Monthly Archives: October 2015

Mad About Mental Issues: Part 2

Let’s continue our survey of the top 10 things you’d be crazy not to know about our growing mental problem.

6 It’s OK to laugh!

While lunacy is ultimately a climate change issue, it does differ from global warming in one important way: you’re allowed to laugh about it, according to CN’s Professor Stephan Lewandowsky [pictured].

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Spokespersons for the mad rights movement couldn’t agree more. They’re no killjoys, they say—and the last thing they’d want to do is take the humor out of the subject.

“Every culture in history has enjoyed a chuckle at the expense of the less-hinged,” explains Professor Ian Hickie of Australia’s Brain and Mind Institute [BMI].

“This seems to be hardwired; we couldn’t outgrow it if we wanted to, which of course we don’t.”

And nobody laughs harder than nutjobs themselves, who are the first to dissolve into giggles at a good joke. (And if they have the awkward habit of anticipating the punchline by one or two sentences, all the merrier!)

“We always appreciate comedy, provided it makes sense without being hurtful, yet contains a broader point about the foibles of contemporary society,” explained a drooling maniac who agreed to rant at us in Sydney’s Northside Clinic.

“Then again,” he continued as we backed away slowly, “another equally valid comic tradition entails the reframing—in an exaggerated or surprising way—of some moral intuition of the time and culture in which the routine is performed.”

And if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point of living?

“You might as well put your affairs in order, hop into a warm bath to stimulate peripheral blood flow and open your wrists with a razor blade (remembering to cut along the length of the arm, not crosswise—a classic beginner’s mistake),” to quote a patient information booklet distributed by the New South Wales Department of Health.

7 Immigrants are at risk.

We traveled to Sydney’s Southwest, where one cluster of suburbs is so rife with cray-cray it’s officially known as the District of Punchbowl.

It’s also an area of high immigration—and that’s no coincidence, say professional ethnographers.

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At the area hospital we met women suffering from the erotomanic persecutory delusion that they’d be ravished by strangers unless they concealed every inch of their bodies from view.

In the emergency ward a man was angrily arguing with staff. From what I could make out with my limited Arabic, he seemed to be obsessed with the compass direction in which his bed was facing.

Administrators had set aside a room for the use of 20 or so patients who labored under the shared conviction, or folie à plusieurs, that they needed to ululate and perform a downwards-dog manoeuvre five times a day. I asked one man what he thought would happen if he failed to carry out this ritual. He muttered something about his “soul” going to “hell,” though he couldn’t say where either of these was located.

The local religious centre does what it can. One enterprising imam has set up a Friday activity club where hundreds of people with similar thought disorders find support from others going through the same thing. But he says he just doesn’t have the resources or training to give everyone in the area the help they need.

Meanwhile, though, some of Australia’s migrant populations not only seem to be immune to the kind of meshugaas that plagues Punchbowl, they actually outperform the country’s Anglo-Saxon indigenes on measures of psychic soundness, screw tightness and marble possession.

It’s a veritable head-scratcher. In terms of country of origin, says Professor Lewandowsky, the major epicentres of mental disturbance are as diverse and seemingly random as Indonesia, Lebanon, southern (but not northern) Thailand, Pakistan (but not India), Muslim Bosno-Albania (but not Catholic Serbo-Croatia), the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iraq.

“Astute readers may notice,” continues Lewandowsky, “that these ‘hot spots’ have one and only one factor in common: they all happen to be war-ravaged nations with a long history of persecution by Israel, going all the way back to the Crusades, and to a lesser extent by the West.”

This observation has led to the favorite hypothesis of alienists everywhere: that most people who lose their senses do so as a result of Judeoamerican Islamophobia.

8 The stigma can be worse than the disease.

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We’ve got Mental Illness Awareness Madness!

Part 1

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? That special time of year has come and gone again! Did you enjoy your Mental Illness Awareness Week?

Here at Climate Nuremberg we’re nuts about MIAW, the annual opportunity to think about a non-climate-related, but nevertheless important, social issue.

Just because climate change is by far the worst problem society will ever face, doesn’t mean it’s the only one. 

Unprecedented temperatures; carbon pollution; the daily toll of species going extinct in real time; oceans rapidly turning to acid; millions of climate refugees in limbo between homelands—these very real crises obviously demand attention.

But so does another tragedy, closer to home. In your own neighborhood are folks who believe in things that just don’t exist.

It’s all well and good to listen to what The Science is telling us about our warming globe. But did you know 1 in 40 Australians will experience hearing things?

As we weep uncontrollably for the loss of Pacific nation after Pacific nation to the onslaught of surging sea levels, spare a thought for people who get sad for no sensible reason.

As academics we can get so caught up in simply surviving the attacks of the oil-funded Subterranean War on Science that we forget about folks with even bigger problems. Folks who think imaginary forces are out to get them, for instance.

But all these people exist, they’re all our neighbors, and they’re all suffering the same problem. I’m referring—of course—to the problem of mental problems.

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Credibility: Stephan Lewandowsky, the Americo-Australian cognician now based in England, generously sacrificed his time and reputation to act as a consultant to this article series.

So, whether you fancy yourself a maven of meshuggenology or just an engaged citizen, here are the take-home points everyone needs to know about the growing mental crisis in our community.

1 Insanity is a rich tapestry.

Admit it: when you think of a mental patient you picture a crazy person, don’t you? But this stereotype is too simplistic, explains CN’s Stephan Lewandowsky. While craziness does remain the most common mental problem, there’s a broad gamut of others.

The crazy “only make up about 60% of the caseload at your local asylum,” says the Bristol-based Professor. “Doctors now recognize a whole range of deformities of the mind, from simple severe melancholia to relapsing-remitting batcrappery.

“You could almost write a book about all the diagnoses now in use,” he adds, slightly hyperbolically.

2 Going psycho: it will happen to you.

And if it doesn’t, say epidemiologists, it will happen to someone you know. According to a major recent study, 19% of Australians—that’s almost every fifth person—will take leave of their gourd at some point in their lives. That’s almost one in every five people.

Derangement: Professor Lewandowsky used to think it was something that happened to other people.

3 We need to have a conversation.

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What else are the lesser outlets saying about Our Scared Scientists?

masthead the age index 2 bPsychologist Dan Kahan works closely with climatologists and was on first-name basis with some of the Scared Scientists. The Yale Professor says they’ve been at risk of abduction for years, and recent tragic events were virtually waiting to happen.

“The [climate] community has always been an open invitation to a certain kind of sicko, who gets off on playing Jedi mind games with unarmed opponents.”

Kahan often has to teach a climate scientist the rudiments of urban safety from scratch.

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“They’re amazed to learn that they don’t have to get in the car with anyone they don’t know, no matter how much candy he offers them.”

In the crash course Not Being Kidnapped 101, Prof. Kahan stresses that checking credentials isn’t enough; you then have to make a judgement call based on the information.

“Wallet Inspector, Bra Patrol, Crown Prince of Nigeria—these are not things,” he says, exasperated. “They’re just bogus concatenations of words!

“Climate negotiator, climate change psychologist, climate economist, climate ethicist—now these are people you can safely get in a car with. Legitimate, credible professions.

“The trick, as so often in life, is to know the difference.”

But for a certain demographic that may be easier said than done.

“Stranger Danger is a no-brainer for—quote-unquote—’normals’ like you and me,” he says. “But spare a thought for the special folk who congenitally lack that little voice, the one that whispers, ‘hang on, something’s not quite right here.’ Call it adaptive paranoia, spider sense, street smarts, whatever you like—climatologists are notoriously deficient in this department, even by academic standards. Which is saying a lot.

“Skepticism,” he adds. “Call it skepticism.”

If one good thing has emerged from the horrible crime perpetrated on the Scared Scientists, Kahan argues, it’s that people are now talking about the issues surrounding and facing developmentally special folk. He sees this as an opportunity to bust some stereotypes.

Kahan points to the 1988 classic Rain Man as a milestone in popular awareness. But he also regrets a number of misconceptions the film has spawned.

“Raymond, the character brought to life by Dustin Hoffman, is an unrepresentative case. He ticks all the boxes—too many boxes, if anything. In statistical ‘real life,’ syndromes like autism hardly ever come as an all-or-nothing package deal.”

For example, says Kahan, some of the most socially-retarded climate scientists he knows also have no discernible talent for numbers.

“Some of these guys can’t even use Excel.”

It’s yet another reason to fear for the Scared Scientists’ well-being in captivity.

“At least three of them—that I know of—are half-way along the idiot savant spectrum.” masthead berliner zeitung 10810244,7038739,data,logo 2 b

Acting Federal Police Commissioner Michael Phelan appeared on Australian talkback radio today to justify why the Hate Crimes Unit hasn’t been brought in on the case of the Scared Scientists. The decision has raised community eyebrows but Phalen said it had the backing of leading hate criminologists.

“The fact is, there’s no evidence the scientists were targeted for their beliefs,” he explained.

Mr Phelan reminded reporters that the Australian community had coexisted with climate scientists for years. Notwithstanding the occasional rude email—”rarer than you might predict, all things considered”—Aussies had exhibited all the lazy tolerance for which they’re world-famous, basically allowing the climatological community to practice in peace.

Australian climate scientists distrust the general public, Commissioner Phelan acknowledged.

“You’d expect a bit more animosity, but in fact it’s been one of the great multicultural success stories.

“Historically, the two groups just ignore each other,” he said.

“This is not to deny that things occasionally get physical. But statistically, normal Australians are more likely to be attacked by climate scientists than the other way round.”

Such events are vastly underreported, explained the Commissioner, because Aussies are brought up not to “dob” someone “in” for slapping them unless they use backhand. Assaults may even go unnoticed by the victims themselves, he suggested.

“We think as many as a hundred Australians every year, who believe they had crumbs on their shirt or a misaligned tie, were actually being ‘attacked’ by a climate scientist.”

Nor did Mr Phelan shy away from the well-known fact that climate scientists distrust ordinary Australians.

“I won’t pretend our climatologists don’t feel a certain sense of betrayal—which is regrettable, but needs to be understood in the context of a couple of frightening events in the past.”

Scientists Down Under still bear the mental scars of a 2010 incident in which a known conservative with a history of free-market opinions was seen to reach into his pocket.

In a quirky twist nobody could have anticipated, he wasn’t actually going for an assault rifle at all. (According to some reports the man wasn’t even armed.) Understandably, though, mass panic had already broken out by the time anyone noticed the man was “just” waving a legal document.

The individual is understood to have left the dinner party voluntarily.

Security at the Australian National University was quickly upgraded as a result of what scientists were calling the Goulburn Massacre, or simply The Brandishing. (See ANU Professor Will Steffen’s disturbing account of a suspected copycat attack here.)

Five years on, the fear is still raw, and has seeped into everything Australian climate scientists say and do, even if they weren’t there at the time.

As psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky points out, seepage is thermodynamically irreversible. We can therefore expect the trauma to start fading only when the affected cohort retires. Until then the sight of a conservative or a legal document may be all it takes to trigger Mexican waves of cold sweat and flashbacks throughout the Australian climate world.

“It’s like they say,” adds Lewandowsky. “Science heals one funeral at a time.”

A Tribute to Professor Steffen

FORESCRIPT

Yesterday I was haunted to find a certain guest post gathering digital dust on Climate Nuremberg’s server.

Nobody can say why exactly we never published it, but perhaps the editorial team dismissed it as pedestrian, un-newsworthy, childishly written, or all of the above.

And it is. But it’s also eerie, for this reason: the piece came to us from Will Steffen. As you probably know, the Australian National University [ANU] Professor and seven scared colleagues are now missing, presumed destined for a fate worse than death in the underground debating pits.

We therefore print the following as a tribute to Australia’s own Gone Girls.

“An Awful Fright”
by Will Steffen (1947—?)

It was on a faculty canape night in the spring of 2011 that someone attempted to pass himself off as one of us. The interloper was impeccably academic in appearance, perhaps having learned from the failure of the Coochey plot in 2010—this time his attire gave no hint of the truth that he was a conservative.

But suspicions were aroused by an unguarded remark, which is said to have been, “So, how about them Knicks?”

Upon verification that the Knicks are neither [an] ice nor [a] field hockey [team], the rest of the room adopted a stance of defensive hostility to the infiltrator. I was proud of my staff: just a year ago, I thought, these people didn’t even know the basics of Stranger Danger theory.

Starved of the oxygen of politeness, and unequal to the strain of long silences, the unidentified male eventually resorted to, “So, how ’bout this weather?”

We had trained for this scenario.

Even the security staff knew enough science to prick up at the mention of “weather” (a topic no climate scientist would have studied enough to form an opinion on). They leaped into action.

“The individual is understood to have left voluntarily,” as I would phrase it the next day in a comforting mass email to ANU climate staff.

(They’re always individuals, aren’t they? What is it about denialism and individualism? Note to self: grant material here?)

Just to be safe, festivities adjourned to the state-of-the-art panic room the university had built for us, on my insistence, following the Coochey threats. But as you can imagine, there was little appetite for canapes now. I for one was too busy trying to steady my shaking hands with champagne substitute.

As adrenalin slowly returned to background titres over the following few days, I came to look back on the incident with some pride. Whoever was behind it had, in a real sense, flattered the ANU by targeting us for the second time in as many years.

We were obviously making some interest, or interests, nervous—the mark of all good science.

POSTSCRIPT

The events recounted above are considered the second-most audacious terrorist plot against climate scientists in Australian history, but are sure to be eclipsed by the abduction of the Scared Scientists. Professor Steffen must be proud of the attention he’s attracted—wherever he is now.

Scared Scientists Steffen

Professor Steffen would go on to achieve the rank of Scared Scientist (pictured), but he wrote this piece when he was a humble macroeconomist with a chemical-engineering doctorate who specialised in aversive tax therapy.

In wake of Trouble With Girls speech, feminists blast Pachauri’s ‘antiquated’ critics

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Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, the ‘top UN climate scientist’ whose humorous monologue on women in science is at the centre of a firestorm in a teacup.

Have opponents of the science stooped to using women as political footballs in the quote-unquote climate debate?

That’s the question on everybody’s lips with reports that a “laugh-out-loud” riff by Rajendra Pachauri has been taken out of context in an apparent attempt to sic feminists on the climate visionary.

Displaying all the humorless literalism we’ve come to expect of them, climate deniers—oh, I’m sorry, dangerous anthropogenic global warming unpersuadeds—are baying for the former IPCC Chairman’s blood.

What was his Federal offense, you ask? A jocular speech in which he appeared to condone sexual harassment in the workplace. (The lighthearted monologue also pretended to blame women for distracting scientists with their generous breasts.)

Unfortunately for climate dismissives, though, the individuals and groups who actually speak for women refuse to lend moral authority to their shrill protest. I spoke to several feminists and they all agreed on one point: the Pachyphobes need to lighten up.

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Connie St Louis, giant of journalism.

Connie St Louis, a science journalist who specialises in being a female science journalist of color, said nothing was more pathetic—or a surer sign of irrelevance—than a movement that can’t take a joke.

But while Pachauri’s speech had her in stitches, there was nothing funny about denialist objections to it, which are now making the rounds of the Twitterverse.

“The witch hunt against Dr Pachauri is no laughing matter,” she said. “It plays right into the old stereotype of women as fragile petals in constant need of protection from jokes because they can’t hack it in a ‘boy’s club’ like the scientific fraternity.”

For St Louis, the most distressing feature of this “nontroversy” has been “the patronizing implication that Dr Pachauri’s comments have the power to somehow drive women away” from jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM].

“When detractors [of climate science and the IPCC] suggest—with a straight face—that girls in the 21st century are such trembling, thin-skinned, emotional little dears that they’d allow harmless Mad Men-era banter not only to get to them, but to determine their career path, I find it… devastating,” Ms St Louis told me, choking back tears of anger.

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Know Your Newsmaker: Who is Barack Obama?

A bluffer’s guide to those names you keep hearing but don’t quite know why.

What you should know
to avoid embarrassing yourself

Who:       Barack Obama
What:     President of the United States of America [USA]
Where:   A large republic in Subcanadian America

A nerd of the people

The People’s Dork: Obama is an unabashed Trekkie.

Although he acts and speaks like a white guy, Obama is actually biracial. On June 4, 2008 he was sworn in as the 1st black President and the 44th white President in US history.

Whereas US Republicans have a long, meritocratic history of promoting talented persons of color (think General Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice), the left has traditionally viewed race as a handicap. So it’s no exaggeration to say Obama made history by achieving such a high rank in the Democratic party, which until recently has harbored former Klansmen like Senator Robert Byrd. 

Vice President Joe Biden once credited Obama’s electability to his daily showering and use of complete sentences.

the-famous-photo-inside-the-situation-room-during-the-osama-bin-laden-raid-is-immortalized-on-his-facebook-timeline 2 copy

Stone cold leader: The Commander in Chief’s iconic pose at the precise moment when he kills Osama bin Laden multiple times in the head and body.

What you should toss off
to impress your friends
  • Because the average rural American is so prejudiced, Obama had to change his middle name (Hussein) by deed poll in 2007. “Arabophobia and misoxeny are core flyover values,” he explained during the Presidential primaries. “They [intercostal Americans] will never vote for a candidate who sounds like Saddam.”
  • Obama has been nicknamed the Black Lincoln after his preferred Presidential limousine.
  • Caretakers had to remove almost a dozen mirrors from the White House, of varying degrees of historical importance, before the Obamas took up residence, and guests are asked not to bring reflective objects with them—particularly into the West Wing. All official invites include the explanation that the President “is a very humble man.”
  • First Lady Michelle Obama, who is also founder and patron of Americans Against Ignance, says kids who can’t read make her ashamed of her country. On the First Blog she has described “classrooms full of missing students” and argued that the solution starts at home:

Rarely is the question asked, where our children at? What we need is a grass-roots fight against illiterate kids of all colors, and none; it’s up to us ordinary citizens to do something about them. Do you really think the fat cats in Washington are going to lift a finger? They could [sic] care less.

What he is like:
winning the conversation by taking it up to the personal level

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Obama savaged for getting brother’s name wrong

Wash., DC, USA: In what is already being called ‘a non-story’ and ‘fodder for the lowest stratum of the junkosphere,’ the US President last night drew a blank on the name of George Obama, the US President’s brother.

“I’m only human,” he insisted today, to a skeptical White House press corps.

Obama then challenged reporters to do better. “So I don’t always know the full name of everyone in my immediate family. Do you? No cheating by googling.”

A White House spokesman today said the slip-up was of interest only to sleazy attack journalists. So far it hasn’t been mentioned in the reputable media, nor is it likely to be. To hear about the incident Americans would have to tune in to Fox News or breitbart.com.

The editorial in this week’s TIME avoids mentioning specifics but argues that no US President has been held up to so much ridicule over such trivial gaffes since George W. Bush. It goes on to deplore the “gotcha” culture of hate that pervades the rightwing media.

George Obama was once reported to be living in Kenya on less than a dollar a day. But his years of “sleeping rough” came to an end in 2008 when, according to Wikipedia, “his aunt gave him a six-by-eight foot corrugated metal shack in the Nairobi slum of Huruma Flats.”

The President forgot his name during a guest speech at the annual NAACP ‘Beyond Nuclear’ ball, held to celebrate the full diversity of non-traditional family structures in the African American community.

The theme of the speech was gratitude for the opportunities his unusual childhood had given him. 

“We can only wish more African and Hispanic American kids had a chance to grow up dreaming of their absent, serial-monogamist fathers,” said Obama in one of the night’s most moving lines.

Among academics who study black non-privilege for a living, the overwhelming consensus is that Americans of color are falling short of their potential because there are far too many stable families in minority communities.

The President was initially reported to be “saddened and hurt” by the uproar his minor memory lapse occasioned throughout the hateblogosphere. According to handlers he locked himself in the Oval Office last night, refusing to sign legislation or touch his food. 

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