Thursday, December 29, 2005

Psychoanalysis – Do we need it in policy debates?

There has been some flutter about the Newsweek issue showing President Bush in a bubble. (Real Clear Politics) I would like to add my two cents to this debate.

As has been successfully argued and demonstrated; psychoanalysis is a pseudo science. So why go that route? Karl Popper – does this name ring a bell?
(Wikipedia - Karl Popper)

Psychoanalysis is kind of vestige of Liberal Mania of 70’s. Though Maureen Dowd (NYT) rightly describes 70’s as the epitome of Press or Media power because of Bob Woodward and media role in making America coming to terms with reality of Vietnam war; successful techniques of those media victories were different than psychoanalysis. Here in 21st century, media is still trying to rehash that discredited technology when we may not be far away from a day when scientists are actually able to map human thinking to actual electro-chemical reactions of neurons in the brain.

Yes, typically it is a Liberal infatuation with psychoanalysis. I tend to be a Liberal, but would accept that it is better for everyone if Liberals give up such pathetic tendency to psychoanalyze every living entity on this planet. Thank God, we have not got psychoanalysis of Saddam Hussein so far. May be I am wrong, quite soon we will get a cover story like ‘In the Thought World of Saddam Hussein’!

Given the state of affairs of this discipline, there is hardly anything useful which can surface to the table as far as the policy debate of contemporary issues is concerned. So yes, I feel my money is wasted when I get my subscribed issue of Newsweek showing Bush in the bubble. If Newsweek thinks that Bush Administration is not open to external ideas (which is a fair observation so many of us share and I agree with); the right way is to track respective debates where the Administration has turned deaf ears to substantial inputs offered by people close to the Administration or the Republican thinking. For example, it is well known that this administration ignores what Brent Scowcraft has to say about effective Foreign Policy which would preserve strategic interests of America. What we get is Sec. Rice thundering in Washington Post to simply reject such arguments with rote repetition of gospels of President Bush! Or similarly this Administration completely ignores relevant conservative thinking from policy wonks like James Woolsey about energy and Middle East Policy. There are so many examples one can talk about. Yah, but that would not sell Newsweek copy briskly. Do we still think that Media has a right to criticize this Administration or Congress for short selling then?

I would go a step further and say that the journalism of the style of this particular Newsweek issue borders on irresponsibility. It is not a case all the time – Newsweek is one of the few media outlets which is consistently following China Growth story with some useful and substantial in depth coverage. But as far as this issue is considered where is the debate? Where are the solid policy arguments? Where is the worthy, plain old style reporting describing the situation which matters most to people? I agree that in theory it matters whether President Bush gets good sleep in the night or not least he would make a rash decision in the morning impacting all Americans. But what about the ground reality – do we say that staff of White House and modern Presidency is so incompetent as not to take care of mundane needs of a president? That is waste of time. America does not need to bother about that and hence about the presidential psychoanalysis too. What America needs is arguments and counter arguments about Bush’s decisions, his policies; not theories about his psychology. This all reminds the medieval debates about ‘how many angels on the head of a pin…’ or ‘Ptolemy’s Astronomy’ in early centuries. Whatever, who cares. President Bush takes decisions whatever way he takes. We are more concerned with his end decisions; not his thinking process.

It is hard to escape a conclusion that Newsweek is simply trying to print what is sensational and what will sale. Look, I do not like President Bush, I do not think he has made right decisions and I do think that it will cost America enormously to clean the mess which he has landed us. But to address these issues and to make a case for these views is not to blather your weekly issue by inferior pseudo science. It will make an interesting news for couple of days around the world and will have more media echoes reporting for a while everywhere; but what does it achieve? How does such journalism make life of Americans better? Unfortunately, the answer is it does not make.

Well, goodness gracious; we have Blogs for that.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
December 29, 2005.

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