Saturday, August 8, 2009
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
Author Hillary Johnson:
"We’re in a whole lot of trouble, people. I’m sorry, but it’s bad. There’s no easy way to break this and one shouldn’t even try because this requires real speak.
Appreciation and hats off to Craig Maupin’s excellent summary on July 30 (posted on Co-Cure) of an editorial in a journal called, “Future Neurology.” The five-page (including citations) editorial was penned by a former CDC-employee (Senior Scientist, 2001-2006), now employed in the psych dept. at Emory University. Her name is Christine Marcelle Heim; she reveres Sigmund Freud and she even has a breathy German accent to complement that veneration. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Mr. Maupin, once again, for putting it out there. You are not an army of one. You are not alone. You get it, and I suspect there are thousands of others who get it, too, people who are so discouraged and ill and lacking a voice they can only acknowledge the purport of Heim’s pretend-authority—and roll over in despair.
Christine Heim cut her teeth in the Centers for Disease Control and Promotion “CFS” program, the little propaganda mill run by Bill Reeves at the agency in Atlanta. She’s a graduate of that pogrom—I mean, program. If there was any doubt that she is a mouthpiece for the CDC’s attack strategy, the first sentence in her competing interests disclosure is, “The work discussed in this editorial was supported by the CDC (Atlanta, Ga., USA).”
She is a psychologist and a member since 1988 of the American Psychosomatic society. She put in her time with Wm. Reeves, thereby copping enough CDC swagger to allow her to make the short trip from 1600 Clifton Road to Emory and be awarded an associate professor title and tenure. Emory is lousy with CDC émigrés; the money’s better; it’s more prestigious. Just a quick turn to the right and a ten minute walk—and a demonstrated commitment to CDC pod-speak—will get you there. Heim carried the CDC mission statement into the department of psychiatry, whose shrinks and hangers-on, as the redoubtable Mary Schweitzer noted in her July 19 blog post, “Political Psychiatry vs. Medical Theories of Illness in ME and CFS," “…have received more CFS consulting contracts from CDC than any other single group of researchers.”
Allow me a big digression here: I would amend Schweitzer’s excellent observation to name two more beneficiaries of CDC largesse: let us never forget Abt Associates, the Haliburton of “chronic fatigue syndrome.” Abt has been clowning around purporting to collect “data” on CFS since 1988.
And let us also never forget the Bechtel of “CFS: the CFIDS Association of America, its director Kim McCleary, and its lobbyist, Tom Sheridan. The latter two don’t qualify as researchers, of course; they qualify as the principal enablers of Reeves and his strategies given that they a) coddled and protected Reeves from public disapprobation and possibly arrest for more than a decade and b) put their backs into the job of keeping the agency’s lies front and center in the media after accepting $4.5 million in a no-bid contract by the CDC to do so. Is it coincidence that the two websites Heim apparently feels worthy of listing at the end of her editorial for additional information about her child abuse+stress theory of “chronic fatigue syndrome” are the CAA and the Centers for Disease Control?
A final digression while I’m on this subject: Does it make your skin crawl, like it makes my skin crawl, to think of Kim McCleary speaking on behalf of people who are sick with this appalling disease to members of Congress? Or to the press? Or cutting deals with CDC on behalf of patients? Here’s an idea: Kim Must Go. Put that on a T-shirt or a coffee mug. She doesn’t get to explain. I don’t care what her explanation is. All Kim gets is the sound of the door slamming behind her.
I know—with so much betrayal going on--by our friends and families, by our government, by our medical establishment—it’s almost more than one can bear to acknowledge our betrayal by a very rich organization whose extremely well-compensated director has for twenty-two years claimed to represent patients but has instead represented the U. S. government in its pogrom against patients. For the moment, on this incredibly painful issue, let’s simply try to remember that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I know there will be no group hugs after such a desolate declaration of What I Really Think. But maybe it's time to take the idea under advisement. With CDC laying down its glove, time is running out.
Back to Heim: By my count, she is the third member from the CDC “cfs” shop to make that quick stroll over to Emory. Reeves was the first. James Jones—formerly a respectable clinician researcher in this field in the early 1980s, now a shadow of a man mouthing Reeves-like-like pod-speak—was the second. There may be more before this reign of terror ends.
Heim’s editorial is, as I read it, a formal-if-gently stated declaration of war on people who suffer from myalgic encephalomyelitis. It is more a declaration of war even than the agency’s 2006 press conference, hosted by Kim McCleary, wherein Kim introduced, one by one, agency quacks with whom she’s had such cozy relations over the years and invited them to unveil their comprehensive “cfs” strategy. By then, after years of trial and error, the agency seemed to have finally settled upon a lie that they hoped would stick to the wall like well-cooked pasta: blame the pandemic on ill-defined genetic “predispositions” to being unable to handle stress, and the equally vague, scientifically unquantifiable “child abuse.”
In other words, cast the outbreak in such a way that all blame falls on people who have this “illness” (pod-speak doesn’t allow the word disease) or their abusive parents, link its origins to psychiatry and simultaneously assure the public that, although “real”—at least in the minds of those who suffer—and costly, “chronic fatigue syndrome” is the last thing they need to worry about. Obesity? Certainly. Swine Flu? For sure!
Heim’s editorial will receive greatly less publicity than the 2006 blow-out press conference. It’s highly unlikely that the Associated Press or the New York Times will feel obliged to describe it. In my view, its significance is hardly diminished, however. I read it as a comprehensive preview of the government’s strategic operating plan for the foreseeable future. It has the leaden feel of policy, of mission accomplished, and not in the ironic sense that the Bush administration’s premature announcement about its effort in Iraq came to represent. Read Heim’s treatise and weep.
Anyone who thought, for instance, that the request by that little committee in Washington for new “leadership” at CDC would somehow actually lead to new leadership—in the sense of a new day wherein upper-level agency staff actually ingest the massive accretion of scientific data about “cfs” and belatedly bear down on isolation of the pathogen causing this disease—may have to get a grip.
Heim’s piece is as much a roadmap as it is a clever piece of propaganda. She hews to the government lies on everything from excessive prevalence rates (2.5 percent) to excessive under-diagnosing—“less than 20 percent” and claims people are ill an “average duration” of 5-7 years. (If only!) Some of her sentences seemed ripped from the CDC website, the CAA website, or the agency’s 2006 press release. Like the agency pods who spawned her, she predictably employs that irritating phrase that’s part of the fake-compassion sentence that inevitably pops up whenever we are in pod-speak territory: “cfs” confers suffering and debilitation upon the (sic) “affected individuals.”
Do we hear this peculiar phrase, about how the disease imposes its burden of suffering on the (sic) “affected individuals,” when the topics are diseases like cancer, heart failure, COPD, AIDS or lupus? Isn’t that implied, as in, who else would the disease cause to feel debilitated? The cockatoo? The guy who reads the water meter? Call me a nit-picker, but the phrase seems to broadcast a message that one must feel sorry for “cfs” sufferers--even if (wink, wink) it’s all in their heads. Someone please furnish an example where this odd turn of phrase appears in discussions of other diseases and prove me wrong. I would be happy to concede this point.
And if you read Heim, that IS the message. Her arguments swing between the 1930s relic Hans Selye, who invented the concept of “stress," and the 19th century relic, Sigmund Freud, who invented the concept of female hysteria.
Heim points out that “some people” believe “cfs” is a “classic manifestation of Freud’s concept of hysteria…the unconscious simulation of organic disorders…” “Some people” being perhaps herself, the pods at CDC, and that charmer Peter Manu in Connecticut. She adds, helpfully, “Of note, Freud thought that hysteria is brought about by an infantile traumatic experience.” This is important to Heim, because the new, post-Osler’s CDC has become a towering monument to the childhood sex-abuse=CFS mantra. (When I started covering this story in 1986, the theory was just a gleam in their collective eye; they began by creating questionnaires, never actually administered, which focused quite intensely on bed-wetting histories.)
Heim conveniently avoids noting that Freud denied the reality of much of the sexual abuse adult women told him that they experienced in their childhoods. His grounds? He refused to believe sexual abuse of female children could be so widespread. Ergo, it was all in their heads.
Heim shows little interest in science that has come civilization’s way since Hans Seyle invented stress. Stuff like penicillin, artificial hearts, organ transplantation, stem cell research, MRI’s, CAT scans, anti-viral drugs, immunology. Heim so conveniently ignores developments in modern medicine, even her citations at the end of the paper were published years ago, and in the case of one, published by none other than Hans Seyle in 1949! A little writerly advice to Heim: I would not try to make my readers feel more confident about my argument by referencing a sixty-year-old paper.
Heim fails to cite a single study having to do with biological abnormalities in “cfs,” but there are papers on stress, childhood abuse, and even one about stress in baby rats and their mothers. Awesome. Her referenced authors include a few from the UK’s toxic shrink lobby, one from Canada’s denialist in chief—an old hack from way back named Irving Salit—and some authored by Heim and her colleagues at CDC.
Grasping the depraved agenda in Heim’s piece requires almost sentence by sentence deconstruction in order to demonstrate how much is being covered up rather than revealed.
Take this line, wherein she argues on behalf of the disease being a psychiatric problem because, “To date, more than 4,000 research studies have failed to identify a unanimous cause of CFS..” Her figure is actually fairly representative, if a tad understated, of the number of papers which have in fact demonstrated a multitude of grave biological abnormalities. She might have stated that these 4,000 papers all find serious abnormalities, but one can easily imagine how inconvenient to her argument such information would be. Indeed, not only would her career at Emory be in jeopardy, she would be committing an unforgivable act of disloyalty to staff at the Centers for Disease Control next door, who prepped her for her post at Emory. As we know, a critical piece of the agency’s marketing strategy is wrapped up in maintaining the lie that there are no biological abnormalities in “cfs.”
“High rates of psychiatric comorbidity have been reported for cases with CFS,” she lies in order to buttress the child abuse+stress=cfs explanation for the disease.
Check out this paragraph:
“Psychological or behavioral factors contributing to the development or maintenance of CFS include inactivity, avoidance behavior, anxiety sensitivity and stress…Behavioral interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral and graded exercise, are among the most effective treatments for CFS, perhaps providing the strongest support for the importance of psychological factors in CFS.”
I won’t drag you through Heim’s piece paragraph by paragraph, but will quote a choice line from her concluding paragraph, in which she exalts “modern developmental neuroscience” as the “key to CFS.”
“ …Insights from this line of research may help to overcome the prevailing rejection of the idea that psychological factors may play a role in CFS…Perhaps patients and advocacy groups fear to be labeled with the stigma of ‘simulating’ symptoms, as initially suggested by Freud…”
You bet, Chris! Fear doesn’t even cover it. Chris, can you say, “Cover up?”
Lastly, I would add that we are unfortunate to be suffering from an appallingly severe infectious disease during a period when the entire nation, indeed, Western culture, has come under the spell of a kind of neo-Christian Science. Should we blame Bernie Siegle and his wildly popular books in the 1980s about curing cancer with optimism? Do we look to the pompous Depak Chopra, or the quackish Dr. Weill, who have popularized the notion that vibrant health is within anyone's control if they think the right thoughts and eat the right food?
In this era of unconscionable scientific behavior on the part of our own government, it seems nearly every malady but cancer and HIV disease, the only two that appear to be unassailable, can be blamed on personality failings--or simply personality--but none more so than the grotesquely named "chronic fatigue syndrome." Indeed, it is the premier model for this distorted thinking; it's not only driving the movement, it's become the primary focus of the movement.
The CDC has had 26 years to bury reality under a barrage of propaganda. A generation has passed, a period during which collective memory of what actually occurred has dimmed. At the beginning of the 1980s the number of "cfs" cases was so small the disease went unmentioned in the medical literature. By the late 1980s, the emergence of "cfs" was an intensely debated and reported phenomenon due to the astonishing numbers of people affected. An entirely new generation of people diagnosed with "CFS" in recent years may not even appreciate the degree to which they've been maligned and victimized. They may not even understand that if the CDC had done it's due dilligence twenty-five years ago, there is a reasonable possiblity their lives would NOT have been ruined by so-called "cfs" at all, because preventative measures would have been initiated long ago.
What is fearful to me is not anything Heim has to say--because it's nonsense. I fear that the agency will increasingly be able to get away with this propaganda because the collective memory will begin to forget, if it hasn't already, how this all began.
My citation (and inspiration):
Craig Maupin's post to Co-Cure, July 30, 2009
"The following is a summary and a link to a recent editorial from one of the principal voices of the CDC's Emory collaboration. (Future Neurology July 2009, Vol. 4, No. 4). Dr. Christine Heim is a psychiatrist and expert in stress/anxiety disorders. She was brought onboard the CDC's
efforts at Emory around 2002. The CDC has promised CFS advocates that they would do more to use their position to educate researchers, clinicians, and the public on CFS.
In her editorial, Dr. Heim explains the CDC program and the CDC's conceptualization of CFS. Some of her main points revolve around a staple of introductory-level psychiatry texts, how past experiences affect the brain and neuroendocrine system.
"It must be demonstrated that early adverse experience is a risk factor for CFS and: second, that this risk factor is associated with the cardinal biological features of CFS." She encourages readers to conceptualize CFS as a plastic encephalopathy -- "the causes of CFS are most likely to be found at the brain level". Stress/trauma leads to brain deregulation, which leads to low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This biological model is the same seen in post-traumatic stress disorders and, to some extent, anxiety disorders.
Heim also covers the demographics of the CDC's CFS researchsubjects:
"First and foremost, the condition is very common with up to 2.5 percent of the population suffering from CFS in the USA. CFS affects four-times more women than men, and most cases are middle aged individuals. The average duration of CFS is cases identified form the population is 5-7 years."
According to Heim, an abusive and neglectful childhood environment has been the best predictor of who will suffer from CFS. She bases this claim on the research subjects who have been enrolled in CDC studies:
"Emotional neglect and sexual abuse were the best predictors of CFS.... Childhood trauma was further associated with CFS symptom severity and with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) symptoms".
She talks about what she feels is the importance of research into subgroups of CFS. However, she is clear that future "subgroups" will lead to the "same clinical picture".
In her final conclusion, Heim cites Freud and contends that neuroscience will build a bridge of understanding and cooperation between psychiatry and CFS patient groups who, she believes, have an irrational fear of non-biological approaches to CFS research/treatment:
"In conclusion, adopting a developmental neuroscience perspective has significant potential to advance our understanding of CFS. Insights from this line of research may help overcome the prevailing rejection of the idea that psychological factors may play a role in CFS, at least for a proportion of cases. Perhaps patients and advocacy groups fear to be labeled with the
stigma of 'simulating' symptoms, as initially suggested by Freud.
However, modern neuroscience clearly demonstrates that experience shapes biology (and vice versa), and, in this way, can create 'real' organic symptoms.""
Author Hillary Johnson: