Richard E. Vatz Ph.D (A Leading Critic of Psychiatry) Visits Jones Town

servo37.jpgThis is a comment I received from the illustrious Richard E. Vatz Ph.D (That’s the person he claims to be) who I featured in a post some time ago titled “Is Mental Illness Really a Myth”. (Reasic I feel like you right about now. Golly gee, and he challenges my integrity and everything).

Richard Vatz and his mentor Thomas Szasz are leading critics (along with the Scientologists who worship Szasz) of Psychiatry. Vatz writes almost solely on the subjects of Psychiatry and Mental Illness. He questions the “Insanity Defense”, Post-Partum Depression/Psychosis and considers most of Psychiatry nothing more than fiction or myth.

Vatz is apparently upset with me, claiming I misrepresented him, and left this comment in response to my post.

After reading his comment and perusing some of his other writings, I feel even more confident in my representation of Vatz and those he follows. You can make up your own mind.

Vatz’s comments are in blue: (Let me add, the misspellings etc. are his words. I changed nothing so don’t blame me).

You have misrepresented me in virtually every attributed opinion of mine you list.

Just a few examples in case you have sufficient integrity to correct your more outrageous misrepresentations:

“Richard Vatz is a leading voice in what is coined the “Anti-Psychiatry Movement” –I AM NOT ANTI-PSYCHIATRY; I DO BELIEVE MUCH, IF NOT MOST, OF CONVENTIONAL PSYCHIATRIC THOUGHT IS INVALID.

I said what is “Coined” the Anti-Psychiatry movement. This is not my phrase, but it is a phrase often attributed to you, Thomas Szasz (Your mentor for lack of a better word) and many others who question the validity of psychiatry.

You say you are not “Anti-Psychiatry” but you believe “much, if not most, of conventional psychiatric thought is invalid?”

That seems to be nothing more than an argument by degree or a question of semantics. You acknowledge you believe “most” of psychiatric thought is “invalid.” I don’t think it’s “much” of a stretch to say you are “anti-psychiatry.”

“He argues that …because the brain is a “Construct” and not an “Organ” it cannot be diseased.” I DO NOT ARGUED THAT THE BRAIN CANNOT BE DISEASED, AS THERE ARE MANY BRIAN DISEASES. wHERE WOULD YOU GET SUCH AN IDEA?

The Quandary over Mental Illness by Richard Vatz 2004 US Today Magazine

“The major tenets of Szasz’s approach are the following, with apologies for our somewhat oversimplifying his arguments: mental illness is a myth because the mind is not an organ; the mind is a construct, and a construct cannot be diseased, except metaphorically. Further, there are no pathological correlates specific to any given mental illness. As he has argued in several of his works, texts in pathology make no reference to mental illness; therefore, mental illness is a bogus disease.”

(I put “Brain” instead of “Mind”, but again it’s semantics and/or nitpicking. “Mental Illness” implies the “Mind”and you knew what I meant because you wrote those exact words, sans “Brain.” A simple mistake like that hardly warrants such a Histrionic response).

Are you saying you disagree with Szasz’s assertion? You write about him incessantly, you even wrote a book.

(“For twenty years thereafter, Lee and I have written literally over 150 pieces on the Szaszian view of mental health, including a piece that he co-authored with us in the WASHINGTON POST. We have also met and interacted with other Szaszians and Szaszes, including his brother and his daughter, Suzy, a uniquely attractive young woman.”).

The last part of that comment is odd to say the least.

It’s fairly obvious he is someone you admire for his beliefs. In fact, you delivered a speech at a Commencement for his 80th birthday where you agreed with every assertion he’s ever made. You even chastised another “skeptic” for not giving Szasz his props;

“I know from personal discussion with the author the personal distaste he has for Tom, but this should not prevent him from citing the lineage of these important and compelling points.”

“Vatz idealizes “Mental Illness” implying that those who suffer from it would be fine if society didn’t place a “stigma” on them.” I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT TOSE LABELED AS “MENTALLY ILL” WOULD BE FINE IF THEY WERE NOT STIGMATIZED. I BELIEVE TEY DO NOT HAVE A BRAIN DISEASE.

How many articles of your’s do you want me to list that address this very issue? Here’s one and here’s another and another. I could probably find many more if necessary. In fact, this subject seems to be the only thing about which you write.

“Vatz suggests that through simple behavior modification people can unlearn Schizophrenia etc. Fantastical stuff. I mean top notch other than the fact that’s it’s utter Bullshit.” NOT ONLY DO I NOT BELIEVE THIS PROPOSITION, BUT IT IS COMPLETELY A FABRICATED ATTRIBUTION.

See above. This is absolutely what you people claim. You claim addictions are bogus, post partum depression and psychosis are made up. The list goes on and on.

“Vatz goes on to roll out the tried and true arguments “Skeptics” of all forms of science use. (Global Warming, Evolution etc). In the case of ADD for example, “Many of the behaviors outlined in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) could apply to anyone. It’s too vague and therefore, invalid.” His implication is that ADD is “Normal” behavior and everyone acts that way.” I BELIEVE IN FACT IN EVOLUTION, AND I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT CHILDREN LABELED AS ADD ACT THE SAME WAY AS ALL CHILDREN. GROW UP, MY FRIEND…YOUR UNETHICAL CREATING OF FALSE QUOTES SHOULD MAKE YOU HANG YOUR HEAD IN SHAME, BUT I DOUBT THAT YOU HAVE A CONSCIENCE AT ALL.

VATZ

“Indeed, how could it be otherwise, given that the diagnostic criteria for ADD/ADHD in DSM-IV are utterly subjective and nonspecific.”

You wrote that sir. You wrote an entire article questioning the validity of ADD and the treatment of it with pharmaceuticals. Of course, per usual, 99% of your “evidence” is either anecdotal or based purely on assertion and/or opinion.

I see you have a Ph.D in “Rhetoric and Communications”. This explains the playing around with language at least. Isn’t “Rhetoric” a euphemism for “BS?”

At most, I made a few grammatical errors, and used the word “brain” instead of “mind.” But I’m confident 99% of people who read your work would have no problem with my conclusions. Unless of course, they’re the Scientologists who pimp Szasz’s blather.

I do find it somewhat amusing that you question my integrity considering you’ve built your career on other people’s ideas.

Thomas Szasz, your mentor/idol whatever, is a flake. He claims drug addiction is a “victimless crime,” he advocates for all drugs to be legalized, he calls Mental Illnesses “Fake Diseases.” Psychiatry “Pseudo-Science,” etc. etc.

The problems with Szasz, you, and those who follow this nonsense are too numerous, but I’ll list a few.

1) Part of the criticism of Psychiatry is its “abstract/subjective nature,” but your claims are even more abstract than the ones you criticize. For the most part, it comes across as a bunch of “New Age” twaddle.

2) This idea that because Mental Illness cannot be found on the “operating/autopsy table” means it is not “disease,” and therefore does not exist is, ridiculous. If you follow the logic that Mental Illness is not real because there are no “physical” indicators, then you must also dismiss most, if not all, of Medicine. (We know smoking causes cancer, but we cannot “Prove” it causes cancer. The connection between smoking and cancer is almost exclusively based on observation through studies. Introduce smoking, cancer rates skyrocket. Do they know why with 100% certainty? Nope. Can they tell when or how it happens? Nope. Sounds a lot like Psychiatry, which is also based for the most part on Observation. Do you know why you have thoughts or where they are? If not, does that mean they do not exist?).

3). Your arguments are really semantic arguments. You play games with words, which goes along with your education. Your word games create doubt, but doubt is not “science” in and of itself. The APA (American Psychiatric Association) the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) and almost every other Mental Health organization in the world denounce your “theories.” But they are not even “theories” because your claims cannot be tested.

4) The major source of support for you claims comes from Scientologists who practice a religion invented by a Science Fiction writer. Tom Cruise is one of Szasz’s biggest fans. What else is there to say?

I’m one who believes you can get a fairly accurate opinion about someone based on the company they keep. If you don’t want to be called a chicken don’t hang out in the hen house.

Thanks for the visit and comment though, I find it complimentary in an ironic way.

(I could kick myself right about now, I see you like Anne Coulter. Shit, that could have saved me a lot of time).

Vatz’s comment is in its entirety in the Comment Section without all the breaks.

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~ by servo7 on June 20, 2007.

12 Responses to “Richard E. Vatz Ph.D (A Leading Critic of Psychiatry) Visits Jones Town”

  1. You have misrepresented me in virtually every attributed opinion of mine you list.
    Just a few examples in case you have sufficient integrity to correct your more outrageous misrepresentations:
    “Richard Vatz is a leading voice in what is coined the “Anti-Psychiatry Movement” –I AM NOT ANTI-PSYCHIATRY; I DO BELIEVE MUCH, IF NOT MOST, OF CONVENTIONAL PSYCHIATRIC THOUGHT IS INVALID.
    “He argues that …because the brain is a “Construct” and not an “Organ” it cannot be diseased.” I DO NOT ARGUED THAT THE BRAIN CANNOT BE DISEASED, AS THERE ARE MANY BRIAN DISEASES. wHERE WOULD YOU GET SUCH AN IDEA?
    “Vatz idealizes “Mental Illness” implying that those who suffer from it would be fine if society didn’t place a “stigma” on them.” I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT TOSE LABELED AS “MENTALLY ILL” WOULD BE FINE IF THEY WERE NOT STIGMATIZED. I BELIEVE TEY DO NOT HAVE A BRAIN DISEASE.
    “Vatz suggests that through simple behavior modification people can unlearn Schizophrenia etc. Fantastical stuff. I mean top notch other than the fact that’s it’s utter Bullshit.” NOT ONLY DO I NOT BELIEVE THIS PROPOSITION, BUT IT IS COMPLETELY A FABRICATED ATTRIBUTION.
    “Vatz goes on to roll out the tried and true arguments “Skeptics” of all forms of science use. (Global Warming, Evolution etc). In the case of ADD for example, “Many of the behaviors outlined in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) could apply to anyone. It’s too vague and therefore, invalid.” His implication is that ADD is “Normal” behavior and everyone acts that way.” I BELIEVE IN FACT IN EVOLUTION, AND I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT CHILDREN LABELED AS ADD ACT THE SAME WAY AS ALL CHILDREN. GROW UP, MY FRIEND…YOUR UNETHICAL CREATING OF FALSE QUOTES SHOULD MAKE YOU HANG YOUR HEAD IN SHAME, BUT I DOUBT THAT YOU HAVE A CONSCIENCE AT ALL.
    VATZ

  2. You are giving these well papered morons more time than they deserve.
    They know what they have and have not said, just call them lying bastards and be done with it.
    Is shame part of the ‘construct’?
    What University gave this idiot and for that matter, his followers, their degree’s? It must have been back when postage was less than thirty cents.

  3. Ah… skeptics. 😛

  4. No, Fairlane. Rhetoric is not a longhand euphemism for B.S. Sure he sounds like a flake. But the bottom line is you have your rhetoric and he has his. The question is who’s telling the truth here. If your attributions are cross-referenced to his actual written work and those attributions correspond to what the man has written or said, then his position (that you’ve misrepresented him) is indefensible.

    Also, as an aside, Reasic, I think we’re all skeptics. I think anytime we take up a position we fall into that category, but we shouldn’t make the mistake, Fairlane, of thinking that just because some “skeptics” or critics have used faulty logic, or made some bad judgments in their history that ALL their conclusions are necessarily and automatically wrong.

    Sorry this post is so lengthy.

  5. Chad,

    First, your “rhetoric” is a thinly veiled attempt to protect your own “skepticism” of certain branches of Science because as with Vatz the majority of it is based solely on creating doubt. Not disproving the Science you question and certainly not proving the ideas you support.

    Second, stop trying to be “objective”. You know he’s full of crap. You know about Mental Illness. You know it’s not a “Myth”.

    Third, instead of meandering around the issue, just read his damn articles. A person rarely writes over 150 articles about a certain topic/person unless they agree with said topic/person.

  6. Chad,

    Unfortunately, I think we’re not all skeptics. For instance, in the global warming debate, I would say that it is the AGW proponents who are the real skeptics. Those who are commonly called “skeptics” are generally only skeptical of the mainstream theories. It’s somewhat of a misnomer. In order for someone to be branded a “skeptic”, I think they should demonstrate that they are truly skeptical of all possibilities, not just mainstream theories. Clearly most “skeptics” do not apply the same skepticism to their own arguments, because as you’ve pointed out, much of it is based on faulty logic. Therefore, I now hereby proudly declare myself a skeptic! It is my skepticism, applied across the board, that has led me to believe that human activity is the primary cause of global warming.

  7. Fairlane,
    Interesting post. Although I haven’t waded through Vatz’s various writings, you make a pretty convincing case with what I’ve seen thus far – this anti-psychiatry business sounds a bit too post-modernist for me to buy into with a straight face.

    Afterall, it is clear that whether you call it mental illness or atypical cognition, it’s still clearly related to brain dysfunction.

  8. Whatever…

  9. “Whatever?”

    That’s it? “Whatever”?

    I thought we had an arrangement.

  10. Fairlane,
    Thanks for doing this post. There are sometimes when you get the feeling that you should not give the fringe element an airing of their views: the KKK, John Birch Society and Chinese Communist Party come to mind. However, I think the arguments that Vatz and Szasz are too subtle for many people who haven’t had an exposure to them and haven’t heard their arguments in any other form than the brute –“ugh-ugh”–format of Tom Cruise.

    The other problem is that outside of things like studies on brain-chemical systems like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc., there is a great difficulty in psychiatric study. Too often, it seems that psychiatry wants the firm scientific truth that classical physics has had even as quantum physics points toward uncertainty as the representative state of knowing which humans are capable of. At the same time, there is great dismissal by the anti-psychiatry lobby of the good that psychiatry has done.

    And what solutions have they offered? Schizophrenia can be controlled through willpower? That would be great, wouldn’t it? I’ve met some people who’ve struggled with this disease and the number one predictor of their success is their willingness to stay on their medication. If Mr. Vatz wants to start working with people in his home who have schizophrenia and will use his medication-less methods to achieve wellness…well, I want to read his notes on that experience.

    rationalpsychic.wordpress.com

  11. I agree Dan, what’s the difference? That’s why I think they are only playing word games. What exactly motivates them I have no idea. I actually agree with a few of Szasz’s points but his conclusions are ridiculous.

    I wanted to ask him if the “mind” is a “construct” and cannot be “diseased” how is it that chemicals and electricity affect it? Or what about sleep deprivation, or alcohol and drugs?

    Wouldn’t it be beyond the reach of such things if it’s really a “metaphysical” entity?

  12. The thing is though, that one kook really doesn’t make a difference. It’s much more problematic that there seem to be so many of these post-modernist kooks in the social sciences these days, which routinely engage in meaningless rhetorical gymnastics or semantic games of this sort.

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