Ahh, do you smell that, citizen? Scientology’s in the air! The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is a Scientology-funded organization and I’d been meaning to investigate their ominous Psychiatry Kills exhibit for years. A sunny Friday morning one day past L. Ron Hubbard‘s birthday seemed as good a day as any for this mission. My roommate, who happens to be 2 quarters away from an M.A. in Clinical Psychology came along.
The lobby felt like a movie set – huge CCHR emblem above a reception desk, lots of white, another CCHR crest inlaid into the floor. We were greeted by an unblinking curly-mopped cherub, signed in with fake names and explained we brought no purses when asked if we minded a bag inspection. The entrance to the exhibit itself was special-effects-rusty with random metal chunks protruding and overall very Silent Hill. The “Abandon all hope…” quote from Dante’s Inferno above completed the look, which the cherub politely asked us to read while thinking about entering the final level of hell. Charming.
Through the doors, a padded room and introductory video featuring doctors and professors, edited in the same sensationalist Fox network style as other Scientology media, statistics and numbers flashing in a rusty and blood-stained font, culminating in the words “Psychiatry – an industry of DEATH”. A wave of blood washed over the screen and it went black. The mood was set.
The museum past the padded room has several sections, each with LCD screens showing 15 minute videos, which I will describe in an almost entirely opinion-free virtual mini-tour beyond the jump.
1. Medieval medicine, which I thought was rather sexy with its displays of antique bloodletting tools, drills and restraint-equipped chairs. The video here focused on medieval treatment of the mentally ill, lots of old-looking engravings and paintings displaying people languishing in horrid conditions.
2. Behaviorism, complete with Skinner Box. The video here talks about how psychiatrists reduced humans to animals and stole their soul. Skinner and Pavlov, shots of adorable monkeys having their skulls drilled, children with holes punched in their cheeks to monitor salivation during Pavlovian tests, Skinner’s daughter whom he kept in a human-size box for a year, etc. Good stuff.
3. The Holocaust. Wallpapered with life-sized photos of starved children behind razor wire and factoids about Eugenics. The overall angle thus far is that the Behaviorists spawned Eugenics and Eugenics spawned the Holocaust. Slogans like “Psychiatrists: the men behind Hitler”. Some Nazi books and memorabilia on display.
4. Racism through Eugenics. This section covered the KKK, segregation, the American Eugenics movement.
5. Electroshock therapy and Lobotomy. I could actually hear one of the displays in this room while watching the Eugenics video. This had a steel bed [upon which I gazed longingly], a large glass head with attached electrodes, and a dial you could turn to an age to see the amount of electricity used in ECT. Kind of like those magic spheres at Halloween shops. Much disturbing footage in the video, including ice picks shoved in patient’s eye sockets and Walter Freeman‘s “Lobotomobile” – a name so hilarious it may enter my regular lexicon. And a bonus – in the corner, a door with a TV behind it showing children playing with their own feces in a Greek mental health facility which was later shut down.
6. Inpatient abuse. On display, a full-body straitjacket, a bed with institutional restraints, another straitjacket. Photos and stories of children who died while in psychiatric care.
7. Drugs. Let me preface the next two sections by saying that I already think the pharmaceutical industry is evil and corrupt, so I didn’t need convincing in that department. Here were papers documenting various mind-control drug testing, records about programming Manchurian candidates, video about people being diagnosed with new disorders and how it’s directly related to release of new drugs, dangers of drugs, Thorazine in the 60s and how it’s side effects weren’t properly researched and turned people into vegetables as a result, etc.
8. Schools and Ritalin. We entered through a metal-detector gate to a classroom with school desks, lockers and photos of hallways. Video about ADD being fake, overprescription of drugs to kids and people in general.
The final video was basically about psychiatrists being child molesters and sex offenders. By this point the roommate and I were both zoning out, restless and eying the exit. But it wasn’t over yet, no.
Through the exit we entered a bright room – quite a contrast to the murky spook of the museum. Here we were faced with the biggest screen yet under a sign declaring “You’re safe as long as we’re here” below a circle that ever so vaguely resembled an enticingly illuminated spaceship door in the ceiling. Here was a sort of summary video glorifying the CCHR and letting us know that now that we’ve been enlightened by their exhibit, we had to act. The video ended by saying “With knowledge comes responsibility”. We were spent and left through a back door under the guise of using a restroom after being asked to fill out surveys. Mmm, the smell of freedom!