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(en) US, Free Alex Asch! Psychiatry and the Marginalization of Dissent

From Stevphen Shukaitis <patrioticdissent@hotmail.com>
Date Thu, 19 Jun 2003 08:45:55 +0200 (CEST)


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On Friday June 20th "Rise Up Radio" (airing from 11:00 - 11:55 am on WBAI
99.5 in New York City) will feature a segment on Alex Asch, an anarchist
activist from New Jersey who has been held for almost a year in a Mormon
reform camp under the pretense of him having "Oppositional Defiance
Disorder." Darren (from Ever Reviled Records) and D (from New Jersey
Indymedia) will discuss Alex's situation and how psychology and the legal
status of minors have been used to hold Alex against his will. The show will
also be streaming live at www.wbai.org and will later be up-loaded to
www.radio4all.net for reusage and rebroadcast.

En la lucha,
Stevphen Shukaitis
Rise Up Radio


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just Call Them Crazy - Stevphen Shukaitis
from www.wiretapmag.org

Alex Asch probably never thought he would be forced by police, private
security, his parents, and the weight of the law to leave his choice of
studies for a Mormon boot camp -- but on August 10, 2002 that's exactly what
happened.

Alex was attending the Institute for Social Ecology, a radically inclined
institution of higher education located in Plainfield, Vermont. It was the
last day of summer classes when his parents hired two juvenile transport
officers to remove him from the Institute. After removing him from the
school he was forced to go to Turnabout Stillwater, a juvenile
rehabilitation program located in Utah affiliated with the Mormon church.
There he will be held against his will until his 18th birthday in June 2004.
Youth activists and organizers have long been marginalized and ignored by
their parents, teachers and lawmakers. Even when youth activism is accepted
it is usually in a condescending or patronizing manner when older and more
experienced organizers run and co-opt youth efforts. But for organizers like
Alex the threat is much more explicit: Just call them crazy, drug them,
coerce them, and keep them locked up.

Alex was officially diagnosed with "Oppositional Defiance Disorder," which
is defined as a disorder including symptoms such as often losing one's
temper, arguing with adults, actively defying or refusing to comply with
adults' requests, deliberately annoying people, blaming others for mistakes,
being touchy or easily annoyed, and often being spiteful, vindictive, or
angry. In a workshop during the National Conference on Organized Resistance
in January it was joked several times that with a definition like that
almost all those with radical and anti-authoritarian beliefs could be
labeled as "disordered."

"Who defines what is disordered behavior?" asked Diane Krauthamer, one of
Alex's friends who was at the ISE when he was taken. "ODD is a just a
construction of this truly disordered society. [People in positions of]
authority make up disorders like ODD to explain the reactions of people like
Alex to the squelching of freedom that is imposed on us."

"What is most disturbing to me about ODD and other 'disorders' is that there
is no real attempt to ascertain the environmental picture -- the social,
political, and economic factors that drive a person's behavior," said Leah
Harris, a progressive psychiatrist from Washington DC. "We're asking the
wrong questions -- we shouldn't be asking, 'does this kid have a disease
called ODD?' but 'why is this kid so at odds with his or her society?'"

Since being taken to Turnabout Stillwater it has been difficult to maintain
communication with Alex due to the monitoring of his mail for materials
deemed "inappropriate" by staff. In one of the letters he was able to send
out he indicated that he had not seen the world outside of the camp for more
than fifty days. He wrote that he has tremendous difficulty being able to
even think under the circumstances and that he concentrates on his memories,
friendships, and beliefs to ward off the "frightening miserable emotional
state being brought upon me within my present situation." He often writes
about the psychological fascism employed to "correct" his behavior and
beliefs, and he says he is determined to resist being converted.

While at the Institute for Social Ecology Alex enthusiastically studied
topics such as animal liberation, radical environmentalism, philosophical
anarchism, linguistics, sexuality, dialectical philosophy, and
countercultural movements. While living in New Jersey he had been involved
in organizing around environmental and animal liberation issues. He also was
helping to build a democratic economy by working with Ever Reviled Records,
a worker-owned label releasing progressive and radical music.

"To the dismay of his parents, Alex's life was going down a path that was
different from their old and obsolete values," said Darren Kramer of Ever
Reviled Records after finding out what happened to Alex. "Alex's parents
would use whatever means they had at their disposal to try to coerce him
into adopting their values. They sent him to school psychiatrists,
prescribed him sedative drugs, and put him in special programs -- all
against his will."

Sadly, because Alex was 16 years old at the time of his removal from ISE he
has virtually no rights and no control over what happens to him. In the eyes
of the law Alex's fate is the hands of his parents, who through their social
position can use psychiatry, school counselors, the courts and the law to
treat him as an object to be molded.

Leah said that she could not tell if there has been a measurable increase in
the use of psychiatry to repress activists, but she pointed out that
psychiatry has often played a key role in the marginalization and control of
"social undesireables" or "deviants" throughout history -- from political
activists to queers and transgendered people. Some of the most compelling
examples of psychiatry being used against activists include Leonard Roy
Frank, who went on to found the anti-psychiatry movement, and Daphne
Scholinski, who was forced to wear dresses and feather boas as part of her
"gender correction treatment."

Alex is like many youth activists who have fought to maintain their ideals
in the midst of a society that is designed to restrict them. As Alex's
friend and ISE classmate Diane Krauthamer put it: "Teachers, parents, and
government officials often regard [young] people who refuse to submit to
their authority as annoying and dysfunctional because we demand freedom
every time they deny it."

Individuals who would like to support Alex are encouraged to write letters
or if possible to send books about animal liberation, philosophy, and other
countercultural topics (keeping in mind that they have to pass by the
inspection of their "appropriateness" by staff). Materials for Alex can be
sent to Alex Asch c/o Turnabout Stillwater 2738 S. 2000 E. Salt Lake City,
UT 84109. Questions about Alex can be directed to Darren by sending a
message to info@everreviledrecords.com


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