Yesterday, Robert Stacy McCain accused the Watchful Avenger of lying about him. But within a short time, McCain was once again picking on a disabled person in his blog:
We saw no triggering event for this blog post about our friend Bill Schmalfeldt other than the Watchful Avenger’s tweet. As far as we can tell, McCain was so angered by the accusation that he picks on disabled people that he felt it necessary to go pick on a disabled person. We were not surprised; McCain is so emphatic in his hatred of Bill, and can be triggered so randomly, that a month ago he sent our friend Bill a bizarre, 5,000-word email in the middle of the night on a weekend.
Who is the actual liar here? Well, consider his record. In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, McCain went on a tear against the mentally ill and the liberals who supposedly enable them:
Doesn’t it seem like a lot of people had gut hunches about Adam Lanza, but for some reason didn’t feel like they could do anything about it? What is it about our culture that inhibits people from exercising common-sense judgment that might prevent a “deeply disturbed kid” from killing 27 people before killing himself?
In a word, liberalism.
Before the triumphant cultural hegemony of liberalism — before we were persuaded that people with ”personality disorders” should be viewed as victims and before the ACLU decided that the rights of kooks trumped any concern about public safety — the Adam Lanzas of the world were institutionalized, generally with the assent of their own families. Mom and Dad might have been disappointed that their kid turned out to be a nutjob, the family might feel some shame over having spawned a schizo, but they recognized that the greater good of society took precedence over their personal sympathy for the hopeless loony.
Back in the day, a lot of kids grew up with a vague knowledge about Uncle Bud or Aunt Dora, who flipped out and got sent to the State Hospital.
Kids’ knowledge of this stuff was vague, because it was gathered through overheard conversations among adults in the next room, and the shadow of stigma was something everybody instinctively understood about mental illness. We can look back across the decades and view that era as benighted and barbaric in some ways, but there were a lot fewer kooks on the streets and everybody’s lives were safer because of it.
Factually, this is nonsense. Politicians of both parties saw improving psychiatric medications as an excuse to diminish the role of the state in mental health services. Governor Ronald Reagan helped empty California’s mental health facilities, and as president he cut federal mental health spending by 30 percent while curtailing the federal government’s role in provision of mental health services altogether. But leave aside his historical revisionism: McCain yearns for the days when the mentally ill were simply removed from society in a quiet cloud of embarrassment. American families simply aren’t ashamed enough anymore about their kooky kinfolk, and that is the fault of those darn liberals who let crazy people write books and function in society instead of hiding them away in prison-like environments.
McCain’s diatribe proved unpopular with conservatives whose hearts have not entirely shriveled, so he dug his hole even deeper the next day:
Permit me to say — and my post last night was intended to convey this point, however obliquely — that I have enormous personal empathy with those who are dealing with psychiatric problems, and I know that Ace does, too. Direct personal experience with the mental health community (to speak as euphemistically as possible) has led me, however, toward conclusions quite at odds with the Conventional Wisdom.
Self-pity is the enemy of agency, and nothing is more important to recovering from mental illness than acquiring a sense of agency.
If you feel helpless to solve your own problems, you will either (a) descend into a bottomless slough of despair, or (b) engage in scapegoating, blaming other people for your problems. It is reaction (b) that turns otherwise harmless kooks into dangerous menaces.
Sympathy toward the mentally ill often leads to an apologetic attitude of indulgence, of tolerating anti-social behavior, and proclaiming that the poor kook just can’t help himself.
Well, guess what, folks? “Crazy” is not synonymous with “stupid,” and kooks are capable of learned responses. Sympathetic attention is a powerful carrot, to use Cynthia’s analogy, and if being a kook gets you sympathetic attention, then kookiness is thereby incentivized.
Look: Somebody has a mental health crisis and what do they get? Doctors and nurses who are paid to take care of them, to listen to them describe their problems, to supply them with medications and therapy and otherwise invest in their well-being.
They are being rewarded for being crazy.
In that essay, McCain questioned whether autism was real or just lazy parenting. He prescribed slaps to the face as the cure for mental illness. And he used the occasion to compare suicide shooter Adam Lanza to Neal Rauhauser, both of whom simply were not beaten enough as children. Of course, McCain elided any mention of his friend Aaron Walker, who has been described to us as a “special needs” law student displaying characteristics of the Aspberger’s spectrum. When this second post managed to stir his conservative readers against him even harder than the first one, he tripled-down on the theme of a personal responsibility cure:
I keep recommending Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations as a guide to understanding a lot of what causes these problems. Not every kook or weirdo or celebrity basket case is a narcissist, but whenever you see people who can’t ever seem to take responsibility for their own problems, there’s usually a narcissism issue somewhere in the vicinity.
Everybody’s got problems in life. There are few people so psychologically healthy that they couldn’t occasionally be diagnosed as kooky. My sarcasm is obviously pathological, and co-blogger Smitty has a fondness for obscure puns that clearly puts him in the abnormal range. Unfortunately, the National Institutes for Mental Health turned down my grant application to study the unusual proliferation of weirdos in the blogosphere, so the diagnostic categories remain hopelessly ambiguous.
Nor have I been able to find a publisher for my proposed book, I’m OK, You’re Kind of Weird, But Bill Schmalfeldt Is a Raging Sociopath.
Bill is suffering from the inevitable decline of a degenerative condition called Parkinson’s Disease. The various peace orders, criminal charges, and “lawfare” aimed at Bill by McCain’s friends have added quite a bit of stress, and we believe Bill’s remaining health has been damaged by the experience. But McCain is unmoved. In his mind, Bill is a liberal (one strike) who is mentally ill (untrue, but two strikes) and has a disability that we should not reward with empathy (strike three, Bill is out). This value judgment is entirely conditional on the politics of the condemned.
As we noted yesterday, McCain is a constant practitioner of “meta-propaganda,” or propaganda about propaganda. The mad genius of his style is that the other side is always lying about him with their propaganda, which he can dispel with “the truth.” McCain’s “truths” are in fact propaganda. Empathy gets erased in the Manichean message, particularly empathy towards the most vulnerable members of society. It is a talent McCain honed during his time as resident “race science” propagandist at the Washington Times, and we believe he has internalized it so completely that he cannot help himself anymore. When confronted with a harsh truth about himself, McCain denounces it as a lie and answers it with a bigger lie of his own.