Friday, July 24, 2009

By Reason of Insanity

When James Keegstra’s trial on charges of hate-mongering concluded in 1985 Eugene Kaellis, a retired academic from British Columbia, weighed in with a clinical approach to the Keegstra Affair. The header on page 4, picking up the article featured on the front page, had said it all: “Keegstra Verdict Should Have Been Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.” 1

Kaellis argued that James Keestra’s ideas of a Jewish conspiracy, being essentially “a delusional system” of thought, was unworthy of any legal or intellectual scrutiny, and deserved to be understood as a mental disorder predicated on “a finding of criminal insanity” requiring incarceration -- long term, if necessary -- for the purpose of remedial medical care.

Kaellis anticipated that an analogy might be made between his viewpoint and that adopted by Soviet psychiatrists who had diagnosed dissenters as suffering from “creeping” or “sluggish” schizophrenia before detaining them and forcing them to undergo treatment. However, Kaellis was quite emphatic -- the emphases in the text cited below are his -- that the two could not be compared:

“It is NOT insane to oppose a totalitarian and repressive system of government; it is worthy and heroic. But it IS insane to promote a delusional system of race hatred (sic). These conclusions undoubtedly outrage a civil libertarian given to relativism and subjectivism, but they are correct and necessary for maintaining even a pretense of belief in a system of ethical democracy.” 2

So-called “creeping” or “sluggish” schizophrenia was said to be especially pernicious, given the sufferers would often exhbit no trace of abnormal behavior, save for a strong attachment, say, to the matter of human rights or world peace -- or Israel in the case of Jewish refuseniks so diagnosed.

Considering how a quantum leap in all manner of intellectual dissent is occurring within the U.S. socio-cultural matrix and elsewhere across the Western world, what with the “Birthers” (who insist President Obama was born in Kenya) and the “Truthers” (who say 9/11 was “an inside job”) and those who claim the Apollo 11 moon landing was a hoax, not to mention the grassy knoll conspiracy buffs and, of course, Holocaust revisionists, we have to wonder how soon it will be before beleaguered governments start calling on the psychiatric establishment for Soviet-style remedies in order to stanch the flow of such raw conspiratorial effluvium.

A thumbnail sketch in Time magazine describes CODOH’s Bradley Smith as a college-circuit pamphleteer “who spends most of his waking hours in Holocaust denial.” An obsessive-compulsive, perhaps? We can see how shrinks on the government payroll could make hay with a throwaway line like that. 3

1. Eugene Kaellis, “Civil Rights, Uncivil Wrongs,” Viewpoints, Volume XIII, Number 7, Autumn 1985.

2. Ibid.

3. Leon Jaroff et al., “Debating the Holocaust,” Time, December 27, 1993.

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