Crazy Like a Dissident

When the Soviet Union realized that shoving publicly-recognized dissidents into labor camps might be hurting their propaganda efforts, the turned to a new form of repression: Mental institutions.

Moscow would have dissidents “committed” to “humanitarian” mental institutions, where dissidents could be kept safely drugged up and away from public view. The Wikipedia entry, believe it or not, is quite good:

During the leadership of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, psychiatry was used as a tool to eliminate political opponents (“dissidents”) who openly expressed beliefs that contradicted official dogma. The term “philosophical intoxication” was widely used to diagnose mental disorders in cases where people disagreed with leaders and made them the target of criticism that used the writings by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin. Article 58-10 of the Stalin Criminal Code—which as Article 70 had been shifted into the RSFSR Criminal Code of 1962—and Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code along with the system of diagnosing mental illness, developed by academician Andrei Snezhnevsky, created the very preconditions under which non-standard beliefs could easily be transformed into a criminal case, and it, in its turn, into a psychiatric diagnosis. Anti-Soviet political behavior, in particular, being outspoken in opposition to the authorities, demonstrating for reform, writing books were defined in some persons as being simultaneously a criminal act (e.g., violation of Articles 70 or 190-1), a symptom (e.g., “delusion of reformism”), and a diagnosis (e.g., “sluggish schizophrenia”). Within the boundaries of the diagnostic category, the symptoms of pessimism, poor social adaptation and conflict with authorities were themselves sufficient for a formal diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia.”

“You must be crazy to oppose the State, comrade — come, let our doctors help you.”

With that in mind, read this news story from 21st Century progressive New York, where Dinesh D’Souza has been sentenced — after having already served eight months house arrest — to continued psychological care for having broken campaign finance regulations:

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said he considers D’Souza’s violation of federal campaign-finance laws to be evidence of a psychological problem and ordered further counseling.

D’Souza’s defense counsel Benjamin Brafman provided evidence to the court that the psychiatrist D’Souza was ordered to see found no indication of depression or reason for medication. In addition, the psychologist D’Souza subsequently consulted provided a written statement concluding there was no need to continue the consultation, because D’Souza was psychologically normal and well adjusted.

But Judge Berman, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, disagreed, effectively overruling the judgment of the two licensed psychological counselors the U.S. probation department had approved as part of D’Souza’s criminal sentence.

“I only insisted on psychological counseling as part of Mr. D’Souza’s sentence because I wanted to be helpful,” the judge explained.

“Helpful” reminds me of what C.S. Lewis had to say about thinking like Judge Berman’s:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

In case you don’t remember, D’Souza’s “crime” was donating $20,000 to a longshot New York Senate candidate, but his real crime was producing the anti-Obama documentary, 2016: Obama’s America. Outrageously, Berman gave him eight months house arrest, five years probation, eight hours of weekly community service throughout his probation, and weekly therapy sessions.

Therapy. For making a political donation and a politically themed documentary.

It’s Brezhnev’s Morning in America.