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UD once sat on a committee, at George Washington University, with a colleague from psychiatry who, whenever it was his turn to talk, mainly recited his cv. I got this award; I’m noted around the world for that… We all stared at each other and shifted uncomfortably when he spoke…

Regan Books published this man’s masterwork, Bush on the Couch, an idiotic psychoanalysis of George W Bush (UD, a deep-blue democrat, has nothing good to say about that president, but knows a hatchet job when she sees one). Discerning readers from Fidel Castro to some LaRouchie loved the book and it’s become an instant classic among people who couldn’t give a shit about the Goldwater Rule (you’re not supposed to psychoanalyze people you’ve never even met, let alone exchanged two words with). In her naivete, UD thought she’d seen the end of this hugely embarrassing genre.

Now another president UD can’t stand – the current one – is on the receiving end of a far more insidious psychiatrists’ campaign, one that – as Jeffrey Lieberman points out – does significant damage to a discipline whose scientific status – with people like UD‘s colleague around – is already mighty shaky. Led by Yale’s Bandy X. Lee, a bunch of psychiatrists published a … multivariate? … psychoanalysis of Trump, with Lee insisting he’s so nuts he has to be butterfly netted or the world will come to an end. As Andrew O’Hehir puts it, in Lee’s “strand of the multiverse, Trump is heading for a catastrophic health crisis or … an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization, and we won’t have to worry about defeating him in the November election because he’ll be dead or on a ventilator or shouting at the walls in a padded room.”

Amy Barnhorst, a UC Davis psychiatrist who works with people who really do need involuntary psychiatric holds, comments:

I think it’s a really bad way to go. It’s not just inappropriate and would be really ineffective, but I think it’s very damaging to our profession and the patients we take care of to suggest something like that.

A mental health hold is a very delicate tool that we use for people who very badly need treatment but aren’t able to accept that treatment. It’s not something that should be thrown around as a punishment for your enemies.

… Surgeons don’t go around lopping off the feet of their enemy in order to debilitate them. We shouldn’t go around applying mental health holds to people we don’t like in order to debilitate them.

A writer at WBUR, a person with mental health problems, amplifies her point:

Lee’s comments are … disturbing because they paint with such a broad brush. Like Trump’s insults being parroted by his followers in everyday conversation, it is easy to take Lee’s words and swing them in any direction, not just at Trump.

What is astonishing is the degree to which we embrace this kind of [thing]. We seem unable to accept the idea that the president’s behavior is not abnormal even if it is abhorrent.

Indeed, Lee does seem rather in the line of the notorious Soviet psychiatric establishment, swinging damaging charges of mental illness in any direction.

And there’s some sort of mondo bizarro logic in her having now swung directly into the tortured path of none other than Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz has sent a formal complaint to Yale about her, because she called him nuts too. In response to Dersh, she’s gone full Joan of Arc and I tell you, mes petites! It’s a mad mad mad mad world.

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6 Responses to “Mondo Bizarro”

  1. University Diaries » So, if you want UD’s long-ago take… Says:

    […] A professor of English describes university life.Aim: To change things. UD at Inside Higher Ed About Margaret Soltan Other Writings Subscribe to UD's Feeds ← Previous Post: Mondo Bizarro […]

  2. theprofessor Says:

    I have been a long-time member of a funding group that deals with all kinds of undergraduate research. We have seen the same basic psychology research at least 4x times that is designed to show endemic racism in a particular setting. The PI sponsoring the study does not even make the students formulate a null hypothesis: they flat-out state that they want to prove “X.” The problem? It keeps showing no such thing. The solution, as far as I can see? Keep tweaking the scenarios until they finally get the result they want.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    tp: This is similar to the problem that Oberlin ran into when, during a trial, it tried to demonstrate that a now-famous bakery was a racist setting. There are plenty of racist settings in this country, but not all settings are racist. This simple truth cost Oberlin millions and millions of dollars.

  4. PsychMD Says:

    “Bizarro” indeed. So no treatment should be allowed in case it is misused? May you have no medical problems, ever.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    PsychMD: Yes of course I said no medical treatment of any kind should ever be used on anyone for any reason because it might be abused. Astute of you to see that I made that point.

    And good on you for personalizing the argument: It’s all about me and my so far amazing avoidance – I’m 64 – of any medical problems whatsoever.

    And you wonder why the psychiatric establishment is having difficulty in the court of public opinion.

  6. University Diaries » A Presidential Debate with Pere Ubu?? From the start, UD has been with Nancy Pelosi: “Why bother.” Says:

    […] so UD wants to issue an apology, a mea culpa, whatever, to Bandy X. Lee and other psychiatrists who were out in front months ago […]

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