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State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind Hardcover – June 10, 2008
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“Bryant Welch makes a fascinating and compelling case that right-wing politics has subverted our democracy by infecting us with a form of national political neurosis. This book unmasks the politics of fear---the deeper chords touched by campaigns that appeal to the dark side.” --Robert Shrum, senior strategist of the Gore and Kerry presidential campaigns and author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner
“Bryant Welch was born to write this vitally important and highly readable investigation of how a cadre of ethically challenged political operatives and their religious and journalistic allies have gradually distorted and disabled the minds of ordinary Americans—and have all but crippled the once-extraordinary mind of America. It is not too late for us to reclaim our identity, but we will succeed only if we take to heart the lessons so lucidly laid bare by the remarkable work of this insightful psychologist and experienced political activist.” --Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School
“State of Confusion is intense, clear, logical, and striking in its message. It will grab you emotionally and intellectually…the message cannot be missed.…Bryant Welch sees through the smoke and mirrors and offers the only remedy that will place democracy firmly in the grip of the people from whom it is being stolen: the truth.” --Dr. Harold I. Eist, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry, George Washington University, and former president of the American Psychiatric Association
“Dr. Welch is a master of making complex psychological concepts understandable and using them to explain the disturbing political climate of our time. This beautifully written, urgently relevant work should be on the bookshelf of everyone who cares about the survival of American democracy.” --Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., president of the Division of Psychoanalysis, American Psychological Association, and professor, Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology
“[State of Confusion] is a unique and successful effort to understand the machinations of politicians and others who have significant influence on others.…With professional credentials in both law and psychology, Dr. Bryant Welch is ideally suited to raise the issues…fascinating reading.” --Lewis P. Lipsitt, Ph.D., professor of psychology, emeritus, Brown University
About the Author
Bryant Welch, J.D., Ph.D. has more than thirty-five years of experience in law, psychology, and politics. He spent seventeen years in Washington, D.C., where he built the American Psychological Association’s Practice Directorate, and has held faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina and George Washington University. He currently lectures and consults nationally and practices clinical psychology on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Debbie.
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The problem with the book is not just this one egregious example, but that the entire work consists of little more than a series of bald assertions: some common-sense, some speculative, and others just plain arguable. As a result, there is a general lack of grounding of key statements beyond their simple assertion and how well they fit into the general story he tells. For example, I agree that envy is a very potent force in our hierarchical competitive economy, but must we agree that it's envy that "creates our motivation to work and be producive." (p. 105) Again, a big load for envy to carry and another sweeping assertion that goes unargued. Moreover, it's not clear to me that envy is in fact "a necessary part of the human condition." (p.252) On the contrary, it can be argued that desiring what others have arises in those cultures that emphasize property and status, but not in those that don't. Now, perhaps in the last analysis Welch is right. Nonetheless, the problem here is that there is not even a first analysis, just an assertion.
Now, I'm certainly in agreement with his view of the political right-wing. Their movement is becoming ever more solipsistic as the facts go against them. But I picked up the book, hoping to gain more insight than what I found. To be sure, the text does contain points of interest and is an easy read-- though I'm not sure the latter is a point in its favor. All in all, however, I found the book both oddly comforting and definitely disappointing.
Frittering around one evening, years and years ago, in a hotel room, with a woman who had been a victim of manipulative men, we happened to watch the 1944 "Gaslight" on TV by chance. My companion became mesmerized by Ingrid Bergman's situation, trapped in the devious grip of Charles Boyer, and saw her own past reflected in that dark grey mirror, and those flickering lights. She became very afraid. It took a long time to calm her down and assure her that I had no such devious plot in mind or heart.
The U.S. is in such a grip now. Will she escape and recover, despite the damage already done? What will it take? We can begin by trying for clear, honest examinations of our situation and how it got that way. This book is a big help.