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Letters and other responses to stories from the July/August issue of Pacific Standard.


Brian Calvert’s strange tale of neuroscientist/defense contractor/Burning Man devotee Dave Warner’s efforts to save Afghanistan by making huge amounts of information available to everybody (“Last Days of the Synergy Strike Force,” July/August 2013) drew mixed reviews. “Unfortunately his very existence lends credibility to the lunatics who started this war,” said commentator “I AM POP SLAG.” On the other hand, Doug Hanchard of the National Defense University suggested that Warner “is one of those rare individuals who gets it.... Not only can he grab the attention of a four-star general, he has genuinely changed policy in far-flung parts of the world.” Former clandestine services officer Robert David Steele Vivas dubbed Warner a “legitimate revolutionary.”

"Psychiatry has seriously retarded its progress because of the violent swings between material and nonmaterial ways of looking at mental disorders. When will the psychiatrists finally get it right?"

Amanda Hess’ examination of the Asylum, the microbudget movie studio behind schlocktaculars like the self-explanatory Sharknado (“Escaped From the Asylum!,” July/August 2013) sparked some unexpectedly erudite discussion. On, “kenpuck” commented: “I sort of figure that today’s straight-to-video knockoffs are no worse than the ‘penny dreadfuls’ of the 1870s. Even village idiots crave entertainment, and their money is as good as mine.” “EtoileBrilliant” pointed out that “James Cameron, Peter Bogdanovich, F. F. Coppola, Ron Howard ... all came through the Roger Corman ‘schlock’ school of filmmaking. In [Corman’s] own words, ‘If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.’” Adds Insecticidal director Jeffery Lando (who was quoted in the piece): “These movies have long preceded the Asylum. Remember King Kong? Ed Wood? Russ Meyer? Heck, some of our most celebrated movies started out as ridiculous fare: Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park. They’re just made for vastly more money. The truth is, we—the audience— love going to the circus. At their core, these films are what moviemaking is all about: For a brief moment, making us believe in the unbelievable.”

“‘Psychiatry tends not to learn from its past.’ This perhaps is the most important point in [Ethan] Watters’s article” on how culture influences our perceptions of mental illness (“Mad Fashion,” July/August 2013), commented historian Hannah S. Decker. “Psychiatry has seriously retarded its progress because of the violent swings between material and nonmaterial ways of looking at mental disorders. When will the psychiatrists finally get it right? Mental disorders (and mental health as well) are the result of both biological and psychological factors.” Berel Dov Lerner offered “An alternative story: Mental illness does reflect culture, but not the professional cultures of psychiatry and clinical psychology. ... Perhaps the psychologists (and their new diagnoses) are playing catch-up with cultural changes rather than leading the way.”

On his Simple Justice blog, Scott Greenfield examined the idea that fellow ex-police officer Peter Moskos put forward in his book review of Rise of the Warrior Cop (“Lockdown Nation,” July/August 2013), that officers regularly lie in court. Greenfield says that, in his experience, when cops lie they often don’t see their misstatements as untrue, but rather as pragmatic shortcuts in service of fighting bad guys. Moskos himself is being disingenuous, charges Greenfield, when he overstates what book author Radley Balko actually said. Moskos “asserted that cops engage in ‘felonious perjury’ all the time,” notes Greenfield. “Those aren’t Balko’s words, and nowhere in his book is that phrase used. Moskos made it up, but it’s not wrong, it’s not a lie, because it serves to help him make his point. Gilding the lily? Filling in the gaps? Creating a straw man? There are plenty of names for what Moskos does there, but the fact remains that for the rest of us, it would be a deliberate falsehood. A lie.”

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