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Get out of our heads

The Soviets became more clever towards the end of their rule. Rather than continue to have show trials and make the rivers red with the blood of class enemies, they started to lock them up as psychiatric cases. Doctors "took care" of them, rather than executioners and jailers making class enemies of their friends and families. There was a grim logic to it. Faced with total state power, unrestrained by morality, you had to be mad to speak out, right?

So what to make of the (so far) milder modern notion of assuming one's opponents are psychologically predisposed to be wrong? Take this egregious example. Sir Keith Joseph was unsympathetic to the idea of an all-powerful state nannying every aspect of its citizens lives "in their own best interests" and "for their own safety" (two giveaway phrases that should always prepare you to be oppressed and bullshitted in equal measure). So he must have been autistic, right? If the poor guy had been a little less far along that spectrum, he would have voted to take other people's money by force to do "social justice" like everyone else.


I met Sir Keith a couple of times when I was a student politician. As a then recent convert from Marxism, I talked to him about my reservations on such issues as inherited wealth. He patiently explained why I was wrong. He was not remotely like the Werthers' Original grandfather. Indeed he had a crisp and measured way of expressing himself that smacked of professors before they decided they need to get down with the kids. But he was a thoughtful chap who had formed an honest view.

There's something disrespectful about attributing opinions to such causes, even when they are used to excuse rather than condemn. When a softist blames psychology, society, upbringing or the system for criminal conduct, that insults not only the poor and vulnerable who don't become criminals, but also the ones who do. We all have our issues and have taken our wrong turns but the least we can expect from each other is to be taken at face value. Isn't it?

We all fall short sometimes but "bad" is still only a criticism, not a diagnosis. Bad is something we can discuss and dispute. Bad is also something we can do something about. Mad just leaves us at your mercy to be cured so we think just like you. Please show us the respect therefore of treating our views as our own. Mistaken, we may be, but please don't insult us by attributing our differences from you to the way we were reared, the class we are from, the state of our mental health or even (perhaps most tempting of all) the arts/sciences/social sciences slant of our education.

Anyway just what, without fear of hypocrisy, are we to make of people so confident in their own world view (and their own sanity) that they consider dissent a psychiatric disorder?


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It's a common rhetorical strategy. Attack in the absence of defense.

The best current example of this kind of dissonance is the state of climate science. The keepers of the received wisdom simply refuse to debate with people who might disagree with them whilst casting aspersions regarding their opponents motivation, politics, probity and sanity. All in the hope that the questions, for which they have no answers, will go away.

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