Comments by Bruce Levine, PhD

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  • My question for Awais Aftab is this: Is there ANY evidence at all that would convince you that psychiatry is a failed paradigm of care?

    If you, Awais Aftab, cannot answer that question, you are not a scientist but a theologian or a propagandist.

    For any legitimate scientist, what Robert Whitaker has discussed in this article would get them to at least CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY that psychiatry is a failed paradigm of care, but if you, Awais Aftab, cannot even consider the possibility, then you are not a scientist but a theologian or a propagandist.

    Robert Whitaker writes: “Aftab has staked out a position as being open-minded to critiques of psychiatry, and that is a public stance that makes him particularly valuable to his profession. He can serve as a defender of psychiatry against critiques that are truly threatening, and his criticisms will be seen as coming from someone who is open-minded about psychiatry’s flaws.”

    This analysis of Awais Aftab’s role rings true to me. Does Awais Aftab at least CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY that this is his role?

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  • Thank you, Karin and Jim, for this powerful discussion, one that I found extremely thought provoking.

    I especially found interesting Jim’s observations about how very human reactions are viewed as symptoms of serious mental illness. He got me laughing and thinking when he said “I have to say, if you hear voices, and you don’t at some point think you got a chip in your head… you should at least consider it.”

    I understand that Jim has moved from comedy to hip hop, but the “George Carlin talent” of being both profound and funny is something Jim has — and this is a gift.

    Carlin — as Jim, who is a fan of his, probably knows — while remaining in the general genre of stand up comedy, went through a couple of major metamorphoses in his career. He acknowledged that he began in his twenties as a “people pleaser” desperate for laughs and success, but by the end of his career, he cared less about laughs, caring mostly about his art and truth – and that last stage of Carlin is the one that many of us revere.

    Jim’s desire not to hurt others is a noble one, but it seems impossible in any art form not to offend and hurt some people. Back to Carlin – while his bits about the educational system may have hurt and offended teachers who are attached to the educational system, these bits validated and energized dissident teachers along with many of the rest of us who remember what school was like.

    George may have hurt and offended some people, but he for the most part “afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted” – which I think is a noble talent and one that Jim clearly has.

    Again, thanks to both of you for a great discussion — Bruce

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  • The class-action lawsuit sounds like an excellent idea.

    It would not surprise me if the crazy-making, gas-lighting psychiatry establishment and their legal defense team attempt to make the case that patients were never told by psychiatrists – except in rare instances by “bad apples” — that patients had a chemical imbalance.

    Of course, millions of patients could counter this, but a witness that would be most difficult for psychiatry and its apologists in mainstream media to discredit would be National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent Alix Spiegel who reported in her 2012 story about her Johns Hopkins psychiatrists.

    Spiegel stated the following:

    When I was 17 years old, I got so depressed that what felt like an enormous black hole appeared in my chest. Everywhere I went, the black hole went, too. So to address the black-hole issue, my parents took me to a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She did an evaluation and then told me this story:

    “The problem with you,” she explained, “is that you have a chemical imbalance. It’s biological, just like diabetes, but it’s in your brain. This chemical in your brain called serotonin is too, too low. There’s not enough of it, and that’s what’s causing the chemical imbalance. We need to give you medication to correct that.”

    Then she handed my mother a prescription for Prozac.

    This Alix Spiegel account is, of course, the experience, of millions of people.

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  • Sounds like psychiatrist Jim Phelps is desperate to have himself and his profession be taken seriously despite the fact that any real scientist, journalist, or critical thinker would be hard-pressed to find ANYTHING that psychiatry has proclaimed in the last century – from its DSM, to its chemical imbalance theories, to its treatment proclamations, etc. — which has proven to be scientifically true.

    Phelps tells us that Robert Whitaker “overstates psychiatry’s problems” and that Whitaker is “inflammatory” to describe psychiatry as a “false narrative,” and a “failed paradigm of care.”

    If psychiatrist Jim Phelps wants to be taken seriously at all by Mad in America readers such as myself, he needs to respond to this question: How much does an institution have to get wrong for that institution to lose its authority?

    If the truth for Phelps is that no how much psychiatry gets wrong, he can never come to the conclusion that psychiatry perpetuates a “false narrative” and a “failed paradigm of care” because coming to that conclusion would mean, in his words, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Phelps will never be taken seriously by Mad in America readers such as myself.

    Real scientists are open to the necessity, at times, of rejecting an entire paradigm — religion believers are not.

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  • What I found most interesting was Sarah Fay’s response to Bob Whitaker’s question about her book’s subtitle, The Story of Six Misdiagnoses. Bob asked her: “Why misdiagnoses? Why not fake diagnoses or something like that?”

    Sarah responded: “I did talk to my editor about that, but one reason we went with misdiagnoses is that I didn’t want anyone to think I was saying that mental illness isn’t real, because I know 100% that it is. As I said, I have one, I take great pride in having had a mental illness.”

    From my experience, her answer to Bob’s question is why HarperCollins, her publisher — or any mainstream publishing house — would not be frightened of being condemned as “irresponsible” for publishing her book.

    Saying that the DSM is completely invalid, as Sarah also does say, is today in no way taboo. Through the courage and persistence of authors such as Allan Horwitz along with many Mad in America authors, it no longer radical to call the DSM invalid (i.e., bullshit). Even former NIMH director Thomas Insel has been calling the DSM scientifically invalid for many years.

    Also no longer taboo in the mainstream – again owing in large part to the courage and persistence of many MIA authors — is another issue that Sarah talks about: the horrors of SSRI dependency and withdrawal. Sarah says, “I have tried to go off my SSRI and the withdrawal was so brutal, I will never try again. I mean, I almost ended my life and so I just can’t risk that again and it was so painful physically.”

    Now that it is mainstream to call psychiatry’s DSM invalid and to report how psychiatry’s most highly touted drugs can result in horrors, perhaps one day some mainstream publisher will take on what continues to be a taboo issue — one that for me is the core issue: examining whether the very idea of “mental illness” is a counterproductive idea in terms of people truly healing.

    Thank for a great interview that makes clear — at least to me — what invalidities/bullshit and horrors in psychiatry are no longer taboo for a mainstream publisher to publish, and what remains taboo — Bruce

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  • Thanks for the comments.

    As Mad in America readers know full well, mainstream psychiatry has been nonproductive and counterproductive for millions of people, and its assumptions are routinely illogical and not based on genuine science – all this MIA readers know.

    What’s increasingly troubling for me is that mainstream mental health professionals have made the field so boring that freethinkers and critical thinkers outside of the MIA orbit won’t even bother to read an article or pick up a book with “Psychiatry” in the title.

    Making the field so boring keeps freethinkers from bothering with it, and thus maintains the status quo. I doubt that mainstream psychiatry calculated this strategy but, by virtue of their boring nature and boring dogma, have lucked into “winning” via boring the crap out of society from thinking about the field.

    So, what we need to do is not simply to counter the bullshit but to make this stuff interesting for freethinkers and critical thinkers.

    Thanks again for the comments, none of which I found boring! – Bruce

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  • Thanks for the comments, including those expanding on these reasons and additional reasons.

    Regarding the criticism: “So they make blanket statements like ‘psychiatry is a pseudoscientific institution meriting no scientific authority. . . . When you see that someone paints an entirely negative picture of an industry or profession, and does not acknowledge a single redeeming value, it’s biased.’ ”

    First, while I mentioned some key areas of proven pseudoscience (such as the chemical imbalance theory and the DSM), I’d like to hear about ANY proclamation that establishment psychiatry has made that have scientific value. They cannot because their entire model of “mental illness” is a pseudoscientific one. Just as many people claim their religion has helped them, many people claim they have been helped by psychiatry, but psychiatry misleads people by claiming that it is a science when it is just another organized religion.

    Second regarding the criticism, “When you see that someone paints an entirely negative picture of an industry or profession, and does not acknowledge a single redeeming value, it’s biased. ” It’s always been difficult for Americans to wrap their hands around the idea that any major American institution could be not simply imperfect but completely WRONG and BAD. But if you look at American history, that happens. Major examples of this include slavery, government policy toward Native Americans, and Japanese internment camps during WWII; and there are many less known instances of US institutions being totally wrong/bad (such as the CIA’s MKULTRA program). The critic is simply wrong here: There are some things that deserve being painted with an entirely negative picture.

    Regarding the criticism of my conclusions as being too pessimistic. Of course we should continue to get the truths of psychiatry’s pseudoscience and failures out there, as this has certainly helped some individuals including MIA readers. However, on a societal basis, the reality is that psychiatry has gained, not lost influence — more people than ever are buying into their diagnoses and treatments, including more young people. My point is that a strategy of just getting truths out there is not enough, as there are underlying reasons why truths alone do not set people free; and strategically, these reason need to be addressed. Concretely this means, for example, confronting the mainstream media’s failure, which is what Bob Whitaker and I did in that Truthout interview referred to in the article. Concretely this means taking into account why people cling medicalization and its false promises of compassion.

    Thanks again for the comments — Bruce

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  • Thank you for comments which I’ve just read. First, to clarify, this piece was written for a CounterPunch audience, many of whom are critical thinkers who know much more about American history than psychiatry, and so I first try to get their attention and interest. CounterPunch ran it as one of their top stories on June 14 for their weekend edition at, and MIA chose to “cross-post” this as a “non-featured blog.”

    For many critical readers in the general public, I’ve found that psychiatry’s bullshit is simply too boring so they don’t read it. And so I try to come at it from an angle to make the bullshit of the DSM, chemical-imbalance theory, etc. more interesting to them.

    If we want to reach open-minded, critical thinkers outside of the MIA orbit, I believe that we need to put energy into discovering ways on a personal level and in our writings, talks, films, music, and other means of expression to be stimulating and entertaining enough so that open-minded, critical thinkers — ordinarily bored by psychiatry and other religious dogma — will be interested.

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  • Re: the campaign to “delegitimize psychiatry as a field of medicine” – that is what I’ve been doing for over 25 years. Psychiatry should have as much “legitimacy” as does any religion in a non-theocratic society.

    In theocratic societies, religious authorities have authority to coerce and control, and I think it’s humiliating for many Americans (especially those with lots of schooling who have bought into psychiatry theology) to believe that to the extent that they have given psychiatry the power to control is to the extent that have chosen a theocracy, as psychiatry’s beliefs have no more scientific merit than any religion.

    Oldhead, I think it is wise on your part to use the word “delegitimize” rather than “abolish” because people should have “freedom of religion,” a right to believe in anything they want as long as they don’t impose it on others.

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  • Yes, Frank. In the above piece, I linked to “Kill Your Sons” so that people could listen to all the lyrics. . . I’m with you on Billy’ – it has some very insightful lyrics. . .You might be interested if this: In that Levy biography, he mentions that at college at Syracuse, Lou was actually a ROTC trainee, but Levy states: “His stint was brief; rumors circulated that he was dishonorably discharged for holding a gun to the platoon commander’s head.”

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  • Thanks, Julie. Perhaps you are right that I should care more about protecting myself, however, my experience for the most part is that shrink authoritarians simply ignore me — and I don’t waste my time caring about their reaction to me, as I’m more focused on critical-thinking open-minded people. Of course, you are right that within institutional settings, when bastards have more power over patients/inmates and dissident professionals, retaliation is routine for questioning, challenging, and resisting illegitimate authority.

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  • First, to clarify, this piece was written for a CounterPunch audience, some of whom are “liberal apologists” for psychiatry but many of whom are “anti-authoritarians” who don’t know much about psychiatry but are open to the idea that there is one more illegitimate authority out there.

    CounterPunch ran it as one of their top stories on May 3 for their weekend edition at, and MIA, also on May 3, chose to “cross-post” this as a non-featured blog.

    What I’m hearing back is that (unlike Hemingway and Styron) all age groups – including many young people – are interested in Lou Reed, but even the majority of Lou fans do not know about his teenage electroconvulsive trauma, and actually even a significant number of people in the MIA orbit were unaware of Lou’s ECT.

    The largest positive reaction I’m getting from several people outside of the MIA orbit is about the end of the piece, about the 50 year old Creedmoor man, and how psychiatry social control is not only “chemical-electrical” but also “behavioral.”

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  • It is impossible to imagine that Aviv and her New Yorker editor did not know the entirety of Laura’s story, and so they made a choice to protect the institution of psychiatry by burying truths — a choice that a real journalist should be ashamed to make.

    Of course, the moment that a journalist challenges the legitimacy of the authority of psychiatry is the moment that this journalist will be attacked by psychiatry who will attempt to marginalize that journalist.

    It is likely that had Aviv refused to protect psychiatry, the New Yorker would have killed the entire story, and Aviv’s career as a mainstream journalist would been dealt a blow. But that story of her being censored would have been a powerful one, one of real journalistic value. Aviv certainly would have received support from not only the MIA orbit but from courageous journalists all over the world.

    Beyond Aviv’s inaccurate facts and omitting critical aspects of Laura’s story, Aviv does damage to journalism and society at a much deeper level.

    For a democratic society to exist, its journalists must have the courage to be unintimidated by threats of illegitimate authorities to marginalize them for truth telling. There needs to be a community of journalists who admire truth-telling and support truth-telling colleagues and frown upon journalists who protect institutions at the expense of truth telling.

    Ultimately, when fearful journalists advance their careers by pleasing illegitimate authorities, and when truth-telling journalists are unsupported by their colleagues, not only does journalism suffer, but we as a society grow even more cynical. And people feel even more disempowered than they already feel.

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  • Thank you, everyone for your comments.

    Re oldhead’s your observation: “Glad to see you slowly approaching the conclusion that psychiatry must be abolished.”
    Actually, I’ve been concluding that for quite some time. For example, at the NARPA conference in 2012, I gave a talk “Psychiatry: Reform or Abolitionism?” in which I came down on the side of ABOLITION (on my web site, at the top of my video clips second page, at: )

    Also, I would be careful about any conclusions about Laura herself from what is presented about her in the New Yorker piece. When any of us become “public figures,” mainstream publications routinely distort, often via omissions, what we are saying. My guess is that Aviv and/or her New Yorker editors omitted elements of Laura’s story because they didn’t want to “offend” their perceived readership, many of whom are psychiatry apologists. From my experience, it is even possible that the Anatomy’ crack and the omissions are not Aviv’s doing but the doings of her New Yorker editor – I can’t say for sure how this crap happened!

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  • With respect to the “Right”-“Left” stuff, maybe it will help to share my experience with broadcast and podcast media who have me on because they like what I’m saying and know their audience will be interested. I’ve done bunch of media, and since the publication of my last book, here’s my recent experience:

    1. Most of the media who wants me on is the “anti-authoritarian left,” folks like Chuck Mertz on WMUR in Chicago (“This is Hell”), MK Mendoza on KSFR in Santa Fe, Paul Roland on KBOO in Portland, Oregon, and several other left anti-authoritarians on the Pacifica radio network. This is the kind of media where Noam Chomsky is a hero, where Bernie Sanders is a disappointment (for, among other things, his support of Hillary Clinton), where Hillary Clinton is a villain, and where Donald Trump is a clown whose rise to power reveals the failure of mainstream Democrats and Republicans.

    2. The other media who wants me on is what I would call the “libertarian” media. So for example, James Corbett of the Corbett Report podcast. These are broadcasters who AGREE with left anti-authoritarians’ loathing of the military-industrial complex and of crony capitalism, but who have a very different view of “free market” and “capitalism” than left anti-authoritarians.

    3. On both the left anti-authoritarian and libertarian media, when I bring up stuff like “oppositional defiant disorder,” they laugh at how silly this stuff if, as they all pride themselves on being opposed to coercion and having affection for rebellion.

    4. Mainstream “centrist”/“liberal”/“conservative” media ignore me, and it’s only a mainstream producer’s “mistake” that I get booked (recently booked then canceled, probably after they checked out my web site). For these people, psychiatry is very useful in maintaining the status quo both in society and in their own families — and a guy like me just ruins their day!

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  • First, thanks for the comments, and I am glad that this piece was helpful for some of you.

    Some clarification. This piece was written for a CounterPunch audience, which is comprised almost exclusively of liberals and left anti-authoritarians, and the piece was meant to confront self-identified liberals who support psychiatry. CounterPunch ran it on March 22 at:

    I made Mad in America aware of this piece because I thought MIA might want to note it in their “Around the Web” section. I had thought that MIA policy is not to republish articles that have been previously published elsewhere, but it turns out, I discovered, that MIA does occasionally simultaneously publish, and so MIA also ran it on Mar 22.

    I’ve read all your comments and just to respond to a couple of the criticisms:

    Oldhead said: “I think Bruce should also acknowledge that when he says “anti-authoritarian” this is a buzzword for anarchist.”
    In my current book, Resisting Illegitimate Authority, I profile over 20 anti-authoritarians. While some of these anti-authoritarians are certainly anarchists, most of them are not. For example, one of the longest profiles is on Thomas Paine, who challenged first the illegitimate authority of British rule in colonial America and ultimately challenged the illegitimate authority of organized religion (for which he was almost completely ostracized), but Paine was by no means an anarchist as he was not “anti-state.”

    Another criticism has to do with definitions of “right-wing” and “left-wing,” and I think this is fair, as people have different ideas about what these terms mean. As I make clear in the article, by the definition from A Glossary of Political Economy Terms which I refer to, Stalin is right-wing but that perhaps it would be better to just call him authoritarian or totalitarian (and as I make clear in my book, I agree with George Orwell’s view here).

    Again, the audience who this article was directed at was the CounterPunch audience, and my goals were to “afflict the comfortable” self-identified liberal psychiatry apologists, as well as to “comfort the afflicted” left-anti-authoritarians who are troubled by psychiatry but who don’t have the validation that the MIA world provides to one another — Bruce

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  • Yes, I think that the less real value a person has to offer others — and at some conscious or unconscious level, many psychiatrists know that they are only glorified drug dealers who have no valuable skills -– the more one is going to be insecure and have shame. Insecurity and shame make it more likely that one will not be open to truths and that one will simply attack truth tellers. So, we have the former president of the American Psychiatric Association, Jeffrey Lieberman, proclaiming Robert Whitaker as “menace to society.”

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  • Yes, Oldhead, this is important, and I discuss this elsewhere.

    The major point of this article was not to address the 1940s’ atrocity-enabling actions by German and American doctors, but to address CURRENT professional authoritarianism and harmfulness and the variables in contemporary medical culture that continue to produce this.

    While psychiatry is embarrassed about their past and ignore it – and so it is good that Oldhead reminds of it – they hate anyone who asserts that they CONTINUE to create harm because of their CONTEMPORARY culture, which is rarely rebelled against by mostly compliant professionals.

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  • First, thanks for all the comments, which I’ve read.

    Thanks, Frank. Yes, this is really a major point of the article – to help people, as early as possible, to achieve confidence in precisely the “epiphany” that you had.

    After the anger at one’s victimization, after defending oneself from insulting labels pretending to be diagnoses, my sense is that an important next step to liberation from oppressive forces is to detach by, in a sense, diagnosing the oppressive forces and grasping what caused it — diagnosing their authoritarianism and examining some of its “etiology.” This, I believe, helps make it easier to achieve the obvious goal: staying away from dangerous people!

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  • Just as the NYT offers a narrow continuum of general political discourse, one can see the narrow range in the letters the NYT published in response to Velasquez-Manoff’s piece, which you can see at:

    There are two letters. One is a testimonial letter singing the praises of ketamine treatment. The other so-called “critical” letter comes from a psychiatrist named Caroff whose “criticism” is really more a defense of current psychiatry, as he states” “If depression is diagnosed, there is hope amid an array of proven and highly effective interventions, including psychotherapy, medications and even electroconvulsive therapy.”

    There is, of course, NO response, like my CounterPunch piece, that questions the legitimacy of psychiatry as an authority.

    Thanks for the comments which I read — Bruce

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  • Thanks, oldhead, for reading the excerpt.

    I agree with all your points. Throughout the book, I talk about nonfamous as well as more well-known anti-authoritarians. One of my reasons for talking about the marginalization of famous anti-authoritarians despite their great contributions (e.g., Thomas Paine, Ralph Nader, Malcolm X) was for readers to see that if various kinds of marginalization can happen to these famous folks, then certainly it is even easier for authoritarians to marginalize nonfamous anti-authoritarians.

    With respect to psychiatric marginalization — which is only one of the kinds of marginalization that I describe – what can be helpful is that when famous anti-authoritarians get marginalized in this manner, this gets some people to think about this issue of psychiatric marginalization for all.

    So, the journalist and attorney Glenn Greenwald, who helped get Edward Snowden’s information out there and has since championed Snowden’s cause, wrote the following which I actually begin the chapter “Psychiatric Assault and Marginalization: Not Just Frances Farmer”:

    “For guardians of the status quo, there is nothing genuinely or fundamentally wrong with the prevailing order and its dominant institutions, which are viewed as just. Therefore, anyone claiming otherwise—especially someone sufficiently motivated by that belief to take radical action—must, by definition, be emotionally unstable and psychologically disabled. Put another way, there are, broadly speaking, two choices: obedience to institutional authority or radical dissent from it. The first is a sane and valid choice only if the second is crazy and illegitimate. . . . Radical dissent is evidence, even proof, of a severe personality disorder.”

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  • Thanks, oldhead, for your interest, comments, an question. I actually have a sub-section in the second chapter of the book about exactly the subject you bring up, quoting the anarchists Bakunin and Chomsky, who both make that distinction between legitimate and illegitimate authority.

    To just give you the Chomsky example of a justified authority, he states: “When you stop your five-year-old kid from trying to cross the street, that’s an authoritarian situation: it’s got to be justified. Well, in that case, I think you can give a justification.” However, Chomsky adds that “Most of the time these authority structures have no moral justification . . . they are just there in order to preserve certain structures of power and domination.” I quote Chomsky and Bakunin because both make sense to me! Thanks again — Bruce

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  • Thanks, kindred spirit, for your interest. You are not the first person to inquire about an audio book, as many people have similar difficulties with reading, and there are also an increasing number of people just like listening to books rather than reading them. I will pass this information on to the publisher AK Press, but for the present, there are only paperback and Kindle e-book versions available.

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  • Thanks, Sera, for this thought-provoking, brave, and beautiful piece. I found it poignant on many levels.

    How many doctors congruently admit to their suicidal patients that they have to “turn them into authorities” so as to cover their own legal and financial ass — and to cover their own consciences? Not many. Most doctors don’t want to believe that they are acting selfishly, as they need to believe that all their actions are out of concern for the patient. Tragically, being forced to deal with their helper’s self-deception and incongruence is extremely painful for anyone – especially a suicidal person who is already overwhelmed by other pains. Professionals’ self-deception and incongruence is a violence to others but also a violence to themselves.

    Thanks again, Sera, for your integrity, insights, courage, and compassion — Bruce

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  • Thank you Sami for this comprehensive article about the darkness of psychiatry, the mental health profession, and modern society.

    While Bob Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove (in Psychiatry Under the Influence) were correct to call psychiatry “institutionally corrupt,” psychiatry is horrifically guilty of “institutional child abuse.”

    While the Catholic Church covered up the child abuse of many within the Church, psychiatry — in Orwellian fashion — has convinced society that its abuse of children is “treatment.”

    The abuse includes, on the most obvious level, ineffective and dangerous drugs which, also in Orwellian fashion, are called “medication.” But the abuse does not end there. The abuse is about exploiting family and society tensions caused by normal child behavior so as to institutionally expand and profit. And, perhaps worst of all, the abuse is about psychiatry convincing a child, their family, and society that children who create any tension are defective when they are just being human.

    Institutional psychiatry, like make other abusive institutions, has leveled “career violence” at its critics. This violence can be especially ugly for the handful of critics who are psychiatrists. So thank you Sami for being unintimidated. From my experience, the vast majority of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals do everything possible to stay in complete denial of this institutional abuse or, when the abuse is so obvious that it is impossible to deny, are cowards about challenging it — Bruce

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  • Hi Frank – Thanks for reading my CounterPunch review of Noel’s book. I write in CounterPunch and other places because I know that there is a whole world of people who pride themselves on caring about human rights but who know NOTHING of the Mad in America world and the struggle for human rights and human dignity in the battle against the psychiatric-industrial complex and the mental health establishment.

    Frank, you regularly raise an important issue of people who have been ex-patient/victims of the system going on to have a career in the system. I think this is a complex issue.

    I am old enough to remember when gay Americans were pathologized as mentally ill by the American Psychiatric Association and its DSM, and when they were “treated”/tortured by psychiatrists in various ways so as to become heterosexuals. So, when I see a gay person becoming a psychiatrist and joining the American Psychiatric Association, my first association is “Would an African American join the Ku Kux Klan, would a Native American celebrate Columbus Day?”

    Like you, I have no respect for people from a group that has been oppressed by an organization who deny the history of that organization. And I have even less respect for people from an oppressed group who become employed by their oppressors in the same sense that kapos in Nazi-concentration camps were used to control only prisoners — to gain favor at the expense of their fellow oppressed group.

    However, there are ex-patients who become mental health professionals for other reasons. They know that people just like them have not yet escaped the system and will enter the system and will be treated like dogshit; and that as professionals they can treat people who were just like them not as dogshit but like human beings. And so it can be healing for ex-patients who become professionals to treat others like themselves with humanity and dignity.

    Similarly, there are people who have been treated like dogshit in their mental health professional training who, after painfully achieving some advanced degree, find it healing to treat students with respect and to value their noncompliance. Of course this is a complex issue, as one can argue that joining these systems enables them, but there are not a hell of a lot of COMPLETELY morally clean ways to make a living.

    Again, thanks Franks for continuing to bring up this issue, because I think all of us need to keep thinking about it.

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  • Steve, I agree. Add many gay folks to your list, a group that was declared defective and ill for their sexual preference by the APA until 1973 and administered a variety of barbaric conversion “treatments”; but yet today most gay people appear to embrace psychiatry. The overwhelming majority of Native Americans don’t celebrate Columbus Day, yet most members of these psychiatry-oppressed groups appear to believe that psychiatry is different today rather than grasping the reality that it has shifted its oppression to other politically powerless groups—for example, kids!

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  • Thanks for the comments. I just noticed that this article, which was published on CounterPunch’s recent weekend edition, was republished on Mad in America. Some of you might be interested in the reaction by CounterPunch readers.

    While I’ve gotten some of the most appreciative e-mail responses that I have ever received about any article that I’ve published (with several people telling me that this is one of the most important articles that I’ve done because they see nobody else saying this stuff), this article has not been “shared” or “liked” in big numbers (as have some of my other articles). Many people are uncomfortable with it because it is critical of not only mental health professionals and their drug “treatments” but also their non-drug “treatments” (such as anger management) as well as being critical of standard schools and a generally uncaring society whose “solutions” have zero empathy for what fuels the violence.

    My guess is that many of the readers who like this article – which are people who “get it” about the coercive nature of mainstream “conservatives” and “liberals” — are not the kind of people with several hundred social media so-called “friends” — Bruce

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  • Sera is talking about important stuff. It’s axiomatic that people who care about maintaining the power to define and control others will either try to immediately destroy threats to their power (via castigation, mocking, ignoring, etc) or to invite potential threats into their ranks, give them minimal pay and a tiny sphere as a way of ultimately gaining complete power over them as a dependent employee. To the extent that those in power are putting efforts into co-opting peer support, it’s also axiomatic that those in power believe that that the idea of peer support is too powerful to simply mock, ignore, and destroy, and so they are forced to utilize a co-opting strategy instead. It’s great that we have Sera at MIA who is staying on top of this — Bruce

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  • Thanks you everyone for your comments, which I just had a chance to read. To the extent that people are frightened, they are less likely to have the capacity to think critically and more likely to hand over power to an authority that claims to know how to handle things. And suicidality — as well as hearing voices — frightens people. So, a big part of what the MIA community can do is say to the world, “I recognize that these behaviors are frightening, but psychiatry authorities who claim to know how to deal with these behaviors have a poor record.” This can be done through research and through personal stories. The battle is much about countering an illegitimate authority exploiting fear which keeps people from thinking critically — Bruce

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  • Thanks for all the comments, which I just read. What is clear for most MIA readers is that establishment psychiatry is a dismal failure, an illegitimate authority. I was glad to see that CounterPunch published this piece and maintained quotations around “schizophrenic” (which sometimes editors, beyond my control, change). We still need to get the general public to understand this sad reality about psychiatry. What may be more interesting to MIA readers who already get this sad reality is this: What is it about American society that allows this illegitimate authority to stay in charge despite its lengthy record of dismal failure and abuse? Is it just Big Pharma money, or is it something darker about our culture and our society? That’s what I’m trying to get readers to consider — Bruce

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  • Thank you for the comments, which I read. A few of you might be interested in this follow up:

    As I noted at the top of the article, AlterNet also published this piece: “Is Society or Psychiatry to Blame for the ‘Seriously Mentally Ill’ Dying 25 Years Prematurely?” AlterNet’s “below the title hook” of “The uncomfortable fact is that many of us don’t care about the seriously mentally ill” appears to be TRUE for the general public, as evidenced by AlterNet reader views, at last look less than 400 “Likes” — this compared to the interest for my previous AlterNet article: “Proven Wrong About Many of Its Assertions, Is Psychiatry Bullsh*t?” which climbed to their #1 story with 3,400 “Likes.”

    I guess it’s more fun to read articles that cut down and make fun of illegitimate authorities but not so much fun to read about groups of people suffering because of these illegitimate authorities.

    Thanks again for your interest and comments — Bruce

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  • Thanks Matt and Paris for a discussion that I found to be extremely interesting and important. Sadly, from my experience getting articles published for the general public, more complex, interesting and important articles often receive less editor interest and reader views than more simplistic sensational stuff. Hopefully, that doesn’t also happen on MIA. Thanks again — Bruce

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  • Thank you everybody on Mad in America for the comments so far, which I just had a chance to read.

    As a couple of you noted, the response to this piece on AlterNet has been interesting and mostly encouraging.

    AlterNet is a “left-progressive” zine with a significant circulation, with a mix of “left-anti-authoritarian” Occupy type folks (who have been supportive of my work) but also more traditional liberal psychiatry apologist types.

    At last look, the piece has climbed to their #1 story for the week (see toward the bottom of their home page) with over 400 comments, the majority of which agree that psychiatry is bullshit or at least deeply flawed. While among the comments, there are certainly a few “Scientology-baiters” and those who see any criticism of psychiatry as an attack on their psychiatric drugs and/or their misery, the good news is that I’ve seen a significant diminishment of the number of these kind of responses compared to my past AlterNet articles. Generally, the response to this piece will encourage AlterNet editors to run more of these kinds of criticism, as it gave them a huge number of “views,” many “likes,” and a majority of positive comments — Bruce

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  • I just had a chance to read the comments up to this point, and thanks everyone for taking the time to read the piece and offer reactions.

    As I stated at the end of the piece, I believe Resistance activists should be careful not to discourage anyone who is also thinking politically, even if another’s tactics appear ineffective to them. Beyond the issue of “historical humility” that I addressed in the piece, there are already TOO FEW people among even Mad in America readers who are interested in the topic of political activism. For example, both Part One and Part Two in this Politics 101 series have received far fewer “views” than my non-activist pieces about victimization, abuse, corruption and oppression.

    Also, as I said in the piece, the Rehumanizing Resistance, like all political movements, has internal disagreements, and in Part Three, I will discuss those disagreements and frustrations and how not to allow them to result in the kind of dissension that reduces strength.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read a rather long piece and for the comments – Bruce

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  • Thanks Richard, for your comments.

    Politics 101 tells us that gutless politicians often don’t respond to the will of the people but when that they will when popular opinion is overwhelming, as I will discuss in Part Two (the example of the National Center for Youth Law getting California legislatures to pass bills to reduce the use of psychiatric drugs to control the behavior of children in foster care (not perfect bills but did accomplish something).

    Generally, Richard and Michael, so few of us are focusing on Politics 101, that we must be careful not to discourage anyone who is also thinking politically, even though we might feel that our strategy and tactic are best, and their strategy and tactic will not be all that effective. The reality is, when you look at history, nobody knows for sure what activism may or may not work on an immediate level but will ultimately work on another level – I will discuss some of this in Part Two. Thanks again — Bruce

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  • Hi Michael, thanks for your points and your passion about this topic..

    For readers, Michael’s important piece, “It’s Time for a Stronger Political Ground Game to Compete with NAMI and Company on Forced Treatment” is it and I will talk about how this kind of political activism has been effective in Part Two.

    With respect to my omissions of other high-profile critics of the First-Order who have suffered retributions, there are I know many — I picked as examples one psychiatrist, one ex-patient, attorney, and one journalist. I chose Loren Mosher as the psychiatrist example because I felt that his Soteria success most threatened First-Order Psychiatry and that his retribution was most severe, getting fired from his NIMH position, but I don’t mean to minimize the retributions of many other critics, as I say in the piece, “I don’t know of any critic of First-Order Psychiatry who has not paid some price, such as career and licensing difficulties, legal threats, and financial costs.”

    Thanks again Michael for you thoughts, and for being one of the few MIA writers who are writing about political strategies and tactics for the Resistance — Bruce

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  • Thank you, boans, for your kind words. While Frankl as a concentration camp survivor has lots of valuable insights about surviving extreme conditions, I was troubled to discover several years ago the following about him reported by Thomas Szasz who quotes Frankl saying: “I have signed authorization for lobotomies without having cause to regret it. In a few cases, I have even carried out transorbital lobotomy,” Viktor E. Frankl, “ ‘Nothing but—’—‘: On Reductionism and Nihilism,” Encounter, (November, 1969), p.56, cited in Thomas Szasz, The Myth of PychotherapyPsychotherapy: Mental Healing as Religion, Rhetoric, and Repression (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1978, 1988), p. 205.

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  • Thanks Oldhead for your kind words. Yes, what you call the “true left” is what I often call the “anti-authoritarian left,” as distinguished from mainstream liberals who may purport to caring about certain social justice issues but don’t really have a passion for shared power, real autonomy, and genuine democracy. Yes, you are right that the term “illness” conveys defect and is thus a “medical model.” Thanks again — Bruce

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  • Thanks, MadMom for your kind words – Good point about how some people do lose perspective when they get real depressed.

    Yes, I agree with you about Lincoln – I’ve written about Lincoln in my depression book and online in several pieces including one that Huffington Post ran at

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  • Thanks, Diana – Yes, Truthout is another publication that will also publish my pieces. While I try to get the word via Counterpunch, Truthout, Alternet, Z Magazine, and other publications, those of you who write only for Mad in America are NOT just “preaching to the choir” as some of my Mad in America pieces get placed on social media sites including Reddit etc, and get around to people who have no idea that Mad in America exists – that’s why you see my 2013 piece Societies With Little Coercion Have Little Mental Illness currently being one of the top MIA stories this week — Bruce

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  • Thanks, BPDTransformations. Yes, a major point I wanted to get across in this piece is that what is commonly called the “medical model of mental illness” is really the “defect model of mental illness.” Mainstream mental health is quite okay with being associated with the “medical model” but they get upset when we call it the “defect model” because they know that gets people thinking – “Do I really want to be labeled as defected and treated as though I am defected”? — Thanks again, Bruce

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  • Thank you, Chris. Yes, Counterpunch also published this piece earlier this week with the title Psychiatry’s “Defect Model of Mental Illness:” a Path for Those it Has Failed at
    Counterpunch is was of a few significant publications among in what I call the “anti-authoritarian left” (as opposed to mainstream liberals) who “gets it” about the dangers of the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex.

    Thanks, Chris, for your labor union news, and your points about democratic unions – I come from a union family and am very much interested in what you have to say here. Good luck with your candidacy — Bruce

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  • While Allen Frances sees himself as very different from a typical establishment psychiatrists with his recent book critiquing the DSM-5 (favoring the DSM-4 for which he chaired the task force), Frances is essentially no different from every establishment psychiatrist in this KEY VARIABLE: continued arrogance that his position is the “middle way” and thus the best way.

    The reality is that Frances’s position is nothing more or less than Frances’s position.

    History is replete with big shots who believe themselves rational and reasonable because they call for a middle way, using that as a negotiating technique to manipulate the rest of us to take seriously complete bullshit.

    Remember the “Three-Fifths Compromise”? That was the “middle way” of solving the problem of how slaves were to be counted for purposes of representation.

    Frances’s “middle way” positions often begin with taking seriously complete bullshit. That’s clear with Frances’s DSM-4. The entire DSM idea has NOTHING to do with science but is instead completely based on the highly subjective and biased opinions of a committee of psychiatrists, the majority of whom have financial ties to drug companies. So, maybe the DSM-4 is the “middle way” or less bullshit than the DSM-5, but Frances’s DSM-4 is still bullshit.

    So, let’s start taking seriously the issue of credibility. Let’s start with the research reality that psychiatry has, historically, been repeatedly WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING it has once claimed with total certainty. Wrong about its claims for treatment effectiveness, wrong about its assertions of treatment safety, wrong about its denials of medication dependency, and so on.

    So, one could argue that the “middle way” should be between laughing at psychiatry or being enraged by it.

    Or let’s stop playing the rhetorical game of “middle way” and simply take ownership for one’s position.

    My position is that society start listening -– REALLY LISTENING — to ex-patients of psychiatry who have been horribly failed by psychiatry and for society to fund very different alternatives that have nothing at all do with psychiatry — Bruce

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  • Chris, you bring up a very interesting issue for me. I think it’s safe to say that most of the professionals, ex-patients, journalists, artists, etc. in our movement are “anti-authoritarians,” but it’s always been interesting to me that nowadays – perhaps because of Szasz and Breggin – many of the dissident professionals in organizations such as ISEPP are more libertarian rather than left anti-authoritarians (while most of the ex-patients, journalists, etc in the movement are more left anti-authoritarians); and it is my experience that many of these libertarian professionals don’t even know that there are such people as “left anti-authoritarians,” have never heard of CounterPunch or Z Magazine (one of the first publications that published me), and believe that the left is only full of authoritarian liberals;, and they seem to have forgotten once quite famous left anti-authoritarian dissidents such as Erich Fromm. Of course, there are clearly some MIA dissident professionals and scholars who are left anti-authoritarians. Thanks, Chris, for your other thoughts — Bruce

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  • Thanks, Sera, for your response.

    My general experience is that mental health professionals and family members FEAR of either voices or thoughts make destructive behavior more likely to happen.
    Among some of the more famous voice hearers such as Eleanor Longden (who I mention) and John Nash (the real Nash not the fictionalized A Beautiful Mind Nash), both make clear that learning not to be afraid of their voices allowed them not be controlled by them and do destructive things.

    While I don’t view myself as a voice hearer, I’ve had a lot destructive thoughts, especially in my professional training about asshole authorities, and I would have been much more likely to act self-destructively on those thoughts if I had not been around people who were unafraid of my thoughts; being around people who were unafraid of me allowed me to act more wisely (if one judges it wise not to have punched out some assholes and gotten myself kicked out of a PhD program).

    Thanks again, Sera, for getting me to think about some stuff I hadn’t quite thought about, at least in this sense, before–Bruce

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  • Thank you for the question:” I wonder when you say censored, about the articles that didn’t get published, does it mean they just didn’t get selected/you didn’t hear back, or were you told that the content was too non-mainstream?”

    To respond, I detail one example in my blog in June 2012 in a piece called Killed by the Huffington Post, Article Now on the Newsstands in Skeptic at

    Before the AOL takeover of the Huffington Post and before they had a medical review board with establishment psychiatrists on it, ALL of my Huffington Post submissions were published. After these events, ALL of my submission continued to be published if they were NOT related to mental health issues (and so would not be submitted to the medical review board) –Bruce

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  • Congratulations, David, on this video. And thank you David for all your efforts. For those of you who are new to the MIA world, David, as director of Support Coalition International, Dendron, and MindFreedom, has been perhaps the GREATEST ORGANIZER in our movement to rehumanize mental health. It was David who first contacted me in 1994 (after noticing something I had published) to inform that a psychiatric survivor/mental health professional dissident movement existed. So again, congratulations and thank you, David — Bruce

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  • Yes, as Mad in the America’s “Around the Web” noted, this interview is also on Truthout at:

    And I am also encouraged by the supportive, intelligent comments on Truthout. Also, thank you MIA readers. I’ve read all the MIA comments, many of which I found thought-provoking. It’s always nice for an author to read intelligent, though-provoking reactions, which I’ve read on MIA and Truthout — Bruce

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  • Jim – Thank you for your energy and efforts in helping create Soteria-Alaska, and I very much appreciate your candor in describing its fate. Your report here is EXTREMELY VALUABLE, as you are very clear here in helping us understand what ultimately can happen to fantastic experiments which lack funding and lose their visionary leadership. You article is sobering in the best sense of that word, as you make it clear that while courage, compassion, and creativity are necessary, they are not sufficient for sustainability; as “rehumanization sustainability” also requires practical concerns around finances, politics, and maintaining organizational integrity with leadership changes. Once again, Jim, thanks for all your efforts, including this report — Bruce

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  • Dr. Lieberman calling Robert Whitaker a menace to society provides us with a great opportunity to revisit a piece of Dr. Lieberman’s history in which Dr. Lieberman appears to has gone well beyond the normal psychiatrogenic misery, committing the kind of egregious medical experimentation that — in the wake of Nazi doctors’ experimentation — was decried by the Nuremberg Code for Medical Ethics

    Robert Whitaker writes, “Lieberman had written about studies in which schizophrenia patients were given methylphenidate, with the expectation that this dopamine-elevating drug would make many patients much worse (and thus relapse), and he had also conducted one such study of his own.”

    See Dr. Lieberman’s study “Behavioral response to methylphenidate and treatment outcome in first episode schizophrenia” at

    It appears to me that Dr. Lieberman — given that his expectation that the methylphenidate would worsen the condition of patients — e violated at least 2 of the 10 points of the Nuremberg Code for Medical Ethics created after Nazi doctor experiments (see ):
    1. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical physical and mental suffering and injury.
    2. No experiment should be conducted where there is a prior reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.

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  • Thank you, Jessa. Yes, what is great about Robert Whitaker’s work and the Mad in America web site is that is takes very seriously what patients and ex-patients have to say, giving them an equal voice with mental health professionals. . . It is very sad that the mental health establishment has not historically taken seriously the feedback of people such as yourself who have NOT been helped by the profession. Best of luck, Bruce

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  • Yup. As I have discussed in other pieces on the philosophy of anarchism, some people believe in freedom, pleasure, and “the virtue of selfishness” (to use Ayn Rand’s credo); while others believe in freedom, pleasure,but also mutual aid and social justice, and are in the anarchist tradition. As Thaddeus Russell points out in this book, some renegades who believe in freedom and pleasure and disdain coercion are some pretty cool folks and others are selfish assholes–Bruce

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  • Thanks, Ted, for some excellent points. Yes, I agree with you that most victims of psychiatric oppression are not self-identifying themselves as “survivors” and not in any kind of subculture — and certainly not having a good time. Specifically, I was referring to those self-identified “psychiatric survivors,” “mad priders” and those with “lived experience” who had formed subcultures, groups that have invited me to speak in Eugene, Western Mass and elsewhere — groups of people who had far more community than many isolated Americans, and with certainly far more peer support than many Americans, and at least some fun in their lives. This is analogous to many other renegade subcultures in American history who who were made up of a minority of brave souls and had created “scenes” in a few geographical locations. You write, “No,for the most part we are not very nice to each other”== Unfortunately, you are probably once again correct, but that doesn’t make this group all that different from any other group — Bruce

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  • Thank you, Francesca. Yes, Torrey is, from what I’ve seen from his book Schizophrenia and Civilization , a strange character. To see the same data that many critics of modernity see — how civilization is associated with so much more so-called mental illness — but to blame it on some phantom virus — very strange. The cynical view of him is that he knew how to get butter on his bread, but who knows for sure his psychology of why he has such denial and blindness to the social and interpersonal components of serious emotional problems — Bruce

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  • Thank you Donna for your kind words.

    Yes, I agree with you that modern civilization, in addition to having more coercive institutions, also creates more self-absorption, and this is destructive to our emotional well being, relationships, and community.In Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic, I wrote about this. And yes, the more a society legitimizes coercion, the more we are worried about being coerced, and this invites more self-absorption. And I would add that beyond the obvious iatrogenic effects of psychiatric treatments — e.g., the drugs, ECT — other mental health professional treatments, including some talk therapies, create more self-absorbed, narcissistic people incapable of forming satisfying human relationships and community, which are important antidotes to severe emotional problems.

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  • Thanks, Jonah. You are certainly right that many libertarians are slso involved in the movement against coercive psychiatry. Yes, anarchists and libertarians have much in common in terms of disliking coercion and loving freedom. Where they split off is on is on libertarians affinity for laissez faire capitalism, for which arnarchists see would result in wealth in the hands of the few, which would result in power in the hands of the few, which would result in many people getting pushed around by that power and wealth — which is happening today as the very wealthy individuals (such as the Koch brothers) and gigantic corporations have corrupted and annexed government and have partnered together to coerce people. Now genuine intellectual libertarians despise coercion and lover freedom don’t believe that rich people should be able to use government in this manner but that’s the reason why many people want that much money — to have power, and disproportionate power results in coercion of others. At least that’s what most communitarian anarchists believe — Bruce

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  • Thanks, Nancy. Excellent point about indigenous people, many of whom just a few generations back did have closer to anarchist societies, where people cared passionately about NOT having coercion, as they were aware of how much resentment that created and how poisoned a society. Of course, not all indigenous tribes were the same, but many did grasp the psychological/societal importance of NOT having coercion much more than modern societies, and so it is even more depressing for indigenous people to live in coercive, authoritarian societies. Good luck, Bruce

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  • Thanks, Duane, for your comments. There are many different anarchist theorists. All reject a hierachical, top-down, impersonal kind of government, but most believe in cooperative, “mutual aid.” And so many anarchists believe in smaller, “human-scale” (see Kirkpatrick Scale) societies, as they believe that it really is impossible to have healthy anarchism in gigantic societies–Bruce

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  • This is a great piece, Oryx.

    In a sad society, kids who are different are shunned and ignored, but in our insane society, it’s even worse.

    In our society, kids who are different are routinely labeled/shamed/stigmatized as different and given attention only on that basis.

    In a rehumanized society, many adults would be in contact with many kids, and though all us couldn’t genuinely connect with the differentness of each kid, at least a few of us would. And it often only takes one adult or peer who genuinely connects, who genuinely has affection and respect for that kid to see his/her differentness as cool rather than illness. And kids who feel that their differentness is cared about, respected, and “cool” and who feel connected are not likely going to be filled with rage. Thanks again, Oryx for a really thoughtful piece — Bruce

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  • Thanks, Chaya, for your comments. Actually Patsy Hage (one of the founders of the Hearing Voices Network), who I mention,is a woman, but you are generally right that the vast majority of people discussed and quoted in the piece are men. Of course a few of those men I discuss are villains, such as Ernst Rüdin and Franz Kallmann. But your point is well taken — that I could have talked more about Pastsy and quoted some other women. Thanks–Bruce

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  • Thanks,Corinna, for the chance to expound more on Hemingway’s tragic end. The below excerpt is from my previous book, Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic:

    In Papa Hemingway, A. E. Hotchner recounts the sad end to Hemingway’s life. Hemingway became extremely depressed, and he said things that—at the time—certainly sounded delusional. He was medicated and ultimately given ECT, but he became even more depressed and complained about the effect of the electroshock (“Well, what is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business?”). In 1961, after a second series of ECT, Hemingway used his shotgun to commit suicide. How psychotic was he? At the time, one can understand why Hotchner and others who cared about Hemingway thought he was delusional. Hemingway, believing federal agents were pursuing him, told Hotchner: “It’s the worst hell. The goddamnest hell. They’ve bugged everything. That’s why we’re using Duke’s car. Mine’s bugged. Everything’s bugged. Can’t use the phone. Mail intercepted. What put me on to it was that phone call with you. You remember we got disconnected? That tipped their hand.” In 1999 Hotchner reported that through the Freedom of Information Act, he had discovered that the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover had indeed bugged Ernest Hemingway’s telephone.

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