Razer's Class Warfare

Mar 15, 2018

The Dutton Diagnosis: the obsession that’s become a national disorder

We would be better informed if political pundits rose above the personal into the realms of true historic reckoning.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Back in 1964, short-lived US glossy Fact led with a question that landed its publisher in court. The provocative mag had asked all 12,000 members of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for their assessment of presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. Most didn’t reply. Others assessed the project itself as reckless. Still, doctors’ responses -- some of which were doctored -- went to print and the GOP figure was variously described as latent homosexual, schizophrenic and self-hating Jew.

Goldwater was awarded punitive damages in 1969. In 1973, the APA wrote section 7 into its Principles of Medical Ethics. The section, which cautions psychiatrists against making public evaluation of public figures, became known as The Goldwater Rule and is now interpreted by many journalists to be some sort of absolute law; moreover, one that must, in the era of Trump, be immediately revoked.

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33 thoughts on “The Dutton Diagnosis: the obsession that’s become a national disorder

  1. Robynski

    Once again Helen patiently, persistently asks us to get past the individual and look at the structural. Thanks Helen! your links are always worth while too.

  2. Michael

    Didn’t the Libs do this to Rudd?

    1. Helen Razer

      SO, to be fair, did the ALP.
      Everyone does it to everyone publicly, much of the time.
      I have myself been called “deranged” and other versions of crazy in storied publications. Which may be true for me, Rudd, Trump, Corbyn or anyone ever accused of insanity. The question is, though: is the idea/policy this person has happened to champion actually any good?

  3. Graeski

    Confused. I thought Dutton WAS a mental disorder?

    My God! You mean he’s REAL?

  4. Ruv Draba

    This comment attests that I don’t always disagree (or partially disagree) with Helen. 😀
    I’m glad you raised the Goldwater case, Helen. The APA still debates it, and debated it over Trump early in his candidacy. I’ve seen pro and con arguments, and agree with you that regardless of whether Trump needs his head read, the public don’t need the media to hire tame experts to do it on the public’s behalf.

    I don’t say this enough (or ever, that I can recall): I love how widely your eye roves, how deeply you read, and your ability to bring interesting and often significant arcana to the attention of Crikelings. Also, I like how disagreeable you are about issues over which too many folk appease.

    Thanks. 🙂

  5. Nudiefish

    Thoughtful piece.

  6. kyle Hargraves

    “It’s easier and more profitable to call Dutton or Trump a nut-job, or to ask a psychiatrist to give you a technical synonym”

    I am by no means so sure. Neither Trump or Dutton are sustained by “thin air”. They DO have a popular/popularist base. Trump DOES represent anti-Clinton Wall St – Bush – Obama brigade and Dutton is usurping the splinter parties of the Lib Right.

    The Reporters “get it wrong” when they listen (only) to their social milieu. Its just possible that Australian voters want more right wing hard-heads (especially when we’re being threatened – Netanyahu is an expert) and denying their existence does one (and all) a very great disservice.

    Then there is the race to ether the bottom or to ad hominem-ism (its the same place) of which, I am sorry to say, the pages of Crikey are replete; many of the replies to today’s issue of Crikey proving the rule.

    Lead the way Helen and set the bar well above publications such as “The Oz” or “The Age” etc.; both fine publications decades ago but that WAS decades ago. Not being inclined to criticise without a suggestion I, for example, would illustrate the disposition of Mr Dutton and Ms Hanson to take a particular event and attempt to (1) create FUD {with examples}, (2) infer that “no one else has a clue” {ditto} and (3) provide a “solution”. THEN let the readers decide. Those that are not interested won’t bother to read Crikey.

    1. Helen Razer

      Not sure what you’re taking issue with here.
      I say that history sustains these figures. And that history is better than patient history. So I think we are agreeing?
      Perhaps my error for not being so clear that terrible structures are obscured by individual faults. Thought I was.

    2. Howard

      Not sure what you are trying to say here too Kyle. If you are suggesting that Trump and Dutton are populists (with a popular base), taking us on a race to the bottom, then I concur. However, surely you would allow us the satisfaction of satirising these buffoons as an antidote to the reality of their powerful existence! I know it won’t change anything but what’s wrong with finding some fun in situations that for many of us are all too depressingly real!

      1. kyle Hargraves

        Crikey, bless its white sox, has addressed some significant issues such as stagnant wages, the “new” Conservatism and the effects of globalisation. There have been a few “digs” as to foreign policy in Asia etc. (to identify but a few). These topics are of some significance (or we’re just wasting our time on the planet) but the disposition to “trivalise” them, by the very authors themselves, (as Ruv has pointed out – below -, if I understand him) to accommodate an audience seems just too strong for any given writer.

        I am appealing to Ms Razer, for whom (to reiterate) I have considerable regard, NOT to indulge in the “satisfaction of satirizing these buffoons”, [hence my introductory quote]
        as you put it, because the ad hominem-ism does not assist and, to a large extent, merely “descends” to their level. In other words it is what “they” do.

        Like it or not Dutton-ism is a real force in the politics of Oz. Ditto for One Nation. Then there are the “splinter” groups from the NLP. As pointed out copiously, the pro Trump brigade is more a reaction AGAINST the Obama-ism and the Clinton-ism of the USA. A few would-be Bernie-voters are supporting Trump in the current political climate as a protest AGAINST their own Party. Then there is not an insignificant percentage of voters who do
        actually support “right-wing hard-heads”.

        A significant “advance” with Kim/N.Korea will enhance Trump considerably. Trump, if it happens, will have demonstrated to the world that he has achieved something and Obama could only dream about.

        I accept that humour has always been a respite, if not a defense, against tyranny (depots, dictators, inquisitions etc) but, like booze, its only useful in moderation. To “excess” it gets in the way and proves an impediment to identifying less so what is actually occurring but HOW events are occurring or being manipulated. Any number of examples are available upon request.

        Please try to flick through the submission by Wallywonga and my (I would like to think) constructive exchange with Ruv (below). As an example the story by Greg Barnes concerning the white farmers in South Africa is, in my opinion, a first class piece of writing. Pity about some of the remarks but, as you point out, the temptation to ad hominem-ism is (apparently) irrepressible.

        1. Helen Razer

          Again. Not sure of your objection. Could you spell it out with reference to the article?
          Maybe you think I am having a bet-each-way because of the “meanwhile back at the slab” bits?
          I did this to illustrate the difference between what we do, sometimes must, say in private and the responsibility of the public commentator to do the opposite.
          No question that history is at play in the person of Dutton. (Bit much credit to call it “Duttonism”. His awful ideas aren’t new.) And so I am saying analyse the history, not the patient.
          I am saying that if one wishes to take a view of “madness”, apply it to history, not to individuals. Not only do commentators violate guidelines for mental health reporting here (saying that racism or cruelty is the result of poor mental health is both demonising and untrue) but bring it all down to one guy.
          I am not getting your point. Do you want us to bring it down to one guy?

          1. kyle Hargraves

            ok Helen : happy to oblige

            (1) Goldwater : good account and I remember the event vaguely. However, such was the clout of the ruling “elite?”. It hasn’t changed; its just done differently nowadays. Then (60s), a readership could be manipulated to a much greater degree by inference etc. Goldwater was not the only person ever to be on the “receiving end”

            (2) “It takes far less time to bash out a popular piece for Fairfax on the madness of Trump than it does to locate Trump within a Western political present”
            Good conclusion to (1) but compromised by “I do understand the temptation to diagnose, say, Peter Dutton with persecutory delusion The subsequent sentence is speculative and, moreover, assuming that you did find a shrink that confirmed presecurtory delusion do you think that is is beyond the capacity of the LNP to find a shrink that would report a contrary opinion? With all due respect the sentence quoted isn’t worth the paper – to which you acknowledge in the following paragraph – so why bother in the first place ?

            (3) the “meanwhile back at the slab” bits?” Are, I accept, something of an attempt to act as devil’s advocate and you are endeavouring to convey the distinction between private discourse and public discourse but, it occurs to me that we OUGHT to insist of ourselves that we provide the same standard of argument irrespective of the audience (i.e. private or public). Considering the matter, I don’t
            think that I have made a statement in private that I would not wish to be made public; at least not since about age 15. Having written that Australians (and to a slightly lesser degree NZers) have a phobia of being “dobbed” and tend to act only with anonymity when within earshot of the public.
            (4)”I am saying that if one wishes to take a view of “madness”, apply it to history,” Agreed : yes; e.g, National Socialism or Spain in the 30s. One might stretch a point to Central or Latin America in the 70s (so much about “Russian” interference in US politics; what about US interference in .. god knows where (and one could include Syria)?

            (5) “Do you want us to bring it down to one guy?”
            Absolutely NOT – because another guy will appear with the SAME hat.

            ‘Bit much credit to call it “Duttonism”’. The memory of the voting mass isn’t all that long; they are typically concerned with the “here and now” Consider, in this context, that “Duttonism” is the algebraic equivalent of ‘x’. Its Real.

            Lastly, statements such as “the shame of past white violence” has to be compared with the essays of (Prof.) Windschuttle and others (Quadrant is a good source) otherwise we’re just wallowing in subjective reporting so we ought to lift the bar. Proving (I ought to have typed the word in blocks) that the contrary view is inferior or irrational or whatever ought to be the intention – but, perhaps, the objective is out of reach for most/all? publications.

            In other words DO “locate Trump within a Western political present” or Dutton or Morrison or Shorten etc. Those “not interested” can read the Age or the Oz or any of the tabloids or, best of all, FB.

  7. bref

    I can’t add to what others have said here, so just, thanks.

  8. Gram Stoker

    I thought that the LNP contained intellectual depth I would consider that Dutton is used as a disposal attack dog.

    1. Gram Stoker

      That should be “If I thought…”

  9. Venise Alstergren

    Excellent article Helen. Thanks a lot.

  10. Karen Hutchinson

    I’m feeling suitably reprimanded for just admitting I particularly enjoyed one Crikeyling’s reference to Dutton as the ‘Gestapotato’ (just quietly I’m still giggling)
    but Helen you are proving to be the best of us, yet again. You are the embodiment of the reasoned voice sharpened with lazer/razer precision, intelligence and moral authority. Thank you

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