About the psychologization of constitutional law via ’25th Amendment’ or ‘Articolo 3’ (2021)

We the Crazy?

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by Federico Soldani – 10th Jan 2021

’25th Amendment’

The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has been invoked by many during the past few days in order to remove the 45th President of the United States of America Donald J. Trump from office after the episode on Capitol Hill at the Congress on the 6th of January 2021, transmitted by the media worldwide. This is happening with less than two weeks remaining of Trump’s mandate and to the Presidential inauguration of the 46th President Joe Biden.

Such Amendment allows at Sec. 3 and Sec. 4 either the President to communicate that, for instance due to medical reasons, he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office (Sec. 3), or the Vice-President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress to communicate that the President is unable to discharge such powers and duties (Sec. 4).

Whether this is going or not to be attempted or achieved with Trump via Sec. 4, the same is quite possible to happen via Sec. 3 for Biden during his mandate, given, if nothing else, his advanced age.

If Bided is going to use Sec. 3 for instance and to let his Vice-President Kamala Harris become President, he will submit (and with him, symbolically, the political office he represents) to the technical-scientific medical discourse and will be seen as a good example of, or role model for, the new citizen who is increasingly represented as a patient.

We have observed a similar representation on the media already with Greta Thunberg, the young climate change activist who did not refuse the psychiatric label of autism or Asperger’s and indeed some of her positive characteristics were attributed on the media to such condition.

Instead, Trump by being considered via Sec. 4 of the 25th Amendment, hence refusing in the public image to submit to the medical, indeed psychiatric, discourse could be represented as a bad example for all citizens or as an example of the old citizen who is not fit for the new politics increasingly transformed into medicine and psychology. An old type of citizen who, against scientific reason, refuses to submit, symbolically as well as practically, political and legal prerogatives to the technical-scientific discourse instead of voluntarily accepting the new prevailing status of patient.

A double standard is affirmed: psychiatric terms and labels (including pseudo or quasi technical or metaphorical ones, or psychological insults) are used in the most stigmatizing way in the political arena, and those who do not voluntarily submit to such discourse are stigmatized badly, while at the same time global campaigns are promoting de-stigmatization of mental health conditions in the clinical context, and those who submit voluntarily are protected from stigmatization and presented as role models.

Such spectacle on mass and digital media, as previously highlighted in these pages, has also caused an unprecedented spread of ‘psyspeak’ surely helping the public becoming more versed in attributing diagnostic labels and in using psyspeak as a new language for politics and beyond.  

Not only this, disclosing in public medical and psychological diagnoses is increasingly presented as a civic virtue, instead of emphasizing as in the past the importance of privacy of health-related confidential information; for years now, celebrities have publicly disclosed medical diagnoses and conditions on the media.

Also, the clinical context is being increasingly, and more and more explicitly, extended to the whole of society. A global psychiatrization of politics and society at large is taking place under our eyes. The legal discourse is not spared.

The public discourse is currently inundated on the media by a “surrounded by idiots” rhetoric; human idiocy vs. artificial intelligence? Ordinary citizens are presented as full of cognitive biases (systematic errors of thought), hundreds of such biases according to the new rhetoric (an unscientific claim, given the time it takes to study even one or a few of these systematic errors and to understand their implications, see Tversky and Kahneman).

Citizens’ perceptions of the external world are presented as well as being highly distorted and unreliable (see for instance Perils of Perception | Ipsos).

The D.S.M. is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the so-called Bible of U.S. psychiatry, with the full list of mental and behavioral diagnoses. Former Chief of D.S.M.-IV (4th edition, 1994, text revision 2000) Dr. Allen Frances wrote in his 2017 book “Twilight of American Sanity: a Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump”: “Trump isn’t crazy. We are.”

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‘Articolo 3’

An introduction of psychological concepts via a re-interpretation of the Italian Constitution is currently being promoted mainly on digital media via Article 3 of the Italian Constitution (official translation in English, website of the Italian Senate):

“All citizens shall have equal social dignity and shall be equal before the law, without distinction of gender (“sesso” in the Italian original), race, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions.

It shall be the duty of the Republic to remove those obstacles of an economic or social nature which constrain the freedom and equality of citizens, thereby impeding the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organisation of the country.”

“Removing the obstacles”, which can be seen in the context of the difference between negative and positive liberties, is slowly but surely re-interpreted and a positive aspect is emphasized; by insisting on the “full development of the human person” and by presenting the “person” increasingly as the psychological construct “personality.”

Hence, not anymore removing the obstacles essentially and primarily, if not exclusively, in the external, political and socio-economic spheres but increasingly in the internal, psychological sphere, which this way is seen as a matter in which the State is, and needs to be, directly and actively involved.

Thereby such cultural re-interpretation and public discourse might be seen as functioning as an ideological mean to psychologize the law, in this case even the supreme law of the land, the Constitution.

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Cite this article as: Federico Soldani, "About the psychologization of constitutional law via ’25th Amendment’ or ‘Articolo 3’ (2021)," in PsyPolitics, January 10, 2021, https://psypolitics.org/2021/01/10/about-the-psychologization-of-constitutional-law-via-25th-amendment-or-articolo-3-2021/.

Last Updated on February 20, 2021 by Federico Soldani

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