In 1964, Fact magazine published an article titled “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.” It featured a survey, in which 1,189 psychiatrists voted to say that presidential candidate Goldwater was “psychologically unfit to be president.”
Goldwater sued for libel and won $75,000 in damages, and the American Psychiatric Association used this occasion to institute what has become known as the “Goldwater rule,” stating that “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on an individual] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”
The reason the APA enacted the Goldwater Rule is being overlooked
The Goldwater Rule is cited repeatedly in the recent book called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” in which “27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” albeit from a distance and in clear violation of the APA’s longtime ethical standards. Those experts are listed on the book’s back cover, and they apparently include Noam Chomsky, an emeritus professor of linguistics and longtime left-wing activist with absolutely no professional mental health expertise whatsoever.
Chomsky write the epilogue at the invitation of the book’s editor Bandy Lee, who acknowledges Chomsky’s lack of official credentials but attempts to justify his inclusion by saying that since Chomsky has “arrived at similar conclusions about the seriousness of the risks outlined in this book, through different methods,” it’s therefore appropriate to reach out “across disciplines” to allow Chomsky to provide “a powerful confirmation.”
In other words, even though Chomsky is not at all qualified to offer a medical opinion on anybody under any circumstances, it’s appropriate to give him the last word since he also agrees that Trump is too crazy to be president. Of course, so do the millions of social media gadflies who have tweeted subtle variations of “Trump Be Cray Cray,” although they, too, have arrived at similar conclusions through different methods.
Powerful confirmation? More like confirmation bias, a psychological defect present in all of the essays of these 27 “mental health experts.” This isn’t science; it’s a partisan screed cloaked in academic authority to provide a pretense of respectability to party hacks using medical jargon to say Donald Trump is a jerk.
The left’s dismissal of the Goldwater Rule proves the partisan nature of their arguments
The partisan nature of this exercise is transparently obvious in the editor and author’s attempts to repeatedly rationalize their clear violation of the Goldwater rule. Writing in the book’s prologue, the editors state that they are “mindful of politicizing the professions” and therefore conclude that “certainly we must heed the so-called ‘Goldwater rule,'” if only to provide tortured justifications for why they’re ignoring it.
They worry that “a rule originally conceived to protect our profession from scandal might itself become a source of scandal,” and they are frustrated that the APA publicly reaffirmed this vital ethical standard “barely two months into the new administration” in what the editors deem a “questionable” move that makes it look like Trump has the APA in his crazy back pocket.
Why, it’s almost as if the APA anticipated that 27 mental health experts/Noam Chomskys would be tempted to misuse their credentials for partisan purposes. Crazy, right?
But no, these hacks have a responsibility to rise above principle – a “Duty to Warn,” which was the title of the academic conference at Yale that served as the catalyst for this book. On Page 6, the editors outline their supernally righteous reasons for throwing ethical standards to the wind. Try not to drown in the sanctimony:
The physician, to whom life-and-death situations are entrusted, is expected to know when it is appropriate to act, and to act responsibly when warranted. It is because of the weight of this responsibility that, rightfully, the physician should refrain from commenting on a public figure except in the rarest instance. [Emphasis added.] Only in an emergency should a physician breach the trust of confidentiality and intervene without consent, and only in an emergency should a physician breach the Goldwater rule. We believe that such an emergency now exists.
Yes, of course they do. Except even if an emergency exists, they fundamentally misunderstand why the Goldwater rule exists. It’s not because diagnosing from a distance is impolite; it’s because it doesn’t work. The rule offers no exceptions for “the rarest instance” in which the commenters really don’t like the person they’re skewering – oops, sorry, analyzing.
Donald Trump can’t be diagnosed from a distance; no one can
Without getting up close and personal, everything any mental health expert does is glorified guesswork. That’s why this book is replete with official-sounding, high-minded rubbish that tells us little or nothing about Donald Trump and everything about the assumptions of his fallacious accusers.
Take the first essay, “Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism,” which diagnoses the president with a very precise condition, one that his long-distance doctors hope you don’t notice it’s one they specifically made up.
From Page 27:
Furthermore, through our observations, it was apparent, based on Zimbardo’s time perspective theory (Zimbardo and Boyd 2009), later developed into time perspective theory by Sword and Sword (Zimbardo, Sword and Sword 2012), that Trump embodied a specific personality type: an unbridled, or extreme, present hedonist. [Emphasis in original.]
Did you catch that? Based on Zimbardo and Boyd’s 2009 theory, expanded into a new theory with the help of Sword and Sword, we find that both theories perfectly apply to Donald Trump’s condition, one which no other psychiatrist uses, because it isn’t really a thing. Or at least it wasn’t a thing until some folks named Zimbardo, Boyd, and Sword decided it was. The article in the book, curiously, was written by two people named Philip Zombardo and Rosemary Sword. (No relation, perhaps?) They then drone on for more than twenty pages about how frightening it is that Trump fits their tailor-made suit to a T.
This should come as no surprise, given that both Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword can confidently be classified as hardcore, or big league, clueless doofii based on the Jim Bennett Clueless Doofus theory (Bennett, just now), expanded by Bennett and Titus into Extra-Heinous Clueless Doofus (Bennett and Titus, Bennett’s overweight half-pug half-beagle, commonly known as a “puggle,” pictured below.)
This all becomes very silly very quickly.
The reality is that this book is an attempt to medicalize political disagreements and a not-so-transparent attempt to relabel political differences as mental illnesses. That way Republicans aren’t just wrong; they’re defective. That way, they don’t have to be confronted in the arena of ideas; they can just be sedated and locked away forever.
To his credit, Noam Chomsky doesn’t even try to hide that this is his purpose. His proof of Trump’s insanity is that he “wants to virtually eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency… to cut back regulations…he wants to raise the military budget..”
Yes. Because only a crazy person would want to do any of that. (That previous sentence is an example of Unusually Brazen Sarcasm, based on the Bennett/Titus/Fester UBS theory, made up this instant by Bennett, his dog Titus, and the spirit of Fester, his dead cat.)
Still, the book is racing up the bestseller lists, and only a handful of people have called into question the shoddy ethics and flimsy conclusions that make up this work of drivel. But you don’t have to be an expert to reach one painfully obvious conclusion: it’s a waste of energy to have 27 mental health experts spend 360 pages to find hundreds of hifalutin ways to say Donald Trump is a jerk.