• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Psychologists in an Age of Torture

 

“We’ve seen a lot of negative e-mail discourse in recent years as APA has made decisions and released reports that have triggered controversy among our members . . . We also saw heated disputes over APA’s stance on the role of psychologists in interrogations . . . The difference is that in the new age of outrage, criticism on these issues quickly escalated to unwarranted heights. In 24/7 instant communications, extreme voices dominate . . .I see four elements converging online to strain the collegiality within APA . . .viral distortion (a small number perpetuate shocking misrepresentations about APA’s actions, policies and procedures). The effect on APA is damaging when members and the public believe the distortions . . . Let’s turn down the temperature on outrage.”

APA in the age of outrage
by Dr. Carol D. Goodheart
President, American Psychological Association

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

William Lloyd Garrison
White Abolitionist, 1831

Dear President Goodheart:

I take issue with your column, “APA in the Age of Outrage” in January’s APA Monitor. As president of the APA you seem to have diminished the concept of outrage, defining it as the freedom of others to express their disagreement with your “majority opinion.” In my universe, there will never be enough outrage to counteract the injustices in the world. Rather than “turning down the temperature” as you wish to do in your universe, which I assume would make you more comfortable, ratcheting up the outrage is necessary to save humanity.

In the universe where I live, people with malevolent intentions are sometimes elevated into positions of power over thousands or even millions of other people. When their actions are murderous, or physically threatening, or destructive of others’ life chances, or are unjust, others who do not share their belief systems take measures, ranging from reasoned criticism to election participation to organizing others against such actions. When the actions of those in power, such as experimentally calibrating just how much physical or mental torture is enough to make a human prisoner confess, are violations of international law and human rights, many are outraged.

In my universe, “outrage” did not come into being only with the latest communication technologies, including the internet. Unlike your universe, these “outrages” predate the latest communication technologies, including the internet, sad to say. Our history is replete with dreadful and callous “outrages”, going back to very nearly the beginning of human existence.

In my universe, I and others find it necessary to work with real facts and circumstances. For example, while some insist that we must fight a “war on terror,” others of us – who, I admit, become a little “outraged” at the irrationality of “terror” as an enemy – try to reason that wars are fought against human beings, not abstract concepts. And that before human beings must be exterminated or tortured in the name of fighting “terror,” certain reality-based accountings and considerations, such as the law, should be unavoidable. When they are not, I am outraged.

In your column it seems that your universe has suddenly become populated with abstractions to be eradicated. “Email tyranny,” and “viral distortions” appear to be causing a “lack of civility.” This “lack of civility” seems to be one of the very worst things that can happen in your universe, enough to devote a presidential column to the subject. I must admit to a certain amount of jealousy here, because in my universe, facts and circumstances reveal vastly different problems.

In my universe, illegally-undertaken wars have killed tens of thousands of people and thousands are jailed because of “terror” when most of the time there is little or no factual reason for them to lose their rights and recourse, their lives and their families. In my universe, some psychologists who have taken an oath to use their educations and healing abilities only for beneficent purposes instead have deliberately and knowingly used them to oversee the intentional infliction of physical and mental harm to others.

Those of us who are “outraged” by the misuse of psychologists’ intellectual gifts and skills have demonstrated that laws and standards are being unmistakably violated. Yet in your universe, you are more outraged by the communication of these atrocities.

Most recently in my universe (and yours), a new abstraction has been posed: “operational psychology,” the deliberate use of psychological principles in warmaking and intelligence. In my universe, many think this abstract “operational psychology” isn’t a legitimate field of psychology at all, but is a deliberate attempt at the misapplication of humane learning to do harm to others, illegal, inhumane and, yes – outrageous – transmutation of a great good to something unmistakably evil.

In my universe, those who promote abstractions like “terror”, “email tyranny” and “viral distortion” as disembodied enemies of “civility” tend to be people who rotely repeat untested notions, subjective beliefs and unconsidered generalities so often that they come to mistake phantasms for facts. By quarreling with the means of communication, they avoid looking at the content of communications. They shut themselves off from learning by coming to view those whose opinions differ with their own as viruses or people whose mission is simply to not be civil because they’re “outraged.”

Those who traffic in abstractions destroy their own credibility with their decided anti-intellectual stereotyping. Accusations that those who use email are “distorting” and amplifying their misplaced “outrage” to destroy “civility” are peddling diversionary tripe. They are refusing to do the intellectual work they were trained to do and are obligated to do as thinking human beings: engaging in fact-based, science-implicated investigation and discussion.

One final outrage: almost three years ago I submitted a professional ethics complaint to the APA over which you now preside. This complaint concerned the alleged involvement of Major John Leso, psychologist and APA member, in the planning and use of torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Two years later, your ethics office acknowledged receipt of that complaint. To date, no further action has been taken. That is an outrage.

Dr. TRUDY BOND is a licensed independent psychologist in Toledo,Ohio. She can be reached at trudybond@att.net.

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 23, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Belligerence of Empire
Ralph Nader
What and Who Gave Us Trump?
Ramzy Baroud
Madonna’s Fake Revolution: Eurovision, Cultural Hegemony and Resistance
Tom Engelhardt
Living in a Nation of Political Narcissists
Binoy Kampmark
Challenging Orthodoxies: Alabama’s Anti-Abortion Law
Thomas Klikauer
Why Reactionaries Won in Australia
John Steppling
A New Volkisch Mythos
Cathy Breen
So Many Wars: Remembering Friends in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Kurdistan and Turkey 
Chuck Collins
Ending the Generational Abuse of Student Debt
Robert J. Burrowes
Understanding NATO, Ending War
Nyla Ali Khan
Dilution of “Kashmiriyat” and Regional Nationalism
May 22, 2019
T.J. Coles
Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services
Thomas Knapp
A US War on Iran Would be Evil, Stupid, and Self-Damaging
Johnny Hazard
Down in Juárez
Mark Ashwill
Albright & Powell to Speak at Major International Education Conference: What Were They Thinking?
Binoy Kampmark
The Victory of Small Visions: Morrison Retains Power in Australia
Laura Flanders
Can It Happen Here?
Dean Baker
The Money in the Trump/Kushner Middle East Peace Plan
Manuel Perez-Rocha – Jen Moore
How Mining Companies Use Excessive Legal Powers to Gamble with Latin American Lives
George Ochenski
Playing Politics With Coal Plants
Ted Rall
Why Joe Biden is the Least Electable Democrat
May 21, 2019
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Locked in a Cold War Time Warp
Roger Harris
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire
Patrick Cockburn
Trump is Making the Same Mistakes in the Middle East the US Always Makes
Robert Hunziker
Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming
Lance Olsen
Renewable Energy: the Switch From Drill, Baby, Drill to Mine, Baby, Mine
Dean Baker
Ady Barkan, the Fed and the Liberal Funder Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
Maduro Gives Trump a Lesson in Ethics and Morality
Jan Oberg
Trump’s Iran Trap
David D’Amato
What is Anarchism?
Nicky Reid
Trump’s War In Venezuela Could Be Che’s Revenge
Elliot Sperber
Springtime in New York
May 20, 2019
Richard Greeman
The Yellow Vests of France: Six Months of Struggle
Manuel García, Jr.
Abortion: White Panic Over Demographic Dilution?
Robert Fisk
From the Middle East to Northern Ireland, Western States are All Too Happy to Avoid Culpability for War Crimes
Tom Clifford
From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf
Chandra Muzaffar
Targeting Iran
Valerie Reynoso
The Violent History of the Venezuelan Opposition
Howard Lisnoff
They’re Just About Ready to Destroy Roe v. Wade
Eileen Appelbaum
Private Equity is a Driving Force Behind Devious Surprise Billings
Binoy Kampmark
Bob Hawke: Misunderstood in Memoriam
J.P. Linstroth
End of an era for ETA?: May Basque Peace Continue
Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail