Scott Pelley and CBS News owe us an apology

Big Pharma

CBSNews is apparently enamored of former Congressman and Sen. Ted Kennedy's son, Patrick Kennedy. I thought the 60 Minutes interview done by Leslie Stahl was a good piece of journalism. Then Scott Pelley had to overdose on the Kennedy legacy, and ran a segment on CBS Evening News tonight with Patrick Kennedy giving a lecture to America on how to prevent gun violence through mental health legislation.

I was appalled, as apparently was Ed Cooper, who writes a blog on mental health issues called Project Dream Again. Ed focuses on mental conditions as a Christian ministry. His wife Patty, is a fellow former advocate for mental health clients, who was employed by the Protection and Advocacy Agency in Florida before retiring in NC, then moving to Tennessee.

Here is how Ed Cooper's blog posted today begins:

I have enough diagnoses from DSM-5 that the letters that represent them could make up a good alphabet soup. However, not a single one of my diagnoses explain or is the causation of a particular action. All of me goes into determining my behavior or reaction at any given moment in my life. My genetic makeup, my social and psychological history, my spiritual life or lack of one, my mind and my brain and my body all influence who I am and how I behave. All of my fellow humans are the same as me.

That is why I am always so astounded when some newscaster like Scott Cameron Pelley, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, immediately says “mental illness” when speaking about the latest mass murder at a college. He had no idea at the time he spoke the words what the causation of the shooter’s actions were. No one ever will because the person took his own life when cornered by the police. All the profiling and theorizing by newscasters and others does not produce anything but more stigma for those of us with a psychiatric diagnosis. The fact is it does not produce truth.

While I agree with most of what his post says, there is even more reason for critiquing CBS News and the rest of the corporate media's repeated slant of how mental illness and mass murder are a proven "cause and effect" situation. The facts are otherwise, but you won't read them in the Washington Post or even the NY Times, unless you are a blog reader.

Here is a post from Mad in America, a blog run by the well-known and honored journalist Robert Whitaker about the most recent shooting, the shooter, and the media coverage.

A screenshot of the Facebook of the Oregon shooter, taken by a colleague of mine before the site was taken down, has the following comment from the shooter: “Chris Harper Mercer, August 16: I have a pill bottle with like five types of pills mixed in. I don’t know which ones are the sleep aids, so I just took four of each.” Here is a screenshot of Mercer’s Facebook page:

This confirms, at least, the Oregon shooter's access to psychiatric drugs. Young people sometimes throw their drugs together and take them randomly as if they were recreational. Additionally, Mercer was also known to have graduated from a high school for youngsters with emotional and behavioral problems.

Once again, we have a shooter who has been through the “mental health” system and has probably been taking drugs. I was a medical expert in the cases surrounding Eric Harris (the Columbine shooters) and David Holmes (the Aurora shooter). Harris was taking the SSRI Luvox (fluvoxamine) for a year, starting before he became violent, and throughout the period of his growing manic-like violent state. He had a “therapeutic level” of the drug in his system on autopsy. Holmes was prescribed Zoloft the first day he saw his psychiatrist and told her that he had very violent feelings that he did not dare fully describe to her. Over 120 days, he became more violent on Zoloft and began elaborately planning the assault on the movie theater. He stopped taking the drug 20 days prior to the shootings, but by then he was grossly psychotic, again in a manic-like state...

Could it be possible that the corporate media prefer to ignore this aspect of the many sensational shootings they cover, because now that Big Pharma is allowed to advertise on TV directly to consumers, they don't want to offend their source of advertising dollars? Why do journalists focus on diagnoses, real and imagined, but not on the drugs prescribed to these young men? I think it is time to raise the question. At least one Republican legislator in Nevada,Michele Fiore, thinks so, too, and she is speaking up. Where are the rest of our elected representatives on this critical issue?