The Medicalizing of Political Difference: Of Bleach, Light Therapy, and Pathogens in Politics

April 25, 2020

By Patricia Sohn

What does it mean when our medical research scientists find a cure to a disease?  It means that we have found a way to kill (one might say, conceptually, “disinfect,” as in, to make one’s self no longer infected by) a pathogen or disease safely within our bodies.  Since we already know that household disinfectants typically fall within the category of “poison” and are thereby not safe within the human body, the type of “disinfectant” that we use to kill a given bacteria, or other invading toxin, is not going to be found among household items.  And, we have come far enough in our society-wide understanding of medicine to know that each bacteria and/or other invading pathogen may require its own “disinfecting” agent to kill it safely within the body.  We typically call such safe agents for killing bacteria or disease but not the human body:  medicines.

Conceptually, these are normal ways for non-medical practitioners or medical science researchers to think about the process by which pathogens – bacteria or disease – get killed within the human body.  It is not a terribly complicated equation.

Anyone who thinks such comments as those made recently by President Trump reflect a call to turn to ingesting bleach to kill a virus within our bodies probably has a borderline low IQ – if they are to be found outside of medical-psych institutions at all.  See, the medicalizing and psych-ologizing of political difference is not very pleasant when turned in the other direction, is it?  Hence our rights to freedom of speech in the Constitution – which, strangely enough, does not mention in any location that it should be superseded by the theories of the day of the American Psychological Association.  And our rights to freedom of thought in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are also not superseded by either the APA or the American Medical Association.  Should doctors rule our land?  No.  Why?  They are not experts in the rights mentioned herein, or a myriad of others that pertain to our society and political institutions in the 21st century.  The medicalizing and psych-ologizing of political, ideological, and especially religious difference in today’s political climate smack of the worst of real, actual historical practices of Soviet pathologizing of such “deviant” “behaviors” as being a religious person, a homosexual, a woman, an artist, a playwright, a philosopher, and, of course, having an ideology, political or religious opinion diverging from that of the all-knowing technocrats above one.

Light therapyIt is the cutting edge of medical research to say nothing of part of the conceptual and material basis of radiation.  Remember radiation therapy?  Solution to cancers, etc.?  Check the links.  Research into the use of light in various forms for medical applications is a real thing.  Don’t know about it yet?  Try reading up on it before throwing rash and – really, honestly, embarrassing – attacks at our President.  (To continue with the theme:  Do you have any idea how unintelligent and pathologically propagandistic you sound??)

President Trump is an exceptionally well-educated, experienced, successful, and well-traveled man.  He observably keeps himself appraised of new developments in many fields around him. These are cutting edge research processes regarding which he is clearly knowledgeable. The press that currently criticizes him for the reference to finding a material way conceptually to “disinfect” the body from pathogens is clearly entirely uninformed or misinformed about such research achievements.  And, importantly, as he does usually in his verbal style, he presented them to us in ways that the average citizen can understand; that is, to make one’s self no longer infected through some safe process – and, perhaps through various forms of light therapy.  Not so far-fetched when you look into the science even just a little bit.  I say this as citizen and social scientist; I make no special claims to knowledge of medical science.  The materials I mention herein can be found by anyone with the most cursory search on google, all the more so through a university library.  These are basic information available to us as informed citizens.

Informed?

No insult to recent leftist sludge attacks in the American press.  (Well, yes, actually, the insult is intended.)

Does it mean that we should live by a Rule of Technocrats in which the APA and the AMA regulate our lives?  Clearly not, unless you want all other national academic disciplinary associations to have an equal say. (See, for example, Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology, Geography, History, Religion, Comparative Literature, Languages and Linguistics, just to name a few core disciplines with national academic associations in the social sciences and humanities. Psychology in particular is just another social science discipline; you get social science credit for it in college/university. Except at advanced specialist levels, it is not located in the medical school. In some states, people with B.S. degrees in Psychology can engage in what amounts to medical practice on Americans; in most states, people with an M.S. in Psychology can do the same. Given the degree of power accorded to these practitioners of late, a minimum of an M.D. from a medical school should be required to engage in what amounts to medical practice and authority over American lives. It is a problem for unsuspecting American citizens all over the country.) Then, I say…maybe.  It’s all theory at some level.

Keep medicine (and, by extension, that discipline which is closer still to insufficiently regulated pseudo-science: psychology) in its place. The Constitution (and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) regulates them, and us, all; not the reverse.  But, within its own scientific bounds and arenas of expertise, we should certainly pay attention to medical science — and laud heroic medical science researchers — just as we must allow, applaud, and support diverse religious beliefs and practices. Medical science has no say on the latter, nor may it regulate them, even though psychology still wants to pathologize religious beliefs — and other types of beliefs, including political ideologies — as though they are medical issues under its lawful regulation. They are not. It is black-letter U.S. Constitution. If the psychology profession continues in its current track in this regard, it should be shut down entirely as profession and as an academic discipline (which is all it really is — social science theory that changes over time). Shut it down. Stop funding it. Move psychology to the medical school, and have it be regulated there. Require the entire medical education that always should have been required to engage in “practice” on faithful American lives.

Light therapy is an existing and newly emerging technology that might aid us in new ways one day.  It is a part of medical research of which we should unquestionably, as citizens, be aware. 

Thinking about the killing of pathogens as a matter of finding a safe disinfection process is a useful, valid, and conceptually appropriate rubric – one that does not imply the use of poison.  To suggest otherwise is nothing short of what my grandfather’s generation called: Yellow Journalism. 

Here we go again.  It’s almost as though reincarnation is real. 

(That’s what they call in Hebrew these days, ציניות.)

Medical research science, belief, ideology, religious freedom, medical practice…. How to balance them? By putting one in power to the exclusion of the others? No. There is a pretty good, solid, well-tried, and successful answer. Knowledge of the inner workings, theories, and practices of political institutions comparatively over space and time; social constituencies in a given national context; social interests and social movements; participation processes in governance; micro-level socio-political engagement; socio-political economy; economics; and other issues may be critical.  Psychology, and even Medicine, are interest groups in politics just like any other. If nothing else, what we can say is that the answer does not involve Yellow Journalism, our newly returned pathogen in politics.

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Dr. Patricia Sohn, Ph.D. is associate professor of political science at the University of Florida. She specializes in Middle East (MENA) and Israel/Palestine politics, and particularly the intersection of courts and politics, religion and politics, and gender politics. She has interests in historical institutional, political sociological, micro-level, and grassroots analysis of state and society.

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