Three professors of psychiatry are recommending to President Obama that he somehow force Donald Trump to have a “full medical and psychiatric evaluation” prior to taking office. While this is probably just a case of smug academics peacocking in hopes of getting guest spots on MSNBC or CNN, it smacks of past abuses carried out by leftists.
Totalitarian communists in the former Soviet Union routinely dealt with political dissidents by fraudulently diagnosing them with some mental illness. Then the commies could claim that they had institutionalized these people for their own good when in fact they were just throwing them in prison.
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office. We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators.
Judith Herman, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
Nanette Gartrell, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
University of California, San Francisco (1988-2011)
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (1983-87)
Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Community Health Systems
University of California, San Francisco (2005-2013)
First, what presidential power are these eggheads trying to invoke? They’re assuming a lame duck president has the power to force his successor to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluation against his will. The totalitarian impulse is strong in these three.
Second they point to Trump’s “grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality” as reason for President Obama to exercise his non-existent power to psychologically evaluate political opponents. While I won’t deny Trump displays these qualities, so does every politician in Washington to some extent, most notably President Obama himself.
Is it not grandiose to promise to stop the rise of the oceans? Is it not impulsive to use the White House as a platform to condemn local law enforcement actions and accuse police of “acting stupidly.” For most of his administration Obama refused to even talk to reporters from networks that didn’t celebrate his every action. He also once told Maureen Dowd not to write about his giant ears because he was sensitive about them. Obama’s skin is every bit as thin as Trump’s. They just have different styles of dealing with it. Obama pouts, Trump throws a tantrum.
As far as distinguishing between fantasy and reality, one could write a book about Obama’s difficulties, though his inability to recognize what a failure his signature Obamacare legislation certainly fits that category. The man promised over and over and over that people could keep their insurance plans if they liked them when the opposite was true. Whether that’s an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality or just pathological lying I don’t know. Either way it’s a sign that there’s something not right in his head.
But let’s get back to the frightening aspect of this stunt. Psychiatry is a political weapon used by the left in the past.
Back in 1987 the New York Times reported on Dr. Anatoly Koryagin experiences as a Soviet dissident.
Dr. Anatoly Koryagin, the Russian dissident psychiatrist, today called for the creation of an international tribunal to investigate and to combat the use of psychiatric treatment as punishment for political dissidents in repressive countries.
Dr. Koryagin, who was allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union last month, also gave new details of his own imprisonment there and said he had been force-fed powerful psychiatric drugs while on a hunger strike.
”During the last few years we hear of more and more doctors being employed by political powers in repression,” he said through a translator at a news conference. ”Crimes take place that compromise medicine at large. People cannot tell apart those who heal and those who torture. Therefore world medicine is in need of a broad movement to reconfirm ethical standards.”
Dr. Koryagin said he was administered neuroleptics, powerful drugs used to quiet the more flamboyant symptoms of schizophrenia. He said the drugs were mixed with a nutritional substance that was force-fed to him through a tube in his nose while he was on hunger strikes, one for 6 months and the other for 15 months. He said he became aware that he had been drugged after the second strike ended, he said, when he ”had to suffer through the symptoms of withdrawal from the drugs.”
He said he was handcuffed while the tube was inserted through his nose, and, instead of ointment on the tube, a corrosive coating was used that ”caused excruciating pain” in his esophagus. He added that the prison authorities also subtly tortured him by timing his feeding ”so that I was always craving food.”
Some fear that such abuses are still happening in Russia. A Russian artist, Pyotr Pavlensky who is known for outlandish protests against the government was institutionalized this year.
Mr Pavlensky himself underwent evaluation at the institute that year over separate charges for setting tyres alight on a bridge in St Petersburg. He was found to be sane.
For some observers, his institutionalisation recalls the Soviet-era practice of punitive psychiatry for dissidents, who were diagnosed with mental disorders such as “sluggish schizophrenia” to explain their critical beliefs.
“Sluggish schizophrenia” was used as a diagnosis as a way of saying that the patient isn’t displaying symptoms of schizophrenia now, but will begin to without treatment. This quackery was pushed by the Communist Party as an Orwellian punishment for those who “did not love Big Brother.”
Make no mistake, I’m not accusing the quacks who wrote this letter to Obama of similar abuses. Publishing it online was likely just a “bleg” for media attention. That makes it no less frightening, because while they aren’t currently using psychiatry as a political weapon, they are displaying tendencies toward abusing their profession. It isn’t a stretch to believe that, under different circumstances, people who say medical intervention is necessary for a political opponent would not be above actually forcing the issue if they had the power to do so. Already there are rumblings that mental illness is behind skepticism of anthropogenic climate change.
Once you convince yourself that mental illness is the only way anyone could possibly disagree with your politics, you’re only one step away from imprisoning and torturing people for thinking differently than you. You may even delude yourself into thinking that you’re doing it for their own good. People will keep saying, “That can’t happen here,” right up to the day it does.