The Herman Cain Event I Never Got To See

In October, I received an email from Aristotle Boosalis, the President of the Columbia University College Republicans, announcing an event featuring Herman Cain, a former candidate for the 2012 U.S. Republican Party presidential nomination. I ended up on the CUCR mailing list after directly emailing Mr. Boosalis with words of encouragement and my support for his desire to challenge Columbia University students into spirited debate by hosting events with controversial speakers like Mike Cernovich and Tommy Robinson. To be clear, i do not agree with anything that Cernovich and Robinson have said in the past. Moreover, I think that the CUCR should strive to interface with speakers who are more mainstream and palatable than the ones whose services they have been procuring. Nevertheless, I believe we must never cower when confronted with ideologies from groups or individuals who appear to advocate hatred, always being aware of the fine line between free speech and hate speech. The opportunity to either isolate and verbally lacerate our enemies or give credence to the claims of our allies in a public forum for the world to see is a gift, and Columbia University students should delight in using the tools they have been learning in class to that end, but in my experience, they are unwilling to do so. Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack. As Jeff Sessions has noted, “The American university was once the center of academic freedom — a place of robust debate,but it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.” Sessions’ ideas are not without precedent and steeped in the spirit of Columbia University’s decision to invite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak in 2007, the man who vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.” The CUCR also stated in a general email that protestors planned to shut down the Herman Cain event, so they needed support. I decided to pre-register for the event. I ordered my free ticket on October 2nd. All that was required was my CUID, which I supplied to Eventbrite. Within minutes, my ticket to the event was sent to me at my LionMail email address. I looked forward to giving my support to Mr. Boosalis and the CUCR, as well as to Mr. Cain, who is surely not as controversial as Cernovich and Robinson, and whose only “sins” seem to be a love for American capitalism as well as allegations of sexual harassment.

I arrived at the Columbia University campus at 6.15 pm. It was exhilarating to be back on campus once again, as I have not been back to Columbia since my graduation in May of 2017. I walked into Roone Arledge Cinema with a sense that I was a valued member of the Columbia University family privy to events not accessible to the public. Unfortunately, the exhilaration was short lived, as I was denied entry to the event. The reasons cited were that my CUID was inactive, and that for security reasons, I would not be granted access to the event, even though I presented my Columbia University ID, as well as a hard copy printout of my ticket, as well as my driver’s license. I asked the person in charge of the event security to try and locate Mr. Boosalis in hopes that he could somehow resolve the problem. She was unwilling to locate him, stating that there would be nothing that he could do for me, as it was a security issue. As I walked back to my car, reality started to set in. All the talk of camaraderie and school spirit was just a lot of nonsense. I felt like an outsider; unwanted and unwelcome. When I finally arrived home, I checked my LionMail, and was amused to find a message about Columbia Giving Day, and an urgent plea for a donation. It was a fitting end to a very frustrating day. The next day I learned that there were only forty individuals present for Cain’s speech entitled Obamacare and the American Dream and not a single protestor attended.

This incident laid bare the fact that Columbia University might need to reexamine how it oversees events featuring controversial speakers on campus. Moreover, I felt that someone at the university owed me a detailed explanation as to why I was not able to attend the Herman Cain Event presented by the CUCR. I used my CUID to obtain a valid ticket to the event, which I presented, along with my student ID, but even so, I was denied entry. I am an alumnus of Columbia University, not a security threat. If my CUID was inactive, I should not have received a ticket in the first place. Additionally, if something changed overnight because of security issues, and only current Columbia University students were granted access to the event, then I, as well as other alumni that pre-registered for the event should have been notified. I decided to email James Mc Shane, Columbia University’s Vice President for Public Safety, and the person behind the Clery Crime Alerts, which are distributed via mass email notifications sent to all e-mail addresses. Mr Mc Shane promised that he would investigate the matter for me. Within two days, I was contacted by John Murolo, the Director of Special Operations and Events. It turns out that the reason I was turned away on the night of the Herman Cain event was because I was not in possession of a valid Alumni ID, which grants former students of Columbia University access to Lerner Hall as well as the University Libraries. He informed me that an Alumni ID was available at Butler Library, and all that was necessary to obtain one was a valid picture ID, a UNI, school affiliation and graduation date. As Columbia University students scurry around campus worrying about the shame of getting an A minus rather than an A,how to deal with those pesky Republican classmates who are ruining their college experience, or debate who should or should not be entitled to speak on campus, most probably never stop for a moment to consider the daunting task of campus security, what I takes to achieve it, and the efforts of those who make it all come to fruition. While i was initially angered by being denied access to Lerner Hall, and planned to write a critique regarding the way Columbia University handles events featuring controversial speakers, and the possibility that the administration attempts to sabotage them, in retrospect I realize that Columbia University’s Department of Public Safety and the Operations Manager at Lerner Hall did what they deemed necessary to provide a safe environment for the students of Columbia University. They are esteemed professionals and deserve to do their jobs without micromanagement. Considering the events at Charlottesville, it is evident that these are challenging times all over America. We should to be more appreciative and cognizant of the efforts of those who work in public safety and law enforcement who work behind the scenes to keep us all safe. It is a never-ending and often thankless job. Correspondingly, we must uphold the time-honored tradition of the American university as a “safe space” for academic freedom without fear of repercussion.


Even Witch Doctors Don’t Diagnose From Afar

In a recent Rolling Stone magazine feature entitled The Madness of Donald Trump, Matt Taibbi asserts that “karma is a bitch,” and evil America got what they deserved in President Trump, a man he feels is a “perfect representation of who, as a country we are and have always been: an insane monster.” Fortunately for evil America, Taibbi has a plan to remove President Trump from office. While Robert Mueller continues his investigation into matters ranging variously from Trump’s dismissal of former FBI chief James Comey, and allegations of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Taibbi and his cabal of left leaning psychiatrists and journalists are crafting a new narrative in case Mueller’s investigation fails: a declaration of Trump’s “inability to discharge duties” under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.” The linchpin of Taibbi’s argument is that President Trump is a “malignant narcissist,” a mental disorder which is based on narcissistic personality disorder, but with a pinch of paranoia, a sprinkle of sadism, and a dash of anti-social behavior.
Taibbi loathes America. His Zinn- infused history from below is one I am quite familiar with. He asserts that we are a “bloodthirsty Mr. Hyde nation that subsists on massacres and slave labor while we sit stuffing ourselves on couches blathering about our American exceptionalism.” While it might be true that Taibbi loathes America, he hates President Trump even more, and as his confusing and ill-conceived diatribe unfolds, the only thing that I am convinced of the weakness and desperation of his arguments, and the possibility that Taibbi, and not President Trump, needs psychological or biomedical treatment. The article is adorned with pictures of a bulging eyed President Trump grimacing in a strait jacket, and in his verbal attack against him, he spends an inordinate amount of time using words and phrases like “mad as a sack of bees,” “crazy,” “insane,” “damaged,” “unwell,” “delusional,” and “loony-bin administration” with no regard for the pain he is causing to those struggling with mental illness on a daily basis, the corresponding stigmatization those words bring on, or the possibly that speaking about mental illness in this manner makes those that suffer from it less inclined to seek appropriate treatment. Taibbi’s argument is premised on what he believes to be the sanctity and infallibility of the diagnoses contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, (the manual that lists Internet Use Syndrome as a mental disorder)and the expert testimony of John Hopkins trained psychologist John Gartner who has “managed to gather more than 62.000 signatures from self- described mental health professionals who attest that Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.” Taibbi also claims that “everyone with half a brain and a recent copy of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) knew the diagnosis on Trump the minute he entered the race.” Clearly that statement neither effuses confidence in in our modern-day health professionals, nor gives credence to his claims and the “experts” he references. On the other hand, Taibbi’s thoughtlessness in constructing his argument does lay bare the phenomenon of the decline of once highly esteemed professions and institutions, and our current society of comedians, musicians, politicians, celebrities and ordinary citizens feeling confident in rendering armchair diagnoses of President Trump’s alleged mental illness, claiming the latest New York Times or CNN news items to be fake news, or weighing in on matters of constitutional law while gathered around the office water cooler. It is important to note that not everyone is as convinced of the validity of the diagnoses contained in the DSM as Taibbi and Gartner are. According to Thomas R. Insell, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, “unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.” He continued, “this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever.”Correspondingly, Gary Greenberg, a psychotherapist and one of the most outspoken critics of the DSM asserts:
The American Psychiatric Association owns the DSM. They aren’t only responsible for it: they own it, sell it, and license it. The DSM is created by a group of committees. It’s a bureaucratic process. In place of scientific findings, the DSM uses expert consensus to determine what mental disorders exist and how you can recognize them. Disorders come into the book the same way a law becomes part of the book of statutes. People suggest it, discuss it, and vote on it. Homosexuality was deleted from the DSM by a referendum. A straight up vote: yes or no.
One year ago, in my final class as a Columbia University undergraduate majoring in sociology, I enrolled in The Science of Psychology under the tutelage of a most wonderful instructor who ultimately helped me to rethink my negative perceptions of psychiatry. I decided to enroll in the class because a classmate advised me that it might be the easiest way to fulfill my science requirement. The class was largely based in neuroscience, and proved to be quite a challenge for me. There is a concerted effort among the new breed of professors and students in the field of psychology to rely on science to add validity to the methods and perspectives that psychologists employ, thus elevating the respectability of the discipline. After one semester, I experienced a remarkable volte-face. I learned that there is a lot more behind human thoughts and acts than the theory that every female desired a penis, and every male wanted to give his mother a thorough rogering. As part of our class participation grade, my classmates and I had to answer questions with our iClickers,which were projected onto a large screen. One question asked if the mental illness of a friend or family member significantly affected our lives. The histogram that depicted the results was powerful; the lives of 95 percent of my class of over 160 students were impacted in varying degrees by mental illness, but perhaps none more impacted than my own. I told my professor after class that the failure of psychiatry to properly diagnose and treat my late sister from the time period between 1975 and 2007 was the reason for my disdain for psychiatrists, the diagnoses contained in the DSM, as well as the reason why I was her student at fifty-four years of age. While i would rather not publicize my family’s problems and relive the pain, i will simply say that my family and i had to raise my niece, because my sister was so ill, she was unable to do so herself.  Over a thirty-year period, my sister was treated by five different psychiatrists, each with a different diagnosis. While the medications prescribed changed monthly, her condition only worsened. I understand the unique challenges of treating mental disorders, and I have neither commented negatively about psychiatry, nor spoke publicly about my family’s struggles with mental illness. It took the travesty of mental health professionals attempting to circumvent the Goldwater Rule to publicly diagnose President Trump without his consent to get me fully engaged, and sufficiently enraged.
The take home message of Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article is that the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the White House is in many ways a reflection of “who, as a country, we are and always have been: an insane monster.” Furthermore, to Taibbi and the #notmypresident/#resist factions, Donald Trump is a symptom of a terminally ill society. In contrast, those who support the President believe that America is infirm, but it is only Donald Trump who can render the social prescription that can restore an America that has strayed too far from the path that our Founding Fathers set for us. The question as to whether President Trump is fit to perform his duties should be decided by either the investigative process currently underway, or by the political process in 2020, not by a psychological fitness examination conducted by a biased and partisan Congress under the auspices of a handful of rogue psychiatrists who hate President Trump, and whose  behavior violates long established American Psychological Association standards.Hatred is never a good motivation for a diagnosis, especially on a patient that you have never seen in a professional capacity. Even witch doctors don’t diagnose from afar. Anyone with half a brain and a copy of the DSM would most likely agree with me.

Fake News and Fascists: The Paranoid Style in American Journalism

Donald Trump may suffer from a lack of humility, but he is not a fascist.

In his essay entitled, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1965), Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter explored what he believed to be the inextricable connection between conspiracy, paranoia and conservatism in American political life during the Goldwater era. According to Hofstadter, the linchpin of the paranoid style of right wing politics was the “existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character.” Hofstadter distilled the elements of contemporary right wing thought into three; First, the presence of un-American traitors who desired to “undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government” thus paving the way for socialism or communism. Second, the view that the United States government was already “infiltrated by Communists, who sold out American interests”. Third, the revelation of an alliance between Communist agents who had infiltrated the “whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media and our education system to “paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans.” Although historian-cum-pseudo psychiatrist Hofstadter asserted that he had “neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past and present as certifiable lunatics,” that is precisely what he did in his diagnosis that Rightism was not a system of rational political beliefs, but rather a pathological disorder. Hofstadter made a distinction between the clinical paranoiac in society and the paranoid spokesman in right wing politics; the former “sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him.” The clinical paranoiac in right wing politics finds it “directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone, but millions of others.” Despite this fundamental difference, an extemporaneous and symbiotic relationship is forged. Thus, the existence of enemies, either real or imagined, serves as the foundation that right wing politics is built on.

At the same time, Hofstadter offered evidence that paranoia was not the exclusive domain of politics and conservatives in his claim that a paranoid style was often a component of the left-wing press. The history of journalism as seen through the lens of paranoia and grandiose conspiracy is well documented. Fox News provided the fertile ground for President Trump’s birther beliefs from 2011 to 2016. Even so, on December 8th, 2015, Rachel Maddow and MSNBC took the paranoid style of journalism to heights hitherto unknown. Proceeding with a seemingly innocuous synopsis of various styles of auto racing from around the world, Maddow transitioned from auto racing to an old story about Max Mosley, the former boss of the Formula One organization, and son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists in 1932. In 2008, Max Mosley gained infamy when a video of his sexual escapades surfaced. Maddow conveys how the British tabloid News of The World broke the story of the five-hour long video tape with the headline: Formula One Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy with Hookers. What Maddow fails to mention is that later that year, Mosley won £60,000 in a privacy action against News Of The World. In his judgement, Mr. Justice Eady “found no evidence of Nazi themes in the video,” and said that Mosley’s life had been “ruined” because of the tabloid. Nevertheless, Maddow used the Max Mosley sex scandal as an introduction to the true purpose of her feature, which was to draw parallels between Sir Oswald Mosley’s failed efforts to move Britain towards fascism, and the rise of Donald Trump, which she considered the beginning of a “flirtation with fascism” in the United States based on Trump’s desire to call for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. She concluded her character assassination of Donald Trump by raising the question as to whether fascism as a word was too “over the top” to use to describe politics in America, or “helpful because it was accurate.” She chose the latter, and closed the segment stating that the rise of Donald Trump can be viewed as “America’s Sir Oswald Mosley Moment.”

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