Tuesday, May 19, 2015
American Psychological Association exposed again
The American Psychological Association has been exposed again in a new report, "All the President’s Psychologists," and numerous other articles from various sources. Some of this isn't new and there is some evidence to indicate that more may have been revealed already that hasn't received much attention.
Those with political and media clout, who understand psychological manipulation tactics often use them to manipulate the masses, many of whom don't understand psychological manipulation tactics, including many that aren't to difficult to understand if people take the time to understand them..
Also at least one of the individuals, Phillip Zimbardo, that has claimed to expose some of the problems with the CIA and been critical of the Bush administration may have also been involved in the research to develop some of these tactics and to revise the ethics guidelines. I have written more about this in Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, and The Stanford Prison Experiment and several other posts about this subject and will review some of it here; also there might be more information indicating that he was involved in this report, although they don't put much emphasis on it. As I indicated in previous posts Amy Goodman has interviewed him as well but didn't inquire about possible connections to the torture. I don't know if she had any knowledge of it; but if she didn't she probably should have.
The following is an excerpt from Democracy Now followed by several other excerpts including some from the new report:
This article and the accompanying report clearly indicates that a large portion of the work that some of the most prominent psychologists, or at least some of those with the most political power, do is shrouded in secrecy and designed to deceive and manipulate the public. This includes changes in the ethical guidelines which were done in secret meetings and even many members of the American Psychology Association weren't informed about them; which might explain why Susan Linn was surprised to see the new 2003 guidelines as I mentioned in a previous article and will get to more below. As I indicated in past articles about the subject there are plenty of good psychologists and some of them help expose the bad ones; however they often don't get nearly as much attention in the traditional media as those with political support so it takes time to sort through the details and check the facts. I covered what I consider some of the basics in a manner most people can understand and confirm in Fundamentals of Psychology and Washington's Blog provided some additional information in the following excerpt:
It seems extreme to many people to claim that American psychologists behaved as bad as Nazi or Soviet psychologists and but a close look at a lot of past work by the CIA indicates that if they aren't as bad they're much closer than most people would want to believe. And a lot of it is more subtle, and harder to understand without review, although most of the details aren't that complicated if people take the time to review them.
The following excerpts of the report (PDF) indicate some of the highlights that I considered notable including admissions to working for the CIA, at least by some of them, and claims that they wanted to keep their activities secret, some discussion about favorable financial treatment for those working for the CIA, at least one reference to the discussions about the changes in the ethical guidelines that were decided on in August 2002 which either went into effect immediately or in 2003, and at the end is a brief mention of Zimbardo, who has indicated that he is critical of the abuses of the CIA and Bush administration; but the decisions to make changes in the ethical guidelines happened on his watch; and Kirk Hubbard refers to him as if he thinks he might be willing to act on his behalf. In addition to Hubbard some of the psychologists directly implicated are James Mitchell, Bruce Jessen, Susan Brandon and Stephen Behnke, who is supposed to be their expert on ethics but clearly doesn't seem to be too concerned about them. Philip Zimbardo isn't directly implicated but as I previously wrote there seems to be plenty of circumstantial evidence to indicate that he probably is involved with some of this research, including his own admissions and research by professor Alfred McCoy, and this provides some additional information that supports this assumption.
In the final E-mail cited Kirk Hubbard refers to Zimbardo as someone that he might consider asking to "cajole" Ekman on his behalf. This hardly seems likely if Phillip Zimbardo really was as concerned about preventing torture or participating with the CIA as his public statements indicate; however in previous statements, including his book and the introduction to a recent edition to Stanley Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" book he has admitted that he was the charismatic one of the two in high school and college and that he could be manipulative, and his so called Stanford Prison Experiment was about manipulation. He claimed to put those things behind him when he was admonished by his girlfriend and future wife; but he also admits to further experiments after that change of heart, and he was the president of the American Psychological association when they had a meeting, previously mentioned, in august 2002 to decide on the new ethical guidelines that went into effect in the summer of 2003. This report indicates that at least some of those changes went into effect immediately.
Phillip Zimbardo has provided conflicting claims in the past and it may be difficult to figure out exactly what his objective is. If he was trying to advance the CIA's goal in the most effective way possible and keep this secret it wouldn't seem reasonable for him to disclose some of their tactics as he did in his book. However if he wanted to expose them in the most effective way possible he could have done a much better job and he could have written his book in the seventies exposing some of his research much earlier, possibly preventing his research being used to develop interrogation techniques or indoctrination techniques in boot camp, by informing the public how to avoid being misled. and if he really was an anti-war protester during the Vietnam war it is hard to imagine why he would have done research financed by the Office of Navel Research that could be used to develop boot camp policies among other things.
He didn't take either of these options, which may make his objective a little more complicated. As I indicated in previous posts it might be because they want to disclose as much and only as much information when it suits their purposes, not the purposes of the majority of the public.
This report also implicated at least two new psychologists who later became president of the American Psychological Association. Alfred McCoy also implicated several previous presidents of the APA in his research. Neither of them directly implicated Zimbardo, who was president in 2002 but McCoy made a compelling case to implicate both Stanley Milgram and Irving Janis, who were closely tied to Zimbardo and worked together on several related projects including the Obedience experiments and the so-called Prison experiment which were part of a much larger series of experiments that were related. If McCoy had substituted Zimbardo for Milgram or Janis his argument would have been even stronger, especially after Zimbardo wrote his book which might look like a partial confession to those that are familiar with his work and apply scrutiny.
The clear implication, from a lot of this research, is that they've been using psychological manipulation for the advantage of war profiteers and oil companies among other people with enough political clout, regardless of how much damage it does to the rest of society. However they have to realize that this could eventually backfire, even on those with the most political clout, when the damage escalates too much so it is possible that they might support a controlled transition, to some degree. If this is happening, and it isn't exposed, then we could get what they consider enough reform, and only enough reform, to prevent it from backfiring on those with the most political clout, although they might abandon some scapegoats.
Phillip Zimbardo has also encouraged hero worship, although he doesn't phrase it that way. The most practical solutions don't involve dramatic actions; instead they involve teaching people about the root causes of problems and avoiding them before dramatic action seems appropriate. A good argument could be made that teachers and other ordinary people that take preventive action are the real heroes, however it doesn't seem as dramatic and is rarely accompanied by hype by the media.
Unfortunately the media that does cover Zimbardo rarely if ever seems to bring this up. Instead they often give him a good chance to make his case and present himself as being opposed to the torture practices that he almost certainly helped develop. This includes Democracy Now who interviewed him when he published his book in 2007 and didn't mention the support for torture by the APA until the end of the interview when there was no time to discuss it, nor did they find extra time posted on the web, as they do with some guests, as indicated in the following excerpt:
Amy Goodman and others have had plenty of time to ask him more question or raise them for the benefit of the public since then; unfortunately few of them have, even many relatively high profile alternative media outlets; but one one brief occasion she did report give him more good press about a petition drive, Appointment of Rumsfeld Stirs Protest at Stanford. 09/25/2007 "The petition effort is led in part by famed psychologist Philip Zimbardo." Ironically Phillip Zimbardo has acknowledged some criticism, which I haven't seen on the internet, in the 2008 edition of his book, which says that while promoting it that many people came to the conclusion that he might have used his research to develop the torture techniques later used at Abu Ghraib; but he didn't say who these people were, but it clearly indicates that others came to similar conclusions before me.
The problems with the use of psychological manipulation goes well beyond international affairs and torture. It also includes manipulation of children through advertising that starts at a young age, manipulating workers, often through union busing tactics, and manipulating of voters for political purposes. Advertising to children is what Susan Linn was writing about, in her book "Consuming Kids" when she expressed concern and surprise at the removal of the social responsibility clause. Susan Linn and several other researchers, including Juliet Schor and Roy F. Fox have also expressed concern, if not outrage by laws that protect the secrecy of "proprietary research" done regarding advertizing to children.
This essentially means that instead of protecting children or other people, including voters and workers, from psychological manipulation by psychologists the government is protecting the secrecy of the manipulators. It essentially means that conspiracy is protected by law. The fact that conspiracy to manipulate the public is protected by law isn't actually a conspiracy theory, since this conclusion is based on information that is available to the public. A conspiracy theory would be when people speculate about conspiracies before they have all the information they need to establish facts. However it does indicate that there are conspiracies going on and this report has exposed some of them; and it has indicated that conspiracy theorists are justified in some of their speculations as long as they do their best to sort out the details with accurate information that is available.
As I've said in the past many so-called conspiracy theories don't fit the strictest definition of conspiracy, since the information used to come to conclusions isn't completely secret. Instead they're often mentioned very briefly in low profile locations where large percentages of the public never read them; and contradictory claims that often don't stand up to scrutiny are repeated over and over again. This is propaganda, which is similar to conspiracy, and it often involves psychological manipulation. The advantage of this is that if there is public information even without the help of the media the word can get out eventually but as Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
And another popular quote often ironically attributed to Vladimir Lenin, "A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth," or at least it seems to. This is one of the most basic principles of propaganda, which is why we need a more diverse media.
Edit: In one of the previous posts about Phillip Zimbardo and the American Psychological Association, "Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association," I mentioned that I informed both Phillip Zimbardo, through his web site, and an associate of his, Sharon Presley, through Facebook about my articles on their work and received no response. This was in 2011; before writing this article I sent him two tweets and after I sent him one more informing him of this article. I received no response once again. This isn't surprising, since if my views raise legitimate points, then from a public relations point of view, which is similar to a legal point of view, the best way to address it might be to avoid drawing any additional attention to it and avoid providing a response that might not adequately address the situation and make it seem worse. If on the other hand there is a legitimate problem with my concerns, it might be in his best interest to address them
The following are the tweets that I sent him:
Also since writing this a study Zimbardo wrote in 1979, On Resisting Social Influence Susan Andersen and Philip Zimbardo Stanford University, was brought to my attention through an ATS discussion. This study has some of the same advantages and disadvantages of his book, only, since it seems to have drawn less attention it may have done more to educate those who want to conduct scams than those who want to avoid them. Like the Obedience to Authority experiments, it could be used to better understand manipulation tactics and use them assuming, the target doesn't understand them, or to warn the public about them so that they can avoid being scammed. Since this was almost certainly not available to a large number of people outside the academic world, it almost certainly did little or nothing to warn people that might be susceptible to these scams. In all fairness the media is much more responsible for that; if they wanted to do more to inform people o this type of research they could but, instead they often use propaganda that often indicates that they understand it, since they're using manipulation tactics.
I have written several posts about related subjects in the past including the following:
Fundamentals of Psychology
Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment
Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association
Eli Roth’s Milgram/Obedience experiment much more extensive than most people realize
Political Psychologist Are Suppressing Democracy
There are also plenty of additional other reports, some of which were used to deve3lop some of the reporting hear or were cited in this report including the following:
Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security. (2005). PDF 11 pages
Counterpunch: The Ethical Demise of the American Psychological Association 05/13/2015
Psychological Warfare? A Debate on the Role of Mental Health Professionals in Military Interrogations at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Beyond 08/11/2005
A Secret E-Mail Argument Among Psychologists About Torture 05/08/2009
APA Interrogation Task Force Member Dr. Jean Maria Arrigo Exposes Group’s Ties to Military 08/20/2007
June 4 letter from Tenet to National Security Adviser (Rice?) Review of CIA Interrogation Program
Salon: Psychological warfare 07/26/2006 Angered that their professional organization has adopted a policy condoning psychologists' participation in "war on terror" interrogations, many psychologists are vowing to stage a battle royal at the APA's annual meeting.
Psychologists group still rocked by torture debate 08/04/2006 In an angry response to Salon, the American Psychological Association defends its policy on participating in terror suspects' interrogation -- as some members still push for change.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Executive Summary of the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program. (2014), p. 136. United States Senate PDF study 500 pages and hard if not impossible to download