An Unidentified Epidemic

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 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