WILHELM REICH VS. THE U.S.A. by Jerome Greenfield


Email this review


That a man whose early ideas about character are universally valued by the psychoanalytic establishment, who once was considered a possible candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, should be jailed (in 1957) for contempt of court by the United States is most bizarre. But it is not odd, as Greenfield seems to think, that the FDA should wish to investigate the practice of a medical doctor who espoused theories of orgone, cancer, weather, cosmology, gravity, UFO's and ""the forces of life and death."" The FDA suspected fraud and sex racketeering. Greenfield insists that Reich was no charlatan, nor can he be dismissed as totally mad. It is true that Reich's handling of his legal defense -- ignoring valid issues of jurisdiction and free speech in order to fully ""prosecute his prosecutors,"" to the point of disregarding court orders -- demonstrates a ""loss of touch with social reality."" But everybody else seemed to lose touch as well: the FDA persisted in the sex racket charge when it was clearly untrue; the government committed such puerile abuses as book burning and accusing Reich of encouraging masturbation; a judge thought that Reich tried to hypnotize a prosecutor; Reich feared that the Communists were after him, and thought that Ike was sending planes over his jail cell as a signal of presidential support. Reich never defended his ideas in court. Despite our skepticism, it seems incontestable that a scientist has a right to research as long as no fraud or other crime is committed. Greenfield has meticulously delved through court transcripts, Reich's writings and his foundation's letters, and he has interviewed Reich's friends and supporters (such men as A. S. Neill, Malinowski, and William Steig backed him) and the government investigators. Greenfield is well aware that the case is too complex for easy answers; one wonders, then, why he can assert that an authentic test of Reich's theories will determine his sanity. An accurate, perceptive report of a labyrinthine matter -- occasionally marred by oversimplification.

Pub Date: July 29th, 1974
Publisher: Norton