Posted on | December 16, 2012 | 32 Comments
Dear Deranged Gunmen: If you’re contemplating murder-suicide, how about trying the “suicide” part first? #caring
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) December 16, 2012
“We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood-altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.”
— Liza Long, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mom,” Gawker
My proposal for “The Dangerous Lunatic Incarceration Act of 2013″ gets an unethusiastic reaction from Cynthia Yockey:
Dear Stacy McCain and Ace want to crack down on the mentally ill. I agree that it should be easier to force people who are a danger to themselves or others into care, including psych holds. But their proposals to further humiliate and enrage men whose mental illness and inadequacies may drive them to kill are disastrous. This will only push more men to kill as a means to make the world feel the hurt and impotence that overwhelm them. The carrot makes more sense than the stick: we need to find out if there’s anything we can do to give loners and nutjobs something useful to do even if it winds up being a form of semi-incarceration doing community service.
Permit me to say — and my post last night was intended to convey this point, however obliquely — that I have enormous personal empathy with those who are dealing with psychiatric problems, and I know that Ace does, too. Direct personal experience with the mental health community (to speak as euphemistically as possible) has led me, however, toward conclusions quite at odds with the Conventional Wisdom.
Self-pity is the enemy of agency, and nothing is more important to recovering from mental illness than acquiring a sense of agency.
If you feel helpless to solve your own problems, you will either (a) descend into a bottomless slough of despair, or (b) engage in scapegoating, blaming other people for your problems. It is reaction (b) that turns otherwise harmless kooks into dangerous menaces.
Sympathy toward the mentally ill often leads to an apologetic attitude of indulgence, of tolerating anti-social behavior, and proclaiming that the poor kook just can’t help himself.
Well, guess what, folks? “Crazy” is not synonymous with “stupid,” and kooks are capable of learned responses. Sympathetic attention is a powerful carrot, to use Cynthia’s analogy, and if being a kook gets you sympathetic attention, then kookiness is thereby incentivized.
Look: Somebody has a mental health crisis and what do they get? Doctors and nurses who are paid to take care of them, to listen to them describe their problems, to supply them with medications and therapy and otherwise invest in their well-being.
They are being rewarded for being crazy.
Why do you think some people make their psychiatric diagnoses a form of personal identity? This was what I was talking about last night:
[Y]ou find people embracing their psychiatric diagnoses with shocking enthusiasm, discussing their symptoms and medications the way some people used to make cocktail-party talk about astrology.
“Hi, I’m Jenny. I’m a Scorpio.”
“Nice to meet you, Jenny. My name’s Paul and I’m ADD borderline OCD with bipolar disorder and chronic depression, but the Elavil, Prozac and Adderal seem to be working pretty pleasantly today, so I don’t feel like committing suicide just because I haven’t quite finished alphabetizing my BlueRay DVD collection. Wanna dance?”
Perhaps sarcasm is not the most appropriate means of explaining what is, in fact, a very serious problem in our society.
My tendency to express myself sarcastically is, of course, my problem, not yours. A dedication to claiming psychological agency — viewing myself as the responsible protagonist of my own life, rather than the helpless victim of others — requires me not to resent people who don’t get my jokes. An impulsive tendency to make wisecracks without regard for whether sarcasm hurts people’s feelings, or confuses them as to my meaning, has been a lifelong problem for me. The harmlessness of my intention, or the useful truth I intended to convey through humor, is never accepted as a defense on such occasions. There is also my tendency to go off on rambling tangents that seem unrelated to the main theme of my argument, which annoys some people. But I digress . . .
Unlike sufferers of (fortunately rare) Random Sarcasm Syndrome, those who have some widely recognized diagnostic label for their problem — ADD, OCD, bipolar disorder, whatever — are nowadays encouraged to consider their illness a basis of identity. After all, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of mental illness, and millions of Americans receive disability payments on the basis of such diagnoses. “Crazy checks,” they call it.
Become your disease!
Make your neurological impairment or mood disorder the most important thing about yourself, use your craziness as a means of getting sympathetic attention — stay home and collect SSI — and anyone who criticizes you for doing so is just a hater expressing ignorant prejudice toward the suffering of the mentally ill.
Three words for you: Bull. Fucking. Shit.
Maybe you can run that cheap hustle on some people, but don’t insult my intelligence by trying to run it on me, you self-pitying whiner.
More than once have I felt myself unjustly accused of “whining” because I’ve honestly expressed my frustrations, bordering on despair. Our society has become so pervaded with convenient falsehoods that people freak out when they encounter blunt honesty, especially from someone whose usual mode of expression is random sarcasm, so once more I’m confronted with the fact that I’m the source of my own problems.
Psychological agency requires this, and obtaining agency in one’s own life — even at the cost of publicly humiliating yourself by admitting that you’re a hopeless fuck-up — is the only true path toward recovery, toward leading a life that is productive and helpful toward others.
No pain, no gain, and God chastises those whom He loves. We must learn to be grateful for our hardships and disappointments, to give thanks for the obstacles we are forced to overcome, to praise God for the struggles that make us stronger.
Here’s a cheerful thought for those who think they’ve suffered unjustly and been wrongly criticized: At least you didn’t get nailed to a cross.
Perhaps a sermon wasn’t what you expected so shortly after my eruption of Blogging-Induced Tourette’s Syndrome (BITS), another disorder that afflicts me, but which those dimwit “experts” at the American Psychological Association have yet to recognize as an official diagnosis. Everybody agrees I’m crazy as hell, but my illness is so rare and the symptoms so bizarre that I might as well confess an addiction to ibogaine as to expect any sympathy for this dreadful malady, much less effective treatment. Frankly, I suspect psychiatrists are reading this blog just for laughs, the bastards. But once again I digress . . .
Psychological agency is essential to mental health. We recognize those who surrender to feelings of helplessness when this manifests itself as depression, but we often fail to recognize how feelings of helplessness are also implicated in rage reactions, including such extreme cases as Adam Lanza. The Connecticut mass murderer reportedly had been diagnosed as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, which involves among other things an inability to empathize with others.
Pause to consider that, (a) prior to 1944, there was no such diagnosis as Asperger’s Syndrome, and (b) this diagnosis has been proliferating in American society in the past two decades. Assuming that the illness is not actually pandemic, this means that until rather recently, there were plenty of people living normal lives with the symptoms of Asperger’s, but without the diagnosis of Asperger’s.
They were just geeks or nerds or weirdos, receiving no more attention from the mental health community than do those of us who now silently suffer the shame of Random Sarcasm Syndrome. So . . .
How’s that workin’ out for ya, Asperger’s Syndrome victims?
I mean, does having a label for your problem make the problem any easier to deal with? Are you feeling any benefit from the many millions of dollars of federal grants paid out to scientific researchers? Or are you (as I strongly suspect) just collecting a few hundred dollars a month in “crazy checks,” as opposed to those guys with Ph.Ds receiving six-figure annual taxpayer subsidies to research Asperger’s Syndrome?
For you, it’s a disease. For them, it’s a racket.
And that’s not just random sarcasm talking. Despite ever-increasing funding for the National Institutes of Mental Health, America is crazier than ever. Perhaps the NIMH could fund some research to determine the cause-and-effect relationship involved there.
Your government is making you crazy.
No, it’s not the CIA implanting microchips in your head, you paranoid kook. It’s Uncle Sam handing out all kinds of subsidies (direct and indirect) to Mental Health, Inc., including the giant pharmaceutical firms who are selling drugs to “fix” your problem.
The Higher Education Bubble, as some have called it, also contributes to government-funded insanity. Universities hustle for research grants with which to employ psychology majors and — as everybody who has ever attended college knows — psychology majors are all crazy. The most demented of these nutjobs become psychology professors like perverted sex freak Michael Bailey of Northwestern University.
Grant that it might be cheaper in the short-term to send young lunatics to college as psychology majors than to lock them in asylums where they belong, but the long-term impact of enabling these abnormal personalities by paying them to pretend to be doing something useful with their lives may involve societal side-efffects as dangerous as the tardive dyskinesia that was discovered — alas, too late! — to be a common side-effect of long-term use of antipsychotic drugs.
“Haldol shuffle.” Look it up.
Why do scientists insist, despite the tragedies of their past failures, that we should trust the current state of scientific Conventional Wisdom?
Half a century ago, Freudianism possessed the same kind of hegemonic dominance that the neurobiological approach now enjoys within the psychiatric community. Think about that for a moment. We often nowadays meet people who tell us they’re ADD or bipolar, but when was the last time you heard someone blame their problems on an unresolved Oedipus complex? An entire catalog of Freudian analytical diagnoses has been rendered obsolete, yet we are expected to accept as definitive the diagnostic categories and prescribed remedies offered to us by Freud’s scientific heirs. One is condemned as a heretic for suggesting the possibility that the High Priests of the Temple Cult of Progress may be as mistaken as their predecessors, and that their “cures” may in some ways be worse than the disease.
“School shooter Adam Lanza killed his mother with ‘multiple’ shots to her head and killed himself with a single shot to his head, according to a coroner’s report released Sunday.”
— Los Angeles Times
For all the good Science did her, Nancy Lanza might as well have called in a voodoo witch doctor to cure her son, but at least now we have evidence that firearms training is ineffective as psychiatric therapy for Strange Young Men. Didn’t even need an NIMH grant to prove it.
Beyond this symptomatic random sarcasm — help me! I’m a victim! — we return to Cynthia Yockey’s claim that Ace and I are advocating policies that would “further humiliate and enrage men whose mental illness and inadequacies may drive them to kill.” These kooks are driven by an urge “to make the world feel the hurt and impotence that overwhelm them,” Cynthia says, and who are we to disagree?
The question is whether kooks are getting too many carrots (incentives toward anti-social behavior) or too many punitive sticks. Your mileage may vary, but I’m seeing more carrots than sticks.
“[T]herapeutic morality encourages a permanent suspension of the moral sense. There is a close connection, in turn, between the erosion of moral responsibility and the waning capacity for self-help . . . between the elimination of culpability and the elimination of competence.”
– Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (1979)
The Connecticut school shooter was reportedly diagnosed by experts as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, but such a diagnosis is an inadequate synonym for evil. Our government-funded psychiatric experts don’t seem to be very effective at curing evil. And you know who else has described himself as being a “mildly autistic adult” with Asperger’s Syndrome? Neal Rauhauser.
Hell’s bells, Neal offers his insights as an expert:
Impaired social function, repetitive motion, circumscribed interests—these are common themes in a group of complex developmental disabilities known as Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD. . . .
There is no cure for autism and many articulate autistics bristle at the idea that there is anything wrong with them, as the lack of acceptance by the neurotypical is their one significant problem in life.
Is it just a coincidence that this Internet menace — an associate of convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin, Neal has been harassing conversatives for months — should share a diagnosis with Adam Lanza? Maybe.
Maybe not. From Ladd Ehlinger Jr.’s “A Breathaking Lack of Empathy”:
Many members of this hacking audience consider their autism not as a disability, but as a beneficial genetic mutation, the next step in human evolution.
Which is to say, under some circumstances, the geek’s inability to relate normally to fellow human beings is not a bug, but a feature — or so the mutants tell themselves, if they indulge the narcissistic conception of themselves as Nietzschean übermenschen, who cannot be governed by the rules that apply to “neurotypical” people.
“Ignorant mortals! How dare they scoff at me as ‘creepy,’ these inferior fools who envy my super-human skilz! I often develop the urge to press the SMITE button on my keyboard . . .”
Oh, my goodness, Neal. What does the “SMITE” button do?
“Mildy autistic” or not, the narcissistic tendency toward scapegoating — blaming others for our problems, to relieve ourselves of the burden of agency — can become a vicious cycle, and when this occurs in people who have a diminished capacity for empathy . . .
Well, evil is not too strong a word for the result. Neal Rauhauser will no doubt object that it is unfair for me to compare him to a mass murderer, but (a) we must work with the examples we know best and (b) Rauhauser’s self-pitying sense of himself as the victim of unfairness is profoundly implicated in his habit of lashing out at scapegoats.
The phenomenon Christopher Lasch identified as “therapeutic morality” offers absolution to such warped personalities, telling them that their anti-social behaviors are symptoms of a disease, telling them that they can’t help themselves, telling them that the problems they experience are actually the fault of other people — morally inferior people — who lack the capacity to understand or empathize with their plight.
Perhaps, nearly 2,400 words into this rambling discourse, the patient reader perceives we are finally approaching the point of the whole thing. Just as Neal Rauhauser sits around feeling sorry for himself and blaming other people for his problems, so also did Adam Lanza.
We are told that Adam Lanza was “subject to outbursts.” We can only wonder if any of these outbursts involved violence or threats of violence, but certainly the word suggests that they may have, and are indicative of an inability to cope with his problems.
Some children with Asperger’s syndrome do exhibit outbursts, tantrums, destruction of items in the environment or aggressive behavior towards others. This does not mean they are likely to pick up a gun and kill someone.
Except, of course, when they do.
It is with deepest sympathy that we return to where we began, with Liza Long’s story of her dangerous 13-year-old son Michael:
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan — they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
Could I suggest an effective treatment program for Michael? Maybe. I could certainly tell you what the parents, teachers, coaches and other responsible adults of my own youth would have done with a vicious little monster like that, and it wouldn’t involve Zyprexa.
Random Sarcasm Syndrome again!
It strikes when you least expect it, and it’s probably hereditary. None of my six children have ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, but they’re all natural-born smart-alecks, and there’s little hope of a cure. Every so often, one of them will get a bit too sassy with their mother, who applies the appropriate therapeutic prescription.
That doesn’t involve Zyprexa, either.
When my wife’s younger sisters were teenagers, they had an unfortunate episode of Sneaking Out at Night to Meet Boys Syndrome.
This occurred while we were visiting my in-laws, and when my wife’s sisters tried to come sneaking back into the house in the wee hours of the morning, my mother-in-law was waiting to greet them. A very loud talk-therapy session ensued, loud enough that it woke me up in time to hear – WHAP! — a teenager’s face get slapped and my mother-in-law bellowing, “Don’t you lie to me, young lady!”
My sister-in-law is now a happily married mother of two, living in a large, handsome house in a pleasant Ohio neighborhood. She’s never needed Zyprexa, and I doubt her kids will need it, either.
Maybe it’s too late for face-slapping therapy by the time a kid decides to threaten his mother with a knife, and maybe Liza Long’s kid was born with some sort of neurological disorder that can’t be fixed with Zyprexa or anything else short of locking him up where he can’t hurt people.
There is truth in humor, and random sarcasm occasionally helps sharpen the edge of truth, to make people read long articles about serious subjects they might not otherwise read. Or maybe I’m just crazy and this whole damned essay is merely a symptom, a cry for help, as it were.
UPDATE: Patterico examines evidence of a connection between autism and violence. I’ll resist the temptation to sarcasm.