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Taking one for the team – a night out with Scientology

July 5, 2012

I was alerted by the Ratbags Media Monitoring staff about this advertisement in the local paper:

How could I resist the offer of free DVDs (or even free DVD'S), so off I went in the company of four other members of Western Sydney Freethinkers. (I wasn't going to go alone in case I needed someone to arrange bail.) It was, as expected, an event promoted by the Scientology front organisation, the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights.


The first video, Dead Wrong, was interesting. It consisted of the mother of a boy who committed suicide wandering across the country talking to doctors who opposed psychiatry, interspersed with an afternoon tea party of mothers who had had their children destroyed or killed by psychiatric drugs. The acting was competent and the editing and camera work were very professional (there were at least five cameras used for the tea party), but it would have required only a little rewriting of the script for it to be made into an anti-vaccination film. In that version the "mommies" would be talking about how vaccines made their kids autistic. (One of the doctors interviewed actually said that the mercury in vaccines might have contributed to the deadly effects of psychiatric drugs.) Lies were continually told about how anti-depressant drugs cause suicide and how psychiatrists don't bother doing diagnoses before prescribing pills and are just in it for the money, but all of these were expected given the source of the DVD. There was a lot of crying and emotion from relatives of dead kids, but as I pointed out to my companions I was more moved by the last five minutes of an old episode of Law & Order SVU that I'd seen during the week and that show wasn't pretending not to be fiction.

The second video, Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, was actually funny, although we kept our amusement to ourselves. It was an attack on DSM, and most of it consisted of ridiculing various diagnoses and disorders mentioned in the book. It is rather easy to ridicule any large, comprehensive book but even as someone who is not too familiar with it I could see that often what was being said bore little relationship to what was on the page in the background. Much fun was made out of comments made by psychiatrists at a convention, although it is hardly a secret that many psychiatrists don't use the book in a fundamentalist manner when treating patients. The non-secret that health insurers won't pay out on psychiatric treatments that aren't listed in DSM was presented as some sort of collusion by psychiatrists to commit insurance fraud rather than an example of the universal policy of insurers everywhere and of all kinds to try to find reasons not to pay claims. There were many experts who denied both the usefulness of DSM and psychiatry itself, but three of them stood out for me because I had had dealings with them in the past.

The first was Professor Robert Spillane of Macquarie Graduate School of Management. Professor Spillane was billed as "Professor of Psychology", although according the the MGSM web site he is "Professor in Management" and his teaching area is "People & Organisations". Professor Spillane's close ties with CCHR were not mentioned. The second was lawyer Jonathon Emord, who was Highly Commended in the 2009 Millenium Awards for his unselfish action in putting his client's needs ahead of his principles. He is the lawyer for the National Vaccine Information Center. It was the third one that really had us working to suppress laughter – homeopath Dana Ullman. Why a homeopath was asked for an opinion on the diagnosis of mental illness is a mystery, but as most of the other "doctors" seemed to be detached from reality anyway he probably wasn't too far out of place.

And was Scientology mentioned at all? Don't be silly. Of course it wasn't.

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