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"Dave Mabus" Diagnosed and In Treatment PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Farley   
Thursday brought news from Montréal, Canada of further action in the “David Mabus” case.

Long-time readers of this site and many other skeptic websites are familiar with this person, who would regularly interject and threaten in the comments below. He drew his nom de plume from the writings of Nostradamus, and targeted James Randi and many other skeptics for endless ire. He’s been at it for some time, you can read Mr. Randi’s posts from three years ago about this character.

Last month his spam and threats (which had accelerated on Twitter) got the attention of the press and the police where he lives in Montréal. The story of how this came about is an interesting case study in online skeptic activism which I documented in detail on my blog. It resulted in his arrest on August 16 and appearance before a judge on a total of 16 charges of making death threats.

Many skeptics assumed a mental illness of some kind was involved in this case.  Even his own defense attorney Leonard Waxman said at his August 19 hearing, “Ce n'est pas la personne moyenne qui fait ça. Il ya quelque chose de déséquilibré.”  Roughly translated, he says that Mabus is an unusual person indeed, perhaps unbalanced in some way. I’ve always thought it best to leave medical diagnoses to medical professionals, not lawyers or skeptics, so I’ve withheld judgment on this issue.

At the August 19 hearing, the judge ordered a 30-day psychiatric evaluation at the Philippe Pinel Institute before the case could proceed further. Skeptics have been anxiously awaiting the result of this evaluation, not the least because Mr. Randi himself is scheduled to speak in Montréal next week.

On Thursday Stephane Giroux (a journalist covering the case) posted on Twitter that the evaluation is now complete, and Mabus has been referred for further treatment until his next court date on December 2.  Giroux elaborated that the diagnosis was of a bipolar disorder exacerbated by alcohol and substance abuse. The further treatment from now until December is substance abuse rehabilitation.

This diagnosis of bipolar disorder does seem consistent with the behavior we’ve observed over the history of the case. Some in the skeptic community criticized the attempt to involve the police last month, pointing out that most forms of mental illness do not correlate with actual violence. However now that we know substance abuse is involved, it is worth noting this Oxford study which supports our decision to treat the threats as serious.

In any case, it is good that skeptic efforts have resulted in “Mabus” getting professional help, and we hope that his treatment plan is a successful one.


Tim Farley is a JREF Research Fellow in electronic media. He is the creator of the website What's the Harm and also blogs at Skeptical Software Tools. He researched the information in JREF's Today in Skeptic History iPhone app and has given presentations at TAM 6, 7 and 9. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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written by William, September 23, 2011
Mr Markuze is definitely in need of some help.
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written by JDM, September 23, 2011
I would tend to criticize those that would not take death threats seriously, even if it's rare that they follow through. The core problem is, you don't know which ones to take seriously. A death threat is considered a form of assault in some jurisdictions. I don't believe free speech covers death threats anyway. And now, at least the mental illness is actually being addressed rather than allowed to fester and allow him to silence people through fear.
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written by benbradley, September 23, 2011
I agree with JDM, regrettably we know too little to determine with much accuracy who will actually become violent out of those who make such threats. The mental health (and addiction treatment) field is at its best currently a very inexact science, and this allows pseudoscience to flourish in these areas even moreso than other such as the medical sciences which have increasing successes in treating and even curing many formerly debilitating and deadly diseases.

I'm not sure what "substance abuse rehabilitation" is in Canada, but I sure hope it's not 12-step based. Is the name of the treatment center he's been sent to available to the public? A center's website usually mentions what modalities it uses. There are 12-step-based alcohol and drug treatment centers in Canada but I don't think they're as overwhelmingly prevalent as they are in the USA where 95 percent are 12-step based, with the "Minnesota Model" being almost universally presented as the way to "put into remission the disease of alcoholism."

There's a long ongoing thread in the forum on AA and 12-step based treatment, featuring 12-step proponents as well as others such as myself (a skeptic and former AA member) who tell why 12-step programs are religion-based despite its "spiritual not religions" claims, and why it's NOT in any sense reason-based:
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=180683

Mr. "Mabus" surely doesn't need any such "programming" to mess up his thinking any further. I would never wish 12-step treatment on anyone.
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written by krelnik, September 24, 2011
@Caller X: Thanks for the clarification on the translation. I did consult with someone (other than Google Translate) on the meaning, but I knew there would be subtlety there that I would probably mess up -- not only because my French is poor, but also because I am not a lawyer. That's why I said "roughly translated".

You are also correct to point out that there is a difference between the lawyer talking about his client and talking about "the person responsible". At this point nothing has been proven in court, so those could well be two different people.
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written by krelnik, September 24, 2011
@benbradley: I have no information on where the further treatment is taking place, I don't even know if such would be made public. There is some mention (but no details about) substance abuse on the Philippe-Pinel website.
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