as “mental illness”; to us, “mental illness” is such a highly misleading term, it does little more than seemingly ‘authorize’ psychiatrists (as licensed physicians) to involve themselves in all matters of personal suffering and/or supposedly ‘abnormal’ behavior.

        IMO, it’s important to realize that this MIA site will inevitably attract a fair share of readers and commenters who call themselves “antipsychiatry,” and that taking an “antipsychiatry” position is a perfectly respectworthy thing to do.

        Personally, I call myself “anti-medical-coercive psychiatry,” but I don’t think “antipsychiatry” is a bad word at all; in fact, some great commenters on this sight (including some of the most clearly well-informed, intelligent and highly ‘civil’ commenters) call themselves “antipsychiatry”.


        Basically, Matthew, I was presuming that your rolling out these new moderation policies was an effort to tamp down “antipsychiatry” sentiments on this website, and, by extension, I thought these new policies were aimed at accommodating the sensibilities of the new NAMI bloggers here.

        Apparently, I was quite wrong to presume that, so I should not have suggested you’re “colluding” with anyone, and I do apologize for having suggested you were doing so…

        But, there are two things I must emphasize:

        First, I do not at all regret my having referred to NAMI as a dangerous cult. (You never objected to my saying that, about NAMI; but, all things considered, I thought you might object to my saying it.)

        Second, I feel that, since this blog post of yours is all about new posting guidelines, you should not have removed Chrys’s comment (on July 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm) from the discussion.

        IMO, you should have addressed her comment instead.

        IMO, Chrys’s comment may have pushed your buttons, as she does use a ‘pathologizing’ term, in closing; IMO, ‘pathologizing’ terms are variously offensive (even and especially when they’re ‘officially’ applied, by psychiatrists and other ‘mental health’ pros); but, otherwise, I see nothing offensive or off-topic in her comment (no ‘straw man’ arguments, etc.).



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        • Jonah thanks for this.

          I wanted to say that I don’t believe in psychiatric diagnoses or labelling so when using the phrase “big for your boots” alongside “delusions of grandeur” I was being ironic and not being offensive. These two phrases mean the same to me. For I think that all psych labels correspond to the behaviour in normal society. Eg everyone can/might have mood swings, some of us/many of us might think that people are speaking about us (paranoia) and actually it may be true. We may all hear voices from time to time. And so on.

          I did push the boundaries but it wasn’t targeted specifically at Matthew. Rather it was a challenge to the restraints being imposed upon us as writers and commenters on MIA. There was a lead up to this, over a period of time, but I’m not going to go into the details. They are not important now.

          Water under the bridge.

          Cheers, Chrys

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          • Matthew writes, “Thanks for the apology Jonah. I did actually restore Chrys’ comment this morning.”


            You’re welcome (for the apology). Quite sincerely. And, great, that you restored Chrys’s comment. That was good of you, IMO.

            Also, good that you allowed my comment above (on July 15, 2013 at 1:34 am) to be posted!

            The question of whether or not you think it’s OK (or, the question of when it might be OK) for any of us commenters to talk about your moderation decisions, in a comment, is foremost, on my mind now.

            IMO, no one who’s been reading this string of comments could reasonably presume to know where the line will be drawn, between acceptable and unacceptable commentary; one can’t have any real sense of surety, about what’s going on here, in terms of how you’re choosing to enforce your new guidelines.

            You say to Chrys (below, on July 15, 2013 at 7:32 am ),

            “…I have restored your comment. My intention was to begin absolute consistency so I wouldn’t be accusing of singling out certain attacks while allowing others, but I can see that such a “hard line” policy feels like an affront to people I’ve already built relationships with, such as yourself…”

            And, along those lines, I wonder if you haven’t already built a relationship with me, too?

            In your comment, on July 13, 2013 at 11:52 am, you wrote,

            “…I respond to questions or concerns, including admitting when I make mistakes. I carry on open, transparent ongoing email relationships with passionate readers, including Jonah and Anonymous. That seems like a good way to go, for me. I don’t expect anybody to trust this process on faith. I’d prefer you have to look at it for yourself, with an open mind, and see how it goes…”

            I’m thinking that there’s a strong possibility, that you will not like this comment of mine.

            You may read it and feel that I am causing you more work by attempting to raise these matters openly; you may feel that it would have been preferable had I sent you an email; however, at least *some* of us (‘commenters’) now may be sucking-up to you (‘moderator’), as a result of your new guidelines.

            Really, that possibility is a glaring one, IMO.

            Indeed, it now seems to me that I, myself, might somehow begin sucking-up, to you, in ways, as I aim simply to get this comment posted.

            I find myself wondering, as I proofread this comment: ‘Is this comment of mine being less than perfectly direct with Matthew? Am I, perhaps, dissembling in ways, similarly, to how I’d learned to dissemble when in the presence of psych-techs and psychiatrists, who wielded ultimate power over my ability to emote and object?

            And, I think this needs to be discussed openly.

            I am not sure if what I am trying to post now (in this comment) will be allowed to be posted, by you — as I’ve been “on moderation” for the past few days.

            Maybe I’m not supposed to talk about that here, in a comment? (I’m genuinely unsure, about that, because, you allowed the posting of my preceding post, in which I talked about Chrys having been moderated.) Clearly, there is a degree of arbitrariness in the way your posting guidelines are being enforced.

            I’ve never been “on moderation” before, and I find it rather unpleasant. (As I write that, now, once again, I think: ‘Maybe Matthew won’t want me discussing this in a comment.’)

            Frankly, I would have thought, that: Because you accepted my apology, you would have taken me off “moderation”; maybe you did do that? (but I doubt it)

            Once I push the “Post Comment” button, I’ll know whether or not I’m still “on moderation”; here, now, I’m crossing my fingers, as I’m getting ready to push that button.

            But, before I do that, I will add, emphatically:

            IMO, in this particular string of comments, we should be able to discuss what we think and feel about the moderation process — including discussing how it feels to be “moderated” by you.

            Please know that I do feel for you, considering that you do have a difficult job, as MIA moderator (especially, now that you’ve informed me that you are the only moderator).



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          • “Sorry I missed taking you off the moderation list. You’re all set now.”


            Thanks for taking me of the moderation list. I wonder, is there any way to get ones “moderated” comment removed from isolation?

            See: http://www.madinamerica.com/forums/topic/beyondlabeling-a-k-a-jonah/

            In your new guidelines (i.e., the guidelines you’re presenting in this blog post of yours), you emphasize (with bold print), your view, that:

            Shaming is not productive,” and “We are a shame-free zone.”

            Great, if that’s your belief; however, I feel you are surely shaming people by putting their “moderated” comments in isolation, that way.

            And, that may not be the worst thing, IMO — except you’re doing it for all to see. And, those whom you’re isolating, have no way to comment on that page, offering a response.

            (Right now, we are responding, with your permission, under this blog post that regards your new guidelines; but, that’s because we’re innovating here. Unless you modify your guidelines, regarding this ‘forum’ isolation process, most likely, there will be times, in the near future, when you “moderate” a comment, and the commenter will just be scared away.)

            IMO, since, on this page, I’ve presented an open apology to you… and have, in your view, cleared up the problem that you found in my comment (of my having inadvertently misrepresented you, by my use of the word “collude”), I don’t see any good reason for you to keep my comment posted there, on that *closed* forum ‘discussion’ page (that’s now accessible by the above-mentioned link).

            [Of course, you well realize, that page is open for public view but *closed* for discussion. You (as “moderator”) are the creator and the one-and-only ‘key holder’ of that page.]

            Maybe you feel that comment of mine (and your reply to it) should remain on that page, in perpetuity?

            Maybe you feel there should always be an MIA page link with my user name on it, that I, myself, can never use?

            I sure hope that’s not your intent.

            For, if that is your intent, then I would propose that’s just your intended way of using my error as a permanent ‘example’ for others — quite irregardless of the fact that I feel shamed by your doing so…

            (Did I not make it perfectly clear to you, in my recent email, on this subject, that I feel your comment isolation room reminds me of how I was first introduced to medical-coercive psychiatry?)

            And, by the way, please understand: I don’t feel ashamed by that comment of mine; I feel ashamed by how you have isolated it along with your brief critique and have made an ongoing spectacle of it.

            Frankly, I don’t know if you can admit that you are shaming people, with your public isolation and rebuke of their comments, to which they can’t really respond; but, I am hoping you will realize that, given my apology to you, it would be best if you simply remove that forum page — which is, IMO, actually the very antithesis of a forum discussion, as you are allowing no discussion there.

            IMO, you do yourself a disservice by keeping that page there; however, I will admit that, you may be moving in the right direction, if you create a real forum for “moderated” comments (i.e., a forum where dialogue can take place).

            Also, I admit you can *possibly* help the overall discussion of your moderation guidelines, by shaming people, as you’ve shamed me (i.e., IMO, there are, indeed, times when publicly shaming people about their careless mistakes can be instructive and productive); however, as that page has my username in the link, and you have made it so that I can’t offer any new commentary of my own there, I now see no good reason whatsoever why it should continue to exist.



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          • Hi Matthew – this is a response to your comment ‘July 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm’, not sure if it will upload in the right place as there isn’t a ‘reply’ button anywhere near.

            I’m just getting round to the reading the “Major amendments to guidelines (July, 2013), as usual at the ‘coo’s tail’ as we say in Scotland. And what strikes me first is how complicated they appear. The “straw men” reference I had to look up on Wikipedia, I’m not being funny, as I didn’t know what they were. I now see they are used in polemical debate. However I’m thinking they would be difficult to prove because someone might just have missed the point?

            There is mention of “eye level” conversations, again very difficult to attain, bearing in mind that we often assume that ours is the higher ground in a debate. As in, our argument or position makes sense or we wouldn’t be holding it. However that doesn’t mean that we should ridicule others although we might be witty in our repartee.

            The “certainty-free zone” is another title I’m unfamiliar with. And wonder it can be moderated or kept an eye on. Language/written communication is fluid and can mean different things, very difficult to make a judgement on what someone has written if you can’t see their facial expression. Some people may have more sophisticated language/writing skills and so can convey a sentiment without appearing to be certain but in fact by the way the sentence is constructed has snookered or checkmated the conversation.

            Finally, the “oppression free zone” I think is a virtual impossibility, considering the range of folk who engage on MIA, from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. One person could feel oppressed by another person’s phrasing of a comment. The person writing a comment might only be expressing an opinion in the way that they are used to writing or speaking. Not meaning to oppress but others feel oppressed. Who is making the decision about the oppressed and oppressor? And will the final decision made, to moderate or not to moderate, oppress the person who is moderated.

            And so on.

            Hope this is of some use. Sorry for the delay in getting round to reading the new updated posting guidelines. Chrys

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        • Jonah hope you see this. I noticed your comments on the MIA dashboard page that are awaiting moderation. They’re in a yellow sort of colour so that’s how I know.

          I wanted to say that after moderation (I know this because I’ve been moderated), then there’s a period when every comment is moderated. Like you I got annoyed when the notice came up on my next comment “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”.

          It just means that the next time Matthew looks at the comments he will put yours up. Or I think that’s how it works, the moderation that is.

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      • Thank you Matthew, chiming in – which will of course require 100 times more effort on your part (effort which I’m sure will not go unappreciated) – would make a whole world of difference. It would be a dialogue rather than the cold impersonal slap on the face of “this comment has been moderated”.

        Like abbot says above, this lack of dialogue, this incontestable: “the form in which you have expressed yourself is unacceptable and so the content of what you have expressed -and by implication you yourself- must be suppressed and erased from existence” parallels exactly the way in which psychiatry operates. Perhaps also the way in which many “mental illnesses” originate, because few things are more maddening than being consistently ignored and suppressed for telling the truth – or at least your truth.

        Personally I think it is amazing how civil and reasonable MIA commentators are in their exchanges – even the more “extreme” ones – compared to usual blog standards. And when you consider what some of them have been through in their lives I think they deserve a medal for self-restrain and emotional control. Also, on the whole I’d say a lot of “self-moderation” takes place where commentators moderate each other and defuse potentially nasty exchanges.

        I myself would even like for “mainstream” professionals to be invited (and have the guts) to blog in MIA (although if “mainstream” blogs were posted in MIA they should be posted alongside a response form a regular MIA blogger – not an unusual practice). And I’m also trilled when people with mainstream views comment in MIA, but I don’t see why MIA needs to change in order for this to happen. Nothing wrong with people with mainstream views getting a taste of what is like to be the minority opinion for a change, and if some exchanges are sometimes a bit “robust”, well… I’m always amused by the fact than more often than not it is the psychiatrists and other professionals who seem to be far more emotionally fragile than survivors, ex-users or just plain crazy people. Perhaps they are not as used to being contradicted.

        I do think some moderation is necessary, but only of the most outright personally abusive comments. Off-topic moderation for example I think is very counterproductive (if it had been applied throughout history it would have killed most scientific and philosophical discoveries).
        In my very limited view of this website I’d say that it isn’t broken, so it doesn’t need fixing, and it would be a terrible mistake to try to “normalize” it; the last thing the world needs is yet another forum where people feel they have to talk like lawyers or politicians to be allowed to speak.

        And finally, if these new moderation efforts are completely unconnected with NAMI’s approaches, I’m afraid Bob’s comment on this thread was unfortunate in that it seemed to link the two things, and for obvious reasons Bob’s comments carry an enormous weight here. I (for once) don’t want to stray from topic, so I won’t say what I think of these “advances”. Only this, Bob, if you are reading this, may I recommend to you an excellent book called “Anatomy of an Epidemic”? It shows that the biggest problem in psychiatry is not so much lack of knowledge but corruption and conflicts of interests – please remember than one thing is dealing with the rank and file of an organization and a very different one dealing with those who have the power to change things from within that organization.

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        • Well said Morias. It’s what I’ve been thinking but you’ve put it into words far better than I could.

          Being moderated did feel like a “slap on the face”. I too thought there was a link between NAMI and the stricter moderation.

          Thank you, Chrys

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        • Hi Morias,

          I concur! and thanks for saying this so well…saves me time and you did it better than me! haha!

          one minor quibble…I don`t see any need for “moderation“…like I said short of legal matters impinging…ie death threats or some such thing…yes I know that is clearly a minority opinion…perhaps of 1 here?…all the more reason to keep it alive in my view…seems so very odd to me that a Canadian is having to argue the merits of free discussion on an largely American based site?! haha! I apparently had this misconception that these values were learned at daddys knee so to speak!? Perhaps the patriot act and such has wiped that from vast swathes of the populations consciousness!?..oh no… rambling and offensive off topic writing…i`m clearly “lacking insight“ into “appropriate“ posting techniques…haha!

          anyway thanks for articulating these matters so very well from my point of view!!!!!

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          • I think I draw the line at violence – if MIA was a physical space and someone started beating the living daylights out of someone else I think the organizers (and not only them) would need to intervene to “moderate” the situation. Of course MIA is not a physical space but you can still get verbal violence and abuse.

            For example, I think it is ok to tell another commentator (these are only hypothetical examples! Please, no moderation needed): “perhaps you should go away and do some research rather than saying stupid things”. I think that’s ok; borderline, but ok. But if someone says: “perhaps the problem here is that you are a f*****g r****d”, then that is the verbal equivalent of punching someone in the face, and not acceptable. It it those kinds of comments that I think need moderation; anything else, I’d rather err on the side of immoderation. But I think there is a non-violence line that should not be crossed, I don’t know if you’ll agree with this (I’ve watched some Canadian hockey…)

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          • Morias,

            This is going to continue to be a subjective thing. I think that forms of “gaslighting” including “strawmen attacks” are a form of emotional abuse and as such, truly violent. I don’t think there’s any reasonable or non-violent reason to misrepresent others views. I know I only seem to do it when I am enraged and want them to be wrong, and know how wrong and stupid they are. And I also know that being on the receiving end of these attacks can be nearly as hurtful or confusing as being called a son-of-a-bitch or whatever.

            edit: They also can confuse and mislead other readers tremendously, which we’d rather not have happening here.

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          • yeah the old “I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out“…for sure..haha

            well first off: sounds like things well be a lot less in touch with our inner Stalins then it first appeared…I applaude that. However (and again perhaps i`m a minority of 1 on this) as others have stated far better than me (and as they say has been well understood for centuries) there is really only two positions you can have on free speech! haha! So of course I would prefer people were respectful and chose your preferred form of interaction but if they instead chose to be `verbally abusive“ I would still let it ride…no i`m not being “macho“…it is just a basic principle which is I`m learning heretical in decent society and “online forms“…and yes words hurt and it is abusive but the price one pays for taking on the slippery slope of of censoring, filtering or “moderating“ (again a turd dressed in a 3 piece suit is still a turd!) is far far worse in my view!!…and yes my argument here is so banal and so well articulated…what 300 years ago?…which is in part why i`m baffled here…and yes owners of the site can take there ball and go home anytime they want…I ain`t going there…i`m just pointing out the pitfalls of getting in touch with your inner polit-bureau! haha

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        • Well said. If “mainstream” professionals want to blog here I think that’s just fine. But they need to know that we’re not going to bow down and kow tow to them just because of their titles. We stand on equal footing with them and if they can’t take the heat and turn out to be the more fragile of the group, then so be it.

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          • Hi Stephen,

            thanks a lot very kind…and interesting comment you made:

            “We stand on equal footing with them and if they can’t take the heat and turn out to be the more fragile of the group, then so be it.“

            good point and fruitful angle: the “fragile“…they made need to look at their “triggers“and immerse themselves more in their “resilency“ literature..haha…i know i`m shading too far into the red on the attack meter…one`s persons “mean spiritedness“ is anothers irreverence and thought provocation…i think…and i don`t need to vet that through any person or agency…no i live in Canada …i can just write that…remarkable..haha!

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  26. Chrys, I have restored your comment. My intention was to begin absolute consistency so I wouldn’t be accusing of singling out certain attacks while allowing others, but I can see that such a “hard line” policy feels like an affront to people I’ve already built relationships with, such as yourself.

    I will continue to experiment with joining the conversation and pointing out when things are uncivil before placing people on moderation or removing comments.

    What I hope for from you all is some sense of camaraderie and patience as we make this happen. I don’t think we can allow the comments to be a total free-for-all for all the reasons I mentioned. It is a problem when the majority of people who would read our site don’t want to read it anymore, or don’t want to submit their own comments, because the comments are swamped with bullying, lies, and abuse. Personally, I don’t touch the comments on most other sites for exactly this reason.

    So I am going to keep removing direct personal attacks and working with people who appear to be making baseless representations of others in order to protect the discussion for those who are moving the conversation about the ideas forward.

    There are standards here, like in other private gatherings with public entrances. If you start bullying someone or being disruptive in a restaurant, you will be asked to leave. I do not judge anyone. Nor do I ask anyone to leave, except in rare, extreme cases. All we are going to do is remove specific units of speech that are highly disruptive and ask that they be reconsidered and resubmitted. This is not a decree on the person making the statement or the content of the ideas they are promoting.

    I appreciate that because this is an authoritative stance, it can be compared to psychiatry, or other forms of oppressive authority. I do think that because everyone is here by free association, is made aware of the guidelines and moderation, and is reminded of them in the grey box every time you post, that informed consent and choice are fully available to readers. We also have no control or input on peoples’ lives, only specific artifacts of speech they submit for publication on this website. In this way, what I am doing is nothing like psychiatry at all.

    We will have to play with the off-topic thing. I will try to gather consent before moving comments to the forum. I actually think it is in the best interest of readers to start using the forums more. Much more fulfilling conversation can be had that way because these threaded comments get confusing and the conversation always ends after a couple weeks, whereas in the forums it can go on for months or years!

    Let’s keep exploring this. I appreciate all the feedback from folks who care about Mad In America.

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    • Well said Matthew and thanks for restoring my original comment.

      It still doesn’t look that bad to me, being as it was more about the difference between writing about stuff and actually going through it, and it wasn’t directed personally at anyone. Otherwise I’d have named a person.

      I’ve never been asked to leave a restaurant but I have refused to pay a bill because the meal was horrible. And I didn’t pay, leaving under my own steam.

      I wouldn’t want to bully anyone here on MIA and please do make me aware of it if I do. If you could give a hint before moderating that would be helpful. But of course I know you are busy. Keeping an eye on all the MIA comments is a big job especially when there were lots going on at the same time.

      I appreciate the responsibility you’ve been given on MIA. I’d find it a very difficult task, it’s far easier to write than to edit or moderate.

      All the best, Chrys

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  27. Does anyone else not see the absurdity in this whole thing? This site has been up for about 1.5 years, produced a litany of great articles while also bringing together a collection of very smart people from all walks of life who want to make a change. But instead of talking about demands, actions, program and other things to that effect, we are in an uproar about MODERATING COMMENTS. My frustration has turned to laughter at this point. It is still sad though because at one point this site had so much potential. But, in fairness, Bob has said from the outset he just wants to change the conversation. Given what i have experienced, researched, and on behalf of all those who i know personally that have been damaged by psychiatry, simply changing the conversation isn’t good enough. Maybe i projected my ambitions on this site and i am sorry for that. I just can’t in good conscience for myself and my family sit back and hope things change for the better. So best of luck MIA.

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

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    • Hi Scott,

      please see Ted`s comment below and mine…and you can tell them apart at a glance as his is the well written one…haha! Actually the absurdity I see is the whole thrust of “moderation guidelines“. Chopping the very principles of a free and open discussion off at it`s knees with subjective/paternalistic (and yes more P`s!..please) patronizing “moderation guidelines“ was the most glaring absurdity that I saw..and felt: incidentally did you see some of the comments that were “moderated“ and the reasons why?…I would kind of rest my case with that in terms of absurdity and a real harbinger of what going down that road can lead to….so I kind of agree with you in one sense: having a foreigner (Canadian) argue the elementary merits of a free and open discussion to a largely American? site is very absurd in my view…in fact if I get any more trite and banal in my arguments i`m going to vomit…haha

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      • I’m not trying trivialize moderating comments. What i am saying is absurd is that this is the most righteous indignation i’ve seen on this site. We are confronting an institution of death that kills and maims with impunity and people are all up in arms about comments being moderated. Why can’t people be this militant when it involves killing children? That’s all i’m saying.

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        • Hi Scott,
          You write:
          “I`m not trying trivialize moderating comments“
          Ok. Glad to hear that.

          You also write:

          “What i am saying is absurd is that this is the most righteous indignation i’ve seen on this site. “

          ok. that is your perogative and i have no insight into your “righteous indignation“ hierarchiacal barometer so to speak.
          You go onto write:
          “We are confronting an institution of death that kills and maims with impunity and people are all up in arms about comments being moderated“

          to that i would again reply see Ted`s comment (july 16, 2013, 1:42am)…I would also add that I certainly agree that yours it the more important focus, so no need for any false dischord. However it just strikes me as a bit of convoluted argumentation?!: the eqivalent of me criticising someone who is arguing the travesty that is the erosion of habeus corpus in the U.S.A by saying something like: “ Why the outrage over habeus corpus, don`t you realize the U.S. has killed millions in its imperialist wars.“…i mean they are both outrageous (one on an extremely more lethal level) but in some sense related. Talking of one doesn`t peclude talking about the other…although they may not always be done simultaneously…and one may also even pet their dog in the moments between talking of the different events

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        • MadInAmerica website commenter, Scott Miller, on July 16, 2013 at 9:49 pm said:

          “I’m not trying trivialize moderating comments. What i am saying is absurd is that this is the most righteous indignation i’ve seen on this site. We are confronting an institution of death that kills and maims with impunity and people are all up in arms about comments being moderated. Why can’t people be this militant when it involves killing children? That’s all i’m saying.”


          ProPublica website commenter, Scott Miller, on March 13, 12:15 pm said:

          “Whatta know? Half these “docs” are quack psychiatrist. Anyone who drugs kids should be hung.”


          Maybe MadInAmerica’s commenter, Scott Miller, is not that same Scott Miller who’s commenting on ProPublica?

          If these two Scott Millers are one and the same person, does his ProPublica comment present an example of the kind of “righteous indignation” he’s wanting from commenters on this MadInAmerica website?

          Only MadInAmerica’s Scott Miller can answer these questions.

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          • Yep. That is me. Am i looking for that righteous indignation from everyone? No. I just think there’s a time where you have to get away from the computer and take action i.e. go in front of a mental health clinic that drugs children and hand out a pamphlet of what these drugs really do. I talked to a director of one by me and you know what he said? “Our kids are doing really well on Prozac”. And when i say kids i mean 9-10 year olds. Nor am i scared to comments with some pseudonym FYI.

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          • “Nor am i scared to comments with some pseudonym FYI.”

            Fine, Scott, I guess you are braver than me, but maybe that’s because you are someone who’s willing to kill people?

            You say “Anyone who drugs kids should be hung.”

            I don’t think anyone should be killed for any reason, I don’t think killing people is ever a good idea.

            People who are willing to kill people should be approached with caution, I think.

            But it’s nice that you hand out fliers.

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          • “All this passive aggressive tough talk does’t get us anywhere.”

            Scott, who’s offering passive aggressive tough talk?

            And what about active aggressive tough talk?

            Where does that get us?

            “Anyone who drugs kids should be hung.”

            Where do you think that talk (your kind of tough talk) will get us?

            Maybe you’re unaware, in the past couple of decades, tough talk like that has been directed at doctors who perform abortions, leading to numerous murders, attempted murders and countless threats of murder.

            I’ll just leave you with this. Pz.


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  28. Oh, I don’t think this one discussion about moderation means that nothing else is happening. I also think it’s a healthy discussion, and to be expected in a group focused on an institution (psychiatry) that is exceptionally authoritarian. Those of us who have been on the receiving end of that institution are a very anti-authoritarian bunch in general. So of course, any policy that even vaguely resembles a limitation of our freedom gets resisted.

    I do agree, as I wrote earlier, that we need to talk more about action along with the discussion of ideas. But I don’t see any contradiction between this and what MIA is doing now. I urge the last poster not to walk away, but to stick with it and try to move things on this website in whatever direction he thinks it should go. I’ve seen changes all along, and I know that the folks who run MIA are people I respect and want to be associated with.

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    • Thanks Ted,
      My sentiments exactly..and quite honestly I anticipated Scott`s argument above with respect to the laughable aspect to the “uproar about MODERATING COMMENTS“: I tried to point out numerous times that yes being “moderated“ is not even remotely like being on the receiving end of bio psychiatry in terms of the harmful consequences. However it is remarkably parallel to being on the receiving end of bio psychiatry in some respects…which I outlined: eg. the subjective masquerading as objective, having an arbitrary gatekeeper on “truth“, the patronizing paternalistic slippery slope of others “authoritatively“ telling you what is “right“ and “out of line“ and proper “decorum“ etc etc ad nauseum!

      AS you say: “So of course, any policy that even vaguely resembles a limitation of our freedom gets resisted.“

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  29. Is it too late?

    Is it to late for a more democratic process?

    Is there any way to have a dialogue that includes input from readership on this topic – which would include ideas on what the guidelines ought to be for this group?

    In other words, a more democratic approach, so voices are heard regarding what should be allowed, what should be moderated?

    Matthew, you have called “straw man” arguments a form of “violence.” Yet, Chrys makes the point that what may appear to be such an argument might be a misunderstanding. Jill, in a recent post insisted words do not hurt, unless we allow them to.

    This seems like such a strong-armed tactic – especially for folks who have undergone unmistakable violence and marginalization.

    I’ve been silently reading the comments. It’s as if many of the readers are trying to say they do not feel heard. And the topic is communication. Ironic.

    As someone who recently re-invited to come back to MIA, I don’t want to jeopardize my standing. On the same token, it’s hard to sit quietly by and say nothing.


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  30. It’s hardly surprising for MIA to face that internal regulation issue, as it happens to almost all forums. And the talk doesn’t have to be about borderline or heated subjects to bring about insults, slights and every other thinkable form of e-bullying. I once had to fight back when confronted with e-assaults on a forum dealing with addiction, on a forum talking about depression and on a forum dealing with bodybuilding.

    It happens all the time and everywhere. Given that mental distress generates so much pain and abuse makes it even more likely for such arguments and hatred to pop up here, on a website who’s mission is partly to unveil the suffering of those who are blighted with severe mental and emotional distress. There is no easy answer, and moderation very often seems unfair; and sometimes it is.
    We’ll have to carry on doing what we’ve been doing since we were born : put up with the imperfection of this world and try to live nonetheless.


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  31. After rereading my post, I think I’ve got to add a few words. Basically, I understand very well how much legitimate anger, how much resentment can come from the sorrow of having been inflicted a lot of pain by people who should have known better or -worse- who knew perhaps quite well what they were doing. It does feel unfair not to be able to unleash one’s rage on any symbol of that obnoxious psychiatric system.

    Still as much as ire and grudges are still rankling, as much as I’m still fuming over the ignorance, bad care,neglect and outright bad faith I faced, I personaly feel I need to calm down and try to refocus my life on more positive things. It doesn’t mean I can’t act and show my disagreement with a system which is unmeasurably stronger than I am. But I wish to disentangle myself emotionally as much as possible from the harm that happened to me within that system and from the people who directly or indirectly harmed me.

    I do appreciate your website.


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  32. Abbot “..the “fragile“…they made need to look at their “triggers“and immerse themselves more in their “resilency“ literature..haha…”

    Is this directed at me given I raised the issue of ‘triggers’ [not the best word I know] earlier and Matthew also referred to it?

    If it is then it’s not clear whether you are being tongue in cheek or sarcastic – if it’s the latter then please DO laugh at me directly so I can respond directly.

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    • Hi Joanna,

      No I was not directing my comment to you. sorry you may feel that way. In this particular blog: Any thing that could perhaps be called tongue in cheek, laughter or sarcasm I am able to muster would be directed to patronizing mental health professionals…and to much of the arguments in favour of the moderation guidelines(and a good deal of the actual guidelines and reasonsing themselves)…while still respecting the goodness and intelligence of the person who put the guidelines forth…if I didn`t think they were intelligent and cared I wouldn`t bother posting…as I noted I never bothered to post here before…and i`m kind of done with it already…i`m taking my ball and going home…I will be missed…haha…i`m starting another site called “mad at america“…

      …oh and I guess another way of expanding on my intent of the specific comments you are referring to…actually I won`t do that…I find i`m sitting here explaining humour…a decidedly unfunny thing in my view…which indicates many things…not the least of which…I may not be funny to everyone one!?..or anyone?…my humour coping strategy has failed..i`m going home now…haha!

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  33. Hey Abbot, that’s cool with me. Respect anyone’s desire to start up new sites – there’s room for any number – but actually I’d like everyone to stick around where possible because it’s the diversity which promotes thinking.

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