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Anus Maximus Award 2003Comment and Opinion

Citizens Commission on Human Rights

This site won the Anus Maximus Award in the 2003 Millenium Awards. The citation for the award reads:

Part of the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is that psychiatry is bad. His original feelings on this might have been influenced by the fact that he was mad and he felt threatened by a medical speciality which existed to treat that madness. Put another way, he felt that if there were no psychiatry there would be no madness for it to treat and this would make him sane by definition. (This is not meant to make sense. Remember that Hubbard was insane.) The real reason that Scientology opposes psychiatry, however, is that Scientology's target market is people who are depressed, unhappy, susceptible to suggestion, and don't feel that they fit in to society. Anybody offering to treat these conditions with some behavioural therapy and a course of Prozac is an obvious threat to a cult which wants to brainwash people into paying several hundred thousand dollars to cross a mythical bridge to personal awareness.

CCHR would not be such a problem if the Scientology links were made obvious, because this might make other people think twice about dealing with them. Certainly, Scientology is mentioned in their literature (I have a book called "Documenting Psychiatry: Harming in the name of healthcare" which mentions that the cult paid for the printing of the book, as if that were the only involvement) but the true horror is well hidden. On the other hand, it might not worry people who deal with them. Anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was instrumental in setting up CCHR, and when he was asked how he could justify an alliance with the criminal cult he actually used the expression "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Alternative medicine supporters gleefully accept the CCHR's attacks on drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac because this supports their ideology that there is no such thing as mental illness. In one bizarre confluence of insanity, The National Vaccine Information Center issued a newsletter promoting a CCHR seminar. I hadn't heard that the Scientologists were opposed to vaccination (although nothing would surprise me) so I can only assume that Barbara Loe Fisher at the NVIC thinks that because CCHR is opposed to "the drugging of children" they oppose other medication for children and therefore support her agenda, which is to have the practice of medicating children to prevent life-threatening diseases abolished.

I know people who have suffered from depression and other mental illnesses. There are some people I don't know any more because they committed suicide. That anyone would campaign against effective treatments for these illnesses is almost beyond belief. That an organisation would oppose these treatments for purely financial reasons just reinforces why it is so appropriate to use the word "criminal" in the descriptive expression "the criminal cult of Scientology".


Unexpected visitors (13/12/2004)
A few years ago I wrote a book about the Internet and my editor insisted that I remove certain comments as they could be considered defamatory of the Church of Scientology. These comments did not A very good book and a best-seller, too!mention the Church, so I can only assume that the publisher was acting on prior experience with the outfit. This particular publisher specialised in consumer protection matters and was not frightened of taking on and naming large corporations (in a country with draconian defamation laws), so I knew that they weren't just frightened by the potential of a bit of bad publicity.

The words deleted from the book didn't really matter, and the book went on to be one of the biggest-selling non-fiction books in Australia that year. I went on to fame and fortune, both now just fond memories. I figured, however, that I had been personally interfered with by the Church to the point of having to change something to make them happy, so I reckoned it was fair for me to claim at least SP2 status, with a good argument for SP3. ("Suppressive persons" are those who offend the Church in some way. You can read about this here. The numbering system was invented some years ago by the opponents of Scientology, and reflects the OT levels of The Bridge. You can see all the levels here.)

All of that changed today, and I believe that I am due for regrading.

L Ron Hubbard and a tomatoThis afternoon my doorbell rang and standing on my front porch was not one but a pair of Scientologists. These were not just any Scientologists. One of them was the President for Australia, New Zealand and Oceania for the Church of Scientology. The top man. The Boss. El Supremo.

They were there to discuss, among other things, how their feelings had been hurt by things that I had said on my web site when awarding the Citizens' Commission for Human Rights the prestigious Anus Maximus Award for 2003. It did not escape my attention that the matter of Fair Game was brought up even before we had sat down, but I was assured that Mr Hubbard had soon realised the folly of such tactics and had forbidden it within months of first mentioning it. It also did not escape my attention that they had arrived uninvited at my home, sending a signal that they knew who I was and where to find me. (My home address is not on my web site, nor is the fact that I work from home and therefore might be on the premises at lunch time on Monday.) I can't really complain that they found out who I am, because I have never made any secret of who I am on the basis that if I tried to be anonymous I couldn't do what I do. In almost six years of running this site, however, this is the first time that anyone has actually visited me without even a preliminary email. Even lawyers ask for confirmation of an address before sending writs.

We discussed many matters of mutual interest over the next hour or so, and finally parted with handshakes all round and a commitment on both sides to continue the dialogue further in the future.

So, here's the question. Can I now claim that I am SP4, even though no explicit Fair Game or legal threat was made? I have to think that a personal visit from the top man in the Church beats a letter from a lawyer any day. It could even be SP5 at a stretch, as top-ranking Scientologists at the front door sounds an awful lot like the first shot in a Dead Agenting campaign.


Scientologists on my doorstep. Again. (18/12/2004)
Another update I had to do to my company web site was to put up a notification of the possibility that the Church of Scientology might try to do some damage to the business, and what my clients should do if they were contacted or heard rumours. (I have had a similar warning about Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group for some time.) I had taken this precaution even before the second unannounced, uninvited and unwelcome visit of Scientology officials to my home.

Anus Maximus Award 2003The reason that the Scientologists have been paying attention to me is that they are distressed by what I had to say when I gave the 2003 Anus Maximus Award to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. CCHR is a Scientology front organisation which opposes all forms of psychiatric treatment including, but not limited to, medication, counselling, surgery, shock treatment and confinement. Here is what the award citation said:

Part of the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is that psychiatry is bad. His original feelings on this might have been influenced by the fact that he was mad and he felt threatened by a medical speciality which existed to treat that madness. Put another way, he felt that if there were no psychiatry there would be no madness for it to treat and this would make him sane by definition. (This is not meant to make sense. Remember that Hubbard was insane.) The real reason that Scientology opposes psychiatry, however, is that Scientology's target market is people who are depressed, unhappy, susceptible to suggestion, and don't feel that they fit in to society. Anybody offering to treat these conditions with some behavioural therapy and a course of Prozac is an obvious threat to a cult which wants to brainwash people into paying several hundred thousand dollars to cross a mythical bridge to personal awareness.

CCHR would not be such a problem if the Scientology links were made obvious, because this might make other people think twice about dealing with them. Certainly, Scientology is mentioned in their literature (I have a book called "Documenting Psychiatry: Harming in the name of healthcare" which mentions that the cult paid for the printing of the book, as if that were the only involvement) but the true horror is well hidden. On the other hand, it might not worry people who deal with them. Anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was instrumental in setting up CCHR, and when he was asked how he could justify an alliance with the criminal cult he actually used the expression "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Alternative medicine supporters gleefully accept the CCHR's attacks on drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac because this supports their ideology that there is no such thing as mental illness. In one bizarre confluence of insanity, The National Vaccine Information Center issued a newsletter promoting a CCHR seminar. I hadn't heard that the Scientologists were opposed to vaccination (although nothing would surprise me) so I can only assume that Barbara Loe Fisher at the NVIC thinks that because CCHR is opposed to "the drugging of children" they oppose other medication for children and therefore support her agenda, which is to have the practice of medicating children to prevent life-threatening diseases abolished.

I know people who have suffered from depression and other mental illnesses. There are some people I don't know any more because they committed suicide. That anyone would campaign against effective treatments for these illnesses is almost beyond belief. That an organisation would oppose these treatments for purely financial reasons just reinforces why it is so appropriate to use the word "criminal" in the descriptive expression "the criminal cult of Scientology".

Bedlam - from the Rake's Progress, William Hogarth 1735I have now had Scientology officials visit me at my home twice in one week. On both occasions one of the visitors was Mr Nick Broadhurst, the President of the Church of Scientology for the region described as Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. The other visitor in each case came from CCHR, and on the second occasion it was the head of the regional organisation. Mr Broadhurst has emailed me with his concerns about what I said above, and has asked me to remove the material from this site.

I have reread the citation and I have come to the following decision. It stays. In fact, if the rules allowed a site, person or organisation to win the Anus Maximus Award more than once, CCHR would be at short odds to win again this year, although I might have to write a stronger, more critical citation. Mr Broadhurst asked before he emailed me that his message be kept private and I will do so. I will, however, publish my response as an open letter.

I have carefully considered your request to remove the material at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/cchr.htm from my web site. Unfortunately, I can see no way to have this happen. I realise that you, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and the Church of Scientology may be upset and offended by what I had to say, but they are only words. On balance, I feel that many of the statements made by CCHR give greater offence to the very many people who suffer from psychiatric disorders and are therefore classed by CCHR as dupes of some vast conspiracy of psychiatrists. Going beyond just words, many of these people would become dangerous to themselves and others if they were to be denied the treatments which CCHR so vehemently opposes. Psychiatry and mental health treatment are both far from perfect but these imperfections will not be fixed by abandoning everything and returning to the time of the Bedlam hospital.

On another matter, I would appreciate it if in the future neither you nor any other official of the Church of Scientology or any of its related organisations come to either my home or my place of work without either an appointment or an invitation. Thank you.


Extreme optimism (3/9/2005)
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, winners of the 2003 Anus Maximus Award, wrote to the Australian Council Against Health Fraud. It was a waste of an envelope and a stamp. Click on the picture to read the whole thing.

Optimism


The barbarians are inside the gates (16/9/2006)
Last Saturday I attended a dinner function where the speaker was advertised as coming to talk about philosophy and the mind. I spent some enjoyable times studying this sort of stuff at university, so I looked forward to an entertaining evening.

Descartes wrote some real philosophyThe presentation started out with a mention of how Rene Descartes had proposed the still-unsolved problem of the interaction between a material body and an immaterial mind. So far, so good. The speaker then went on to solve the duality problem by simply declaring that there is no such thing as a mind. Again, an interesting, although apparently naive, philosophical position. The next statement led into uncharted waters by declaring that as there is no such thing as a mind there can be no such thing as mental illness. Well, it was an uncharted area for anyone who hadn't met Scientology before. The first real red flag came when the speaker, who claimed extensive professional experience in the mental health treatment system, said that the terms "mental illness" and "mental disorder" are interchangeable. Not in the state of New South Wales they aren't, and anybody who has been professionally involved in the area knows this. (The terms have to do with how long patients in the system can be detained without a court order - someone declared "mentally disordered" can only be held for three days before either being released or brought before a magistrate; in the case of "mentally ill" the detention can be up to seven days. The difference is based on how dangerous the patient is to himself and to others.)

The red flags kept popping up with stories such as the one about the millions of children being prescribed Ritalin, but the turning point for me was when the speaker mentioned that anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was one of his dearest friends. Szasz worked with the Scientologists to create the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a blatant anti-psychiatry Scientology front organisation. The speaker then went on with more CCHR nonsense such as the claim that ADHD was invented in 1987 simply to create a need for Ritalin. (Methylphenidate was patented in 1954, so inquiring minds want to know why it was invented 33 years before what it was supposed to treat. That is assuming that "inquiring minds" exist, of course). We were eventually told that schizophrenia is just people hearing themselves think like everybody else does and that anorexia nervosa is just girls having conscious hunger strikes to get their own way and annoy their parents. By the end of the night we were hearing the lies about government plans to drug all schoolchildren. At no stage was CCHR or Scientology mentioned.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), the forum was not the sort of place where I could hurl furniture and insults, and the question (and answer) at the end which opened the crack to allow me to introduce an exposure of the Scientology connection was declared the last question before everyone went home. I am sure that most of the audience would not have been aware of the background to what they had been told, and I am equally sure that nobody openly declaring that they wanted to promote Scientology or its principles would have ever been invited to speak there. A real psychiatrist in the audience later told me that she could not remember the last time she heard so many specious claims in such a short time.

So here are the questions I would have liked to ask the speaker:

(An expanded version of this article appeared in the March 2007 edition of the Skeptic, the journal of Australian Skeptics.
You can read
The Myth of "The Myth of Mental Illness" here.)


Taking one for the team (2/6/2012)
I was alerted by the Ratbags Media Monitoring staff about this advertisement in the local paper:

How could I resist the offer of free DVDs (or even free DVD'S),so off I went in the company of four other members of Western Sydney Freethinkers. (I wasn't going to go alone in case I needed someone to arrange bail.) It was, as expected, an event promoted by the Scientology front organisation, the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights.

  

The first video, Dead Wrong, was interesting. It consisted of the mother of a boy who committed suicide wandering across the country talking to doctors who opposed psychiatry, interspersed with an afternoon tea party of mothers who had had their children destroyed or killed by psychiatric drugs. The acting was competent and the editing and camera work were very professional (there were at least five cameras used for the tea party), but it would only have required a little rewriting of the script to be made into an anti-vaccination film. In that version the "mommies" would be talking about how vaccines made their kids autistic. (One of the doctors interviewed actually said that the mercury in vaccines might have contributed to the deadly effects of psychiatric drugs.) Lies were continually told about how anti-depressant drugs cause suicide and how psychiatrists don't bother doing diagnoses before prescribing pills and are just in it for the money, but all of these were expected given the source of the DVD. There was a lot of crying and emotion from relatives of dead kids, but as I pointed out to my companions I was more moved by the last five minutes of an old episode of Law & Order SVU that I'd seen during the week and that show wasn't pretending not to be fiction.

The second video, Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, was actually funny, although we kept our amusement to ourselves. It was an attack on DSM, and most of it consisted of ridiculing various diagnoses and disorders mentioned in the book. It is rather easy to ridicule any large, comprehensive book but even as someone who is not too familiar with it I could see that often what was being said bore little relationship to what was on the page in the background. Much fun was made out of comments made by psychiatrists at a convention, although it is hardly a secret that many psychiatrists don't use the book in a fundamentalist manner when treating patients. The non-secret that health insurers won't pay out on psychiatric treatments that aren't listed in DSM was presented as some sort of collusion by psychiatrists to commit insurance fraud rather than an example of the universal policy of insurers everywhere and of all kinds to try to find reasons not to pay claims. There were many experts who denied both the usefulness of DSM and psychiatry itself, but three of them stood out for me because I had had dealings with them in the past.

The first was Professor Robert Spillane of Macquarie Graduate School of Management. Professor Spillane was billed as "Professor of Psychology", although according the the MGSM web site he is "Professor in Management" and his teaching area is "People & Organisations". Professor Spillane's close ties with CCHR were not mentioned. The second was lawyer Jonathon Emord, who was Highly Commended in the 2009 Millenium Awards for his unselfish action in putting his client's needs ahead of his principles. He is the lawyer for the National Vaccine Information Center. It was the third one that really had us working to suppress laughter - homeopath Dana Ullman. Why a homeopath was asked for an opinion on the diagnosis of mental illness is a mystery, but as most of the other "doctors" seemed to be detached from reality anyway he probably wasn't too far out of place.

And was Scientology mentioned at all? Don't be silly. Of course it wasn't.


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