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Letters to the Editor

Societal factors

January 18, 2011

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To the editor:

In the Jan. 13 Journal-World, Charles Krauthammer (“Tucson shooting not driven by politics”) argues that mental illness alone caused the Tucson tragedy, and that it is “reckless” for Paul Krugman, among other writers, to link the tragedy to anything beyond one man’s isolated psychosis.

Krauthammer is correct that the killer is mentally ill. Psychiatric symptoms, however, are shaped by the social and political context of the day. In Freud’s time women were treated for fainting spells, false pregnancies, “hysterical paralysis” and other symptoms that are rarely, if ever, seen today. What we do see are life-threatening eating disorders (mainly in girls and women) and out of control aggression (mainly in boys and men).

Individual pathology cannot be understood in isolation from the broader system in which it is embedded. What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence. Even more reckless is pretending that we can reduce the number of tragic shootings without standing up to the NRA and its allies.

Comments

BigPrune 3 years, 2 months ago

Charles Krauthammer is a medical doctor- a psychyiatrist, who graduated from Harvard. (Manic Depressive Illness by Goodwin and Jamison) contains twelve references to his work. I bet the LTE people didn't count on people knowing his credentials.

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wtchdr46 3 years, 3 months ago

I knew the time that madness would be the rule was coming. That does not make it any more comfortable to live in. Why is there so little understanding that all this hateful Rhetoric creates an environment where many more of these that are unstable may snap. With the instantaneous ability to see bad news from around the planet, and an environment of HATE!!, it is a wonder that there are not more occurrences than there are.

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mr_right_wing 3 years, 3 months ago

Remember Judas Priest being put on trial for causing a young man to kill himself?

They were found innocent.

What's the difference here? Beck, Palin, et al don't mask their messages backwards?

"Get the gun, get the gun! Shoot, shoot shoot!!" (Alleged backwards message in "Suicide Solution")

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Agnostick 3 years, 3 months ago

Example: In your community, or the immediate area near your home, you often see two or three vehicles driven by teenage boys. These individuals are constantly speeding, swerving, "hot rodding," showing off etc. and for the most part, the local law enforcers are never able to catch them. This activity goes on for several months. One morning, you hear a radio report about a child killed in a hit-and-run outside the local elementary school. Would it be unreasonable for your first thoughts to be that one of the daredevils had finally hurt someone?

It's not the perfect example or analogy, but I think some people thought of Palin in the first several hours after the shooting because they had seen and/or heard her speeches, her rhetoric, seen the online map, and just made a link? I'm not excusing their behavior, or anyone else's. But I do wonder how our collective response to this tragedy would have been a year ago. Suppose, leaving everything else the same, this shooting occurred in January 2010, instead of January 2011? We still knew Palin, her name and face were still easily identifiable--but without much of the gun-flavored rhetoric, without the map.

Maybe this guy has it right. Maybe a few of the more-popular pundits need to say "I'm sorry, Sarah."

http://jabbausaf.newsvine.com/_news/2011/01/13/5830436-im-sorry-sarah-palin-and-other-thoughts

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 3 months ago

Pardon me for being long winded but I feel this is important. I'm seeing a tremendous amount of confusion between psychiatry and psychology, not just on this board, but by inference from the authors of the LTE as well who are actually licensed clinical psychologists! This rather disturbs me. They aren't licensed to even diagnose psychiatric disorders nor can they prescribe medications for such disorders. Psychiatrists are MDs and psychologists are not. They can treat behaviors associated with psychiatric disorders (to an extent, as the disease allows them to) but their main realm of treatment is dealing with neuroses, which in and of themselves are behavioral disorders not classified as psychiatric disorders (which are characterized by delusions and hallucinations). In other words, psychiatrists treat conditions that are an actual, physical disorders of the brain. There is actual physical evidence of disease. The PET scans of a schizophrenic and a "normal" person are markedly different. Psychologists treat dysfunctional behavioral disorders (such as anorexia) that are outside the social norm. They do so with treatment modalities that reshape behavior. There is some overlap. Psychiatrists do treat and medicate neuroses to some extent (depression is frequently an underlying cause of neurotic behavior) and psychologists do work with psychiatric patients to help them "remodel" the aberrant behavior caused by their disease (as long as the psychiatric patient is medicated and open and able to change that behavior). So it's reasonable to see that most lay people can become confused. I disagree with the LTE that, "Psychiatric symptoms, however, are shaped by the social and political context of the day." but only in the way they interpreted that sentence. Someone having delusions and hallucinations can interpret the mutterings of Glenn Beck or the crosshairs on Sarah Palin's posters to be a mandate to kill. They have a brain that is in constant short circuit. But that doesn't mean that every schizophrenic out there is hearing voices telling them to do that. Their voices may just as easily be telling them they need to protect those people from harm. Jared Loughner had a psychiatric illness. For whatever reason he fixated (by his own admission) on Gabrielle Gibbons. Was right wing "hate speech" responsible for that fixation? From what I've read about Loughner and the background given, the answer is no. It may have supported that fixation. Frankly we'll never know. But it wasn't responsible for it. Only his disease was responsible for that.

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beatrice 3 years, 3 months ago

UGH!

It isn't just one sided!

It should be noted that violent crimes have been on a downward trend for the last couple of decades. The big difference is that reporting of those crimes is way up. Palin may have exhibited bad manners, (as have others on the left) but she isn't in any way at all responsible. In all honesty, crosshairs on a map are pretty mild compared to your average episode of CSI or Dexter. I'm also think it is very mild compared to a film about Bush being assasinated.

This continued finger pointing just may lead to widespread hysterical paralysis.

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booyalab 3 years, 3 months ago

Fainting spells were "shaped" by absurdly restricting corsets. It was also considered fashionable for women to engage in them. That was a feature of the society but if a fainting spell had resulted in a woman slipping on a banana peel which flew into someone's face and caused them to fall out of a nearby window, would it make any sense to blame the corset, much less the social context?

Why do I even bother? if they saw the absurdity of the banana peel influenced to kill by society, wouldn't they see the absurdity of Palin pulling the trigger of the gun from across the continent and killing a conservative judge?

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notajayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

"What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence. Even more reckless is pretending that we can reduce the number of tragic shootings without standing up to the NRA and its allies."

What is reckless is a pair of purported clinical psychologists not only letting their political bias enter into their professional judgment, but using the soapbox of their so-called "expertise" to publicly spew their partisan ranting. Perhaps the KSBSRB ought to reconsider their licensure status. But hey, I'm sure they both have quite a lucrative practice convincing the looney libs of Larryville that their good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like them.

Oh, loved this in Harriet's bio: "She now identifies herself as a Kansan and claims to have overcome her coastal arrogance." Um, yeah.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 3 months ago

"...James Eric Fuller, 63, who was shot in the knee, had told The Post on Friday, the day before his arrest, that top Republican figures should be tortured -- and their ears severed. "There would be torture and then an ear necklace, with [Minnesota US Rep.] Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin's ears toward the end, because they're small, female ears, and then Limbaugh, Hannity and the biggest ears of all, Cheney's, in the center," Fuller said. Also on Friday, Fuller stopped by the home of gunman Jared Lee Loughner and told a neighbor he was going to forgive the shooter, The Associated Press said. On Saturday, Fuller was carted away for a psychiatric exam after disrupting the town-hall meeting by taking a photo of Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries and shouting, "You're dead!" Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/docs_upgrade_gabby_condition_LZ3Z2FWj75oEr26HpCeAdI#ixzz1BQ52NDTa

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gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 3 months ago

Psychology... what people do when they can't handle the rigors of an actual medical degree.

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Liberty275 3 years, 3 months ago

"What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence."

No, what is reckless is a willingness to trade your freedom for politics.

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George Lippencott 3 years, 3 months ago

Thought I would add my two cents. Standing up to the IRA is standing up to its members. They claim 4 million. They do vote. I am not one.

It seems to me this argument gets conducted in absolutes. On one side everyone should own a Ma Duce. On the other pellet guns should be banned. Is there no sensible approach? Yelping every time somebody gets shot is a poor way to address public policy. How about some long term practical solutions?

Perhaps the authors might have a suggestion?

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 3 months ago

Meanwhile, in one of the most tightly controlled societies on earth: "DEADLY SCHOOL ATTACKS IN CHINA
China has witnessed a series of assaults by knife-wielding attackers on schools in recent years. Many have been blamed on personal grudges or people with psychiatric problems: April 30, 2010: A farmer attacked and injured five kindergarten students with a hammer in Shandong province's Weifang city before burning himself to death. The man struck a teacher who tried to block him and then used the hammer to attack the children. None of the children had life-threatening injuries. April 29, 2010: A 47-year-old unemployed man attacked a classroom of 4-year-olds at a kindergarten in Jiangsu province, wounding 28 of them. Two teachers and a security guard were also hurt. April 28, 2010: A man wielding a knife broke into a primary school in Leizhou city in Guangdong province in southern China and stabbed 18 students and a teacher. April 12, 2010: Yang Jiaqin, 40, hacked to death a second grader and an elderly woman near an elementary school in Xizhen village of the southern Guangxi region. The attack came one day before Yang's family was scheduled to send him to a hospital for psychological treatment. He had been diagnosed with a mood disorder. March 23, 2010: Zheng Minsheng, 42, killed eight children in a knife attack at the Nanping Experimental Elementary School in south China's Fujian province. Zheng was executed April 28. March 2, 2009: Xu Ximei, 40, hacked two preschoolers, aged 4 and 6, to death with a kitchen knife and injured three other children and a grandmother at a primary school in Mazhan, a village in Guangdong province, and at a yard in the village. Xu was believed to be mentally disabled. Feb. 24, 2008: Chen Wenzhen, a former student at the Leizhou No. 2 Middle School in Guangdong province, stabbed to death a boy and a girl, then killed himself. Chen had dropped out half a year earlier because he suffered from headaches and could not concentrate on his studies, state media said.... Nov. 25, 2004: Yan Yiming, 21, broke into a Chinese high school dormitory and stabbed nine boys to death in Ruzhou, Henan province. Yan's mother turned him in to police after he attempted suicide on the day following the attack. He was executed two months later.

-- The Associated Press"

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-05-12-china-students-killed_N.htm

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Agnostick 3 years, 3 months ago

There is still very, very much about this individual (Loughner) that has not been released to the general public. What did they find on his computer(s), for example? Were there any web sites--political or otherwise--that he frequently visited? Individuals he corresponded with on a regular basis? Too many things open to speculation right now. All we really know at the moment is that another disturbed (former) male college student somehow managed to get hold of a handgun, show up at a public place, and kill or injure many innocent people.

He was at least lucid enough to understand that a handgun with a large clip of ammunition gave him the opportunity to hurt or kill more people than a handgun with a regular or standard ammo clip... or running through the crowd stabbing people with a knife.

For some reason, I keep thinking about this character, and the wild goose chases he instigated:

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matthewlyon 3 years, 3 months ago

"What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence."

Yes, you just know all those violent youths in the inner cities read National Review and belong to the tea party movement.

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Eybea Opiner 3 years, 3 months ago

"What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence."

Make a case, fools.

You do know that Democrats posted bullseye targets on certain congressional districts, don't you? You do know that a Democrat operative directly recently threatened a Republican representative by shouting "You're dead!", don't you?

Take your psychobabble and place it where it belongs.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 3 months ago

Just imagine how many drive-by bayonettings were prevented by the Scary Weapons Ban!

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i_tching 3 years, 3 months ago

The claim that Krauthammer and other rightwingers have made, that Loughner is apolitical, rings false. Loughner has made it clear his enthrallment with the bizarre rightwing conspiracy theories of David Wynn Miller, for example.

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obamarocks 3 years, 3 months ago

The right wing nutjobs are responsible for the shooting in arizona, they are just too afraid to admit it. With the repuklicans insistance that they need assault rifles with daggers on them and 30 round clips for their pistols, this was bound to happen sooner rather than later and it will happen again before guns are finally banned from being owned by the general public as they should be!

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rtwngr 3 years, 3 months ago

What if we discover that the shooter received years of Ritalin prescribed by clinical psychologists for childhood behavior problems? Just asking.

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jaywalker 3 years, 3 months ago

While it's 'kitschy' for ya'll to have submitted a 200 word LTE with dual credits, it's a transparent and fallacious attempt to use an 'Appeal to Authority' argument that concludes (and hinges) on two purely politically-biased points.

P U.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 3 months ago

They were doing pretty well up until the last sentence when they swerved into the current regime's talking points.

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Stuart Evans 3 years, 3 months ago

I thought that this letter was really well written. right up until the very end where it deteriorated into a political diatribe. society isn't merely fouled up because of a right wing ideology; although I will give them ample credit. I think that the left wing has had plenty of hand in the game of screwing our society to the point of breaking.

The differences between the people in Washington are minimal; The differences between the citizens is minimal; The difference between us and Washington, are vast. Don't play their game of pitting us against one another.

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75x55 3 years, 3 months ago

"Individual pathology cannot be understood in isolation from the broader system in which it is embedded. What is “reckless” is to pretend that there is no link between right-wing extremism and growing violence. Even more reckless is pretending that we can reduce the number of tragic shootings without standing up to the NRA and its allies."

Of course, years of Bush-haters spouting on endlessly in every public forum couldn't have had any effect whatsoever.

Politically biased hack letter.

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Alceste 3 years, 3 months ago

Harriet Lerner misses the boat, AGAIN, continually pushing her "One Tune Tommy" agenda of radical non-feminism which is more akin to andrist thoughts than anything else. She notes:

"What we do see (is) out of control aggression (mainly in boys......)....". Another mouthpiece for the "feminization" of boys via the public school systems; via the social service delivery systems; blah, blah, blah.

For all we know the shooter had an andrist mother?

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Dan Eyler 3 years, 3 months ago

Funny, clearly the "clinical psychology duo" are not living in Lawrence for any other reason than to cure the mental disorder of the left. The man who shot the congresswoman and killed others was as sick as any individual can be. He demonstrated absolutely no signs of political identity and is the only person to blame. But like any good psychologist you suggest that he is a victim of the some right wing conspiracy. In all reality it was clinical psychologists just like the Lerner s who are responsible for the Arizona shooting. In all of your attempts to make victims of the most sick and violent individuals in our society, psychologists missed more opportunities to stop this shooting than anyone could imagine. You clearly demonstrate the problem with modern psychiatry; liberalism is a mental disorder and it is time for the Lerner s to have their heads examined for writing this letter.

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AnnaUndercover 3 years, 3 months ago

He also does not quite understand what "nihilism" really means...

I wonder if this is a symptom of a larger/additional reason he may have committed these crimes.

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BornAgainAmerican 3 years, 3 months ago

More blatant hypocrisy from left wing zeolots who are unwilling to acknowledge that their side is just as guilty and way more hypocritical. BTW, exactly what if anything does the brief summary of treatments for historical psychological disorders vs. contemporary psychological disorders have to do with politics and how is it useful in linking the right wing to growing violence? Are you saying out of control agression did not exist in Freud's time? I suppose it would have been useless for him to attempt to treat the Nazis who burned his books and the Gestapo who forced him into exile.

Come on liberals...own up to your contributions to current vitiolic political environment and your arrogant, hypocritical finger-pointing. There is plenty of blame to go around.

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labmonkey 3 years, 3 months ago

Ahhh psychology. The practice whose hero was a cocaine addicted pedophile.

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