The Clare Spark Blog

December 12, 2013

The Wall Street Journal discovers lobotomy craze for vets

VA quackeryAs late as today, December 12, 2013, The Wall Street Journal, has discovered that traumatized veterans of WW2 and even later conflicts were routinely lobotomized, a procedure that is said to have its greatest application in the 1940s and 1950s. Written by Michael M. Phillips (pages A1, A8-A9), the author relies on “dusty” boxes found in the National Archives.  The surgery was primarily applied to “depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals.”

Where have journalists been all these years? Even anti-science, anti-psychiatry students of the history of medicine consider this lurid chapter to be closed, though my blog index to lobotomies remains popular. See

But even more relevant to the WSJ alarming discovery is the series on military psychiatry, which remains in a primitive state, perhaps owing to the assumption that wars are inevitable, and that fighting men are expendable, whereas blundering diplomats and governments are not. Above all, we must maintain hierarchies and obedience to our betters, a message amplified by such favorite television series as NCIS, where the good father (Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon) protects his cohesive fighting family, ever the uncomplaining “team.” On blundering diplomats see (with an addendum by Niall Ferguson).

As I have argued before, WSJ, like Fox News Channel or Commentary is an outpost of the moderate men. (See I had hoped that the WSJ article would exhibit some homework in other archives, hence pointing to our continued confusion over the causes of anxiety, depression, “shell shock,” “PTSD,” and other mental illnesses that might be preventable without the taboo associated with any of the “personality disorders” said to be curable now with cognitive behavioral therapy, guided by DSM-5.  (See, one of my items in the lobotomy blogs.)


The point of this blog is that ordinary people take the rap when our “betters” give the orders and fail in their jobs to keep individual, social, and international peace. Is it possible that our world is run by quacks? Are we quacks for trusting them? If so, what can we do about it? Leave your comments on the blog.

March 16, 2013

Blogs on Freud and anti-Freudians

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:28 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Michelangelo's Horned Moses

Michelangelo’s Horned Moses (some authoritarian anti-Freudians) (Freud’s map of the mind as possibly influenced by the French Revolution) (index of blogs that abuse Freud to grow state power; Freud was about emancipation from illegitimate authority) (aristocratic views of “the People”)  (on the pervasiveness of S-M in popular culture)  (anti-Freud in The Nation, 1919) (Lippmann read Freud).

Why do I come down on the side of the Freudians, when it would be more expedient to join in the demonization of Freud so common all along the political spectrum?  Here is what Freud wrote about his teacher Charcot, in an obituary: “‘He was not a reflective man, not a thinker: he had the nature of an artist—he was, as he himself said, a ‘visuel’, a man who sees. Here is what he himself told us about his method of working. He used to look again and again at the things he did not understand, to deepen his impression of them day by day, till suddenly an understanding of them dawned on him. […]. He might be heard to say that the greatest satisfaction a man could have was to see something new — that is, to recognize it as new; and he remarked again and again on the difficulty and value of this kind of ‘seeing’.” [Quoted in Ilse Grubrich-Simitism, Early Freud and Late Freud, p.17]

Prometheus as shown by a "white nationalist"

Prometheus as shown by a “white nationalist”

December 18, 2012

Blogs on mental health

Virginia Woolf, suicide

Virginia Woolf, suicide

Most of this website is devoted to our political culture and its bizarre evasions of mental health issues. I blame this on an aversion to anything smacking of [the Jew] Freud and his followers in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically-oriented therapies. We would rather look to religion, myths of the happy family, the notion that this is “the best of all possible worlds,” and pills as prescribed by much of the psychiatric profession. Our continued blindness to the psyche, our obliviousness to problematic institutions, and to problems in families will only lead to more mass deaths of the shocking character of Newtown, December 14, 2012.  We will continue to “undo” these preventable catastrophes in a desperate and fruitless attempt to escape from reality–whether from scapegoating or from premature diagnostics. (the ruling paradigm for mental health today) (on the Foucauldians) (retitled Holiday blues and unhappy families) (takes up the recent flap on Jamie Foxx on SNL) (don’t miss case 123, before and after: truly remarkable and awful) (some on military psychiatry, some on ideology of progressive psychologists and writers)

December 9, 2009

Strategic Regression in “the greatest generation”

A plea for home ownership by Alan Cranston, Summer 1987

[Added 12-15-09: this blog is not meant to support the anti-psychiatry movement or the practice of mental health professionals today as a group. As in other professions, there are competent and incompetent pracitioners, some who further the search for truth and others who seek only minor amelioration in their clients. I have many friends on the Left who dismiss all forms of psychotherapy, to their detriment, physically and mentally.] Many prior blogs have dealt with social psychological strategies for achieving “civilian morale,” not only to support the second world war, but in establishing a stable peace afterward. See and For my own formulation of the notion of “balance” see

The Fort Hood massacre/jihad has motivated me to read in the annals of military psychiatry. What I have found may surprise many visitors to this website. The following quote from a major publication by two Army Air Force psychiatrists has implications for the postwar period and for our studies of popular culture. Note the strong contrast drawn between fascist and liberal democratic governments by these psychiatrists. One wonders if they agreed with the troops that the war was caused by powerful financial interests, not because of the real threat of fascist ambitions for world domination. Or did Doctors Grinker and Spiegel project their own populist vision into the minds of their troubled patients? When they claimed that the soldiers blamed “the machinations of large financial interests” for the war, did they mean “Wall Street” or “the Jews”?

    The photograph I chose to accompany these materials was distributed by Senator Alan Cranston in the summer of 1987. It shares the same logic as that of the irrationalist psychiatrists I quote below: the working-class family, properly housed, must be managed, protecting them from their dangerous, morale-reducing proclivities to complain about incompetent leadership. (Click on the picture to read the text. I pasted onto the collage the missing girl ad.)

From the chapter “Motivation for Combat—Morale,” in Roy R. Grinker and John E. Spiegel, Men Under Stress (Blakiston Press, 1945):

“Prior to his introduction to combat, the average flier possesses a series of intellectual and emotional attitudes regarding his relation to the war. The intellectual attitudes comprise his opinon concerning the necessity of the war and the merits of our cause. Here the American soldier is in a peculiarly disadvantageous position compared with his enemies and most of his Allies. Although attitudes vary from strong conviction to profound cynicism, the most usual reaction is one of passive acceptance of our part in the conflict. Behind this acceptance there is little real conviction. The political, economic or even military justifications for our involvement in the war are not apprehended except in a vague way. The men feel that, if our leaders, the “big-shots,” could not keep us out, then there is no help for it; we have to fight. There is much danger for the future in this attitude, since the responsibility is not personally accepted but is displaced to the leaders. If these should lose face or the men find themselves in economic difficulties in the postwar world, the attitude can easily shift to one of blame of the leaders. The the cry will rise: “We were betrayed—the politicians got us in for their own gain. The militarists made us suffer for it.”

   There is much that is lacking in the political education of American troops, for which army policy cannot be criticized in view of the similar apathy on the home front. Late in the struggle the army became aware of this weakness among our soldiers. The Information and Education Division was then organized to repair this gap in the psychological preparation for combat. Some progress in the face of considerable resistance has been made by this service, but at the time of writing the men still have only a dim comprehension of the meaning of the fascist political state and its menace to our liberal democratic government. The war is generally regarded as a struggle between national states for economic empires. The men are not fully convinced that our country was actually threatened, or, if so, only remotely, or because of the machinations of large financial interests. In such passive attitudes lie the seeds of disillusion, which could prove very dangerous in the postwar period. Certainly they stand in startling contrast with the strong political and national convictions of our Axis enemies, which can inspire their troops, when the occasion demands, with a fanatical and religious fervor. Fortunately, strong intellectual motivation has not proved to be of the first importance to good morale in combat. The danger of this lack seems to be less to the prospect of military success than to success in the peace and to stability in the postwar period.” (pp.38-39)

   The authors go on to describe the unconscious forces that bind the men and lift morale, all concerned with love for the father-leader and the identification with each other as if they were a happy family:

   “The formation of such feelings of obligation and loyalty to any group with which one is identified is of the highest significance to good morale. It is the essence of the powerful patriotic feelings which are stimulated in times of war, but which have their origins in earliest childhood. …Not all Americans have been able to develop a range of identification large enough to include the nation and thus to develop strong feelings of loyalty and obligation. To some extent this ability seems to be a measure of social maturity. (p.40)

   In another chapter, “The Reactions to Combat Based On Previous Emotional Disorders,” the authors (psychiatrists in the Army  Air Force) describe a “psychopathic” individual who had complained about suicidal missions ordered by his commander, and which the better adjusted men had come to accept without his “loud and vociferous criticisms.” The authors sum up such psychopathic types (who, to these eyes, resemble loud, pushy, and troublemaking Jews):

   “This case illustrates the general problems involved in dealing with the mild psychopathic personalities brought out by combat stress. These individuals resemble problem children and have a characteristic capacity for stimulating the desire to protect and help them in some of their associates, while they irritate and permanently antagonize others. They are childishly demanding and emotionally reactive and at the same time have a child-like clarity of vision. Unfortunately the truths they proclaim so loudly may be apparent to others, who are doing their best to ignore them or to get along in spite of them. To handle such individuals skillfully so that they can continue to give service without damaging morale requires superior leadership and knowledge of human relationships. In many cases it can be done successfully.” (81)

November 8, 2009

Is the History of Psychiatry a Big Mess? (2)

Image (90)

Henry Fuseli, “Thor Battling Jormungander, the Midgard Dragon,” (1788)

Since I wrote part one of this blog, there have been several developments. First, a chasm has opened between those who see Nidal Hasan as a mental case, for instance, suffering from “harassment” directed against him as a Muslim, and those who see the Fort Hood event as an episode in radical Islamic jihadism. Second, I have attempted to find out more about “military psychiatry” and its philosophy.

Here is one article from 2002 that lays out its managerial philosophy: Sociologists will recognize a classical structural-functionalist and behaviorist model. (For the still powerful Talcott Parsons cohort at Harvard and elsewhere see my blog As I understand “functionalism,” society is viewed as a well-oiled machine, all its moving parts integrated to form a harmonious whole: any disturbances will emanate from outside “the system”–“outside agitators” or “Jewish” troublemakers, for instance.) In the explanation of military psychiatry (cited above) I was taken especially by the inception of military psychiatry in Russia diagnosing “evacuation syndrome” following the revolutionary situation of 1905 (the date meant nothing to the authors, apparently; Russian soldiers were joining Soldier’s Councils), and the suggestion that research today (2002) is being conducted in “computer administered cognitive therapy for affective and anxiety disorder.” I may have gone way more libertarian in my latter years, but my mind-management antennae are quivering anew and my head is ringing with alarm bells, notwithstanding the supposed adherence of military psychiatry to the “evidence-based practice [of medicine].” We should all be more attentive to this peculiar medical “culture” as its own advocates describe it, and it promises to be a fine subject for historians of science and investigative journalists, especially those with an interest in robots and their construction.

Third, one Facebook friend believes that Freudian and perhaps other approaches to depth psychology are obsolete and were always grievously mistaken anyway. He is not alone, and I have met few psychiatrists who do not distance themselves from psychoanalysts, even those analysts with medical degrees. Very briefly, I will sketch what contributions of Freud remain interesting, and how he was received in the early 20th century. The valuable part of Freud, for me at least, is that which asks us to piece together a narrative of our lives, first to identify patterned responses to difficult persons and situations, and second to examine our loves and hatreds toward the end of overcoming idealization or its opposite, demonization, of others; finally, to identify traumas and how to manage their lingering effects on psyche and soma, for instance, panic attacks on persistent anxiety. What Freud does not do is paint a rosy picture of life or any kind of “social engineering,” though as Nathan Hale has shown in his Freud and the Americans, he was deliberately turned into a Progressive in the USA. The real Freud would not have drawn a smile on Leviathan, but Henry Murray did (see “Leviathan Altered?” Murray added a smile to the whale image).

“Where Id was, let Ego be!” As I have mentioned before on this website, Freud wrote a major essay during the Great War describing the difficulty in becoming a civilized person or society, “Thoughts for the Time of War and Death” (1915). Indeed, in his still deeply controversial anti-religion book, The Future of An Illusion (1927), he began by stating that any society that abused many of its less advantaged members deserved to be overthrown: he was ever the moralist. In sum, he demands that we remember every significant detail of our past, and how relationships in the family of origin could have affected later object choices as an adult. No one who attended this call to constructing an accurate narrative would be susceptible to demagoguery or mind-management by others, including those in the press or government.

Those who are anti-Freud should be interrogated as to whether or not they reject the relevance of early childhood experiences and family deficiencies to persistent adult distress or gullibility. Also, whether or not they believe that the artists and writers who inspired Freud are of no consequence today (I include Sophocles, Shakespeare, Milton, Schiller, Goethe, Nietzsche, and many more; certainly Melville, writing in the 1850s, was as interested as Freud in family relationships). But that is not how Freud as historian (and literary critic) was received by the bohemian upper class after the war. Rather, libertines seized upon his theory that sexual repression causes neurotic symptoms and behavior. Let the acting out begin! (See Herbert Marcuse in Eros and Civilization for one of many examples. In Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality (1966), they dismiss psychoanalyst as suitable only for (New York?) Jews, with the implication that only sex-obsessed Jews would benefit from Freud. I was assigned this book in graduate school. )

In the 1970s, radical feminists pounced upon Freud’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of minor girls by male relatives, claiming that he had sold out, contradicting the testimony of his hysterical patients by postulating sexual fantasies in his analysands; these young women were thus made the victims of patriarchy (by the feminists). In that hostile reading, the victim became the perpetrator, i.e., “she asked for it.” I could spend a lifetime studying Freud and his interpreters/misinterpreters (some of whom are blatant antisemites, blasting Freud-the-carnal-Jew, not to speak of his atheism), and all the reasons he remains controversial today, so I apologize for the brevity of this blog on such a momentous subject. My own view is that any psychological treatment 1. must be anchored in the materiality of the human brain; and 2.must respect the autonomy of the patient or client, rigorously opposing brainwashing, interpretations that make sense only to the therapist, or any other type of indoctrination, and 3. cannot ignore the institutional context in which mental illness arises. Idealist (mystical) formulations that fail this test are simply ideological, and deserve the suspicion of their harshest critics. Mystification has no place in an enlightened profession.

As for soldiers, they deserve to know exactly why they fight: as a tight unit, they will give up their individuality, but it should not be a permanent loss of self. It cannot be an easy task to integrate them back into a society (ours) that is viciously polarized, often deceptive in the utterances of its leaders, and divided into fragments defined more by the group-think of race and ethnicity than by loyalty to a set of common democratic principles.* The more honest and capable psychiatrists of the military may have an impossible task on their hands.

*Here, in an excerpt from my article on Bunche and Myrdal,  is what was promised to enlisted men during the second world war:

[From my article:] Louis Wirth’s insistence on wise progressive planning and foresight, including the sighting of threats to order, was reiterated in a Q. and A. booklet from the Office of War Information, “What Do Students Do In The War and After” (numbered M-3227,  slipped into the Ideologies volume in the Bunche Papers at UCLA, though not bound). On page 8 the Committee for Economic Development [business leaders adopting Keynesian economic policies, created in 1942, C.S.] is mentioned as promising “maximum employment and high productivity” after the war. Page 9 quotes Ambassador Winant in a speech to English miners: “Anti-Fascism is not a short term military job. It was bred in poverty and unemployment. To crush Fascism at its roots we must crush depression. We must solemnly resolve that in the future we will not tolerate the economic evils which breed poverty and war. This is not something that we solve for the duration. It is part of the war.”  Page 10 announces “There is a growing sense of social responsibility among business leaders and a wide-spread acceptance of the inescapable duty of business to maintain full production and continuous employment to maintain the purchasing power upon which prosperity depends.” Page 11 ff., states that the curricula for history, the social sciences and the liberal arts will be revised and adjusted accordingly: Education must stress science, interpersonal human relations, and international affairs, the “larger world of other peoples and other cultures with whom we must collaborate in establishing world order.” [end excerpt] In other words, multiculturalism and internationalism were not an imposition by the Left but an upper-class “progressive” response to heightened expectations among soldiers for more equality, peace, meaningful work and education after discharge from the armed services.

November 6, 2009

Is the history of psychiatry one big mess?

Image (83)

Martin Johnson Heade, "The Coming Storm" (1859)

 Like many others I am in shock after the Fort Hood Massacre of November 5, 2009, particularly since the assault on American soldiers did not come out of the blue, but could have been prevented, for numerous ominous signals in the conduct of Dr. Nidal Hasan had been overlooked, for reasons that may boil down to political correctness and the pieties of multiculturalism.

      Illustrated on this blog is the famous painting by Martin Johnson Heade, “The Coming Storm,” dated 1859 and on view in the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum, NYC. Does anyone today think it was about American landscape and a fisherman with a little dog? Obviously, the title linked it to the growing polarization and apprehensiveness that the nation was headed toward Civil War. The 1850s were the years of increasing polarization over the question of the labor system in Western territories: would it be slave labor or “free soil?”  And did you notice the brown face on the red-shirted male figure in the foreground? Was he a free black (or even a mulatto, for the face seems coffee-colored), contemplating his future in a tumultuous period?

     Today we have a polarization that is not much different and with similar anxieties, but with a media industry that is less diverse in its politics than that prevailing during the 1830s on. Except that there is no resemblance between the antislavery men or abolitionists and the PC establishment that prevails in the humanities departments of our leading universities and apparently, much of network television, including those who run Fox News Channel, an outlet that is often more “moderate” than its detractors think (take the Arab-Israeli conflict for example).

     In the research that led up to my book on the revival of Herman Melville during the interwar period of the twentieth century, I had reason to educate myself in the history of psychiatry, for in the nineteenth century, that hyper-individualist Melville was held to be “crazy” and at times, the accusors included members of  his own family. While still on the radio (mostly the 1970s), I did a show on the proposed Center for the Study of Violence at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, and when it was aired, I was so frightened by the awful politics of the place, that I was faint with fear the next morning: my internist suggested that I take up another line of work (I didn’t listen to him). Later, in graduate school from 1988 onward, with the comradely assistance of the late Roy Porter, a leader in the field, I became acquainted with the generally bohemian thought of the Foucault contingent (huge), and matched them with the anti-psychiatry people I already knew about,  such as Thomas Szasz, R. D. Laing, and the Scientologists. In the history of science, there is tremendous interest in the contextualization of “scientific” knowledge altogether, so that all medical treatment, like science in general,  becomes ideological and the result of power plays in oppressive institutions in order to control dissidents or other rebels, such as housewives who balk at their tasks. There is much evidence to support this premise, such as the bizarre vogue for lobotomy, that flourished in the late 1930s and afterwards (I have lots of pictures and collages that I will post on the website). But there is also something called “evidence-based medicine and psychiatry” that deserves respect. I know at least one of these practitioners and he is a scientist, through and through, but often embattled within his profession, notwithstanding his international reputation. What do we know exactly about military psychiatry, its philosophy, and its oversight? Anything? *

     Nearly all the blogs on this website deal with problems that affect our emotions, including the political aims of that group I call “the moderate men” after a character, “the herb doctor,”  in Melville’s The Confidence-Man (1857). We have seen the dubious premises of the Jungians or pseudo-Freudians, some of whom affected corporatist liberal remedies (e.g. preventive politics) for the maintenance of “social cohesion.” I did a two-part blog on the new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, formerly of Harvard University. I have taken my readers on numerous tours through the tortured and ambivalent psyche of Harvard’s onetime Director of the Harvard Clinic, Dr. Henry A. Murray. There were fewer readers of these blogs than there should have been, given the gravity of what my research had uncovered. What to make of this?

     In private conversation and on the blogs, I have repeatedly called for education in mental health and physical health (intertwined concerns) beginning as early as children can understand and absorb the material. That means extensive parent education in the ways of a democratic polity, including the separation of Church and State. Some friends have called me absurdly utopian for demanding such a curriculum. Why? Because there is no agreement, none, on what constitutes a mentally healthy human being, let alone related matters such as meaning of patriotism, how far the state can or should reach into our private and public lives, or how to decode authoritarian propaganda and demagoguery in general, or what caused catastrophic wars and mass death in the twentieth century.  And how many political activists remain allergic to looking into their own family relationships, and how these may have affected their political choices and partisan affiliations, not to speak of their more intimate relationships and passions? I am only an historian, trained to examine selected aspects of the past and to create new interpretations as new evidence  becomes available to researchers. But I can say this about the future: if Americans and other Westerners refuse to look inside their own psyches to examine their most fundamental beliefs and relationships (with or without professional help), then there is bound to be the continued disappearance of what Melville, in another century, called “the Founder’s dream.”

*Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist himself, observed today that any psychiatrist who attempts to indoctrinate his patients (referring to Hasan) is guilty of malpractice. But what if other psychiatrists in the military are also indoctrinating, advocating medications and goals that are formulated from ideological motives, if not Islamic? This is not a trivial question and brings me back to the near panic I experienced when researching the state-funded UCLA Center for the Study of Violence.

Create a free website or blog at