Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Conspiracy Theory

The McCarthy-era paranoid fantasy of communists infiltrating American government agencies. In case, he compounded it by thinking he personally was the target of Soviet espionage and that the FDA case against was instigated by communist agents working on direct orders from Moscow. He also thought journalists who disbelieved his work were communist-inspired and directed from Moscow too. 

This ignored the obvious: the FDA has brought similar cases against practioners of other types of alternative medicine, the theory of a previously unknown life energy is so distant from the theories in modern medicine that anyone with medical training will automatically jump to the conclusion is cannot possibly be true, and journalists today, long after there is no more Soviet Union, still publish articles on the theme that Reich, no matter how badly mistreated by the legal system, was wrong about the existence of a life energy. 

Reich had no idea how far he had come from where the medical establishment was. He did not realize how strange and unbelievable his work sounded to them. He could not see how wildly improbable it seemed to the scientific communty, to scientifically-educated journalists, and to the agencies charged with protecting the public from fraudulent medical claims. Instead, he fell for the McCarthyist line that there were Soviet agents in all government agencies, even those, like the FDA, whose province was only to control the drug industry to protect the public from medical fraud, an area that would not be of much concern to an enemy nation as would the diplomatic corps or military forces. 

Try this experiment: talk to a medical doctor without mentioning Reich's name or using any of his specific terminology, but describe the orgone accumulator and what it is supposed to do. Then ask him if he thinks it would be an effective treatment for a life-threatening condition. Then try it with a physics teachjer from any university, asking if he thinks it would collect a form of energy unknown to science and violate the second law of thermodynamics. Well, you already can guess what answers you would get. So why expect the doctors and scientists of the 1950s to react any differently?  And why then is there a need for enemy agents to bring a cxase against a person who was selling such a device to cancer victims? 

Reich thought the motive of the Soviets was to gain a monopoly of his inovative treatment, the accumulator, for their own use while depriving the Americans of it. In the Cold War era not much information was available to the American public on what was going on in the Soviet Union. Today we know for an absolute certainty that there is no medical use of the orgone accumulator in any hospital in Russia. If the Soviet government ever had thought the accumulator was a worthwhile treatment, they apparently never got around to using it.  

Reich compounded his problems several times over by also pĆ¹blishing books dealing with sex. If he had not written on that highly-charged and emotional issue and had stuck to less explosive topics in his earlier work, he might have avoided a lot of hostility. In the 50s there was still a lot of puritanism in a degree that seems impossible today, and his getting a reputation for advocating sexual freedom did nothing to help him avoid notoriety. 

And since cancer scares people more than most diseases, he also made himself a target by using cancer as a demonstratiuon model for his theory of systematic breakdown. If he had been writing about a treatment for arthritis, for example, nobody would have bothered to prosecute him. But since it was a cancer treatment, that triggered a reaction from frightened people. 

So instead of jumping on the right-wing bandwagon and claiming the magazine articles critical of his work were written by Soviet agents under orders to discredit him, and that an American government agency responsible for protecting the public from false medical claims was controlled by Soviet agents trying to deprive the American public of his discoveries so the Soviet Union could have a monopoly of their use in treating it's citrizens, he would have done better to have realized that he had gone too far ahead of the times and the reaction he was getting was a normal response to the strangeness of his claims. 

No comments:

Post a Comment