Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sen. Frist's political paranoia bill - NOT!

The Swift Report: Conservatives Push for Psychiatric Diagnosis of 'Loony Leftists':
"Democrat or just demented?
"Now a group of Republican lawmakers is hoping that they can do something about the problem. When the 109th Congress convenes in Washington in January, Senator Bill Frist, the first practicing physician elected to the Senate since 1928, plans to file a bill that would define 'political paranoia' as a mental disorder, paving the way for individuals who suffer from paranoid delusions regarding voter fraud, political persecution and FBI surveillance to receive Medicare reimbursement for any psychiatric treatment they receive."

Thus writes Hermione Slatkin, medical correspondent, at the Swift Report. It's not true of course. The Swift Report seems to be a site dedicated to satire (remember Jonathan Swift?), but some folks are picking this up and spreading it around as truth.

The Swift Report goes to some lengths to make a story look like ordinary news reporting - by-lines, datelines, headlines, photos, human interest angles, quotes from official spokesmen, etc. Mixed in with a lot of genuine news items given a satiric slant, however, it appears that some folks have assumed that there must be a real story behind this. Besides, it sounds just like something those awful Republicans would do. Other recent stories at Swift include a report on Bush administration plans for continuity of government following the rapture and Christmas Eve entry about a teen-age girl claiming a virgin birth.

This story came to me third hand from a libertarian web acquaintance who apparently took it seriously, which was almost understandable since his source played it as straight news. Here is the version of the story published at Another Day In The Empire: Life In Neoconservative America - Opposing Bush: A Form of Mental Illness. Still, it looked fishy to me and I told him so.

Then, this morning, it turned up on the daily Freedom Watch letter (a Topic.A discussion forum). I tried Snopes.com and did not find it there, I searched Thomas (Library of Congress) and Sen. Frist's website and found nothing on topic. Around lunchtime today, I called the Majority Leader's Office and the lady I spoke with confirmed that not only was the story untrue, there was no one working for Frist named Rick Smith (named as the senator's spokesman in the story).

One reason this story might sound reasonable to some is that right after the election there were news reports of Democrats seeking counseling and psychotherapy to deal with Kerry's loss. See my blog entry for November 10, 2004: Another New Category for the DSM?


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