Selwyn Duke

Mentally Impaired Judge Should Get Off Michael Savage's Back   



© 2008 Selwyn Duke 


It seems as if taking offense is the recreation of choice in modern America.  The latest example (of which I’m aware; I’m sure our UPS {umbrage per second} statistic is sky high) has resulted in a planned protest at WOR Radio in Manhattan over some comments radio talk show host Michael Savage made concerning autism.  Or, to be precise, the commentary involved not that condition but behavior that might be misdiagnosed as autism.  Here is what Savage said, as reported by wcbstv.com:

During the July 16 edition of his show, Savage claimed that autism is “[a] fraud, a racket. ... I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don't act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’”

One person who took exception to this commentary was Martin Schwartzman, the father of an autistic child.  He opined:

“I couldn't understand why someone could be so heartless and so insensitive, and also so ignorant for a national talk show host . . . .  It was so hurtful to all individuals with disabilities, particularly those with autism, but I really think he should be removed from the air.”

For all I know, Mr. Schwartzman may be a very decent man, but evident is that he has never listened to Savage’s show.  If he had, there are a few things he would probably understand. 

First, Michael Savage grew up with a brother who suffered from severe retardation, one whom he loved very much and has spoken of on numerous occasions with the deepest affection and emotion.  Listening to Savage, it’s apparent that this experience instilled in him a respect for human life that doesn’t end where mental impairment begins.  It is why he was livid when Howard Stern mocked people so afflicted some years back; it is why he has taken up the cudgels against euthanasia on their behalf.

It is also why – and I’m inferring here – Savage is no doubt more offended than most when an irresponsible psychiatric community diagnoses normal but ill-behaved children as mentally impaired.  It bothers me as well for a number of reasons, and I’ll explain.

Some today have a nasty habit of labeling ambiguous sexual encounters (e.g., a woman who, after a consensual sexual experience, gets jilted and then claims she was an unwilling participant) as rape.  Many people genuinely concerned about real rape are outraged by this, as such a practice diminishes the crime.  After all, if you bastardize the term, lumping in the category that which is less serious or even innocent, people will take it less seriously.  This hurts actual rape victims, as they then may not receive the consideration, care and redress they deserve.

It’s no different when those who are merely ill-behaved are misdiagnosed as mentally impaired.  By labeling these less serious or even non-existent problems as mental conditions, it causes society to take authentic ones less seriously.  And when Savage bemoans this fact, he speaks for millions who have had to care for legitimately mentally-ill/impaired individuals.  I myself know such a caregiver, and she has lamented the fast-and-loose psychiatric diagnoses so common today.  She has seen firsthand how they take attention, consideration and resources away from people such as her truly mentally-ill family member.

So, getting back to Mr. Schwartzman, maybe I can assuage his feelings.  Michael Savage is not saying autism doesn’t exist; he is simply pointing out that the condition is over-diagnosed.  Thus, Mr. Schwartzman, if your son is legitimately autistic, Savage isn’t talking about you.  He is not diminishing your son’s travails but railing against those who are.

This is the spirit and meaning of what Savage said.  Sure, it’s very easy to cherry-pick extemporaneous radio commentary for the purposes of twisting a host’s meaning.  Talk radio is a real-time, fast-paced medium where one speaks off the cuff and often uses hyperbole to drive home concepts.  Does Savage believe that the autism-misdiagnosis rate is actually 99 percent?  I don’t know – maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t.  If he does, maybe he’s right, maybe he isn’t.  If literalism matters to you, I suggest you ask him.  But do you really believe the condition is never misdiagnosed?  Do you really know what the misdiagnose rate is?  Well, we’re not going to find out by silencing those who dare say the therapist has no clothes.

Regardless, trigger-happy diagnosticians are legion in psychiatry.  The most egregious example of their handiwork is ADHD, a mythical condition that has become a handy excuse for bad behavior.  I addressed it in this piece, in which I point out that head shrinkers are now prescribing Ritalin for children as young as two years old.  I also quote a rare, common-sense psychologist named John Rosemond, who said (I’m paraphrasing):

“All children ‘have ADD’ up till age two, but if they’re socialized properly, it’s bred out of them.”

I won’t elaborate further here, but if you’re interested in my full analysis, read the piece I cited.

Something else in my article is also relevant.  Many may scoff at Savage’s assertion that a child diagnosed with autism might just be “. . . a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out.”  C’mon, could it really be an act?  Well, consider an anecdote I presented:

. . . I think of a very charming friend I had many years ago.  The son of a psychologist, he was diagnosed with a learning disability in the 1970s, before such designations were fashionable, and attended a special school for children so afflicted.  Here is what he told me about himself and his fellow students (it’s close to verbatim): ‘We thought it [the ‘conditions’] was all nonsense; it was just a way to get out of doing work.’

So such children do exist, and they’re aided and abetted by “mental-health professionals” who are content to be fooled – and to be foolish.  Psychology is the only field wherein the practitioners invent, or exaggerate the prevalence of, diseases and conditions so they’ll have ready diagnoses.  It isn’t just Autism and ADHD.  Consider what I wrote in “The Hard Truth about a Soft Science: Why Psychology Does More Harm than Good”:

. . . I recently read about psychiatrists who are labeling the desire to engage in excessive text messaging a mental disorder. Then there is “Muscle Dysmorphia,” or the obsessive belief that one isn’t muscular enough; “celebriphilia,” the strong desire for amorous relations with a celebrity; “Intermittent Explosive Disorder,” or road rage; “Sibling Rivalry Disorder”; “Mathematics Disorder”; “Caffeine Related Disorder”; and “Expressive Writing disorder” . . . a defiant child or employee isn’t ruled by pride but has “Oppositional Disorder,” a person with a lack of gratitude isn’t just that but one who suffers from “Chronic Complaint Disorder” . . . .

Now, in light of the above, don’t you think that maybe, just perhaps, misdiagnosis and over-diagnosis might be a problem?  Isn’t suspicion of psychiatric determinations warranted?

Then there is the reason why the psychiatric profession suffers from what I’ll call “Chronic Disorder Invention Disorder”: Money.  Every time it labels what was formerly called a sin as a disease or condition of the brain, its market grows.  “Hey, I just thought of a new category.”




Over-diagnosing Autism?

Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

“Can you diagnosis me, doctor?”  “Why, yes, patient, you’re $30,000 sick.”

So, you folks who care for the truly mentally impaired should be upset, but not at Michael Savage.  He has been there; he has carried that cross.  Direct you ire at those afflicted with a “disorder” lamented since time immemorial.

It’s called greed. 

Selwyn Duke is a writer, columnist and public speaker whose work has been published widely online and in print, on both the local and national levels. He has been featured on the Rush Limbaugh Show and has been a regular guest on the award-winning Michael Savage Show.  His work has appeared in Pat Buchanan's magazine The American Conservative and he writes regularly for The New American and Christian Music Perspective.