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by on August 12, 2019


by Marco M. Pardi

Being considered or labeled mentally disordered—abnormal, crazy, mad, psychotic, sick, it matters not what variant is used—is the most profoundly discrediting classification that can be imposed on a person today. Mental illness casts the “patient” out of our social order just as surely as heresy cast the “witch” out of medieval society. That, indeed, is the very purpose of stigma terms.” Thomas S. Szasz, MD The Manufacture of Madness. 1970

The main symptom of a psychiatric case is that the person is perfectly unaware that he is a psychiatric case.” Oleg P. Shchepin, Soviet Deputy Minister of Health. 1988

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

According to national statistics, by August 5th 2019 there were 255 mass shootings in the United States. That was the 217th day of the year.

So, as of that date we had more mass shootings than days in the year. But I am not writing about guns. Regular readers of this column know I have recently written about Gun Control, under that title. In that piece I proposed concrete steps to greatly reduce gun violence. Anyone interested can simply check the archives on this site for the title Gun Control.

Instead, this is about an insidious effort to Trojan Horse a very highly dangerous policy/practice into our lives through the feelings we are rightly experiencing subsequent to the latest mass shootings.

Finally breaking his silence following the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings, President Trump reiterated his support for expanded background checks. Then a few days later, after conversing with the National Rifle Association and taking time to glorify himself with forced “photo ops” with a couple of survivors (one an infant), he backtracked to “meaningful background checks” and lectured us on how guns are not the problem, mentally ill people are the problem. It was clear that his “meaningful” background checks were to be aimed mainly, if not solely toward people someone (unspecified) had labeled as mentally a danger to self or others.

This message is being picked up and spread, sometimes in seductive ways. On August 11th Mia Love, former Republican Congresswoman, appeared on CNN and told us her daughter had written: “I wish Congress would focus on the violent thought so I don’t have to become the victim of the violent act.” On its face this seems sensible. But look further and we see it deflects attention away from the gun just as surely as does Trump’s NRA inspired modification of background checks.

Reshaping reality to suit political ends is nothing new. We now live in a world Orwell would recognize, told to believe “alternative facts” (Kellyanne Conway). But we must not lose sight of the fact that politics set the framework for how people behave economically, socially, and even religiously. We were given an excellent primer in that by George Orwell. Pressed by his publisher to complete and submit his as yet untitled manuscript he looked ahead to the lead time necessary for his book to reach the public and saw 1948. He then merely transposed the last numbers and gave the world 1984.

Orwell’s secret police – Thinkpol – were chartered with discovering and punishing thoughts unapproved by the Party – thoughtcrime. In addition to intrusive surveillance, every citizen was responsible, under penalty, to report anyone they thought guilty of thoughtcrime.

Of course, as our modern background check stands, only those who have been formally adjudicated mentally ill and involuntarily confined as a danger to self or others, or who have been convicted of felony crimes would show up on the database used to evaluate and approve or deny a potential gun purchase. What goes unsaid is that it is estimated that as much as 40% of gun purchases in the U.S. are outside of the background check system. That is, they are person to person or through going to a “gun show” and simply agreeing to meet the seller in the parking lot outside.

“We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence, and make sure those people not only get treatment but—when necessary—involuntary confinement. Mental illness and hate pulls the trigger, not the gun.” Donald J. Trump

But when we examine the facts, not the alternative facts, we find a large body of scientific work exposing the Republican’s position for what it is: Deflection.

In a 2015 review published in the American Journal of Public Health, Vanderbilt University professors Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish note research indicating that less than five percent of gun violence deaths between 2001 and 2010 were caused by people diagnosed with a mental illness. Columbia University psychiatrist Michael Stone found, according to his research, 65 percent of recent spree killers exhibited no signs of psychosis or similar condition prior to their crimes; instead, Dr. Stone said, “mass shooters are likelier to act in response to perceived slights and insults, quietly accumulated over time, until such grievances manifest themselves in violence.”

Medicaid is the single largest provider of mental health support. Yet, the very same Republicans who wish to focus gun violence response on mental health intend to slash the Medicaid budget by 200 billion dollars to cover their own tax breaks.

According to Paul S. Applebaum, MD and Jeffrey W. Swanson Ph.D., writing in Psychiatry Online,

There are, of course, commonsense reasons to expect that limiting access to firearms will reduce the use of guns by persons with mental illnesses and others. Miller and colleagues, for example, observed that homicide was more common in areas where household firearms ownership was higher. But the net increment to public safety from restricting gun access by persons with mental illnesses is likely to be small. The best available national data suggest that only 3%–5% of violent acts are attributable to serious mental illness, and most of those acts do not involve guns. Most studies concur that the added risk of violence, if any, conferred by the presence of a serious mental disorder is small. Moreover, there are no data to indicate whether the categories of persons with mental illnesses targeted by federal and state laws—that is, persons subject to involuntary commitment or found incompetent to manage their affairs—are actually at higher risk than other groups with mental illness. One of the strongest predictors of violence among persons with mental illness is a history of violent crime. But having a violent criminal record would already disqualify an individual from purchasing a gun, irrespective of any coincident mental health adjudication. Thus one might question whether the disproportionate emphasis on restricting firearms access by persons with mental disorders reflects sound public policy or is a manifestation of exaggerated public perceptions of the danger associated with mental illnesses.”

August 4, 2019

Statement of APA President in Response to Mass Shootings in Texas, Ohio

Hate + guns = public health crisis

WASHINGTON — Following is the statement of APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, on the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio:

“Our condolences are with the families and friends of those killed or injured in these horrific shootings and with all Americans affected every day by the twin horrors of hate and gun violence.

As our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion —the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups —is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting.

That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, as it should be. Psychological science has demonstrated the damage that racism can inflict on its targets. Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts and avoidance behaviors.

Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.

If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue.”

That last sentence is particularly telling. The regime currently in power in Washington came to power on an unrelenting campaign of hate, hatred toward anyone they defined as Other. In her recent blog post from New Zealand Rachel McAlpine (see website below) posed the word “Othering”. I was immediately taken by the word as it so elegantly captures the operant policy of social control characterizing our regime. It could equally have been applied to the 3rd Reich of Nazi Germany and to the cabal that controlled WWII Japan. (Benito Mussolini is on record as having often referred to Hitler and his minions as Barbarians for their treatment of Jews and other minorities).

The regime’s efforts to place the blame for gun violence on mentally ill people is nothing more than deflection. Deflection is the “go to” response mechanism to address any issue, and the targets vary by the issue. It is the hallmark of the anti-socially developed child. In this case it is moving toward the infamous Soviet system in which people who disagreed with the State were involuntarily subjected to “psychiatric care”. The formula is simple: People who disagree are dangerous. Dangerous people must be rendered impotent. The general public, believing the alternative facts from the Ministry of Truth, supports the policy and contributes toward it by informing on the suspect segment of the population whoever it may currently be.

One might wonder if Humanity has an immune system, and whether that now sleeping system might one day awaken and recognize the cabal now calling themselves the Republican Party as the cancerous tumor which it is. Great strides are being in immunotherapy.

Rachel McAlpine’s site

From → Uncategorized

  1. From Ray: Very well researched and well said Marco. But I’m of the school that the best way to eliminate gun violence is to eliminate guns. That may never happen but reducing the stock of firearms in the nation can’t help but make it more challenging and difficult to commit gun crimes. And gun crimes are much easier to execute than other forms of violence (knives, stones, swords, cars, baseball bats, etc). That is what the Australians and New Zealanders are doing – taking the weapons out of their mainstay culture – so we don’t normalize guns and gun violence.

    We in Canada are the beneficiaries of American weapons (handguns are restricted weapons here) smuggled across the border – something which is corrupting our attempts at reducing our own gun violence – though still a fraction of yours. I realize the matter of gun freedom is compounded by the idiotic historical reference in your constitution – but really!! Sometimes the easiest things are the hardest – and so they never get done – that is likely how the story of gun violence in your nation will evolve. As your fearless leader would say…Sad.


    • Thank you, Ray. Of course, I agree regarding the elimination of guns, but that is simply a non-starter in the United States. I would ask you to re-read my earlier piece on Gun Control in which I lay out the means to greatly reduce gun violence. I also agree that the U.S. conveniently overlooks the “as part of a well regulated militia” part of the sanctified 2nd Amendment.

      We live in a land of myth and contradiction: Hollywood cowboys who never existed in real life and “freedom” in a “law and order society”. Just looking at the numbers and the types of people supporting the current regime makes me nervous about guns, mass shootings or no mass shootings.


  2. The recent bout of gun violence in this country saddens me, but it’s not as if it is a new thing. As long as these weapon exist, someone will find a way and a reason to use them.

    I’m not against gun control (“Gun control is hitting what you aim at.”), but it needs to be done in an effective and rational manner. I remember your blog on the subject, and the suggestions you made there were quite reasonable. My only real comment here is that, so long as humans are involved, nothing is really going to work. Background checks are a good start, but so long as specific groups are targeted, the only likely result is a “witch hunt” against members of that group.

    I am in the position of being someone who owns guns and has also spent some time in a mental hospital. Not everyone there is dangerous or violent, in fact, I would venture to say those persons are in the minority. My problem, then and now, is that once that label (any label, really) is applied, people tend to see the label instead of the person.

    I’m not fond of rapid fire (assault?) weapons in the hands of people untrained to use them, and especially if their temperament is angry or hateful. I’m not against weapons being kept out of the hands of those who have proven themselves violent, “crazy” or not. I don’t own the answer to this one, but I would surely be happy if someone could figure it out.


  3. Thank you, Rose. Unsurprisingly, you clearly identified and addressed the point of my article. The attempt ti deflect the blame to the mentally ill is a cynical and vicious attempt to further stigmatize a large portion of our population, sowing more fear and hatred among us. Too many people will find it easy to say a mass shooter must be mentally ill. In fact, most are not. And, the vast majority of the mentally ill would never, will never become mass shooters.

    I completely agree that military style assault weapons (actually, only a couple of them are even considered by the military) have no place in civilian wanna-be soldiers hands.

    Regarding your concern that nothing will ultimately work I agree there will be a developmental period before my suggestions in the Gun Control article can fully come to fruition. We cannot go house to house to sweep up existing assault weapons and ammunition. But, if we follow my earlier suggestions to ban the further sales of assault weapons and to license the purchase of any and all ammunition we will grow through the “pig in the python” period I described. Several of the points I made in that article are already appearing on the Democratic campaign trail.

    I can only hope more readers first read Gun Control before they fire off their ammunition without understanding what they are shooting at.

    Thank you for your insightful and candid analysis.


  4. Anyone can access the earlier article on Gun Control by clicking on “Uncategorized” above and looking at March 29, 2018. That article addresses guns; this addresses a current tactic being employed by the Trump administration. All articles listed are open for comment should you choose to do so.


  5. DIANNE DIAMOND permalink

    Yes, Deflection indeed. Trump and GOP in general are passing the hot potato to a part of the population that does not deserve it; such a pretense that they are actually dealing with the true cause of our mass shooting epidemic or even the death by guns due to domestic violence, hatred, suicide, robbery attempts, gangs, etc. We have got to ban assault rifles at the very least. I can see a hundred ways people can avoid background checks.


    • Thank you, Dianne. I’m glad you cited both Trump AND the GOP. I’m sure you recognize the common tactic of deflecting blame for everything to someone else. I think we all grew up knowing someone like that. Trump grew old, not up. The GOP, which I am convinced is the blossoming of the American Nazi Party of the 1930’s and ’40’s, uses Trump as its rabble rousing front man, a carnival barker who can draw in crowds. But it is fundamentally their agenda he serves.

      I hope the right people read my earlier piece on Gun Control. It has gathered a fair amount of readership.


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