Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Liberation of Sophie Robert

For those of you who like to keep up to date on the latest goings on in the world of French psychoanalysis, your favorite French psychoanalysts have just suffered a stinging defeat in a decision handed down by an appeals court in Douai.

The story involves my friend Sophie Robert’s documentary film about psychoanalysis and autism. Robert made the film over two years ago. In it she interviewed several French psychoanalysts and allowed them to speak openly about their theories of autism. She added case reports about two autistic boys, one of whom had been treated as the analysts would have wanted, the other who had been treated with an American cognitive-behaviorist technique.

In the film the psychoanalysts intimated that autism was an infantile psychosis, caused by bad parenting, especially bad mothering. The behavioral therapists offered retraining exercises that treated the condition as a neurological problem.

When the film appeared on Youtube, three of the psychoanalysts, as was duly reported on this blog, took serious offense to the way their words had been edited. They had, of course, signed releases allowing the filmmaker to edit their words, but they sued her for damages because they believed that she had distorted their words to make it appear that they were blaming mothers for autism. They also insisted that the film had made them look like fools, holding them up to public ridicule and compromising their honor.

When the case first went to trial about a year ago, the court in Lille found in favor of the psychoanalysts. Invoking a French law about a subject’s “moral right” to his image, the court concluded that the film had damaged the reputation of the analysts. It ordered the film to be taken off of Youtube. It forbade all other showings.

This past Thursday, January 16 an appeals court reversed the lower court decision. It ruled that freedom of creative expression should prevail over the delicate sensibilities of French psychoanalysts. Thereby, it restored the honor of France.

Here is a link:

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