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        Ian Vine, C.Psychol, A.F.B.Ps.S

   In voicing my distaste for Amos M. Gunsberg's article which 
purports to discuss 'psychopaths' in 'Beyond Insanity', PsychNews 
Int'l 2(5)#4: Article II, Oct.-Dec. 1997], I must refrain from 
accusing him of xenophobic prejudice against a tragically ill-
socialized human minority.  I have to suppose he would insist that 
such an objection would miss the whole point of his piece.

   Yet I must invite fellow professionals to envisage its 
possible impacts upon Internet-surfers who come across his style 
of rhetoric.  Some might be either bitterly aggrieved victims or 
close relatives of someone with such a diagnosis - others could 
even be psychopaths about to start therapy.  In a world of 
insecure electronic communications, pirated and edited versions 
of Gunsberg's article might be devoured avidly on sites whose 
readers are very differently motivated from the intended 
PsychNews audience.  Do such possibilities not make it imperative 
that we show restraint in our own use of psychological language?

   My own too rapid first reading of Gunsberg's tirade may be 
instructive.  I felt escalating horror that any behavioural 
scientist or therapist could hold such venomous views about 
anyone.  My first thought was that the Bosnian Serbs are not 
alone in harbouring those with evident contempt for the 
psychological equivalent of a Hippocratic oath of impartial 
caring concern.  A careful re-reading showed that in one sense 
the joke was on me, for not spotting immediately that the 
piece had to have ironical intent.  Its publication in the 
PsychNews can only be credible if seen as an attempted, but 
in my view very clumsy satire.

   Gunsberg's convoluted and overplayed metaphor invokes the 
label 'psychopath' to flail at insidious forms of aggressive 
in-group defensiveness.  It then turns its weapons onto other 
manifestations of what the author sees as similarly irrational 
thinking.  I have no interest in siding either way in an 
apparently sordid squabble involving Gestalt therapists.  And 
his generalizations are tenuous at best.  But to see the 
disturbing nature of the rhetoric he uses, one only needs 
to go through the article substituting a term like 'Blacks' 
for the label 'psychopaths'.

   Gunsberg's word-play constructs a joke that is too sick 
by far - likely to be misunderstood by the uninitiated as 
expert encouragement for dehumanizing real psychopaths.  
We know from research on racism that bigots readily create 
perverse interpretations of polysemic messages - such that 
even the most barbed satires can be taken as encouragements 
for their xenophobic hatreds.  In any case, the author is 
rash to mimic the mind-set whereby a whole culture came to 
scapegoat Jews, Gypsies, other non-Aryans, Communists, gays, 
the disabled, and others as a class of verminous "Untermenschen".  
Dehumanizing enemies is by no means confined to psychopaths.  
The author's stereotyped description of his own profession's 
'psychopaths' invites the casual reader to think experts 
approve regarding real persons with clinical conduct 
disorders as sub-human.

   Gunsberg chooses to talk as if a human category labelled 
as 'psychopaths' constitute a quite alien group of creatures 
who are "physically in human form, but are not human beings" 
[line 2].  As members of what is in essence "a different 
species" [line 17], they do not qualify mentally as having 
recognizable personhood.  They are in effect represented as 
some class of crazed cyborgs: inherently amoral and beyond 
the pale of empathic human reason; only capable of simulated 
feelings and deceit; unable to introspect (sic.); dedicated 
to murdering human values; incapable of distinguishing truth 
from false fantasy and hallucination; ready to force their 
egocentrically distorted reality onto others; ruthless towards 
those who expose and thwart them.

   No doubt Gunsberg is well aware that this internally 
contradictory list is something of a caricature of the DSM's 
'anti-social personality disorder' - which is itself a 
disputed hotchpotch category based largely upon prison 
samples, and which many clinicians prefer to subdivide.  
Diagnosis is unreliable, and the traits overlap substantially 
with those of other serious offenders.  But since the line 
between substantive assertion and ironic hyperbole is so 
clouded in the article, I too will talk as if his 
'psychopaths' constituted a unitary and tidy category.  
For there is substantial overlap between his depiction 
and the traits of the most anti-social and callous 
recidivist offenders.

   Yet the author neglects to remind us that these 
psychopathic murderers of humane social values - 
and of people who frustrate their grossly egocentric 
impulses - are at least predominantly victims themselves.  
By ignoring questions of causation, he masks how most 
emerge from grotesquely chaotic, usually brutal domestic 
environments, in which childhood was an extended horror 
story.  If his morally empty 'humanoid' shells are in one 
sense pseudo-persons, they became so through subjection 
to what can be breath-takingly gross and vicious mental 
and physical abuse.  (Saddam Hussain seems to qualify as 
such a case.)  Through no direct fault of their own, their 
sense of selfhood was grotesquely battered by the abusive 
intimacies which brutalized them, yet passed for 'normal' 
family life.  They learned that human vulnerability was a 
crime in itself - and that the weak and trusting only 
deserve to be victimized.

   Remember also how often those psychopaths whom we 
eventually detain and incarcerate in prison cells will 
enter a familiar world of casually brutal authority-figures 
and bullying inmates.  For society foolishly chooses 
hopelessly counter-productive coping strategies to protect 
itself from the harm they cause.  We do everything to 
consign them to a human waste-bin in which rehabilitation 
is usually made quite impossible - because we have 
convinced ourselves that these creatures are beyond 
redemption.  Such is the nature of self-fulfilling 
prophecies.  And sensationalist popular journalism gladly 
amplifies dehumanizing myths about these moral deviants - 
ones which professionals too rarely correct.

   We collude in abandoning most of these badly damaged, 
dangerous persons to punitive institutional sub-cultures, 
to regimes which systematically reinforce their moral 
immaturity.  Instead of painstakingly nurturing their 
fragmented humanity towards some semblance of health, 
we leave all but the luckiest few to their fate.  This 
ensures that they will never heal, never become fit for 
civilized community-life.  Those who have served their 
term will return to the social world, not cured by more 
punishment, but ever more reliant on the only ways they 
have learned for dealing with perceived social rejection 
and frustration.

   So a smugly self-righteous middle-class society gladly 
scapegoats the psychopaths created by its own crimes of abuse 
and neglect.  It pours guiltily repressed self-hatred onto 
the wretched victims of their parental generation's 
conspicuous failures.  We seemingly cannot face our own 
culpability for the collective inability to secure for 
every child everywhere sufficient cherishing and respect 
for growing into personal wholeness and social responsibility.  
What should surprise us is not the psychopath's anger, but 
that so many victims of early brutal abuse do somehow 
survive, and instead overcome gross perversions of the 
familial love that was their lost birth-right.

   Above all, we engage in the pigeon-hole thinking which 
culminates in the atrocity which Gunsberg's caricature 
exposes.  Faced with people who _involuntarily_ dehumanize 
others, we ourselves commit the greater 'crime' of _freely_  
ignoring one half of our moral awareness.  Our indignation 
condemns their evil, yet is allowed to block out the caring 
sympathy without which moral anger remains blindly vindictive.  
By deeming psychopaths to be innately anti-social, or at 
least incurably so, we excuse how we ourselves assign them 
to the "Untermenschen" waste-bin.  Then we are freed from 
according them _any_ human rights.  Hence we often execute 
them - not in immediate self-defence, but as a coldly 
impersonal act of 'just' judicial revenge.

   In our own fantasies, this restores a moral balance and 
illusion of security.  Yet so long as they are far enough 
from invading and leaving victims in our own back-yards, 
most of us show minimal concern about the immoral impact 
of those other real psychopaths who remain free.  They 
operate dictatorial political regimes, lead brutal armies, 
and of course beat, torture and 'disappear' their most 
oppressed citizens in the name of law and order.  Or else 
they control multi-national companies which cheat on taxes 
and savagely exploit employees and our global ecology alike.

   But let us face more facts.  My own social-psychological 
research focus marries the individual's progress through Lawrence 
Kohlberg's moral development stages with the related process 
of acquiring more socially inclusive inter-personal and 
intra-group social identities and loyalties.  The pinnacle 
of socio-moral maturity is thus theorized as fully acknowledged 
caring respect for others as Kantian ends-in-themselves - not 
just our nearest and dearest, nor just tribal kith and kin, 
but encompassing *all* human beings as individuals and groups.  
Yet clearly this is empirically uncommon, even as an ideal.  
(In some respects the transcendence of speciesism, in a 
quasi-Buddhist commitment to the Earth's whole eco-system, 
is a still more inclusive but even rarer moral ideal.)

   In these terms, ethnocentric immaturity and parochial 
social loyalty are the norm.  Few of us reliably and 
authentically function much beyond the level of ethnic 
or nationalistic social concern - if we judge this not 
by a hollow rhetoric of 'universal' rights and justice, 
but by practical readiness to uphold such ideals at significant 
personal and in-group cost.  The archetypal psychopath fills 
us with horror because he is the limiting case of our own 
restricted moral loyalties, the ultimate egoist.

   Yet ordinary racism and nationalism are only better by 
degrees - effortlessly dehumanizing alien peoples as 
deserving of few if any rights.  Psychopaths provide an 
uncomfortable reminder of how shallowly we universalize 
'equal' moral consideration of every person's interests.  
They reflect back just how the rest of us can also be 
prepared to treat those we assign to out-groups counted 
as enemies - being prepared to exterminate them with 
weapons of mass destruction when the need arises.

   So until humanity at large is ready and able to 
transcend not just egoism, but the extremes of 
ethnocentrism at every level of social exclusiveness, 
the lesson should be clear.  We all need a considerable 
measure of humility when tempted to see moral awareness 
and pro-social commitment in all-or-nothing terms.  Once 
we categorize psychopaths as moral monsters beyond the 
human pale, we ourselves commit their error of dehumanizing 
others.  And arguably we do this, in our bourgeois 
complacency, with far less excuse than some of the 
'monsters' have.

   I trust that Gunsberg's ironic rhetoric had no such 
serious aim.  Nevertheless, I find the language he deployed 
both chilling and dangerous.  Holocaust resonances are surely 
not something to trifle with.  I am surely not alone in 
finding it objectionable to read any kind of usage of phrases 
like "put the dog down", or "kill the rattlesnake BEFORE it 
kills us" [last paragraphs].  We have too recently heard 
euphemisms like 'ethnic cleansing' again used to mask 
genocidal strategies - and within the same continent whose 
peoples' guilt for permitting Nazi atrocities is still 
continuing to be revealed.

   Some may find Gunsberg's lurid hyperbole harmless.  
But we already have far too much fantasy fiction on our 
TV and cinema screens - of that kind which encourages us 
to entertain the thought that apparently ordinary people 
can be wolves in sheep's clothing, hiding lethal alien 
attributes behind a facade of human skin.  Such invitations 
to paranoia may entertain sensation-seekers, but amplify 
the real fears of the old and vulnerable.  The media have 
already led them to expect that every stranger who accosts 
them in the street, every tradesman who knocks on their 
door, can be a psychopath in disguise.

   Of course our socially fragmented modern lifestyles 
do mean that these dangers _are_ sometimes too real for 
comfort.  But the lessons we should draw are clear enough.  
Caring parenthood and neighbourliness can no longer be 
taken for granted and left to chance.  There are few if 
any natural, congenital monsters in human wombs.  Rather, 
we create our own psychopaths through disgraceful indifference 
to families we count as 'welfare scroungers', through our 
blindness to child victims of systematic domestic abuse, 
and our resistance to paying taxes to fund adequate remedial 
programmes (instead of just building more human cages)..

   British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently shook the hand 
of the Sinn Fein republican leader, widely regarded as 
closely associated with the IRA terrorists of Northern Ireland.  
He was immediately reviled and abused by Protestant Unionists 
for this symbolic recognition of a bond that signifies a 
readiness for co-operative dialogue.  Yet in every bitter 
inter-group conflict the situation is the same.  Either old 
hatreds and cruel tit-for-tat violence must continue to 
add to unending legacies of misery, brutalization, and 
death - or else people must choose to nurture every sign 
of their shared humanness.

   We are all prone to adopting psychopathic perspectives, 
when we neglect the inherent humanity of those with whom 
we acknowledge no meaningful moral ties.  Attribution errors 
like blaming the victim are a pervasive blot on our own 
self-righteous moral characters.  Whenever we are tempted 
to dehumanize whole out-groups - in the name of ethnicity, 
religion, or whatever - we need to wonder at our own wilful 
failures.  Why do we neglect to deploy more inclusively that 
same moral capacity which we manifest within the exclusive 
in-groups that we do identify with and cherish?

   Perhaps upon reflection Gunsberg will agree that it is 
just too unwise to fabricate self-indulgent satire around 
images of dehumanization.  Careless words themselves may not 
kill directly, but can certainly help to trigger self-justicatory
double-think, once we even contemplate that some persons are 
irredeemably sub-human.  This blunts our inhibitions, then 
permits us to regard those kinds of people as devoid of even 
the right to life itself.  I shall never forget what I heard 
an enraged Israeli woman scream out at Arab demonstrators 
demanding Palestinian rights: "Send them to the gas-chambers!"  
It is sometimes the victims of monstrous inhumanity who have 
the most moral learning to do.

Ian Vine,
Lecturer in Social Psychology

Dept.Interdisciplinary Human Studies,
University of Bradford,
Bradford, England, BD7 1DP.
Tel.+ (0)1274/ 233988 (direct) or 233995 (secretaries)
Fax.+ (0)1274/ 720494
Internet (IHS site) 


          ON "THE TYRANNY OF EXPERTS (Morris E. Chafetz)
                  (PsychNews 3(2), Fifth Column)

             Marilyn La Court, M.A. CMFT, CICSW

The emperor is a funny looking little naked man.  Even when this fact is
spotlighted, most refuse to "see".  But even more alarming is the
behavior of those who know but will not tell. Instead they go about
perpetrating myths in their own best interest.

Take for example the American Psychiatric Association.  These experts
cannot possibly believe the myths they feed the public and the insurance
industry in their laughing stock best seller, The Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV.

L.J. Davis refers to the DSM IV as "The Encyclopedia of Insanity.
Psychological hand book lists a madness for everyone" in Harpers
Magazine. February, 1997.

John Leo states, "The DSM is converting nearly all life's stresses and
bad habits into mental disorders in his article "Doing the Disorder
Rag", U.S. News and World Report., October 17, 1997.

Joe Sharkey in "You're Not Bad, You're Sick.  It's in the Book", in the
New York Times, September 28, 1997  calls the DSM an 886 page bible used
to identify a set of behaviors as mental illness.

In a new book "Making Us Crazy: DSM: The Psychiatric Bible and the
Creation of Mental Disorders"  by Herb Kitchins and Stuart A. Kirk, the
authors state that the DSM is a handbook that medicalizes problems that
are not medical and gives formal diagnostic labels and code numbers to
behaviors that are better described as eccentric, irresponsible,
foolish, or sinful.

For many mental health professionals, the DSM IV is a joke.  In the real
world, none of us is exempt from experiencing problems of living, but
the fact is, we can’t all be mentally ill.

In the insurance world however, Managed Care Companies (MCCs) rely on
the DSM  to determine what is considered medical necessity.  They don't
just rely on it, they insist on it.  Joe Sharkey,  New York Times,
September 28, 1997 quotes Dr. Thomas Szasz,  a Syracuse psychiatrist,
"Inclusion in the DSM is the key that opens the strongbox;  you cannot
bill for treatment without using it."  Insisting on a DSM diagnosis
however is like no gate keeping at all. Just about every human behavior
you can think of will qualify for a diagnosis of mental illness in the
DSM, and therefore treatment will be covered by insurance.

If the drug companies have their way, we all need drugs to cure our
mental illness. Drug companies advertise magical cures for mental
illness to the public.   The DSM diagnosis of mental illness required to
get the prescription filled will not be hard to come by.  Insurance will
cover the cost for the doctor to diagnose and it will also, in many
cases, pay for the drug as well.

There has been a lot of discussion about who decides what is a covered
benefit when Managed Care Companies (MCCs) run the insurance industry.
When it comes to mental  health however, there can be no doubt that the
APA and the drug companies run  the insurance industry.

For many mental health professionals, seeing the naked emperor is not
enough.  When one's livelihood depends on keeping the secret the
necessary blinders are easily constructed.  Many times I have heard my
benevolent colleagues say, "what difference does it make what you call
it as long as the people who need our help are served".

It's true that the word is not the thing.  However the power of language
can turn the thing into the word.   A diagnosis of mental illness, and
all that goes with it can have devastating effects on a human being.

The tyranny reaches conspiracy proportions when our government insists
on the use of the DSM IV in state certified mental health clinics even
when insurance is not used to pay for services.  I do not know about
other states, but this is the case in the state of Wisconsin.

I agree with your observation that many people want to believe that
someone in fact does have answers they do not possess, and that this
makes them vulnerable to the tyranny of experts.

There are people who oh, so willingly supply those answers for a price.


American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. (DSM IV)

Davis, L. J. "The Encyclopedia of Insanity.  Psychological hand book
lists a madness for everyone." Harpers Magazine. February, 1997.

Kutchins, Herb and Stuart A. Kirk, Making Us Crazy: DSM: The Psychiatric
Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders.  Free Press, 1997.

Leo, John "The DSM “Doing the Disorder Rag", U.S. News and World
Report., October 17, 1997.

Sharkey, Joe  "You're Not Bad, You're Sick.  It's in the Book".   The New
York Times, September 28, 1997

Szasz, Dr. Thomas, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory
of Personal Conduct, rev.ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1974.  (first
published in 1961)

Marilyn La Court, M.A. CMFT, CICSW
Confidential Counseling Services, LLC.
Email  ccsllc@execpc.com


          TO DR. SCHALER
      (PsychNews 3(2), Letter Section)

          Cyrus McCandless

Dear Dr. Schaler,

   I would like to see you correct the following statement on
Psychnews: "The reasons for using illegal drugs are the same ones 
for using legal drugs, i.e. to avoid coping with experience."  
Unfortunately, unqualified statements like this are those which 
muddy the waters of reasonable debate, and I'm sure that when you 
consider this, you will realize that it's tone is at least a bit 
parental, and possibly religious in character.  Some people do 
indeed use drugs to avoid coping with experience, but there are 
many others who use drugs in order to cope with more experience 
than they would otherwise be able to, or even to cope better 
with their current experience. Consider that, under normal 
circumstances, cigarettes are not subject to "abuse" under 
DSM-IV, nor is amphetamine, when used by truck drivers.  I
do not wish to excuse these behaviors, but they are certainly 
means of coping 'better' (by social standards, the same ones 
you are invoking here) with ones environment, rather than 
avoiding it.


Cyrus McCandless
NIH Animal Center
Poolesville, MD
Email chmccand@midway.uchicago.edu