Psychotic Shooters on the Open Frontier of Profit

“Each of the Republican candidates for the presidency declared last week that we should deal with school shootings by providing aggressive treatment of people with mental illness — not to alleviate the suffering of the mentally ill, but to protect other people from the mentally ill.”

Andrew Solomon, “The Myth of the `Autistic Shooter,’ The New York Times, October 12, 2015

Delusions are the belief in something that is not true. People who have delusions will continue with their delusions even when shown evidence that contradicts the delusion. That is because, like hallucinations, delusions are “irrational” — the opposite of logic and reason. Since reason does not apply to someone who has a schizophrenic delusion, arguing with it logically gets a person nowhere.


It seems possible and may be probable that the conditions that create the inequities of plutocracy break down the psychic defensive capacities of those on the wrong side of plutocracy. It may be that the surrounding conditions created by gross inequities weaken mind, body before recuperative factors of family values, a father in every home, for-profit education, mostly STEM which innovates new products and new apps, early Mozart, Christian, and Constitutional values, the urge to start a business, and gun ownership kick in. If our attention is now drawn to mass random shootings in schools, strip malls and movie theatres by the mentally ill, might it not also be drawn to the drastically changed and aberrant conditions which have transformed an egalitarian directed democracy into plutocracy?

While we are pondering this causal chain, this chain of custody and ownership, profit is already there, profit which both activates and de-activates. For instance, the economic Losers must be actively moved on from emerging prime real estate locations, from notions of job security, retirement pensions, middle class lifestyle wages, affordable college education, and, my particular interest here, mental health care beyond a fifteen minute drug management session. What must be deactivated are not only vestiges of welfare but the House’s “Freedom Caucus” wants to deactivate the Federal government itself. If such activation/deactivation goals were not being met we would not now be a plutocracy, we would not have 76% of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the top 10% and the bottom 40% with negative wealth, i.e. debt only. This warfare leaves bodies and minds devastated and savaged.

Big Pharma has a vast marketing frontier in those who cannot afford one-on-one talk therapy and are given a lifelong cocktail of antipsychotics. The U.S. accounts for 34 percent of the pharmaceutical world market. It is an open frontier in regard to price regulation, approval barriers and span of time from concoction to shelf. According to a PBS Newshour report, “Why do Americans spend so much on pharmaceuticals?” “Americans use more medicines than people in other developed countries. They rank first for their use of antipsychotics as well as drugs for dementia.” Our mental illnesses are a kind of win/win marketing frontier.

Psychotics with guns make the headlines but its depression in the general population that makes the big bucks. Medco’s report, “America’s State of Mind” finds that “the number of Americans on medications used to treat psychological and behavioral disorders has substantially increased since 2001; more than one‐in‐five adults was on at least one of these medications in 2010, up 22 percent from ten years earlier. . . The research reviewed prescription drug claims of over two million Americans to assess the use of antidepressants, antipsychotics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs and anti‐anxiety treatments between 2001 and 2010.”

The savvy expectation is that the conditions that a de facto plutocracy behind the mask of a de jure egalitarian democracy will manufacture more psychopaths. The Brave New World soma strategy to deal with a population that, were they not doped up, might violently disrupt that brave new world, is useful if a society is “creatively destroying” a growing number of its population each day. While the poor have daily evidence of their poverty, a collapsing middle class live in the illusion that they are middle class and just a short distance, not from ruin, but from fame and fortune. They are, in short, heading for a catastrophic break-down. Big Pharma is already set to give us all a “soft landing.”

Soma is a big industry. Abilify sold to the tune of $7.5 billion in one year and sells for about $800 for 30 tablets. This makes the Columbian drug lords that regularly make the headlines seem like small business operators. And they have the DEA after them while Big Pharma is patriotically expanding our American research and development, expanding the frontiers of American Exceptionalism. And so on. Drugs dissolve into a non-threatening mist the harsh realities of being without in what Thomas Piketty calls our “new Gilded Age.” They put a “soft edge” on “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or correct a “chemical imbalance,” although we find in the book Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work, that there is no psychiatric disorder for which we know for certain which chemicals are `imbalanced’ if any.” This much referenced “chemical imbalance may itself be a product of our copious pharmaceutical intake, which must certainly produces copious products and a population oddly inattentive to its own exploitation.

But it is the mass random shootings that get attention and trigger a new call for gun control by Liberals, which in turn triggers a call by Neoliberals for more effectiveness treatment of the mentally ill. We logically conclude that someone must be severely ill to perform random acts of slaughter that far exceed our comprehension. Our problems are not with guns, the NRA insists, but with psychotics, and perhaps, most recently suggested, the “Autistic Shooter.”

Because even a “Let Markets Rule” rule cannot stand aside and let market forces rule in a recurring horrific school shooting situation, Neoliberals are focusing on treatment of psychotics as an answer to the fact that America is home to more random, mass shootings than anywhere else on the planet. We do have more guns. Mother Jones reports that “[n]early one-third of the world’s mass shootings have occurred in the United States.”(Samantha Michaels, “The United States Has Had More Mass Shootings Than Any Other Country,” August 23, 2015). The public’s attention must be led from gun control to treatment of psychotics. If these mass shootings proliferate, it must then follow, as well it might and not only in the Neoliberal view, that we are ineffectively treating psychotics.

The front page of The New York Times, October 20, 2015 features “New Approach May Alleviate Schizophrenia,” the new approach being a “combined therapy approach” which is “less reliant on drugs.” One-on-one talk is part of a package “based in part on programs in Australia, Scandinavia and elsewhere that have improved patients’ lives in those countries for decades.” Neoliberals, pushed by the NRA, which delivers a huge share of the blue collar vote to them, may get behind a “fewer drugs” approach because the gun control issue trumps Big Pharma’s profits in the antipsychotic drug market. Although drugs such as SSRI’s (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been shown to be not more effective than placebos, they market brilliantly in a society that reflexively pops a soma as easily as checking a phone. While Neoliberals have cheered Big Pharma’s profiteering, Liberals have acquiesced to a profit making drugs-only approach to the treatment of psychosis. Now when the gun control faction is pushing Neoliberals toward a questioning of the drug-only approach, Liberals will no doubt follow along. On this treatment issue as in all else, these “opposing” ideologies conjoin on the foundational level of Market Rule, regardless of Liberal “triage” proclamations. Both are no doubt realize that random mass shootings have become some dark and deadly form of communication in a society committed to “growing the economy” over the bodies of an increasing number of its citizens. Such inhumanity, a surround of toxicity that pervades individuals, families and the entire culture enters the mind and destroys its peace.

If you are a gentrifier putting into practice what a plutocratic order leads to, namely, the invasion of the poor in every respect by a conquering invader, you can afford “talk therapy” and its therapeutic eclecticism. Insurance company reimbursement rates are lower for talk therapy than drug therapy because talk therapy attempts to enter the lifeworld of a patient while drugs circumvent all that and simply alter awareness to a functioning behavioral level. Talk here takes time and therefore is not cheap. Not something to make insurance companies happy. Neither is Big Pharma happy with a reduction of drug therapy and so less profits. Their unhappiness does not matter here because our politics regarding gun control/psychotic therapy is intent on protecting Neoliberal power, that power coming from an NRA base. The clash we are facing is between those who want no government subvention for health care, such as Obamacare, and those who want, as their alternative to gun control, the most effective anti-psychotic treatment to be made widely available. We have then Neoliberals facing their own schizophrenic realities.

Are there more dangerous psychotics among the Have Nots, those aware of their condition as well as those not, and the Haves? There is no data on this but there is, quite interestingly, on psychopaths. “There’s an unsettling correlation between psychopathy, a personality disorder characterized by a lack of conscience, and those who find personal wealth and success” Jon Ronson reports in The Psychopath Test. Psychopaths are four times more likely to be found among CEOs than the general population, which means that lack of empathy or remorse combined with superficial charm, egotism, unethical behavior and a search for thrills are some of the qualities rewarded most highly. The Neoliberal push is not however to treat psychopathic CEOs who increase profit to shareholders but to get the meds to psychotics, and if, that has to be mixed with a talk therapy, so be it.

We clearly assume that Have Nots are the psychotics to be treated, perhaps because they could not afford the treatment they should have had long ago or perhaps because irrational behavior marks the Have Nots more than the Haves. Rather than examine the psychopathy our Market Rule instills in its Wall St. financial wolf pack, Neoliberals turn to tarring the “Losers,” and, unbelievably, the autistic community. On a Facebook page called “Families Against Autistic Shooters” an enclave of “friends” broadcasts the view that autistics share a disregard for human life exemplified by the shooter at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. That shooter’s “diagnosis” of Asperger was made by his mother on Yahoo posts.

Whether or not this will kick up the profit making frontier of autism itself or fatally wound it, remains to be seen. Big Pharma as well as the everything-natural and organic food industries as well as autism medical specialists are each in their own way profiting from the as yet mysteries of a condition whose phenomenal growth some say is a statistical mirage and others speculate widely as to its causes. Regardless, autistics have now gone from puzzling mystery to a threat to all Americans, as represented in the “social discourse” of our “social media,” our Facebook Delphic Oracle, cheaper than Abilify. Although there has been little interest in the past to tracing socioeconomic position to mental disorders that may change because of the new mass shootings-gun control- treatment of psychotics calculus. We may begin to talk to people rather than just prescribing drugs.

A TED talk in August 2014 between a social psychologist and an epidemiologist on the topic of inequality’s effects on bodies and minds pointed out “that it’s really the people who feel subjectively lower on the social ladder or who are objectively poorer, who experience all the negative outcomes, whether it’s higher rates of obesity, or increased cardiovascular disease, or higher rates of depression.” Both depression and schizophrenia are more common in unequal societies, which mean our exceptionalism in this regard here in the U.S. sets us up for more random but not incomprehensible mayhem.

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Joseph Natoli has published books and articles, on and off line, on literature and literary theory, philosophy, postmodernity, politics, education, psychology, cultural studies, popular culture, including film, TV, music, sports, and food and farming. His most recent book is Travels of a New Gulliver.

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