Just this morning CNN reported that 3 men were arrested over plans to travel from N.Y. to join ISIS and one of them posted online about his plans to assassinate the President. Cyberspace and social media are the platforms from which terrorists speak, express their ideas and exert powerful influences over some individuals in this and other countries. The voices of terrorists are clearly compelling and appealing. Their voices are being responded to in dangerous ways.
This relates very intimately to the issue of “Voicelessness” and the people that I advocate for in several ways.
The voiceless population as I see it includes;
- Individuals in emotional pain who are rendered mute by the lack of informed and compassionate response and care from the mental health system,
- Individuals who are incapacitated by the numbing effects of being on medication and coming off medication,
- Individuals who are subjected to the often tyrannical behavior of doctors who prescribe the medication and label people with diagnoses that are unsupported and will be a burden, perhaps for a lifetime
- Other groups must also be included in this group that has been silenced and is unable to voice their thoughts and feelings;
- Individuals (child and adult) who are abused and threatened with violence if they “speak”
- Individuals who, due to poverty and lack of opportunity, do not have the willpower, the access to resources or the power to evoke a response to their cries of distress and discrimination
Many of the people in the second group become members of the first group and visa versa. They are all one and as they migrate from one group to another they become lost, more distressed and more easily dismissed. For all of these individuals, the rights and privileges of “free speech” are terribly restricted. When they do express their painful feelings and thoughts the message is often not heard, dismissed and labeled as aggressive, or “’crazy” or “un-American.” When groups of these individuals vent their pent-up frustration, they are viewed as dangerous, violent, and the police or security guards are called in to restore “peace” and “quiet” and silence. I do not condone property destruction as we have witnessed thanks to instant media coverage. I do understand the buildup of rage and how, when there has been no or little listening to the messages of anger, it can explode into destructive acts.
Many informed sources have noted that the terrorist’s “message” appeals to the voiceless individuals in our country (and others). The Voiceless, as we know, are the most vulnerable to tyrants, manipulators and those who prescribe a formulaic way to gain attention and become powerful in some way. The question is; do we shut down the social media propaganda machine for terrorists or we listen to the messages that all of our Voiceless citizens are desperately trying to convey?
It may be that expanding our consciousness of who is without a voice and how many individuals are vulnerable, angry, afraid and humiliated may help in moving towards reform by improving our listening skills. Too often we listen to the loudest voice, the voice that appears to be backed by some powerful force, the voice that seems to soothe our tensions and point us in some direction or that confirms our own journey. Those among us who are abused, poor, stigmatized, humiliated and manipulated have one thing in common- we need to be heard and responded to. The answer to CNN’s question on whether to shut down the terrorist’s access to social media is that it may be more worthwhile to expand this privilege to those who have vital messages to convey. And if they don’t yet have the access or skills to convey the message we must do it for them.
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.