In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 4, 2007 / 14 Sivan, 5767

Peanut Butter and Free Speech

By Suzanne Fields

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Freedom of speech is our most important right, forcing us to bounce ideas around in the sunlight. Most important of all, free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution is what makes everything possible.

But it's being undermined in ways that many of us don't always notice. The danger is not always government censorship or institutional taboos. We've medicalized speech about certain subjects, so that speaking about them renders the speaker to someone suffering from a disease that must be treated. Robust, roisterous and even rude debate is forbidden.

Phobias, as in homophobia, Islamophobia and even Christophobia, have entered the canon of diagnoses. By linking criticism with a phobia, we deprive the speaker of his right to speak; by classifying him as having an emotional disorder, we deprive him of independent thinking.

We may be tempted to blame Freud for this malady malfunction, but that would be unfair and, worse, inaccurate. When Freud spoke of phobias, he referred to obsessive anxiety as a defense against repressed impulses. Books and plays, for example, now often depict a homophobe as being afraid of his own impulse toward homosexuality. This creates a motive of which the "patient" is not even aware. Such theories are popular but hardly scientific, and often such a diagnosis becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is aptly captured in a headline about a new book, "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Paranoia."

There were phobias, of course, before Freud wrote about them. In the 18th century, a phobia described an irrational fear, an aversion in the mind, rather than objective reality. In the public mind, phobia is inevitably linked with paranoia as a catchall psychological stigma. A paranoid person, we now know, may suffer a mental disorder, but he may be responding to his reality with a rational rather than an imagined basis for his behavior. Even paranoids can have enemies.

"The phobic imagination has risen alongside the therapeutic culture, which tends to interpret conflict and troublesome behavior through the medium of psychology," writes sociologist Frank Furedi in Spiked.com. "The diagnosis of phobia has become central to a therapeutic worldview that regards stress, rage, trauma, low self-esteem or addiction as dominant features of the human experience." In this way, public problems are reduced to psychological problems, as we look for "cures" instead of examining the social consequences of public policy.

There is some irony here in the case of homophobia. Not so long ago, homosexuality was considered a medical disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. But when homosexual activists came out of the closet, arguing against the medical diagnosis, the psychiatrists in 1973 voted against defining homosexuality as a disease. Now it's the homosexual activists themselves who seek to medicalize the aversion of homosexuality, suggesting that those who disdain the homosexual lifestyle suffer a mental disorder called "homophobia." Such a critic is, in the vocabulary of moviemaker Michael Moore, a "sicko."

In some quarters, anti-Semitism has become "jewphobia," which reduces hatred of Jews to an irrational impulse, a medical problem, rather than bigotry with a long public history. Passengers on a U.S. Airways flight who expressed apprehension over the behavior of Muslim clerics who ostentatiously recited prayers and shouted provocative slogans as they boarded the plane are accused of "fear and prejudice" by an Islamic advocacy group, which sued them for their caution. The very real and universal fears in the wake of September 11, when zealous Muslims crashed several airliners to punish "infidels," are brushed aside. Metaphorical phobias are an appeal to self-censorship and demand limits on free speech. An accusation of Islamophobia restricts legitimate debate over what can be criticized. It obscures distinctions between intelligent observation and irrational prejudice.

We've come a long way in dispelling the stigma of mental illness and the "snake pits" that early mental hospitals often became. Now we risk diagnosing as disease what ought to be legitimate discussions of lifestyle, worldview and secular and religious values. Psychology begets a speech police. Insensitivity becomes illness. Debates over morality become debates over "disease."

Phobia dictionaries include everything from the ridiculous to the subliminal. My favorite is arachibutyrophobia — fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. But we should all be wary of laliophobia, the fear of speaking out. By diagnosing legitimate issues of public dissent and disagreement as phobic disorders, we all run the risk of suffering from that. And beware of peanut butter, even with jelly on a slice of Wonder bread.

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© 2006, Creators Syndicate, Suzanne Fields