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Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill (2012) (madinamerica.com)
225 points by yesbabyyes on May 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 204 comments

I have a 13-year-old brother with ODD. And let me tell you, there is more to it than a healthy does of anti-authoritarianism.

We adopted my brother when he was 15 months old, and in his first year of life we suspect he was frequently neglected, leading to attachment issues. Basically, when an infant's needs are not met, they get distressed, and the more often this occurs, the more those neurological pathways become ingrained in their brains. Which means that people with a traumatic early childhood are much more sensitive to stimulus, feel threatened easily, and very quickly move into "survival mode". In survival mode, we will all lie, cheat or steal because our survival is at stake. Kids like my brother spent a disproportionate amount of their time in this state.

They also learn at that young age that their needs are not going to be met, and so they come to distrust authority and other people, focusing on looking out for themselves (since no one else is going to). They also tend to fail to internalize social norms and rules like being honest and the "golden rule". These sorts of tendencies can be considered anti-authoritarian, but it is a reactionary anti-authoritarianism, not a healthy, well-reasoned skepticism of prevailing authorities. The latter is healthy, the former is not.

So while it may be the case that anti-authoritarian individuals frequently are diagnosed a mentally ill, it is probably much more common that some kinds of mentally ill individuals happen to be anti-authoritarian. I.e. causation moves from certain types of mental illness to anti-authoritarianism. Basically, I'd like to say this is an interesting article, but please don't walk away thinking that the entire system is just a ploy by The Man to keep the Lisbeth Salanders of this world marginalized. It is much more complicated and difficult than that.

On a personal note, it can be very painful to love someone with issues like ODD. It requires loads of love, patience and restraint. It can also be very rewarding.

Attachment and insecurity issues can be greatly improved with psychedelic induced trips (with safe setting). If mushrooms, ayahuasca or similars are very hard to get(in my country it's hard) holotropic breathwork is reported to have similar effect, although can't reinforce that.

This message is more like to anyone with attachment issues, I've just read your brother is 13 years old so mehh, don't know.. Safe bet that he is not mature enough, haven't read anything about what are the hazards when adolescents take it.

I'll get right on that and recommend that to my parents. :P It is interesting the recent research on psychotropics, though.

Meditation, which takes a longer route to the psychedelic states, can also help and has less stigma attached to it. Something to consider at least.

By its very nature, the practice (such as Vipassana) involves not becoming attached to rising stimulus, on a moment-to-moment basis. I can tell you from personal experience, someone who is habituated to be sensitive like your brother, will have a difficult time with this. Further, there's nothing you can do to make your brother do this practice.

The thing about well-guided mushroom and Ayahuasca experiences is such that you learn what it is like to not be sensitive to arising stimuli, and as such, seek out practices like this. (Though there are other things going on too). If you are serious about looking into using psychedelics for therapy (possibly when your brother is older), it may be something to do together rather than throwing your brother out into the void.

For Vipassana Meditation I recommend "Mindfulness in Plain English". You can find it online. It's an incredibly good book to begin meditation at all.

I am actually really curious, in what ways is it rewarding outside of loving anyone else?

I can't say it's more rewarding on the whole, but I didn't want people to think that it is less rewarding.

However, there is also a bit of an effect where someone you care about is not particularly thoughtful, so when they do go out of their way to be kind or help you out, it feels especially good and shows that they really do care about you. If that makes sense..

Thanks for sharing, I'm sure your brother is better for having you there to support him.

Sounds like a lesser version of Stockholm syndrome :(

I can't say I personally get it, but I respect you and your family for their empathy and compassion.

> it is probably much more common that some kinds of mentally ill individuals happen to be anti-authoritarian.

I think thats a hard judgement to make, but its a tragedy that any kids who simply disagree with authority figures they don't see as valid are medicated and diagnosed with ODD.

and it requires the above traits in people close to the person, not Ritalin or other mood altering drugs, to truly solve the problem, and not just mask it.

You're applying an acute care model to a chronic problem; it's not necessarily 'fixable.'

I sometimes ask mental health professionals what the converse of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is. At what point do we recognize a disorder in a child who is unnaturally compliant and obedient? No answer so far.

I ask because I think I had this. When I was a young prodigy I had the mentality of a performing seal.

It's true that some people have difficulty controlling themselves, and they do need help. But the lack of symmetry says a lot about how diseases are identified; it is about institutional convenience.

"Low self-esteem", sometimes colloquially called "people pleasing" or "being a doormat". A good therapist will recognize this and encourage the child to develop more of their own interests and assert themselves more.

The problem is that a child will not be brought to a therapist for following the rules; only a child who violates rules too frequently will ever see the inside of a psychiatrist's office. A child who always does what they are told will be rewarded, and will likely be rewarded further if their reaction to their rewards is, "What are my next set of instructions?"

This reminds me of a poem my favorite Math professor used to share, about a little boy who was always instructed exactly how to draw a picture of a flower: http://home.bresnan.net/~cabreras/theboy.htm

This "poem" is depressing.

Off topic: It's never made sense to me why people call things that don't rhyme "poems." As far as I'm concerned, this is an essay, not a poem.

It's a type of poetry called "free verse".



Here is the classic story of a Real Programmer, written in free verse:


This story was originally written in prose, and it apparently got converted to free verse more or less by accident as it was bounced around mailing lists. Here's the prose version:


HN discussion:


  Another way to put it,
  I suppose you could say,
  is that the difference
  between prose and free verse
  is the number of lines.

Not the number, more like the form, but in general the difference between poetry and, uh, prose is something I do not quite understand.

  > Not the number,
  > more like the form,

  Now that's a great start!
  I wonder if the art is knowing when to go on until your breath runs out,
  and when to keep it

Free verse seems silly and pointless. So I wrote a trivial program to turn prose into free verse:

    import random

    def poem(text, p_break=0.5, seed=1234):
        rand = random.Random(seed)
        result = []
        for w in text.split():
            if rand.uniform(0.0, 1.0) < p_break:
                result.append(' ')
        return "".join(result)

    print poem("This is a poem written by a program.  It is not really a poem because it does not rhyme, it is some weird thing called free verse, which is a poem that does not rhyme.", p_break=0.1)
Here's the output:

    This is a
    poem written by a program.
    It is not
    really a poem because it does not rhyme,
    it is some
    weird thing called free
    verse, which is a poem that does not rhyme.

Poetics aside, I have to agree with you about how the poem is a very sad story. My explorations in free verse elsewhere in the thread may be a way to cover up my tears.

My daughter is very bright, but when she was in grade school she'd sometimes have trouble with a homework problem because the textbook didn't explain a concept clearly.

So I'd tell her how I've always found it helpful to read multiple sources on a topic. If one of them doesn't click with the way I think, another one probably will. And just reading multiple references that explain things differently helps reinforce the concepts.

She wanted nothing to do with it! She only wanted to hear about the way "they" explained it - the textbook, the teacher, the school - the right way to do it. Nothing else.

I guess I wish she'd gotten a teacher like the one at the end of that story, early on.

That is depressing.

Most poems in the world don't rhyme. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhyming#History This one uses a repeated structure instead of repeated sounds.

If how it sounds is as important when read out as the information content it's poetry. Even if you disregard free verse that isn't all poetry. The Norse skaldic tradition is amazing and they were much more into assonance than rhyme. Think rap but without a backing track.

http://www.okcupid.com/profile/Hibernian/journal?cf=profile Is this poetry?

Does anyone know why the alternative version on that page has an unhappy ending and the original version has a happy ending?

(See the footnote at the bottom of this page: http://home.bresnan.net/~cabreras/theboy.htm)

Who wrote the alternate? Why would the author approve of one but not the other?

Both versions highlight the importance of a nurturing environment to the development of a child. However, the original version is about a child finally finding an environment in which his creativity can thrive; the alternative version is about a child's creativity being stifled during his early development to the point where it is unable to thrive even once he is in an environment that allows, and even encourages, it. Thus the alternative version also demonstrates the lasting damage that may result, and so is more effective at conveying the message of the poem.

Harry Chapin has a song called "Flowers Are Red" that is essentially a retelling of this poem.

Sure, sure. But would be ever prescribe prescription drugs for this? Everything you're describing is characterized as a personality trait, whereas the OP (who I hardly fully agree with) is claiming that anti-authoritarian sentiments are labeled a disease. Obviously, this makes a big difference in how these phenomena are treated.

  > Sure, sure. But would be ever prescribe prescription
  > drugs for this?
If there was a drug shown to improve self-esteem in children, it would likely become one of the most profitable drugs of all time.

  > Everything you're describing is characterized as a
  > personality trait, whereas the OP (who I hardly fully
  > agree with) is claiming that anti-authoritarian
  > sentiments are labeled a disease.
ADHD and ODD aren't diseases, they are disorders. When it comes to psychology/psychiatry, "disorder" is basically a word that means "personality trait that negatively interferes with everyday life".

> If there was a drug shown to improve self-esteem in children, it would likely become one of the most profitable drugs of all time.

If the drug worked it wouldn't be very popular as children would start dropping out of school to join Y Combinator and the drug would be recalled for having horrible defects.

The baby boomers idea of self-esteem is disgusting.

> The baby boomers idea of self-esteem is disgusting.

It seems to be the same as yours: "If people had more self esteem they would want to be more like me"

> If there was a drug shown to improve self-esteem in children, it would likely become one of the most profitable drugs of all time.

It's called alcohol. It's wildly profitable.

When's the last time you give your child alcohol?

If you really cared about your teen with low self esteem, you would buy them a round at the bar.

Why don't you love them?

It depends on what state you're in... (provided you're going to a bar, and not just purchasing it and going home)

You could do it in Wisconsin, but not Illinois.

I think Tequila is what you are looking for. Here are the medical details: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EldQzTxSKMM

I think that you are right in that there is probably a disorder in that particular case, but seeing the lack of symmetry in general to be an indication of a problem seems off. As far as I can tell we don't expect such a symmetry in the rest of medicine. I don't think there is an opposite of lung cancer.

I'd agree in general, but when it comes to biology, the health of an organism seems entirely rooted in moderation.

Cancer is when your cells replicate too quickly and out of control. What's the opposite? When your cells don't replicate enough. Radiation sickness is what that looks like.

Dehydration is a serious problem, but so is over-hydration.

Insufficient oxygen will kill you, as will too much.

Bacterial infection can be a serious problem, but eliminating all bacteria from the body will also kill it.

Overactive immune systems are just as bad as underperforming ones. And on and on.

lung necrosis?

Ha, fair enough.

They are classified as "dependent personality disorder" under the DSM IV, part of the anxiety group of Axis II disorders.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/dependent-personal... ?

In fairness, any abnormality defined by evasion of confrontation and dramatic episodes will inevitably attract less attention than the reverse, irrespective of institutional environnment.

Excessive obedience often means you had overly needy parents who couldn't tolerate you acting out. So, you take care of their needs by not causing problems. This probably isn't recognized in the DSM as a disorder, since on the surface it appears good for a structured, smoothly operating society, but one term that you will probably identify with if you search a little is "parentified child". There are quite a lot of books written about this.


Pretty much, yes.

  At what point do we recognize a disorder in a child
  who is unnaturally compliant and obedient?
  No answer so far.
I think this is a great question. And I am not surprised there is no answer.

> But the lack of symmetry says a lot about how diseases are identified; it is about institutional convenience.

Is it?

I'd chalk it up to the fact that a unnaturally compliant child doesn't tend to cause the parents to seek out treatment, whereas a child who's kicking holes in walls and attacking their siblings does.

What about a child who is not violent, but who would rather spend their time reading advanced math textbooks, hacking, or otherwise learning? What about a child who will stand up to their teachers and say, "This is worthless homework, so I spent my time learning next year's material instead?"

The point of the article is that an awful lot of mental disorder diagnoses are being given to children who calmly reject certain authorities, or who demand that the legitimacy of an authority be demonstrated before they will submit to it. Psychiatrists are medicating people who question authority out of existence.

Do you have any evidence that kids calmly saying "I'd rather learn useful things" are getting widely diagnosed as ODD? Anecdotally, that's exactly what I did in the late 1990s with my biology teacher. No diagnosis.

I don't think many of the kids that are ADD/ADHD/ODD are old enough to be aware enough of what's going on. The system is in no way tailored to them. Instead of those running the system reflecting on it's shortcomings and trying to remedy them, they instead suppose that it's the children who are the problem, not them.

It would be hilarious if it wasn't so tragic.

Since we there is no exact definition of what a mentally healthy human being is, in the same way that those specifications would be available for a machine for example, the definitions of mental problems have obviously been developed mostly in other ways.

Conditions where a person causea problems for himself or his surroundings are then labeled as mental health problems. Naturally, the opposite conditions may be benign. The person may be overly obedient, or overly trusting (opposite of paranoia), irrationally peaceful (opposite of depression) and so on, and this may indeed be caused by the same mechanism that causes the opposite condition, but as it does not cause problems, it is not considered a disease.

> At what point do we recognize a disorder in a child who is unnaturally compliant and obedient?

Typically one of the important parts of diagnosis is "does it cause a problem for the patient?"

> it is about institutional convenience.

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem. But your comment is weird. Giving someone a diagnosis is not convenient. That person is now able to get medical treatment, maybe disability benefits, maybe time off work, etc. Once you diagnose someone you have a duty to try to provide treatment. It's far more convenient to say that people do not have a mental health problem and release them.

> At what point do we recognize a disorder in a child who is unnaturally compliant and obedient? No answer so far.

But if you give it a name people will start to recognize it and they will be harder to control!

Nice idea though, in theory.

I don't like this article's groundless speculation about Albert Einstein, who is used as an unwilling poster child for dozens of causes without support in Einstein's actual biography. I have carefully read Einstein's longest autobiographical writing, and cite it on my personal website,


and while it is indisputable that Einstein blew off some of his school homework, it is not at all clear that he would meet any of the DSM-IV or new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for any of the conditions claimed for him.

More generally, there is a better call for improvement of psychological diagnosis


already up on the website of the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States, the subject of much news reporting and commentary in the last week. So I won't take this opinion piece by lone blogger as the last word on what needs to be done to improve psychological diagnosis.

Yeah, the Einstein reference triggered my bullshit filter too. If the best evidence you can cite for Einstein being pathologically anti-authoritarian is a dislike of Prussian discipline, failing exams he was pushed into taking early and a patchy graduate employment record, you've haven't distinguished his behaviour from millions of present-day Americans who manage to be stroppy teenagers and underemployed young adults without attracting the attention of mental health professionals.

I'd much rather hear anonymised examples of alleged misdiagnosis (I'm sure they do exist) but the author is surprisingly reticent on that front. He even observes that his patients previously diagnosed with various psychoses had "fully recovered" whilst retaining their anti-authoritarian streak: implicitly acknowledging they probably did have a problem and that losing an anti-authoritarian streak wasn't a prerequisite to recovery.

I'm pretty receptive to arguments that certain disorders are overdiagnosed but the article has surprisingly little to say about that.

I read two Einstein's biographies and I have come to the conclusion that if he was born today he would probably be a college drop out. Some people say that geniuses always survives life hardships, but the fact that there are no new Einsteins (or Maxwells, Plancks...) seems to show this isn't true.

Yeah. I've never heard of Feynman or Hawking or anyone either.

I'm pretty sure both of them are anti-authoritarian.

> Some people say that geniuses always survives life hardships, but the fact that there are no new Einsteins (or Maxwells, Plancks...) seems to show this isn't true.

No new Einsteins, Maxwells, and Plancks?


A Nobel doth not a genius make.

But a Nobel is granted to a genius already made.

Not necessarily. Robert Lucas, for instance.

Every year someone will win the Nobel prize and that doesn't mean they are great like most of the early winners. And I'm not the only one who thinks like that. I remember Freeman Dyson saying something like that in article.

Einstein was lucky as well as smart. He was a curious kid while the cracks in the foundations that Newton laid were growing too wide to ignore; he graduated just as the whole structure collapsed. The things he and his contemporaries built in its place still stand, and they didn't leave room to build beside them. By mid century, not even Einstein could do what Einstein did.

Look at how fast and wide the field of physics has grown in the past 70 years. The proliferation of new theories, discoveries, inventions, and solutions, across such vast practical and theoretical disciplines in physics, almost makes me think the "Einsteins" of our generation are not individuals, but groups of people working together. With the ability to share data quickly and effectively, we have become able to have multiple persons working on the same problems at the same time, which has allowed us to accomplish some unbelievable things. We've built particle detectors to observe elementary particles that are fundamental to the Standard Model. We've discovered carbon nanotubes and graphene. We've potentially discovered dark matter. We have our geniuses too, and some are famous (e.g., Hawking), but maybe they are not as famous as their predecessors because their contributions seem to blend with the overall march of science and our expectation of radical advance (jetpacks and all)?

There was a Feynman, but not much since then.

"I have come to the conclusion that if he was born today he would probably be a college drop out."

And without mentors, his gift to the world then might have been squandered.

The nice thing about dead people is that they rarely object to how they are used.

I think your summation of this article is way off.

First - It was written by a lone PHd over a year before the NIMH blog post (which was written by a lone MD).

Second - I don't think this author was presenting his article as "the last word".

Lastly - The speculation on Einstein is grounded in comments by one of Einstein's biographers. I wouldn't call that groundless.

The TL:DR of this article, in D&D terms:

Chaotic aligned people are being diagnosed as mentally ill by Lawful aligned people.

Unfortunately, it's frequently Lawful-{Neutral|Evil} judging Chaotic-Good, which is a travesty.

Not only that, but the trend is cemented by the fact that only Lawful people are allowed to diagnose in the first place, so there is no checks or balances. In D&D, a few rolls could take care of that, but in the real world you'll get some hefty jail time... and a diagnosis.

Real life would be a lot more fun if it had a better DM.

Isn't that what different countries are?

In the first paragraph is the little gem : authority needs to a) know b) be honest c) care for anti-authoritarians to accept it.

> I know that degrees and credentials are primarily badges of compliance. Those with extended schooling have lived for many years in a world where one routinely conforms to the demands of authorities.

Yes! Wow. Just read the article - not a single idea I'd disagree with, except maybe the conclusion :

> Americans desperately need anti-authoritarians to question, challenge, and resist new illegitimate authorities and regain confidence in their own common sense

I don't know if anyone desperately needs anything.

However, the abc test to test how legitimate is the authority and how a diagnosis would be best explained by something this simple thing is something I'll keep.

It truly help a lot when you read things like this. I'm 36 years old now, and have learned to live pretty successfully in society.

But as a child that wants to explore and innovate (or for that matter just understand the rules I'm following), it often feels impossible to live in a society that has a rigid set of expectations.

One common refrain from childhood: "If only he would apply himself..." well, of course, I actually applied myself with a focus that would blister the brains of the people who said this sort of thing. But I didn't apply myself to what they wanted.

And that was from the people who even recognized that I had intelligence worthy of any respect. Many had no idea that I was more than troublemaker (a ditch-digger some would say). I suppose it is of relevance that I grew up in a very blue collar environment, and in those environments the expected measure of success is a stable job with routine and predictable pay increases; questioning and understanding is not the path to that, acceptance of the "that's the way it's done" is.

These issues led to a malaise and kind of depression that resulted in me dropping out of school and joining the Marine Corps (yeah, great idea for an "anti-authoritarian", but part of me still believed i was the one with the problem and needed fixing).

The path "back to the world" was a difficult one, and who's to say if that path is even done -- where could I have been. My decisions were poor back then, but hell, I was a teenager and living in a world that didn't support me. Ironically, as I've gained positions of authority over people who themselves are submissive to authority, I think they have a greater respect for me, than they do people who are not innovators or independent thinkers.

I still fight the battle constantly, the white collar corporate world is nearly as unimaginative as the blue collar world -- it's not even about resisting authority, in fact, a good 'authority' is as good as delegating -- someone trusted to do stuff.

I'd be curious to hear about your experiences in the Corps as an anti-authoritarian sort. I nearly joined the Marines myself out of college but decided that I was not well suited for it.

Well, I think there is a lot of confusion in this thread: confusing people who genuinely have serious problems with those to whom the author was referring, those who are simply differently suited than the majority.

I'd like to think that I'm the latter overall, so, frankly, I didn't fit in, and I didn't do terribly well, but its mostly a non-story (with regards to anti-authoritarianism - in other ways I have plenty of stories). I was average, I mostly tolerated the authority because the threat of not doing so was a little more than I could bear, and I got the hell out as soon as I could. Then I was lucky enough to be a smart guy during the original dot-com bubble and found my way back into the company of people I was more comfortable with.

This is a great article. The linked article ("Anti-Authoritarians and Schizophrenia: Do Rebels Who Defy Treatment Do Better?") is also very interesting:

"At the 2-year assessment there were no significant differences in severity of psychosis between schizophrenic patients (SZ) on antipsychotic medications and SZ not on any medications. However, starting at the 4.5-year follow-ups and continuing over the next 15 years, the SZ who were not on antipsychotic medications were significantly less psychotic than those on antipsychotics.”

Sounds like persons who are less functional feel that they need medication more than those who don't. Not that anyone WANTS neuroleptics, the side effects sound terrible.

I would imagine that anyone who wants to deal through them is going to necessarily have more troubles.

This is covered quite thoroughly in chapter 6 of Whitaker's Anatomy of an Epidemic, which has extensive citations of the history and research on this problem.

Neuroleptics make schizophrenia patients more biologically vulnerable to psychosis. Standard antipsychotics block 70-90% of D2 receptors in the brain. To compensate, postsynaptic neurons increase the density of their D2 receptors by 30% or more. The brain is then supersensitive to dopamine. This leads to dyskinetic and psychotic symptoms.

Wait, let me guess... As such, they are not allowed to buy weapons, right? How convenient...

This is why we can't have nice firearms.

Seriously: I fully support background checks -- extending what we already have, to cover all sales. I also think that if motor vehicles require registration, insurance, and license to operate, then firearms sure as heck should, too.

Even so, if I'm being intellectually honest, I also have a twinge of doubt when it comes to "mental health" grounds, and I have some concern about a Minority Report pre-cog sort of exercise.

This will probably just get me down-votes from both sides of the debate, but, there you have it.

I agree with you.

I see the main problem as this: Many people want to keep firearms to keep the power of the government in check, and the government wants to write the rules on who can keep arms. This causes a friction. Either the people give up the right to bear arms and trust the government fully, or the government should not be allowed to make rules on who can keep arms. Anything short of that will continue to cause the friction.

I'm of the opinion that the founders of the United States did not envision a government that people should fully trust, and that mistrust in the government's actions and motives by the populace would actually be healthy for the government. I'm further of the opinion that the founders did not envision a medical profession that could, with a diagnosis and the stroke of a pen, be able to essentially enforce such government full trust, by removing a person's constitutional right to own a firearm, and that without a crime having been committed, and the person not having been convicted of such a crime in a court of law.

If you ask me, that's exactly what the movie Minority Report foretold: "We think you are going to commit a crime, and therefore we will pre-emptively curtail your freedom."

Is this the America the Founding Fathers envisioned when they signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776?

"Many people want to keep firearms to keep the power of the government in check,"


Are you sure its not just a case of guns being ingrained in American culture and make the owners feel all macho and strong, and that any old excuse is good enough to argue that they should be allowed to keep huge pointless arsenals of weaponry?

I mean, from what I can tell, such people are generally on the right of politics, and at the same time they argue that they need guns to protect against a threat from within, they believe Obama is a non American, communist, Muslim. Well, er, wouldn't that be a great threat from with in to the US? Where were these citizen protectors of American freedom when Obama the commie Muslim took office? Shouldn't they have been using their arsenals to protect America? Or do such people actually know they are taking nonsense?

On top of that, when in the last, say, 100 years has the US government posed a threat to American citizens, such that they citizens needed to break out the weapon to protect them selves?

Frankly I think its more to do with male machismo, culture and being stuck in the 17th century. They have always had guns, and what ever logic you argue with, they simply don't want to change. If you managed to convince then that the government isn't out to get them, they'd just find another excuse.

It reminds me of fox hunting in the UK, or bull fighting in Spain. All these things defy reason, logic and decency, but we all want to hang on to them, simply because they have always been there. Heh, its kinda like saying you can have music any more.

I'm sorry, people may claim they want guns for the reason you cite, but I honestly don't believe them at all.

It is sad that the sort of bigoted opinions you're espousing here are what us firearms enthusiasts have to endure. It has nothing to do with machismo, nothing to do with Obama, and nothing to do with birther garbage.

The right to bear arms is a right of last resort. Its the right that protects all others and, as such, it is the _most_ essential right.

As for naming incidents in the last 100 years where armed resistance to the United States government would have been productive or useful, I recommend you look up the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War 2. I also recommend that you read about the Black Panthers standing up to corrupt Oakland police and marching on government buildings, loaded guns in hand.

You don't have to be a crazy conspiracy theorist or a right-winger to realize the thought that "something like that couldn't happen in America" is naive at best.

edit: I omitted an "n"

An issue facing firearm enthusiasts is that the most vocal (or at least the ones getting the most press) are in those camps. It's the same problem that faces many other groups, the extremists and zealots are the loudest and the ones people outside the group see. Any reasonable voice gets drowned out.

> The right to bear arms is a right of last resort. Its the right that protects all others and, as such, it is the _most_ essential right.

I'm going to have to disagree with this statement though. The 1st amendments's protections on speech, assembly and the press strikes me as a more important collection oy rights. It's what prevents us from needing to pull out our weapons and go to war against our government. Especially these days, with our technology and ability to disseminate information. I won't make the claim that many of the travesties of the past couldn't be repeated today in the US, but they'll be a lot harder to accomplish. Also, given the relatively short period US presidents and congresspersons stay in office, the voters actually have a chance to accomplish something if they'd show up in greater numbers and vote along something other than party lines.

No less a hacker than Eric S. Raymond has recently written thought-provoking blog posts about this not long ago:



If the 2nd is intact, the 1st will follow. Not so the other way around.

Alas, the information needed to vote intelligently is hard to come by in today's America.

I'm curious how you suppose armed conflict would have helped Americans of Japanese descent during World War 2. Even in Los Angeles and San Francisco they were a minority, and were viewed with suspicion by much of the rest of society (Americans of German descent mostly gave up speaking and writing in German, despite being a plurality). It would have been almost trivial for the government to eliminate sympathetic feelings in the rest of the population by simply issuing propaganda saying that resistance by Japanese-Americans was actually a guerrilla campaign on behalf of the Empire of Japan.

So then what? Japanese-Americans give up all their possessions and live the hills? Where would they get food, guns and ammunition? After the war, there would be no way for them to reintegrate into society.

As for the Black Panthers, I would argue that images of them carrying weapons in the media did more harm than good to their cause. Today few people remember them as a community service organization and most remember them as a sort of quasi-terrorist death squad. A recent presidential candidate was even intimated to have had some sort of nebulous association with them as a way of tarnishing his reputation (though I hear he won anyway).

So I'm underwhelmed by arguments that guns are going to stop a tyrannical government. They may stop one that is completely inept, but a government with even modest propaganda resources will have no trouble playing one group of citizens against the other. Firearms enthusiasts aren't going to be portrayed as 'freedom fighters' by the media: They will be called 'terrorists' or 'cop killers.'

Not that I'm against gun ownership (though I don't personally own one). I just don't live under the misapprehension that it's going to magically 'solve government.'

I don't think his point was that firearm ownership by Americans of Japanese descent during WW2 would have been effective. I think his claim was that injustices have happened in America of the sort for which armed resistance is proportional and potentially warranted from the perspective of those whose rights were infringed.

> Japanese American internment was the World War II internment in "War Relocation Camps" of about 110,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the Pacific coast of the United States.


Not sure I understand your point here...

Are you suggesting that on a national scale things would have turned out for the better if Japanese Americans started shooting anyone who tried to intern them? Or if Black Panthers started shooting cops in the street?

It seems to me both those scenarios end up in a bloodbath. One which both minority groups would have little chance of surviving. And when the massacre is over, the government will say "Look - we were right all along! They were violent terrorists and we had no choice.".

Just a little reality check: the entire rest of the world thinks that Americans are utterly, raving insane on this issue.

Not the entire rest of the world - or at least, not completely.

> The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 30 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations; Switzerland thus has one of the highest militia gun ownership rates in the world


I agree, but will also add, access to guns is not the only issue. The US has a culture of gun fetishism you just don't see anywhere else in the first world. That's not something that will change with legislation.

If you're a "gun enthusiast", then you're not in it to protect yourself. You're only fooling yourself.

Note: That is essentially what the Boston Bombers were doing. If Robin Hood were alive in Nottingham today, I'm sure he'd be called a cop-killer.

Regarding Boston Bombers: I do not see how this is true. Explain?

Regarding Robin Hood: he was a cop-killer and a bandit, but when we read a fiction novel, this can be overlooked for a better literary presentation.

When somebody says "The right to bear arms is ... the _most_ essential right.", he or she is repeating that claim from the US Founding Fathers.

If America were being ruled by some sort of King George and the Founding Fathers had their revolt today, the Founding Fathers would be called "terrorists", just like the Boston Bombers are.

Americans have had this stuff drummed into their heads as a result of nationalist propaganda for over 200 years, because history is written by the victors.

If history were different and King George had won, they'd instead have been hearing about how gun control was the foundation of their liberty and how it protected loyal subjects of the Crown from those nefarious pro-French traitors.

The same goes for Robin Hood: he isn't given a better presentation because we are reading fiction but because King John lost. And John was a tyrant, by the way, who was made to submit to Magna Carta by force.

According to media accounts of the Boston Bombers that I have seen, they claimed to be fighting America because of America's injustice to Islam.

Apart from its increased plausibility, how is this different from the claims of American gun-nut militias who are worried about being forced to give up their liberty and their Christianity because of plots by the United Nations, an organization led by the anti-Christ?

"when in the last, say, 100 years has the US government posed a threat to American citizens"

I'll name one -- Japanese internment camps during WWII. Forcibly imprisoned over a hundred thousand citizens against their will, depriving them of their liberty and property.

But I suppose in your world view the government has final say over your life and property, so being able to deter or resist attacks like this is unnecessary.

So in your mind, it would be better then if a hundred thousand armed Japanese would have started fighting back on mainland US? How about, instead of permanently distrusting the government, try to make it more democratic. There shouldn't have to be rebellions in a democratic country, then you talk it out and try to convince everybody else. If you can't, then touch luck, you're in the minority. That doesn't mean you have the right to start a damn rebellion and carve yourself a new country by force.

Read the second paragraph of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transc...) It seems indeed that he has the right, nay, the duty, to do exactly that. I quote from the above: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

While the Declaration states that they (Jefferson et al.) see it as their civic duty to fight an oppressive government (a fairly Lockean view, pretty much lifted from the Second Treatise), again, it was mostly an inflammatory document, written not for the benefit of Parliament and the King, but for other nations who might consider joining the fight.

Analogically using the Declaration today doesn't really work, there aren't any of the great political thinkers of yore around, and we don't have any comparatively great thinkers (in the same sense). We're too founded on our two party system at the present to move anywhere.

Plus, today's government would refuse to accept any rebellion, regardless of what historical document they cite. Technically, politically, the Union never recognized the Confederate States of America as a sovereign nation, but a rebellion. That's the largest and longest instance of such a 'rebellion'. It's likely going to remain such.

Of course, that's due to the fact that there really wasn't any way for the Confederacy to win. They couldn't have taken and held the north. If they did, they would have assimilated the culture they were fighting against, and would be in the same situation as before they rebelled.

That actually leads me to a slight tangent, but my favorite fact about the Emancipation Proclamation is that it didn't technically free the slaves. It freed the slaves only in rebelling states. Northern slave-holding states could remain as-is.

Moving back on topic: the Declaration of Independence continually cites 'Him' and 'He' in reference to George III. George III had no power. Okay, he had a little power, but he wasn't really calling the shots any more (he never was, his reign started almost a century after the fall of the Commonwealth and slightly less after the Glorious Revolution, which cemented Great Britain as a constitutional monarchy). One could argue the use of He and Him are due to George's refusal to intervene with Parliament (something he really couldn't do).

Again, it goes back to they saw an opportunity to start something new, even though if they worked slightly harder at getting representation, they could have.

Right, peasants are allowed to plead while their rulers chain them and ship them off to interment camps.

Your attitude suggests that government can do no wrong, that the Japanese had no right to defend their liberty against unwarranted aggression.

"If you can't, then touch luck, you're in the minority." I don't agree with the tyranny of the majority. Perhaps that's why this country was actually founded a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

  How about, instead of permanently distrusting the government, 
  try to make it more democratic. 
One does not preclude the other. Helps it, in fact.

Note: while I disagree with the parent, I gave it an upvote, because the parent was grayed out and I did not find anything in it that would be a good cause for a downvote.

> If you managed to convince then that the government isn't out to get them, they'd just find another excuse.

It's interesting you think I need an "excuse" for owning a firearm. As if it's our natural place in this universe to require permission from said "authorities". Here's an excuse -- I want one. You don't want me to? Come and take it.

When 40% of women in the U.S own a firearm it isn't all about being macho. Also only 55% of males own a firearm. The machismo factor is played up in the media and in Hollywood but most free thinking people question such motives and at least attempt to see through propaganda.

Regardless I find your position to be a bit naive and fails to fully realize how governments progress and the impacts they have on their citizenry. Just because a government isn't actively out to get you ATM doesn't mean they don't possess the overwhelming means to do so and that people should have the means to defend themselves against that if such an occasion arises.

> Shouldn't they have been using their arsenals to protect America?

Rebellion is a last resort. Things haven't gotten bad enough yet.

> when in the last, say, 100 years

This number is conveniently chosen to be just below the Civil War.

> they'd just find another excuse

Self defense? If we were some European country that's historically always had only a few gun owners and tight control of guns since firearms were invented, then gun control would make some kind of sense, it would be possible to control the small number of firearms that exist. But the US started out as a frontier country where firearms were necessary for survival, and gun ownership has always been part of the American way for a large number of people. So there are millions of guns already out there -- too many to possibly control.

If the massive supermajority necessary to repeal a constitutional amendment and outlaw firearms magically materialized tomorrow, those millions of guns would still be out there. Presumably drug dealers, rapists, bank robbers, stalkers, and other criminals would keep their guns, and there would be enough remaining in underworld circulation to supply future members of those professions. If a person wants a gun badly enough, he'll always be able to get one. Gun control wouldn't significantly reduce the number of bad people who have access to guns, it would just curtail access for responsible, law-abiding citizens.

Guns -- and in particular concealed carry laws -- also act as a deterrent for criminals. If someone's in a desperate situation and contemplating crime, it seems to me that the possibility of a hole in the head from an armed bystander would make them hesitate a lot more than if the worst-case scenario involves getting a roof and three square meals a day at taxpayer expense (even if they get the death penalty it'll be many years before the appeals are exhausted and the sentence is carried out).

At least to me, these considerations don't sound like "excuses," but well-reasoned arguments. Please point out the holes.

>and there would be enough remaining in underworld circulation to supply future members of those professions

Not to mention eventually you'll be able to 'print' a gun from a 3d printer or use your personal affordable CNC mill. Its just going to get easier and easier to make your own weapons.

> > when in the last, say 1-- years > > This number is conveniently chosen to be just below the Civil War

Which was 150% the original number, not "just" below the Civil War. The Civil Wars was closer to the signing of the Declaration than today.

I would say that the framers did envision a government that people didn't fully trust.

Most of them came with a healthy distrust of government, and wrote in all of the checks and balances because they didn't trust governments, and the checks helped allay their concerns.

I agree on the revocation of constitutional rights by, they probably didn't want a system which would let a single diagnosis revoke a right. But, based on their goals in designing our current government, multiple, corroborating reports would probably be accepted by them.

Well the 2nd amendment was written in a time of muskets and militias. If the spirit/intent were fully what some people say, why don't we each have a 2nd amendment right to an attack helicopter, nukes, chems, bios, and UAVs? (Because assault rifles instead of muskets doesn't add much to the equation.) Since that would be clearly insane, reductio ad absurdum. Right?

I think you would find that there are a subset of people, myself included, that don't find that notion so insane. If you accept the idea that the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to allow the citizenry to overthrow their government then having the government restrict what citizens can and cannot purchase is somewhat nonsensical.

Historically speaking, government restriction on firearm ownership is a relatively new thing. "Weapons of war" like ships and artillery were privately owned in this country as recently as the civil war.

Believe it or not, the country didn't degrade into people waging private wars against each other, mass murder, etc...

To make sure I understand, you're saying we should have a constitutional right to own attack helicopters, armed UAVs, and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons?

(And since the SCOTUS has opted to interpret that corporations are people, too, presumably they would have this right as well?)

Although tyranny would be unquestionably bad, the proposed prophylactic for that hypothetical scenario is worse.

Possibly I'm biased because I live in Boston and recently saw first-hand what a homemade IED can do. I am not eager to see people have the right to upgrade that kind of musket to the pro version.

Cannot corporations already own heavy duty weaponry? Aren't these the companies we are "contracting" to fight our wars for us?

Regardless, being in favor of particular interpretations of the 2nd Amendment does not mean that you are automatically in favor of considering corporations people.

> recently saw first-hand what a homemade IED can do. I am not eager to see people have the right to upgrade that kind of musket to the pro version.

Weren't those bombs packed with the same stuff that you buy if you want to shoot your musket? There was a lot of misinformation going around at the time and I haven't kept up on that story so I honestly am not sure, but I am pretty sure the word is that they were pressure cookers with gunpowder (which you can buy "loose" to load your own rounds for modern guns, or use to load muskets). I am not sure that it makes sense for you, coming from your perspective, to be pushing something that would make buying loose gunpowder more mainstream.

I can't help myself on this one, but...

> Believe it or not, the country didn't degrade into people waging private wars against each other, mass murder, etc...

We did have a civil war (which is the end bound you placed on your time line). It wasn't a private war, it technically wasn't mass murder, but, it was a war.

Again, sorry, I couldn't help myself on this one.

What was happening to the Native Americans at this time?

They were spending their time being shot, primarily by the federal government.

Alas, you are right. At the time, muskets were the best infantry weapons, and the British soldiers were armed with them, and the colonials got cannons as soon as possible.

I don't think it would be clearly insane.

My assumption is that the US political landscape would look a lot different if the citizens of the United States were indeed allowed to own any weapon they chose and paid for. I don't know if things would be better; they would definitely be different.

Not necessarily. The power of the government stems not only from it's ability to inflict violence against groups (e.g. bombing a city) but also individuals (e.g. arresting a single person). Against the latter, ordinary weapons are still very effective. When police overstep their legal rights, it is even lawful in some states to use force to defend yourself.

I think the usual rebuttal by analogy is that the 1st amendment was written before the internet and most other electronic means of communication and therefore, analogically, should not be applicable there.

(A better rebuttal, from the substance, has already been offered in the rest of the thread.)

Your second paragraph is a perfect explanation of the conflict at the core of the gun control debate. Well said.

Thank you.

Most psychiatric diagnoses will not prevent you from buying a gun. You have to either make an insanity plea (that is actually accepted by a court) or be involuntarily committed for the restriction to kick in, at least as I understand things.

Of course, the gun control crowd would probably want any psychiatric disorder to be grounds for preventing someone from buying a gun, if only as a way to ban large numbers of people from firearm ownership.

It's all ok in the end… There's a 3d printer and a "liberator" waiting for you! And if you call now, I'll throw in a Feinstein mag! (Shipping Not Included)

Out of curiosity, why bring that into this discussion? The linked article says nothing about firearms.

Because it absolutely is a related issue these days. New York and California are, as a result of very recent legislation, actively seeking out and disarming those labeled "mentally ill". The USA's federal leadership is pressing hard to do the same. Genuine at-risk cases aside, we're facing a situation where sensible liberty-defending anti-authoritarian citizens may very well be involuntarily labeled as ODD and disarmed & silenced, much as many communist countries have done at length to great effect.

I get the connection, I just wondered if OP had something other than snark for this since it doesn't follow directly from the link.

Also, it isn't just communist countries it's authoritarian regimes generally. Hyperbolic comparisons and innuendos don't help the conversation, they just push potential participants away.

As to the idea of mass disarmament of "sensible liberty-definding anti-authoritorian citizens", I doubt that any organization within the government has the manpower to assemble an army of shrinks to diagnose the whole population. And then another literal army to quell the ensuing rebellion - considering that much of the current armed forces would be deserting. They may make it more difficult to purchase a firearm, but the existing ones aren't going anywhere for a while. Especially since Congress can barely cooperate enough to agree that the sky is blue.

"New York and California are, as a result of very recent legislation, actively seeking out and disarming those labeled "mentally ill". "

What? On top of everything else the mentally ill get to own guns? That is honestly shocking to me.

"Mentally ill" is a very broad issue, both in definition and temporal application. Someone may be fine when licensed, then acquire the label later - should police go so far as an armed raid on the home to locate & confiscate any guns? What (as the lead article notes) constitutes serious enough "illness" to warrant active identification and confiscation? The definition of "mentally ill" is being expanded, covering what prior was considered normal; is it acceptable for the government to reverse licensing when the licensee has not changed in any objective way? Many "mental illnesses" are temporary, resulting from either transient biological phenomena or one-time social stress; the issue having passed and the patient returned to normal, the label remains - when does a "mental illness" label get eradicated? If treatment restores someone to normalcy with ongoing medical maintenance ("fine so long as he's on his pills"), is the patient indefinitely denied what is otherwise a right of "normal" people?

Then there's association therewith. Is a mentally stable person prohibited weapons just because s/he lives with someone labeled "mentally ill", despite suitable securing of the arms?

Finally, who gets to define "mentally ill"? Per the lead article, just being "anti-authoritarian" (in, say, a George Washington sense) could get one involuntarily labeled as such. Dictatorships are fond of so labeling, and ultimately eliminating, political opposition by application of the label.

We can all agree that the just-plain-nuts should be disallowed guns, and all firearms licensing processes include some level of certification of sanity. Problem is, the anti-gun movement is leveraging that restriction to expand prohibition in ways which are honestly shocking to me.

Only if they've been involuntarily institutionalised, or you live in a state that does not respect the Second Amendment rights of its citizens (California or New York being the two relevant examples here).

Please tell me you don't actually want these folks armed.

Wait, weren't the people who fought to make America independent upset with the King's Authority? Would you not say, today, that they were anti-authorianists? Would you not say that an oppressive government would use such a "medical condition" to confiscate guns from people who disagreed with it?

Think hard about this, and ask yourself what you would have done in 1774: sided with the Revolutionaries, or sided with the Royalists.

Take it easy on the rhetoric.

No, those founding fathers were not anti-authorianists to the degree that people would call a pathology. The continental congress did not descend into a bunch of bickering every time someone asked someone else to do something. They were mostly, from all reports, pretty well-adjusted and got along with each other civilly even with major disagreements on how to do things.

But their political opponents would not hesitate to have them declared pathological, and so proceed to establish "legal" grounds to disarm & incarcerate (ahem, involuntary commitment to treatment). Many authoritarian governments have done so to great effect and great harm; ours is heading that way.

Sort of a non-sequitur here: Someone once called the FOUNDING FATHERS (freedom!) crazy, therefore we shouldn't restrict documented crazy people from buying guns?

There is probably a lesson in that disorders that make you inconvenient for the system are more likely to be recognized/categories than those that make you a sheep. Fine. I don't think you can generalize from that to "documented mentally ill should be able to buy guns because what if it's actually a conspiracy vs them and not just voices in their head? then they can use their gun to stop the conspiracy.". That seems like pretty awesomely bad policy to me.

The problem is defining "crazy" such that the sane are not labeled as such pursuant to ulterior motives.

Except for the shooting and killing of the King's Soldiers at Bunker Hill outside Boston.

Yes, there was in fact a war during the revolutionary war, but very few if any of the founding fathers were at Bunker Hill, and you'd be hard-pressed to prove the overwhelming majority of soldiers were doing it out of pathological anti-authority problems. They had plenty of non-pathological, reasonable complaints.

Sometimes things happen within the normal human spectrum. You're conflating behavior with a category in the DSM with political action by generally sane individuals.

As far as what little relation this has to the gun debate: Background checks for mental illness are probably a reasonable idea, and I'm pro gun rights.

I was against the recent Toomey-Manchin legislation until I heard that:

- It makes creating a federal database of gun owners explicitly illegal

- It makes transporting unloaded guns across state lines explicitly legal (this is apparently currently illegal a lot of the time)

- It's only applying the same standards for licensed gun dealers to gun shows and internet sales, while explicitly making internet sales legal (gray area before)

It's actually a totally reasonable bill that does a lot of what gun rights people have been asking for. But what's the upside for the NRA in a reasonable bill, versus vilifying it and raising a bunch of money to STOP THE GUN GRABBING BILL? That is why we can't have nice things.

Ah, but the British authorities would have definitely seen their action as that of mentally deranged people. Had there been modern psychology then, they might have found them violently anti-authoritarianistic. They might have claimed that these people, instead of harboring true grievances against the King and His Officers, had a mental disease which made them unfit to live among the civilized ones. They might have claimed their brain was defective, diseased, corrupted, disabled of the ability to think properly. That they did not is a credit to British common sense.

O that we too in America today could think people hold valid grievances against our own government instead of painting them broadly with the brush of mental illness and washing our hands of the mistreatment they suffer at the hands of our own agents...

Take it a step further:

How do you get from

A) At least one person, somewhere in history, has been falsely accused of being crazy because he was inconvenient to authorities.


B) Johnny over here is telling me that the illuminati are conspiring to destroy the world through mind-control agents in flouridated water and he needs to take violent action to protect our vital essences. He should have the right to buy a gun.

I think you're operating under the assumption that actual mental illness doesn't exist.

That's a poor question.

The Revolutionaries were really just opportunists. They could have received the representation they wanted in parliament, however they saw the chance to start their own government, a new one, built by them, however they wanted. I'm not saying it was a bad thing that they decided to focus their efforts on starting a new government instead of working with their current one, but they didn't have to.

The Declaration of Independence was written to discredit parliament and the king (who, at this time, didn't have power anymore, it was already with the House of Commons), and to drum up support with other powers who didn't really like England (specifically France). They could have worked out a deal with the House of Commons giving them a representative spot, but their declaration explicitly decided against it.

Take a history class. You might get some context to the events you cite.

Royalist! Traitor!

You defy the very premise of the United States of America's existence: The God-given right to live free from the oppression of a Draconian Regime!

(I kid, I kid, I like to hear people's opinions)

But it's got to strike you as interesting that I have taken many history classes, along with reading many historical books, and still evidently lack the profound knowledge of the 1770s that you have. I wonder whether my classes and books were somehow deficient, perhaps as they were written and taught by the victors, the same sort of people who benefited from these Colonial Opportunists, and may thus be unwilling to besmirch their hallowed reputations...

It's partially that I spend a great deal of time with history buffs, and partially that I took a Modern British History class (1485 onwards, starting with Henry VII).

I also had the same teachers, teaching from the American view, but my college (Carthage College) has a Western Heritage requirement, where second semester freshmen year some of our readings were Locke, Marx and Engles, and two drafts and the final version of the Declaration of Independence.

Plus, political systems intrigue me.

But what could we base 21st century policy on, if not the divinely inspired actions of 18th century European colonists?

19th century proletariats?

As far as I'm aware most colonists at the time didn't participate, but the complacency is always desired by people in power.

And a lot of slaves and native americans sided with the Royalists and decent portion gained freedom after the war in GB (though many were returned to their masters after the fact), so I think whose side one would take is more complicated than being mere anti-authoritarians.

This crashcourse video points out some of these things: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EiSymRrKI4]

Despite it all, I would say that an oppressive government could use "medical condition" to confiscate weapons, but whether the populous is armed or not has little to do with the oppressive nature upon the governed in any country.

Please, god, it's "populace", not "populous"

...a populace can be populous; a pompous people perhaps?

When the authorities' agents look like this, you better hope the people who question authority are armed:



What do you mean "these folks"?

It could happen to any of us lawful gun owners with criteria this broad.

EDIT: to clarify, by "these folks" I mean people who are both mentally ill and anti-authoritarian.

What sort of mental illness are we talking about?

Do they think that the queen is a lizard and the government is putting chemicals in contrails? I really don't care if they have a gun. Lizard and chemtrail people are clearly loony, but they seem perfectly harmless.

Instead are they a psychopath fascinated with violence? In that case yeah, I am not comfortable with them having a gun... but if we know who they are then why the hell are they not institutionalized already, rendering the issue moot?

The whole point of the article was to question the validity of the diagnosis of mental illness, which you completely ignore when you blithely add the disclaimer that "these folks" refers only to people who are mentally ill.

Who? Anti-authoritarians or the mentally ill folks?

The purpose of the article was to claim that the opinion of the only people legally allowed to make diagnoses is that the venn diagram shows the anti-authoritarians completely enclosed as a subset of the mentally ill folks.

The author's personal experience was being diagnosed with "issues with authority" because he didn't kiss up to his crazy boss. I don't see any conflict between not kissing up to his boss and owning firearms, so sure, let him go deer hunting on vacation if he's got no other, real, issues.

I once worked for a major corporation that celebrated "compliance week" -- not compliance of a personal nature, but regulatory compliance. Though at times it seemed hard to distinguish one from the other.

There is a word that hasn't come up in this discussion, and that's Asperger's. I know some people with Asperger's who are very oppositional and some who are not. Given that ADHD is sometimes considered the tail end of he Autism-Asperger's spectrum (not always, this is new and controversial), I think it is reasonable. As top commenter bjhoops says: "it is probably much more common that some kinds of mentally ill individuals happen to be anti-authoritarian."

And I don't really agree with it either, but Einstein has often been co-opted by Asperger's support groups as one of their own.

From my admittedly limited reading on autism, Asperger's, and other behavioral diagnoses, they are not mental illnesses but rather alternate "wirings" of the brain. People on this spectrum can (to varying degrees) learn to deal with the "neuro-typical" world around them, but they can't change their brains. And these are not one-dimensional conditions: people on the spectrum have any number of different wiring, from social handicaps to language problems, hypersensitivity to touch or noise, face recogniition, etc.

I suspect that anti-authoritarianism is one of these dimensions. It can exist on it's own in an otherwise "neuro-typical" person, but it often gets added to other deficiencies on the Autism-Asperger's spectrum.

I am not saying that blind adherence to authority is "typical," but I think there is often a recognition of parental and social authority that is mostly normal which is what the anti-authoritarian lacks.

"...I know that degrees and credentials are primarily badges of compliance." Preach it brother.

Previous discussion of this article one year ago http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3642570

So in a species that depends on pack/tribe behavior for survival, how is an inability to follow authority not a mental illness?

Okay, so let's go down that line a little bit more.

In a species (alongside a whole host of other species) that depended on rape for survival, how is an inability to rape not a mental illness? [1] In a species that depended on rigidly defined gender roles of women child rearing and men being hunters, how is aberrant behavior not a mental illness?

I think what's happening is you're falling prey to appeal to nature fallacy. Consider here also the results of the loners, the outliers, the dropouts -- a lot of them go on to contribute greater value to society than the ones following the pack/tribe behavior.

[1]: Researchers Thornhill and Palmer say rape is an evolved reproductive strategy and not a crime of violence. See their piece 'A Natural History of Rape: The Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion' for more.

The rape analogy is misplaced because humans, unlike say ducks, do not primarily reproduce through rape.

Also, appeal to nature fallacy is not applicable because I'm not making a "good" versus "bad" conclusion. I'm thinking of "mental illness" in terms of whether it's an evolutionary mal-adaptation, not in moral terms.

And while it is true that loners, outliers, and dropouts often contribute great value to society, it is also true that they also often do great harm to society (the bell curve is a bitch). Moreover, the bulk of collective social value is produced by people following the pack/tribe. What happens to the total productivity of society if everyone acts like the loners, outliers, and dropouts?

Appeal to nature fallacy, not moralistic fallacy:

Appeal to nature: an argument or rhetorical tactic in which it is proposed that "a thing is good because it is 'natural', or bad because it is 'unnatural'" -- the word 'natural' here has no notion of morality

Moralistic fallacy: a fallacy of assuming that what is desirable is found or inherent in nature. It presumes that what ought to be—something deemed preferable—corresponds with what is or what naturally occurs. What should be moral is assumed a priori to also be naturally occurring.

Though, you may also be confusing appeal to nature fallacy with the naturalistic fallacy (I made that mistake myself, and corrected it in an edit 3-4 minutes of my having posted the above comment).

Anyway though, getting back to the topic at hand: is it really a worthwhile exercise identifying these non-severe mental disorders as a real problem? The latest revision of DSM identifies a good few many hundred disorders, the average individual has 5-20 mental disorders as they would be identified by the DSM. At this point an individual with no disorders at all whatsoever is the strange individual ('in a world where everyone is special, no-one is').

> the word 'natural' here has no notion of morality

But the words "good" and "bad" do. Appeal to nature would be if I said: "following the pack is good because that's what happens in nature." What I said was: "in a species that depends on pack behavior to survive, being unable to follow the pack is a maladaptation." Not that it's "bad" but that one would imagine that 5,000 years ago if in a tribe that became the modal outlook, the tribe would quickly die out.

"...the bulk of collective social value is produced by people following the pack/tribe"

This is stated as fact, but is the most contentious statement you could possibly make. In fact, I would argue that nearly every 'hero' character from both real history and mythology/fiction (which speaks to our cultural 'beliefs' sometimes better than our actions which are as guided by fear as belief) are quite the antithesis. Our heroes are heroes because it takes something more to innovate than it does to join.

You also use the hyperbolic phrase 'loners, outliers, and dropouts', well if we're playing the word game, I say that what happens to the total productivity of society if everyone acts like an 'innovator, an inventor, an individual' is that we have a lot less waste, and we have people who move things forward rather than fill seats.

The thing that kills me about the path-followers isn't that they don't offer value, because they do, especially the smart ones. But most of the path followers aren't happy just following the path, they angrily defend the path as the 'one and only true way'. The rest of us are just 'doing something wrong'

> Our heroes are heroes because it takes something more to innovate than it does to join.

"Heroes" have vastly greater impact on the imagination than they do on the GDP.

> You also use the hyperbolic phrase 'loners, outliers, and dropouts'

That was click's phrase, not mine.

> innovator, an inventor, an individual

None of those things are coextensive with anti-authoritarian/anti-establishment, which is what this thread is about. Most innovators and inventors are nonetheless perfectly happy to work within the established power structure and take orders when necessary. Picking a random example, Tim Breners-Lee. You think a guy who has spent his life in government-funded research and academia is in any way anti-authoritarian?

You think anyone in in research and academia has a clue what real 'authoritarianism' is?

> Researchers Thornhill and Palmer say rape is an evolved reproductive strategy and not a crime of violence

Can't it be both, by modern standards?

We depend on cooperation to survive/thrive. Authority is neither necessary nor sufficient for cooperation.

I used the terms "tribes" and "packs" for a reason, namely because they more appropriate describe the structure of human societies since time immemorial much more accurately than the more abstract concept of "cooperation." Pack and tribal structures do depend on authority.

No, they frequently don't. They depend on trust, not authority. People respect leaders because they demonstrate good leadership. Not because they arbitrarily claim authority.

I would like to see if there is a relationship between anti-authoritarian and entrepreneurship.

Not exactly the same thing, but I have long said that if Joan of Arc were alive today, they would be adjusting her meds to make the voices go away instead of following her into battle while she played handmaiden to the birth of modern France.

I guess so, but I wouldn't be too negative about it because she probably wouldn't have gotten burned at the stake.

She ended The Hundred Years war. She stopped a great many other people from suffering and dying. Her fame does not make her suffering "worse" than what she stopped. France was an occupied land. It was an ugly era that she put an end to.

Thanks for sharing. Actually “issues with authority” is exactly what got me fired ~2 years ago after "assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about […] people". They didn't. On any level.

The worst part is how much time and care is needed to fully recover from the rejection feeling and depression that can ensue.

Working at a place like that is a curse. Leaving is a blessing. Getting fired is a blessing in disguise.

Are you working at a better place now?

RSA Animate - Smile or Die http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo

Touches on the same idea of those who are anti authoritarian being sidelined without reason, and enabling and exacerbating the recent global financial crisis.

Good. Now I can use the "anti-authoritarian" card when I tell my boss to go crunch a biscuit.

You miss the point entirely. "Playing a card" is usually in reference to having some condition. The author's point is that anti-authoritarian is no condition. So. If you are anti-authoritarian go tell him to "crunch a biscuit". If you are also not an idiot, have a fallback plan.

okay guys, can we also talk about good will hunting ?


If therapists had to take care of all the problems caused by society, there'd be no end.

On top of it, ODD is for kids, not for grown adults.

The trick is largely to learn when to shut your gob, or say one thing and do another. I was repeatedly diagnosed with ADHD and ODD in my year of school in the states - flushed the pills, got expelled (well, forced to leave, as they didn't want an expulsion on their squeaky clean record).

Back to school in England... "Engaged", "curious", "incisive questions". Partially down to cultural differences in terms of views on mental health (I'm merely "eccentric" these days), and partially down to me doing a year long master class in the states as to how to lie my arse off and pretend to accept authority while rejecting it.

Yeah, and probably an American kid in the UK - and for sure in Eastern Europe where I currently reside - would be diagnosed with autism ;-) Too quiet, has no views or opinion of his own, sits still all day. ;-) I love it.

I remember my first days at the office in the US. I was like - am I in a mental institution with a band of cranky autistic adults now?

And for them I was waaay too crazy. Asked too many questions, talked too much, walked too much, "rocked the boat" too much.

Finally, they got really offended when I told them that I really came to believe they must be medicated or have some stuff added to water / food. ;-) And I loved that too.

I had a friend from LA visiting Poland. He used "dude this is intense" about 10 times an hour. He claimed people drive crazy here, say crazy stories, generally are crazy, and he was like - is that all for real?

Cultural differences can be huge factor in determining if someone mentally fit or not.

I happen to know quite a few American kids who moved to countries around the world and unsurprisingly, none of them were diagnosed with anything. I have also known Poles who moved to America and other countries and have never considered them more intense than other people. Maybe your experience says more about you than the world in general.

I used a parallel (exaggerated) to present my point of view.

You see for you it's already "something wrong with you" department. In Eastern Europe cynicism is just much more common.

The point is that American will feel as if everybody around them has ADHD when in Poland. And a Pole may (I did!) feel that people suffer from serious autism when visiting the USA ( office setting in particular). US office vs. Polish office is like autism vs. adhd to me at least and I have the right to express that opinion. I'm not saying everybody in the US is autistic and that everybody in Poland has ADHD. I'm saying people are closer to these psychological traits: in Poland ADHD, in the US autism.

Also Americans (and I'm one too!) are well known for over medicating their kids for trivial reasons. I think there are cultural reasons for that too.

I had a teacher in High School who was a genius. He wanted us to think independently. One time he assigned a homework to the class where each of us had to study a mental illness of our choice. Mine was narcissism. And we had to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, pretend that we have the disease and the task was to be convincing enough to get diagnosis.

More than 80% of students passed. We were all officialy crazy now, lol.

Now, try pulling it off with pneumonia or flu.

That's the problem with psychology or psychiatry. They can pretend all day long they are real sciences, but I'm sorry as long as a band of kids can pull off stuff like this it's not science. It's a complete and total joke.

Parent who have no time for their kids medicating them, so they can rest after work. Teachers who can't handle the class, so any kid who isn't complete vegetable must have ADHD, ODD, or whatever. Joke, joke, joke, joke.

You possibly didn't fool them - they may have suspected you were faking the symptoms, but when a patient shows up to a psychologist/psychiatrist on their own volition it suggests they're in distress. It could be considered malpractice to turn someone away who's seeking treatment.

A friend of mine spent two weeks in a hospital psych ward (in Sydney), and requested his records after he was discharged. It was surprising how much detail the doctors noted in the records, and how often they (correctly) picked up on avoidance and lying (yet they didn't give this impression in person). Based on this experience, it's possible the psychs your class visited gave you the diagnosis you wanted, but privately noted something very different you weren't aware of.

There has been a lot of progress in objective diagnostic tools recently - e.g there's a clinic in Sydney that diagnoses ADHD using EEGs, and selects medication based on response to the med (also measured using an EEG). And I read a paper last year that described a machine learning model trained on MRI images that could diagnose some of the organic psych diseases (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression etc.) with very high accuracy (70s/80s from memory), and distinguish between the diseases in borderline cases.

Psychiatry won't rely on symptoms alone forever, and don't think psychiatrists aren't already aware of the problems. But every psychiatrist who looked after my friend used whatever tools they had at the time to try and help. It's far from perfect, but they did their best and they really did help. And I'm really glad they did because he's finally a genuinely happy person.

> And we had to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, pretend that we have the disease and the task was to be convincing enough to get diagnosis.

That sounds like very interesting homework, and the results were certainly informative. Such experiments are not without risk though. IIRC there was a researcher that conducted a similar experiment -- got some volunteers with no history of mental illness go into some psychiatric institutions and fake some symptoms. The majority of them were able to get admitted with just that. The problem was getting them out afterwards. Apparently some institutions were reactant to discharge the "patients" even after they have been informed of the experiment. (I can't recall the name of the researcher unfortunately, but this experiment is described in Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test"). Once you're labeled as "crazy", proving that you're not can be difficult, even if your behavior does not differ from that of "normal" people.

> That's the problem with psychology or psychiatry [...] It's a complete and total joke.

Please don't group psychology and psychiatry together. The former is a legitimate field of study (whether psychology technically qualifies as a "science" is debatable), the latter, is, as you say, largely a joke (at least, in the US). Please also note that the appalling state of psychiatry today should not be taken to mean that all mental disorders are bull -- there definitely are very serious mental disorders, and people do need to seek help if they are suffering from them.

EDIT: Found the book.

The researcher was talking about is David Rosenham:


Also, I was wrong when I said that the hospitals were told about the experiment -- it was a condition of the experiment that the patients needed to get out "on their own", though they didn't exhibit any of the symptoms after the initial interview, and were acting completely "normal" during their stay.

"The Psychopath Test" doesn't represent psychology.

Hare's commentary on the book is very enlightening: http://www.psychopathysociety.org/images/hare%20commentary%2...

"This depiction of events ... and my reported reactions to them ... are complete fabrications. The same can be said of many of his other reports of our conversations. I can’t help but wonder if some of Ronson’s accounts of his experiences with others in his book are equally fictionalized."

> "The Psychopath Test" doesn't represent psychology.

I'm not claiming that it does. I only mentioned it because that's where I first read about the Rosenhan experiment. That experiment is not fictionalized (see the Wikipedia link), regardless of whether or not the rest of the book is.

EDIT: Thanks for the link to Hare's commentary; I haven't read that before.

What a great lesson. I'm a little jealous.

How did you prevent this from becoming a black mark on your medical history though?

Poland is where I went to High School. No such a thing as medical history accessible to everyone. Yes, the doctor I went to, will have the paperwork. But she doesn't need to share it with anyone else. Unless someone will ask her specifically for my case. Which won't happen unless I tell someone I went to her for a diagnosis. There is no central "repo" for the paperwork, if you will. You may keep records for your own use, but then of course you wouldn't include stuff like that.

I was 17. Went there with a friend. He was pretending to be depressed. As far as I remember she asked him to go for more evaluation at a hospital. Remember laughing on our way back that he was way too good at it.

Other types of homework we had from this teacher - he taught us History - were also interesting. For example we had to go to Aushwitz Museum and not going was automatic not passing to another class. He claimed "unless you see it you won't understand it". So we had all to go. Whether we liked it or not. Another day there was an anniversary of this event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacification_of_Wujek We had to go and pay respects at the actual site. It was quite moving.

The teacher was ww2 veteran, hardcore anti-communist. How they allowed him to teach history in communistic poland is a mystery to me. He was great. You asked any one of us what our top 3 favorite subjects were and I'm pretty sure most of us would say History.

He did the thing with psychiatrist/psychologist because he was placed by them in mental institution in early 1950s. Many anti-communists were killed or jailed in Poland in 1945-1953. But also many were diagnosed with schizofrenia and forcefully medicated and hospitalized for years. I think that was some type of twisted revenge he was taking on them.



I have a friend who goes to i think 3 different doctors pretending to have various mental illness to get a variety of prescription pills he then sells with a huge markup.

ADHD --> adderall/vyvanse anxiety --> ativan/xanax/etc insomnia --> sleeping pills

My friend Bob Sacamano sells Russian hats in Battery park!

<cynism>Is that schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? I'm sure it must be something! Let's medicate him as that's waaay to disturbing.</cynism>

If anti-authoritarian means "question[ing] whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority." than the rest of humanity really are ignorant fucking sheep.

I personally feel that "Cogito ergo sum" means that taking assertions on faith is simply foolhardy, because the only opinion that one can truly trust is your own. Not that you should take my word for it.

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