In the second part of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, Louis Theroux went a whiter shade of pale. In Part One, the patients had been linear: given time, though the content was often horrific, sometimes bizarre, they talked straight. Louis wandered, but remained grounded. In Part Two, everything, including Louis, was up in the air. Windmills of the mind rolled aimlessly, milling nothing. A toxic runt of a shrink made it his job to finger the malingerers. He did this by raising an eyebrow and curling his lip. When patients-experts in madness faked symptoms of madness, he just knew the shirkers were doing it to dodge their day in court, but they were tough nuts to crack. Weary Dr Lip Curl sure had a hard hoe to row. Here was the proverbial patients running the asylum in action: the nuts had cracked the shrinks. Every day, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Dr Curl was damned if he knew what to do about it. It was enough to make anyone’s lip curl. He ratcheted up the curl another notch, to no avail. At some point, Dr Curl will need surgery, to put his lip back where it should be. He may even need anti-psychotics, to calm the delusion that all the inmates have got one over him. All the while, Louis gazed on, his mind as focused as a windmill in the sky. Everything was going nowhere, and nothing was going everywhere. Windmills of the mind, turning slowly in the sky.
Wearing togs of mailbag grey, but missing the convict’s vertical arrows, Louis Theroux’s cubist aspect stalked the corridors of an American asylum for the criminally insane, searching for nutcases. The nutcases failed to stand out. Scanning a corridor, it was not possible to discern whether that man with a trolley was a janitor on rounds or an axe-murderer who just might rip the steel bars off his trolley and wrap them tightly round your neck. To make matters even more confusing, some of the staffers looked pretty nutty. Only the psychiatrist was easier to spot, dressed in a cream suit from last year’s fashion rail at the local charity shop. She’d come a long way, from Lithuania to be precise, and had three settings: stern, giggly and frightened rabbit, as well she might, given the human powder kegs she sat on. This being a psychiatric instatooshn, ward rounds and meetings were called reviews, many opening and/or closing with that old psychiatric smoothie, ‘Thanks for coming in today’. Despite the smoothness, it tends to sound a bit hollow when addressed to an inmate who has not a hope in hell of not coming in today to the review.
Two days ago Dr No got another fun email from the GMC. Unlike the recent email from O Chair – ‘I’m Terry, and I’m your buddy!’ – the latest email is GMC News, March 2015, e-bulletin edition. Dr No passed on the email’s ‘Forward to a friend’ link – if friends are forwarding GMC emails to you, you need to check out who your friends are, and if you are forwarding GMC emails to your friends, you need to check out whether you’ve actually got any friends. He also declined to click the link offering Dr No the opportunity to check his registration online, on the grounds that he already knew his registration status. He learnt, from the GMC News e-bulletin headline, that there was ‘Strong support for proposals to improve patient protection and public confidence in doctors’, which turned out to be another eight out of ten cat owners who replied story. He also learnt that the theme for this year’s GMC conference, hashtag #GMCconf for those who can’t – perhaps because they are busy forwarding GMC emails to friends – make the regulator’s annual gangbang in person, is ‘creating a culture of openness, safety and compassion’. Coming from an organisation which, at least in the conduct of its fitness to practice procedures, is known for its opacity, recklessness and indifference, this struck Dr No as a bit rich.