When it comes to demagoguery French psychoanalysts are masters of the game.
Milking what must be an insecure national pride, they have sold France and French psychiatry on the improbable idea that psychoanalysis is an effective treatment because it is more in harmony with indigenous culture than are those that are Made in America.
I do not need to tell you that “pride goeth before a fall.” French psychoanalysts put their sublime arrogance on display when they offered to explain autism. To their addled brains psychoanalysis would be a useful, thoroughly French way, to treat autistic children.
Claiming that a neurological condition has a psychogenetic origin caused by bad mothers was not enough. French psychoanalysts declared that their “talking cure” could work wonders for children who could not talk.
Of course, everyone has a right to crackpot opinions. Everyone even has a right to cling tenaciously to opinions that have been outmoded since the 1950s.
Unfortunately, French psychoanalysts have so thoroughly succeeded in stigmatizing the American-made behavioral treatments for autism that the nation is sorely deficient in psychologists who know how best to treat autistic children.
French parents of autistic children have been fighting the good fight for years. They have provoked the Council of Europe to condemn the nation’s treatment of autistic children.
Early this year another front in the war was opened by a filmmaker from Lille, one Sophie Robert.
Robert produced a film called “The Wall” is which she allowed French psychoanalysts to rattle on about autism. Between their verbal streams she interposed the stories of two children: one had been treated by the French techniques; another had suffered an American-made behavioral approach.
The child who had been treated by French methods was manifestly doing much worse than the one who had undergone a behavioral intervention.
The latter was bright and talkative, attended school, and earned good grades. The former was withdrawn and non-verbal.
Naturally, the psychoanalysts were outraged at the filmmaker, How dare she allow them to make fools of themselves? They sued for defamation.
Good demagogues that they are French psychoanalysts insist on having complete control of the way they are portrayed in public.
It’s as if you had allowed yourself to be filmed by a documentary filmmaker, signed a release allowing the interview to be shown, permitted the filmmaker to edit your comments, and then woke up to find that you did not like the way you looked. So you decide to go to court to have the film suppressed.
In America you would be laughed out of court. In France, you win your case. Apparently, the French have a way to go when it comes to free expression.
A court in Lille forced the film to be taken down, even from Youtube. Currently, the decision is being appealed.
I have blogged about the case in previous posts.
Unfortunately, theirs was a Pyrrhic victory. Now, the shame of the French psychoanalytic establishment is gaining international exposure.
This past week USA Today ran a long and detailed article about the controversy, without, however, mentioning Sophie Robert’s film.
If you read the article you will see that French psychoanalysts have brought shame and ignominy on themselves and their nation for promoting a cultural climate that is a clear throwback to what America knew in the 1950s.
For those who did not know it before, their impulse is wildly reactionary.
USA Today is puzzled by it all:
In most developed countries, children with autism are usually sent to school where they get special education classes. But in France, they are more often sent to a psychiatrist where they get talk therapy meant for people with psychological or emotional problems.
Under the aegis of its psychoanalysts France is seeking, in the matter of autism, the status of an undeveloped country.
A Yale expert expresses the general disbelief:
"The situation in France is sort of like the U.S. in the 1950s," said Dr. Fred Volkmar, a U.S. expert who directs the Child Study Center at Yale University. "The French have a very idiosyncratic view of autism and, for some reason, they are not convinced by the evidence."
Well stated, indeed. Why is France, following the lead of its psychoanalysts, not convinced by the evidence?
Because they are true-believing cult followers. They believe in Freud and they believe in Lacan. They do not believe in evidence. That would be too American for their refined tastes.
Reality is simply not their thing.
And they do not much care about what happens to autistic children.
USA Today reports:
Volkmar said some forms of psychotherapy might be helpful for high-functioning autistic children to handle specific problems like anxiety, but should not be considered a first-line treatment. He said the vast majority of autistic children in the U.S. — more than 95 percent — attend school.
But French children with autism are lagging far behind. According to government data, fewer than 20 percent of autistic children attend school. Mostly they're either kept at home or go to a day hospital for psychiatric sessions.