There’s an excellent article on how psychiatry came to have such a pervasive place in our society as it does today that I would highly recommend anybody who has the time and inclination read. This article, by Beverly K. Eakman, published in The New American, is entitled The New Face of Psychiatry, and much of it concerns the phenomenon of ‘perception management’.
Just what is ‘perception management’?
Here’s some of what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:
Perception management is a term originated by the U. S. military. The U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) gives this definition:
Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.
The phrase “perception management” has often functioned as a “euphemism” for “an aspect of information warfare.” A scholar in the field notes a distinction between “perception management” and public diplomacy, which “does not, as a rule, involve falsehood and deception, whereas these are important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be.”
The phrase “perception management” is filtering into common use as a synonym for “persuasion.” Public relations firms now offer “perception management” as one of their services. Similarly, public officials who are being accused of shading the truth are now frequently charged with engaging in “perception management” when disseminating information to media or to the general public.
The facts of any matter are seen as less important than illiciting the kind of reaction from another person, or persons, that is wanted. This is pretty scary stuff when you consider the number of people who may be victims of this kind of disinforming.
What does this have to do with psychiatry?
Beverly Eakman begins her article by talking about two WWII era psychiatrists, Dr. John Rawlings Rees and Dr. Brock Chisholm, who felt respectively that totalitarian and immoral practices must be utilized to solve some of what they thought were societies most pressing ills.
These doctors had a following, and due to this following, the influence of the kind of thinking that guided these two figures is still very much with us.