Thursday, April 27, 2017

Comments by Mickey Weinberg

Showing 27 of 27 comments.

  • It seems possible, even likely, that conspiracy theories may serve a function similar to psychiatry and witch trials, i.e., an explanation for unpleasant and otherwise disturbing events, activities, and individual behaviors whose more obvious explanations are contrary to one’s preferred desires or political preferences. Such theories, presented absent compelling evidence , are useless, or even harmful, with respect to any potentially effective effort to weaken psychiatry.

  • See my tactical idea regarding psychological and post mortem autopsies-for-murderers somewhere in this commentary, Bonnie. The tactic may not be perfect, and certainly isn’t a final solution to the problem, but I ‘d hoped it would provoke some critical thinking beyond analysis of the problem and toward some discussion about strategies and tactics which could be steps toward a solution….and I mean going past ideas that merely mimic what other groups have done in other times, with regard to other problems in different contexts. The task requires a focus and analysis of our strengths and weaknesses, their strengths and weaknesses, how to use our strengths and how to overcome theirs in a very practical and step by step manner.

  • Thank you so much for your piece, Bonnie. You are completely correct on the facts. You are importantly correct when you assert, “Critique alone can easily be dismissed.” What is necessary is to get the truth about psychiatry into the hands of opinion leaders and MSM gate keepers who will position it where it will it will have a chance to reach and enter public consciousness. That was the goal of the 2003 Fast for Freedom as shown in the MindFreedom sponsored film “Where’s the Evidence?: A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority”

    Unfortunately, internal politics regarding tactics prevented a follow up to the hunger strike. What’s missing in the “movement” are folks with a serious interest in developing the sorts of actual strategies and tactics capable of draining psychiatry of its respect and authority over time (by “attrition” as you have previously termed it, Bonnie).

    So here’s another idea: Let’ use the most persuasive folks we have to convince some legislators to carry and pass a bill which would mandate that all mass murderers and others whose violent crimes appear senseless, whether these are living are or suicides, be subject to psychological and physical “autopsies”

    As you and others have indicated there is now both confirmed and anecdotal evidence that a significant number of newsworthy killers have psych treatment histories which have included psychoactive drugs. Should this be revealed to be true under LEGAL MANDATE a major societal role for psychiatry will have been proven to be unworthy of societal support. Other than to assert that the mandate would not be affordable (hardly a good argument) I believe that there are no good objections to the legislation as suggested. At MIA’s film festival last October, David Cohen asserted that the principal role psychiatry plays on behalf of our culture, that is, to control annoying, disturbing, and violent people is its primary bulwark against change. The legislation I suggest should spotlight the flaw in that reasoning. This will be one more step toward draining psychiatry of its respect and authority, just as the hunger strike revealed publicly (though not publicly enough) that there is no orthodox, scientific evidence supportive of psychiatry’s claims. It is when psychiatry has been shown to be worthless or nearly so, that it will fall from the beams which support it and die of social and cultural starvation. If we wish to abolish psychiatry, it is high time we spend serious time considering what steps are necessary to get the job done. We know the desired ends. Who is up for discussing practical means?

  • This is a quite wonderful and compelling letter, particularly for those of us already convinced of its message. But effective politics requires either money or significant public support. And public support, where vast sums of money are not available, requires that issues be framed in a simple, easy to understand manner. Our particular interest has a very special problem, i. e., our opponents, because of their medical degrees and assumption of scientific expertise, have the initial advantage of public trust (also trust by the media, courts police, and the entertainment industry). So, in order to be most effective, and to avoid a complex argument with trusted “experts,” it is, whenever possible, wise to challenge our opponents in a manner which neutralizes their “halo” effect.

    In 2003, MindFreedom’s hunger strikers (in which I participated as both a hunger striker and the principal organizer) posed a very clear challenge to the APA, the Office of the Surgeon General, and NAMI: Produce publicly the best orthodox evidence you have for any of your public claims (the genetic theory of “mental illness,”for example). We made no angry charges. We merely asked them to support their own claims publicly.

    Here is a suggestion for a campaign to neutralize psychiatry’s (and the NRA’s) own present day campaign of fear and the need for more forced biopsychiatric services: Work toward legislation difficult to combat with a claim of expertise, i.e., legislation to require a physical and PSYCHOLOGICAL autopsy of every mass murderer to include tests to determine whether residuals of psychoactive drugs can be found in the killer’s body and whether he has ever received psychological counseling by a mental health professional. To contend that such legislation is “unnecessary” would be a pretty poor response, particularly since the research (as presented in the letter at hand)is AT BEST inconclusive. Details overlooked in this summary can be worked out should the idea ever receive support by our movement.

    A film on MindFreedom’s Fast for Freedom: “Where’s the Evidence?: A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority” is available from the MIA bookstore.

  • Legislators only rarely act on the basis of what’s right and moral. They respond to those they believe can hurt them and to those they believe can help them. That is why we cannot refuse to get into the political arena based on some misplaced perception that it is either sophisticated or accurate to believe that our political system is so rigged that it is best to ignore it. But first the public must be persuaded that psychiatry does not deserve the respect, authority, and police power it has been granted. Only then will public officials respond to our calls for desired legislation. but that will take long meetings and internal (friendly ) conflict to produce effective strategies and tactics.

  • Thank you so much, Russerford. I hope I deserve your first comment; I am certain I deserve the second. I can only plead what I hope is temporary stupidity and insensitivity. In fact this is probably a good time to apologize to everyone who has posted on this thread, but especially to Jim whose good work, intelligence, courage, and persistence I have admired since the day I first became aware of him as an advocate for users and survivors of psychiatry.

    This thread was not meant to be a forum for my ideas, but was meant to be an opportunity to grieve the passing of Soteria- Alaska and to honor Jim’s part in its creation and maintenance. I guess my passion to help create a better and freer life for victims of biopsychiatry and to work toward its weakening and eventual elimination got the better of me.

    I can’t promise it will never happen again. When and if it does I hope to be called on it. I can assure you all my remarks, while sometimes blunt, are never meant to be personal.

  • This site attracts a very large number of very intelligent people with a wide range of knowledge about the “mental health” system, its deficiencies and the the harm it imposes. Furthermore, these folks have numerous good and compelling ideas about what “ought” to be done. My own principal interest concerns planning strategies and tactics for eliminating psychiatry’s deficiencies, the harm it does and in the process, eliminating biopsychiatry. I am also interested in planning and using strategies and tactics which are likely to compel biopsychiatry to make room for effective non-invasive alternatives which actually do help. I have made an effort to list for myself a large number of barriers which must be overcome if the changes frequently discussed in MIA forums are to ever be implemented. Is a lack of interest in planning strategies and tactics appropriate to the task of neutralizing biopsychiatry and clearing room for helpful alternatives available to more than niche numbers of persons who desire real assistance one more barrier which must be overcome, or have I just not been observing carefully since about 1970? This is a serious and well intended question and is not intended as snark. I should add that this problem, if it is one, is very common and certainly is not peculiar to psych survivors and their allies. I do understand how daunting traveling the path to real change can appear to be.

  • Rene, it depends on whom you consider the customers to be. The goal of contemporary psychiatric institutions, including Big Pharma and shock machine manufacturers, is not to convince informed persons freely seeking ways and means to flourish and live more fulfilling lives, it is to sell their wares and techniques to those who wish to control “others” who have inconvenienced and annoyed them, but have broken no laws. When politicians, pundits, average citizens, and National Rifle Association officials call for more mental health services following every mass murder, they are calling for the greater use of methods for preventive social control. The public, families, courts, cops, and the entertainment industry must become convinced that, not only are psychiatry’s claims without merit or scientific support, but that biopsychiatry does not serve the public interest. What we must begin to discuss seriously is how to persuade these various institutions to withdraw their trust from biopsychiatry, a political and economic interest which operates under the cover of accepted false and unsubstantiated claims of medical expertise. In my opinion, this will only occur when we begin to discuss power and how to use it in the political arena.

  • Most adult folks who have been damaged by drugs took them voluntarily based on false or limited information. Children have little choice when they are “persuaded” by their parents to take psychoactive drugs or to enter a psychiatric “hospital” for “treatment.” Parents are “persuaded” by school systems to put their kids on “meds.” They too often believe they are acting in their children’s best interests. It is the institution of biopsychiatry which is the problem, not force alone.

  • Good suggestion, Rene. But here are two problems I see: 1) We often suggest, assert, and debate what “ought” to be done. However even the best of suggestions are not self executing. European countries are in advance of us here in America with respect to a number of policies. We still, for instance, treat medical care as a privilege to be purchased from profit making organizations rather than as a human right. So one problem is by what process, likely to be effective, do we convince our less than enlightened legislatures and courts to pass and adjudicate humane laws protective of psychiatrically labeled people?

    This becomes even more difficult when many on both the left and the right have lost all faith in the political system itself and appear to believe that one measure of political sophistication is to deny the utility of our political institutions while they suggest no viable substitute other than some vague notion of “revolution.”

    2) Even should the use of forced “treatment” be neutralized, our “helpers” would still, it appears, be permitted to lie and to promote their false and unsubstantiated claims of expertise. My own suggestion is that we must begin a planning process which will lead to the reduction and eventual elimination of the unwarranted trust and authority which the courts. police, media, entertainment industry, and general public have granted psychiatry. Biological psychiatry will begin to wither and die when it is seen as no longer serving a legitimate public purpose for which it receives public and political support. As always, “the devil is in the details.” Now is the time to begin planning and thinking about how best to create a new political reality which doesn’t include biological psychiatry.

  • I will begin by agreeing with what others have said. The demise of Soteria-Alaska is a crying shame, and Jim Gottstein deserves all the praise he has been offered here. That said, the bad news should hardly surprise us. George Orwell said, “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.” Previously, Frederick Douglass wrote, “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will.” I would substitute “fight” for “demand.”

    For a demand is likely to be futile unless it is backed by countervailing power or by a credible threat. Following David Cohen’s very good talk near the end of MIA’s film festival last October in which he pointed out that psychiatry will be very difficult to weaken or eliminate so long as it performs a socially approved function, I rose and suggested that we are engaged in a power struggle with psychiatry. To prevail it will be necessary to develop power based strategies and tactics or imaginative ju-jitsu techniques calculated to employ psychiatry’s own claims and tactics against itself.

    Only rarely has a power-free good example weakened significantly the standing and authority of a powerful bad example. Jesus has often been cited as such an example, but Jesus was murdered, and the example of the life he led has hardly had an effect on the quantity of evil in our contemporary world.

    I have only just received Whitaker and Cosgrove’s new book, however I’m aware that it describes very well influences on psychiatry of such power that it would be delusional for us to believe that one more, or even hundreds more of compassionate, helpful alternatives will lead psychiatry to see the light and yield space, power, and authority to them without engaging in a battle for what it will view as its very survival.

    So, listen up survivors and allies to the words of Brecht and Weil’s “Survival Song” and, “Don’t count on your mothers for comfort! Don’t you count on the better side of Man!”

    We are all aware of the harm psychiatry has done and continues to do. It is time to begin thinking about ways to prevent and end additional harm. Toward that end I hope that the film, “Where’s the Evidence: A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority” which reports on MindFreedom’s 2003 hunger strike, can serve as a useful beginning case study

  • Okay, we survivors and allies of survivors have the facts on our side; we also have, in large part, a correct analysis of the power wielded by our opponents. What we lack is serious discussion of effective and appropriate strategies and tactics to get our point of view into public consciousness. Here are just a few of related thoughts to consider as starting points: 1) An effective strategy will have to avoid mimicking actions more appropriate to other interest groups, with other issues, fighting other stereotypes, under other conditions. 2) Other oppressed interest groups were defined either by nature (women, African-Americans, LGBTs) or by economic circumstances ( farm workers, the very poor). By DEFINITION, the interest group of psychiatrically diagnosed people has been CREATED by outside parties granted respect and authority based on public belief in their expertise and claims based on “medical science.” Without the fearless support of professionals (academics, mental health practitioners, and respected journalists) “mental patients” defined (by SCIENCE, no less)) as irrational, inconvenient, unpredictable, and potentially violent, standing in small numbers on street corners “demanding” rights without the ability to produce compelling consequences should their demands be ignored, are hardly figures likely to attract public respect and sympathy. Related to the foregoing the public, media, courts , and entertainment industry has only rarely been moved by tales of harm imposed upon diagnosed mental patients who have “required” control and detention. So, 3) What might move such groups (media, courts etc.) might be evidence that psychiatry does not perform the roles assigned it by society, i.e., not only to “help” the “afflicted,” but also to control the “insane.” For example, there appears to be evidence that folks who shoot up schools, theaters,and military bases have in large measure been recipients of psychiatric treatment and psychoactive drugs. But how to get that info into the mainstream media? The MindFreedom sponsored Fast for Freedom of 2003 opened a crack in the door by creating a crisis (a hunger strike) supported by credentialed mental health professionals. The film, Where’s the Evidence?: A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority describes that effort and is available through the MIA store. Much of the thought behind the tactic was well described in a blog by John Carney written for the MIA website about three years ago.

  • I completely understand your feelings, oldhead. Here’s a complication: Demands without credible consequences, should the demands be ignored, become little more than begging. Also, demands by people both maligned and disrespected are easily dismissed. That is why I believe that what our movement has lacked is imagination. Within the realm of issues and interests, the situation of users and survivors of psychiatry is nearly unique and requires tailor made strategies and tactics. There is a tendency of interest groups to mimic tactics which were successfully employed by groups with other assets against opponents with different liabilities which may not be applicable for use by other people in different situations. The folks in our movement who have been oppressed by psychiatry lack legitimacy not only with their oppressors, but also with the general public, and must find a way to neutralize that situation. The hunger strike employed a panel of credentialed academics and practitioners to perform that function. We also were careful not to use tactics which could easily be dismissed as the behavior of “crazy people.” Look, ya gotta do what ya gotta do to succeed. What we did by asking our targets to offer real, orthodox evidence for their claims was to place them in the position of “telling” on THEMSELVES. Anyhow, that’s how I see it.

  • In the summer of 2003 five psychiatric survivors and I issued a challenge to the APA, NAMI, and the Office of the Surgeon General to produce even a single study which could meet not only the research standards of orthodox science, but could also offer good evidence supportive of their public claims. We enlisted 14 academics and practitioners (including the late Loren Mosher, Mary Boyle, David Cohen Bruce Levine and others) to analyze whatever research our targets would offer while we ingested only liquids for 21 days as we awaited responses. All they came up with were some text books containing numerous statements which supported our contention that they would be unable to produce anything of scientific value. Our targets had been placed in a position out of which there was no room for them to maneuver, nor were they able to disparage either the challengers or the folks we referred to as our “scientific panel.” A film, “Where’s the Evidence: A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority” about the challenge and its aftermath is available for sale from MIA. The dispute over whether psychiatry must be reformed or abolished is unnecessary. It is my position that psychiatry, AS PSYCHIATRY, offers nothing of value which is not already being done by alternative programs and wise and caring individuals (some of whom just happen to be psychiatrists). Gradual recognition of this by the public, courts, media, and entertainment industry will weaken, and eventually eliminate, psychiatry by what Bonnie Burstow has described as” attrition.” Psychiatry itself has nothing to offer society and all too frequently produces only harm.

  • In the summer of 2003 five psychiatric survivors and I issued a challenge to the APA, NAMI, and the Office of the Surgeon General to produce even a single study which could meet not only the research standards of orthodox science, but could also offer good evidence supportive of their public claims. We enlisted 14 academics and practitioners (including the late Loren Mosher, Mary Boyle, David Cohen Bruce Levine and others) to analyze whatever research our targets would offer while we ingested only liquids for 21 days as we awaited responses. All they came up with were some text books containing numerous statements which supported our contention that they would be unable to produce anything of scientific value. Our targets had been placed in a position out of which there was no room for them to maneuver, nor were they able to disparage either the challengers or the folks we referred to as our “scientific panel.” A film, about the challenge and its aftermath is available for sale from MIA. The dispute over whether psychiatry must be reformed or abolished is unnecessary. It is my position that psychiatry, AS PSYCHIATRY, offers nothing of value which is not already being done by alternative programs and wise and caring individuals (some of whom just happen to be psychiatrists). Gradual recognition of this by the public, courts, media, and entertainment industry will weaken, and eventually eliminate, psychiatry by what Bonnie Burstow has described as . Psychiatry itself has nothing to offer society and all too frequently produces only harm.

  • Michael Weinberg As the principal organizer and a participant in the MindFreedom sponsored Fast for Freedom, I find your work both useful for the movement and of a nature rarely found within it. Here are a few of my thoughts. 1) It is true that a number of the participants involved in the hunger strike did believe that its goal was to open space for new and innovative “treatment” choices beyond that found in the medical model. When I conceived the idea, however, and what I continually emphasized throughout the strike (see, for instance, Where’s the Evidence? A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority) was the goal of placing psychiatry on the defensive in a manner which gave its leadership neither room to maneuver nor opportunity to disparage the participants. Both the scientific panel and the hunger strikers were chosen carefully and even in a particular order (for example, Loren Mosher – then a member of MinFreedom’s board- and Mary Boyle were approached first). 2) I never intended for the hunger strike to be an end in itself. No single action will ever produce significant change in any powerful system such as biological psychiatry. What is required for success is persistent and imaginative pressure. Strategies and tactics relevant to particular conflicts with specific opponents must be tailor made with respect to a variety of factors and, as the late, great Saul Alinsky admonished, should ideally be geared to and within the experiences of the oppressed group and outside the experience of their opponents. I was unable to get board approval for a complex and more risky follow-up idea, and no other viable ideas were advanced by other MindFreedom members. This is not to criticize too harshly the board and membership. As you point out very well, strategy and tactics for our purposes are difficult to compose and, I would add, survivors are, not surprisingly, risk averse. 3) The reason I chose a hunger strike as the primary tactic was that it required only a limited number of people and historically has drawn mainstream media attention. The idea was to get the strike into the msm at which point the question of why folks might be risking their health would be up for public discussion.4) you and David Cohen (one of our panel members) , probably among others, have raised the cogent point that psychiatry performs a control function desired by the culture (note the near universal call for psychiatric “treatment” for mass murderers…this without regard to how many of them were “in treatment,” or had had treatment prior to their violent activities). Which leads to 5) my current thinking: As long as the culture believes that psychiatry is capable of performing its desired function, the public, media, courts and entertainment industry will give little notice and less concern for HOW it performs that function, that is, whether it is coercive or harmful, or is forced upon children or the elderly; whether by shock, lock up, or drugs. The way to weaken psychiatry is to reveal that not only is there no scientific basis for its claims, but also that its treatments and techniques are very often counter productive to its stated goals. Loren Mosher, on occasion pointed out that akathesia, one effect of psychoactive drugs, likely and frequently led to violence to oneself and others. It is my belief that the focus of our efforts should be to reveal every area and instance where psychiatry has no basis for the authority and police power it has been granted and every instance where it does not serve a desired social function. It might be possible, for instance, to gain legislative support for laws which mandate investigation into whether mass murderers were on, or had recently been on, psych meds. There appears to be evidence that many of them were.

  • Bob Whitaker was formerly an award-winning science writer for the Boston Globe. This hardly qualifies (or disqualifies ) him as an unknown, disreputable hired gun for Scientology. And the the hunger strike (again, see Jack Carney’s recent blog)was supported by a highly qualified academic, professional,and published group of panelists.

    The media can offer their own excuses if they wish. We don’t need to help them out. But perhaps there’s the possibility that I have misunderstood your post.

  • Prior to MindFreedom’s 2003 hunger strike (see John Carney’s recent blog) on two occasions I, along with the late Loren Mosher (onetime head of Schizophrenic studies at NIMH), psychologist David Jacobs, revered activist survivor, Sally Zinman, and a number of other professionals and psych survivors, met with Pulitzer Prize winning Los Angeles Times editorial writers, Alex Raksin and Bob Sipchen. Though we were to meet for only 15 minutes, each meeting continued for at least 45 minutes of mutually respectful conversation.

    I mention this because, during the hunger strike, unprompted by me or other fasters, I received a call from Mr. Raksin, inquiring how things were going. For days we had been attempting to entice the LAT to cover our event. So I asked Alex why his paper hadn’t covered our fast. He replied that the paper needed a “hook” from us.

    My response was to ask why he didn’t consider a hunger strike (then more than a week in length) by five former psychiatric patients, some of whom had traveled from across the country,one of whom was blind, another of whom had a serious form of arthritis, and a social worker, and which was supported by a well credentialed team of academics and professional mental health experts, an adequate “hook”? He seemed embarrassed, produced no answer, and the conversation soon ended.

    We really did anticipate Mr. Braiterman’s advice. It is my belief that the “movement” must take additional action like the hunger strike which will move the debate into the mainstream media and which will lead to basic questions that will place psychiatry in a defensive position.

    As a first step, the hunger strike was covered by the Washington Post, a Richmond,VA paper, the Pasadena Star-News, the Pasadena Weekly, local NPR, local CBS radio, and the BBC. As one of our experts said, “It got more coverage than I expected, but less than it deserved.”

    Put them on defensive, guys. Force them out into the open by provocative tactics which don’t permit them to marginalize you.

  • The trick is not merely to win the dispute over the validity and reliability of psychiatric “science.” That battle has been won on numerous occasions in academic books and journals.

    The difficult task is to devise a strategy and tactics which will move the debate into the public arena.

    What is necessary is to create conditions in which the public and the institutions it respects will begin to lose confidence in the scientific underpinnings of psychiatry’s claims.

  • To combat institutional psychiatry it is insufficient to decry shock, drugs, incarceration, or even forced instances of these. The goal must be to drain the essential claims of psychiatry of their very legitimacy and, once done,to drain psychiatry of its power and influence. That was what I had in mind from the first time I raised the possibility of a hunger strike supported by a panel of experts,until, after 21 days, we left the building where the strike took place.

    For the police power of psychiatry to shock, drug, and incarcerate by force rests on the belief of the courts, the media, law enforcement, and the general public that the claims of psychiatry are suppoted by valid and reliable orthodox medical science. Once those claims are challenged and are revealed to be without scientific merit, then the institutions from which psychiatry derives its power no longer have reason to authorize psychiatry to utilize police power as an adjunct to its professional activities.

    The hunger strike and its challenge to the APA and others to back up their claims with evidence, was meant to provoke the media to move the debate over the legitimacy biopsychiatry into the public arena where it would stand naked and exposed to honest analysis and debate.

    What differentiated the hunger strike from most (perhaps all)other endeavors to contest psychiatry was that it pivoted from a defensive and beseeching position (don’t shock us, drug us etc.) to an offensive position (justify everything you do or back off unless we request your services).

    The hunger strike revealed that psychiatry is an emperor without clothes, a wizard hiding behind a tattered curtain. Two qualities, not always in great supply, can weaken and defeat it…imagination and persistence. My personal failure was my inability to devise a follow-up plan (I had one)that others would be willing to try (I couldn’t persuade them).

    There are so many good minds out there that I’m confident that someone someday will do whatever is necessary.