A technoculture of psychosis

Aeon Magazine has an amazing article on the history of technology in paranoid delusions and how cultural developments are starting to mirror the accidental inventions of psychosis.

It’s by the fantastic Mike Jay, who wrote The Air Loom Gang, an essential book that looks at one of the most famous cases of ‘influencing machine’ psychosis.

In his article, Jay applies the same keen eye for history and culture and explores how the delusions of psychosis are carefully intertwined with culture.

Persecutory delusions, for example, can be found throughout history and across cultures; but within this category a desert nomad is more likely to believe that he is being buried alive in sand by a djinn, and an urban American that he has been implanted with a microchip and is being monitored by the CIA. ‘For an illness that is often characterised as a break with reality,’ they observe, ‘psychosis keeps remarkably up to date.’ Rather than being estranged from the culture around them, psychotic subjects can be seen as consumed by it: unable to establish the boundaries of the self, they are at the mercy of their often heightened sensitivity to social threats.

The article covers everything from Victorian delusions of electrical control, to the breakdown of novelist Evelyn Waugh, to the fiction of Philip K Dick.

It’s an excellent piece, and even those who have a special interest in the history of psychosis will find it full of fascinating gems.

By the way, it looks like Jay’s book The Air Loom Gang is about to be re-released in a newly updated version, under a new title The Influencing Machine.
 

Link to ‘The Reality Show’ in Aeon Magazine.

2 Comments

  1. Posted August 25, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Just re-read the Vaughan Bell story
    in The Guardian about Martha Mitchell
    being essentially right about Nixon
    and more importantly about her
    husband, the AG, John Mitchell.

    Let’s see there were quite a few
    top reporters who were harassed
    by the FBI on orders from Nixon,
    his AG and “good old boy” Pat
    Buchanan Nixon’s Press Secetary.
    When one of these reporters confronted
    Buchanan on TV Buchanan just ran over
    him basically b/ c the guy was in his
    80’s. Now “the *gumment* is after me”,
    is now T-Party Republican mainstream.

    If I say there are actual
    insidious US programs that make the
    NSA’s Big Data look comical by
    comparison something like that still
    goes straight into the Alex Jones
    “Paranoid Style” file as unbelievable.

    Which is why I hope Ed Snowden has
    more than what he released so far
    b/c the updated non-delusional
    reality is so Martha Mitchell deja vu.
    1)Why? B/c it is impossible to prove
    except by a private contractor insider.
    2)As per Michael Hastings and the
    possibility that when experts go
    after you it is made sure that
    everything that happens to you is indistinguishable from psychosis.
    That’s why the real pros are never
    caught. Another reason is that the
    US GOP is so crazy that anything I say
    just sounds like more T-Party nonsense.
    Oh, anyone who thinks this started with
    Obama is T-Party nuts. It is a permanent
    bureaucracy in triplicate courtesy of
    Cheney Bush after 911 but began long
    before.

  2. Posted September 13, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    A better example of delusion is Ignaz Semmelweis who had the delusion peoples hands were covered in germs, even DOCTORS hands!


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