“Implicit racism” as a “medical condition”

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K R Bolton condemns the conflation of politics with psychiatry

Introduction

There has been a general trend in academia for several generations to de-legitimise views that are contrary to the dominant liberal foundations of post-1945 Western society. A primary aim of this movement is to portray illiberal views as mentally questionable. It is part of a political agenda masquerading as objective scholarship, and has aims akin to the use of psychiatry as a political weapon in the USSR. This paper briefly considers the implications of a new study that suggests that ‘racism’ is a treatable medical condition.

The portrayal of one’s political opponents as ‘insane’ and in need of psychiatric treatment was used to wide effect in the USSR. It served to both discredit the targeted subject and generally place whatever political views he had as being beyond the pale of normal society; perhaps as even ‘dangerous’. It was not until 1971 when the psychiatric reports of six Soviets dissidents were smuggled to the West that it was concluded that there was a “gross abuse of professional practice in the USSR”. This had begun in the 1930s when ‘political patients’ (sic) were committed to a psychiatric hospital in Kazan. The scenario that was maintained in the USSR for decades was that a dissident would be arrested for “anti-Soviet activities,” examined by a psychiatric commission, “and found to be insane and not responsible. This eliminated the need for a trial”. [1] Professors Block and Reddaway wrote:

“The authorities’ goal is to ensure future conformism and compliance. In addition, to label the ideas of a dissenter as a manifestation of madness is an easy and convenient way of discrediting the group he represents. How could any normal person agree with such nonsense when even the dissenter himself, after a little medical acutance, sees that he had propagated pure fantasy?” [2]

Block and Reddaway explained that in 1950 at a meeting of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Andrei Snezhnevsky founded a new school of psychiatry in which schizophrenia came to be the diagnosis most commonly applied to dissenters, as well as ‘paranoid personality disorder’. Dissent was viewed as a ‘symptom of several mental illnesses’.[3]

However, the Soviets’ Western counterparts in the social sciences have been no less zealous in establishing the limitations on what is a ‘normal’ political opinion and what is to be de-legitimatized as ‘personality disorder’. For this purpose the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory was enlisted. This had been established in Weimar Germany, and it exponents had then moved en masse to the USA under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation, where it was re-established as the Institute of Social Research, in New York City, with the help of Columbia University. In Germany the Marxian-Freudian synthesis of revolution and sexology had not been well-received by the orthodox Communists, but it received a ready welcome in the USA where the Frankfurt School became a major influence in the social sciences, much like Franz Boas, et al in cultural and social anthropology. A team headed by Theodor Adorno produced the seminal study, The Authoritarian Personality.[4] The purpose was to prove that those possessing what had traditionally been normal social and moral values were latent fascists afflicted with personality disorder. In particular, ‘fascist’ personality traits emerged within the traditional patriarchal family.[5] Survey questions used to determine the level of one’s authoritarian personality disorder included the degree to which one feels affection and gratitude towards parents, a concern at moral decline, a belief that the arts should be uplifting rather than sordid, and that sex criminals deserve particularly sever punishment.[6] If you tick the boxes on such questions then you are mentally troubled, having an ‘authoritarian personality’, and therefore latently ‘fascist’, according to an ‘F’ (for “Fascist”) scale.

In the Shadow of Critical Theorists & Soviet Psychiatrists

The use of psychiatry to maintain the domination of liberal ideology continues. The study that has been media-hyped to suggest recognition of racial differences is related to abnormal cerebral activity is the by-product of a study on the heart drug Propranolol, which is claimed might ‘cure’ racial bias. An Associated Press report states:

Experimental psychologist Dr Sylvia Terbeck, from Oxford University, who led the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, said: “Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias. Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality. Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are also of considerable ethical interest”.

Two groups of 18 participants took part in the study. Each volunteer was asked to undertake a ‘racial Implicit Association Test’ (IAT) one to two hours after taking propranolol or the placebo.

The test involved categorising positive and negative words, and pictures of black and white individuals, on a computer screen. More than a third of the volunteers had a ‘negative’ IAT score, meaning they were biased towards being non-racist at a subconscious level. This was not seen in any member of the placebo group.

Co-author Professor Julian Savulescu, from Oxford University’s Faculty of Philosophy, stated:
[7]

Sylvia Terbeck et al seem no less enthusiastic about the possible applications of their findings than the news media that reported the findings. They state that “negative evaluations of minority groups’ are of particular importance in today’s increasingly cosmopolitan world” [8] Despite the judicial and socio-moral taboos against what the paper calls “automatic negative attitudes associated with out-group members”, these responses remain “a live and a potent influence”.[9] “Automatic negative attitudes” are in common parlance known as instincts.[10] While the instinctual might be repressed by laws, guillotines or bullets, sociobiolgists, ethologists, or analytical psychologists might contend that the unconscious drives that have evolved over millennia when repressed could result in greater perils.

The authors of the study used tests to uncover implicit attitudes as distinct from explicit.[11] Explicit attitudes are easily suppressed, but the implicit are intrinsically more subtle. Hence, even the most liberal of subjects can be found to be afflicted with ‘implicit’ bias towards an ‘out-group’. Terbeck et al proceed from studies indicating that race bias or, as it is termed, bias towards ‘ out-groups’, has a measurable physiological reaction. Studies are cited that show increased amygdala activity when a white subject viewed faces of unknown black people. This increased amygdala activity has been correlated with the scores for the implicit association test (IAT) measuring unconscious ‘out-group’ bias:

“In the present study, therefore we employed propranolol to test the hypothesis that emotional responses influenced by noradrenergic transmission play a mediating role in implicit but not in explicit forms of prejudice”.[12]

The conclusion was that “propranolol significantly reduced implicit but not explicit racial bias. This supports our hypothesis that noradrenaline-mediated emotional responses play a role in the generation of implicit negative racial attitudes, and supports prior theorising suggesting a greater affective component in implicit attitudes”.[13]

Apart from hyper-tension and other heart-related problems, this genre of medication is used to alleviate social anxiety, and general tension, symptoms of stage fright, tremor, nervousness, and fear.[14] “Propranolol inhibits the actions of norepinephrine as a neurotrasmitter that enhances memory consolidation, modifying behavioral responses to past experiences. Norepinephrine has been described as an essential modulator of memory through its ability to regulate synaptic mechanisms… Emotional arousal leads to activation of the locus coeruleus with the subsequent release of norepineprine in the brain, resulting in the enhancement of memory’,[15] caused by changes in synaptic strength”.

What one might note here is that the medication actually inhibits normal responses from the unconscious: that of acting on experience, and one moreover that would be an important survival mechanism. What elements of the news media and academia seem therefore to be enthusiastically applauding is the potential to repress through medication normative responses to external stimuli that are an innate part of the unconscious as it has evolved through millennia.

Another aspect of the study is that only whites were tested. It is thereby implied that only whites are regarded as having negative implicit responses to racial differences. However, the tests are biased both in subject choices and in analysis, based on a preconceived dogma regarding the undesirability of reflex responses to external stimuli that are the result of unconscious survival mechanisms, akin to our unconscious suspicion of snakes, for example. The analysis and study was conducted on what seems to be an assumption that whites are racially bigoted, and that this is a reflection of abnormal mental processes, rather than considering the possibility of deeper evolutionary factors that are now regarded as abhorrent on the assumptions of certain ideologies.

The extension of the conclusions can be easily made in regard to attitudes on immigration, multiculturalism, and other government policies. One might arrive back at the same rationale as that used by Soviet psychiatry towards dissidents, and the conclusions of Adorno et al. Normative reactions – the result of millennia of social, cultural and biological evolution – are identified as mental disorders that require eradication. Behavioural modifications have in the past been treated with electro-shock therapy and some quite horrendous mental institutions such as that established with Central Intelligence Agency backing to experiment on behaviour modifications.[16] Now it seems the groundwork is being laid for the possibility of medicating those who are regarded as having socially unacceptable views.

Mass medication against ‘racism’?

Will such ideologically motivated assumptions differentiate between a ‘skinhead’ convicted of beating an immigrant and of scientists who continue to insist that ‘race’ has a biological basis and that there might be substantial innate differences between races in several important areas?

If such a scenario is regarded as being improbable one might consider the recent treatment meted out to Dr. James Watson after he commented that black Africans on average have a lower intelligence quotient than whites. He was quoted as being “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”.[17] An immediate reaction was the cancelling of Watson’s popular lecture at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre, on the basis that the “comments were beyond acceptable debate”. Professor Steven Rose of the Open University, a founder member of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, commented that such ‘racist’ attitudes were ‘genetic nonsense’, and that Watson “should recognise that statements of this sort have racist functions and are to be deeply …regretted. Making statements of that sort is certainly a great day for the British National Party but it’s a sad day for scientists and racial harmony”.[18]

Rose et al confound a scientific opinion with a political agenda. Social policy should be predicated on reality as far as it is determined at any given time. It is the place of scientists to offer the facts; that of politicians to consider those facts in relations to social policy. One might perceive in the dogmatic reactions to Watson that some subjects are beyond acceptable debate. Similarly, when ‘Antifa’ mobs invaded the lecture room of Professor Arthur Jensen,[19] that was not scholarship, it was political agitation. The outraged comments by Rose and others reinforce the suggestion that ‘Caucasian racism’ is a type of cerebral dysfunction that might be eliminated by medication. Could Watson, and indeed a large number of other scientists whose analyses run counter to egalitarian suppositions, therefore become candidates for medicinal behaviour modification?

Terbeck et al do not refrain from suggesting that propranolol could indeed be used to medicate those who are afflicted with implicit ‘out-group’ prejudice so as to ensure conformity in the ‘increasingly cosmopolitan’ world:

“Given the important role that implicit attitudes appear to play in overt forms of discrimination against out-group members, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings might also be of practical interest, and require careful ethical consideration”.[20]

Further research is required to see if “sustained propranolol treatment”[21] could effect what amounts to permanent behaviour modification.

An ironic aside is that Terbeck et al cite the Manual of the Eysenck Personal Inventory among their references. [22] Hans J. Esyenck, one of the most significant psychologists of our time was, like Jensen and Watson, pilloried as a ‘racist’ for his views on race and inherited intelligence. Might he also have been a potential subject for treatment with propranolol to cure his ‘implicit’ racism?

K R Bolton is a Fellow of the ‘World Institute for Scientific Exploration’. He is a contributing writer for Foreign Policy Journal. His articles have been published in the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies; Geopolitica (Moscow State University); India Quarterly; International Journal of Russian Studies; International Journal of Social Economics; Instanbul Literary Review; Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies (Trinity College), etc. His books include: Babel Inc.; Perón and Peronism; The Psychotic Left; Artists of the Right; Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific; The Parihaka Cult; Revolution from Above; The Banking Swindle

ENDNOTES

[1] Sidney Blocak and Peter Reddaway, ‘Your disease is dissent’, New Scientist, 21 July 1977, 149. See: K. R. Bolton, ‘Sex Pol Ideology: The Influence of the Freudian-Marxian Synthesis on Politics and Society’, Journal of Social, Political & Economic Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, Fall 2010
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] T. W. Adorno, E. Frenkel-Brunswick, D. J. Levinson and R N Sanford, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper & Bros., 1950)
[5] K. R. Bolton, op. cit., 331
[6] Ibid., 332
[7] ‘Heart disease drug combats racism’, The Telegraph, London, March 7, 2012; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9128888/Heart-disease-drug-combats-racism.html (accessed April 5, 2015)
[8] Sylvia Terbeck, Guy Kahane, Sarah McTavish, Julian Savulescu, Philip J. Cowen, Miles Hewstone, ‘ Propranolol reduces implicit negative racial bias’, Psychopharmacology, February 2012, 419
[9] Ibid.
[10] Arthur Keith, The Place of Prejudice in Modern Civilisation, Aberdeen University rectoral address, 1930. A. James Gregor, ‘On the Nature of Prejudice’, The Eugenics Review, Vol. 52, No. 4, January 1961
[11] Terbeck, et al, op. cit., 420
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid, 422
[14] James A. Bourgeois MD, ‘The Management of Performance Anxiety’, Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 19, issue 2 (1991), 17, 21, 23
[15] Keith Tully and Vadim Y Bolshakov, ‘Emotional enhancement of memory: how norepinephrine enables synaptic plasticity’, Molecular Brain, May 13, 2010; http://www.molecularbrain.com/content/3/1/15 (accessed April 14, 2015).
[16] Gordon Thomas, Journey into madness: medical torture and the mind controllers (London: Bantam Books, 1988)
[17] Stephen Adams, ‘Nobel scientist snubbed after racism claims’, The Daily Telegraph, London, October 17, 2007
[18] Ibid.
[19] An obituary comments: ‘His assertions, which came amid the social and political turmoil of the late 1960s, stirred critics to call him a racist. His lectures were disrupted by angry mobs, bomb squads handled his mail and irate colleagues mounted a campaign to formally censure him’. ‘Arthur Jensen dies at 89; his views on race and IQ created a furor’, Los Angeles Times, 2 November 2012
[20] Terbeck, et al, 424
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid.

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