The New McCarthyism: “Opposite World”


It seems that if one strays beyond the bounds of what some consider to be “conventional wisdom” or CW, that one can be branded mentally ill. I was a bit surprised to read this from Turner about me, in a comment to a post I wrote yesterday:

JC, you can live in Opposite World only for so long before they take you away. Seriously, I’m worried about you.

Now I really don’t mind that I get sideswiped in comments. I get that all the time, and I know that Turner means well, and is having a hard time digesting all of the ugliness that we keep throwing out to folks about the corruption, lies and propaganda that our administration and Congress spew.

But it was an article at Zero Hedge, “If You Question Authority, You Are Mentally Ill”, Report Finds, that really got me going. It seems that the newest edition of the DSM puts those of us who don’t conform into a new category of mentally ill.

The Mind Unleashed has the down-low:

Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mental illness called “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptoms include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed.

There’s no doubt that 4&20 has become a hotbed exhibiting the above symptoms. So I guess Turner is correct in his diagnosis that I “live in Opposite World.” At least according to the DSM. I wonder what the treatment (penalty?) for ODD is? The Mind Unleashed describes the dangers with an analogy with Soviet Russia and communism (not so unlike Democratic America and McCarthyism):

According to the DSM-IV, the diagnosis guidelines for identifying oppositional defiant disorder are for children, but adults can just as easily suffer from the disease. This should give any freethinking American reason for worry. The Soviet Union used new “mental illnesses” for political repression.  People who didn’t accept the beliefs of the Communist Party developed a new type of schizophrenia. They suffered from the delusion of believing communism was wrong.  They were isolated, forcefully medicated, and put through repressive “therapy” to bring them back to sanity.

Unfortunately, what happened in the USSR seems to be a harbinger of what is happening in America. People who don’t accept the notion of American Exceptionalism, believe what the government tells them, read exclusively the MSM and parrot it all back treading the straight and narrow, are ostracized from society in a variety of ways. It really is unfortunate that people who believe themselves to be progressive liberals can’t allow for freethinking amongst the proles.

Back to the treatment (besides ridicule and ostracizing). As the current DSM-V focuses on the disease in children, it also mentions that the “disease” progresses into a variety of conditions in adulthood, if not “treated” properly. A few of those diseases include ADHD, conduct disorders and personality disorders, all with a pharmacopeia of drug treatments. So yeah, let’s drug the freethinkers! Shock therapy! Reintegration camps (jail)!

So, I would offer that those who are attacked for being “freethinkers” ponder for a moment what it actually is that we are engaging in. Freethinking has been described many places, but here is a simple description from Wiki:

Freethought holds that individuals should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, freethinkers strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmas. 

I can embrace that. Other co-occurring disorders with ODD are anarchism (he says tongue in cheek — at least until DSM-VI) and atheism. I definitely am of the anarchistic bent (having concluded from my time involved with Occupy that democracy and capitalism are mutually exclusive), and am most definitely irreligious. So I guess that really puts me in “Opposite World” according to some. 

Freethinking is a field unto itself, and is fraught with controversy, from those who want to credit some of our country’s founding fathers with utilizing it (Thomas Paine, i.e.), to those who want to argue religion and science. I find it fulfilling though, to consider myself — and many of the people who blog and comment on posts like this — a nonconformist and a free (though occasionally sloppy) thinker.

And for those who might want to hear a podcast (included on The Mind Unleashed article) about the controversy between psychiatry and nonconformity/freethinking, I’ve included it below the fold.

  1. Apropos that you mentioned the Soviet Union and their treatment of dissent as mental illness. It is not coincidental, but merely a facet of the totalitarian state that the mind of each citizen belongs to the state, that the state is right in all matters, so that by definition suspicion of the state of being a criminal enterprise is mental illness.

    We are dealing with people who do not know how to process ideas or solve problems. They are unable to confront evidence. Their beliefs are based not on reason, but rather on faith. Groupthink is a large part of their existence, and fear of leaving the group is too frightening to contemplate.

    I admire you, JC, and others becasue you are not afraid to defy the group. This does not make us right, of course, but I honestly think, and will catch hell for this, that the ability to see through the obvious scams and ruses that the state throws at us is a sign of higher intelligence, basic pattern recognition and problem solving skills. We deal with people in print on the blogs, But in person I notice eye movement, and see right away when anything not doctrinaire does not compute that the thought process has ended, and that no further communication is possible.

  2. Turner

    I think you’re far from being in danger of being punished for your opinions, JC. Certainly not by me. I’m simply contesting the assertions I hear floating around about contrarianism being equal to intellect. They’re not connected.

    I don’t think you’re crazy. But your self-congratulation is a little annoying.

    • You’ve just had a long conversation below, and probably will here too, and still, you have not confronted any evidence. How on earth does this make you smart?

      The ability of the American state to hide things in broad daylight and prevent people from looking by means of groupthink is an amazing accomplishment in thought control.

    • Steve W

      Turner, people are punished for their opinions all the time.
      Regardless of what you think.

      For instance, in Feb or March of 2009, how many qualified single payer experts were invited to the White House Health Care Summit?

      The answer is zero.

      Why? Because their opinions weren’t welcome, in fact they were studiously excluded from participation.

      Yet here is Obama lying about that in his opening remarks at the conference.

      [div class=”excerpt”] Finally, we can all agree that if we want to translate these goals into policies, we need a process that is as
      transparent and inclusive as possible. That is why I have asked all of you—representatives of organizations, 3
      interests, and parties from across the spectrum—to join us here today. And that is why we asked concerned
      citizens like the folks on this stage to organize open meetings across America where people could air their
      views. More than 3,000 meetings were held in all 50 states and DC, and more than 30,000 people attended.
      I thank them for their input and ideas, and I look forward to reading the report that Travis has presented to
      In this effort, every voice must be heard. Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table.
      There will be no sacred cows in this discussion. Each of us must accept that none of us will get everything we
      want, and no proposal for reform will be perfect. But when it comes to addressing our health care challenge,
      we can no longer let the perfect be the enemy of the essential.

      Finally, I want to be very clear at the outset that while everyone has a right to take part in this discussion, no
      one has the right to take it over. The status quo is the one option that is not on the table. And those who seek
      to block any reform at any cost will not prevail this time around.

      So as you can see, Obama flat out lied. I still like Obama, I just no longer take him at his word because his word isn’t trustworthy.

      I was harmed by having my leaders, my representatives, denied participation in the political process and the public debate. Single payer was declared (albeit in a passive-aggressive way) ‘opinion non-grata.’

      And Baucus followed up on Obama’s example by banning testimony in his Senate Hearing by the apostates. They were arrested for sharing their opinions, as you may recall.

  3. steve kelly

    “But you must pay for conformity. All goes well as long as you run with conformists. But you, who are honest men in other particulars, know, that there is alive somewhere a man whose honesty reaches to this point also, that he shall not kneel to false gods, and, on the day when you meet him, you sink into the class of counterfeits.”

    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent.”

    -Virginia Woolf

    “In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.”

    -Peter Ustinov

    Not everyone has the power to see their surroundings the way it really exists. It’s not a matter of intelligence as much as an ability, or gift, to see, IMO. For every gift, however, a curse is not far away.

    • I think you are pandering a bit here. Please. The ability to merely look at evidence and evaluate it is a gift? It is more than that, as we who can do it have to transend TV and “news” and groupthink and come to judgments that are at odds with all of that pressure, and then endure ridicule to boot. Such gifts I do not want. I’d rather just be smart enough to tie my shoes and follow my leaders. I would be a model citizen.

      • steve kelly

        Of course intelligenge counts, but awareness does too. Not that many have figured out what’s happened to them and to their surroundings. Fewer yet know the cause.

        “This problem is doubly acute today because man must, as a simple survival strategy, become aware of what is happening to him, despite the attendant pain of such comprehension. The fact that he has not done so in this age of electronics is what has made this also the age of anxiety, which in turn has been transformed into its Doppelgänger — the therapeutically reactive age of anomie and apathy. But despite our self-protective escape mechanisms, the total-field awareness engendered by electronic media is enabling us — indeed, compelling us — to grope toward a consciousness of the unconscious, toward a realization that technology is an extension of our own bodies. We live in the first age when change occurs sufficiently rapidly to make such pattern recognition possible for society at large. Until the present era, this awareness has always been reflected first by the artist, who has had the power — and courage — of the seer to read the language of the outer world and relate it to the inner world.

        PLAYBOY: Why should it be the artist rather than the scientist who perceives these relationships and foresees these trends?

        McLUHAN: Because inherent in the artist’s creative inspiration is the process of subliminally sniffing out environmental change. It’s always been the artist who perceives the alterations in man caused by a new medium, who recognizes that the future is the present, and uses his work to prepare the ground for it. But most people, from truck drivers to the literary Brahmins, are still blissfully ignorant of what the media do to them; unaware that because of their pervasive effects on man, it is the medium itself that is the message, not the content, and unaware that the medium is also the massage — that, all puns aside, it literally works over and saturates and molds and transforms every sense ratio. The content or message of any particular medium has about as much importance as the stenciling on the casing of an atomic bomb. But the ability to perceive media-induced extensions of man, once the province of the artist, is now being expanded as the new environment of electric information makes possible a new degree of perception and critical awareness by nonartists.”

  4. By the way, there is no such thing as “oppositional defiant disorder” anymore than there is ADD and ADHD. These are ‘diseases’ of convenience. Bright kids naturally rebel at formal schooling as we do it, and so have to be drugged.

    If there is a disease rampant in our society, it should be called something like CCD, or “compulsive conformist disorder.”

  5. troutsky

    You could carry this argument into the area known as “socialization” and public schooling. We all want to belong to some degree or another. And all cultures have standards of normative behavior which are passed along on both conscious and sub-conscious levels. So while it seems counter-intuitive that any institution; the state, the family, religion, etc.. would actually foster critical thinking, history shows they all have, at various points, done just that.

    We just happen to be a point where the capitalist state’s ideological apparatus is getting more and more effective at disseminating dominant narratives while more and more people live in fear-based anxiety. Universities and unions used to be places where counter-vailing narratives were encouraged and flourished but that was a while ago.

    • I five-starred this comment due to its academic detachment. You make very good points.

      I would add, however, that the decision after WWII to continue in the wartime mode and to engage in incessant propaganda, including agitprop, was not something that just happened, but rather a conscious decision by those in power at that time. The attacks on unions (an effective force in opposition to corporate power) was calculated by NAM and is incessant to this day, public employee unions the last great obstacle. And our fear-based structure right now is due to agitprop of the highest order, including false-flap attacks.

      So while you have an air of detachment, as if these things just sort of came about, I see deliberate efforts to achieve what we have now, a dumbed-down and frightened population susceptible to just about any kind of manipulation.

  6. (~little tiny voice from the back~)

    Y’know, if y’all escaped the indoctrination of public schooling and corporate university, why are you wasting your time patting yourselves on the back for your enlightenment? Wouldn’t your efforts be better spent actually solving problems for others, since, you know, you kinda need them for anything resembling progress?

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