Anatomy of a Confidence Trick

From Auntie Psychiatry, view more here.

This cartoon is my take on the ruckus surrounding the Cipriani et al study published by The Lancet in February. Much has been written and said about the whole affair, I became bleary- eyed keeping up with it all. Needless to say, a swarm of ideas and images invaded my mind, and refused to settle or leave me be. I wanted to find an amusing angle for this cartoon and, in fact, my first response was bitter laughter at the sheer audacity of such a blatant PR spin-job. In the UK, we were treated to a blitz of the airwaves by several lead psychiatrists from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, all pumped up and dutifully on message: “Antidepressants work, and depresion is under-treated.”  The affair gathered pace and strength on blogs and social media, it is still rumbling around, and is likely to do so for quite some time. Far from “putting the controversy to bed”, as the RCPsych hoped, they have stirred up an almighty stink.

In the end, the inspiration for this cartoon came from a book by Maria Konnikova – The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the con and why we fall for it every time. For many hours I listened, entranced, to the audiobook version, and was so captivated by the gentle sound of her voice that I listened to it all again a few weeks later. Several concepts from the book stayed with me, but the one that made the biggest impression was this:

“Con artists, at their best and worst, give us meaning. We fall for them because it would make our lives better if the reality they proposed were indeed true.”

A simple magic pill to make it all better? How tempting! Sounds like a con, but surely all those top-dog eminent professors can’t be wrong… can they?

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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.

5 COMMENTS

    • “Truth doesn’t bring money”

      I quote

      “In Algeria, military doctors and psychiatrists have found a wide field for experiment in police quarters. For if in cases of neurosis pentothal sweeps away the barriers which bar the way to bringing to light an interior conflict, it ought equally in the case of Algerian patriots to serve to break down the political barrier and make confession easier for the prisoner without having recourse to electricity; medical tradition lays down that suffering should be avoided. This is the medical form that ‘subversive war’ takes.
      The scenario is as follows. First, ‘I am a doctor, I am not a policeman. I am here to help you.’ In this way, after a few days the confidence of the prisoner is won. *
      After that, ‘I am going to give you a few injections, for your badly shaken’. For a few days, treatment of any kind at all is given – vitamins, treatment for heart disease, sugar serums. On the fourth or fifth day the intra-venous injection of pentothal is given. The interrogation begins.” (Fanon; Wretched of the Earth. p. 229)

      * We can cite in the same way the case of psychiatrists who were prime movers on ‘presence francaise’ who when they were told off to give an expert opinion on a prisoner had the habit from the very first of proclaiming their great friendship with the defending lawyer, and of assuring the prisoner that the two of them (the barrister and the psychiatrist) would get him out of there. All the prisoners who had the benefit of expert opinions were guillotined. These psychiatrists boasted in front of us of their elegant method of overcoming ‘resistance’.

      Good money in truth, if you have the stomach for extracting it for the State. Confidentiality? Privacy Act? wahahahha …. as George Carlin said “you got no f*^%king rights, ….. they only care about their power”.

      I quote from the Quran;

      “They will take their oaths as a cover…..” (58:16)

      Hi to Auntie.

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