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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yes, conservatives DID create Jared Lee Loughner

Would-be political assassin Jared Lee Loughner, a fan of the Above Top Secret web site, has an abiding interest in the subject of mind control. Like most other conspiracy buffs, he defines that term loosely: He considers the expression of any opinion contrary to his own to be the equivalent of brainwashing. Predictably, his fellow buffs now suspect him of being an "MKULTRA" assassin.

Based on what evidence?

Before you answer, take a look at Loughner's internet postings. His writing style demonstrates schizophasia, popularly called word salad:
It is characterized by an apparently confused usage of words with no apparent meaning or relationship attached to them. In this context, it is considered to be a symptom of a formal thought disorder. In some cases schizophasia can be a sign of asymptomatic schizophrenia; e.g. the question "Why do people believe in God?" could elicit a response consisting of a series of words commonly associated with religion or prayer but strung together with no regard to language rules.
If Loughner is schizophrenic -- a safe bet -- then he probably would not be a good subject for hypnosis. Dr. Herbert Spiegel, a recognized expert in the field, has argued that schizophrenics cannot be hypnotized. That opinion appears to be commonly held, although some professionals disagree. (A few assert that placing schizophrenics under hypnosis is possible but dangerous.)

If schizophrenics cannot be hypnotized, then the whole notion of Loughner as a hypno-programmed "MKULTRA assassin" stands exposed as a silly fantasy offered up by conspiracy-crazed reactionaries desperate to distance themselves from the violence committed by one of their own. Myiq at the Confluence links to this story by William Galston of The New Republic, which brings us a bit closer to the hard truth of the matter:
Starting in the 1970s, civil libertarians worked to eliminate involuntary commitment or, that failing, to raise the standards and burden of proof so high that few individuals would meet it. Important decisions by the Supreme Court and subordinate courts gave individuals new protections, including a constitutional right to refuse psychotropic medication. A few states have tried to push back in constitutionally acceptable ways, but efforts such as California’s Laura’s Law, designed to make it easier to force patients to take medication, have been stymied by civil rights concerns and lack of funding.
Although this passage contains some accurate information, Galston gives the impression that deinstitutionalization of the mentally unstable was a liberal idea. It was anything but.

This tragic story goes back to the 1940s and 1950s, when various investigative reports, films, dramas and novels sensitized the American public to the sad conditions prevailing in many mental hospitals. These institutions were funded -- in too many cases, under-funded -- at the county and state level. Responding to these concerns, the Kennedy administration initiated a program designed to move patients out of mental institutions and into an outpatient program overseen by federally-financed community care clinics.

Conservatives supported the idea of closing down asylums, but they did not want to spend money on outpatient care. Many accepted the bizarre views of Dr. Thomas Szaz, a libertarian who argued that mental illness does not exist. Similarly, R.D. Laing argued that schizophrenia was simply a mystical state of awareness, much like an LSD trip. Inane arguments of this sort proved useful to right-wingers who, for ideological reasons, have always opposed spending money on the less fortunate.

After JFK’s death, federal funding for mental health care ran into severe obstacles, including a particularly bizarre propaganda campaign mounted by conservatives. On the radio and in newsletters, right-wingers screeched that all attempts to provide humane aftercare for the mentally unstable were actually Soviet conspiracies perpetrated by Marxists in Washington. The fraudulence of this (now largely forgotten) propaganda effort was exposed in an article titled “The Far Right’s Fight Against Mental Health," published in the January 26, 1966 issue of Look magazine.

(In the years since, we've seen a steady stream of these ridiculous agit-prop campaigns, which, alas, soon plummet down the memory hole. Fifty years from now, will anyone recall that the teabaggers once tried to frighten the citizenry with the specter of Obamacare "death panels"?)

In short and in sum: We should blame the right, not the left, for the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill -- and we must not allow today's conservatives to rewrite that history. The fact that The New Republic attempted such a rewrite tells us much about that publication, which some wags have called The Newly Republican.

I will grant that the left does deserve a share of the blame. Half-a-century ago, many liberals were desperate to close the "snake pits" and thus accepted the presumption that a disease such as schizophrenia is treatable on an outpatient basis. As a matter of obdurate fact, schizophrenics usually avoid treatment unless compelled. What was and remains needed is a reformed program of institutionalization, properly funded, with a publicly-accountable body overseeing the patients' rights.

That outcome isn't likely.

Even if a hundred Jared Lee Loughners were to commit atrocities over the next hundred days, conservatives would still prevent the expenditure of public money on care for those who cannot function as their own masters. As long as the virus of libertarianism continues to infect our national discourse -- as long as the Grover Norquists among us continue to send government services spinning down that well-known bathtub drain -- people with serious mental illnesses will afflict their families until tossed into the streets. Many homeless schizophrenics will die of exposure to the elements; others will be warehoused in prisons unequipped to offer treatment.

We Americans treat our mad abominably. Our willingness to do so is a sign of our national degeneracy.
Comments:
This is by far one of the best essays I've read to date regarding the broader implications/context of the shooting.
 
"What was and remains needed is a reformed program of institutionalization, properly funded, with a publicly-accountable body overseeing the patients' rights."

Exactly! Beautifully and succinctly said.

By the way, I also explicitly blame Ronald Reagan. And I believe he was just a miser -- and a short-sighted one at that -- where such people (or the sick or the poor, etc.) are concerned.

djmm
 
We will be known by how we treat the least of us ...

BTW, I am enjoying the howls of outrage from the right that they are being unfairly accused in fomenting this sad event.
 
Strange enough, R.D. Laing might have helped one of his students to a tragic end with such thoughts. Ignoring and playing with madness can bite back hard.

It should be said Laing's student had plenty of his own issues which probably contributed more. But long story short. Laing's student was killed by his wife, who used to be his teen-aged patient. She had been ordered into his office by the school district, due to skipping school and personal problems.
 
Very interesting...have you seen anglachel's post?

Too little attention has been paid to this core issue in the political circus surrounding this sad recent event.

I plan to read up on some of the interesting threads you bring up, particularly the hypnosis and word salad info.

anglachel brought up the killing of animals...oddly, Jared was said to have liked dogs, but when he got a job volunteering to walk shelter dogs, he refused to keep them out of quarantined areas where they might be put in mortal danger.

I don't know the answer to diagnosing and managing the dangerously mental-ill, but I wish this were the focus of the public discourse, as opposed to which side put which target imagery on districts as opposed to states, with or without lists of the candidates in said places.
 
Excellent and sane work. The world and our ever giving network are full of wonderful affairs and stories which I believe we share a somewhat similar penchant for indulging. Too often though the obscure fact we search is the product of fantasy and delusion. I'm sure you can sense this quickly now. Funny how failed creativity from belief makers like Hollywood is just scorned, but that from the mentally ill somehow is so saddening. I'm sure you know a German word for this. Lastly it was a very circumspect but personal interest in mkultra and your new local famous university that first brought me to your blog several years ago, so please no volunteering for studies. ;-)
 
The reforms were needed and what people miss is that mental health consumers are often you and me. Yes, amidst those with a long term mental health condition/often progressive if not treated, there are those that suffer a breakdown and fall into depression due to a crisis. Alcohol or drugs will often add to the problem and complicate matters.

Not to many community based programs will take dual diagnosed mental health consumers. Also, the stigma of being in the system is very upsetting to those needing services, as society has a way of seeing them less than and not as part of the collective whole.

I can recall a person, that was in a bit of stitch, a professional, who others would give a chance, but I saw the whole person. Needless to say, years, later, we met, and the person was now in charge of an org, and was over joyed to see me (I had been their life line back into full intergration, into the community). I could see the panic, when someone asked who I was, and I smiled and said we were old friends, to which a got a 'Thank you'. The stigma is so great, that society misses out on having these most productive individuals back within their lives and helping their community.

Why did I say you and me, because we never know, what will break a person, we really don't. So, let's try and be kind to each other and offer a helping hand to those that need it.
 
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