John Stuart Mill said that "mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision [so that Socrates was] put to death as a criminal."
In a similar vein, Americans can hardly be too often reminded that there was once a man named Wilhelm Reich who died in an American federal prison on charges which today would be laughed out of any court.
Reich had attained his medical degree in Germany and studied psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, becoming one of Freud's favorites. Reich was an activist in the German Communist party during the 1930s, but his ideas and teaching disagreed with the party line, and he was expelled from the party in 1933. He later became one of its most unrelenting opponents. In 1939, with World War II approaching, Reich moved to the United States.
In 1947, following a vicious smear article in the New Republic by Mildred Edie Brady, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation into Reich's orgone energy accumulator. The Brady article claimed that Reich was conducting a sex racket, and the FDA assumed that his books must be pornographic literature. The FDA gestapo were uninterested in scientific information concerning the accumulator, and when Reich refused to cooperate with their witch hunt, the investigation bogged down, lacking any evidence against the accumulator.
In 1954, during the Joe McCarthy era, the American feds decided to go after Reich again. Without any proof whatsoever, the Food and Drug Administration succeeded in having a federal court brand the accumulator a fraud, with the added dictum that orgone energy does not exist, and the order that all literature even mentioning orgone energy should be burned. The FDA placed a ban on transporting or using Reich's orgone boxes. Because one of Reich's co-workers continued to transport the orgone boxes, Reich was imprisoned. He died of a heart attack in prison at the age of 60 in 1957, the day before he was to go up for parole.
Today, Reich's books are on sale throughout the world and orgone accumulators are sold in the United States, Germany, and other countries. An orgone box is a 5 by 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 foot box made of layers of sheet metal and wood which Reich claimed pulled a physical-psychic energy from the universe. The accumulators were purchased by doctors and psychiatrists in both the U.S. and abroad.
In 1940 Reich spent five hours with Einstein. When Reich left, he said to Einstein, "You understand now why everyone thinks I'm mad." Einstein replied: "And how."
Reich wrote Listen, Little Man! in 1946 and it was published
in 1948. The book is Reich's warning to the common man in all societies
that he, the little, average man, is lethally responsible for the
rapidly spreading social cancer of fascism.
Reich had seen how common citizens in Germany embraced their enslavement
by their Nazi overlords. He was now seeing the reappearance of the same
phenomenon in the United States and Europe. Someone needed to tell the
average citizen that his personal characteristics were at the root of
the world-wide plague of totalitarianism.