Tag Archives: Boris Johnson

Twitter, Thomas Szasz and the Channukah Attack

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Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

By Marvin Ross

At the end of December US psychiatrist Allan Frances tweeted that in 1977 he had dinner with Thomas Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness). Frances reported that he asked Szasz if he would intervene were his child suicidal because of psychosis. He smiled/answered: “I am a father first, a libertarian second”.

Dr Frances responded that “Szasz could hold extreme views re meds/commitment only because he never once treated a severely ill patient”.

Dr George Ikkos replied that “In 1994 Szasz insurance paid $650,000 for negligence to widow of patient with “manic depression” who committed suicide following his advice to stop lithium. The source is a book called Mad Muses by Jeffrey Berman (P110).” Dr Ikkos is an “elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The Honorary Fellowship is the highest honour the College bestows” (from his website.)

Also chiming in to this interesting twitter exchange was Dr Mark Ruffalo who provided a link to an interview that Szasz did with Jonathan Miller in 1983. He summarizes:

Szasz concedes that society should treat the gravely disturbed (“mad” or psychotic) person in the same way it treats the person who has been rendered unconscious by an accident, implying support for involuntary treatment in these cases.

The entire interview can be seen below and these comments are made around the 34 minute mark. Prior to that, Szasz states that psychiatrists either lock up the innocent or free the guilty and that no mental illness existed prior to the advent of asylums in the mid 18th century.

I’m not sure what provoked the initial tweet by Dr Frances but a couple of comments before transitioning to Channuka. The initial question asked of Szasz is something that I always ask of doctors when they propose a certain course of treatment or a medication. If this was you (or a spouse or parent) would you still suggest that? We should all do that.

The other comment pertains to libertarianism. Szasz suggests that libertarians would always propose no involuntary action. I’m not sure that is a valid position for libertarians and it is definitely not for a psychiatrist I know who is one. This particular Toronto psychiatrist once told me that no one is as libertarian as he is and he firmly supports involuntary committal and treatment. People have an absolute right to decide their own fate but in the case of someone who is psychotic, he said, their mind is incapable of making rational decisions. It would be wrong to allow them to make those choices when so impaired.

While this twitter feed was happening, New York State and FBI officials were declaring the attack against a Channukah party in New York State to be an act of domestic terrorism and that the perpetrator, Grafton Thomas, would be charged with hate crimes. Of course, we all now know that Mr Thomas is a man with untreated schizophrenia.

It is not a hate crime nor is he a domestic terrorist.

He is a delusional soul who has not been provided with treatment as the mental health advocate DJ Jaffe pointed out in his excellent assessment in the New York Daily News. Jaffe points out that Thomas’ long term pastor could not understand why he had never been institutionalized stating “There hasn’t been anyone who has given a real solution to deal with a grown man who is dealing with schizophrenia, other than ‘Go home and call us if something happens.’ ”

Situations like this are not unique to New York State or to the United States but to Canada as well. Every one of those jurisdictions has examples of crimes committed with and without deaths due to the failure to treat people with serious illnesses.

Of course, one of the key reasons that people do not get proper treatment even if it requires involuntary hospitalization stems from the works of Szasz and all the others who deny the existence of serious mental illness.

What is also equally galling is the rise of anti-semitism and other forms of racism in the world today. While US officials were quick to jump on the Channukah attack as a hate crime, they have seemingly ignored others. In the week before the holidays, there were 4 attacks against Jews in the New York City area plus the assault in Jersey City of a Kosher supermarket according to Bernie Farber. Farber is the Chair of the Canadian Anti-hate Network.

Farber also reminded readers of Trump’s anti-semitic comments at a dinner for the Israel American Council. Faber neglected to mention Trump’s comments after the White Nationalist march in Charlottesville or Rudy Guliani’s anti-semitic tirade as reported by CNN.

Attributing the violent delusions of a man with schizophrenia as a hate crime when the villain is our failure to treat mental illness while ignoring real acts of hatred is a travesty.

I never thought I would ever applaud anything from Boris Johnson or from a Chasidic Rabbi but both got it right. Johnson delivered a very forceful speech on fighting anti-semitism while the Rabbi whose house was invaded spoke out about the need for greater understanding and support between minority communities. “The Hasidic Jews of Monsey must ignore the outsiders who want us to take up arms and politicize our tragedy.”

Why We Need the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation More than Ever

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Hungary is swinging to the right, on the verge of fascism. Far right parties are gaining in much of Europe. Trump is the next president of the USA. The pendulum has been prodded in the direction of tribalism by a wave of migrants and, I would venture to guess, the Internet.

I wondered how it would appear in Canada. And it seems to have arrived in the form of Kellie Leitch with her proposed test for “Canadian Values”, and now her wish to dismantle the CBC.

The CBC. What timing. We have suddenly arrived in an age some are calling “post-truth”. False news can be disseminated as quickly and widely as real news. The New York Times is competing with a kid in Moldavia on his I Mac. And his news is always more interesting, more sensational. To compete with this kid, the National Enquirer, Fox and Breitbart, CNN had to give prodigious air time to Donald Trump and his surrogates.

Today, more than ever we need a news service that is not beholden to advertising, corporate interests, or ratings. We need a news service not afraid to bore us with details and background. We need a news service willing to fact check our politicians. All of them. Rigorously and fearlessly. We need a media service that will tell us all our stories. We need this news and discussion service watched by a substantial number of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

We have just been taught a lesson. We need to pay attention to it. Without rigorous and fearless fact checking, a politician can, by repetition and exaggeration, convince a large chunk of the public to believe the most outrageous fictions. And in this digital world, with targeted and automated advertising, a splashy story about Hillary having a secret love-child with Bruce Willis will earn more money than a story about her work with the Children’s Defense Fund.

Our only defense against this is a News service that does not depend on advertising or ratings. A news service that does not need to sensationalize, that does not need to give equal time to outrageous opinion. A news service that can broadcast a documentary about evolution without feeling the need to give equal time to creationists, a news service that actually checks facts before airing them. The CBC does this. They check stats and they interview experts after reporting the words coming from a politician’s mouth. They jump on every stated, implied, or suggested bit of sexism, racism, inanity and stupidity. They provide in depth and civilized discussion of serious matters. They also go to great lengths to be inclusive.

CBC stands between us and a Donald Trump, a Marie LePen, a Mussolini, a Boris Johnson. It is a true Fourth Estate.

Now I must admit I tire at times of the CBC being so precious and politically correct. And I tire of them making me feel guilty at least once per week, reminding me of the head tax I put on Chinese Immigrants, the time I rounded up Japanese Canadians, the quota I imposed on Jewish Immigrants, my refusal to accept them when they were fleeing Germany, my breaking of treaties with first nations people, the shoddy housing I provide for them, the terrible idea of forced residential schools, how little I am doing to help addicts, and children living in poverty, how I’m contributing to global warming, running a nasty prison system, not fixing the plumbing in subsidized housing, eating too much, drinking too much, and exercising too little……

Little Mosque on the Prairie was too precious for my taste but certainly provided better life lessons than Criminal Minds or Breaking Bad.

I will suffer the guilt CBC imposes on me. In fact, it may be good for the soul. It is certainly good to be reminded of our history, and to have a healthy Fourth Estate beholden only to truth and the welfare of all.

This is absolutely the wrong time to consider privatizing the CBC.