Free Carol Fischer! State of Ohio puts a political dissident into psychiatric confinement

Please let as many people know about this as you can.

Cleveland antiwar activist Carol Fischer is being held incommunicado in the psychiatric of the Cuyahoga County jail in on the orders of Judge Timothy McGinty. Fischer, who at 53 years old stands 5’4” and weighs 130 pounds, was convicted of a felonious assault she allegedly committed against two Cleveland Heights police officers last year. The cops claim that Fischer bit and tried to hit them when they arrested her for posting Bush Step Down posters in violation of the city sign ordinance; Fischer and her supporters claim that she was cooperating and the police attacked her without cause:

According to her statements, Fisher was hanging posters announcing the World Can’t Wait Cleveland action during the State of the Union, when a passing officer told her it was a $100 fine if she didn’t take it down.

Fisher turned and walked toward the poster, in compliance with the officer’s warning. But instead of allowing her to take it down or just issuing a citation, Downey and Frinzl were on top of her grinding his knee into [Fisher’s] back and [her] face into the sidewalk.

Fisher said she told the officers she could not breathe. That didn’t matter. Two more officers showed up, and they dragged her to a bench, shackled her legs, and handcuffed her tight enough to cause serious bruising.

Fisher objected to her arrest, telling the officers that as citizens we have the responsibility to stop the crimes of the Bush regime.

According to her statements, this inflamed the officers. One told her, I am sick of this anti-Bush shit, and they threatened to kill her. You are definitely going to the psych ward, said another. And that’s where she ended up, incommunicado, even to her Power of Attorney for health care. University Hospitals personnel were forbidden by the police to allow visitors or for Fisher to make a phone call.

— Eric Resnick, Cleveland Independent Media Center (2006-02-16): Not Guilty, Carol Fisher arraigned this morning

Fischer was found guilty on all charges after a controversial trial in which the judge repeatedly blocked defense testimony. Now, I don’t have any particular knowledge of Carol Fischer, or the cops, or the case, so I have no particular way of knowing whether she is innocent or guilty. What I do know is that this is obscene:

According to World Can’t Wait, Judge Timothy McGinty has forcibly incarcerated Carol Fisher in the psych unit of the Cuyahoga County Jail in downtown Cleveland, for an undetermined period of time. McGinty is forcing Fisher to undergo a state psychological exam as part of her pre-sentencing investigation. During yesterday’s hearing, McGinty stated that Fisher’s opposition to the Bush regime indicates to him that she is delusional.

At the hearing held yesterday, McGinty wore a t-shirt which read: Wanted for Illegally Crossing Borders: The Bush Regime If you are going to insist that crossing borders illegally is a crime which cannot be tolerated, how about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice (and yes, Colin Powell) and the rest of that gang, with their highly illegal, and violent, crossing of the border — into Iraq, among other places?! McGinty stated that Fisher’s t-shirt evidenced her delusion. When Fisher began to explain her opposition to psychological testing, McGinty stated: I do not negotiate with felons. World Can’t Wait reports that in a telephone conversation with Fisher yesterday, she stated she had inexplicably been put on suicide watch and her eyeglasses had been taken from her. If she continues to refuse the psych exam, she will be forcibly sent to North Coast Mental Institute for a 20-day evaluation.

— Heart, Women’s Space / The Margins (2006-05-11): Free Carol Fisher! Judge Orders Peace Activist to Jail Psych Unit

Hey, McGinty, Comrade Brezhnev sends his fraternal greetings. Lest we forget:

Thanks to [Vladimir] Bukovsky’s efforts, we know, among other things, what happened at the 1967 Politburo meeting which took place just before his own arrest. Bukovsky in particular was struck by how many of those present felt that bringing criminal charges against him would cause a certain reaction inside the country and abroad. It would be a mistake, they concluded, simply to arrest Bukovsky—so they proposed to put him in a psychiatric hospital instead. The era of the psikhushka—the special mental hospital—had begun.

… In the aftermath of the Thaw, the authorities began once again to use psychiatric hospitals to incarcerate dissidents—a policy which had many advantages for the KGB. Above all, it helped discredit the dissidents, both in the West and in the USSR, and deflected attention away from them. If these were not serious political opponents of the regime, but merely crazy people, who could object to their hospitalization?

With great enthusiasm, the Soviet psychiatric establishment participated in the farce. To explain the phenomenon of dissidence, they came up with the definition of sluggish schizophrenia or creeping schizophrenia. This, scientists explained, was a form of schizophrenia which left no mark on the intellect or outward behavior, yet could encompass nearly any form of behavior deemed asocial or abnormal. Most frequently, ideas about a struggle for truth and justice are formed by personalities with a paranoid structure, wrote two Soviet professors, both of the Serbsky Institute:

A characteristic feature of overvalued ideas in the patient’s conviction of his own rectitude, an obsession with asserting his trampled rights, and the significance of these feelings for the patient’s personality. They tend to explit judicial proceedings as a platform for making speeches and appeals.

And, by this definition, just about all of the dissidents qualified as crazy. … In one report sent up to the Central Committee, a local KGB commander also complained that he had on his hands a group of citizens with a very particular form of mental illness: they try to found new parties, organizations, and councils, preparing and distributing plans for new laws and programs.

… If diagnosed as mentally ill, patients were condemned to a term in a hospital, sometimes for a few months, sometimes for many years. … In both the ordinary and the special hospitals, the doctors aimed, again, at recantation. Patients who agreed to renounce their convictions, who admitted that mental illness had caused them to criticize the Soviet system, could be declared healthy and set free. Those who did not recant were considered still ill, and could be given treatment. As Soviet psychiatrists did not believe in psychoanalysis, this treatment consisted largely of drugs, electric shocks, and various forms of restraint. Drugs abandoned in the West in the 1930s were administered routinely forcing patients’ body temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade, causing pain and discomfort. Prison doctors also prescribed tranquilizers [antipsychotic neuroleptics, such as Thorazine and Haldol —R.G.] which caused a range of side effects, including physical rigidity, slowness, and involuntary tics and movements, not to mention apathy and indifference.

… Eventually, the issue galvanized scientists in the Soviet Union. When Zhores Medvedev was condemned to a psychiatric hospital, many of them wrote letters of protest to the Soviet Academy of Scientists. Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear physicist who was, by the late 1960s, emerging as the moral leader of the dissident movement, made a public statement on Medvedev’s behalf at an international symposium at the Institute of Genetics. Solzhenitsyn, by now in the West, wrote an open letter to the Soviet authorities protesting Medvedev’s incarceration. After all, he wrote, it is time to think clearly: the incarceration of free-thinking healthy people is SPIRITUAL MURDER.

— Anne Applebaum, GULAG: A History (2003), pp. 547–550.

Here’s what World Can’t Wait suggests you can do to support Carol Fischer:

  • Donate to Carol’s legal defense. It costs a lot of money to get transcripts, file appeals, etc. Make checks payable to Carol Fisher Defense Fund and mail to NION/WCW PO Box 609034 Cleveland, OH 44109.

  • Call Judge Timothy McGinty and express your outrage: 216-443-8758

  • Join us at a Speak Out! for Carol Fisher — Saturday, May 13 at 7pm at the corner of Coventry and Euclid Heights Blvd in Cleveland Heights.

  • Get your legal organization to be part of Carol’s defense: make statements, file friend of the court briefs, etc.

  • Have your church group, school group, organization or club join this battle by sending statements of support, donating funds, etc.

  • Request radio stations play any of the following songs, dedicate it to Carol Fisher and explain what is going on with her case:

    • Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down
    • Pearl Jam’s World Wide Suicide
    • Pink’s Dear Mr President
    • Neil Young’s Let’s Impeach the President
  • Write letters to the editor of:

  • Send this article to your list serves and post to blogs.

Of course, WCW also wants you to join up with World Can’t Wait. I wouldn’t advise it, unless you like hanging out with well-intentioned peaceniks being steered by creepy Maoist cultists. But McGinty’s efforts to build his own psychoprison system must not stand. Free Carol Fischer! Free all psychiatric prisoners!

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10 replies to Free Carol Fischer! State of Ohio puts a political dissident into psychiatric confinement Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Lab Kat

    Nice tactic. If you don’t agree with someone politically, have them committed.

  2. PoliticalCritic

    This is how it starts. Dissidents are arrested, phone records are monitored, wires are tapped, and dictatorships form. This Democracy is deteriorating before our very eyes.

  3. Lanoire

    Good fucking God. There was a time when I wouldn’t have believed this could happen, but now I believe it 100%.

    Actually, we should have seen this coming. The conservatives have been calling war critics “deranged,” “wild-eyed,” “shrill,” “unbalanced,” “emotional,” “angry,” “hateful,” and other words suggesting mental and emotional disorder for a very, very long time. This is the logical result of such propaganda.

  4. Lady Aster

    Actually, we should have seen this coming. The conservatives have been calling war critics deranged, wild-eyed, shrill, unbalanced, emotional, angry, hateful, and other words suggesting mental and emotional disorder for a very, very long time. This is the logical result of such propaganda.

    These are, not coincidentally, all the words instantly applied to women who stand up for themselves and speak their own minds. It is also no coincidence that psychiatric medications are so readily and insistently prescribed for women.

  5. Rad Geek

    Aster,

    Indeed.

    It’s no accident that all of the epithets Lanoire mentions are often summed up in the single word hysterical, or that that word is by far one of the most common epithets used to dismiss both women in general, and also political dissidents, who are dismissed without consideration by treating them as crazy, and who are treated as crazy by being rhetorically feminized.

  6. Anonymous

    This was a favorite tactic in Washington State during the Red Scare days. Actress Francis Farmer was held and administered shock therapy at Washington’s Western State Hospital. Going back further in history, it was also a favorite way to get rid of IWW (Wobblie) activists in the teens.

  7. Rad Geek

    Anonymous,

    I’m familiar with the Farmer case but not with the use of psychiatric imprisonment on the Wobs. Can’t say I’m surprised, but I’d be interested to find out more about it. Where would be a good place to read more?

  8. mary

    Perhaps she was referring to Bush (and company) illegal crossing borders into Iraq? What would the police have done if she were illegally hanging a Yard Sale, Lost Pet, Missing person sign? Grab her from behind as she was going to “obey authority” by removing them? “Suicide Watch”? Um, they will say, tsk, tsk, she killed herself, after they killed her. Happens all the time. Like the guy that was ready to give testimony to providing boys for White House party goers entertainment. Ever notice how many “whistle blowers” have committed suicide, or died in accidents? Cooincidence. Doubtful.

  9. danmerica

    It seems to me that Bush’s brown shirts are persecuting a small number of individual dissenters in order to scare off further dissent. As Rob Koll is fond of saying,”Connect the dots.” Halliburton was awarded contracts to build detention centers within the United States. Is this Bush’s final solution for liberals and dissidents? See you all in the gulag; it will be a gas!

  10. Patrick

    The legal question of sanity is a matter for a Jury to decide.

    Judge McGinty should put this good womans mind to a Jury.

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