May 7, 2022Liked by Freddie deBoer

I thought the UnHerd review was great, and I'm a woman with (a couple of) those diagnoses. It's like they think criticism is unfair just because the author is claiming a marginalized identity. But since Freddie also has mental illness, they can't say he has neurotypical privilege.... so the problem is that he's criticizing a movement "championed by women and queer people."

When my 4 year old presents me with artwork, I tell him I love it and give him a hug. That's not how you treat a professional author. When someone writes and sells a book, for money, an honest review is more respectful than patting her on the head.

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"the neurodiversity movement really is the perfect target too. it’s being championed by women and queer people, is gaining traction in the black community, and empowers disabled people. it makes sense that it would trigger so much of ppls internalized misogynoir and ableism"

It's so bizarre that people still think this way. The vast majority of black, gay, mentally ill, etc people don't think like this. It's bizarre people acting like their obscure views on these subjects represents some sort of broader public rather than a tiny elite.

Also, a banger from the Unherd comments section:

"They used to say that you wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg so why should you be of mental illness? Perhaps it now needs adding; you shouldn’t celebrate breaking it either."

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Isn't it mentally exhausting to be perpetually, willfully misunderstood and misrepresented? (FWIW I have felt free to disagree with you at times while never having to pretend I don't know what you're talking about.)

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I am so so SO sick of the non-argument, “Yt man says what?” Together with broad-brush thoughtcrime accusations: “misogynoir!” “TERF!” Which are near-meaningless sloganeering. This stuff has vitiated the discourse bigly. I think these people no longer know how to engage (prove, disprove) an argument. And, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, that’s really bad.

Also interesting is the cartoonish good/bad dichotomy, like old Westerns where the good guys wore white hats & the bad guys black hats. Being kind to the neurodivergent is good, so OF COURSE it’s mainly found among PoC. Of course it was good that Biden won, so it was mainly black women (except it was white suburban men). Or David Hogg saying something along the lines of, black trans women have always been in the forefront of gun control efforts. Gun control is good! Black trans women (unlike white men) are good! Voilà!

It reminds me of the Orwell quote about the gramophone mind (paraphrased): It doesn’t matter what record is playing, the problem is the gramophone mind that slavishly transcribes it.

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May 7, 2022·edited May 7, 2022

I was going to say tweet reads like it was written by a bot.

But perhaps, it felt more like someone fulfilling an essay marking scheme:

1) Did the candidate mention that a protected group is under attack because of frequently targeted other protected group (one of: LGBTQ, Trans, Queer, Disabled, Women, Black, BIPOC)?

3) Did the candidate accuse the target of a form of discrimination using an accepted technical term(Abelism, racism etc)?

5) Was the idea of finding / belonging to community successfully implied to be a panacea?

7) Did the candidate imply that the critique is really part of a larger pattern of attack that puts many vulnerables group at risk?

9) Did the candidate successfully call into question the validity of the critique by identifying inherent characteristics of the commenter that disqualify them from having a valid opinion on the given subject?

5/5 A

4/5 - B

3/5 - C

2/5 or less is a failing grade. Must try harder

To go instantly *global* myself (as twitter is want to do) and extrapolate out *extremely* from a single idea, how much does how we mark make young people think like this?

It feels like this would happen anyway because most people just want to be told how to be good (Turchin's Moralists perhaps), but I wonder if how you assess young people over time makes them engage in this box-ticking mentality. Getting angry that you feel someone is having a go at a vulnerable group is something I've felt - I get it. Ensuring a standard litany of criticisms that are often arbitrary to the precise point at hand, has been successfully assembled, I do not.

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It will amaze me forever that the neurodivergent movement, founded on the premise that not every cognitive difference should be treated as inherently disabling and that permitting a diversity of “types of brains” to flourish enriches society, finds it so hard to grasp that somebody might have a different way of thinking about their mental illness than they do.

I haven’t read a lot of Andrea Long Chu, but I have thought often of something she said about liberal diversity - that it loves when people *look* different from each other, but can’t handle when people *think* differently from each other. She was talking about both ideological and neurological differences there, I think, but the neurodiversity movement is as guilty of this as the mainstream culture she criticizes.

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I fear ableism is the next cab off the identity rank and that the effect will be the same as it has been with gender and sexuality i.e. that the legitimate needs of a genuinely marginalized / vulnerable population will be swamped by the desire of privileged people to use these identities as a shield or as part of their ‘brand’. I already see people with wheelchairs in their Twitter bios who have self-diagnosed with ADHD because they lost their car keys.

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Back when I was more involved with the ASD community than I am now, ‘neurodiversity’ was a popular term for a couple of purely practical reasons.

First, autism is hard and expensive to diagnose, and it doesn’t really have a singular treatment - ASD kids need interventions based on their specific challenges, which vary widely from person to person. I met a number of kids with poorer functioning than my officially diagnosed son who nevertheless themselves didn’t have diagnoses for various reasons. Parental denial was a big one. I once counseled a parent not to pursue an official diagnosis because he didn’t yet have his citizenship and one thing an ASD diagnosis can get you in Australia is ‘kicked out of the country because you might later become expensive’. So it could be helpful to label *services* with the term ‘neurodiverse’ because it made them easier to access by kids who can use them, without worrying about who was ‘official’ and who wasn’t

The second thing is that there are a lot of related comorbid conditions with names - ASD, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Executive Function Disorder, Aspergers (now rolled into ASD) and so on. And a lot of those kids could use the same services. So again, neurodiversity was a helpful word.

However, what’s helpful when you’re a *service provider* offering services that people pay money for becomes a monster when seen as an identity. The ‘paying money’ aspect when providing services automatically shrank the boundaries of who wanted to consider themselves neurodiverse. As an identity, it can grow without limit

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Any given person with a psychiatric diagnosis is attended by at least one mental health professional. Usually more than one. If the diagnoses are longstanding, the numbers can get large quickly.

Some of the responsibility for the strangeness FdB describes in the Unherd review belongs directly with the professionals. ME is singing the song she’s been taught to sing.

A mental health professional has a line to walk: encouraging someone to benefit themselves, do whatever they can to recover and heal - while not blaming them. Because being shamed by big medical assholes doesn’t help. But taking refuge in the “I was born this way, nothing I can do” is - for many - not the truth.

Saying they are born that way is safer for the mental health professionals, though. If it’s not fixable, not improvable, no metrics or benchmarks - the health professional never has to come up with a way for the person to get better. No “brief psychotherapy” here, no solution-focused anything. It’s all unsolvable. So the therapists don’t have to face the grief if they happen to try and fail.

It doesn’t correlate with the real world. It does correlate with a profession that lacks tools and a society that lacks patience. By the time ME has written that book she’s been thoroughly dosed with “you can’t help it.”

Getting diagnosed is bad enough (been there.) Possibly worse is what comes next - being required to believe you will never get better. “Shut up, take your meds, you were born this way” has now morphed into “write a book celebrating yourself, take your meds, you were born this way.” But like FdB points out the healthy future is still missing.

It’s easier to blame the school social workers for the “secret school-based trans identity” problem. But the whole mental health field has been doing this to kids and adults both, at least since the 80s. “We’re the only ones who can help you with your secret, lifelong problem!”

Some argue that the private place of total acceptance is necessary after trauma. I can buy that, at certain times it helped me. If people fear blame they might not reach out. But even, forgive me, even the goddamn domestic violence shelters, who exist to be trauma-informed - even they get to a stage, of supporting the survivor while they look at what they did have control over before and during the abuse - to debrief, reclaim power, learn to do whatever they can to make sure it doesn’t recur. Even the places that are the origin of not blaming/not shaming eventually get to the re-responsibilitizing.

Abandoning the possibility of getting better creates this. “Admitting you’re sick is the first step to surviving your illness,” right? So when ME first darkened the door of a mental health office, it began, the encouragement, the requirement to say one is sick. There she goes, saying all the right things: there they all go. They were coached.

The mental health establishment is a huge and powerful industry. The culture of low expectations is not the same as healing, but healing is difficult & chancy, so waving the banner of low expectations is a better career move for the industry.

Blaming the girls with the long list of diagnoses is one thing. Yes, they have agency. But I have yet to see a psychiatrist who supported the patient to stop medication and gave them enough other effective coping skills. I know psychiatric survivors who buy their lithium at the health food store & won’t touch doctors. I know people whose symptoms shifted when they became elderly. But that’s it. It’s a one-way valve most of the time.

If I had a suspicious bent I’d say a lot of the medicalization of strong feelings was intended to interrupt workplace organizing. If feeling dissatisfied and destructive is an incurable illness, rather than a response to oppression under capitalism, then the solution is better mental health care - not economic reform. Deny people grief, and some do break - restricting the appropriate range of expression to “illness” will indeed make some people ill, by definition and also by trapping them until they wound themselves in their attempts to mourn. Transformative grief is risky.

What would ME write about if not her diagnosis? It is the alpha, the omega, the be-all and the end-all, overseen by big pharma and the medical associations.

That bit about the fire safety lecture - it speaks to the power of belief. She had the ability to believe so deeply it would alter her perception.

Maybe someone got hold of that belief and manipulated it. Now the influencers are the industry’s free advertising. What kind of incentive is there now to chart a path out of this?

All the fights about merit obscure the fight about functioning at all.

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I think the piece on Rachel Dolezal was my first introduction to FdB, and it's still sharp. In today's language, it might be said that she wanted to "transition."

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On the subject of book reviews I will just mention again that I think The Siege of Krishnapur would be an EXCELLENT choice for the future.

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"dstbunny" demonstrates quite clearly that twitter itself is a mental illness. Every single word of that thread is performative.

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That essay reminded me of this book Electroboy that was going around some time ago. In the early parts, the author would travel all over and party while manic. But with the grind of years, his condition became more real, hard, and limiting.

As to performative neurodivergence, it's worth steelmanning the other side of it: attention, recognition and validation can be positive human feedbacks. It's understandable why people, young ones in particular, crave them: before social media, there was lot more "hanging on in quiet desperation" in the background. But the monetization and gamification are definitely producing a strange new post-reality.

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"I demand that you give me what I demand because of my condition, but also it makes me deeper and more interesting than you”

This covers a lot of ground explaining our social condition today. I have had a seed of understanding and empathy for people that feel somehow outside or below the norm of acceptance... either from an identity perspective, a general mental or psychological health perspective, an economic circumstances perspective, or... take your pick. Probably because I have been there too... I think most of us have at times in our lives. But my care filter wilts on the vine when it becomes full blow victim mentality, and then dies when I see it become a weapon of victim identity superiority.

If I am not a woman I cannot know the victim of woman. If I am not black, I cannot know the victim of black. If I am not... I cannot...

How about, if I am not you and you are not me, neither can know the victim of either?

Excuse me people, but you have no fucking idea what challenges and struggles I had to overcome. But you will not hear me talk about them because I know that that is the first step toward adopting a destructive victim mentality. The key to removing that from addictive attraction is to just accept that EVERYONE has their own struggles. How can one claim that theirs or someone else's struggles are more difficult than others... when struggles are relative to infinite variables... including the function of that miraculously complex elector-chemical computer system known as the human being? You look at me now and I look like I have my shit together. But do you know anything?

This is what frosts me the most about identity politics. I get the basis for explaining that people belonging to certain groups owning some history of more bias and discrimination have unfair disadvantages. So you are a white male from an upper middle class family with deep education credentials... and you have a mental health issue. In the identity politics rock, paper, scissors game... you are dirt.

How do you even combat that crap without just returning the favor to say that the so called victims turned bullies are the dirt? I wish I knew another way. I don't.

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On the lousy Roe decision being overturned "Yes, you’re outraged, and it’s right for you to be outraged. " -- how many pro-life folk do you know? How many pro-choice (-abortion)?

How many kids do they have? [Freddie, where are your kids?]

I have 4, and now 2 grandkids.

"Cause and effect" (haven't we heard that before?). Pro-life couples have more kids ... over time the culture becomes more pro-life. That's how evolution works - survival of those who reproduce. A "March for Life" has happened every year for 50 years now.

It was demographic destiny that Roe would not last.

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Don’t feed the trolls

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