Letter to the Editors of NYRB from Donald Moss

(Click Here to Read: Psychoanalysis after Freud: A Response to Frederick Crews and Other Critics by Glen O. Gabbard, Sheldon M. Goodman, and Arnold D. Richards on this website.)

To the Editors of NY Review of Books:

So, let me get this straight. Per Mr. Crews, we would be led to believe the following analogy:

Freud is to psychoanalysis as L. Ron Hubbard is to Scientology. The analogy would hold because on both of its sides we would find corrupt founders duping millions by selling private fantasy as truth.

Now, though, with that analogy in place, we would still be left with a problem. Continuing to working analogically, we would now have to find a way to place Mr. Crews and Mr. Freud in a companion analogy.

We can easily construct one: Crews will be to Freud as, well, J. Edgar Hoover was to Martin Luther King. Yes, that seems right. After all, King, like Freud, did have his flaws; and Hoover, hating King, went after those flaws. So far, the analogy is working.

We can see the logic, shared here by Hoover and Crews.

Here’s Hoover: expose the personal flaws and whatever King “sold” to millions will, by analogic reasoning, seem equally flawed. And here’s Crews, working the same tired path. Freud the megalomaniac, the control freak, the misogynist, the tyrant, the liar, the cocaine addict—the field is ripe for Crews/Hoover, the zealous detective.
Nail him on the personal stuff, and the rest just follows. That’s the specious wonder of argument by analogy.

So, we can see how the enterprise functions here. The question, though, is not how, but why.

Why is that the NY Review– such a strong, important, reliable source about so many matters for so many of us—can repeatedly hand over responsibility for reviewing psychoanalytic matters to an avowedly anti-Freudian, anti-psychoanalytic reader like Crews, a reader with no clinical experience, with no awareness of clinical matters, with no
sense whatsoever of psychoanalysis as it actually is thought about and practiced. How can it be? What is the agenda here? And why? What kind of offense is being redressed by handing over a bone this like to  a dog like that?

Of course, I am a psychoanalyst. That is, I am a reader and teacher of Freud, and, for 40 years, a clinician. I approach “Freud” differently than Crews does. I have almost no interest in the “person” of Freud. (I feel similarly, by the way, about, say, Henry James, or James Joyce, or, for that matter, Marx or Mozart.) My interest is in the abiding, and remarkably powerful, impact of psychoanalysis, not only on patients, but on the entire reach of
Euro-American culture. I start with that fact and work backwards, toward the original theoretical writings. The logic here is simple: the power and efficacy of the theory follows from the self-evident power and efficacy of its implementation—the logic we use to think of foundational ideas: Freud’s, Darwin’s, Newton’s, Marx’, Einsteins,

Crews’ review is an ad hominem screed. Its only strength lies in its unashamed brazenness. That brazenness hides nothing. Sadly, it also illuminates nothing.

Donald Moss, MD

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