The New York Times called him Steve “Turn on the Hate” Bannon. He used to be executive chair of Breitbart News, and The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Bannon the main driver behind making Breitbart “a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” Liberals and some Republicans alike began protesting when president-elect Trump named his former campaign chairman as his chief strategist, placing all that hate right smack in the middle of the White House. Bannon is known as the head of the alt-right, which he admitted to Mother Jones attracts racists, homophobes, and anti-Semites.
He’s under fire for his quotes about women, whom he has called “dykes” and “bimbos.” He’s under fire for his summation of progressivism, which he calls, “all about victimhood.” Breitbart headlines say that “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews,” and “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”
But it’s his comments on mental health that have many parents up in arms.
The Hill got ahold of an email exchange between Bannon and Breitbart’s Washington editor, Matt Boyle from December 1 of last year. Boyle suggested supporting Paul Ryan’s planned overhaul of the mental health system. “I’ve got a cure for the mental health issue,” Bannon replied. “Spank your children more.”
Spank. Your. Children. More. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in.
The more you spank your children, parents, the less likely they are to be mentally ill. This from a man who will be safely ensconced in the White House, influencing policy on everything from the Keystone Pipeline to, you know, coverage of mental health care. Are you freaking out yet? You should be.
He’s not just criminally wrong. He’s not just offensively ableist — because it’s totally possible, everyone knows, to smack the autism or depression out of your kid. He’s scientifically wrong. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that, “The use of physical punishment to discipline children has been linked to a range of mental health problems […]. Harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and several personality disorders. Researchers found 2 percent to 7 percent of mental disorders were attributable to physical punishment. […] From a public health perspective, study authors conclude reducing physical punishment may help decrease the prevalence of mental disorders in the general population.”
Basically, reality is the opposite of Steve Bannon’s offensive little one-off. In fact, the less you spank your children, the less likely they are to be mentally ill. Not only that, but according to Psychology Today, spanking is ineffective at increasing desired behavior in the short term, ineffective at increasing desired behavior in the long term, and increases delinquency and criminal behavior. Fifty years of meta-research at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan concluded that the more children are spanked, “the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties” Basically, there is ample evidence that spanking produces harm, not good — and not the compliance their parents are looking for.
To say, therefore, that you can spank the mental illness (or any other issue) away is both ableist and ignorant. Maybe Steve Bannon hasn’t read the research. Or maybe he was spanked too much as a kid. Either way, we do not want this man in the White House.