First They Came for World of Warcraft...

...and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Rank 14 High Warlord Tauren Warrior.

Not to, you know, reflexively assume the worst about China, but this wire story does set off some alarm bells:

China could become the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder amid growing concern over compulsive Web use by millions of Chinese, state media said on Monday....

A top Chinese legislator said in August that about 10 percent of China's Web users under the age of 18, or four million people, were addicted to the Internet, mainly to "unhealthy" online games, state media said at the time. 

The story is written straight, as if the major interest of this development is the change in China's mental health diagnostic practices.

But China does have a habit of taking extreme measures to keep political dissidents offline. It's not hard to imagine that troublemakers might spend a significant amount of time online, and the Chinese government might decide that they need to be hauled off for "treatment" of their "Internet addiction."

And then there's this little note at the end of the article:

In 2006, [the Chinese government] ordered all Chinese Internet game manufacturers to install technology in their games that demands players reveal their real name and identification number. 

The increase in harmful Internet use in China is probably real (see here, for instance), but as reason contributing editor Thomas Szasz has often noted, diagnosis of mental illness and subsequent imprisonment can be a powerful weapon in the arsenal of an oppressive state. 

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  • guy in the back row||

    geez, with 1.6 billion people, I bet even the libertarians have a million voters in China!

  • EJM||

    China could become the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder...

    I'm surprised that South Korea hasn't already done so.

  • The Extispicator||

    Stupid Chinese ... regarding someone's personal choices as harmful to that person and taking away the choices "for his own good."

    Glad we don't do that crap over here in the Land of the Free and the Home ... hey, where'd that bacon hot dog cart go?

  • ||

    I hope this kind of thinking doesn't transfer over to the US like one of those diseases we always panic about. I can just see it now "The War on Drug Games" and "Don't Do WoW". Software requiring certification by federal agencies to determine whether or not it has any technological usefulness beyond recreation. Then we will start hearing about epidemics, and how all the money we are pumping in to prevent addictive software isn't enough and we need more oversight...

  • stuartl||

    When I was under 18, I went through harmful addictions to playing football, Risk, hearts,... My parents thought I should be doing my homework instead. The Chinese will be lucky to have this protection.

  • ||

    That's what I say. Forget what the Chinese
    are up to- look out for our own ruling class.
    Never are our rights and liberties in so much danger as when some herd of educated jackasses decides the situation just can't do without their healing touch...

  • thoreau||

    I wasn't a Rank 14 High Warlord Tauren Warrior

    *snort*

    n00b!!!!

  • Neu Mejican||

    Obligatory "Szasz is a quack comments."

    Full-on crank: off the rails and no longer a member of the scientific community.

    Not intellectually honest.

    A good way to discredit your argument.

    Now let's move to the "free will" discussions.

  • ||

    ...reveal their real name and identification number.

    We would finally discover that OLS is W!

  • libertarian democrat||

    NM,

    I was going to ignore the Szasz reference (as hard as that is for me), because I think in this article it actually makes sense.

    If you ignore the other 95% what he says, that last little bit is relevant.

  • libertarian democrat||

    Okay, maybe 5% is generous.

  • Thomas Szasz||

    Hrm, maybe I shouldn't assume a very specific form of dualism as the underlying basis for all medicine. Maybe then people wouldn't have to wrinkle their nose to be associated with my more thought out arguments.

  • ||

    ...reveal their real name and identification number.

    harry penusglobler ...number 69696696
    its pronounced Pen use globe bell... NOT penis gobbler. Now you know why I use a nom de plume
    my friend asswipe (pronounced Oz wi pai)has the same problem.

  • ||

    I wouldn't be suprised if in the future all war game simulation game are monitored by government. They will say they are looking for terrorists and those teaching terrorist combat tactics.

  • ||

    I'll be happy when a chinese farmers are kicked off my mmog (Eve-online). Their activities are causing inflation in our pristene free market... and they take all the asteriods.

  • Neu Mejican||

    libDem,

    diagnosis of mental illness and subsequent imprisonment can be a powerful weapon in the arsenal of an oppressive state

    To call that "thought out" would be generous, but, yes, in the context of the post, his point is relevant, if somewhat obvious.

    The problem comes with conflating the abuse of medical diagnosis with their validity.

  • ||

    I am in danger of losing my job because I cannot stop posting on these frigging message boards.

  • libertarian democrat||

    NM,

    His point is of course obvious. I would say it is relevant (and reason generally name-drops contributors when possible). This isn't like when another writer whose name will remain nameless tries to find a place for Szasz anywhere he can.

  • Neu Mejican||

    libDem,

    Fair enough, but Szasz deserves his licks whenever he is brought up...and KMW is hardly more circumspect than JS in her posts, in general.

  • adrian||

    if you are ever feeling bad about your life this will bring you up.

    WoW detox

    I've never played but have seen friends disappear like these people.

  • ||

    A lot of people, even friends of liberty, have trouble understanding the genius of Szasz.

  • libertarian democrat||

    Dogzilla, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

  • concerned observer||

    Of course libertarians would consider WoW the most important issue, since that's probably what you do whenever you're not posting here.

  • concerned observer||

    While eating chips in your parents' basement.

  • libertarian democrat||

    co,

    I do do that whenever I am not posting here (aside from reading other websites, work, writing music, writing, learning new instruments, playing with my pets, spending time with my wife - which could be while playing too, sometimes -, hanging out with friends, reading, and some other stuff too probably).

    But ouch.

  • ||

    Free will is a illusion generated by ignorance of the future and a refusal to honestly evaluate the mechanisms that shaped the past.

    As for the Chinese... Older people thinking that younger people have something wrong with them because they enjoy something the older people can't comprehend? Color me ice blue shocked.

  • Bingo||

    WoW is boring as hell. I tried getting addicted to it but its just too much of a yawnfest.

  • ||

    Bingo,

    Oblivion is a fairly comparable gaming experience and you don't have to cooperate to get anything done. And I've seen it used for the PC as cheap as $20.

    Also, if you've never seen it... best viral WoW video ever. Leroy Jenkins

  • ||

    An actual WoW thread and the wowgold spammer's not here?

    For shame, cuntbot. For shame.

  • ||

    @ Neu Mejican

    "Full-on crank: off the rails and no longer a member of the scientific community."
    He has been saying the same thing for 50 years. What does his alleged present status before the "scientific community" have to do with anything?


    "Not intellectually honest."
    That is quite a claim. Do you have anything to back it up with?

  • jtuf||

    Speaking of mental illness, the bailout bill had a clause requiring insurance companies to cover psychiatric care. If we get a new law requiring everyone to have health insurance, then state run institutions can lock you up for life time "treatment" without ever losing a dime.

  • Abhishek Saha||

    Nothing wrong with mere classification. The trouble, as the writer rightly points out, begins when that morphs into coercion. Citing mental illness is one of the favourite tools of governments worldwide to take away people's rights. This law is just going to be one more way China can lock it's citizens up.

    Just so that my position is clear, I am not against psychiatry per se, nor do I think that mental illness is a myth. I think science can and should be used to cure people of their mental troubles; however any such step must be voluntary just as it is in the case of physical illness. As a moral principle, I am in all circumstances opposed to any form of forced treatment, involuntary commitment or involuntary conservatorship for any adult who retains the faculty to express his or her wishes and is not an imminent danger to other people.

  • ||

    I'm a PlanetSide guy.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    The "Szasz is a crank" comments were intended to move past the argument and on to more interesting issues.

    Like:

    Free will is a illusion generated by ignorance of the future and a refusal to honestly evaluate the mechanisms that shaped the past.

    As for backing up the "Szasz is a crank" claims...well, they are just statements of fact, obvious to anyone who pays attention...a way to sort the wheat from the chaff, as it were. . . .

    ;^)

  • Adbul Alhazred||

    You'd have to be crazy to oppose universal healthcare, luckily our new plan covers that!

  • ||

    a way to sort the wheat from the chaff

    Ouch. Anyway... anyone who has ever had to deal with the public for any length of time can give ample evidence that mental illness exists.

    The argument is: A what point in the spectrum of human behavior does mental divergence become a pathology?

    I reject out of hand the notion that 4 million people in China use the Internet to the point it has become a pathology. 10% is not crazy, it's just an extreme of the baseline.

    The kids starving to death at their computers and killing their roommates for tripping over a power strip... that's your crazy.

  • ||

    4 million is only .25% of their population, the equivalent of 750,000 in the US.

    That's almost twice as many as vote libertarian!

  • ||

    Rank 14 High Warlord Tauren Warrior

    No one has pointed out that WoW hasn't used that old honor system ranking system since the Burning Crusade came out in Jan. 2007. People still have the title, but you can't become a High Warlord anymore.

  • ||

    "Not intellectually honest."
    "That is quite a claim. Do you have anything to back it up with?"

    So that's a no then.

    Given you are spending time on a libertarian-oriented blog, it is odd you would so easily smear someone who has spent his life writing about liberty (whether or not you agree with him). Either have the balls to back up your claims, or just stick to discussing the areas you are interested in.

  • ||

    For people who are think their lame insults are somehow clever:

    A top Chinese legislator said in August that about 10 percent of China's Web users under the age of 18, or four million people

  • Dale Innis||

    ... or that level 14 is very low-level; you can get there in a few hours' play. :)

  • libertarian democrat||

    Steven,

    I personally think he is intellectually honest. Just not intellectually gifted. His philosophy of science and medicine (but not mind) is interesting, but full of holes. I am really not going to bother dissecting his whole torrid affair with dualism, but the simple fact that non-psychiatric disorders can be predicted from mental symptoms, or that they have mental symptoms, should be enough to realize he is off-base.

  • ||

    @ libertarian democrat

    "the simple fact that non-psychiatric disorders can be predicted from mental symptoms, or that they have mental symptoms, should be enough to realize he is off-base"
    Of course certain behaviours can point to the existence of medical illness. But it does not follow that mental illnesses are a legitimate type of illness, nor that people presently diagnosed with a mental illness are not in fact suffering from a physical illness. Nor does it follow that he has a torrid affair with dualism. When you say he is off-base, which base are you referring to?

  • ||

    Neu and libertarian democrat-

    You guys don't actually think that you carried the day vis-a-vis Stephen's call on your Szasz hand?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    Given you are spending time on a libertarian-oriented blog, it is odd you would so easily smear someone who has spent his life writing about liberty (whether or not you agree with him).

    I have no problem with his writings on the dangers to liberty posed by state power mixing with medical diagnosis. It is a valid, if obvious point. If you fail to glean the larger arguments from my offhand comments in this thread you can feel free to search the hit & run archives for more of my thoughts on Szasz. Some well thought out, many not so much.

    Either have the balls to back up your claims, or just stick to discussing the areas you are interested in.

    Diagnosis is an area I am interested in...and one of the reasons I feel confident in proclaiming Szasz's work in the area the work of a crank of the classic mold:

    From Martin Gardner...

    [Cranks can be] brilliant and well-educated, often with an excellent understanding of the branch of science in which they are speculating. Their books can be highly deceptive imitations of the genuine article - well-written and impressively learned....[they]work in almost total isolation from their colleagues. Not isolation in the geographical sense, but in the sense of having no fruitful contacts with fellow researchers.... The modern pseudo-scientist... stands entirely outside the closely integrated channels through which new ideas are introduced and evaluated. He works in isolation. He does not send his findings to the recognized journals, or if he does, they are rejected for reasons which in the vast majority of cases are excellent.... As a consequence, he finds himself excluded from the journals and societies, and almost universally ignored by competent workers in the field..... The eccentric is forced, therefore, to tread a lonely way. He speaks before organizations he himself has founded, contributes to journals he himself may edit, and - until recently - publishes books only when he or his followers can raise sufficient funds to have them printed privately.



    More...

    "five ways in which the sincere pseudo-scientist's paranoid tendencies are likely to be exhibited."

    1. He considers himself a genius.
    2. He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads. Everyone is out of step except himself....
    3. He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against....
    4. He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories. When Newton was the outstanding name in physics, eccentric works in that science were violently anti-Newton. Today, with Einstein the father-symbol of authority, a crank theory of physics is likely to attack Einstein in the name of Newton....
    5. He often has a tendency to write in a complex jargon, in many cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined....



    If Szasz is not a real crank he is at least a "metaphoric crank."

    =;^)







  • Neu Mejican||

    libertymike,

    I believe carrying the day would have involved skipping over the discussion of Szasz and moving on to more interesting topics, so, no the day was not won.

    FWIW, Steven drops some phrases that make it clear that the discussion would go nowhere...

    a legitimate type of illness

    We'll end up arguing over whether illness = disease = disorder and what is valid versus recognized versus real versus "metaphoric."

    The day can't be won in such discussions.

  • ||

    @ Neu Mejican

    If you think Martin Gardner's words map on to Szasz, I suggest you need to do some research.

    "I believe carrying the day would have involved skipping over the discussion of Szasz"
    So you felt it necessary to call Szasz "[n]ot intellectually honest"?

    "We'll end up arguing over whether illness = disease = disorder"
    At least you recognise that to speak clearly about mental illness, we first need to define what is meant by illness. If this blog post is not the place for such a discussion, can you point me to anywhere that might display your confidence "in proclaiming Szasz's work in the area the work of a crank of the classic mold" in any depth?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    http://jhp.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/45/3/397

    2005; 45; 397 Journal of Humanistic Psychology
    E. Fuller Torrey
    Psychiatric Fraud and Force: A Reply to Szasz

    In his article, Szasz goes on to say about himself that since 1974, "neither psychiatry nor my views about it have changed much." [a crank statement if there ever were one, nm] This is an extraordinary admission given the profound changes that have taken place in our understanding of schizophrenia and other severe psychiatric disorders in the intervening 30 years...Szasz has made important contributions to the criticism of American psychiatry, but his legitimate contributions have been increasingly negated by his views on schizophrenia and his apparent unwillingness to examine the overwhelming evidence that he is wrong.

    more opinions:
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/327/7429/1449

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    I think Torrey gets it about right. Szasz made some legitimate statements that helped the field think about what "mental illness" really meant.

    Unfortunately, as the field took that advice and ran, he stayed in the same place, hammering away at his point until he had to go to the Scientologists to find support for his views.

    A classic crank, he attempts to mold reality to his belief, rather than letting reality influence his beliefs.

  • ||

    @ Neu Mejican

    Are you seriously presenting E. Fuller Torrey as evidence, or are or you joking?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    Now it is your turn.

    How is the fact that Torrey and Szasz argue on the fringes evidence that Szasz is not a crank?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Maybe this is more to your liking.

    http://jhp.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/45/3/403

    As stated by Berlim, Fleck, and Shorter (2003), "over a period of forty years, Szasz has made numerous pronouncements about the care and treatment of patients with mental disorders, but in no case has he submitted his views to formal tests that could have disconfirmed or substantiated them" (p. 65).
    In the absence of efforts aimed at empirical falsification or validation, much of the strength of Szasz's reasoning about mental illnesses becomes what might be called his metaphysics or his weltanschauung: Szasz holds to mind-body dualism and then situates
    all diseases in the body. His disease model for medicine and psychiatry is strongly positivistic, as is the science that is associated with this model. Hence, for Szasz, authentic illnesses and disorders must adhere to an anatomical-pathological-pathophysiological paradigm, a paradigm that emerged strongly at the turn of the last
    century. Szasz apparently sees alternative approaches as "myths" and "fraud."

  • ||

    "Unfortunately, as the field took that advice and ran, he stayed in the same place, hammering away at his point until he had to go to the Scientologists to find support for his views."

    1. The field did not take Szasz's advice, but they did run away. The field never agreed that psychiatry is at heart a political device.
    2. Torrey at one time advocated Szasz's position, but changed his mind (for whatever reasons). If your definition of a non-crank is that someone must dramatically change their mind, then I suggest your definition is pointless.
    3. So anyone who agrees with a disliked organisation on one particular issue is a crank?

    I really think you would benefit from a better understanding of what Szasz is saying. This crank stuff is both incorrect (see your previous 5 point quote) and a little tiresome. Why not just say "that Szasz guy isn't very popular" and move on?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    I really think you would benefit from a better understanding of what Szasz is saying. This crank stuff is both incorrect (see your previous 5 point quote) and a little tiresome. Why not just say "that Szasz guy isn't very popular" and move on?

    I am pretty sure I understand what Szasz is saying.

    Feel free to step up and defend Szasz's ideas rather than his honor at any time. I notice you have yet to provide an argument for how his ideas are legitimate scientific theory rather than pseudo-scientific rantings.

    The field never agreed that psychiatry is at heart a political device.

    True, they never agreed with that. I was references other ideas. Ones that Torrey buys into, btw.

    2. Torrey at one time advocated Szasz's position, but changed his mind (for whatever reasons). If your definition of a non-crank is that someone must dramatically change their mind, then I suggest your definition is pointless.

    Not the definition I gave. Torrey & Szasz are two sides of the same coin arguing over the validity of their positions without realizing that the argument is pointless because their underlying assumptions are erroneous. But...

    IF you take the assumptions at face value, Szasz is the one whose position fails to conform to the scientific evidence. It is that unwillingness to adjust to the changing facts on the ground that contributes to Szasz's "crankness."

    Make the counter arguments...what is legitimate in his view? How is it supported by the evidence. Feel free just to stick with schizophrenia.

    Hint: Use your crib notes from Szasz Under Fire all you want. Szasz's responses are always filled with entertaining crankiness.

    3. So anyone who agrees with a disliked organisation on one particular issue is a crank?

    Do you think that was the argument I was making? Really?

  • ||

    No thanks.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    If you are actually interested in diagnosis and the current state of the art.

    Here is a good article to start with.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/r28m630730g58544/fulltext.html

  • libertarian democrat||

    I will agree with Stephen and LM that I haven't defended what I said about Szasz adequately. I've done it in the past, and the evidence against his theory (which wasn't a bad one, per se. it seemed unlikely, but prior to constantly mounting evidence was certainly worth entertaining) of mental illness is too strong to be worth rehashing all the time. It would be like (although nowhere near as bad) as going over to conservapedia and arguing with the YECs.

    His views about consent and treatment, however, are great (although, as NM says, I agree unimpressive - but still important to articulate). The clinging to his theories (not really pseudoscience, just incorrect) about the nature of mental illness I think hurts the way his other views are received (and the Scientology stuff was just embarrassing, but I would imagine just a misunderstanding on his part). It is hard to take him seriously, even when he is right.

  • Neu Mejican||

    A juxtaposition,
    I say: Feel free to step up and defend Szasz's ideas...

    Steven | November 10, 2008, 7:59pm | #
    No thanks.


    Compare with his earlier comment:

    ...have the balls to back up your claims...

    Does Steven have no balls or is Szasz indefensible?

  • Neu Mejican||

    LibDem,

    The clinging to his theories (not really pseudoscience, just incorrect) about the nature of mental illness I think hurts the way his other views are received

    Here is the most recent work of his I could find where he attempts to support his position.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/bc32cye4jar56xk3/fulltext.pdf

    It is noteworthy in it's lack of evidence.
    Szasz makes statements rather than presenting evidence.

    Mind is not matter, hence mental illness is a figure of speech.

    Not really a pseudo-scientist, I guess, since he doesn't make any pretense about conducting scientific investigations. He just stands on the sidelines and shouts his opinions.

  • zoltan||

    I like that Ramachandran guy.

  • ||

    But who's going to earn all the gold for the gold spammers?

    14 year old kids around the US are going to have a collective conniption fit when they have to earn it for themselves.

    But some of you guys take this WAY too seriously

  • ||

    @ Neu Mejican

    I'm not interested in discussing the matter any further than this message, because you are a waste of time. Earlier you smeared Szasz as intellectually dishonest, and then stated "I believe carrying the day would have involved skipping over the discussion of Szasz and moving on to more interesting topics."

    Then you move on to accusations about Szasz being a crank, which I felt the need to point out were wildly inaccurate. Discussion about the nature of illness is a worthy one, but not one I am about to have with you.

    If I claimed someone to be intellectually dishonest, I would hope to have something to back up my assertion. Given that I made no such accusations, I do not have anything to answer to.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Steven,

    You are a very serious person.
    I did not smear Szasz as being a crank.
    I pointed out that he is a crank.
    You tried to claim I was unjustified in this opinion, but gave no evidence to support your claim.

    His intellectual dishonesty comes directly from his assertions that psychiatry is "all about coercion" and that "mental illness is a myth."

    He is intellectually dishonest in claiming that there is not scientific evidence to support the practices of the field and that the primary purpose of therapy is control/coercion.

    Even when Szasz makes important points about coercion, he frames them in intellectual dishonest characterizations of those he criticizes. He is intellectually dishonest even when making worthy points.

    Gardner's description of a crank fits Szasz to a T.

    Given that I made no such accusations, I do not have anything to answer to.

    Again, defending Szasz's honor without defending his ideas is weak. Your comments imply that I am unwarranted in my opinion that Szasz's ideas on the validity of mental illness need to be ignored and mocked. You also felt the need to defend Szasz not through ideas, but insults. If my opinion of Szasz is incorrect, you should demonstrate how I am incorrect in my opinion. You instead chose to throw a couple of insults and then step away when challenged for more substance.

  • Thomas Szasz||

    When someone disagrees with me it is because the are committing a fraud in order to maintain their power and control over others. Claims that psychiatry is a helping profession are deliberate attempts to maintain a myth that helps governments control their citizens.

    I really believe this so my accusation is not intellectually dishonest.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Intellectually honest?

    http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/38/18/28

    The concepts of consent and contract imply relations between persons who recognize one another's personhood. That recognition was incompatible with slavery and is, according to the president of APA, incompatible with psychiatry.

    http://pb.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/29/3/120

    How would you improve clinical psychiatric training?

    I wouldn't. There is nothing 'clinical'about it.

    What research publication has had the greatest influence on your work?

    None.

    What do you least enjoy?

    Hearing psychiatric propaganda, such as 'Mental diseases are brain diseases'.

    What is the most promising opportunity facing the profession?

    Recognising its betrayal of patient trust and rejecting the role of the psychiatrist as agent of social control.

  • Coelakanth||

    Two words for Steven: Oh Snap!

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