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I am inspired today by Laurence Lewis's excellent front page post, Get the transcript: Mitt Romney and the Republican Party's antipathy toward reality dissecting the problems that even the most educated modern Republicans have in accurately perceiving and understanding objective reality. Everything I see in that post ratifies my growing conviction that the Republicans described by Mr. Lewis suffer from a specific mental disorder as defined in both the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV as well as the coming version V.

Let me preface all else by addressing possible criticism from those who would admonish me to refrain from amateur diagnosis and to withhold unseemly ad hominem labeling of mere political opponents as suffering a mental disorder. I, too, sympathize with all sufferers of all afflictions, mental and otherwise. I, too, dislike ad hominem attacks. However, I cannot let these considerations silence my concerned and reasonably well informed speculations about the nature and causes of the unprecedented political situation described in Mr. Lewis's diary. The problem is too widespread and the effects too dire to favor the suppression of the topic.

Modern Republicans appear to me to be mentally ill, within the meaning of the standard diagnostic descriptions used by psychiatrists. Come out into the tall grass and I'll explain why I think so.

After describing the myths, conspiracy theories and lies that make up so much of the fabric of modern Republicanism, Mr. Lewis noted in his post that more literate, numerate, better educated Republicans are more prone to drinking the Kool Aid and succumbing to the fantasy world of Kenyan Muslims in the White House and pixie dust economics, than Republicans with less education:

Chris Mooney wrote a book on The Republican War on Science, and the traditional media, typically, chose mostly to ignore it. But as Mooney pointed out last February, the alternate reality adhered to by Republicans and conservatives isn't primarily due to poor education or lack of intelligence. Indeed, studies have shown that more educated Republicans actually are more likely than less educated Republicans to believe such thoroughly debunked lies as that the president is a Muslim or that his health care law includes death panels (pdf).
Some of the quote offered from Mr. Mooney's book is even more chilling:
Yale researcher Dan Kahan and his colleagues set out to study the relationship between political views, scientific knowledge or reasoning abilities, and opinions on contested scientific issues like global warming. In their study, more than 1,500 randomly selected Americans were asked about their political worldviews and their opinions about how dangerous global warming and nuclear power are. But that’s not all: They were also asked standard questions to determine their degree of scientific literacy (e.g, “Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria—true or false?”) as well as their numeracy or capacity for mathematical reasoning (e.g., “If Person A’s chance of getting a disease is 1 in 100 in 10 years, and person B’s risk is double that of A, what is B’s risk?”).

The result was stunning and alarming. The standard view that knowing more science, or being better at mathematical reasoning, ought to make you more accepting of mainstream climate science simply crashed and burned.

Instead, here was the result. If you were already part of a cultural group predisposed to distrust climate science—e.g., a political conservative or “hierarchical-individualist”—then more science knowledge and more skill in mathematical reasoning tended to make you even more dismissive.

Why would this be?  
For one thing, well-informed or well-educated conservatives probably consume more conservative news and opinion, such as by watching Fox News. Thus, they are more likely to know what they’re supposed to think about the issues—what people like them think—and to be familiar with the arguments or reasons for holding these views. If challenged, they can then recall and reiterate these arguments. They’ve made them a part of their identities, a part of their brains, and in doing so, they’ve drawn a strong emotional connection between certain “facts” or claims, and their deeply held political values. And they’re ready to argue.
Modern Republicans function normally, more or less, in daily life. They are no more subject to schizophrenic delusions and similar profoundly serious mental disorders than the population in general. Yet, in many matters of pubic interest, modern Republicans believe unshakably in objective facts that they know are demonstrably false or unshakably refuse to believe in facts that they know have been demonstrated to be objectively true. Almost all of this cloud of misplaced belief and blinded faith holds together with the glue of fear of the other. Non-schizophrenic people with such belief problems have their own DSM classification. Modern Republicans appear to me to suffer Delusional Disorder, Persecutory Type.

I freely disclose that I possess no credential entitling me to engage in the diagnosis of mental disorders. But I can read, and I also spent many years as a lawyer conducting cases in state and federal courts that sometimes included issues involving diagnosis of mental illness as well as many other medico-legal issues. But notwithstanding that, I offer nothing here but the speculation of a concerned (and only occasionally a bit wry), amateur citizen.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association

is used by professionals in a wide array of contexts, including psychiatrists and other physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, occupational and rehabilitation therapists, and counselors, as well as by clinicians and researchers of many different orientations (e.g., biological, psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, family/systems). It is used in both clinical settings (inpatient, outpatient, partial hospital, consultation-liaison, clinic, private practice, and primary care) as well as with community populations. In addition to supplying detailed descriptions of diagnostic criteria, DSM is also a necessary tool for collecting and communicating accurate public health statistics about the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders.
A shorthand summary of Delusional Disorder as used by psychiatrists goes like this:
Delusional Disorder

    The Symptoms of Delusional Disorder

        Delusional system is the fundamental abnormality in delusional disorder

            In other aspects, individual seems normal

            Does not include other characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia

    DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR list five categories of delusional disorder

            Persecutory type involves belief that one is being threatened or
            maltreated by others

            Grandiose type refers to belief that person is endowed with extraordinary
            power or knowledge

            Jealous type is delusion that one's sexual partner is being unfaithful

            Erotomanic type refers to belief that person of high status is in love
            with patient

            Somatic type involves false conviction that one is suffering from physical
            abnormality or disorder

The "delusional system" described is defined as "Nonbizarre delusions (ie, involving situations that occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, infected, loved at a distance, deceived by spouse or lover, or having a disease) of at least 1 month's duration."

The most common typical myths, bunk and malarkey believed by modern Republicans don't exactly fit the specific examples listed parenthetically in the description of "delusional system", but, then again, modern Republican delusions occupy a more public milieu than the personal setting of those examples. Still, modern Republican delusions are not inherently bizarre and could occur in real life. Certainly, the threatening aspects from the examples, of things like poison, disease, stalking, etc. form part of the warp and woof of birtherism, death panels and much of science skepticism among other modern Republican delusions.  

It is not merely a mental disorder to which so many of our fellow citizens have succumbed. It is an induced mental disorder. It has a likely cause: the RushiFoxication of American politics. Our platinum clad diamond plated power-mongering masters are not content to simply buy our elections and politicians. They also are intentionally driving many of our fellow citizens, literally, crazy. It is a damned shame that the First Amendment doesn't let us do much about it, either, but that's the way that needs to be.

Now, they are all catching Romnesia. Republican thinking is no longer mentally sound. They cannot be trusted with their own affairs, much less ours, so we have no choice but to cure whom we can and out vote the rest, everywhere, every time, until ObamaCare gets Republicans the help they need so that they can recover.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It is quite common (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, carver

    In authoritarian societies, for the ruling class to diagnose opponents with mental disorders and force them into treatment.

  •  I call it the "plutocracy reality distortion field (4+ / 0-)

    The plutocracy sets the agenda, disseminates its "arguments" through the think tanks it owns, the media outlets it owns, and other sources of diffusion of their wishes.

    The rank and file idiots who vote against their own interests because of hate, prejudice, religion, etc are simply doing as they're told.

  •  Tend to agree (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LeftOfYou, Anak, Joieau, BrianParker14

    I postulated to a friend just last week that the conservative brain has been radicalized in this country. Perhaps beginning with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, Rush, Fox, whatever the genesis, but it seems to me an absolute truth. The result of this radicalization could well rise to the level of authoritarian cult; as to whether it meets the clinical definition of mental illness, I'll leave it to those more knowledgeable than myself. But there is no doubt that there is a deliberate attempt by corporate interests to manipulate the conservative brain with a constant barrage of propaganda, turning reality itself on its head. It is everything Orwell warned us against, with a certain "lexiconic terrorism" rendering words meaningless. We are left feeling dizzy and to a certain extent violated by the assault on our senses. Cynicism doesn't begin to describe it.

    •  Y'know, there's a little disconnect (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in this country from actual data/facts and the tendency to 'interpret' them to one's particular worldview. It's kind of a primal instinct in the stressed life form, thus has survival value. A survival situation - or simply a challenging situation the individual believes to be a survival situation. If there is no agreement with the stressor as to what qualifies as "objective reality," then a person's subjective reality becomes their default position. Subjective impressions and attendent memories of any given situation when subjectivity trumped reality, tend to be emotionally based, and are not subject to reasonable, factual counter-argument. The believer believes the subjective impression to be 'truth', then peddles this 'truth' to the easily-led AS truth.'s an art form to get large numbers of people to reliably ignore "their own lying eyes" in favor of some bit of fluff a fluff-meister manages to put out, designed to reinforce an erroneous planted subjective reality - belief. Really quite twisted, but I don't think delusion on this level qualifies as a psychiatric issue. I think instead of "delusion," the condition ought to be filed under "gullibility." Which is a notable symptom of several psychiatric issues but isn't one on its own.

      Consider: Mitt Romney really believed Obama didn't call the Benghazi attack an "act of terrorism" until two weeks after the event. To have been that confident his advisors had to be that confident. They were that confident. It's just that they were flat-out wrong. Amazing - the most graphic example I can think of to demonstrate this precise dynamic at work.

  •  it's cognitive dissonance (3+ / 0-)
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    LeftOfYou, carver, ancblu

    the more you know, the more you realize how hard stopping climate change will be.  It's much easier to stop believing in it, than to accept that lifestyle changes are necessary.

    It's been a hundred years, isn't it time we stopped blaming Captain Smith for sinking the Titanic?

    by happymisanthropy on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 03:32:12 PM PDT

  •  A retired clinical psychologist, I said the same (8+ / 0-)

    thing in a comment on a diary a couple of days ago -- trying to change current conservatives' minds about anything using facts that are agreed to by, for example, the vast majority of scientists (global warming) or economists (austerity's destructive effects in a recession) or by virtually ALL scientists (evolution) is like trying to talk someone with a well-developed delusional system out of a delusion by using facts & logic.  Not only doesn't it work, it usually strengthens the delusion.  

    There's an old joke about the shrink challenging the schizophrenic who believes he's Jesus by getting him to admit that, if he's Jesus, he ought to be able to perform a miracle & make the shrink disappear into thin air. When the patient agrees, the shrink says, "Go ahead.". So the patient says, "O.K.," closes his eyes, and says, "There.  You're gone."

    That just what the righties do with facts:  close their eyes/minds and say, "There.  They're gone."

  •  With December coming (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    expect to hear more Delusional Disorder, Persecutory Type whining.  Evidenced by those who make a big deal about how they  hate people saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  With the accompanying claim  "Christians are being persecuted in this country."

    Two gay co-workers of mine are very Republican.  One is a research scientist, one is a physical therapist, both are outraged, and not in a good way, about evolution, abortion, global climate change, and affirmative action.  Both think gay marriage is a non-issue.  Delusional, or something else?  

    "The will must be stronger than the skill." M. Ali

    by awhitestl on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 04:21:15 PM PDT

  •  people agree with such in-group shibboleths (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, mike101, ancblu

    such as ...... lamestream, liberal media, abortions are murder, welfare queen, voter fraud, etc, etc, etc.

    They do this because believing in these idiocies is the ante' for being admitted to a group  of which they admire and to which they long to become a member.

    Here's the trick; the most insideous thing about it.

    "It is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years."

    "There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." John Stuart Mill

    by kuvasz on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 04:44:06 PM PDT

  •  Delusion is an equal but opposite (0+ / 0-)

    reaction to MY belief.

    Naturally, I do not consider myself to be deluded. I don't have the keys to the asylum, but I'm not inside it, either....or am I?

  •  Thank you LFY, for being someone who (0+ / 0-)

    out loud, is willing to call them mentally ill.  They are.  The more this conversation enters the main stream the better for us all.  Voting to end food for the starving, medicine for the sick, health care for the ill and sending Americans to die for corporate interests is mentally ill, no matter who they're prejudiced against.  Thank you for this article.  More of us have to point out the conservative position is clearly a mental illness and should not be treated as a legitimate position of conscience but one of moral relativity, hate and irrational greed, all of which only leads to their own and their family's devolution.

  •  But is your diagnosis your delusion? (0+ / 0-)

    I don't know any mental health professional who would apply the label of Delusional Disorder to all those Christians who believe that God controls every little thing that happens on Earth, an Earth they believe to be less than 10,000 years old despite mountains of good evidence to the contrary, so much good evidence that I think it is right to call such a false belief a delusion, yet that is a cultural delusion, not the sort of individual delusion that people have who are rightfully diagnosed as having Delusional Disorder. It's like diagnosing public figures as narcissists or sociopaths, despite how well those figures get along with their own kind of people, even if that's only in their private life. Such pseudodiagnoses are just as ignorant as pseudoscience that supposedly proves evolution wrong or global warming a hoax. So you see, this is not just a conservative affliction.

    I'm sure that Buddhists who say that human nature is full of attachments and delusions are right, but that's a different meaning for "delusion" than mental health professionals use. That's more about our prejudices and whatever other unexamined groupthink we have ourselves. There are certainly some falsehoods in that, even if that's just some oversimplifications and overgeneralizations, nothing to the same degree that pseudoscience is false.

    So I don't think supposed mental health professionals who preach to conservatives that liberalism is a mental illness involving some infantile dependence on government are delusional, though I suppose they are  in the Buddhist sense. I just think they are terrible at psychiatric diagnosis, for whatever reason, maybe because they prostitute whatever knowledge they have of mental health to gain an audience, maybe something else. By the same token, it's a mistake to diagnosis wingnuts as all having Delusional Disorder, no matter what satisfaction that may give you.

    It's not a coincidence that a Republican Party that has in large part merged with white evangelicals demonstrates such an incredible conformity when it comes to Republican talking points, such as how President Obama was "clearly" speaking about some other "acts of terror" on Sept. 12 than the one the day before. How can otherwise intelligent Republicans believe such an arbitrary interpretation of Obama's words? Aren't they native speakers of English? Don't at least some of them listen to the words not included when Chris Wallace claims this Republican talking point is reality instead of the fantasy it is?

    It is an amazing phenomenon, but the parallel is not with patients lost in their personal delusional system. The parallel is with whatever extreme example of groupthink one can find, whether that's in how evangelicals believe what they believe or in how a real or fictional totalitarian system imposes groupthink on its followers.

    In the course of my becoming a liberal Christian, I came up with a lot of questions about whether I should be more orthodox on various points. So I spent time reading Christian apologetics. It was amazing how often my reaction to the standard defense of some orthodox position was an incredulous, "That's the best they can do?" It's the same incredulity that one can have listening to Republicans defend their talking points no matter how ridiculous they sound to someone who has heard the whole story or doesn't assume what Republicans assume about economics, government, and morality.

    This is not a new phenomenon. Orthodox religion has been doing this for thousands of years, all kinds of religions. Even modern atheists tend to use the same arguments over and over again. It's not that the arguments have no effective counterarguments. It's that if you're talking to any kind of true believer, he or she isn't interested in seeing the truth of a counterargument. A true believer always does the same thing when confronted with an effective counterargument. He or she shifts to a different argument.

    I've been watching people argue against the fact of evolution this way for decades. It's incredible. It's a phenomenon. It's not a disease. It's very human. It's just that some particularly conformist subcultures drive this phenomenon to as absurd a degree as it does in wingnuts, where the best educated simply have more ammunition for their conformity to fantasy than the average true believer. Their arguments are indeed the best they can come up with, or they would use better ones.

    How many generations will it take before some younger generation breaks with their evangelical Christian parents in a big way? How many elections does the current Republican Party have to lose before a lot of Republicans take a more honest look at Republican talking points? Someone in the future will get to see, I'm sure. Saying this is about a psychiatric diagnosis is to deny just how human and widespread such intellectual conformity is.


  •  Can anyone with expertise comment? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My understanding had been that mental "health" includes proper functioning of defense mechanisms that protect against reality. There was one study that found the people best aligned with objective reality were depressives.

  •  It's a common feature of totalitarian movements (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that its practitioners are primarily aristocratic, relatively well-educated people rather than people from a plebeian background with limited education.  They are mostly not academics, but usually people in practical professions - doctors, engineers, military officers, businessmen, etc.  This was the case with both Nazism and Communism, although the latter tended to have academic features that would only later be exterminated once Communist governments managed to seize power.

    But the message must not be understated: What we are seeing with the Republican Party right now is the early stages of a militant totalitarian movement.  They're just on the cusp of transitioning from latency to early militancy, when Republican political leaders will form relationships with violent terrorist groups that do their political bidding on a poorly-coordinated initial basis.  

    That level of coordination would then only increase, with civil war being the most likely outcome.  Only it wouldn't be a war between states, but a war between democratic government and corrupt puppet government; between assertive populations and the authoritarian institutions who oppress them on behalf of financial interests; and, most troublingly, between diverse society and racist bigotries.  Wouldn't be no blue and grey uniforms marching on a field - it would be coffee shops and corporate boardrooms blowing up.  No one wants that, but the GOP is on a clear trajectory and it's not clear how to stop them.

    Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

    by Troubadour on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 06:52:42 PM PDT

    •   Yes, much like the marauding bands of religious (0+ / 0-)

      zealots in England under Elizabeth ! hired and maintained by the wealthy, the Republicans threaten America.  This, I think, is the more likely manifestation of Civil war; although, I do not dismiss a replay of the 1860's.   In any case, it will be ugly.  Perhaps, as in the case of Rome, we will split as was the dream of the secessionist South.

      I said nothing like this could happen due to the press, but I underestimated the vulnerability of the press, seeing them as a noble lot rather than the craven, self-serving one they have shown themselves to be.  

      Old Hippies Never Give Up!

      by ravenrdr on Fri Oct 26, 2012 at 03:37:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not a psychiatric disorder; more garden variety (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LeftOfYou, Citizenpower

    I was going on a wikipedia crawl last night about phenomena related to this (like a pub crawl but no brains cells killed).  I spend some time over at Free Republic and what I see is:

    Illusory Superiority:

    "The effects of illusory superiority have also been found to be strongest when people rate themselves on abilities at which they are totally incompetent."
    On Free Republic you can find threads where they lament how stupid the liberals they know are.  Related to this is the Downing effect: people with lower IQs tend to overestimate their intelligence, while those with higher IQs tend to underestimate theirs.

    Then there is the Dunning-Kruger effect which probably explains some of your co-workers for you.  (It did for me.)

    Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

        tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
        fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
        fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;

    “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.” ― Voltaire

    by Time Waits for no Woman on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 07:32:21 PM PDT

  •  A most excellent quote from John Kenneth Galbraith (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    regarding Republicans.

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

  •  Romney's Mormonism makes him feel persecuted (0+ / 0-)

    Mormon's come by persecution naturally since they had to leave the country to survive and practice their religion.
    Not unlike the Jews, they have a strong drive to get all the education they can to survive.

    The two most significant graduate schools in the Mormon educational system are business and law. This leads them into leadership positions where they can acquire greater power and influence in government . You are less likely to be driven out of your home if are in leadership positions in government or business. Power and money equal influence and security.

    Romney exhibits a sense of entitlement that is common in "legacy" individuals. Bush did too. They feel they should be the political leaders because of their social standing.

    They do have the illusion of superiority. Romney actually was very ambitious and successful in business but he pushes it further than he needs to. He crosses the line of what is ethical even when it appears to be legal.
    They both think that aggression equals good leadership skills. Neither of these men could have run for office without deep pockets of money.

    Romney is without charm.He even gets on Republicans nerves. He brings out the worst in voters. Some who don't like him would rather vote for him because he is white and rich. He is obviously ignorant of foreign affairs. He relies upon deceit and nerve to push his economic plan.He is deluded into thinking that he would make a good president even though people don't like him and he doesn't show much concern for the people he would be governing. You have to wonder why he wants this job. More power, more control? Scary thoughts.

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