An Unidentified Epidemic

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Setting:
an imaginary address to a group of Psychoanalysts who are also Libertarians.

My
fellow colleagues, and the members of the media in attendance today:
I wish to bring to your attention today the existence of an epidemic
that has been going on in our midst without being identified as
such. I refer to the condition to which you are all familiar called
Stockholm syndrome. Since this condition was first described by
Dr. Bejerot in 1973, it has typically been thought of as an isolated
phenomenon, affecting individuals and small groups, but not affecting
a significant portion of the population. In my presentation that
follows, I am suggesting that when we consider Stockholm syndrome
to be confined to those who have gone through extraordinary conditions,
such as the tragic case involving the kidnapping of Patty Hearst,
we overlook the broader prevalence of this condition.

Let
us review the Wikipedia definition of Stockholm syndrome, which
I have reproduced on the following slide:

The
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological
response of a hostage, or an individual in a hostage-like situation
(e.g. dependent child, battered wife, etc) in which the more powerful
person (captor, partner, child
molester
) (a) has the power to put the individual’s life
in danger or at least the power to worsen the individual’s prospects
for the future life, and (b) occasionally exercises this
power in order to show that he or she is able to use it, if the
victim will not conform to the more powerful person’s will. The
main symptom of the syndrome is the individual’s seeming loyalty
to the more powerful person in spite of the danger (or at least
risk) that this loyalty puts them in.

At
previous meetings, many presenters have asked why we see such loyalty
to the State, in spite of the inherent danger and destructiveness
in that relationship. Why do so many continue to pledge allegiance
to the State, after all of the expropriation, the incarceration,
the conscription, and the unfulfilled promises? I say that we are
seeing Stockholm syndrome writ large! In the rest of my talk, I
will review the mechanisms for transmission of this epidemic, the
recommended protocol for treating, the prognosis for those affected,
and the scope of the epidemic.

Transmission
Mechanisms

There
appear to be a number of different avenues for transmitting this
form of Stockholm syndrome. While the setting for each varies, what
all have in common is the indoctrination of the notion that the
State is all-powerful and indispensable, and that it has done great
things for the people in past times. One such mode of transmission
is from parent to child. We have seen that the Church has frequently
been an effective transmitter of this syndrome, though as in the
family, the precise message will vary from one institution to the
next. The government schools have also proven to be an important
contributor to the epidemic. Needless to say, the political parties
have contributed greatly to this epidemic. Finally, the major media
plays a critical role in reminding us of the power of the State
and acting as a role model for being subservient to it. While this
list should not be considered comprehensive, these appear to be
the most significant contexts for the transmission of this epidemic.

Regardless
of the setting, there are a couple of key transmission mechanisms
involved. We almost always see the use of vague and confusing language
which are meant to induce loyalty. Typical phrases would include
the following:

  • Social
    justice
  • War
    to make the world safe for democracy
  • New
    Deal
  • Rock
    the vote
  • Support
    the troops
  • Government
    of the people, by the people, for the people

Alongside
these confusing words and phrases is the teaching of a view of American
history which, while giving lip service to occasional government
mistakes, will on the whole transmit the message that the State
has a glorious history and that things have gotten steadily better
over the course of U.S. history.

Finally,
there is the actual or threatened ostracism invoked when the individual
says something that calls into question his loyalty to the State's
agenda. He then discovers that he is “UnAmerican," an “America
Hater," an “Isolationist," a “Social Darwinist,"
a “Liberal," a “Racist," or any one of many other characterizations,
depending upon the nature of his position taken and the people reacting
to it.

Treatment
Protocol

While
there is no standard protocol for treating this manifestation of
Stockholm syndrome, I would like to bring your attention to some
of the approaches that have been found to be successful in the field.
We have found most success when this condition is caught early and
it has not become fully entrenched in the psyche.

A
word of warning is in order about an especially virulent strain
of this condition characterized by strong identification with one
of the political parties. Those who are so afflicted may give the
appearance of demanding self-determination, but they only work to
improve the terms of their captivity. They want a new warden-in-chief
since they object to Tuesday night being Spaghetti night. They know
that American principle, tradition, and values all prove beyond
the shadow of a doubt that Tuesday night should be Meatloaf night.
It never occurs to them that people should decide for themselves
what fare to partake. As Professor
Shaffer
has so well described, these folks project all that
is wrong with the State onto their professed enemies. For these
folks, politics is just
a game
. In short, one is liable to find considerable resistance
among those affected by the partisan strain of Stockholm syndrome.

We
have found that one does not need to be an expert in the traditional
tools of psychoanalysis, but the use of effective
communication techniques
is critical. Naturally, the logical
basis for countering this affliction is to encourage the sufferer
to reject the misinformation involved in the transmission itself.
As such, the protocol calls for a full course of training in free
market economics and an intensive study of revisionist history.
The exact texts to be utilized will vary with the individuals involved.

Even
in the case of apparent success, the risk of relapse is high and
some methods of prevention are advised. The individual in recovery
is advised to take 2 extra-strength emails each morning. For this
purpose, the publications of LewRockwell.com
and the Future of
Freedom
have proven effective. Finally, in cases of emergency,
we have reports from the field that speeches
by Ron Paul
have provided the necessary antidote.

The
Prognosis

As
mentioned before, if caught early, with appropriate support a sufferer
can deprogram himself and achieve a full and permanent recovery.
Nevertheless, there is an insidious nature to this condition which
we must confront. Those afflicted with Stockholm syndrome (as we
have traditionally thought of it) wreak havoc on their own lives
and the lives of those in their immediate circle. This is true of
those afflicted with the Statism variety as well, as they may abandon
friends and family to spend time and money on a campaign for a new
warden-in-chief or do many other counterproductive things. However,
the Statist is not content to endanger and destroy himself; he will
also work to bring the State's destruction on his neighbor who is
not so afflicted. Thus this epidemic is like a cancer which, if
it were to metastasize sufficiently, could destroy the entire nation.
This is why we must ultimately embark on a program of inoculation,
to prevent this disturbance from taking root in the first place.

The
Scope of the Epidemic

Thus
far, I have mostly referred to the American experience with this
previously unidentified version of Stockholm syndrome. One should
not get the idea that this is solely an American problem, though.
We have received reports from all over the world which suggest that
it is a truly global phenomenon. From Professor Karlsson's reports,
it is clear that the syndrome is going strong in that great bastion
of welfare statism, Sweden. Come to think of it, my fellow analysts,
do you really think that it is a mere coincidence that this syndrome
was first discovered in Sweden?

October
4, 2005

D.
Saul Weiner [send him mail]
is an actuary and writer living in the suburbs of Chicago.

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