The Nautilus seems to have no other purpose than to misinform people through sophistry.
Looking at it reminds me precisely why journalism collapsed: it refused to mature or move away from childish logic that is averse to self-correct, change, or an admission that life isn’t always fair to us.
And yet, its arrogance and self-love is fascinating when it begs for money in this way:
Publishing the world’s best science writing isn’t cheap. We need your help to continue our mission — support Nautilus for as little as a $1 today.
If people want the best science writing, they will not be giving their dollar to you.
Before I go into the article in question, let us look at a contrasting well done article from McGill University:
“CANCER IS A GOOD THING!!!” says Montreal’s Own “Food Babe”
You read it right.
The author of this piece, not surprisingly is very perturbed by Brittany Auerbach’s assertion that cancer is a “good” thing, and is some sort of sign of merely having too much acid in your system that can be cured with snake oil.
It’s a positive sign to have a terminal illness! Didn’t you know?
It is pure rubbish. People have been felled by cancer for centuries, dying in the worst ways imaginable, even in 2018, and they will keep dying for decades to come.
Having a ticking time bomb in your body is a bad thing. You may have desperate people whose defence mechanisms compel them to put a sunny spin on being sick, being grateful for nature’s cruel abuse of them, but it is not a good thing.
You would think that in this century where we allow the education of all citizens, that the education would pay off with a people having critical thinking skills, particularly among those in the information-gathering business.
Not a chance. It isn’t even about the snake oil, but it still has the perky narrative of being blessed by cancer.
The Huffington Post had an article with the “grateful for cancer” spin, but not a single thing on that odious list (“relationship building”) actually would require a person to fall ill to achieve the same ends.
You can build relationships without the use of fear or pity cause by terminal illness to achieve the same ends.
It is an admission that you require gross incompetence to be motivated to be a decent human being, meaning you weren’t all that moral to begin with.
But we have reached a stage in modern society where things that should be working are no longer working and even regressing, but to admit that things are not working, requires an admission that things may be our fault, that we are not as superior as we think, that our scripts are faulty, we still to be critical and active thinkers who work, or that our society may not be a Promised Land.
What would the neighbours think of us if we have money troubles right after we bragged to them about going to foreign country on our vacation? They’d be so happy! They’d win!
That’s the underlying fear that pushes people to lie and confuse bad things for good things.
It also lets everyone off the hook: if cancer is such a wonderful life builder that is merely a sign of having too much acid, why should the medical community bother to research for a cure?
Come on, it builds character! Let’s lighten the workload for those doctors, and give those tax dollars to something frivolous!
This is not logic. This is, at best, sophistry, but, in truth, it is an attempt at sanctioned insanity.
By having screwy logic that is harmful be seen as being clever, compassionate, and even superior, we lower the bar so we don’t have to admit we are wrong or flawed in any way, and pretend we are more grateful or positive than those who see illness as something to get rid of because they actually have a genuine relationship with their loved ones they do not wish to abandon or lose them to an excruciating death.
Only someone who does not have genuine emotions or compassion would be so offensive as to sing the praises of a terminal illness.
By that logic then, we don’t have to worry about rape, racism, sexism, sexual harassment, drug addiction, child molestation, domestic abuse, government corruption, war, disease, torture, or murder because there are positive things going for every one of those ills.
Why not legalize rape when it will make women appreciate a consensual partner more?
War is just as glorious — why should cancer patients be the only ones who get the benefits of torturous agony and financial ruin when we can do the same thing to the healthy with one giant bomb? For those who survived, they can then strut around feeling special and blessed.
It is strategic manipulative lunacy, of course used to pander to the fearful. It is sheer sophistry that comes from the lack of emotional literacy and empathy.
It is also a secret form of pessimism disguised as optimism that allows for a status quo never to be judged or questioned. You do not think things can get better or that you are ineffectual as a living being, so you lie by pretending to see the positive in the situation.
A true optimist would not be gushing over a weakness: they would see the problems, and be confident that they can find the solution. They are not grateful to have cancer — or be raped — they are enraged, but fight toward getting rid of the problem so it doesn’t happen again.
They are confident that a situation can change — they do not try to pretend the situation is good as it stands.
An honest pessimist sees no hope in a situation, and is passive to try to improve it.
But the manipulative and dishonest pessimist spins a narrative the same way a crisis management firm spins evil and argues it is a virtue. They are disrespectful of the rest of the world as they believe they are so brilliant, that they can fool everyone with their lie.
If we had a responsible news media, they would not be writing destructive garbage about the upside of cancer. There is none. They would be doing real stories on people who have it — their struggles and the system’s weaknesses as they then searched for avenues where a solution is either slumbering or is being held captive by a gate-keeper.
So what you have is a press that allows pollution to infect an information stream, while you have grifters sell snake oil that hinges on priming a public into seeing the mirage of positivity in dangerous situations.
We ignore our primal instincts to our own peril, with those who wish for us to hijack our natural instincts and put our trust in theirs so they can exploit us.
Which brings us to Nautilus, and this article:
A Mental Disease by Any Other Name
For Frank Russell, reinterpreting his schizophrenia as shamanism helped his symptoms.
This piece, despite the references, is not just an irresponsible article, but a poorly-researched one. So polluted by appeal and the confirmation bias that it is difficult to imagine that a publication that proclaims to be science-focussed would have not torn it to shreds.
So let me tear it to shreds because someone needs to be the adult on the Internet.
The article is precisely is as advertised in the headline, and the argument is that perhaps we shouldn’t be about medicating schizophrenics, and allowing them their delusions, including those of grandeur. The set-up to justify this thinking begins like this:
In the United States, a diagnosis of schizophrenia often means homelessness, joblessness, inability to maintain close relationships, and increased susceptibility to addiction.
Yes it does, but it is societal and governmental apathy that causes it. If cities were fined a million dollars for every homeless person on the street that they did not find housing and psychiatric care (and fine another million for every one they tried to put on a bus to make someone else’s problem, or jail those who’d do darker schemes to rid themselves of their problem), tomorrow, there would be no homelessness. It would be a divine miracle. So right off the bat, mentioning this fact is meant to paint a narrative of US ignorance, when it is, in fact, just pure greed. Cities do not have an incentive to deal with their problems. Threaten a bottom line, and it is amazing how caring they would suddenly become. Make no demands, get nothing.
If people were as dogged as the richest corporate barons who lobby governments as they make threats, they too, would get governmental doting.
After that opening came the sophistry:
In some countries, schizophrenics hold down jobs at five times the rates of American schizophrenics. In others, symptoms are interpreted as unusual powers.
Which is nothing unusual. In some other countries, people with the same illness are institutionalized in horrendously abusively institutions. We have no global standards on mental health. If you have a strong family support, you will not fall through the cracks. You need an advocate. If your family has the financial means to help you, you are not going to fall through the cracks. This is the precise place that required a deeper analysis, not just as quick gloss over.
But it is the second sentence that is slipped in for a highly dubious purpose: well, some countries see mental illness as a form of magic. Magical thinking isn’t really thinking: it is a form of not dealing with problems. We don’t have to fix a problem if we pretend it is a blessing. The magic will do it for us.
Or if we indulge someone with a problem, tell them that they are right, special, and even superior to us, they’ll buy it and go away, and we have no problem to fix.
We often give paper crowns to the people who were find problematic — feed an ego, pat them on the head, and maybe they’ll just leave us alone.
It’s not a strategy so much as a defence mechanism, but the article goes on not questioning its base assumption:
Dick and his son tried a variety of treatments over 15 years, some more effective than others. Then, unexpectedly, the pair turned in a very different direction, beginning a journey that Dick now likens to a “torch-lit passageway through a long dark tunnel.” By sharing his story, he hopes to help others find this passageway—but he’s aware some of it sounds crazy. For instance: He now believes Frank might be a shaman.
The moment someone prefaces an argument with “I know it sounds crazy”, what you have is a bad and illogical argument, but someone with try to twist logic to make it acceptable. What we have is someone exhausted from a situation that can never get better, and is now giving in.
Because people do not understand the drain on families who have someone who is weak and vulnerable for life. I am one of those people who looked after my grandmother who was bedridden for the last stretch of her life. She could not feed herself or move. My mother and I looked after her round the clock, having to turn her, bathe her change her, feed her, give her medication and injections, and watch her every breath. It is soul-crushing because you know every ounce of energy you have has no payoff of her getting cured or getting better.
Some people like me, can be aware of the evilness of that burden where you love someone and fight for them at the expense of your own future and health, but your love and caring won’t make them well again.
It doesn’t matter whether the person is physically confined or mentally confined — they will never get cured. Some people crack under pressure because there is no support for families who take on the burden — and there is no end of institutional abuse to make the process more difficult. So I sympathize with the caregivers.
But indulging a shaman delusion serves any good purpose. It is not a solution. It is a sign resignation and exhaustion.
And a sign of an emotional breakdown known as folie a deux.
Yet the author of the piece doesn’t consider it as she prefers, not to give facts, but excuses, working as an apologist with a very bad argument:
Schizophrenics tend to see themselves as more imaginative than others, and to embark on more artistic projects.
Lots of people perceive themselves as “more imaginative than others”. It doesn’t make it so. It is perception, not necessarily reality. And many groups of people “embark on more artistic projects” — and I speak as someone who also teaches art for a living.
Retirees do because they do not have jobs anymore and now they can afford to so something a 9-5 job and raising children on a limited budget prevents.
Children do because they also do not have full-time jobs or bills to pay.
People in halfway houses do because they also do not have to worry about paying bills, and they have enough free time to take up something to do.
Cancer patients do because they are off work and need something to occupy their minds.
Women who do not have to work outside the home do because they want to express their frustrations.
I’ve taught all of these demographics. So right there are groups who have one thing in common: no job. You have to take up something, and if it isn’t a sport, it’s an art.
So right there, is a flaw in the argument and it’s a confirmation bias: the author is looking for things that seem to confirm her theory, while not bothering to look for things to refute it. What she is doing is simple: giving in to the “special” status of schizophrenics.
They are not special. They are people, not better, not worse in every other regard, but one where their perceptions are grossly misaligned. Once medication realigns the perceptions, often, you could not know the person had any sort of reality perception problem. It’s the same with someone who cannot walk: they are no different than anyone else, and if there was medication or a procedure to allow them to walk and we placed them in a room with other people and asked others to spot the one who once could not walk, no one could make any sort of educated guess.
The problem that plagues this article is that there is no recognition that people are people. Trying to set up a person as someone who should be encouraged to hold a misaligned reality misses the point. It would be no different than if my eyes played tricks on me, and I said I will walk past a cliff because I think I see a bridge and there isn’t, and then everyone else let me believe it as I walk right off the cliff. It is not compassionate. It is cruel.
She rambles on for a spell, but then offers this opinion:
Developed countries, on the other hand, are usually individualistic—autonomy and self-motivated achievement are considered the norm.
Which is an interesting, if incorrect assumption. If by “developed countries”, we mean North America, and Europe, neither one can hold any virtuous airs about individualistic. The US divides itself by politics: the Left and the Right. If there was any individualistic traits, we would not have people having flame wars on the Internet because someone had a different belief and it was par for the course. Social media isn’t about individuality — it is about collectives: friends and followers, hardly words that would gain popularity in any individualistic society. This is how the West perceives itself — but when people are defined by where they live, what clothing they wear, and what music they listen to, what we are left with is an illusion.
Western society may be cold as opposed to societies where family has more influence than materialism, but what it is, in fact, is self-unaware. When a society is not aware of their own problems and weaknesses, people who have mental illness will become invisible to it.
These are the societies that find nothing wrong with walking over stray or lost animals, homeless people, and those who fell because of medical distress. They ignore screams of children and battered women who live next door. It is apathy, not individuality that misaligns their view of reality.
The problem people with schizophrenia face is that they are distressing and inconvenient to people who wish to brag about their designer shoes and vacation trips. We are material-focussed. It is not even about achievements or status. It is our hunter-gatherer instincts gone awry.
And then the justifications continue amid the misused studies, where everything is neatly wrapped up with some sort of happily ever after where sick people are happier to be seen as something special, as if no one else would want to be seen as special and magical.
Frank is happier and he paints and writes poetry.
Again, art therapy is a thing. It works wonders for people who survive trauma, such as torture, and for those who fought cancer. I have seen what art therapy does: it shows people that they have an ability to express themselves and create something beautiful even through the worst of ugliness. That is a primal instinct as is storytelling. As I said before, schizophrenics are not different than the general population in alsmot every other regard. Meeting a shaman who said something a pained family wants to hear does not justify anything.
But far from this being a “peculiar” story, it is a very old one: children who do not want to do their homework or their chores will use the same underlying logic to justify why their ways are better than what the adults demand of them. They also use magical thinking, and try to resist the things which they cannot control. This doesn’t make children bad, what it makes them is human. They try to wrest control, even by creating phantoms.
Sooner or later, children are introduced to reality where their theories are disproven one by one: no, you are not special or entitled. You do reckless and dangerous things, you will get hurt, and perhaps never see adulthood. You are irresponsible, and your parents may not have the ways or means to bail you out, particularly if you act in bad ways in a foreign country and you are arrested.
That is true. That is reality. Fairness has nothing to do with it.
So the author in this story essentially advocates allowing a group of people to be allowed to be deluded because it makes them happy to feel superior and special, and that the method is somehow therapeutic.
Except there are serious problems with this method: you are dealing with someone whose processing of reality is flawed: adding to that flaw when they have violent tendencies can lead to disaster.
And there is no guarantee that indulging works for anyone, schizophrenic or not.
We can look at Vince Li, whose schizophrenia lead to his cannibalizing murder of a stranger on a bus. No delusion-indulging would have helped him.
Modern narratives have borrowed heavily from the old Communist propaganda newscasts during the Cold War, where news was always good and positive, positive, positive. People believed it until the day where it was one fake news spin too many. (I honestly do not understand the Left’s obsession with Russia considering they have already co-opted their old narrative news-style. Are they afraid they’ll ask for it back or something?)
It is used to placate people, not inform them. It is used to prevent anger and the demand that people receive proper treatment and that their right to a functional life be respected. It was never used to inform, and now we have a generation of journalists who do nothing but placate people instead of give them the facts as they are. They pander and enable as grifters can then abuse and exploit them.
The tricks are obvious, though many online publications mistakenly believe that merely piling on a mountain of words will some how make the filler seem legitimate. You are just wasting everyone’s time with sophistry. Have a point and then get to it with the facts.
So Nautilus is adding nothing to the public discourse. It is merely impressed with itself that it reprinted a bad article that is meant to provoke, when it, in fact, pollutes.
We should never stigmatize people who have mental illness, but at no time should we indulge anyone’s delusions, no matter if they have an illness or not.
Life is too short for those distracting games. Tell the truth. Map out reality.
And then take a bow and leave.
Families looking after their relatives need support and societal structure that makes the inherent assumption that many of their citizens will not be able to look after themselves or have the burden of looking after loved ones. We penalize women who raise their families; and no one comes in wondering if some of those children may have mental health issues, adding to the complexity of family life.
We need facts. We need a form a journalism that doesn’t play games but outlines realities. Here is a family. This is how they are burdened. This is how a comparative family who has no such confine are in relation. How are they paying their bills? How is their health deteriorating? How is the research coming along?
That’s what we need to know, not how we can just pat people on the head for their hearts breaking and then push them along.
The only thing a society has its genuine humanity where we show compassion and empathy without trying to pretend we are superior to those who have bigger burdens than us, and without expecting applause or financial renumeration for it.
When society loses its humanity, it has lost everything.
It is the reason why journalism failed society: it forgot about its purpose, and then it lost its way.