Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov disappeared from public view in early May, 1984 after he had begun a hunger strike to get permission for his wife, Yelena Bonner, to travel to the U.S. for heart surgery. In the Soviet paradise, wanting one’s anti-Soviet wife to live, and, worse still, to be saved by evil capitalist surgeons and not by the holy surgeons of the Soviet utopia, was, clearly, an exercise in abnormal psychology.
Sakharov was undoubtedly “mentally ill.” No wonder, therefore, that Soviet authorities forcibly confined him in a closed ward of the Semashko Hospital in Gorky, where he was force-fed and given drugs to alter his state of mind. This is how Soviet authorities believed they would get the Soviet dissident to not only stop caring about his wife, but to also make a public recantation about his abnormal anti-Soviet views – a gambit in which they ultimately failed.
The Soviet system had a long and cruel record of perverting psychiatry to abuse political dissidents. Labelling many thought-criminals ”insane,” the communist regime institutionalized them under horrifying conditions in mental hospitals and force-fed them dangerous and mind-shattering drugs. Dissidents such as Pyotr Grigorenko, Joseph Brodsky, Alexander Esenin-Volpin, Vladimir Bukovsky and Natalya Gorbanevskaya were among the brave heroes who did not elude this grotesque form of Soviet barbarity. Grigorenko was forcibly committed to a special psychiatric hospital for criticizing the Khrushchev regime. Brodksy was sent to mental hospitals for not writing the right kind of poetry; his treatments involved “tranquilizing” injections, sleep deprivation and forced freezing baths. Esenin-Volpin was institutionalized in the Leningrad Special Psychiatric Hospital for his anti-Soviet thoughts. Bukovsky was also confined to the same psychiatric hospital for “anti-Soviet agitation.” Gorbanevskaya was committed to a psychiatric hospital for, among other “abnormality” crimes, attending the 1968 Red Square demonstration against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
And now enter the leftist totalitarians of the Obama stripe. While anti-Soviet ideas caused dissidents to be confined to psychiatric institutions in the Soviet Union, the soil is now being fertilized for the same process in the American leftist land of Alinskyite hope and change. Indeed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy consoled leftists worldwide this past Tuesday, engaging in Soviet-style labeling vis-à-vis global warming dissidents that would have made Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov proud. Addressing an audience at a White House summit, she stated that “normal people,” and not climate skeptics, would win the debate on global warming. She made the comment in the context of why the EPA had issued a recent report on global warming’s negative impacts on public health, stressing that, “It’s normal human beings that want us to do the right thing, and we will if you help us.”
The contention that global warming skeptics are not “normal people” is, of course, a normal sentiment coming from a leftist. The Left, as the history of the Soviet regime and other communist regimes has well revealed, breathes it oxygen by labeling. The opponents of the messianic utopian cause are always “evil” and/or “mentally deranged” to one extent or another. And these labels are very effective in demonizing and dehumanizing dissidents — especially when the labels have that little inconvenient limitation of not having any relationship to the actual facts. There is enough evidence to suggest, after all, that man-made global warming is the myth that the skeptics say it is. A strong presentation of the facts by Shillman Fellow Daniel Greenfield on this score can be found here and here.
Gina McCarthy’s totalitarian attitude toward global warming skeptics parallels, of course, the Soviet mindset that forced Soviet dissidents into psychiatric hospitals and to be force-fed drugs. McCarthy and her superiors in the Obama administration do not, at this point, have the power to put the skeptics they are labeling into asylums, and to be administered “tranquilizing” injections and immersed into ice baths, but it is clear from their own words what their desires are – and what path they are clearing for the brave new world.
The spheres of powerlessness and dehumanization being built by the Gina McCarthys of the Obama administration, to which dissidents and the opponents of “hope and change” are being banished, are somewhat of a personal issue for this writer. My father, Yuri Glazov, was a scholar at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and a professor at Moscow State University who became a “skeptic” about the Soviet paradise in which he lived. He attended human rights demonstrations in Moscow on behalf of political prisoners and signed letters of protest against Soviet political repressions. For not being “normal” in this particular regard, he was fired from his work and received a labor card with a special secret code that meant that he was blacklisted and could not receive employment anywhere in the country. The activities he had engaged in could land a Soviet citizen in the gulag or a psychiatric hospital for decades. But we were the lucky ones. The ones who got away.
My family never forgot, obviously, those who we left behind — and Joseph Brodsky, Alexander Esenin-Volpin, Vladimir Bukovsky and Natalya Gorbanevskaya were and are among our friends, and the torment they endured for not being “normal” remains etched in history and in our hearts, and we gauge very clearly the pernicious ideological seeds that spawned their persecution and suffering.
My family escaped a totalitarian hell to come to a free country to now face, in the most tragic and bizarre sense, the ideological cousins of our tormentors. The Left and its totalitarian gate-keepers are now in solid power here, slowly but surely building the prison walls and “psychiatric” spaces designed for the treatment of abnormal skeptics. Gina McCarthy and her ilk must be called out for exactly who they are — and for what they are intending to do. The unimaginable cruelties that Andrei Sakharov endured in the Semashko Hospital in Gorky in the mid-1980s must never be forgotten and must never leave our hearts, for they are the dividing lines in the battle between good and evil, despite the labels that try to camouflage the truth.
Jamie Glazov is the editor of Frontpagemag.com, the author of United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror and the host of the web tv show, The Glazov Gang.