Hired guns in whistleblowing
“In this situation the employer will want a diagnosis that ‘proves’ the whistleblower is a nut-case, rat-bag, and troublemaker; that the issues on which they have blown the whistle can therefore be safely ignored; and they can justifiably dismiss or medically retire the whistleblower. The diagnosis in that case is almost invariably a paranoid personality disorder (i.e. the whistleblower has been misinterpreting or imagining both the malpractice and/or corruption they complained about, together with the harassment and victimisation that almost invariably follow someone making such complaints). Occasionally the hired gun can stretch the diagnosis to a paranoid illness, such as paranoid schizophrenia. This is uncommon in Australia, where we don’t (yet) have the convenient diagnosis used in Soviet psychiatry to deal with dissidents there. ‘Creeping’ or ‘sluggish’ schizophrenia was an illness confined to the USSR, with no symptoms apart from the urge to dissent:
“The presence of sluggish schizophrenia does not presuppose noticeable personality changes and the absence of such symptoms does not prove the absence of the illness itself.”
“The morbid process develops very slowly so that its other manifestations remain imperceptible. Diagnostic difficulties increase if the subject relates in a formally correct way to the environment.”
However this lack of symptoms, coupled with ‘reformist ideas’, particularly if expressed with ‘an unshakeable conviction of his own rightness’ was enough to land dissidents in the nightmare of psychiatric prison hospital, indefinitely, or until the administration of overdoses of psychiatric drugs and other ‘treatment’ led to the ‘fading away of delirious conceptions’ – i.e. willingness under that duress to agree to toe the Party line.
In Australia, the diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder has some striking similarities. For this diagnosis to be valid, a patient must have exhibited symptoms throughout their adult life, and in all areas of it, not just at work. Most whistleblowers are well above average as employees, and until they blow the whistle have exemplary work records, as well as being unremarkable in their family and personal lives. That is, there is no evidence to support the diagnosis of a paranoid – or any other – pre-existing personality disorder, and of course thinking that you are being persecuted once you really are being victimised is not a sign of mental illness. But just as lack of evidence wasn’t a problem in the USSR, it often presents no problems here:
“There is no past history of personality difficulties which I am aware of and from a psychiatric point of view I cannot establish the presence throughout his life of personality traits which significantly affected his work or social life. This is not surprising given Mr W’s defensiveness and projection of all his difficulties onto the Department.”
“I found Mr T. to be very cooperative in the interviews and to have a cheerful and pleasant manner. This contrasted with accounts given to me by others, mentioned above, that he can at times be very belligerent and uncooperative. It was easy to see that he would be able to present his viewpoints in a very plausible manner to people who were in relatively brief contact with him, or who did not seriously challenge his statements.”
Hired guns here, like their Soviet counterparts, have problems with the whistleblower’s conviction of his own rightness:
“He has developed compulsive behaviour based on his own set of high moral values…..This type of personality could qualify as a reason for retirement on medical grounds. If this did occur, it would have to be forced on Mr V, as he can see nothing wrong with his personality and merely considers himself a person of high integrity.”
And with their persistence in pursuing authorities to try to get action on their complaints….
“There is every reason to believe he will continue in his present litigious activities writing numerous letters to parliamentarians, ministers and the PM etc. He is quite insightless into his mental condition…..” “There seems little doubt that in the last year what had been a highly valued idea by him, that is exposure of corruption in the SRA, has become an obsession in the sense that he both cannot and will not put it out of his mind…”
And at the ‘overestimation of himself’ that caused problems for Soviet psychiatrists:”… — Jean Lennane, April 2000.