Sunday, August 09, 2015

When shrinks work for spooks

In a previous post, we discussed the case of Mandeep K. Dhami, a British psychologist who wrote a secret report for Britains's GCHQ (their version of the NSA) on the use of social media to discredit and harass anyone deemed an enemy of the state. Her report suggested the following tactics:
• Uploading YouTube videos containing “persuasive” communications (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)

• Setting up Facebook groups, forums, blogs and Twitter accounts that encourage and monitor discussion on a topic (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)

• Establishing online aliases/personalities who support the communications or messages in YouTube videos, Facebook groups, forums, blogs etc

• Establishing online aliases/personalities who support other aliases

• Sending spoof e-mails and text messages from a fake person or mimicking a real person (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deceive, deter, delay or disrupt)

• Providing spoof online resources such as magazines and books that provide inaccurate information (to disrupt, delay, deceive, discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter or denigrate/degrade)
Lovely stuff, eh wot? And that's just the beginning. Follow the link for a fuller picture.

When this report came to light -- thank you, Ed Snowden! -- the psychological community has belatedly come to realize that creeps like Mandeep Dhami have cast an unflattering light on her entire community. Andrew Fishman of The Intercept gives us a look at the ongoing debate:
One of the psychologists cited in the report criticized the paper and GCHQ’s ethics. Another psychologist condemned Dhami’s recommendations as “grossly unethical” and another called them an “egregious violation” of psychological ethics. But two other psychologists cited in the report did not express concern when contacted for reaction, and another psychologist, along with Dhami’s current employer, defended her work and her ethical standards.
Those two shrinks -- the ones who defend Dhami's indefensible actions -- are the primary reason why Scientology's hysterical denunciations of psychiatry and psychology continue to have some small degree of intellectual purchase. Fortunately, not all psychologists and psychiatrists are willing to countenance obeisance to the military/intelligence complex. Unfortunately, some still do.
For Dr. Bradley Olson, who is past president of APA Division 48, which studies peace, conflict, and violence, using one’s training to assist in a mission like JTRIG’s, which involves the deception and manipulation of unsuspecting targets, is inherently problematic. Using one’s “expertise, research, or consultation to guide deceptive statements, even the statements of others, when the deceptive intentions are clearly documented … that is against psychological ethics,” according to Olson, who has collaborated with Soldz, including as a co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. “This is a terrible, terrible violation of psychological ethics” and a violation of the APA’s ethical standards, he added.
We've known for a while that psychologists have worked with CIA torturers. As the L.A. Times wrote not long ago:
The APA got into this mess by holding tightly to a deeply flawed assumption: that psychology should embrace every opportunity to expand its sphere of influence.

The APA's relationship with military intelligence dates back to its contributions in critical areas such as aptitude assessment and teamwork during World War I and II. After the 9/11 attacks, the APA sought to become an indispensable source of psychological expertise for counter-terrorism efforts at the Pentagon and CIA. Along with other health professionals, psychologists got placed in key roles in clandestine interrogation operations. When this made headlines, both the American Medical Assn. and the American Psychiatric Assn. issued declarations against their members' participation.

But the APA's response was different. It launched the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security and stacked it with military intelligence insiders. In quick order, the task force reached a disingenuous, preordained conclusion that psychologists have an important role to play, asserting that their involvement kept interrogations "safe, legal, ethical and effective."
"Psychology should embrace every opportunity to expand its sphere of influence." Seriously? The L.A. Times really thinks that that is a credible motive? Are we really supposed to believe that this guff about a "sphere of influence" explains why so many shrinks helped the CIA torture prisoners?
Sorry, but I would suggest a more plausible motive. I think that psychologists are human beings with mortgages and car payments, and that they did what they did for one simple reason: Money. Medical doctors and psychiatrists often live better than do psychologists. Thus, it is reasonable to presume that psychologists are more likely to listen respectfully when the devil, holding his bag of gold, knocks on the door.

Fortunately (albeit belatedly), the APA now prohibits members from cooperating with CIA interrogators.

Mandeep Dhami is not a member of the APA, so she may not be subject to professional punishment. If you happen to be a waiter or waitress working around Middlesex University, do consider spitting on her food. Shrinks who work with spooks deserve no better treatment.

That said, I doubt that Dhami will ever understand why her lunch deserves to garnished with saliva sauce.  Among her published papers, one may find this offering:
“What I did” versus “what I might have done”: Effect of factual versus counterfactual thinking on blame, guilt, and shame in prisoners
Do you think that Dhami is capable of feeling guilt or shame? Or do you think that she will always use "counterfactual thinking" to justify her behavior?

Final note: For years now, disinformation-spewers have been telling liberals and lefties not to trust Ed Snowden. "Snowden is secretly working for the spooks! He has has given us nothing new!" These ridiculous claims have adorned the comments section of numerous political blogs.

In fact, Snowden has given us tons of new stuff -- for example, he gave us the goods on Dhami. No one else did that. And no one else gave us any hint of this mind-blowing material, which I consider the most revelatory information to come out of Snowden's trove.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that the anti-Snowdenites are going to continue to sing their song of deception. That's what they've been paid to do. Dhami's report lays it all out for us: Dirty tricksters have been paid to fill the internet with cunning lies in order "to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt."

We should no longer give the disinfo-spewers a platform. These shills can start their own damned blogs.