In the old Soviet Union it was not uncommon for opponents of the state to be branded as mentally ill and to be carted off to the gulag for some badly needed “therapy.” Today in the tense climate of American politics there is a milder, yet troubling reliance on the part of left and right to play the “crazy card.” You’ve heard them all. “Right-wing nut,” “Nutroots,” “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” “Cable Network MSLSD,” “Republi-tard,” “Dim-ocrat.” It goes on and on. Even among academic sophisticates, there is a similar game. It involves the typically flawed “scientific” study that finds one side of the political spectrum—always the opposite side from where the researcher stands—to be of lower I.Q., lacking in brainpower, and achievement. Mentally deficient. Pinhead. Whacko. Dolt. Retard.
Both sides engage in these shenanigans, but the left uses it to greater effect. And while we haven’t yet reached the point—at least in public life—where people are being carted off to re-education camps for politically incorrect thought, it does happen on college campuses. (Look at the Web site for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for a reality check of students who disappear from campus after a politically incorrect infraction.) It also happens in corporate America, as you no doubt know from the most recent sexism, racism, ageism seminar that you may have been forced to attend.
But there is also tremendous irony, even hypocrisy, in the way the left uses the “crazy card.” The way they show their hand is a violation of all things progressive. It’s never dealt in the spirit of compassion, only in disdain. It’s never in the spirit of healing, but rather, to inflict damage. Yes, the political party that champions The Special Olympics, and Special Education, wields a very special club to knock the stuffing out of what they would call Republi-tards—but more importantly, to knock the stuffing out of their own ideals. Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy may have demonstrated it best, when he wrote of those alleged “spitting, n-word shouting” Tea Partiers at the Obamacare vote. Milloy threatened to, “knock every racist and homophobic tooth out of their Cro-Magnon heads.” Cro-magnon—the dim-witted, calculus-challenged, bi-ped who preceded Courtland and the rest of us on the evolutionary trail.
Now, I suggest if we’ re going to use the mentally challenged approach to political attack, can we be a little more sophisticated? Courtland? Please?
First the facts. By now, we know that the incident of spitting and the multiple reports of the n-word being fired away, have remained unverified. The dozens of video and audio tapes of that moment in time have revealed nothing but the opposite of what was alleged. In subsequent interviews, the “victims” have now moderated much of what was initially reported. We know that Capitol Police officers who were shoulder-to-shoulder and front to rear with the “victims” neither saw nor heard anything that would verify the accusations. And we know that Andrew Brietbart’s reward of $100,000 for the first video to reveal a shouted epithet has gone unclaimed. (Dear Andrew: My advise? Invest it.)
So what really happened? Put your head back on the couch and listen to this. In his fascinating book, “Listening to Prozac,” psychiatrist Peter Kramer describes some groundbreaking studies on how trauma and stress affect the brain. Stick with me on this, because our 45 minutes are rapidly dwindling and the going rate is $150.
Kramer describes how scientists have long known about the “kindling effect” of creating trauma and stress on the brain. They know from many animal studies that if you attach an electrode to a monkey or rat brain and shoot a little voltage in there, you can induce an epileptic seizure in the animal. If you then reduce the voltage, you can induce a larger seizure. Continue reducing the voltage, and the subsequent seizures get more and more powerful. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect. In Kramer’s words, “With enough intermittent stimulation, the animal will exhibit more widespread seizures: first it will chew and nod it’s head, then one forepaw will go in and out of spasm, then both forepaws, and so on. In time the animal will start the seize spontaneously, with no stimulus at all.”
In effect, the trauma (the electric shock) carves out a pathway through the brains synapses, much like a flash flood sweeps away the thicket and debris in a drainage culvert. Subsequent floods (trauma) even small ones will follow that path for sure.
It is precisely this phenomenon that causes the victim of childhood sexual abuse to recoil at the prospect of adult intimacy. It is what causes a combat vet suffering from PTSD to snap at a child who fires off a harmless cap pistol. Could it be what causes great civil rights leaders, men who suffered terrible beatings, skull fractures, insults, and humiliation from the dominant race to see racism in a huge, impassioned crowd shouting at them? What brain pathways are at work at a time like that?
This is the difficult unspoken question. Psychiatrists know that people who suffer terrible trauma when they are young deserve tremendous compassion. They also know as therapists they walk a very fine line. Should the victim of childhood sexual abuse who grows up to be an abuser still be shown compassion? Does the combat vet who sucker punches an innocent bar patron deserve understanding?
Many a shrink will tell you that the words they hope to hear from such patients, when that 45 minutes is up is this: What happened to me explains everything—and excuses nothing.
Anchorman a well-known news anchor from a top-10, big city station. The Daily Caller has elected to redact his identity to protect his anonymity.