50 Years/50 Covers

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The Village Voice turns fifty, and here is a gallery of memorable front pages from its lifespan. I started reading the Voice almost forty years ago, so this is the gallery of my coming of age.

Addendum: [thanks, Charles]

Alt-Press Reacts to ‘New Times‘/’VV‘ Merger: “When the news broke on Monday confirming the New Times/Village Voice merger — pending Justice Department approval — many in the alternative press held forth with strong opinions on the deal.

The (Seattle) Stranger‘s Dan Savage bats down the theory, raised in a New York Times article, that the purchase by the New Times may spell trouble for the ‘anti-establishment’ Voice and its siblings. Savage pointed out that the Village Voice‘s various owners have at one point or another included the following: investment bankers Goldman Sachs, Weisspeck & Greer, and Canadian Imperial; pet-food magnate and billionaire investor Leonard Stern; and the piece de resistance, ‘right wing whack-job’ Rupert Murdoch.

‘With its purchase by New Times, the VVM chain will be owned by a smaller, more anti-establishment corporation than it has been in years,’ Savage concluded.

Not so fast, says San Francisco Bay Guardian Editor and Publisher Bruce Brugmann, whose paper first reported on negotiations between the two companies back in May… [more]” (Editor & Publisher)

Anomalous Perceptual Experience

Are you interested in the nature and meaning of psychosis? This is an abstract of a study which compared the frequency, distress and intrusiveness of anomalous perceptual experiences in 336 subjects from the general population and 20 psychotic inpatients. 11% of the population sample scored above the mean of the psychotic patients’ sample. A factor analysis of the population data suggested three clusters — one involving “clinically psychotic-like” phenomena; one attributable to temporal lobe epilepsy and other seizure-like processes; and a third “chemosensation” cluster largely involving olfactory and gustatory anomalous experiences. This suggested to the authors ‘that there are multiple contributory factors underlying anomalous perceptual experience and the “psychosis continuum.” ‘

I beg to differ. They are really not demonstrating any “psychosis continuum,” since they use ‘psychosis’ as a wastebasket term synonymous with anomalous perceptual experience. All they are demonstrating is how virtually meaningless it is to talk about psychosis in that way, and that is why their headline finding — that a proportion of the general population score higher on their measure than those hospitalized for psychosis — is less surprising than it sounds. If you lump together a heterogeneous grouping of patients with ‘psychosis’, only some of them will be off the charts in terms of anomalous perceptual experiences, because having anomalous perceptual experiences is only one way of being psychotic. Yes, some psychotics have hallucinations, in which they cannot assess the reality or meaning of various perceptual experiences they are having. But others’ psychoses consist primarily of a disturbance in the content of their thought, i.e. so-called delusional thinking. Finally, some people are considered psychotic because of a disturbance in the form, not the content, of their thought processes, with profoundly disorganized, fractured, incoherent and illogical reasoning.

Patients with diverse disturbances of their mental processes and brain function may be given the same psychotic diagnosis despite the fact that they are probably undergoing very distinct disease processes, psychological or neurophysiological alterations. For example, considering the quintessential psychotic disorder, schizophrenia, different thinkers have defined it differently based on different clusters of core symptoms (among them Kurt Schneider, responsible for the so-called “Schneiderian signs” alluded to in this article). They are all talking about schizophrenia but probably pointing at different schizophrenics.

Moreover, we have come to realize that none of these supposedly defining core symptom clusters are pathognomonic of schizophrenia per se and they can occur in many other psychotic illnesses — mania, psychotic depression, organic psychotic disorders including those arising in epilepsy, toxic and metabolic psychoses, etc. — as well.

Now we reach the next juncture, in which it is suggested that the same anomalous experiences occur in a population without psychiatric diagnosis as well. First of all, that may not be strictly true. Most epidemiological studies have found a significant incidence of psychiatric illness, undiagnosed, in a randomly selected population at large. It is a truism that only the mental health profession thinks that it treats most of the mental illness in the population.

If the authors are suggesting that what really distinguishes a psychiatric patient from a member of the general population undergoing anomalous perceptual experience is how much distress the experience causes and what sort of sense the person can make of their experience, they are coming closer to my notion of what the core deficits are in psychotic experience. As I see it, these embody fundamental disturbances in the sense of the self, its boundaries, and its relationship to the world beyond those boundaries. Such disturbances render anomalous experiences utterly incomprehensible and terrifying, literally unendurable. Even perceptual experiences which others of us might consider not the least bit anomalous but rather ordinary cannot be made sense of if you do not know if they are coming from within you or outside yourself, whether they are providing information about your internal or the external environment, whether they are shared by others or uniquely experienced by yourself, etc. etc.

In a sense, this study is illustrative of all that is wrong with modern psychiatry. Yes, psychiatry is supposed to inhabit the province of subjective experience. But a descriptive focus on symptoms alone defines nothing when the self is written out of the equation.

‘To Be’ or Not ?

Explore, if you will, the world of E-Prime. Arising from the thinking of Alfred Korzybski and the International Society for General Semantics which he founded, E-Prime consists of the subset of the English language left after expunging it of the use of the verb ‘to be’ in its two major functions of connoting identity (“I am a weblogger”) and predication (“I am nice”). Proponents feel that these uses of ‘to be’ cause major confusion of thought and consequent social problems. To start with, consider how the use of the same verb for identity and predication readily obscures the distinction between opinion and fact. Moreover, it readily lends itself to stereotypy and inflexibility.

This paper claims that using “E-Prime in Negotiation and Therapy” can challenge dogmatic viewpoints, clarify confusion, and defuse conflict in daily life. I don’t conduct myself as a strong proponent of E-Prime in my life; awkward circumlocutory constructions arise whenever I try to write in that way. But the difficulty in using it perhaps speaks to how early in our lives the associated thought patterns were ingrained. Language doesn’t determine what we can and can’t think, but it does readily shape what can be thought with ease as opposed to with difficulty, IMHO. Does the challenge involved in thinking ‘outside this box’ perhaps indicate the importance of doing so? The blinks above have plenty of further links if you want to explore your identifications and predications more thoroughly.

Christian leanings at the Jerusalem Post

“The strange and uneasy embrace between the Jewish state and America’s evangelical right is being tightened. At the beginning of next year Israel’s oldest English-language paper, the Jerusalem Post, is to launch a Christian edition. The Post, a widely respected paper until it fell into former owner Conrad Black’s clutches, is seeking to bolster its North American circulation by building on the blossoming relationship between the Israeli right and Christian fundamentalists.” (Guardian.UK via xymphora)

GI’s and Syrians in Tense Clashes on Iraqi Border

In the great tradition of US covert combat violating international boundaries and trampling the rights of neutral parties, US forces in Iraq are increasingly engaging Syrian border forces. We have “pursued insugents” into Syrian territory; there have been Syrian casualties. Although this will never be admitted, I am sure this is by design and not an inadvertent blunder by MBM (Man’s Best Military ®). It is likely US special forces are involved in covert operations in Syrian territory.

It is said that the US dysadministration will not commit itself to toppling Bashir Assad for fear of who might replace him. That is certainly more likely to be a surmise — or wishful thinking? — by the press than a clear indication of dysadministration thinking, though, which doesn’t usually involve such foresight or acumen and which has ongoingly demonstrated that it has learned nothing from the debacle in Iraq. Why, then, rattle sabres with an outraged insistence on action in the face of the Hariri assassination report and the overblown and disingenuous focus on Syria as a supposed source of, and a safe haven for, foreign jihadist insurgents? This is clearly a pretext for US military adventurism and an excuse for utter US failure (which is mostly said by critics to be a failure of our counterinsurgency measures, but the real failure was, of course, creating and perpetuating the conditions for insurrection and civil war by our invasion and occupation!). The real “jihadist extremists” spreading their ignorant and dangerous fanatical faith are the neocons running US foreign policy.