Sunday, July 19, 2015

PENS draws dark picture psychology's collusion with torture

As a lifelong student of social phycology, it's dismaying to learn about the collusion between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Bush administration's torture program following the 911 attacks. Under a joint task force with the military known as PENS (Psychological Ethics and National Security) the Association trained and advised torture interrogators and supervised the "breaking" of torture It turns out PENS was rigged. The military and their compliant military psychologists dominated the task force to manipulate APA members and their formerly esteemed organization to go along with facilitating torture. 
Back in my 1964 college course "Social Psychology" taught by fabulous teacher Richard Flacks, I first learned of the Milgram Study, in which Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram was able to manipulate ordinary citizens to administer torture on unseen subjects who gave wrong answers to ludicrous questions. Milgram showed how unsuspecting dolts could be unwittingly manipulated to do inhuman acts when directed by authority figures. The torture administered by these subjects was not real. The unseen people screaming in pain were acting. No damage occurred save for the anguish the subjects must have felt during and after their participation in this truly disturbing study.

Alas, life imitates research insofar as the APA is concerned. Real authority figures manipulated trained psychologists and their safeguard professional organization to administer real torture on thousands of real victims, some of whom died. Milgram was interested in the pernicious effect of renegade authority on ordinary citizens. He likely never imagined the dolts he exposed eventually would include his own learned profession