The Holocaust intrudes into conversations about psychiatric diagnosis: Godwin’s rule confirmed

peter_kinderman_140x140The President-elect of the British Psychological Association drops the N word and invokes the Holocaust in denouncing mental health professionals who embrace the biomedical model.

The conversation concerning Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia  (hereafter UPS) took another wrong turn with extended references to Nazism and the Holocaust in a blog post by Peter Kinderman, Me, my brain and baked beans. Goodwin’s rule is once again confirmed.

please removePeter Kinderman is one of the main spokespersons for the British Psychological Society UPS document. The blog further identifies him as a Professor at University of Liverpool, and the President-elect of the British Psychological Society.

Godwin’s Rule or Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies is “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.“ Michael Godwin elaborates on it in I Seem To Be A Verb: 18 Years of Godwin’s Law:

I created Godwin’s Law and began to repeat it in online forums whenever I encountered a silly comparison of someone or something to Hitler or to the Nazis…. My feeling is that “Never Again” loses its meaning if we don’t regularly remind ourselves of the terrible inflection point marked in human culture by the Holocaust. Sure, there has been genocide before that point and genocide after it, but to see an advanced, highly civilized nation warp itself into something capable of creating such a horror—well, I think Nazi Germany does count as a first in that regard. And to a great extent, our challenge as human beings who live in the period after that inflection point is that we no longer can be passive about history—we have a moral obligation to do what we can to prevent such events from ever happening again. Key to that obligation is remembering, which is what Godwin’s Law is all about.

Those horrified by the Holocaust as a unique historical event see invoking it casually in political or professional rivalries as a “gross misappropriation of the past and an obscene misuse of history.”

The continued misuse  and trivialization of the word prompted Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and chronicler of the Holocaust, to discontinue using it. “Whatever mishap occurs now, they call it ‘holocaust,'” Wiesel said. “I have seen it myself in television in the country in which I live. A commentator describing the defeat of a sports team, somewhere, called it a ‘holocaust.'”

This will be a long read edition of PLOS Mind the Brain because of extensive direct quotes from BPS President-elect Kinderman. His statements strain all credibility. I don’t want any ambiguity as to whether I made them up.

Readers are encouraged to retrieve Kinderman’s blog post and see for themselves. It is posted at the anti-psychiatry blog, Mad in America.

A résumé of what his blog reveals

  1. President-elect Kinderman has unusual psychological experiences which he traces to growing up in a family environment with a harsh, unloving mother.
  2. In ways that frighten him, he fantasizes about winning Nobel or Pulitzer prizes and being awarded knighthood. And “I lurch forwards and jump to conclusions in my mental logic.” He is prone to tangential connectivity and abstract, ‘clang’ associations.
  3. He believes that these experiences would have caused him to be castrated if the Nazis had won World War II.
  4. He believes that those who adhere to what he terms a disease model of psychological disorder are essentially following the Nazis.
  5. He believes the connection is obvious to friends and colleagues, who consider him brave in making it public.
  6. He makes extensive references to the Holocaust in developing his argument.
  7. Kinderman is particularly frightened by advocates of this disease model because of the rise of right-wing political parties in Europe.
  8. He ends with a plea “don’t use the ‘disease-model’ as a framework.”

A résumé of my commentary

  1. Kinderman sees his unusual experiences as giving him privileged status to condemn those who accept the biomedical model of psychopathology.
  2. He invokes the Holocaust and Nazi analogy to bolster his argument in what he sees as a turf war between his supporters and psychiatrists. Actually, the overwhelming majority of academic mental health professionals accept some version of a biomedical model.
  3. He has long been caricaturing psychiatric diagnosis in reductionist terms,  referring to the biomedical model as a “genetic disease” model. But by invoking the Holocaust and the Nazis, he is excluding himself from participation in any subsequent conversation.
  4. Until President-elect Kinderman apologizes to the larger community which accepts the need to protect the memory of Holocaust from such desecration, the credibility of the British Psychological Society remains damaged. The BPS Board of Trustees should condemn him or accept responsibility for having such a spokesperson.
  5. Kinderman indicates that his blog is “a slightly longer version” of an article published elsewhere. The earlier article lacked any reference to the Holocaust or Nazis and he expresses appreciation to Anne Cooke for editing the transition. She therefore shares responsibility with Kinderman for the references to the Holocaust and Nazis. She is similarly disqualified as a participant in any conversation in the social media until she apologizes.
  6. In place of scientific evidence, Kinderman’ frequently claimed the authority of personal eminence associated with his professorship. This is disallowed by his references to the Holocaust and Nazism, which place him outside of academic discourse.
  7. UPS was explicitly aimed at influencing mental health service users and policymakers. Vigorous debate should continue, but critics should not require the authors to engage them. After all, what do you expect from somebody who considers you a Nazi? And to get back into the conversation, the authors of Understanding Psychosis have to address Kinderman putting the Holocaust and Nazism on the table.

I hope that these résumés will inform, but do not satiate you. I  hope they encourage you to read further in what will prove a fascinating discussion. But regardless, begin asking yourself what responsibility the trustees of the British Psychological Society have in dealing with the situation that Kinderman has now created. Or does it really matter that the President-elect of this organization has written such things?

Kinderman’s Me, My Brain, and Baked Beans

beans_on_toast430x300Kinderman starts off with a statement of annoyance but gives no indication where he is going.

In mental health, resolving the relative contributions of our biology and genetics and how these interact with social and environmental factors (our parenting, peer-relationships, learning, and experiences of both abuse and nurturing) is more than an intellectual puzzle. I’m occasionally annoyed by what appears to be a rather simplistic suggestion that, if there’s a biological, even heritable, element, to a psychological phenomenon, then we’re inevitably discussing an illness, a disease.

A Difficult Childhood

He soon gets to depicting his early family environment and readers can again ponder ‘where is this taking us?’

After my mother’s death, we discovered that, when she had confessed to a religious mentor that she was in danger of loving her children more than God, there was a subsequent process of re-adjustment … she was encouraged to practice loving her children less. My parents rejected the material world as merely a stepping-stone to heaven (or hell) and paid little attention to worldly pursuits. I remember opening a letter from Cambridge University confirming an offer of a place as an undergraduate. I told my mother, whose reply was; “Very nice dear, now, do you want baked beans on toast for breakfast?”

Kinderman’s point seems to be that he and his siblings were not reared in a loving and accepting environment. His mother’s religiosity was pivotal. Kinderman discourages us from having any sympathy for the mother. But now that he has brought her up, we can nonetheless wonder about how she might have been suffering.

An astute reader with a sense of history might also wonder if we are being set up for a simplistic refrigerator mother explanation of psychological problems in offspring.

In the 1990s, Irish motivational speaker Tony Humphreys  drew upon his own adverse childhood experiences to extend a discredited theory of the refrigerator mothers of children with autism to explain schizophrenia and diabetes. He was subsequently censured by the Irish Psychological Society.

Humphreys was following up on the 1940s work of Leo Kanner  who coined the phrase in describing mothers of autistic children as “just happening to defrost enough to produce a child.”

refrigerator motherAs an antidote to this nasty mother bashing, I strongly recommend Refrigerator Mothers,  an hour-long movie freely available on the Internet. It provided an opportunity for mothers with autistic children to talk back against the stereotype of them.

 

Once isolated and unheard, these mothers have emerged with strong, resilient voices to share the details of their personal journeys. Through their poignant stories, Refrigerator Mothers puts a human face on what can happen when authority goes unquestioned and humanity is removed from the search for scientific answers.

Kinderman claims to be an expert by experience

Kinderman then describes his unusual psychological experiences and behavior.

So I am emotionally labile; my self-esteem and emotions are very fragile and very much dependent on what I imagine other people are thinking. Or, at least, I think I am; my observations of my own behaviour are themselves subjective, and it’s possible that others do these things as much as I do. I frighten myself (given my relative’s experiences) by fantasising about… winning Nobel prizes, winning Pulitzer prizes, being elected to this and that, being awarded knighthoods… and that’s frightening because I’ve seen self-referent fantasies ruin other people’s lives.

…And, perhaps most saliently, I lurch forwards and jump to conclusions in my mental logic. So, if you give me the sequence “A, B, C” and ask me to complete the sequence, I’ll say Z. Maybe that’s a bit of a joke (a pun on ‘complete’), and it’s unequivocally good for me in my academic career. A creative professor is a good professor. I also and simultaneously make abstract and surreal connections. It’s a recognised part of my teaching style – I’ll veer off on a tangent. Again, perhaps useful in an academic and possibly engaging or at least entertaining for students (if they can keep up…). But jumping to conclusions, tangential connectivity and abstract, ‘clang’ associations all have very interesting connotations in the field of mental health.

Too much information. What shall we to make of these deeply personal and out-of-place disclosures from the President-elect of the British Psychological Society? Kinderman claims benefit from it these experiences and does not want to discredit himself. Yet he is giving live ammunition to critics who have long been frustrated with his distinctive torrents of scrambled anecdata and pomposity. No worry, Kinderman is about to discredit himself more thoroughly.

But for a bit, Kinderman continues quite reasonably:

So I am very interested (and, I hope, open-minded) about what it is, if anything, that we inherit. How do I differ from other people? What proportion of the variance in these traits can be accounted for by genetic differences? What proportion of the variance in these traits comes from being brought up by repressed religious extremists? What proportion comes from being reinforced, through my childhood, for being academic? Which elements of my upbringing were different other people’s anyway?

Kinderman brings in the Nazis

Out of context, this appears a reconciliatory statement that invites agreement from critics. But there is a disaster ahead. Kinderman’s train of thought transports unknowing readers to the death camps of the Holocaust with contemporary psychiatrists branded Nazis. Kinderman apparently thinks his friends and colleagues will consider him brave for exposing this obvious connection.

…I think it’s perfectly possible to be intelligent and open-minded about the contribution of genetic and environmental factors in our mental health. We can intelligently and respectfully discuss how experiences and heritable traits can interact to produce the wonderful variety of human experience. This, I think, is a much more accurate and helpful way to conceptualise what’s going on than to say that some of us – but only some of us – have ‘mental illnesses’. Labels such as ‘schizophrenia’ not only suffer from the validity problems that we’ve discussed elsewhere, but also obfuscate these important considerations. I don’t think it’s helpful to consider how I have managed to avoid developing ‘schizophrenia’, or whether I have ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’. To do that, to reduce these discussions to binary considerations of the presence or absence of disorders, necessarily constrains the scientific debate. It can also sometimes have frightening consequences in the real world. When I’ve mentioned some of these issues before in less public settings, friends and colleagues have often told me that I’m being brave, and that it’s a potentially risky topic of conversation. So why might that be?

The eradication of undesirable genetic traits

Part of the reason that people might be reluctant to talk about such issues is that we have a very poor track record in this area. This is a difficult topic, but I think it is important to remember the infamous 1933 Nazi Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses). Arguments of genetic science not only led to the drafting of this law (which permitted the compulsory sterilisation of any citizens who were judged to possess a ‘genetic disorder’ which could be passed onto their children) but indeed led German-American psychiatrist Franz Kallmann to argue that such a policy of sterilisation should be extended to the relatives of people with mental health problems (in order to eradicate the genes supposedly responsible). The notorious Action T4 ‘eradication’ programme was the logical extension of these policies.

From Kinderman’s Me, my brain and baked beans.

Adolf Hitler’s order for the Action T4 programme
Adolf Hitler’s order for the Action T4 programme.
Reich Law Gazette on 25 July 1933: Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinderman accuses Franz Kallmann of being a war criminal. Kinderman should have spent more time at Google University learning about Kallmann who fled the Nazis in the 1936.

Considered a Jew by the Nazis although not by himself, he could not publish his work, and had to rely on friends at Munich to read his papers for him. He could only get his statistics into print by quotation in papers of others’ authorship.

… Despite of all obstacles, he succeeded in organizing the first research department in psychiatric genetics in the United States at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. This department became the main source of intellectual support of psychiatric genetic research in the U.S. for a generation.

Kinderman’s description of Kallmann as a “German-American psychiatrist” is used to smear all of contemporary psychiatry with the taint of Nazism.

At the Bath Conference on Understanding Psychosis, Kinderman refused to engage other members of the panel. It is too bad that the event was not recorded and that the BPS insisting on editing a journalist’s account. But those who were there will recall Kinderman closed with a rambling, incoherent rant about the horrors of mental health professionals telling psychiatric patients that they had a genetic disease.

Perhaps uncomfortable with having invoked the Nazis, in his blog he tries to shift to fascism. He introduces a non sequitur in claiming that if schizophrenia represents “a biological problem, we can dismiss any further troubling considerations.” Then he insists in a most extraordinary way on his privileged status talk of the Holocaust because of its personal relevance and threat.

Of course, a focus on biological aspects of mental health problems is not in any sense necessarily synonymous with fascism. But for many of us, there are echoes of blame, of stigma, when we identify the pathology within the genetic substrate of the person. I’m reminded of Eric Pickles’ notorious throw-away comment to a voter campaigning about the abuse she’d experienced that she should “adjust her medication”. If the pathology lies in the person, and particularly if it is a biological problem, we can dismiss any further troubling considerations.

So one way to understand these kinds of experiences is to diagnose some form of ‘subclinical’ syndrome, perhaps attenuated psychosis. If the Nazis had won the second world war, I would have been castrated as a first-degree relative of a ‘schizophrenic’. Disease-model, eugenic, thinking is a direct threat to me personally, especially given the recent rise of UKIP and other far-right parties in Europe. I am interested in whether the traits that make me a good professor may also be related to the traits I listed earlier, and on their impact on my emotions. I am interested in whether they may have emerged from a similar mix of genes and environment that led my relative to experience psychosis. I am very interested in the practical implications; I have always, for example, avoided certain classes of street drugs. It is absolutely possible to discuss gene × environment interactions, but – please – don’t use the ‘disease-model’ as a framework.

Why Peter Kinderman and Anne Cooke are excluded from further discussions of Understanding Psychosis until they publicly apologize.

“A good rule in most discussions is that the first person to call the other a Nazi automatically loses the argument.”  This has been elaborated in Godwin’s Law FAQ:

godwin faq

Nonetheless, gratuitous references to the Holocaust in Nazis regularly occur around the world, highlighting all the more the need to insist on them being obscene.

The memory of six million Jews and the eleven million other human beings who died in the Holocaust is too sacred for calculating politicians and their paranoid cheerleaders to be turned into a semantic missile.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is incorrigible. In 2014 he said

 

If you felt something incredibly powerful at Auschwitz and Birkenau over the 11 million killed worldwide and the 1.5 million killed on those grounds, cannot we feel something extraordinary about 55 million murdered in our own country in the wombs of their mothers? Does that not speak to us?

Now Huckabee is being condemned by Israel for saying the Iran nuclear deal is “marching the Israelis to the door of the oven.”  Israel does not need that kind of support.

Why did Kinderman destroy his credibility by publishing this?

For the same reason that Mike Huckabee made the comparison between abortion and the Holocaust. He believes these things, he has bad judgment, and he thought he wouldn’t be caught.

Huckabee speech was captured on a videotape in 2014 and subsequently distributed by Right Wing Watch, a non-profit working to expose the Far-Right’s extreme and intolerant agenda. Otherwise most of us would not have learned of his statements.

Kinderman similarly may have thought that he was in a closed environment where he could express views that would resonate with an important part of his constituency. He surely would not have made them at an international scientific psychology gathering.

The long thread of comments Kinderman elicited at the blog site showed little indignation and tacit acceptance that psychiatrists are Nazis. He seems to have only tweeted once about this blog post and probably didn’t think it would come to the attention of the larger community.

He may be a professor at University of Liverpool and President-elect of the British Psychological Society, but he plays to a constituency that is neither academic nor professional.

Dealing with the offense to all comes first

Even before the references to the Holocaust and Nazis aside, there there have been many reasons be offended by Kinderman’s promotion of the BPS UPS.

  • Serious academics have been outraged by Kinderman’s arguments without evidence against diagnosis, his claim that antipsychotic medication is toxic and ineffective, his crass emotional appeals, and his slandering of the large other side on an important issue. UPS simply not does not adhere to academic standards in terms of logic and reference to evidence and would not pass independent peer review.
  • Mental health service consumers and their family members have been upset that issues that concern them are being framed in such a misleading and irrational way by a professional. They are unrepresented and silenced by the carefully selected clinical examples in the UPS. Treatment options have been misrepresented in ways intended to frighten them. They have legitimate concerns about having to be diagnosed or treated by psychologists who hold such warped views.
  • Many members of the British Psychological Society are embarrassed by the organization sinking to this level. They would not want to be asked in a public gathering if UPS represents solid science. Many UK psychologists who are not members of BPS are upset that the organization that supposedly speaks for them is associated with such ridiculous statements.

All who are offended should feel free to speak out. But the preemptive issue is before the larger community is that Kinderman has behaved in an unacceptable manner. Kinderman is out of the discussion. His license is revoked and he needs to reapply.

If Kinderman or Anne Cooke pop up in these discussions, they should simply be asked “Don’t you have a problem with desecrating the memory of the Holocaust?” and then ignored.

The dilemma facing the British Psychological Society

Kinderman blurs any distinction between his personal views and those of the organization with which he incessantly claims to speak, often in forums only available because he represents BPS. It’s incumbent upon the BPS to clarify where they stand on what is now a game-stopping issue. Do they condemn Kinderman or are they left implicitly condoning him?

Here is a list of members of the Board of Trustees and some of their email addresses I was able to obtain from the internet. Readers might want to individually and collectively inquire about where the board stands about Kinderman casually invoking the Holocaust and Nazism in a context where references to these historical events have no place.

  • President Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes CPsychol CSci FBPsS profjamiehh@gmail.com
  • Vice President Professor Dorothy Miell CPsychol FBPsS d.e.miell@ed.ac.uk
  • Honorary General Secretary Dr Carole Allan CPsychol Csci FBPsS Carole.Allan@glasgow.ac.uk
  • Honorary Treasurer Professor Ray Miller CPsychol FBPsS
  • Chair Education and Public Engagement Board Professor Catriona Morrison CPsychol AFBPsS c.morrison@hw.ac.uk
  • Chair Research Board Professor Daryl B O’Connor CPsychol AFBPsS D.B.O’Connor@leeds.ac.uk
  • Chair Professional Practice Board Dr Ian Gargan CPsychol AFBPsS
  • Chair Membership Standards Board Dr Mark Forshaw CPsychol CSci FBPsS FIHPE

It is fair game to raise the issue of Kinderman’s transgression when members of the BPS Board of Trustees appear at public gatherings. I intend to do so when Daryl B O’Connor shows up at the European Health Psychology Conference in Cyprus and encourage others to do so as well. “Hey Daryl, about Kinderman’s references to the Holocaust and Nazis…”

BPS President Jamie Hacker Hughes announced the launch of Understanding Psychosis on Twitter and then unsuccessfully tried to squelch discussion when it turned negative.

hacker huges exchangeIt was foolish for the BPS President to insist that conversation about a document that could not conceivably pass independent peer review be confined to venues gated by peer review. It would be a disaster for him to adopt this strategy in trying to squelch the conversation about what Kinderman has done.

The other authors of UPS and Kinderman’s bringing in the Holocaust and the Nazis

Anne Cooke is given credit for the transition for an earlier blog post by Kinderman that lack references to the Holocaust and the Nazis to the present one.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Anne Cooke for helpful comments and advice on earlier drafts.

She also edited UPS. Some of the contributors  have expressed previously extreme anti-psychiatry sentiments in public. Now that Kinderman’s blog post is distributed, they need to get clear on where they stand on desecrating the memory of the Holocaust.

UPS Contributers

The conversation about Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia

From its launch, critics of Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia lots of abuse. Their own blog posts have been spammed with threats and demands the blog posts be taken. There have been hit and run attacks on blog comment threats and Twitter by pseudonymous commentators who morph and disappear from the internet. Often, outrageous comments are left and elicit responses, only to later be removed,leaving whole threads incoherence.

The day of the official launch of Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, Keith Laws, Alex Langford, and Samei Huda posted a detailed critique that became one of the most viewed posts at Mental Elf ever. Angela Wilson Ursery posted a comment attacking the three as engaging in mutual masturbation and bragged about it on Twitter. The moderator at Mental Elf quickly edited her comment, but Kinderman retweeted her announcement and Anne Cooke favored it.

welcome circle jerk full

So, Kinderman has now gone from endorsing the views of UPS critics as masturbating each other, to expressing worries about being castrated, and now tying in the Holocaust and Nazis. Very strange for a President-elect of the BPS

At 1Boring Old Man  psychiatrist Mickey Nardo unflinchingly takes aim at NIMH Director Thomas Insel and American Psychiatric Association President Jeffrey Lieberman. Mickey approvingly quotes long statements from the Critical Psychiatry Network and engaging its representatives in long threads of comments on his blog posts. But he has grown frustrated trying to deal with the authors of UPS and their followers.

I’ve sort of stopped responding to comments myself because they focus on anything I say as evidence of my being some insensitive psychiatrist who holds people back and snows them with medication. I’m not that…The cases of psychotic illness I followed in my practice were treated much in the same way as the BPS Report suggests, though my attitude about medications changed over time because of frequent relapses.

But I don’t think the responders want to know what my objections really are, and would prefer to keep me in the bad guy role. I’m not interested in being defensive. If my writings about this aren’t clear, ask me a question. If you prefer to see me as some doom-sayer, that’s your call…

Well, now you know, Mickey, some of them think you are a Nazi.

The conversation about UPS must continue, without Kinderman and Cooke

BPS offered UPS as

A resource for people who work in mental health services, people who use them and their friends and relatives, to help ensure that their conversations are as well informed and as useful as possible. It also contains vital information for those responsible for commissioning and designing both services and professional training, as well as for journalists and policy-makers”.

UPS is chock-full of posturing in what its authors see as a turf war, misinformation, and simple nonsense. We should continue to provide mental health service uses, policymakers, and other professionals with evidence-based alternative information. From the first day of its launch, the UPS authors have not been keen on sustained evidence-based exchanges. We should continue without them, despite Kinderman having seriously damaged the debate.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am grateful for PLOS blogs providing me the space for free expression. However, the views I present here are not necessarily those of PLOS nor of any of my institutional affiliations.

 

44 thoughts on “The Holocaust intrudes into conversations about psychiatric diagnosis: Godwin’s rule confirmed”

  1. To be honest I do have some difficulties with this post and this is despite my support of biomedical treatments in psychosis. I find both the tone and some of the content puzzling, the report clearly emphasises psychological approaches, its from a psychological society after all but its hardly a major attack on biological approaches.
    My first problem was with the use of Godwins rule, people do, perhaps inappropriately use comparisons with the Nazi’s when they describe how invested power, that cannot be challenged, is often missused and how horrific this misuse can be. People draw parallels about situations they feel strongly about. You argue that this trivialises the holocaust, you may be right, but personally I’ve always thought invoking Godwins rule was a way of silencing this sort of dissent, making sure we forget. However we think about this of course doesn’t change the dangers of the re-emergence of eugenics, something which could easily occur in a time of such rapid advances.
    My second issue really comes from the critique of the paper on the mental elf. The discussion about the evidence base supporting the use of CBT is a useful critique though I would have liked some recommendations in relation to the research applied to these populations. This is a real problem area. However the next sections which basically support the biomedical approaches suggests the report uses some highly scientifically controversial statements. It goes on to support this view with some highly scientifically controversial statements of its own. In the references it uses to support the dopamine theory, the first presents a new hypothesis linking biological and environmental risks which it says may converge neurochemically. The others, highlight the role of other transmitters and explain that Although clearly not sufficient to explain the complexity of this disorder, the DA dysregulation offers a direct relationship to symptoms and to their treatment. This taking us back to the principle evidence being in the drug blocking the D2 receptor except in clozapine or quetiapine.
    The reviewers then go on to discuss the various cognitive problems experienced in psychosis and how these are poorly understood. They feel this represents a failure to acknowledge limitations in the psychological models, they don’t explain how the biomedical models address these issues.
    The neuroskeptic does a review of the biochemical theories at;
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2010/09/13/shotgun-psychiatry/#.VdyaWX1OInh
    I think like it or not there is no clear winner here in what should be an informed attempt to guide and develop research in an effort to improve our understanding of these conditions. I think there has been a clear bias in research funding towards biological explanations for some years with very little of clinical relevance to show for it. So here we are discussing two pretty crap frameworks when really we need something else.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to write a long reply, but I really don’t know what to say. You indicate that you have a problem with Godwin’s rule. It suppresses certain kinds of analogies. That is indeed my understanding, but it is reasonable., There is no justification for trivializing the Holocaust by invoking it in a petty professional turf war. I don’t care if you or Kinderman think that the organization of the powers-that-be justify it.

      I would be inclined to dismiss Kinderman’s castration anxiety and professed fears about eugenics and the rise of the Right in Europe as simply delusional. But I think that they are actually demagoguery, designed to persuade the unwary that bringing in the Nazi comparison in the Holocaust are somehow justified. And it seems to work for some.

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  2. Sorry Prof Coyne, I’m usually a huge fan but I must point out that you’ve misunderstood Godwin’s Law. It is about comparisons to the Nazis – Kinderman is referring to things the Nazis actually did.

    As Wikipedia explains “The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics, or racial superiority”

    I have to say, the vitriolic and overly personal tone of this post is inappropriate. It does you and your argument no favours at all.

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    1. Your are aiming your criticism in the wrong direction. Kinderman is linking Nazis and the Holocaust to his distortion of the contemporary biomedical perspective and attention to genetic aspects of disorder to an outdated eugenics. The connection and threat are only in his mind. He has no business bring up N and H in this context and Godwin’s rule holds.

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  3. The Holocaust comparison must have been one of Professor Peter Kinderman’s self-acknowledged tangential connections. Like most such pathologies of thought, it is facile, non-linear, and trite. I agree with you that after this misstep he cannot be regarded as a serious public intellectual or clinical scientist. Let him go play pat-a-cake with the other BPS ninnies in their insular sandbox.

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  4. The fact is that he doesn’t invoke the Holocaust as you state. He invokes the mass sterilisation of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, something that wasn’t confined to Nazi Germany. So I’m afraid the entire premise of your post is mistaken.

    And there is not one single thing in his article which could possibly construed as suggesting “psychiatrists are Nazis” as you state. That is your claim, not Kinderman’s.

    I could go on but I won’t. I’m being very genuine when I say that I belive your work and your contributions to debates are of huge value. Your spell here in the UK recently was in many ways a revelation and you’re a constant reminder of the need to apply a sceptical eye and some scientific thinking to all aspects of psychology, especially clinical psychology. But time and time again you undermine all of that with these types of bizarre and personal attacks. Clearly you must think posts like this advance your arguments. They don’t. Instead they make an esteemed psychologist seem like a crank. That is a tragedy as far as I’m concerned.

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    1. Kinderman introduces extended references to the Holocaust and the Nazis into the discussion, not me. Godwin’s rule is about protecting the unique horror of Holocaust and Nazism from becoming an emotionally deadened figure of speech or cheap rhetorical tactic. When people get upset about bringing up the Holocaust in the context of the abortion debate, it’s not most most fundamentally about protecting the pro-choice advocates from unfair attacks, it’s about protecting the memory of the Holocaust.

      There is no place for the Holocaust or Nazism in Kinderman’s rantings. Whether or not he has taken responsibility for direct comparisons, he is certainly using these historical events in an attempt to raise the level of emotional discomfort in the discussion. He must find other means and is excluded from the debate and subject to appropriate opprobrium until he apologizes.

      Beyond that, you are being silly in introducing eugenics, even detach from Nazism in a discussion of the contribution of genetics to understanding health and illness. Think of it: people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have a greatly likelihood of certain mutations of BRCA2 associated with breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Decisions about what to do about that need to be separated from discussions of eugenics.

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  5. See also article in The Conversation ‘Hundreds of genes and link to immune system found in largest genetic schizophrenia study’ where, in the comments, David Pilgrim, Professor of Health and Social Policy at University of Liverpool, launches into schizophrenia, genetics and Nazis:

    LINK

    ‘the eugenics attribution from me is not a ‘slur’ but a fact. British psychiatric genetics is largely predicated on the work of Eliot Slater and Franz Kallmann. Any reader can go and read their stuff and see where it takes them into the German tradition from Emil Kraepelin (the darling of current bio-reductionists: the ‘neo-Kraepelinians) but, more importantly, Ernst Rudin (their mentor in the 1930s) culminating in part in the the T4 programme of Nazism and its medical killing centres. Science is not politically neutral but always reveals a history of economic and ideological interests (in this case including the professional interests of psychiatry as a fragile and fragmenting medical specialty). Playing the open minded disinterested scientist role fools some of the people all of the time but not all of us all of the time. Being frank about vested interests in relation to biological studies of ‘schizophrenia’ takes us inevitably back to 19th century eugenics, a respectable movement across the political spectrum until Nazism gave it a bad name.’

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    1. You’re confusing what you construed as the “roots” – which is in itself controversial – with current empirical evidence concerning genetics of schizophrenia and other serious disorders. And again, you’re unnecessarily bringing the Holocaust and Nazis. As I have said in response to other commentators, there is no place for doing so. If you want to raise emotions, you must try something else, but better to focus on contemporary data. Otherwise, you seem to be arguing that we should ignore data because of some confused sense of politics.

      The international community is less concerned with these turf wars then protecting the memory of the Holocaust from trivializing use that undercuts its horror.

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      1. ??

        I linked to an article where a geneticist discussing the genetic basis for schizophrenia has nazism thrown at him.

        I most certainly am not ‘unnecessarily bringing the Holocaust and Nazis’, I am bringing in another example of the holocaust being used inappropriately in support of your point… the last paragraph is a quote from the comments in the link, hence the quote marks and the link so you could see for yourself…

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  6. I’ll cut to the chase. You stand for critical thinking apparently, but come across most of the time as a predatory bully who makes very nasty, ironically deeply fascistic, ad hominem attacks on a group of people whose work I deeply admire. More people should stand up to you Professor Coyne as you seem to get off on intimidation. I guess this works for you in lots of ways, but I’m sure that many people, of both sexes, are frightened of you and loathe your tactics. I anticipate that your response to this comment will be to add me to your hate list and increase your blustering noise.

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    1. Actually, I’ll take your comment as an opportunity to raise the question “Why are some people so tolerant of desecrating the Holocaust by trivializing it as a weapon in professional turf wars?” References to it have no place here.

      Perhaps more than anyone else, I have excerpted specific claims from Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia and pitted them against evidence. The most recent effort was in an issue of Mind the Brain that contained links to a slide show from my presentation at the Royal Edinburgh, along with links to a Storify presentation from a correspondent from the Critical Psychiatry Network.

      When some junior clinical psychologists praised the presentation on Twitter, an author of Understanding Psychosis suggested they had been duped and Kinderman suggested they could be forgiven. Neither of them had actually seen the presentation or the slides. I think they are the ones doing the bullying of Junior people.

      Kinderman and his co-authors have shown little interest in presenting or arguing about evidence, starting from the first day of the launch of UPS. But Kinderman reaches an all-time low, even lower than when he characterized critics as engaging in mutual masturbation, when he introduced the Holocaust and Nazis iInto the conversation.

      You should check your definition of ad hominem. Kinderman is not offering evidence or logical argument. rather he is suggesting arguing from the personal authority of having unusual experiences that give him the privilege of raising the emotional level of an argument by references to the Holocaust and Nazis. I’m calling him out on that. Do you expect me and others to get down in the gutter with him and tried to plead “no, interest in genetics is not eugenics and psychiatrists are not Nazis”?

      Don’t you have a problem in Kinderman bringing up the Holocaust and Nazis in this context?

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      1. I know very well what ad hominem means, Professor Coyne. Do not patronise me. You position yourself on the moral high ground of clear thinking and rational argument in defence of institutional psychiatric practice, assumptions and associated vested interests, while rubbishing and dismissing those associated with the demedicalisation and narrative paradigm agendas in mental health. Othering is a defensive strategy used by people and groups who wish to enhance the correctness of their stance, against those who pose a threat to this. I stand by my previous comment.

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  7. I appreciate your taking the time to parse Kinderman’s piece. One of the things that bothers me the most about his line of thinking is that a central argument of the BPS Report is that diagnosis is an inappropriate labeling, stigmatizing, and simplifying – that it strips the patient’s humanity by including him/her in a diagnostic grouping by subjective criteria. And yet he argues that we [psychiatrists] are all cut from the same cloth and proceeds to label and diagnose us as “Nazis.” Independant of his various charges., he does the same thing he’s just gotten through decrying, and apparently doesn’t notice the discrepency…

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  8. If Kinderman described psychiatrists as Nazis then I’d look out my pitchfork and join you all. But he doesnt. That’s just nonsense.

    His piece is far less offensive than this blog post. There is only one person using the Nazis and the Holocaust to score points in a professional turf war – and that, quite clearly, is Prof Coyne.

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  9. Kinderman introduced the Nazis to execute a classic smear: those who consider psychiatric diagnoses valid are one step away from becoming eugenics monsters as soon as the social and political conditions are favorable. His highlighting the Nazi memorabilia in this context was outré. Kinderman erected this nonsequitur on a foundation of solipsistic personal anecdata, laced with narcissistic self-preoccupation. In the end he comes across as a self-absorbed flake. Move along now – there is nothing of substance to debate in Kinderman’s MIA essay.

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  10. I went back to the original blog, as I wanted to make every effort to understand it… which took me some time… I tried to take a key message from each paragraph and select the pieces of text that influenced what I was thinking- and that lead to the key message taken from the paragraph

    Paragraph 1

    • “I really didn’t like leaving the residents behind. I wanted to rescue them.”

    Prof Kinderman is the good guy; hospitals for individuals with mental health difficulties are psychiatric hospitals; these hospitals are bad

    The imagery evoked is nurturing and caring –now we can associate these characteristics with Prof Kinderman: he is the good guy who is nurturing and caring.

    MESSAGE: psychiatry is bad; Prof Kinderman is good

    Paragraph 2

    • “I’m occasionally annoyed by what appears to be a rather simplistic suggestion that, if there’s a biological, even heritable, element, to a psychological phenomenon, then we’re inevitably discussing an illness, a disease.”

    Now I think: who are these people who think that mental health difficulties/disorders/ conditions are diseases?

    MESSAGE: a) there are people who believe that when there is a biological, or heritable element, to a psychological phenomenon, this phenomenon is a disease; b) an illness is a disease

    Paragraph 3

    • “But our attitudes to these issues also have direct personal implications.”

    It is not written directly, but I understand “these issues” to refer to the contrast between thinking about the interactions between biology x environment, and thinking that mental health difficulties/conditions/disorders are diseases

    • “Of course there are biological elements to every behaviour, thought emotion, or human trait, since they all involve our brains”

    Prof Kinderman is being sensible: he recognises that biology plays a role in all behaviours. He personally cares about how the interactive account vs. the disease account influence our thoughts on mental health difficulties because he has used mental health services, and he has family members with serious mental health difficulties. He says “like most of us”-I can feel an attempt to relate to me.

    MESSAGE: Prof Kinderman’s attitude to the contrast between ‘biology x environment = mental health difficulty (interactive account)’ vs. ‘disease (sole biology) = mental health difficulty’ is personal –he really cares

    Paragraph 4

    • “I hope I’ve made some progress in understanding these issues, in working out how the two relate to each other, and the implications for services. That’s my academic day-job.”

    Prof Kinderman’s research focuses on the interaction between biology x environment on bringing about mental health difficulties.

    • “But it’s not just academic for me”

    Now I think: there are people who research biology x environment interactions, and it’s just academic for them. Prof Kinderman is not one of these people. Again, I feel him relating to me in saying that he doubts he is atypical, and in bringing up his own mental health. He seems very open, and this is disarming. This is someone I am trusting who is making perfect sense.

    MESSAGE: Prof Kinderman makes efforts to understand how biology and the environment interact in bringing about all aspects of human behaviour, both in his academic and personal life

    Paragraph 5

    • “I need to be cautious, because I don’t want to say anything that will irritate my siblings”

    This is considerate. He wants to talk about his own upbringing, but he doesn’t want to irritate his siblings. His experiences with an abusive mother must definitely have had an impact on him. This is very personal- I am feeling sorry for Prof Kinderman, and am also feeling respect that he is using these experiences in thinking about how biology and the environment interact in bringing about mental health difficulties.

    MESSAGE: From a personal perspective, Prof Kinderman cares about the interaction between biology and the environment in bringing about mental health difficulties because his childhood was difficult

    Paragraph 6

    • “So much for my upbringing”

    Yes- Prof Kinderman has a right to feel sorry for himself because emotional abuse is wrong.

    • “I’ve been educated to observe signs of neurological as well as psychological functioning (if those two concepts can be separated).”

    Neurological- I understand this to be functioning of the brain. Prof Kinderman is experienced in noticing signs of brain function/dysfunction. Sensibly again, he says that the brain and psychology are wholly dependent on one another.

    • “And one of my close relatives has had major mental health problems throughout his (and therefore my) life. So it’s intriguing to observe similarities between us and speculate on their origin. Do we behave similarly because of our shared upbringing, our shared genetic heritage or (of course) both?”

    There are similarities between Prof Kinderman and his close relative who has a severe mental health problem.

    MESSAGE: Prof Kinderman understands the brain and psychology. He behaves similarly to one of his close relatives who has a major mental health problem, and he believes that this is because of the biology x environment interaction.

    Paragraph 7

    Prof Kinderman is being so open in describing his own behaviours. Although it is not said explicitly, I understand that these are the similarities between him and his close relative. Specially, he has issues with his emotions and with his self-esteem, he has fantasies, he finds it hard paying attention to one thing, and he has problems with face recognition.
    He listens to the BBC –that’s sensible.

    MESSAGE: Prof Kinderman struggles: he is a vulnerable individual, like his close relative

    Paragraph 8

    He continues to be very open about his behaviours, which he relates to mental health difficulties by their association with his close relative. He has difficulty maintaining eye contact, and describes finding himself lining up images, which sounds like something on the autistic spectrum. He jumps to conclusions.

    • “Maybe that’s a bit of a joke (a pun on ‘complete’), and it’s unequivocally good for me in my academic career. A creative professor is a good professor.”

    Prof Kinderman relates these behaviours that he has listed to creativity, and he recognises that he is a creative professor.

    • “I’ll veer off on a tangent. Again, perhaps useful in an academic and possibly engaging or at least entertaining for students (if they can keep up…)”

    It is Prof Kinderman’s creativity that makes him veer of an a tangent at times, and this creativity is related to the same types of behaviours that he has in common with his relative who struggles from major mental health difficulties. Sometimes he is so creative that his students can’t even keep up!

    MESSAGE: creativity is related to the types of behaviours that Prof Kinderman shares in common with his relative who has major mental health difficulties

    Paragraph 9

    • “So I am very interested (and, I hope, open-minded) about what it is, if anything, that we inherit.”

    Prof Kinderman is open-minded: perhaps we don’t inherit anything- and I guess he means anything in relation to the behaviours he mentions above.

    • “How do I differ from other people?

    He feels comfortable comparing himself to the average human being.

    • “What proportion of the variance in these traits can be accounted for by genetic differences?”

    He is sensible in recognising the potential for genetic differences to account for differences in the extent to which individuals display particular traits.

    • “What proportion of the variance in these traits comes from being bought up by repressed religious extremists?”

    He is sensible in recognising the potential for the environment to influence how traits are displayed across individuals, and he connects this with his own difficult life experiences.

    • “What proportion comes from being reinforced, through my childhood, for being academic?”

    He is being sensible in recognising the potential for ongoing life experience to influence how traits are displayed across individuals. In his case, Prof Kinderman was reinforced for being academic

    • “Which elements of my upbringing were different other people’s anyway?”

    He doesn’t try to suggest that his up-bringing was unique: instead he relates to us all by relating his upbringing to ours.

    MESSAGE: Prof Kinderman contrasts a genetic determination hypothesis of individual differences in traits to an environmental hypothesis

    Paragraph 10

    • “First, my childhood had at least as many oddities and peculiarities as would capture the attention of any competent psychotherapist. “

    1) Anyone with empathy and a good understanding of people would recognise that Prof Kinderman’s childhood has been difficult.

    • “Second, I believe that my professional eye has identified interesting phenotypes in my close family that reflect potentially heritable traits.”

    2) There are similarities between Prof Kinderman and his relative who struggles with major mental health difficulties

    • “Third, these traits may well put me at risk of many emotional problems. Incidentally, they may well also make me absolute hell to live with, and I must give credit to those who have given that a go.”

    3) Prof Kinderman says the traits he listed above may well put him at a risk of emotional problems. And it seems like he considers that that could be the case because he gives credit to people who have ‘given that a go’- and it makes me think of a failed relationship.

    • Fourth, the interactions of these heritable and environmental factors in my development have also created a person – me – that I value and respect. That’s a very odd, solipsistic, thing to say, but it’s important.

    4) Prof Kinderman respects that he is a product of genetic x environmental interactions.

    MESSAGE: Prof Kinderman’s recognises that his difficult personal journey is linked to genetic x environment interactions

    Paragraph 11

    • “We can intelligently and respectfully discuss how experiences and heritable traits can interact to produce the wonderful variety of human experience.”

    5) It is intelligent to look at gene x environment interactions when trying to understand how and why people differ in how individuals behave; to be against looking at genetic x environment interactions would by unintelligent

    • “This, I think, is a much more accurate and helpful way to conceptualise what’s going on than to say that some of us – but only some of us – have ‘mental illnesses’”

    There is a categorical/non-linear distinction between Prof Kinderman’s conception of mental health difficulties and an alternative. Prof Kinderman relates mental health difficulties to genetic x environmental interactions. This other alternative…group makes a categorical split between individuals who struggle with mental health difficulties and individuals who are mentally well.

    • “Labels such as ‘schizophrenia’ not only suffer from the validity problems that we’ve discussed elsewhere, but also obfuscate these important considerations.”

    The people who accept the alternative, that there is a non-linear distinction between having mental health difficulties and not having mental health difficulties, apply labels like schizophrenia

    • “It can also sometimes have frightening consequences in the real world.”

    The way the alternative group think can have frightening consequences.

    • “When I’ve mentioned some of these issues before in less public settings, friends and colleagues have often told me that I’m being brave, and that it’s a potentially risky topic of conversation.”

    The alternative group must operate by inducing fear in people. In the past, Prof Kinderman has mentioned his concerns about how they believe that individuals either struggle with mental health difficulties that fit a label or they are completely healthy, while his friends and colleagues have stayed more silent out of fear. Why do Prof Kinderman’s friends and colleagues experience fear when they come into contact with those who believe that the experience of mental health difficulties is categorical: those people who believe that individuals either have mental health difficulties that fit with a label or they are mentally healthy?

    MESSAGE: There is a huge gulf between Prof Kinderman’s view that genes interact with the environment in bringing about behaviour, including behavioural traits related to mental health difficulties, and the view of the alternative group: that individuals either have mental heath difficulties to the extent that they fit with a label, or they are mentally healthy.

    Paragraph 12

    • “Part of the reason that people might be reluctant to talk about such issues is that we have a very poor track record in this area.”

    The issue, I understand, is that some people, like Prof Kinderman, have the intellect and creativity to link the experience of mental health difficulties to the interaction between genes and the environment, while the alternative group believe there is a non-linear distinction between having mental health difficulties and being mentally healthy—Prof Kinderman disagrees with this way of thinking, and he connects this way of thinking with a poor track record.

    The poor track record-

    • “This is a difficult topic, but I think it is important to remember the infamous 1933 Nazi Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses). Arguments of genetic science not only led to the drafting of this law (which permitted the compulsory sterilisation of any citizens who were judged to possess a ‘genetic disorder’ which could be passed onto their children) but indeed led German-American psychiatrist Franz Kallmann to argue that such a policy of sterilisation should be extended to the relatives of people with mental health problems (in order to eradicate the genes supposedly responsible). The notorious Action T4 ‘eradication’ programme was the logical extension of these policies.”

    I must have missed a step, but now I understand that the alternative group believe that genes alone cause mental health difficulties. This alternative group work on genetic science. People who worked on genetic science in the past passed laws that aimed to prevent the transmission from parent to offspring of what were thought to be genetically determined conditions through sterilisation of the parent.

    I must have missed a step again- psychiatry is a profession that works on genetic science, and a psychiatrist who had dual German-American citizenship argued that the relatives of individuals who had these genetic conditions should also be sterilised in order to eradicate shared genes.

    What am I to think now: 1) psychiatric hospitals, which I understand to be hospitals that are ‘owned’/run by psychiatrists and their categorical way of thinking about mental health difficulties, are places that move Prof Kinderman –he wants to save the people in these hospitals from psychiatrists; 2) psychiatrists think that genes cause mental health difficulties, and that there is a non-linear distinction between the experience of mental healthy difficulties and the experience of mental wellness; 3) in the past, psychiatrists used these beliefs in justifying the sterilisation of individuals who had conditions that they believed were genetically determined, and even the relatives of such individuals in order to eradicate the transmission of shared genes that they believed were associated with dysfunction.

    When I think of this paragraph in relation to the previous, I infer that Prof Kinderman’s colleagues experience fear speaking out against psychiatrists because the same psychiatrists whose arguments supported sterilisation laws, and who enforced such laws, are the same psychiatrists who today think that genes cause mental health difficulties that fit a label.

    MESSAGE: “the eradication of undesirable genetic traits” –the alternative group, which I know understand are psychiatrists, and others who work in the area of genetic science, used their beliefs to support and enforce sterilisation in the past. That Prof Kinderman’s colleagues experience fear in the presence of psychiatrists means that there are still reasons to distrust psychiatrists.

    Paragraph 13

    • “Of course, a focus on biological aspects of mental health problems is not in any sense necessarily synonymous with fascism”

    Continuing on from the previous paragraph, which I now summarise in my head to have implied that psychiatrists’ beliefs about genetics/biology (it seems like Prof Kinderman uses these interchangeably, so they must mean the same thing) were synonymous with fascist thinking, Prof Kinderman suggests that it is possible to think of biological aspects of mental health problems from a perspective that is not linked to fascism. Psychiatrists/fascists thought/think that there… is (cause there are psychiatrists today that own mental health hospitals and run them according to their beliefs) a categorical distinction between having a mental health difficulty that fits a label and being mentally healthy, but Prof Kinderman believes that an interaction between genes and the environment bring about mental health difficulties.

    • “But for many of us, there are echoes of blame, of stigma, when we identify the pathology within the genetic substrate of the person. I’m reminded of Eric Pickles’ notorious throw-away comment to a voter campaigning about the abuse she’d experienced that she should “adjust her medication. If the pathology lies in the person, and particularly if it is a biological problem, we can dismiss any further troubling considerations.”

    I feel like I am connecting the dots because I can’t keep up, but I believe that Prof Kinderman is making a connection between fascists/psychiatrists in the past, and psychiatrists today who say that individuals’ mental health difficulties are caused by genes. Reinforcing my way of following Prof Kinderman’s train of thoughts is that he mentions an individual who, I am assuming is located in more recent times, but was/is a psychiatrist, in his quoted statement, made a connection between an individual saying she was abused and a need to adjust medication. There is a lot going on here: there is a woman saying she was abused, and the psychiatrist says she needs to change/increase/decrease her medication –lost again. Ah- but the next statement, “if the pathology lies in the person”: I get it- Prof Kinderman is telling us that the psychiatrist thought that what the woman was saying was a lie, and that she needed medication do deal with her telling lies –which is really awful and wrong…to automatically think that someone who says they were abused is lying… “if the pathology lies in the person, and particularly if it is a biological problem” –this is above my head; I guess I would have related all ‘pathologies’ within a person to biology- ya, it can be hard to keep up. Well- it seems that the crux of Prof Kinderman’s argument is that if we say that biology causes a person’s problems, we only need to think about the biology and not anything else. And this is of course continuing from Prof Kinderman’s…group who believe that it is an interaction between genes and environment that bring about mental health difficulties versus the psychiatrists who think that genes cause mental health difficulties that fit in…these label boundaries (and Prof Kinderman doesn’t say it here, because he has spoken about it a lot before, so I know it’s the psychiatrists who made these boundaries and who enforce their use today in their hospitals).

    MESSAGE: Because Prof Kinderman looks at the environment, in addition to genes, in his academic work on mental health difficulties, his way of thinking provides the scope to investigate how experiences like abuse could be related to mental health difficulties: psychiatrists think that only genes cause mental health difficulties, so their way of thinking provides no scope for considering how an experience like abuse might play a role in influencing the development of mental health difficulties.

    Final paragraph

    • “So one way to understand these kinds of experiences is to diagnose some form of ‘subclinical’ syndrome, perhaps attenuated psychosis.”

    This is an alternative to how psychiatrists think. Instead of thinking that there is this categorical distinction between having mental health difficulties that fit psychiatrists’ labels and being mentally healthy, maybe there is a middle ground: maybe there is the potential for ‘attentuated psychosis’. But earlier Prof Kinderman said: “I don’t think it’s helpful to consider how I have managed to avoid developing ‘schizophrenia’, or whether I have ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’” –so…I guess it’s not worthwhile doing research on that then –or I’m just not keeping up.

    • “If the Nazis had won the second world war, I would have been castrated as a first-degree relative of a ‘schizophrenic’. Disease-model, eugenic, thinking is a direct threat to me personally, especially given the recent rise of UKIP and other far-right parties in Europe.”

    So much going on here- now we understand that Prof Kinderman’s relative has a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The Nazis/psychiatrists at the time followed a disease-model, and eugenic way of thinking about mental health difficulties. This is still the model that psychiatrists use today… and in the past psychiatrists worked with nazis… and Prof Kinderman is implying that because there is a rise in far-right parties, psychiatrists will work with these parties because parties like this believe that there is a categorical distinction between the people who are less worthy and the people who are more worthy, just like psychiatrists. So the Nazis used sterilisation in their eugenics-related policies, but they also murdered billions in efforts to meet the same eugenic policies –the Holocaust… the psychiatrists in the past were basically Nazis… they approved of the eradication of individuals who were perceived to be deviant… psychiatrists today have the same beliefs… right-wing parties that are growing have these beliefs… it seems only a matter of time before they might start working together again-

    • “I am interested in whether the traits that make me a good professor may also be related to the traits I listed earlier, and on their impact on my emotions.”

    These same traits that Prof Kinderman listed earlier, which for him are related to creativity, are the traits that psychiatrists say are related to deviant genes.

    • “I am interested in whether they may have emerged from a similar mix of genes and environment that led my relative to experience psychosis. I am very interested in the practical implications; I have always, for example, avoided certain classes of street drugs.”

    This is also really logical, and is the type of question that any scientist might be interested in: just not genetic scientists like psychiatrists who think that genes cause mental health difficulties. Prof Kinderman’s quiet the rebel: he has tried some classes of street drugs, and he recognises that street drugs might affect the interaction between genes and environment.

    • “It is absolutely possible to discuss gene × environment interactions, but – please – don’t use the ‘disease-model’ as a framework.”

    Again, we are moving at a high pace, but- Prof Kinderman has made the contrast between his group that carry out academic research on gene x environment interactions, and psychiatrists who- oh I get, it: psychiatrists think that combinations of mental health difficulties that they fit labels to are diseases…oops, not sure what the definition of a disease actually is… well Prof Kinderman said that psychiatrists think that genes cause mental health difficulties so- diseases must be caused by genes and that’s why psychiatrists tell individuals who are struggling with mental health difficulties that they have a disease.

    Prof Kinderman has written a new book. It’s called a prescription for psychiatry. Prof Kinderman is poking fun at the fact that psychiatrists write prescriptions for medications to alleviate mental health difficulties and that he is now writing a book that will tell them what is wrong with their way of thinking about mental health difficulties. As Prof Kinderman’s academic research is all about gene x environment interactions, he will tell them about his studies in epigenetics, and the family studies he has done, looking at these interactions! Then psychiatrists will see that it isn’t just genes in individual with major mental health difficulties that cause mental health difficulties! And maybe if we all buy Prof Kinderman’s book now, and spread the word, helping him in his good work, we will be able to stop the psychiatrists working with right wing fascists groups! 1am- book store closed- amazon is always open

    1) Prof Kinderman: Please summaries your work on epigenetics (genes x environment interactions) and families for us, so that we are more knowledgeable about your good work;
    2) Mersey Care Mental Health Trust, with whom Prof Kinderman is affiliated, please tell us how you have, or how you intend to, eradicate your staff who have qualifications in psychiatry so that we can help in blogging and tweeting about your support for Prof Kinderman’s beliefs about mental health difficulties;
    3) University of Liverpool: what courses do you have available that we can sign up to in order to learn more about Prof Kinderman’s message?
    4) BPS: please make guidelines about how psychologists are to treat psychiatrists, now that they have been openly identified as a major threat to our society; e.g. should we block them from meetings, spit at them and try to humiliate them?
    5) HCPC (health & care professions council): will you now be removing psychiatry as a practicable profession?

    Prof Kinderman’s revolution is coming! We need to make plans to support him!

    And so the ‘Columbo’ mask slips. –and I have displayed anger too…just like Prof Coyne… even though it is clear that Prof Kinderman has struggled with difficult experiences, and I can set my anger aside and feel sorry for that…I return to the anger…not sure what to think about myself for that…

    1) Some psychiatrists, and their colleagues –e.g. behavioural and cognitive neuroscientists, carry out studies on epigenetics and the distribution of mental health difficulties in families –Prof Kinderman, to my knowledge, has never done any work that looks at the interaction between genes and the environment. It is great that he can reflect on his own life experiences in this way –but he cannot accuse psychiatrists of believing that there is a one to one relationship between some forms of inherited genetic expression and a disorder when it is individuals from the same profession that study epigenetics –could individuals from the psychiatric profession please explain their profession more, and in lay man’s terms, so that we can understand what it is that they do? Maybe there would be a way of having more open engagement between the public and practitioners like psychiatrists and clinical psychologists on the mental elf? Just so we can all understand what these professions are really about?
    2) Mersey Care Trust: do you represent the views of Prof Kinderman? If you do not, then I think you need to make that clear, because in the same text in which Prof Kinderman berates psychiatrists he associates himself with you
    3) University of Liverpool the same: do you represent the views of Prof Kinderman? If you do not, then I think you need to make that clear, because in the same text in which Prof Kinderman berates psychiatrists he associates himself with you
    4) BPS: a president of one of your divisions will be recognised as representing the views of that division –that would mean that the division of clinical psychology in the BPS will be recognised as psychiatry hating to an extreme extent
    5) HCPC: Prof Kinderman presents his views as a practitioner clinical psychologist –does regulating his extremist views fall within your remit?

    Either Prof Kinderman doesn’t understand psychiatry –which means that his book should be recalled, as he believes he is writing this same psychiatry a prescription (we would all be cross at a psychiatrist for writing a prescription if s/he had little understanding of the individual s/he was writing the prescription for) or Prof Kinderman is being extremely manipulate in trying to galvanise the support of the public against the nasty out-group who, he tells us, could well try to eradicate the ones of us that they see as weak in the near future. I do think that it’s the latter, and I worry that those who are trying to save money in the NHS will grab hold of Kinderman’s book, and tell all individuals who have been given diagnoses, and that are on medication, that: they are ‘cured’; they don’t need the help of, what must be from Prof Kinderman’s view awful and deficient services (he’s trying to bring about a revolution against the same services afterall) –instead they need to… oh, I don’t know… because Prof Kinderman doesn’t tell us… could it be to have CBT in community settings? IAPT will deal with all ‘less severe’ and ‘severe’ mental health difficulties?

    And there is the anger again- Prof Kinderman makes all the right connections in helping others to see that it is an interaction between genes and the environment that bring about mental health difficulties. So far as I understand it, psychiatry works to this same underlying principal –is that true? There is no need to invoke Nazis…and, despite having to recognise that Prof Kinderman has faced difficulties, I do feel that invoking the Nazis was done in order to emotionally manipulate individuals into supporting his cause.

    11 pages of text later and I can understand why Prof Coyne is angry. Though I don’t think anyone is silly for asking more about what’s going on here. It’s hugely complex- and has huge implications for how resources will be provided in mental health settings in the future. Over to the relevant organisations etc.

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  11. “Move along now there is nothing of substance to debate in Kinderman’s MIA essay.”

    I couldon’t agree more. Yet we have this long and extremely detailed blog post about it, along with lots of comments from high profile clinicians and academics.

    What would have been far more interesting would’ve been a takedown of the lack of substance in Kinderman’s article. The lack of evidence to support his claims. Instead we have this desperate and embarassing attempt to vilify him.

    Also:

    “Kinderman introduced the Nazis to execute a classic smear: those who consider psychiatric diagnoses valid are one step away from becoming eugenics monsters”.

    No. No he didn’t.

    James, Bernard, Mickey: Play the ball, not the man.

    Like

  12. Joey… I’m sorry if I offended you…

    The actual quotes are taken directly from Prof Kinderman’s original post- there are no other clinicians or academics here. I read each paragraph carefully, and I feel I have understand each paragraph, and their combined message.

    I don’t feel desperate… and I don’t feel embarrassed -yet anyway!- because I do think I have understood it correctly. Of course do feel free to point out exactly where my thread in reasoning went wrong.

    Hidden in what I wrote is, I guess, a “takedown of the lack of substance in Kinderman’s article” -though true, I could have made this more explicit, and controlled the anger better.

    1) In the UK at least, we do not use this label psychiatric hospitals anymore: we refer to acute services, and acute services have a mix of professionals- psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, occupational therapists- The model of care in acute services incorporates a rehabilitative angle that isn’t just based around giving people medication. Prof Kinderman misrepresents acute services to make psychiatrists look like the bad guys.

    2) In Prof Kinderman’s language genes = biology = illness = disease, and he attributes this way of thinking to the profession of psychiatry. His message is completely inaccurate, and he is using it to stigmatise psychiatry as a profession. He wants service-users to believe that their psychiatrist thinks that they have a genetic disease. This is scare mongering. In several service-user led, and advocacy-related, organisations in the UK today, they speak about dispensing with ‘the medical model’. This is the language of Prof Kinderman and his colleagues. They are duping service-users into the following account: psychiatrists believe in the medical model; the medical model says that genes cause mental health difficulties; the medical model is wrong; the medical model controls resource provision within mental health services; we need to dispense with the medical model -we need a revolution. This is a complete misuse of power, and a humongous breech of trust that service users should be able to have in practitioner clinical psychologists.

    3) Prof Kinderman’s research does not measure the biology x environment interaction. In Prof Kinderman’s research, he addresses psychological constructs through questionnaire. Questionnaires are generated through a phenomenological approach: the researcher hypothesises the existence of a phenomena; s/he designs questions that s/he believes will tap into the subjective experience of this phenomena; the questions are filled in by a sample; an analysis is done; if the questions load on the same factor, then the researcher concludes that this phenomena exists, and that it can be measured to a certain extent through this particular set of questions. There is a greater similarity between Prof Kinderman’s actual research, and the methods through which the DSM (up to V at least) was formed, than there is with any type of research that involves genes. Prof Kinderman’s methods are closer to classical psychiatry than he would want us to believe. Psychiatry diversified to look at society and biology in relation to mental health difficulties- Prof Kinderman’s depiction of psychiatry is woefully inadequate, and I feel that this is simply done for the purpose of galvanising support against psychiatrists, and anyone else interested in addressing the physiological basis of mental health difficulties–it is personal and political.

    Question for you- why do you think that Prof Kinderman said: “When I’ve mentioned some of these issues before in less public settings, friends and colleagues have often told me that I’m being brave, and that it’s a potentially risky topic of conversation.”. Why is he implying that his colleagues are afraid? What is Prof Kinderman implying they are afraid of?

    Prof Kinderman misrepresents mental health services and he misrepresents psychiatry. I don’t think he does this purely because of a lack of familiarity with either. This is not a game for me, and I’m incapable of kicking a ball in a preselected direction, but to follow your analogy, the game here relates to cognitive and emotional manipulation, an abuse of power, and a breech of trust. Games typically involve ‘sides’, and I ain’t standing on the side of that mix of behaviours. Of course this will be no game when Prof Kinderman’s message begins to influence resource provision within mental health services, and I feel that it already is.

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  13. Hi Leslie. Just for the record, I wasn’t replying to your comment, I hadn’t seen it when I last posted. My reply was prompted by Bernard’s comment.

    There are 3 things I’d say in response to you:

    1. Bernard Mickey and James are all well known academics/clinicians and tweeters/bloggers. And for what it’s worth, I value and admire the work of each of them. That’s why I’m dismayed at the nonsense that they’ve posted here.

    2. I don’t defend a single thing that Kinderman writes in his article. I only point out that he didn’t call psychiatrists Nazis. Nor did he imply this. Nor did he write anything that would invoke Godwin’s Law.

    3. Your last comment is for me the most interesting thing on this blog post. It deals with the substance (or lack of substance) in Kinderman’s article and avoids the Nazi/Holocaust slurs. In other words you’ve played the ball, not the man. Thank you.

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  14. Sound, cheers Joey.

    Does the following summarise how you understood Prof Kinderman’s blog? -just so that I understand your perspective too. I wouldn’t have used the same words as Prof Coyne, but in principle I did arrive at the conclusion that Prof Kinderman invoked the Holocaust in denouncing psychiatrists (though conclusions are always updatable based on further study!).

    1) He is saying that he believes the genes x environment interaction brings about mental health difficulties, whereas psychiatrists believe that genes cause mental health difficulties -so psychiatrists follow a disease/genetic model

    2) The disease/genetic model makes Prof Kinderman feel uneasy, because the principles that underpin it are the same principles that justified persecution of minorities who were thought to have inferior/dysfunctional genes

    3) Prof Kinderman worries that because right-wing groups are on the rise again, interest in this disease/genetic model will grow

    4) It feels ok for Prof Kinderman to discuss gene x environment interactions, but he doesn’t want people to use a model that justified such atrocities in the past, as it may be used to justify such atrocities again

    Prof Kinderman is far far too clever to call psychiatrists nazis in a direct sentence -anywhere written in any case. I’d worry that if we on the ‘other side’ quibble about, what are smaller differences in opinion, we will lose cohesion in facing the larger issue. I am judging that you stick as close as possible to the written word: you will argue back from that perspective. The Profs here show more emotion at times. We certainly don’t need to be (or won’t be!) controlled into thinking the same thing -all the better that we don’t, as it means we can each pick up different relevant details, and that helps us to understand ourselves, and those on the ‘other side’.

    Even if you weren’t to change your mind about whether or not Godwin’s law should have been called here, you do see the lack of substance in Prof Kinderman’s blog- I hope you’ll stay tuned to continue to call him out on it, because people need to.

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  15. Here is a tweet in which Professor Coyne illustrates Godwin’s law by referring to people who are worried about fast food outlets as ‘UK Food Nazis.’

    In the interests of ‘protecting the memory of the Holocaust from such desecration’, I suggest he follows his own advice, apologises to the international community, gives back his license, and retires from further discussion.

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    1. First, Samuel P, I point out that your email address reveals you to be Lucy Johnstone and your IP address reveals you to have previously attempted to troll this blog post under the names John B and Dave. Real tacky, but that is your consistent style.

      Your visit to Google University quite insufficient to give you a grasp of the issues. For instance, I suggest that you check Rabbi Jason Miller’s excellent article Where is Holocaust Humor Acceptable

      Most readers will recognize my “food Nazis” as a reference to the Seinfeld episodes about soup Nazis and I doubt many will take offense.

      On the other hand, you are an author, promoter, and regular basher and trasher of critics of Understanding Psychosis. I think if you are unwilling to apologize for Kinderman’s insensitive and horrific invoking of Nazis and the Holocaust in a very different context, you are banned from further discussion.

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  16. Samuel P: Good find! This of course comes much closer to invoking Godwin’s Law than anything Kinderman wrote.

    I have to say this really is very funny. And no James, nobody but nobody would make a link between your comment and the Soup Nazi. Try again.

    But as hilarious and embarassing as your gaffe is James, it only serves to highlight the sixth form debating tactics that sadly undermine your message and your good work all too often. And it really is ironic that you describe someone else’s style as ‘tacky’ given the content of the blog post above.

    Once again, please please please start playing the ball and not the man. For everyone’s sake, but mostly for your own.

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  17. Leslie, if the truth be known I’m really not all that interested in what Kinderman wrote.

    My interest is in what James writes and how his important ideas and messages are undermined by his unecessarily personal and combative debating style. The tragedy is that he’d be far more effective if he stuck to the facts and jettisoned the invective.

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  18. Dr Johnstone,

    perhaps now that you are here you might do a content analysis of Prof Kinderman’s blog for us. I arrived at the same conclusion as Prof Coyne. Please take the time to show us how this conclusion is wrong.

    1) In the UK, concerns about right-wing thinking and both psychology and psychiatry arose through the service-user movement. A group called Psychology Politics Resistance formed Psychologists Against the Nazis (these later dissolved into Asylum, I believe). This .doc shows individuals in these groups to have had a fair grasp of history.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCEQFjAAahUKEwis57-Zkc_HAhUDWhQKHY7_B90&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdiscourseunit.com%2Fppr_downloads%2Fppr_pan.doc&ei=dRbiVezYFIO0UY7_n-gN&usg=AFQjCNHROQErZxUfXaDInOYCr7zMlSjUUQ&sig2=G4I8GtXe-QrY7ZNSWg7klQ

    2) Several divisions within the phenomenological sphere of human research (psychology, traditional psychiatry, mental health nursing-) concern themselves with the potential impact of right wing thinking on the perception of, and experience of, mental health difficulties, and mental health service provision e.g. see the link below. Papers like these show that there are researchers and professionals out there who care about the impact of changes in the social climate on mental health service users, and service provision.

    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/44595241_Mental_health_care_and_resistance_to_fascism

    3) Prof Kinderman has been called out before on whether he is truly committed to working together with service-users on improving services. In the discussion below, he cites his high profile links to whitehall, and his frequent visits.

    http://studymore.org.uk/mpup.htm

    In his blog:

    1) Prof Kinderman presents an altered account of history which is specifically targeted at arousing anger in US service-users, and concerned others, that he skilfully channels towards psychiatry. This is cognitive and emotional manipulation.

    2) Prof Kinderman sites his links to Mersey Care NHS Trust, the University of Liverpool, and now he has the BPS, he shares a vast amount of personal detail- a powerful man who is abusing his power in manipulating service-users.

    3) Compounded by the above, he tells us that he’s a practitioner clinical psychologist- Just because Prof Kinderman regulates his message to fit his audience, and this particular blog was aimed at service-users far far away- it does not release him from the strict ethical codes of the HCPC. Prof Kinderman has committed a serious breech of trust, and he should be called out on it.

    Question-
    Why did the DClin branch of the BPS choose Prof Kinderman? Was it because of his tried and tested Whitehall and BBC connections?

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  19. “My interest is in what James writes and how his important ideas and messages are undermined by his unecessarily[sic] personal and combative debating style.”

    Joey, are you playing the ball or the man here?

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  20. Joey, my point was that sometimes a man’s behavior is the ball. Something it appears you don’t disagree with from your comments.

    Even though I think Dr. Kinderman’s bit about eugenics was more of a reaction to the recent vote in the UK than psychiatry, it would be a miss on my part if I failed to notice the audience he was speaking to. They often tie psychiatry, and specifically the history of psychiatry to the Nazis.

    I was saddened to read what he wrote about a threat to him personally and what would have happened to him had the Germans won the war. It diminishes the experiences of those who went through it, and if the Axis powers had won the war, I don’t think that being sterilized is the worst he would have faced.

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  21. Joey,

    I saw your comment before it was removed. There’s more I could write but not if you can’t reply (decide not to id yourself).

    Btw, I have a very weird email address as well. Yet, since I have a hard time not being honest, it’s the meaning of my first name in Hebrew and my last name in German. Easily deciphered if you know this. Not that I intend to share it here but Prof. Coyne has my real name if he wants it.

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  22. Professor Coyne,

    If someone could be bothered to do it, emotionally-driven voyeuristic and forensic scrutiny (posing as rational critique) of your blog and related twitter writing would further reveal the following:

    -that your writing, like all writing, displays its own contradictions, inconsistencies and factual inaccuracies.

    – that you engage in self-righteous, confirmation-biased readings of the DCP/BPS profession position statements and related texts and people; in short, of all those whose work threatens you, your associates, and the assumed power base you exert so much effort in defending.

    -that your own intentions to ascribe and impose motives to, and on, the work of those threatening others are, in broadly psychoanalytic terms, over-determined.

    -that you construct your othering case in an arbitrary and selective way.

    -that, in jumping between blog and twitter, you employ ridicule and other unscholarly tactics to malign, discredit and bring to book those targeted.

    – that you display transparent cultural, paradigmatic, corporate and professional allegiances towards the hegemony of (increasingly discredited) biomedical understandings of human misery, and related interests.

    -that you – Ironic, given all of the above – unreflexively employ a rhetorical strategy of responsible stewardship in the service of hard headed, clear and critical thinking.

    Given the radical authoritarian, fascistic style and tone of your writing, what would your response be if asked to apologise to all those you have maligned personally, professionally and paradigmatically? And, of course, to countless survivors of the institutional mental health system whose lived experiences of, and writing on, oppressive institutional psychiatric practice you have discredited by implication?
    Alec Grant

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  23. ps, in the interests of clarity, I am not a clinical psychologist. I am a mental health academic-survivor of the UK institutional psychiatric system-ex-mental health professional. I research and write within the narrative paradigm, and am unashamedly supportive of subjectivism and emotionality in the service of work which contributes to user and survivor emancipation. I have included my google scholar citation profile, which is in the public domain.

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    1. After three consecutive attempted comments without substance, Alec Grant is now blocked from posting. I was finding some amusement in his postmodern ultraseriousness and “subjectivism and emotionality in the service of work which contributes to user and survivor emancipation.” And a number of us got a belly laugh from Alec’s complaints about my “cultural, paradigmatic, corporate and professional allegiances towards the hegemony of (increasingly discredited) biomedical understandings of human misery, and related interests.” It works better when read loudly with appropriate gesticulation. But it also discourages more meaningful comments from others

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