Those agape at the barbed-wire cage designated as a “free speech zone” in Boston may wonder how it can be topped for its fascist implications. Actually, this already happened last month and went largely unnoticed.
Early in his administration Bush invited a group of pharmaceutical firms, among them companies that have been financing him since he was Texas governor, to join a commission on mental health and disabilities known as the New Freedom Initiative.
In its report presented in June, NFI proposes a universal program of mental health “screening” for everyone in the United States – starting with a captive market of 52 million pupils and 6 million teachers in the schools. The panel recommends that those diagnosed with a syndrome receive a prescription regimen based on treatment algorithms devised by the participating drug companies. (Now what makes me think there is a syndrome waiting for pretty much everyone?) The algorithms (hey, science!) derive from a program already implemented by Bush in Texas.
Unfortunately, Orwellian moments like these are only going to come thicker. The thrust towards the New Feudalism, Corporate Totalitarianism, New World Order, or whatever other name you like is in the open now, and it will not slow down unless we arise as a people to end it.
The New Freedom program fits seamlessly into the Kean Commission report proposals for a national ID system using biometric indicators. If we are all about to be fingerprinted and retinal-scanned and fed into a single database integrating all federal and state information, why not include blood tests and mental screening?
This is not the time for rage among those of us who saw something like this coming on 9/11, in 1984, 1969, or much earlier. Brave New World, with its vision of a fully-surveilled population doped out on the happy-drug soma, was published in 1928. Our lot is to stay calm and keep prodding the ensomatized majority to attend to items like the following excerpts from BMJ(formerly the British Medical Journal).
BMJ 2004;328:1458 (19 June)
Bush plans to screen whole US population for mental illness
Jeanne Lenzer, New York
A sweeping mental health initiative will be unveiled by President George W Bush in July. The plan promises to integrate mentally ill patients fully into the community by providing “services in the community, rather than institutions,” according to a March 2004 progress report entitled New Freedom Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/toc-2004.html). While some praise the plan’s goals, others say it protects the profits of drug companies at the expense of the public.
Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in April 2002 to conduct a “comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system.” The commission issued its recommendations in July 2003. Bush instructed more than 25 federal agencies to develop an implementation plan based on those recommendations.
The president’s commission found that “despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed” and recommended comprehensive mental health screening for “consumers of all ages,” including preschool children. According to the commission, “Each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviours and emotional disorders.” Schools, wrote the commission, are in a “key position” to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at the schools.
The commission also recommended “Linkage [of screening] with treatment and supports” including “state-of-the-art treatments” using “specific medications for specific conditions.” The commission commended the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a “model” medication treatment plan that “illustrates an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes.”
Mr Jones told the BMJ that the same “political/pharmaceutical alliance” that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which, according to his whistleblower report, were “poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab” ( http://psychrights.org/Drugs/AllenJonesTMAPJanuary20.pdf).
Larry D Sasich, research associate with Public Citizen in Washington, DC, told the BMJ that studies in both the United States and Great Britain suggest that “using the older drugs first makes sense. There’s nothing in the labeling of the newer atypical antipsychotic drugs that suggests they are superior in efficacy to haloperidol [an older “typical” antipsychotic]. There has to be an enormous amount of unnecessary expenditures for the newer drugs.”
Drug companies have contributed three times more to the campaign of George Bush.(…) than to that of his rival John Kerry.
The commission’s recommendation for increased screening has also been questioned. Robert Whitaker, journalist and author of Mad in America, says that while increased screening “may seem defensible,” it could also be seen as “fishing for customers,” and that exorbitant spending on new drugs “robs from other forms of care such as job training and shelter programmes.”
But Dr Graham Emslie, who helped develop the Texas project, defends screening: “There are good data showing that if you identify kids at an earlier age who are aggressive, you can intervene… and change their trajectory.”
(End of excerpt. Click here for the complete article.)
The New Freedom Initiative report is available from the White House at www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/toc-2004.html
Now you may protest that George “WMD” Bush should be among the first citizens to be screened for mental illness, but the White House doctor may have already realized that. An item in Capitol Hill Blue yesterday claims to have discovered that Bush is on heavy medication for depression.
Bush at any rate is more handmaiden than master to the New Freedom drug companies, who are powerful and have been around forever.
The movement to get all Americans and ultimately everyone in the world docile and pliant on psychotropic drugs has broad support outside the Bush administration, and in fact puts on a primarily liberal face. Does anyone imagine Kerry will distance himself from this form of psychiatric racket?
“New Freedom” and its ilk combine false humanitarianism (we want to help these poor aggressive children have a better life!) with false traditionalism (restore order to the classroom!) for a bipartisan consensus in favor of good business (sell more pills!).
Note that the cited critiques of the New Freedom program object to its expense, or to the drugs prescribed, but do not attack the fundamental principle that the government (itself institutionally insane) is in a position to screen the entire population for mental deviancy.
Drug companies are part of G-O-D – the three “industries of enforced profit” that have dominated the development of late capitalism. G-O-D stands for
– Guns (the industries of arms, the military, surveillance, intel, security and academic geostrategy)
– Oil (and the energy cartels generally) and
– Drugs (legal and illegal, both sectors given life as industries primarily by the state’s decision to criminalize or to approve).
The three enforced-profit sectors are always closely related. To caricature it in a nutshell, we might say war burns the most oil of any activitiy, increasingly with the object of securing the oil necessary for war, and incidentally the oil for the pharmaceuticals that people demand in larger numbers once their anxiety level rises because of war. Just as it makes sense that Cheney is Halliburton, it is equally logical that Rumsfeld is Searle: a company that turns oil into little pills and gets you to swallow them.
This month Bush issued an executive order citing the New Freedom Initiative, but which appears to deal only with “emergency preparedness” for the disabled. From the Dept. of Homeland Security site.
Conservatives at The New American have noted the totalitarian implications of the New Fascism Initiative (I know, it’s not funny).
Socialists at Workers World are knocking the initiative as a new wave in “youth oppression.”
Meanwhile, the National Council on Disability (independent federal agency) calls on Congress to fund the NFI.
Where are the liberal voices? Are we going to see well-intentioned people supporting this because it is “good for the disabled,” as happened with electronic ballot machines?