Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lessons from Guiteau

Over the last few days I've been reading online discussions and blog posts about the Norwegian spree killer and also reading a book on Google about Charles Guiteau, President Garfield's assassin. I thought it was a bit eerie how similarly the arguments sounded for and against insanity, and how little has changed regarding attitudes toward politically-motivated violence in the last 130 years. I put up a post about the topic over on Clinical Psychiatry News. For more, see Political Violence: A Challenge for Forensic Psychiatrists.

4 comments:

rob lindeman said...

"Should political beliefs be considered a sign of mental illness? At what point does an extreme opinion cross the line to delusion?"

A common answer to your question is "when the opinion is not widely held". Thus, as a counter example, millions of Catholics believe with perfect faith that the holy Eucharist IS the body of Jesus Christ. However, if an individual tells you the his body is the body of Jesus Christ, you have him locked up.

How many individuals must hold an opinion for that opinion to be considered "widely-held"?

Remember that there are thousands of Americans who self-identify as members of the Tea Party or who sympathize with that party's objectives. Listen to the language that we use to describe the Tea Party: "Crazy, deluded, schizophrenic, out of touch with reality". Political speech becomes psychiatric speech effortlessly.

That is because our judgments as to another person's mental status are, in at least some part, political judgments.

wv = spigg. Interest charged on use of your neighbor's garden hose.

Rob Lindeman said...

Allen West Blasts Tea Party 'Schizophrenia' Over Debt Ceiling; HuffPost 7/29/11

The 10 Craziest Tea Party Quotes; about.com

(a personal favorite)
The Tea Party: Poor, Deluded Koch Suckers; HuffPost 9/21/2010

Anonymous said...

I come to Shrink Rap to read Shrink Rap. Will not take a detout to another site to read your post. Like being invited to a party, showing up and finding out it has been moved to someone else's house. Too old for that yet not old enuf for reading glasses.

Anonymous said...

Thar be a higher standard for mental illness than just fringy political beliefs, my friend, Rob. At least for those who don't pick bones. I'm not disputing your point that on some level psychiatrists are the medically self-appointed keepers of the norms. But, you only have to see them if it is court ordered or a couple of them put you away. But by then, most likely, you've been a bad boy, or threatened to do something kinda bad. So it's all rather after the fact. On the scale of dangerous things, they're pretty harmless. Yer controversial, Rob. And I expect you like it like that.

Anon: The other blog is just a click away. Read there, rant here. It's surely not hard to click through to. The whole living room analogy is quite stupid, but clicking doesn't take the effort of crossing the street to the neighbor's house.