Sunday, August 27, 2006

Update on Robert Spitzer's Attack on Wilhelm Reich

Update on Robert Spitzer's Attack on Wilhelm Reich

A few days ago, this item was posted to the OBRL-News Blog and E-list:

August 24, 2006
Bogus Negative Results on 50-year-old Orgone Energy "Experiments".

Several readers have since forwarded the following additional information:


From: Dr Norman Mactas Ackerman      
New York City

Robert Spitzer (psychiatrist)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dr. Robert L. Spitzer is a Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. He was chair of the task force of the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) which was released in 1980. He has been referred to as a major architect of the modern classification of mental disorders which involves classifying mental disorders in discrete categories, with specified diagnostic criteria.

Re  Robert Spitzer and the Reich research material -  Spitzer was [as indicated in the Wikipedia article above] head of the very prestigious American Psy. Assoc. commission that redefined the practice of psychiatry in 1980 when the rather convoluted  DSM-III was promulgated -- I was busy with my own psychiatric clinic practise at the time but when I had looked over the new 'rules of psychiatric engagement' I felt the equivalent of 'there goes the neighborhood' -- DSM III further cast  professional psychiatry into  a mold of theology with mythical forces only countered by certified professionals -- psychiatrists that is -- whose holy wafers more and more became the Big Pharma prescriptions.




From: Philip W. Bennett
       Hamden, CT

Please reread the opening of the New Yorker article about Spitzer I sent you a few years ago:  he had been in orgone therapy at one point but then turned on Reich and aided the FDA.

(Following is a letter sent to the New Yorker by Dr. Bennett)

To: New Yorker Magazine

Whatever the merits of Alix Spiegel's article about Robert Spitzer and the DSM ("The Dictionary of Disorder," January 3, 2005), the gratuitous and dismissive references to Wilhelm Reich in the opening paragraph are inaccurate. Reich never 'marketed' the orgone energy accumulator; nor did he ever claim that sitting in it would cure cancer or increase one's sexual potency.  That Spitzer, who, according to his own testimony, benefited from his Reichian therapy, went on to participate in the FDA's witch-hunt of Reich is a tragic irony, one that contributed to the death of one of the twentieth century's most misunderstood thinkers.

Philip W. Bennett, PhD
Fairfield University

Dear Phil,

I had forgotten about the info you previously sent, but found copies in my email files.  Yes, a very good letter you sent to the New Yorker.  Did they ever print it?

Thanks again,


No, they didn't publish any of the letters they received; Kevin Hinchey (of the WR Museum) wrote a very good one signed by members of the board of the Trust. You can find it at the museum site in one of the updates, I believe.

Best, Philip


Kevin Hinchey presented some critical information on the Spitzer matter at the 2005 Summer Conference of the WR Museum. Some notes about it are found here:

Bottom line:

Robert Spitzer dusted off a 50-year old article composing the results of very haphazard and weak "experiments" addressing a long list of Reich's findings, but nothing in his writings suggested either scientific methods or attention to detail, and the "results" which were made public lacked sufficient detail by which an interested reader might review them with any clarity.  They were posted on a CSICOP-affiliated website (see the original item as noted above for more details).

This was yet another hatchet-job by the CSICOP gang against Reich.  And once again, yet another liberal US Mainstream Magazine joins in with the "fun" of skewering Wilhelm Reich.  The common thread in all of these attackers seems to be, a simultaneous denigration of Reich's work on both orgone energy and sex-economic factors, with a celebration of the DSM-III and its normalization of all sorts of human pathology, and defining as pathological many very normal human behaviors.  DSM-III further ushered in massive approvals for drug-treatments over psychological approaches, thereby strengthening drug companies and medication-oriented psychiatry.  Virtually every non-drug therapeutic approach was henceforth pushed down, or into "the back of the bus" with all the "inferiors" (such as Reich, with his strong emphasis upon early childhood experiences, sexual repression, and social factors in the genesis of human neurosis and pathology).

Haven't we seen all this before, most notably from CSICOP?  (See for example my "Editors Postscript: CSICOP, Prometheus Books, Pornography and... the Journal of Pedophilia?!" in Pulse of the Planet #5: Heretic's Notebook, 2002, p.65.  One gets the sense that this is the foundational objection they have against Reich -- as with the FDA itself, the focus on orgone energy is merely a secondary issue being uscientifically exploited, by which they hope to bring Reich down.  The real issue is one of the Emotional Plague on the social scene: of the sicker and more damaged emotional structures within society organizing into gangs, and then doing their best to "normalize" their psychopathology, while at the same time, re-defining healthier individuals as the bearers of social chaos, who are then subject to attacks and calls for police actions.

At depth, they hate Reich's guts (and anyone who dares to support his work) because his work threatens to unmask them, and exposes a pathology they wish to protect and conceal.

James DeMeo, Ph.D.

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