New Atmosphere, New Vision: Gibson and Whittemore Kick Off Invest in ME Conference 2016
Mark Berry reports on Dr. Gibson's introduction and Dr. Whittemore's keynote speech, at the 11th Invest in ME International ME Conference in London.
Discuss the article on the Forums.

Aaronovitch on psychiatric manipulation - the irony!

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by worldbackwards, May 28, 2015.

  1. worldbackwards

    worldbackwards A unique snowflake

    Messages:
    2,091
    Likes:
    10,358
    Earth
    I was listening to "Analysis" the other night on Radio 4 and David Aaronovitch was on about the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" panic from a few years ago. He was saying that it grew out what he felt was the spurious psychiatric definition of Multiple Personality Disorder and, as an adjunct, recovered memory.

    As he was talking, it struck me what parallels there were with how CFS was popularised within medicine - smuggled into the DSM by true believers, popularised with weak and anecdotal evidence, then foisted onto patients with little evidence of severe psychiatric problems in their background, resulting in a large scale increase in cases in a short space of time. They were often pushed into confessing that they'd been abused as children by doctors who wouldn't take no for an answer, a "heads I win, tails you lose" scenario.

    Aaronovitch was clearly, as ever, very pleased with himself at spotting the growth of an idea with little evidence behind it but which fitted in with the prejudices and interests of a small group of people, appearing almost out of nowhere and turning into an uncontrollable monster that went on to ruin the lives of countless people.

    But what was also interesting to me is that, back in the heady days of the summer of 2011 during the BMJ wars ("Daddy, what did you do during the BMJ wars?", "Hon, I lay in bed doing bugger all 'cos I was ill"), Aaronovitch found himself firmly on the side of the psychiatric profession, taking their position for granted and not being particularly interested at all in how ideas spread in a sympathetic profession and how they hurt innocent people. Indeed, the fairly broad streak of sexism that runs through his definition of our "anxiety" about not being able to prove the nature of our illness suggests that he'd feel very much at home with them.

    I do hope that, when the shit finally hits the fan, someone will see fit to tell the great debunker about the time when he fell on the wrong side of the line and ended up smugly defending what he would doubtless describe as "complete nonsense".
     
    ahmo, Scarecrow, Bob and 2 others like this.
  2. sarah darwins

    sarah darwins I told you I was ill

    Messages:
    2,467
    Likes:
    10,480
    Cornwall, UK
    Ah, indeed, the BMJ Wars, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...

    Speaking of The Times:

    I was reminded of this when the discussion started last week about how difficult scientists and doctors were finding it to work in the field of chronic fatigue syndrome, as it is known in Britain, or ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) as it used to be and still is in many countries.

    It is the contention of many sufferers of these debilitating conditions (overwhelmingly women) that there is a direct but undiscovered physical cause of CFS/ME, and that lack of resource, care and commitment is what stands between them and a possible cure or prevention. The problem, as they perceive it, is that the medical profession has hung its hat on the belief that this often nebulous collection of symptoms is more likely to be a manifestation of an internal problem, located in the mind. This, to the sufferers, appears to relegate their disease “merely” to a psychosomatic condition, putting them in the same unliked group as depressives or schizophrenics.

    It’s not an exaggeration to say that some CFS campaigners are desperate to discover an external cause for their suffering. They reject the alleviation that psychotherapeutic treatment is shown to bring, and they continue to cling to the one, unrepeatable, American study that seemed to connect CFS to a virus, XMRV.

    David Aaronovitch, The Times 4 August 2011, as reprinted here: http://www.meassociation.org.uk/2011/08/david-aaronovitch-column-in-the-times-4-august-2011/


    ... it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
     
  3. worldbackwards

    worldbackwards A unique snowflake

    Messages:
    2,091
    Likes:
    10,358
    Earth
    To come back to this, Davis Aaronovitch has been reviewing the Suzanne O'Sullivan book, "It's All In Your Head" (yeah, the clue's in the title). This is the relevant passage on ME/CFS, posted up by NM Jafry on Twitter:
    [​IMG]
    She also had an exchange with him, where he responded to her claims that the science was shabby by saying "It isn't shabby at all. It's just that people badly don't want to hear it." Personally, I'd be perfectly happy with any diagnosis that offered a genuine understanding of my illness and/or did me some good. BPS does neither.

    Jafry later made the excellent point that "what's galling about Suzanne O'Sullivan's harmful, outdated take on ME is journalists like DA jump on bandwagon to bolster their own beliefs." This comes back to Aaronovitch's wider ideology, which seems to consist of a kind of negation of uncertainty: if the someone in a position of power says it's one thing, then he's not even remotely prepared to entertain the possibility of it being otherwise.

    It's a position that seems to reoccur within a particular section of the establishment, that of former communists who have swung behind the authoritarian right on various issues - other fellow travellers include members of the Science Media Centre and various New Labour ministers . If I were a pop-psychologist, I might say that their former God has failed them, and so a new source of unimpeachable certainty must be sought, to be enforced with the trappings of the powerful state and/or establishment that they were already so comfortable with. I wouldn't normally make such glib statements but, you know, when in Rome and all that.

    Interestingly enough, Aaronovitch (amongst others of a similar disposition) was very much in favour of the Iraq war, suggesting the level of evidence required on a particular subject is distinctly subordinate to who's delivering it. He also defends widespread internet surveillance, suggesting that his priorities in terms of trust still lie with large shadowy bodies who don't have to account for themselves, rather than the people on the ground who stand to be damaged by abuses of power.

    Another review of the book in The Independent, made by someone who takes a slightly more enquiring viewpoint, says that
    This is not something that bothers Aaronovitch too much - he's already made up his mind and doesn't trouble himself to analyse the argument in any detail. The other review makes little mention of ME - it's one chapter amongst many. Aaronovitch goes on about it at great length - he's far more interested in having a go at us than assessing the argument as a whole. Also notable is his willingness to to equate "more women = hysteria", when of course more women can equal a lot of things in terms of illness.

    I listened to the other part of the 'Analysis' programme he made and found myself noticing more and more that he seemed to privilege controversial arguments in psychiatry depending on whether they fell towards his general position or not, rather than anything substantial. The point that you can smuggle anything you want into psychiatry with the right friends seems not to have bothered him in a wider context.

    I came away from it none the wiser about the prevalence of Multiple Personality Disorder, Satanic Ritual Abuse or the other cases of child abuse that he was seeking to equate the previous 'moral panics' to. What I did feel was that, if I wanted to know about such things, the last person I would ask would be David Aaronovitch who, for all his bleating about the evidence, is clearly not someone who can be trusted to make a balanced judgement on issues of this nature.
     
    Woolie, garcia, Roy S and 4 others like this.
  4. ahmo

    ahmo Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,340
    Likes:
    6,528
    Northcoast NSW, Australia
    Hey Sarah, you inspired me: I've just begun reading A Tale of 2 Cities, and am enjoying it immensely. Thank you:nerd::angel:
     
    sarah darwins likes this.
  5. sarah darwins

    sarah darwins I told you I was ill

    Messages:
    2,467
    Likes:
    10,480
    Cornwall, UK
    worldbackwards and ahmo like this.

See more popular forum discussions.

Share This Page